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H.M. Cutter Alert by Blue Ensign - FINISHED - Vanguard Models - 1:64 scale

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The Cutter Alert Build log

The Alert kit arrived at a very opportune time for me as I'm fresh from my knowledge of cutters from my recent Cheerful build.

Ever since I acquired (1991) the Peter Goodwin book The Naval Cutter Alert 1777. in the Anatomy of the Ship series, published by Conway Maritime press,  I have long wished to make a model of Alert.


Chris Watton has now made that possible, without having to scratch build everything myself.


Before I start however, there are already things buzzing around my head, and points to ponder.

Clinker or carvel planking below the Main wale?


The kit indicates Carvel whereas Goodwin shows Clinker in his book but goes on to state that Alert was sheathed with copper at Deptford on 30 July 1777.

How would this work, I've never heard of coppered clinker, can this be right?


However, I'm tempted to look at clinker planking, but I've absolutely no experience of it or even how to begin, so it would be quite a challenge for me.

If I do opt for Clinker I imagine one has to start from the Garboard plank and work upward to the wale.

Should I  go for  a carvel base planking and clinker over the top, or go straight for a single planked job as with Cheerful.


I may well think it's all too difficult, and build her carvel, but these are all questions I need to resolve before I reach that stage.

In the meantime I have to get my build plan organised, which may be some time.




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Howdy BE lucky you straight into it, looks like it should be a marvelous boat to build.

I dare say that there will be a few more soon, along with Chris's log I will have plenty of

modellers to follow and help me through the tricky bits.

Sorry can't help with the planking questions, way beyond my pay grade.

hooroo  Chris

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Cheers Guys,

@Chris - between you and me it's beyond my pay grade too.🤔

@ Dirk - Thanks for reminding me about your sweet little Sherbourne build, I thought I had seen an example of a cutter clinker. 🙂 I am leaning towards  following your example, a first layer planking should provide a decent base to attach the second layer, and I do have a good stock of boxwood strip to allow for the likely errors to come. Thanks for the link to your build photo's, it looks like it will be my main reference work for the lower hull planking.

@James - I don't think it will be a quick start🙂

@Steve, - I've been there too😃


Back to the head scratching.





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I’ve been waiting for a long while for a kit of Alert to come along. I tried the paper version, but that didn’t work out very well. I would like to try her with a clinker hull. As far as I can tell no one has been able to definitively state yes or no. Druxey had recommended to someone a NMM booklet on the clinker hull. It’s by Eric McKee called Clenched Lap or Clinker: An application of a boat building technique. I should receive a copy in a few days. I am also trying to find a copy of some of Roger Cole’s articles in the NRG Journal . They are concerning the topic with regards to his build. They are in Vol 44 # 3 (pg 204-222) and Vol 45 # 1 (pg 34-35). I think these are too early to get from the NRG themselves. You may already know of this info. Good luck on with your build.





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Here is an online link to Roger's beautiful model. He has done significant additional research for his model. His clenched lap planking i the way I'd do it!



I have seen a copper sheathed clinker planked model but can't recall where.

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Post 1

I shall be building this model primarily using the following external reference sources.

1) The Naval Cutter Alert 1777 Book by Peter Goodwin.


2) Alert Provenence and Construction by N. Roger Cole.


3) Articles from the NRG journals Vols 44 and 45 by Roger Cole.


4) The Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship by David Steel 1794.


Thanks to Greg(DVM) for the link to the Alert article by Roger Cole, and to Kurt for the NRG articles in Vols 44 and 45 regarding  clinker planking and coppering over clinker.


I will also draw heavily on the approach taken by Chuck, and followed by me, in relation to the Cheerful build.

I am also appreciative of the examples relating to Clinker planking provided by Dirk (dubz) in his Sherbourne build, and  Nils (mirabelle61)  for his Zeesboot build.


There will be modifications along the way both in materials and fittings and these will be covered at the appropriate point in the build.


Time to get the basic skeleton assembled.




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Post 2

Getting to grips

First thing to note is that the part numbers are not laser cut into the mdf parts. It is necessary to mark all parts with the reference number before removal from the host sheet.



When starting a kit I like to dry fit the parts to get a feel for the build, and make up a simple build board to support the stem and keel.

 On my kit the bulkhead parts and the false keel are quite a loose fit so great care will need to be taken make sure that the bulkheads remain square during assembly while the glue dries.



The lower deck which slots over the bulkheads helps to stabilise the bulkheads square to the keel, but still allows  some movement in the vertical plane.

The stern post fits loosely into slots on the false keel and is glued into place, but before this can be done the instructions say to reduce the stern area  to half its thickness to allow for subsequent planking to fit flush against the stern post.

The actual area of the stern to be reduced is indicated as relating to the very aft edge of the false keel and the tabs attached to the stern post.



A specific  bearding line has not been indicated, but I have drawn one in for the purposes of my build.



Altho' there is a long slot down the stem piece which in effect is the rabbet for the bow planking, the set up doesn't seem to lend itself easily to a keel rabbet to secure the Garboard plank.

Any such rabbet would need to be cut along the actual keel leading up to the stem slot.

There is only a 3mm width of keel to play with so any rabbet would have to be fairly shallow and would inevitably reduce the gluing area to the false keel. I think faying the Garboard strake into the keel is the safe option.



It is interesting to note that the stem, rudder post and rudder are quite close to the  1:64 scale drawings in the Goodwin book.



I will scribe the section joins that make up the stem as indicated in the Goodwin book, onto the kit provided stem.

I had considered reproducing these items in Boxwood, but as I intend to paint the stem this would be a waste of good timber.





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Good evening Maurice,


I look forward to following your build of the cutter Alert. She should "keep you out of mischief"for a couple of years.

One thing puzzles me on this ship,what is the purpose of the yard between the lower and the topsail yard?. I can't see any lifts,braces or blocks attached to it in the pix in the kit review. Likely a silly question but..........


Kind regards. 


Dave :dancetl6:

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Thank you Dave, 

I believe it is called the Square sail yard,  which carried as indicated a large square sail, the equivalent of a Main sail on a square rigger.

The Topsail attached to the yard below( the spread sail yard)  at the clew The Topsail had a very large roach to it so it didn't cover the square sail to any great extent.

Not something that will worry me, I'm strictly a bare stick man for full hull models.





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I don’t know if you’ve gotten there yet, but I find the stern frames 17, 18 and 19 more than just a little frustrating! They all look the same except for very very slight differences. It does’t help that they are not actually laid out in the places shown in the instructions to help identify them correctly. Or even placing the parts on the plans. Being as careful as I can possibly be I broke 5 out of six anyway. I had my doubts they would have lasted very long once in place anyway. I am going to try and make up a 2 layer ply from basswood I have and cut them out with my coping saw. I’m going to have to go slow on that. What makes it even worse is that I had two sets to work with because when Chris replaced my damaged parts from the shipping mishap an extra set came along for the ride. 

     Good luck with yours.





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I am at that stage Kurt, and have already noted the issue about the stern frames in the post I am shortly to make; I snapped one during fitting but managed to repair it insitu.

Sorry you have experienced such an attrition rate they are very delicate and tricky little beggars to fit.



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Post 3

Assembling the skeleton.

Preparing the false keel

I have marked the bearding line and attached a strip of 0.5mm x 1.5mm styrene strip along the area to gauge the required 0.75mm each side reduction.



According to the instructions the keel and stem are not attached to the false keel until all the bits that make up the basic frame are completed.

I think it is easier to attach and clamp the stem and keel to the false keel flat on the bench rather than with all the bulkheads in place.



With the keel and stem in place the model is also better supported on the building board.

Once secured I added the stern post which slots into the false keel.



It is quite a loose fit and  the tabs need to be glued down against the lower slot to properly align with the keel.



The whole thing was then reassembled dry to check the fit before applying pva to the bulkheads and inserting the lower deck.



Whilst the glue was setting I temporarily fitted the longitudinal securing patterns to align the bulkheads.

The system of a slotted lower deck and securing patterns negate a lot of the work otherwise involved in ensuring the bulkheads are both square to the keel and vertical, so the initial assembly is fairly rapid on this build.

To complete the main skeleton filling pieces* are added at the bow and stern.

* if you pre-attach the stem it helps to fair the edges of these fillers before fitting.


The final part is attaching the rather delicate stern frames. The fragility of these fills me with some trepidation.



A point to note. On my kit the frames which come in three pairs were not placed on the holding sheet in the same configuration as in the build manual part identification drawings. As they are slot specific the parts need to be removed and checked against the drawing before numbering them up.

I would advise test fitting these very gently before gluing them into place. Even so I snapped one of the outer frames during this process.



One other point to note is that on my build all the stern frames are at the same height, the manual build photo's at this stage appear to show the two inner frames (17) lower than the others?



In common with my other builds I do like to have a glimpse of the lower deck thro' the various hatches/ companions etc; so I  have indulged a little kit bashing to facilitate this. Totally unnecessary  but it's one of my little foibles.



The next given stage is to fit the Upper deck, but I think I will consider fairing the bulkheads first, besides I want to plan out the presumed beams and planking pattern before  proceed.





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 BE, two posts into the build and you are modifying it already !!


 The sterm frames are indeed a bit awkward - I did a dry fit and found that. The problem is that for each one you are trying to fit slots in two sloping surfaces. so its not a straight push fit. If you try and fit with the BHS in place  you are risking breaking a frame.

Check that none of the forrad slots bind  - the two outer ones 17 on mine did and just a slight pass of a file made everything much easier


My main tip -  dont try and fit  or remove one at a time  -manipulate the SET  !


So you have to sequence 

first fit all of the frames into the aft BH


then slide and rotate the aft BH down until the frames rest on the forrard BH


Then you can just slip them in




Also note that its easy to get the wrong slot its the inner three each side ! You can see that these are not quite aligned


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I’m disappointed in this area of the kit. The angle of the outmost frames are definitely different and would require my frames to twist to just slip in. Maybe I placed bulkhead 9 in backwards? It’s not coming off at this point. I’m going to come up with some sort of work around. There’s no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great enough fool.



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I just wanted to say, that I will work this out, but not here. This has nothing to do with BE’s build. I really want to see how BE puts his personal stamp on the Alert (did I say before that this is one of my favorite ships).





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I bought them Kurt,  I want some more but for the life of me I can't recall where I got them.

They are really good for gentle but secure clamping, far better than the household clothes pegs readily available, which I tend to use when I want to form them to suit a particular holding job.

If I ever discover where I got them I'll let you know.



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Post 4

Thinking about the deck

My preference is to make several outline templates drawn onto card sheet. These will be used to mark out the planking pattern and use as a template to form the margin plank.

The first thing to decide is the position of the deck beams.  For this I have used the Goodwin book, and my main concern is not to have a butt ending up at an incorrect point such as  mid way along the main hatchway where a main beam would in practice not be.

I will be using a three butt shift  with scale planks around 20' with shifts of around 5'+. Each plank within these constraints will of necessity have minor adjustments to take account of the closest appropriate beam.

Using standard repeated one length planks would result in the butts appearing at unlikely places.

If you're not over fussed by such considerations you can't go far wrong using the Deck planking article by Ulises Victoria in the MSW database, which I used albeit in a modified form.

I start with planks each side of the centre line, and planks wholly within the spaces between the deck encumbrances will have no butts as the lengths are within the maximum.



After some trial and error I eventually got a pattern I was happy with and this was transferred to the false deck.



At this point I also rough cut the margin planks using Boxwood sheet.

Once the false deck is in place I don't think it will be easy to remove. It is fairly flimsy (of necessity) and  there are notches on the bulkheads which will lock it into place.



Having said that, handled carefully it fit quite easily, the hardest part is applying pva over the whole framing, and setting the deck before it started to dry.

Handy to have a good supply of weights available.



The deck edges may be a little vulnerable to breakage during the fairing process so I think I will beef the underside up a little with strip wood.


The final addition in this section is the Platform deck over the rudder housing at the counter.



This slotted easily into place and does provide some support for those delicate stern frames.



The facing panels fit neatly into the frame slots.



Temporary support blocks are inserted between the stern frames.



This completes the initial assembly stage, mostly painless, but watch out for those stern frames.





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Those stern transom frames were originally the height of the stern transom top edge, but they are sacrificial above deck level, I shortened them so they'd be less inclined to break before time.

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I was thinking of maybe raising the platform deck like Roger Cole did to have the tiller come out from below it. But I’m not sure yet. I do want to move the forward hatch to starboard as he did, because it makes so much sense to be clear of the bowsprit when it’s run in. Structurally I don’t think it would matter.



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I would have to think long and hard about raising the platform, it presumably has implications for the transom.


Not at all sure about moving the Fore hatch, the Admiralty plan of Alert and Rattlesnake show the hatch in the normal position. I wonder if Roger Cole is guilty of applying 20th century thinking to 18th century practice. 


We had the same thoughts about the side ladders and chase gun ports with regard to Cheerful. In the end I overcame my instincts and went with the plan as per Chuck.


Moving the hatch should be a fairly simple, and in the scheme of things such minor structural features don’t make much difference.


Who’s going to know apart from you, me, and members of MSW.😀









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