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Willie Bennett Skipjack by Griphos - Model Shipways - Scale 1:32

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Hello all. 


Long time lurker who's not posted much until recently.  I've built a few model boats/ships.  I got started modeling in HO.  Had one particularly lovely 1910's NH&NYRR layout many years ago.  That's what got me scratchbuilding scale bits of the world.  I've built a few metal car kits (the old Hubley kits), and a few aircraft (I'm also a pilot and owned a 1946 Aeronca Chief until some years ago).  But I've always loved boats as well, and have owned a fair few of those also (almost all sailboats).  I just think the alchemy of function and beautiful line makes for some of the most aesthetically pleasing forms ever made by men.  


I've built exclusively from kits so far.  And I prefer working boats over naval ships, although my very first ship model was a Halifax brig.


Anyway, I'm in the middle of building the Willie Bennett.  I've posted about it asking for help with colors in particular; but I thought I'd go ahead and post a build log.  Not that I think much in it will be new or that impressive.  But I've learned a lot from reading other logs over the years, and it only seemed fair to participate.  If I think of any particular problem I worked through that might be generally illuminating, I'll be sure to mention it.  But, like I said, I wouldn't get my hopes up.  🙂


I'll take a few days to put together a few posts that will bring the log up to date.  Not much to belabor with the early parts of the build, since they've been done so often.  I'm finishing the houses and hatches at the moment, and about to start on the other deck furniture.  I'm still working, so progress is not rapid.  But I manage to get a little work done on things most days.  


To start: Building board, keel (with rabbet).   



Planking goes fast when the planks are this wide!




Bottom planked and shaping the front blocks.


Off the build frames and right side up!


Edited by Griphos
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I put in the floors, and wanted a way to hold the ceiling boards down while the glue dried.  Here's my solution.  






For the aft cabin floors I used some leftover fudgesicle sticks.  They worked well, and aren't seen.  





Fudgesicle sticks also make nice bunks.  



And finally, the first interior paint choices.  I made some small changes in the aft cabin later.  


Edited by Griphos
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I said I'd explain any bits that puzzled me.  The centerboard case was such a bit.  So here's a kind of tutorial of what I did on that:


Building the Centerboard Case
The kit instructions, and the articles in Ships in Scale both basically just say “build the centerboard case.” The plans are not as clear as they might be on this detail either, with no separate detailed drawing. You have to basically look through a lot of other detail clutter on the side drawing to see the centerboard case, and it’s not drawn particularly accurately.

I wanted to build the case on the ship, as one would in a full scale boat, but not have it attached permanently so I can take it off to do the finishing touches and drill the centerboard pin hole. Once the bottom side plank is on, building in the ship would be easy, but getting everything square to glue that first side plank on would be tricky without a jig. I made a jig.

First steps:
I cut the two vertical end posts out of 1/8” by 3/16” stock. I had some laying around, but I think the kit has some. That’s about a scale 3 ½” by 6” which the plans call for. I did cut the rabbets in the end to fit down into the centerboard slot as the instructions show as an option (marked at X in the drawing below) and as done on the actual ship. I measured by sticking the post down into the slot until it bottomed on the shoes and marked the length. A little saw cut half way through the width and a slice or two with the knife and I had the rabbet.

Then I measured the height of the aft post by cutting and fitting the deck beam right above the aft post. Once fitted, I had the max height and could mark the rabbet for the top piece. It’s not quite square to the floor this way, but close, and that’s how the plans show it. You could just cut it to fit under the deck beam if you wanted.

You can see the fit of the posts in the following picture. I cut the front post to the height
indicated on the plans, and just held the stock to the plans to measure and mark it for length after
cutting the rabbet to fit in the keelson.


The jig:
Now, what I needed was a way to hold both those posts in place tightly up against the keelson
vertical edges. I was using the piece of scrap you see in the picture for clamping the boat to my
vice. So, I found a piece of 1/16” scrap long enough to stretch from the inside faces of both
posts in the centerboard slot and cut it to a snug fit. Then I marked the width of that board on the
clamping scrap in the centerboard slot with my knife.

Using the knife, I cut 1/16” deep on the lines I marked. Then, with some careful knife work, I
levered out the waste. I finished the slot with a small flat needle file. I checked that the board fit
in the slot without sticking out at all and slid freely.


Then I slid the clamping scrap back into the centerboard slot far enough to fit the board between
the two posts. That locked that board in place snugging both posts up against the keelson
vertical edges and straight. No need to glue the board to the scrap. Letting it slide in the dado
allows for easier fitting in the ship.

Here’s a top down look at the jig in place.

Notice I have both deck beams that are located at the ends of the higher part of the centerboard
case. This will allow me to build the planks up to fit just under all the beams in between. You’ll
still need to notch the top board for the beams. I cut 1/8” notches in both top planks at the same
time (ganging them together), which I located by placing a deck beam (doesn’t have to be the
exact beam for that spot, just one that spans enough) across at each slot.

I clamped the aft beam with a rubber band to help hold the aft post in place and straight. Notice
the post is centered on the center mark of the beam.

Building the case:
The bottom board of the case is both a bit thicker than the other planks (3/32” rather than 1/16”)
and must be curved to fit the curved keelson. In order for the upper planks to be as straight as
possible relative to the deck line, I wanted to shape the curve so most of the excess removed is
from the aft part of the board.

If I had kept the piece of the keelson I had cut out for the centerboard slot when gluing the three
parts of the keelson together, then I would have had a template. I didn’t, so I laid a piece
of wide enough scrap (a properly sized piece of the leftover board that had the laser cut parts is
good for this) on the floor of the boat and traced the upper surface of the keelson onto the scrap.
I cut this out and had a template.


Then I cut the bottom board.
Here it is placed into the boat:

Once the bottom boards are glued onto the posts (and not glued to anything else!), the jig is no
longer necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to leave it in. The scrap sticking up like I have it
registers the upper boards nicely as I edge glue them to the lower planks. It's possible to clamp to it as well (but make sure you don’t glue to it!).

I cut and glued the remaining side planks to the posts, and then the jig and also the case was removed. It can slide back in anytime wanted to fit something in situ.

The top plank needed to be rabbeted (notched) to fit under the aft beam and there may need to be a little
bit of a rabbet for the front beam, as you can see in the pics. Here’s how it looks with all the side
planks done:



Once ready to glue it in finally, I glued it to the keelson at the bottom plank edge
and both post rabbets. I made sure I'd cut the centerboard pin hole and made the slot for the
front cover plug first (that’s the front cover sitting inside the boat ready for me to cut the slot and
glue in. Easier to do that off the boat.

Once in permanently, I put in a shoe and planked the bulkhead on the forward side of the
beam. I used a plank to locate the shoes in this part of the floor so the bulkhead is straight. A little
piece of planking material will close off the vertical part of the upper case to the top of the beam
and complete the bulkhead.

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Bringing the log up to date:


Time to make and fit the stem and cutwater. 


Attach the wales:


More bow work:


For the tie rod, I wanted something that looked like nuts on a threaded rod.  I cut some little brass disks and dimpled them into the cutting mat.  Then I drilled through the center (or as close as I could get with these old eyes of mine). 


Here's how they look mounted: 


Not bad.


Then, hatches: 


Front cabin:


Added a ladder: 


And some paint:


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I'm making all the cabins and hatches removable.  I decided to notch the walls for the beams for this one, so I made a little chisel from a drill bit to do that job.



I want the aft cabin to look nice, and pictures from the Kathryn's cabin showed a nice, richly colored paneling that I wanted to emulate.  I used some scribed paneling left over from HO modeling days and some aniline dye.  I'll build a little stove, and probably a book shelf for the cabin as well. 



I didn't like the idea of external window frame molding as the plans and SiS article called for.  From the pics I've seen, the fenestration seems simpler.  So I just made a sill, and then used small square stock I cut with the X-acto as molding to retain the glazing.  



I let the roof of the forward cabin overhang a bit on all sides.  But I got to wondering why I never see grab rails on the roofs of these cabins.  So, I decided to add a molding to the edge of the roof of the aft cabin that extends above the roof as a hand hold.  I don't think I've ever seen this on a boat, but it seems to be practical, and I kind of liked it, so I left it for now.  I'll decide later whether to keep it.  


I made little hinges from some spare brass, cut to shape, and glued a little brass wire to serve as the pin/hinge area.  


I used some brass nails for the door knobs.  I used more of the paneling as the back surface for the doors.  I see I need to scribe the door join all the way through the top and bottom rails of the door (ooops!).  


Time to make the steering box (and maybe that cabin stove) now.   This is where the build stands at the moment.  


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So......I realized that I can't really leave the aft cabin removable, since there will be tackle attached to it.  And the boom will sit pretty close to it.  So, I decided not to do a stove; but also wanted to see in a little.  I used some vinegar and softened the glue on the sliding hatch (that doesn't really slide) and got it off in one piece.  



Then I re-glued it in the fully open position.  I left the door closed.  I suspect that there are times when the hatch is left open for ventilation and airing things out.  🙂


Then I made some molding for the various hatches and cabins and painted them.  All the other hatches will be removable.  I made the hatch molding from some small quarter-round styrene I had.  I made the cabin molding from wood.  


Then I mixed some slightly black-gray acrylic wash for the deck.  I just wanted to give it a lived in look.  You can see a little test strip in the pic above.  That was an alcohol/ink wash with a gray wash over.  I went with just a gray wash but put a little black in it.  I like the look of it.  A second coat of wipe-on poly on the hatch/cabin roofs, and a coat on the deck and then I painted the waterway and log-rail.  





I'll make the engine cover and steering fixture now.  I decided to use the wheel provided in the kit.  From my research, it is a pretty good replica of the ship's wheels often found on these skipjacks.  I did some preliminary painting/weathering.  I wanted a work-boat look, with bronze/brass and iron that has seen some wear and tear of use.  I'll do some retouching/refining before mounting.  



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Wonderful work, very crisp and clean.

The Willie B is my all time favorite kit, one of the few available that allows you to build a model that is 100% authentic, and is built in the same sequence as the original. Making the winding frames and railings was a grad course in soldering and metal work for me - learned a lot.

Keep the pix coming

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  • 1 year later...
  • 8 months later...

Very nice,
I'm fairly new to model ship making (the Willie Bennett is my second) and I was having trouble with getting started.
I have just cut out the centerboard slot on the Keelson, and I was confused about the next steps. How and where do I cut the Keelson Rabbet (from where to where on the Keelson)? And is there some special process for making the Aft Skeg, Skeg Battens, and the Foregrip Shoe?

Again thanks, there aren't many logs/blogs depicting how to build this ship and I look forwards to using yours.

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