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Blue Ensign

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

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Good evening Maurice,

I like your idea of using the first planking as practice for the second planking,good thinking. Now that pic of your fish 'n' chips has made me very jealous,also the glass of Yorkshire Bitter :) I'm finding out there's much more to my Speedwell POB build than I first thought. The stem assy build up for instance has components of 3 different thicknesses,12",10" and 8",I now know that 2" at 1:48 is 0.041666",I called it 0.042";) I'm not building for a Museum lol. My hat's off to folks that can build POF,that's way out of my depth I'm afraid.



Dave :dancetl6:



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I think we find there is much more to any build than we first thought Dave, but  part of the fun is driving ourselves mad trying to  get it right.🤔

I did take some liberties with the first planking , there's nothing like  doing single planking with expensive timbers to concentrate the mind. 😃






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Post 8

Sand, fill, and the tweaks begin

The hull has been filled where necessary using a very light and fine filler, sanded, smoothed, and sanded again. I used a thin vertical strip to highlight any hollows.

My hull wasn't in bad shape prior to the sanding but I found that Chris's estimate of an hours' work for the sanding process to be somewhat optimistic in my case.🙄



At this point I added the uppermost strake of 1.5 x 4mm strip.



Using a full strip I  formed a lateral bend to follow the sheer line and  a slight curve to round the bow section. Went on quite easily but pinning thro' the upper end of the bulkhead extensions did split many of them.

Clamps and pegs were used to secure the strakes during gluing, don't think pins are really required.


Counter pattern (48)



When I first fitted this I wasn't happy with the result, and removed it. It seemed to lack that graceful  curve following the line of what would be the lower stern counter timber. This is because the stern frames are straight on their underside rather than concave.

This is clearly evident on the kit build photo's which show it as a near straight line, which creates a mismatch to the curve of the lower counter pattern represented by part (76)

In my opinion this produces a less than desirable look.



Before fitting the counter pattern I would suggest that the curve of part 76 is marked on the stern timbers and the curve  sanded into the profile, as shown above and below.





The  lower counter pattern (76)  temporarily in place.



This is the effect I'm looking for.



I then re-attached the Counter pattern (48),

Note:  I have left planking the tuck until later, I want the diagonal planking to go over the ends of the second planking rather than the other way around.



With the counter in place I planked it horizontally with thin Box strip.


I will probably replace the counter timbers with Boxwood versions.

I note a difference between the kit Alert and the book Alert in that the lower stern counter timber on the kit version ends atop the wale, whereas  the book drawings show the timber carrying down with the wale butting against it, in the same manner as Cheerful.

This is something else I will need to consider when fitting the wale.





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Post 9

Going off Piste - So to begin the next stage

At this point things start to get interesting.

I am departing from the kit arrangement of completing the second planking and then adding the wale.

I need to add the wale at this point because below this level the planking is Clinker built, above the wale it is carvel.

The lower hull planking will start at the garboard plank  because below the wale the planks overlap the one below.


If I sound confident and knowing what I'm talking about - always remember - appearances can be deceptive, and there will be plenty of time for me to bail out and revert to a carvel hull.


The Wale

According to the Goodwin book Alert had a single plank wale measuring 15" broad x 5" thick. (6mm x 2mm) This correlates pretty well with the kit dimensions of (2) 3mm x 1mm planks, which allowing for the second planking, is spot on.


Fixing the wales is one of the most critical parts of a build and it takes some time and adjustments to get it looking right to your eye.



I used Tamiya tape to  initially mark the position of the lower line of the wale, this again correlates with measurements comparisons between the book and kit drawings.



I then add a narrow strip at the lower edge of the wale position, to use as a guide to fit the wale. Actually this was the same strip as I used for my Cheerful build, pretty close for sheer but obviously shorter in length.

I am using 6mm x 1mm strips of Boxwood for the wales, each wale will consist of two layers to give a finished thickness of 1mm over the second planking layer.

The top layer will have the butt and hook scarphs scribed into the surface, but  these may not clearly show once the wale is blackened.



The wales are shaped at the stern to allow for the lower stern side counter pieces.

These I cut out from some broad Boxwood Strip using the kit part (76) as a template.



They are temporarily pinned into place until the upper bulwark top layer planking is completed.

I have followed the arrangement for these side timbers as indicated in the Alert Book.



A funny angle but the photo shows the curve of the side counter pieces  to follow the wale line.



Moving on...




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I am really interested in how you approach the lapstrake. I would think you would have to have wider planking material than supplied to allow for the overlap. Or do you have extra material on hand?



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So am I Kurt,😃

I haven't yet formulated my approach to the clinker planking , I will give my full attention to that once I have completed the topside planking down to the Wale.

Goodwin gives the size of the planking as approx 12" broad amidships and 2½" thick (4.76mm x1mm ) at scale.

Looking at the book drawings they seem to equate to 6mm x1mm  boards with a  rabbet of 1.5mm to a depth of 0.25mm.

The Garboard plank looks to be 9mm wide at mid point.

I do have a fair range of timbers of varying widths and thicknesses.




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B.E. I suggest 0.5mm thickness for the clinker. 1mm could be hard to get right.



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Thanks Dirk, I do have a supply of Boxwood strip of a nominal 0.7mm in varying widths which I was thinking of using. I thought with such a thin strip I wouldn't have to attempt rebating the upper edges of the strakes, the downside of course is that there is little room for sanding out mistakes.

When you did your clinker planking did you find that differing strip widths were needed?





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1 hour ago, Blue Ensign said:

When you did your clinker planking did you find that differing strip widths were needed?

It's a while ... but yes I think different widths where needed. Check the image:



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Cheers Dirk,


In that case I will use the 0.7mm thick stuff, it is very pliable and has an adequate range of widths, I did use it for the exterior planking and deck planking on my Pegasus build.





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That sounds about right. I think I still have a piece of 1/32 “ pear from hobby mill which is extremely close to 0.7 mm. I’m going to let you go first though. Are you planning on painting the lower hull, or finishing her like Dirk. I think the natural finish would be so very much more demanding (and satisfying). No room for cover ups. Isn’t that what this is all about from a fun point of view anyway? My thoughts lean to treenailing with monofilament brown fishing line “ala Chuck”. Seems so clean and elegant if you get the correct shade. 



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I think I'll defer the paint versus varnish finish until I see how I do. Not even thought about treenailing at this scale.🤔





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Chuck has shown me some nice results using fishing line. Very subtle, compared to wax, wood filler or actual treenails where the end grain appears too dark. I’m going to have to experiment. They’re always perfectly round with no bleed out around the edges. That’s a long way off though.

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Post 10

Reworking the Transom:-

I have already departed from the kit arrangement by incorporating lower side counter timbers.



My next step is to glue the stern transom pattern (49) this also is planked with thin box strip. I think the stern pattern will stand a slight beefing up and the Box wood cladding will do the job.



Initial trial fitting of the transom  showed that there was no margin along the bottom of the gun ports inboard, to allow for the deck planking, which would otherwise rise above the framing.

The one clear photo in the build guide shows such a margin, but that is without the 1mm planking applied to the platform deck above the counter.

I had to tweak the transom piece by adding a strip along the bottom to raise it slightly above the deck level.

Once this is done it is clearer to see how the upper side timber (75) which incorporates the boom crutch, can be accommodated.



With the Transom piece fitted, I now have a solid edge to work the Upper side timbers.

I think the inboard framing detail of the kit Transom configuration is a little sparse, having only the four vertical counter timbers, which are either side of the stern ports.



Using Boxwood strip I added the transom beam which runs across the top of the gun ports, and a Tafferal capping strip.





Fixing Capping rails to the transom involves an eclectic mix of  clamping items.


These small additions, replicate more accurately the stern framing of the cutter, and imho greatly improve the look of the model, or will once I've fettled it.



The modifications require making new side pieces including the crutch. The original piece is shown in the centre.



These are attached to the transom  and will be fine tuned  on the model.



A second layer lower Side piece is glued to the hull. These are quite intricate pieces that butt up to the upright and curve and twist down to meet the wale aft edge.



Still very much wip but  it is progressing as I hoped, and with the structure now there I can decide on the paint scheme and add the second layer wale timbers.






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Good evening Maurice,

Excellent mod's there. You always make significant improvements to your kits,great stuff. I've finished the keel and stem assy for Speedwell (all 18 pieces) except for some "fine tuning" of the stem taper. Hopefully I will shortly have it fixed to the spine then it's bulkheads glued in followed by the dreaded fairing later this week.




Dave :dancetl6:

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Coming along nicely. When you say you intend to scribe the hook and butt scarfs on the main wale. Are you going to scribe them off of the model before the second layer of the wale is attached?



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Thank you Dave and Kurt.

@ Dave, -  Bashing is part of the fun, I fully accept that most kits contain simplifications to appeal to a wider customer and skill base, and Alert is no exception. The single exception in my case is Cheerful, but that is on a completely different level. Good luck with the fairing, one of my least favourite jobs.

@ Kurt -  I will temporarily attach the wale with pins to mark the positions, and then scribe them off the model. When the wales are completed I doubt they will be very evident beneath the black paint.





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Post 11

Planking above the wale

Above the wale I  have used Boxwood strip forming three strakes down to the wale top. At the aft end the planks are shaped to meet the lower side counter pieces.



I won't completely finish these Top sides off until I have cut the half ports along the bulwark.



I then moved onto planking the internal bulwarks. For the Spirketing I used kit Pear wood strips,(1x3mm and 1x4mm)

Above this I used a Boxwood strip sanded back to the top line.



The second layer of the Wales were then attached using 6x1mm Boxwood strip.

A rabbet is cut into the bow stem to take the forward end which is slightly reduced in thickness.

The plank requires a little heat bending to take the stress out of it and before fitting the three Hook and and Butt scarph joints are  represented by scribing into the surface.

I have followed the arrangement from the Goodwin Alert book.

Using Caldercraft metal black paint I applied a thinned coat to seal the wales, but these will need to be finished much further down the road.

As suspected the scarf joints are barely visible, and probably not worth the effort.





 I added the waterways along the deck, cut from some Boxwood sheet.



Starting to look a little better now, my next  job will be to cut the half ports along the bulwark, before planking the deck.




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Post 12

Cutting the Ports

The kit provides a combined capping strip/ gun port template (46) which has the port positions marked, along with the slots for the timber heads.



These are very delicate strips and in my kit the front ends had broken away even before removal from the supporting fret. Even so they are a good idea, simplifies and takes all the hassle out of making a rail.

I always find the cutting out of ports a tricky business, but at least these are only half ports.



To assist the process it is useful to have:-

 A square section strip the size of the port, with two grades of sandpaper stuck to two of the sides. I'm using an 8mm square section of Walnut.

A gauging strip with the 4mm and 6mm depths  cut out to mark and check progress.

A good quality narrow blade  razor saw, and scalpel for cutting and paring.



Once the ports have been marked, Tamiya tape is used as guides for the vertical cuts.



Always a relief when this job has been done.



 With care things will go well, but watch the angles of the  vertical cuts across the top, they are not all square to the keel, but follow the curve of the bulwark.





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Post 13

 Laying down some paint.

Having taken a minimalistic approach to paint on my Cheerful build, with this model I am going to broadly follow the paint scheme as indicated in the Alert Book.

I am using Vallejo Flat Red 031 for the internal paintwork, as I did with Cheerful.



This is a good point to coat the internal bulwarks and internal faces of the ports.



Once the spirketting had been painted I added the Waterway using 1/32" Boxwood square stock.


For the stern and topsides  the suggested Humbrol Matt Blue(25) is a tad too dark for my taste.



I concocted my own mix based on the formula I used for Pegasus.

The base paint is Humbrol Matt 89 (Middle Blue) to which Matt 25 (Matt Blue) and  Matt 27 (sea Grey) and  are added.

The proportions are roughly 60% (89) 30% (25) 10% (27)



Still not entirely convinced that I've got the shade  right yet, but this is ok for a base coat.


Mouldings and rails

There are mouldings across the stern at Counter, Transom and Tafferal.



I used 1/16th Boxwood strip for the purpose thinned down a little. These are much enhanced by scribing a simple relief using a razor blade cut pattern.



For the Sheer rail which runs beneath the gun ports the kit indicates using plain 1mm x 1mm strip. I used a tad wider Boxwood stuff and as with the stern rails I scribed a profile on the face.

The kit  paint scheme indicates this be painted black, but I prefer to leave it bright.


I rather liked the look of treenails on my Cheerful model. After some thought I decided to add the treenails along the broadside above the wale.



Taking the arrangement from the Alert book drawings, I used a 0.6mm micro drill and filled the holes using a filler mix.

Not very distinct but that's how they should be.

A coat of wipe-on poly is applied to seal the surface.






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She definitely is a very smart looking craft. I’m hoping to be able to come up with a blue about halfway between your shade and a Wedgewood sort of blue. And when I get there, I’m going to experiment with using fish line monofilament for treenails. I’ll try it on a small mockup first, depends on the colors available. But that’s in the distance for now.



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Thank you Kurt, she's still looking a bit rough at the moment, but I like to get some paint on her so I can judge the effect before I proceed too far.


I think you're on the right track  regarding the shade of blue for the topsides.



This is the  sort of tone I will ultimately aim to get.

Of course using blue anyway is probably artistic licence as the official colour was black, but blue does make a nice contrast with the wood.






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I didn’t realize that colors were officially that strictly adhered too especially with small craft.  Didn’t the Nelson scheme occur gradually as a trend, rather then an official decree?


Sorry, Yankee ignorance.



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L.G. Carr Laughton in his book Old Ship Figureheads and sterns, covers this subject at some length.

He specifically notes as a curiosity that in paintings and models the upper works of the period sometimes show the ground as blue or red, when "we know with some certainty that there was strict regulation that the colour should be black."

This appeared to go back to the17th Century, and he cites an Admiralty order of 12 July 1715 that "the outsides of ships be painted of the usual yellow colour and the ground black".


This doesn't mean that the rule was always adhered to, but in terms of fancy frieze works, it was  usually restricted to ships of importance, and less so even on  those, as the Napoleonic war ground on into the 19th c.


With regard to cutters like Alert, they were utility vessels, commanded by low ranking officers,  probably without the wherewithal, or authority, to pay for special paint jobs.  

If the topsides were painted at all  I would  guess it would be black.


Even so I am happy to display my Alert with blue painted topsides, but I won't be adding the  etch decoration.





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Posted (edited)

Thanks? I agree with your feelings about using blue. I never though the freize work was on many longboats and small craft, except in paintings or a royal bardge. Can you imagine the upkeep? Sailors where nothing bu practical at least as far as work goes and maybe even some junior officers could be at times.



Edited by Kurt Johnson
senior moment

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Post 14

Capping/Drift Rail (Part46)

Much as I liked the idea of the pre marked capping rails, when I came to fit them they just looked too broad to my eye. This would have been exacerbated by my desire to add even a very thin edging strip with a profile moulding cut into it.



The provided strip measures 4.5mm wide which equates to 11.3". The scantlings table in the Alert book gives the Drift rail width of 7½" which equates to 3mm at scale.

I understand the over-scale width maybe a necessary simplification to incorporate the cut outs for the timberheads etc; and ease construction, but I have decided to go another route.

I recall that I had the same issue with the Pegasus kit where the Drift rails also had to be reduced in width.



For Alert I used Pear wood strip of 3x1mm which is a perfect fit for the drift rails, and add a  moulding to the outside edge.



The provided rails may come in to use  as a template to mark the cut out positions but for the dedicated kit basher they aren't really necessary as the positions are clearly marked on the plans.


New Paint job.

I wasn't really happy with the shade of blue I first painted the topsides with. On reflection it looked too bright, somehow at odds with the red internal scheme, perhaps too modern looking. These things are hard to pin down.

The revised scheme is based on Humbrol  Matt 96 which is RAF Blue. At a pinch I think you could get away with this on its own, it has a muted dusky blue/grey tone.



However, I thought it needed  making slightly paler and a tad brighter. To achieve this I added white paint by degrees, testing each sample, until I  arrived at the final shade I was happy with.





That's it for the outboard work for the present.

To reach this point has taken some seven weeks of fairly regular work time. Amusing to think how many models Chris Watton has completed in this time, I think he must have an army of Elves down in the Forest of Dean working night shifts.


I will now attend to planking the deck before I begin tinkering with the clinkering on the lower hull.






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