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Wood Hull Screw Frigate USS Tennessee 1869 to 1886 by Keith Black - scale 1:120

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 The Hatton and Hart photographs were/are my primary source for trying to create as much model authenticity as possible. Sometimes I have to assume, which I hate. Example being, on the upper stern deck a partial funnel profile can be seen behind and to the port side of a binnacle. (I may as well jump on this grenade while I'm here. This binnacle appears to be about five and a half feet tall, a foot and a half above the standard four feet. Access to viewing the compass is aided by a two step ladder propped up against it seen in the first of the four H&H photos.. I'm guessing the reason for the extra height is where the compass is above the railing and other metal objects. Please jump in with comments should you have other thoughts) All other photographs from the starboard point of view are and blurred and of no use determining if a starboard funnel is actually there. I chose one to be there due to ship designers seemingly love of and necessity for symmetry.     







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As this is a solid wood hull (pear wood me thinks?) my first step in correcting the model was to hollow out the stern section where I could get the ship's wheel and binnacles under the upper stern deck. The original model had the ships wheel in the open forward of the mizzen. H&H photos of the ships wheel can be seen in the previous post. 







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 Before I get too far a field I need to take a moment to thank those in the Nautical/Naval History side of this site. If not for member Talos I wouldn't have the majority of the H&H photos I have to reference and has also provided other photographs and drawing. Mark Taylor, Roger, Druxey, Canute, Steven, Dave and others have provided ideas, support and encouragement. If they hadn't been there for me, I wouldn't be here.

 In some of my photographs you see a little stick figure sailor, that's "Bob". I got tired of constantly trying to place my machinist ruler on the deck to gauge how high I needed to make an element. So I made Bob to represent a man 5'11'' in height (he's just shy of six tenths of an inch tall. Bob isn't going to be part of the final build but there maybe a Bob 2.0   

Edited by Keith Black
spelling correction
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 The Tennessee was 355 feet in length and 45 feet two inches at beam. The model hull is 30 inches in length and 5.5 inches at beam. The shortness of the hull is most noticeable at the stern. I've had to crowd a number of elements at the stern and that disturbs me but that's having to play the hand I was dealt.  

 After getting the stern area hollowed out as needed I turned my attention the the ports. Once again the shortness of the hull made it necessary to cut only ten ports on the second deck level verses eleven as was on the Tennessee. I had to plug and fill in the top deck ports of the original model as they were in no way positioned correctly to allow for the chain rails. On the original model the ports had glued paper as covers. After cutting the ports square I let in wood port covers a fraction to create shadow lines. Once the ports were done I then added the chain rails, added the piece of wood just below the top of the bulkhead that runs from each side of the bow completely a round the model, anchor guards and anchors.

 Making the starboard and port galleries proved to be the most complicated part of the hull. The trick was not so much in the making of one, it was making two that looked alike!

 If I've not given the proper name or term to an element, PLEASE provide the correct name/term where I'll know, thank you.

 I then started work on the inside bulkhead filling and sanding the vertical pieces of wood from the original model (I think the vertical pieces were bamboo) running horizontal strips for ports and the pin rails. I'm not real pleased with the pins put once they're covered with looped line I don't think one will see very much of them. 

 I still need to cut four ports at the stern, two each both starboard and port side of the eagle. 









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 I felt like I had really turned the corner when I was able to start making the deck elements. My rules have been, that if I couldn't make it look close to what an element actually looked like, don't make it. Don't make an element if you can't verify it was actually part of the ship (don't make up history, accurately portray history to the best of your ability) Don't make an element if it's going to look cheesy, better to not make it at all. 

 To accomplish making pieces I've had to rely on pretty simple tools. Turnings are done with a drill motor and jewelry files, cuttings done with jeweler's saw and x-acto knives. If I had another 30 to 40 years of modeling left to me, I'd invest in some real tools. I'm pretty sure this is going to be my one trick pony but I'd love to scratch build a 1880's steam driven yacht and and, yeah, them too. Steam driven vessels fascinate the dickens out of me.  

 Building at one tenth of an inch equals a foot is easy math but it sure test my abilities. The telegraph engine controls is pretty much at my limit. February of 2017 found me doubting that I'd every be able to do work this small. 





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  • 4 weeks later...

The last deck elements I needed to make before completing the deck guns were the three cowl vents that go forward of the fore funnel. I'll show how I make these in hopes that in may help someone else who also has limited tools at their disposal. 

 1) Drill the opening for is to be the head and then turn using drill motor and jewelers file.

 2) Once the head is turned cut it at a 45 degree angle and cut the tube at a 45 degree angle.  

 3) Mate the two with a generous supply of glue. (I wasn't able to figure a means of pinning the head and tube)

 4) Because the head is so much larger than the tube, there is a lot of wood that needs to be removed with sandpaper and file to shape the two  









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Once I had the three cowl vents completed I made a mockup of the deck where I could place the vents on the deck with the first try.  I've included a couple of photos of one of the original model's cowl vents to show how far out of scale the original deck elements were.






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In getting back to the deck guns I went over the gatling guns, signal cannon, and the one, eight inch Dahlgren gun I've completed. I've decided I can't do any better on the gatling guns. These are the 4.0 model and as poor as they are this is as good as it gets. They kinda look like gatling guns a couple of feet away?





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 I'm sure you're thinking, "Keith, those are some strange wheels" and yes, they are! I tried making them which ended in utter failure. I then searched off and on for almost six months looking for spoked wheels .35 to .40 inches in diameter and came up dry. I was even searching for toys that I might be able to rob the wheels from. I was at the point of giving up and not making the gatling guns and signal cannon till I came across these snaps in Joann's used in sewing. I used the size 1, they're .392 in diameter. I know they're not Kosher but sometimes (for me at least) If I can't make it, I have to make do. 

 I can envision using these in a small scale build for hand wheeled gate valves, etc. 


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 Does anyone know what the wooden "basin" with handles and lid is in the following Hatton and Hart photographs? I use the term basin as I don't know what else to call it?  You can just make it out under the signal cannon in the first photo and then it's more readily visible in the next three photos. If it belongs with the signal cannon I'd like to incorporate it in the build. Thank you in advance......Keith





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Possibly a water cask.   I'm thinking it's not fixed though as in the last photo. if it weren't fixed I would think they would have moved it as there is a "handle" on the side of the one in the second photo.   The thing is, that there appears to be one on each side of the hatch and in same place in all the photos.  Maybe it is fixed.. water port for the boilers though the handle on that one pic throws a curve ball at that concept.

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 Of course, water cask! I don't think they were fixed as they appear in a location in one photograph but won't be there in another photograph.

 Photo #3, water cask is on the port side of the hatch while in photo #4 the cask is on the starboard side of the hatch.

 With a 480 man complement, there could have been several water cask positioned along the length of the deck?   

 Thank you Mark for your input and thank you to all for the thumbs up...........Keith

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I do think that there would have been more than one cask.   One on each side would make sense.  My question about maybe being for coaling is that they seem rather small.... So maybe not water but something else?   Sand maybe?   I'm not that familiar with that era so everything's just a guess.   

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 From what I've read, fresh water was one of the most precious items carried aboard ship. If in fact they are water cask, maybe the physiology was, if small, a sailor would tend to take less? They appear to be about 24 to 30 inches in diameter at the base and would be awkward to carry up and down the gangways empty let alone full. That being said, I think whatever it is remained on deck unfixed and if a water cask, it was probably bucket filled as required. 

 I'm going to try turning a couple, if the results are successful I'll post same.

 I'm still open to ideas other than water cask but after a couple of days spinning it around me ole brain, water cask are making the most sense to me.

 Thank you........Keith

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After reviewing it.......I'm no closer then you are.  the ring that is attached to the hatch in several pics might be an indicator that it is a secure ring for the *barrel* to fit over..it times of battle or storm...aiding it from sliding around the deck when either empty or unloaded.

Unless you can find some plans of this vessel with said item identified it might be a guesser.



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  • 7 months later...

It's been awhile since I've made an entry as I was off learning a bit about rigging while restoring a Swift model. The original mast, bowsprit and jib boom were grossly out of scale and have been scrapped. I've started making replacements that I hope more accurately represent those that the USS Tennessee carried. I'm working from a photograph of the mizzen viewed toward the stern but doesn't show the top. I'm going with all three mast having the same construction making a best guess for the tops and above. I want to take this opportunity to thank Rob Wiederrich for his help and support and for his Great Republic build log which I've spent many hours viewing. 






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Thank you Mark, Pete, Phil for the likes and thank you Paul for the likes and the kind comment. The more I get into making the new mast, the more I wonder what took me so long to relegate the originals to the boneyard. Working from the photograph of the mizzen, I noted something I've not seen replicated in a model before, (that's not to say it hasn't been, I'm just unaware if it has) there are two approximately ten foot vertical boards on either side of center of the mast. I assume (there I go, jump in and correct me if i'm wrong) they're there to protect the mast when a yard is lowered to the deck going from  perpendicular to the ship to parallel to the ship when the yard needed to be repaired or replaced. My old brain is working on the next step, the crosstrees.  From the attached photo looking at the main mast, it appears to indicate the trees were connected at the ends? I'll gladly take comments as any tree that I've seen before have the ends open.  



Edited by Keith Black
adding file.
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4 hours ago, Tony Hunt said:

Those photos are a wonderful resource for what you're doing

Yes Tony, I'm very fortunate that the Hatton and Hart photographs of the Tennessee exist. I have looked at them for countless hours and I'll still see something I've not noticed before.  I never tire of looking at them, looking back in time to an era that was so short lived. 

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The main construction of the mast is completed. From the crosstrees to the caps will eventually be white but I don't want to paint till I'm ready to glue. I connected the ends of the trees as that's what I see in the afore mentioned photo. There is a drawing showing this type of design, as to why the the ends were connected I have but guesses. 




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I've completed construction of the basic masts. Each mast is removable for off ship working and each has the ends shimmed/glued and so no further alignment will be needed when taking in and out. I've given each mast three degrees of rake. I didn't rake the mizzen more as the Hatton and Hart photographs to my eye indicate that all three mast had the same rake. I'm going to redo the bow sprit/ jib boom as the current is a bit chunky.







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  • 2 weeks later...

The original model's bow was done incorrectly, the bowsprit did not socket into the bow but was mounted to the deck. I could no longer ignore the obvious, out came the jeweler's saw and off with it's nose.  It would have been one heck of a lot less work to leave it as was and move on but then..........



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