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

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Post 32

A nice delivery arrived today.

Whilst I was researching all things Alert, I was much taken by the painting by Joseph Marshall.




When I found out that the Science Museum sold copies, I just had to have one.




Can always find room for one more Naval print.



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Cheers Guys,  now a bit of a set back.

Post 33

Pawl Bitt pins (Bowsprit Step)

I have been working on the Bowsprit Step but have hit a problem regarding the dimensions of the Bowsprit which I need to resolve before I can move on.

You can’t really consider the Bowsprit Step without looking at the fit of the Bowsprit.

There is a simplification on the kit part in that the iron fids used to fix and retain the Bowsprit heel are represented by solid wood top and bottom, formed by the square cut-out for the Bowsprit heel.

There is a fid hole and fid indicated in the Bowsprit but this sits forward of the Bitt pins, which makes little sense.



I removed the top bar and drilled thro’ to take the ‘iron’ fid. A hole below this was drilled to take the retaining fid for the Bowsprit heel which has a corresponding hole drilled.

The inboard squared end of the Bowsprit is shown as 6mm, reduced and squared from some 8mm ø dowel.

My own preference is to use square stock, and round the outboard section on the lathe.


Now I come to the problem:

 6mm square stock will not fit between the step uprights whereas 5mm as shown in the above photo is a good fit.

However, the dimensions given in the Alert Book are 18½” which equates to 7.3mm at scale, whereas 6mm is a perfect fit for the Alert book drawings.



6mm stock laid over Alert book drawing at 1:64 scale


The Alert book quotes dimensions as relating to the cutter Pheasant which was slightly shorter than Alert and some 34 tons lighter. Her Bowsprit is given as 56’6” L x 18½” ø

Pheasant capsized in the Channel in 1781, perhaps she was over sparred.


When in doubt I always refer to Steel;

For a 200-ton cutter (Alert was 183 tons) Steel gives a Bowsprit length of 64’ (304.8mm) with a 20” ø (7.93mm)

By comparison the kit dimensions are a scale 275mm in length and 6mm at the heel

(57¾’ and 15” diameter).







The photo’s above show the 5mm square stock in place.

Below I compare 6mm square stock.



Without either thinning down the uprights or the 6mm stuff it just won’t fit.

 I am reluctant to thin down the bitts which look good for scale.

However, the evidence of Steel is that the Bowsprit may have been even longer and certainly heavier at the heel.


To thin down the 6mm stuff so it fits between the uprights, but leaving the depth the same, effectively makes it a rectangle rather than a square.



Thinned down 6mm stuff to fit between the uprights





I can’t clearly see from the instruction photo’s what Chris did on the prototype to get the fit, whether he modified the mortise or reduced the heel or a combination of both.

I can’t settle my mind on how to proceed so I have decided to make a Bowsprit using 6mm square stock using the taper formula given in Steel, the heel will then be reduced to fit between the bitts.

I will then let my eye be the judge.





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27 minutes ago, Blue Ensign said:

There is a fid hole and fid indicated in the Bowsprit but this sits forward of the Bitt pins, which makes little sense.

I can't say if it is documented practice, but a fid forward of the bitts might provide support in helping to keep the bowsprit from being pushed aft by the tension of bobstays or other rigging..

There appears to be a fid forward of the bitts on this contemporary model.


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Thanks Gregory, I've not seen that arrangement before.

The Bowsprit on Alert should have a series of fid holes along the square section to allow for  movement, and  that the fids fit thro' both bitt and Bowsprit to fix the position.

I suspect in the case of the Alert model that it is there as a simplification for the purpose as you describe , but the whole set up of the Bowsprit Step is a simplification to aid the modeller.





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Lookin' good but ... I would be careful with Steel as "Master Source" as he is a good time later then Alert is built.



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I'm using the 1794 edition Dirk, the base source of almost every modern writer you can think of.

He's writing some 17 years after the Alert time, and we all know how exceeding slow the Admiralty was to effect  any significant changes, at least until the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

If anything the scantlings of timbers and spars and rope work tended to decrease slightly over the 18th c, as evidenced by the various tables included in Lees but none of that is likely to affect my scale arrangements on Alert and I doubt that the quarter proportions  given in Steel varied much over the period.

In dealing with a kit like this it just needs to look right to the eye, and getting to that point given the constrictions of the provided parts is my main concern at present..🙂






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Sorry sorry sorry Maurice I mixed something up ... somehow I thought steel is younger .. but checked my Faksimile and it is indeed 1794 edition. VERY good to know ... hahahaha.





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Good evening Maurice,


That's one of the problems with kits unfortunately. Scratch is the way forward ;) Your idea of using 6 mm stock looks good to me anyway. I was very surprised to see what was provided in the kit for eyebolts and rings :huh: and those ghastly cast cannon,oh dear. Love your Alert print from the Science Museum by the way. I was in their shop 12 years ago hoping to replace a print of HMS Prince I bought in 1974 but was told they didn't sell prints anymore.  Guess they must have started again.


Dave :dancetl6:

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Thanks Dave, they do have prints of Prince, they are sold via a third party company.

I will message you the details tomorrow.





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Post 34

Creating a Bowsprit

For this I am using 6mm square stock to produce a spar 275mm in length.

The square section is marked with tape as is the outer end.


There is a formula in Steel based on Quarters along the length from the square section forward.

1st Q           2ND Q         3RD Q         Outer end

 60/61        11/12          4/5               5/9 

5.90mm      5.5mm      4.8mm          3.3mm



These stations are marked on a card for checking the diameters as the tapering progresses.

Before turning on the lathe the square edges are taken off using a ‘V’ jig.

Various grades of sandpaper are used to produce the taper.



With the sprit completed, additional fid holes are drilled thro’ the square section.



This is a good time to fix the iron hoop to support the Bowsprit.

A nicely presented etched item complete with square bolt plates.



Iron fids have replaced the simplified kit arrangement, they will be trimmed on final fitting.



The square section has come in at 5.75mm but I did in the end take a shave off the inner sides of the bitts, which is not apparent to the naked eye.



My eye tells me that it passes muster so the set up can now be put aside for the present.






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Post 35

Perhaps the most eye-catching deck fitting on a cutter is the Windlass and Carrick bitts.

I rather like making up these parts and Chris has provided in the kit the makings for a good set.

The laser cut wooden parts are cleanly cut and have a good surface for painting.

The kit provides a resin windlass spindle which is nicely formed and requiring very little clean up.

It is also a good match for scale against the Alert Book drawings.

Unlike wooden versions where the option is to varnish or paint, paint is the only option. If it is to be painted red, as often represented on models, no problem, otherwise getting a good colour mix is the main issue.



I wasn’t too keen on the suggested dark wood colour, but not quite sure what I’m after; perhaps a sort of washed out salt stained wood colour that will provide a contrast to the Carrick bits (Red) and other woodwork. Fiddling around with paint mixes is the only way to go.



The final addition to the Carrick Bitts are the straps that secure the cheeks to the Bitts. Nice brass etched well scaled items are provided.



One addition that can be reproduced are representations of the iron hoops at the outer ends of the warping heads on the Windlass. These are made from my old standby of heat shrink tubing.

Jeer and Topsail Bitts

This is the remaining significant centre line deck fitting.



Cleanly cut, easy to assemble parts with a resin windlass complete with pawl drums.



The only extra which may be considered are tiny pawls, but they are very tiny.



In the kit the elm tree pump casings are represented by some 4mm dowel into which the multi-part pe Brake handle mechanism is glued.



Strictly speaking the casing should be octagonal in section and I prefer to make mine from square section Boxwood.



One of the things to note when fitting these to the deck is that they are not vertical but angle outwards very slightly.



Not too sure from the kit instructions how high above deck the pump casings should stand. The instructions indicate gluing the pump handle assembly into 40mm long dowel but doesn’t elaborate further.

 Taking my guide from the Alert book I have settled on a length of 14mm above deck.



To finish the pumps, I added the discharge ports and the iron bands top and bottom.


Coming together now, but still too early to fix these deck fittings.







Back to the guns I think.





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Post 36

Preparing the Guns.

I have replaced the kit provided guns with RB Brass versions.

To these the Royal Monograms (Syren) and representations of the vent holes are added.

The Monograms are exceptionally fragile items and there is quite a high attrition rate. Even so once stuck they will withstand the acid dip and the blackening fluid.



I used the smallest of the Syren Monograms.

Once the gun is thoroughly cleaned the Monograms and vents were added.

A tiny spot of thick ca is applied to the gun and the monogram gently pressed into place.



This flash shot shows up the Monograms but is not a true reflection of the colour.



This shot more closely reflects the colour.

It takes several re-dips following cleaning off any residual ca to get the desired finish, and from this point plastic gloves are worn when handling the guns.



I don’t buff the surface but seal it using slightly thinned Humbrol Matt Cote, this both protects and deepens the colour a little.

So, here’s the completed set.













It has taken about five days’ work to reach this point, but I consider taking extra time with the guns is well worth the effort.

On an open decked vessel such as a cutter they are a major feature and very exposed to view.


In my next post I will be covering the combining of guns and carriages and adding the fine detail.




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Your guns turned out beautifully.  In my limited time as a modeler, I have had a terrible time getting brass to blacken and then for the blackening to stay put on the brass rather than to come off on my hands.  I know that a lot has to do with the correct cleaning of the brass.  And I see that you use Humbrol Matt Cote to seal.  Could I trouble you to outline for me what you use to clean the brass and  how you do this?  It would really help me (and perhaps others).  Thank you, Jim

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Hi Jim, thanks for looking in.


This is my approach to metal blackening.


 My Blackening Kit


1)  I first scrub the guns in water with washing up liquid using an old toothbrush.


2)   Rinse the guns in de-ionised water.


3)   Soak the guns in the Acid Dip for a couple of minutes, and then rinse in the Neutralising fluid, but I find the de-ionised water is just as good.


4)   Immerse in the blackening fluid (which I dilute with de-ionised water by around sixty percent) until the guns are black.


5)  Rinse again.


6)  Dry using a hair dryer on full heat.


7)   Buff the guns using a soft paintbrush to check the coverage.


  Because I have used ca to fix the Monograms invariably this will show up, requiring scraping away in places and the careful use of acetone to re-clean the area. Acetone dissolves ca so great care must be taken not to lift the Monograms.


9)   I re-dipped the Alert guns several times until I got the finish I was after.


10)      With an even black surface I used Humbrol Matt Cote thinned a little with White Spirit to improve the flow, to paint over the guns.


I don't always  coat the guns, I didn't with the guns on my Cheerful build,  but they were larger and handling was easier with less risk of marring the surface.

Hope this helps.




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Post 37

Completing the Guns

This is now the time to secure the gun barrels to the carriages using the Cap squares.

These are supplied as etched items and do have the fold lines and hole points marked to take the retaining bolt and Cap square hinge.



In preparing the Cap squares I use a trunnion bar as a jig to aid the folding process.



Once formed the holes are drilled thro’ and the ends trimmed a little to better fit the carriage.



The Cap squares are quite fragile with weakness at the bend points; there are only a couple of spares so careful handling is required.

Fitting Cap Squares is a tedious business; I use ca to secure to the top of the carriage and then drill thro’ to take the retaining bolt and hinge.



These little additions are not referred to in the instructions, but I like to add them.



I use tweaked etched eyes from some stuff I have lying about and copper eye pins. Once in place these help to better secure the Cap Squares.



Still thinking about adding the bolt pins and chains to the carriages as I did with Cheerful.

The smallest chain I have is 48 links to the inch which may be a tad over scale.


I’ll leave the guns for now and go back to a little woodwork.





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Just a quick, can you explain the use of chains attached to the gun carriages. Something I've not seen before in any book or build logs for 18th century sailing ships. Thanks

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Hi Alan,

The Cap Squares that retain the  gun trunnions on the carriage are hinged and secured at the forward end by a pin thro'  a bolt over which the Cap Square fits.

The pin has a short chain attached which is secured to the carriage side.


You can see the arrangement here on one of the Quarterdeck 12 pounders on Victory.






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Thanks for the info & picture.The chain is quite small, no wonder I missed it in looking at photographs.

At 1/64 scale the link would be very small,  1/64" for a 1" link or 0.4mm. 

I have seen people use twisted fuse wire or thin copper wire to represent chain in the past.

Something you might consider?


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Cheers Alan, I've no immediate pressure to complete the guns so I can ponder the subject a while longer.🙂

Post 38

Swivel guns

I had started making the Swivel gun pedestals but have side stepped to look at the Swivel guns and their ‘iron’ yolks that fit into the posts.

For the Swivels I am using RB 15mm Brass guns which are spot on for scale.



They do need a little fettling because for some odd reason the trunnion hole doesn’t go all the way through the Barrels, but at least only completing the drilling is involved.



The button also has to be removed and the gun drilled to take the tiller.



A mornings work on the little Miller and it’s all done.



The kit provides neat photo etched Swivel Gun yolks which save a lot of time fiddling around making these small fittings, a boon to those modellers less inclined to indulge in habitual kit bashing.

The photo shows a mock-up of one of the early Resin Swivel guns.


However, I decided to make my own yolks using the method I used on my Pegasus build.



As with the last time I made these items they were formed from etched brass hooks but this time I silver soldered the two halves to form the yolk.



The wip RB gun alongside the Resin Kit version.



I do prefer the crispness of a brass gun, and personally I don’t think you can beat the look of a chemically blackened gun.

With the Yolks made I can now return to looking at the posts and drill out to take the mounting.






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Post 39

 Rails and Swivel Gun pedestals

This is the last main hull construction job outstanding.

The kit provides a pre-formed Rough tree rails with the slots for the pedestals and timberheads pre-cut.



I used the provided rail as a template to mark the positions of the posts and timberheads.

The kit part is perfectly fine as a simplified arrangement, but the rail of necessity is too wide, as it is designed to allow the Swivel gun pedestals to run thro’ it.

Both the Alert book and the Admiralty plan show the typical octagonal shape applicable to such pedestals, and a narrow Rough Tree rail that runs thro’ them, or tenons into them.

The pedestal bottoms are angled as they run down the drift rail with the tops horizontal.



I made the octagonal pedestals from Boxwood Square stuff and used a simple jig to cut the angles using the kit parts as a template.



With the Swivel crutches made the holes can now be drilled to take mountings.

At this point I have glued the posts into place as I need a solid base to fit the swivels and more importantly the Rough Tree rail.



Testing the fit of the swivel guns and mounts. Since the previous post I have re-visited the Swivel mounts and made them slightly smaller.


That is the easy bit.

More tricky is the fitting of the Rough tree rail running between the posts and topping the Timberheads each side of the port before ending in a hance on the Drift rail.

For the Rough Tree rail I planed down a 1x4mm Boxwood strip supplied in the kit, until it was 2.0mm wide.

I am then faced with the problem of how to fit between the swivel posts. Mortise them in perhaps or pin them; the main issue is keeping a smooth transition between the posts.

I will report on how it goes in my next post.




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Post 40

Rough Tree Rails

This involved more than a little trial and error.

Each section had to be independently fitted between the Swivel posts, whilst hopefully maintaining an even run of the rail.

Before I started I both pinned and glued the Finger and Thumb timberheads between the posts; I used the kit provided items.

The forward end of the rail ends in a curved hance. This was fashioned from some 2mm Boxwood Sheet and cut out on the scroll saw.





Went a little easier than I thought it would be.



A re-check of the swivel fit.



Lemuel my Helmsman assists with a scale check.



Whilst I was on a roll I continued to complete the Timberheads and swivel post at the bow.

I used the kit provided Timberheads (Finger and Thumb) as they are nicely shaped and good for scale. As they are to be painted I didn’t think it worth the effort to reproduce in Boxwood.



The provided Swivel pedestals, rectangular affairs, I replaced with Boxwood Octagonal versions. The measurement I took from the Alert Book.












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Thank you Christian, I rather think it is Chris  who has reproduced those wonderful lines in the design of his kit.🙂


Post 41

Completing the Swivels

None of the kit parts were used in the production of the Swivel guns.

I have the remaining six bow guns to complete and then blacken the set of twelve.



The crutches in their raw state.



Bringing crutch and gun together.



Cleaned and ready to blacken.



A few dips later and the guns are ready to seal.



For the ball on the end of the handle I use my old standby of pva. This is very useful for creating such features where other methods are impracticable.

I also use it for such things as handles on gun quoins, and bolt heads on metal straps at small scales.











The ordnance is now completed and will be put aside until final fitting.


Moving back to the hull where another puzzlement arises.





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Post 42


The kit provides clean laser cut channels which correlate to the scale plan* drawings in the Alert Book with the Deadeye spacing to match.

They take the form of a traditional Channel arrangement incorporating what would be a strip securing the Deadeye Chainplates in slots along the Channel.

However, because of my experience with Cheerful I am aware of a different style of channel on cutters which is a narrower, deeper section, wedge shaped channel with the Chainplates supported in shallow slots, without a covering board.

*Confusingly some of the drawings in the Alert book would suggest this simpler form, as does the book cover illustration, whereas the plan drawings show the kit style arrangement.

The model of the Hawke also shows the kit style arrangement, whereas the painting by Joseph Marshall of the Alert model shows the other style.


Looking too deeply into such matters can seriously affect your sanity so I guess it’s a case of you pays your money and takes your choice.🤔


I have decided to fit a modified version cut from some 4mm Boxwood sheet, and as the channels are to be unpainted, use of Boxwood will match the hull planking.



Working the Channels.

Before permanently fitting the channels it is worthwhile checking how the chain plates will fit along the hull. Having made the channels these are pinned into the hull without gluing so that the position of the plates can be checked.



 Don’t want any late surprises of shrouds fouling gun ports.



Fitting the plates is not quite as simple as it may seem as the bottom end of the plate is pinned immediately below the wale, follows the profile of the wale, (where it is also pinned) then angles outwards up to the channel where it is either pinned in shallow slots or fitted thro’ the slots on the channel if using the kit arrangement.

The provided etched chainplates and deadeye rings are nicely done, but I decided to make my own in the manner of the Cheerful build.



I am using 1.5 x 0.25mm Brass fret which equates to a 3¾” wide plate somewhat narrower than the kit version.



Test fitting a Chainplate.

At this point I have drilled thro’ for the bolt below the wale, but I can’t further advance them until I have made the deadeye strops.

On the subject of deadeyes Steel gives the diameter of the Deadeyes as 12” (for a 200-ton cutter) which scales to 4.76mm.



Kit deadeyes often exceed the given nominal size by up to 0.3 mm as is the case with this kit, but they are very nicely made and finished with none of the misplaced holes you often get in a proportion of kit provided deadeyes.

Coupled with the provided Channels and etched Chainplates they do provide the oob builder with a straightforward and effective method of dealing with what can be a tricky area of a build.



My preference is to use Boxwood versions at a nominal 4mm (4.3mm) which with the built-in excess come closer to the given diameter than the provided 5mm (5.4mm) versions.

 Strop and plate making will be engaging me for the next couple of days.





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Post 43

Iron work along the Channels.

I prefer the look of a finer Chainplate and smaller deadeye so some extra work is involved in shaping the plates, drilling the three bolt holes, attaching to the strops, and blackening the metal.



Having formed the basic plate, the first action is to test fit along the hull, mark the bolt holes, remove and drill, and generally clean up and file in the taper and shoulder where the plate fits around the Deadeye strop.

The second part of the exercise is making Deadeye Strops.

This is a fairly simple exercise if you invest in a silver soldering kit.

A ring is made using 0.5mm ø Brass wire wound tightly around a nominal 5mm dowel rod and snipped.



Applying the silver solder paste to the joint which should be very close.



Heat is applied until the silver flashes, and the jobs done.

The success or otherwise of the joint will soon be apparent when the ring is squeezed around the deadeye to form the strop.



 Sufficient excess of wire is necessary over the actual deadeye size to form the strop and a little trial and error may be required to gauge this.



The two elements can then be brought together for blackening and fitting.

Fitting is probably the trickiest part of the exercise, ensuring the deadeye tops look level along the Channel.



The Starboard set completed.



The copper bolts securing the clinker planking are evident in this shot.









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