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

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There's the Roger Cole model , and of course the contemporary Hawke model, which forms the basis of everything that followed in terms of old style cutter rigging.

In this instance rigging the T'gallant with sails is an easier option in terms of securing the yard.




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Ahh NOW I see  -    I hadnt considered the "overlapping " sail plan and that the lower yard for a sail could be "the other side" of a stay and indeed another sail !

Normally of course the top yard would be "dropped " to just above the lower. That would look neat - but would sandwich the stay.

 Outside my knowledge - and I would not like to try and handle her!!

But you need both top and bottom yards to handle the sail so  I suspect that normally all the yards stayed rigged .



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It's only the T'gallant at issue, simply because it is set flying, and doesn't have the  usual control lines that would otherwise remain in place once a sail was removed. eg  lifts. parrels, braces etc;

My understanding is that it was sent up and down with the sail attached as required.


This old style cutter rig does seem  unwieldy with that square sail arrangement, little wonder it was replaced with a more standardised rig, using the fore and aft sails supplemented by a larger Topsail,  and for light winds  maybe a T'gallant when a long pole head was fitted.


Later style of rig


Much easier to rig a cutter with the more familiar Topsail only arrangement as was evident around the mid 1780s





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Sorry I hadnt quite grasped that it was just the TG.

Yes i would agree that almost certainly would be set with spar attached- it was/is common practice to set a gaff topsail that way  though there the spar is often attached to the mast at one end and hoisted high to sort of form a a topmast.


But here we are meter_gaff_rigged_topsail_cut_hi.jpg swing that topsail around and ..

That sail MUST  be sent up with a spar attached.

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It's an issue that you will have to decide on when you get around to rigging your Alert model.

If you include sails, no problem, if you build her as  bare stick, will the sailor in you let you have the T'gallant yard raised and swinging about without a sail bent.😉



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 Well I think myself she looks a bit weird with all those spars.

I would drop the topsail lower yard myself and claim as skipper I had decided to work its loose footed !!

Or why not rig lines to the  TG spar end and claim - if asked - that they are temporary sheet attachments !😁

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Post 79


Spread-sail yard braces


These are fitted with pendents and lead aft.



I am using 0.45mm line for the brace pendents with 4mm pendent blocks, and 0.3mm line for the braces.



I am following the kit arrangement with the standing part hooked to an eyebolt, and with the fall passing thro’ a lead block at the stern quarter to belay around the aftermost timberhead.



These are the last of the main rigging lines to be fitted; just as well as I used the last of my 0.3mm line to complete the job.


Fitting is not the same as completing as the process of tweaking the lines millimetre by millimetre, to square and balance the yards will continue, but I don’t think I have any more lines to put into place.


There are some ‘necessary’ ropes to put on and the Anchor tackle to fit, but completion of the build is now in sight.


On the subject of braces I almost hesitate to mention that I have just noticed that the Hawke model seems to have both aft and forward running braces to the Topsail yard, but I’m not going there.


Later rigged models do show both fore and aft rigged braces to the Spread-sail yard, and these are mentioned by Steel.

I fitted these to my first cutter model, with the later rig arrangement.






T’gallant yard.


I have decided that I prefer the look of the yard in place, regardless of actual practice. To my eye it gives the model more balance somehow.

A small pin secures the yard to the mast.




The square-sail yard is sitting there secured only by its halyard and kept in position by the Topsail sheets. All the evidence would suggest that it would in practice be raised from deck level with the sail attached, but no other tackle is indicated.


Roger Cole has added aft running braces to his model, but the Hawke model has none.


As Alert is an example of an old-style rigged cutter it would seem perverse not to include the Square-sail yard in the place it would operate, so there it sits; better hope the wind doesn’t get up.




Makes me very nervous when I see that Bowsprit with all the long rigging lines, need to be very careful now.




At some point I will need to add the Flag halyards, when I get around to making the Ensign.


I didn’t follow the kit rigging instructions to any great extent but I did run thro’ them at this point to see if there was anything I had missed.




Not sure what this block is for, no rigging attachments seem to go to it, and it doesn’t appear in the Alert Book.




Moving onto the closing stages.









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1 hour ago, Blue Ensign said:

Not sure what this block is for, no rigging attachments seem to go to it, and it doesn’t appear in the Alert Book.

That's in the neighborhood of where the mainsail sheet is belayed.

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Not on a fore and aft rig, the Main sheet is  belayed in the stern, and the square-sail sheet some  distance forward, at least in the kit rigging plan.



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I've mentioned set flying T'gallants quite a bit during the rigging of my Alert, but I think this is taking it too far.


Hawke Model 1777


I wouldn't like to be the one to recover that sheet.!





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I think that flying in this context means that the t'gallant was attached by each clew to the topsail yard, probably by sheets! One of the illustrations in the Anatomy of the Ship book on Alert suggests that in heavy winds a triangular t'gallant was set.



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Cheers Mike, I don't think I  have picked up any reference to use of a triangular T'gallant, which illustration are you referring to?



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A triangular topsail or topgallant is/was  of course quite common  - you will still see it on many modern sail training vessels .

But BE has the problem precisely defined - as usual - the sail was probably sent up as spar with sail rigged .

So no sail rigged - no spar - whch is an aesthetic issue on a vessel presentation without sails!



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Post 80


The Anchors


I had an initial look at the anchors back in Post 47, at that time it was clear to me that while the anchors were ok the kit provided stocks did not pass muster.





Boxwood replacements were made, using the Alert book drawings.



The white metal anchors are nicely formed, the only modification I did was to drill thro’ the shaft for the ring.

I did need to tweak the anchor shaft a little so that the stock sat square to the arms. Holding the square in a vice and a gentle turn on the arms brought everything into line.



According to Steel the Anchor ring would scale to an 8mm outside diameter, with a 0.9mm thickness of ring.


I thought the provided kit item a little on the small side and by virtue of its pe origins lacked a round profile. I replaced it using 1mm ø brass wire.




I chemically blackened the white metal anchors using Carr’s Black for Brass; this doesn’t always work, but in this instance it did.




I used Morope 0.4mm line for the ring puddening, and 0.1mm line for the four seizings.




To represent the iron bands, I took my usual approach of using slices of heat shrink tubing.




Saves all that fiddling with Brass strip and silver solder.



Fitting the Anchors



Clinching the cable to the ring, a tricky business at the best of times.



Starboard Sheet Anchor.




Awkward things to position without fouling other items.





The anchor is secured by the Cat stopper and Shank painter.



Port anchor




These anchors do look large for the model, but they are scaled to size.




For display purposes I decided to leave the port Bower hanging from the Cat block.


I am undecided whether to complete the Stream and Kedge Anchors, but I can defer that decision until later.


I can now carry one and finish dressing the anchor cable.








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24 minutes ago, Blue Ensign said:

To represent the iron bands, I took my usual approach of using slices of heat shrink tubing.

That’s a splendid idea, what size tubing do you use and do you have brand recommendations?

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I bought a small box of mixed tubing a few years ago, probably off e-bay, but a search for heat shrink tubing should bring up a load of suppliers.

 I found tubing of between 3mm - 10mm  diameter the most useful, a little tubing goes a long way.





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Post 81


A question of Ensigns


I like to add an Ensign to a model it adds a splash of colour and making flags and getting them to hang realistically is an interesting exercise.


One thing that has puzzled me in relation to the Hawke model is the Union flag at its peak.

We know that the rigging of Hawke is original, but a question mark hangs over identification of the model.


There is no Naval cutter named Hawke listed, and perhaps the absence of a Naval Ensign is another indicator.


The NMM has described it as a Revenue cutter.



Revenue cutters did have their own ensign dating from 1694 – a Red Ensign defaced with a ‘castellated gateway’ badge. (1707-1784)   


Alert, however, was certainly a Naval Cutter and an ensign is appropriate.


Alert was attached to the Squadron commanded by Admiral Augustus Keppel, Admiral of the White, so a White Ensign it is.


Unusual in modelling, Roger Cole in his build of Alert goes into some detail about flag sizes.


Alert would have carried a complement of five different size ensigns or flags ranging from her number one, down through number four, plus a Jack.


 In size, the fly of the number one was generally about equivalent to the molded beam of the vessel, the hoist was 5/9ths of the fly at this time.


 The other ensigns were proportional and stepped down where the hoist of one became the length of the fly on the next smaller ensign.


The Jack was equal to the canton of the largest ensign.





Given that the beam of Alert was 25’10” (The fly) the hoist would be 14’ 4” quite a large flag for a cutter.

At scale this would be 123mm (fly) 68.26mm (hoist)


Using these proportions, I scaled out the ensigns;


The Number one or Battle Ensign does look huge in relation to the model, but the Number two looks a tad small for the model display purposes.


No 1 - Battle Ensign



No 2 Ensign – General Service



No 3 – Storm Ensign



No 4 – Harbour Ensign.






Many contemporary paintings show the Union flag with a narrower diagonal white cross representing the Scottish saltire. The ground of the flag is also shown as a much darker blue.



I have adopted this design which I prefer to the broader white cross and brighter blue ground of many of the commercially available Ensigns.



The trick now is to reproduce this as a viable Ensign which will be the subject of my next post.






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Good choice BE, there was a less standardization of the flag of St Andrew, with colour even varying significantly today.  Going with your selection will give a more period feel right off the bat.  Interested to see how you tackle this.


The proportion of the size of the Jack is interesting and seems odd.  Given this would only be flown in harbor/at anchor, it seems way oversized compared to the Harbour Ensign.  I'm assuming both would have been flown from a staff (?)

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Thanks Jason, Roger Cole did say that he wasn't entirely sure about the Jack being the size of the canton of the largest ensign, but I think there was  a fair bit of leeway in flag sizes and on models the eye is probably as  good as anything.

On square riggers there was the facility to have staffs for harbour display, even when the driver boom came into use, and a staff for the jack was usually attached to the Bowsprit cap.

Not too sure about cutters and the like; on Alert I suppose a staff heel could be  fitted on the aft deck with a bracket on the transom,  but I will fit it to the gaff.


Post 82

Making the Ensign

Making your own Ensign frees you from commercial restrictions.


This is the pattern I have decided upon.


For sizing I have settled on 86mm x 54mm which equates to a size of 18’ x 11’4”

My primary objective is to have an Ensign that suits my eye on the model.


The Ensign is made from Modelspan tissue, overpainted to reduce the transparency.



The Modelspan is stretched over a frame and painted with diluted pva.



The modelspan is then taped over a word doc image of the flag.



Run thro’ the printer the image is transferred to the Modelspan.




The image is insufficiently strong at this point so it is taped over polythene for overpainting.


The White Ensign is perhaps the most difficult choice because the white ground is not sufficiently white. Red and Blue Ensigns reproduce better.



The Ensign has been overpainted on both sides.



The next stage is to attach the halyard connection, I am using 0.1mm line. The excess on the hoist is simply folded over the line and glued.


This is a schematic of one I made a while ago.






The Ensign is pulled and rolled into shape before raising to the Gaff peak.




This post marks the nine month point of the build.





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Post 83


All but done

Still a base to make but for all practical purposes the model is complete.

So here are the final shots of the completed model, I will add my thoughts on the kit and build experience in a separate post.

First the close-ups




























The next post will show the upper rigging shots and full model shots.






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Post 84


Completion shots continued.


Upper rigging detail
























Thoughts about the Alert kit.


As I am the first builder on MSW of this new kit offering from the talented Mr Watton it has fallen to me to be the first to record my experience of the kit and build.


There is a lot to like about this kit, cutters make fine models of relatively modest size, altho’ at 1:64 scale Alert is large enough for extra detailing and has space when it comes to the rigging stage.


It is clear that Chris cares about his customer base and has put a lot of thought into the make-up of the kit providing pre-made parts for many of those areas that new builders may find tricky, but which more experienced builders may wish to replace.


That I made extensive modifications is no reflection on the validity of the kit. I accept the limitations of kits and personally I am prepared to take the hit on the additional cost of material and fittings upgrades.


Although I have had reservations about some of the supplied fittings, builders of the second edition revised kits will benefit from the improvements made by Chris in relation to the guns and other fittings, and latterly a laser printed deck, and Pearwood grating sets.


This is a visually attractive kit, which offers the kit basher a lot of scope whilst providing builders new to the hobby a good oob experience.


It has been very tricky deciding how to rig this model given the many variations prevalent at the time, and the often-conflicting information given in the reference sources.


The two existing Alert models by Roger Cole, and Irving Kingman differ in their appearance and rigging, and Roger Cole made many changes to both the deck layout and rigging of his model from the Peter Goodwin book which as I have discovered has many conflictions and omissions to confuse the model maker.


Irving Kingman also made changes to the deck layout and rigging but did acknowledge that some of the reconstruction of Alert is based on conjecture and therefore possibly not accurate.


There is one other Alert model kit on offer, a 1/72 scale card version by Shipyard. A nice-looking model but has the Topmast before the masthead and is rigged in the later standardised form.


Part of the appeal of the Alert kit is that it represents a cutter with the earlier style of rigging with the aft placed T’gallant mast and a Square sail set up.


I have concluded that there is no definitive example of how Alert was rigged, and I have used many sources to arrive where I am.


I certainly don’t advocate my Alert build as the way to go, and I still have many conflictions in my own mind, but the information I have gleaned may be of some use to those that follow and may serve to inform their own decisions.



The Naval Cutter Alert -Peter Goodwin

The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War – James Lees.

Eighteenth-Century Rigs and Rigging – K.H. Marquardt.

The Global Schooner - K.H. Marquardt.

Elements of Masting, Sail-making and Rigging, – David Steel.

Seamanship in the Age of Sail – John Harland

Rigging period Fore-and-Aft Craft – Lennarth Petersson

Alert Provenance and Construction – Roger Cole

Modeling H.B.M. Cutter Alert-1777 - Irving H. Kingman

NMM plan of Alert.

Contemporary Hawke model (NMM)

Model of a cutter circa 1785. (Science Museum)


I have also scoured the internet for examples of cutter rig, and referenced cutter build logs on MSW.


I have enjoyed building Alert despite the frustrations at times and I commend the kit to the members.




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6 minutes ago, usedtosail said:

This was a pleasure to follow.

I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you build your Alert and think the decision to go with clinker planking has paid dividends as it looks superb. 


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