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Blue Ensign

H.M. Cutter Alert by Blue Ensign - 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.


Edited by Gregory

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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.





Edited by Blue Ensign

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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.





Edited by Blue Ensign

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