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HMS Surprise by Mayohoo - Artesania Latina - Scale 1: 48, after Aubrey-Maturin series (First wooden ship build)


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In the beginning, December 2011. Son tore his ACL so we started a project together as he and I are both big Patrick O'Brian fans. So the objective is to build a ship Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin would recognize. Interestingly this kit came with a CD of instructions in addition to (as I have found out) a rather incomplete set of paper instructions. However, thanks to the wealth of knowledge on this site  (krt, gil middleton) and the moderators it is possible to plow through and progress

 

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First was to build the "shipyard" and begin construction of the frame work. It is key to make sure everything is as perpendicular as possible because once you start planking being off requires tedious sanding/filing to get things right. 

 

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The measurements of the AL kit are off significantly compared to the plans drawn up by Karl Heinz Marquardt in Brian Lavery and Geoff Hunt's book The Frigate Surprise. The original plans from the British Admiralty are also available on-line for those with an itch to build the L'Unite which was the French ship captured by the British which was then named the HMS Surprise. I have chosen to make the ship as close to the Aubrey-Maturin version as I can, but I am sure that there will be liberties and errors. My best effort tho!

 

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Anyway, as a result I remeasured the ship and moved the mast positions slightly to reflect the book HMS Surprise.

 

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The stern most area had to adjusted to get it to be level, Otherwise it sloped upwards...

 

 

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After placing the plywood gun deck down and attaching with glue and nails I proceeded to the decking. I followed the Lavery book as much as possible along with the tutorials from Model Ship World that I found. I also found out that the nails supplied by AL are steel which apparently discolor or rust over time. I purchased brass ones and a nail driver from Model Expo for safety sake. 

 

The difficulty with the decking was in getting everything to balance side to side in addition to cutting the planks and placing according to the pattern of the day which was I believe based on a 4 strake repeating pattern. (Excellent resources again found on the web). 

 

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To imitate the caulk I used indelible ink pen on the side which worked well. For the hatch and stair I actually prepared a small mini-deck below it, but unfortunately the stairs completely cover it so you can't see it. I made the stairs side by side opposite direction because that is the way they are on the USS Constitution which I saw in Boston. Also took a side trip to San Diego to look at the HMS Rose, which was the putative HMS Surprise in the movie Master and Commander. I had pictures of both, but am not sure the Mods want them in a build log. If there is interest I can dig back to post some...

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Thank goodness for digital files! Appreciate the encouragement. Ummm, can you point me to where there is a good description of building a double to single block tackle for cannons? I was using Gil Middleton's superb HMS Victory for teaching, but well, ship happens so to speak...

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I tried an experiment using photocopies of the deck with the idea of precutting the pieces before attaching to the real deck. Didn't work too well as the photocopy is just slightly off and the pieces need to be hand sanded and adjusted to fit right. Oh well, worth a try...

 

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Also. whitewashed all the gun deck structures as per the Jotika HMS Surprise build research on the web. Another excellent source of historical information and detail for this build.

 

http://www.jotika-ltd.com/Pages/1024768/Surprise_Front.htm

 

 

 

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Edited by Mayohoo
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Thank goodness for digital files! Appreciate the encouragement. Ummm, can you point me to where there is a good description of building a double to single block tackle for cannons? I was using Gil Middleton's superb HMS Victory for teaching, but well, ship happens so to speak...

 

Pop that question in the rigging section.  It's possible someone has an answer.  Or, PM Gill directly.  Maybe he'll re-start his log.

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So trenails. That was fun. Had no idea what they were until I went over krts blog and then learned how to make them. FIrst, buy the metal draw plate from one of the website sponsors. It's worth it and works really well. I have used it for trenails but also for cannon axles and mounts. Very useful tool. So first, buy some bamboo skewers...$1.99 for a hundred. Didn't seem to make a huge difference but greener seemed easier to work with, drier slightly less so. Then use trusty swiss army knife scissor to cut in strips. Pull a strip from polished non number side to number side. Repeat to get to the diameter you need. At 0.020 inches x 48 that is nearly a 1 inch plug/trenail. On the HMS Rose that is roughly the right size. In the Goodwin book they ranged from 1-1.5 inches. I found that pulling less than 0.020 started to become painful as the trenails broke fairly easily. Anyway, as per the pictures, I trenailed the entire deck. Oh, and I was told it was pronounced trunnel...post-549-0-83509000-1361083444_thumb.jpg

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Next step was building up the bulkheads using a combination of balsa wood and wood putty. The idea is to give a larger surface area to attach the strakes along the side of the hull. Balsa was easy to shape and cheap. Unfortunately it doesn't hold nails and gluing is a little bit of an issue but can be worked around by using a thin layer to soak the wood/Elmer's glue into the balsa and allowing it to dry before permanently gluing the strakes on.

 

Best to sand outside or in the garage. Makes a mess...

 

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Per krt advice I added more mass to make the surface slightly higher than the frames and sanded back the frames and excess balsa/putty.

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Planking the hull. This took like 3 months to do and was a learning experience. I refer you to the excellent tutorial here on the website called (I think) Planking for Beginners. I did the planking using a soldering iron (note: The entire shaft gets hot, not just the end. I have the burn scars to prove it...) and did a lot of presoaking of planks then clamping or temporary nailing in place followed by trimming and gluing into position. The rule was to never narrow a plank by more than 50% of the starting width and never place two joints adjacent to each other. 

I started by dividing the width into quarters and worked to even the differences in width from bow to stern as evenly as I could. 

 

Also, the first mate arrived too. Meet Jack Aubrey  :piratebo5:

 

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So began building the upper bulwarks stern to bow beginning at the gun deck. Learned about stealers and how to compensate fro differences in height from stern to midships to bow.

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Instead of cutting out gun ports I tried to build them using cut pieces of wood. In retrospect, I would have  completed the walls and then cut the gunports out.

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Tools and references that were helpful.

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The Bible...

 

 

The kit did not place the frames in the correct position so had to modify as I went through the ship. 

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In retrospect, again, I would have completed the bulwarks and cut the gun ports in rather than custom building each one

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Edited by Mayohoo
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Proceeded on to gunports. Getting them flat and even was time consuming, but it turned out ok. I can see tiny flaws but hope that the other details (port lids) will mask them to some extent.

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Also wired the ship for flickering LED yellow lights that should mimic oil lanterns. They are a random flicker and looked pretty nice when I tested them. The wiring will run out the base. Plan two lamps in the captains cabin, one in the gun deck aft, one in the gun deck forward, and one stern light

 

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The lites were 1.8mm bulbs so fit into the smallest lanterns that Jotika makes. Drilled a hole and then was able to finagle them into position. I know they are not exactly like the real thing but they were nice looking and I went with them...

 

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Running the wiring out the keel required reinforcing the keel. I made one error and had to redo one of them because I forgot to run the wire through before I glued it. Grrr... Liked the brass base for their ornateness, was like $2 apiece.

 

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On to the lower hull planking. This required some help from krt and the moderators. I was not to sure what a garboard plank was so they helped me along. I chose not to cut it into the keel because the keel was already thinned by the wiring and I thought it would splinter if I cut into it any more. 

 

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Required presoaking and clamping overnight to get the full twist of the wood.

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Planking...an exercise in patience. Learned a lot, but it took a long time to get it pretty close to right. Perhaps choosing a single planked hull for my first project was not a terribly good idea, but I got there. Divided the hull into quarters and then worked to even the strakes out within each quarter. I initially thought to do it with calculations, but then it evolved to more cut to approximate width followed by filing with a good wood file my Dad left me to get it real close, then sanding with emery fingernail boards to get it perfect. Lot of soaking and then clamping/pinning in place overnight to get things bent into correct positions.

 

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Last little bit before finishing planking. Whew!

 

Then a long good vigorous sand and detail for tiny defects using wood putty to prepare for coppering and painting. Had only two small sprung boards that required removal and fixing/sanding and repair. A tight seaworthy hull Captain!

 

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Had a moderate amount of clapboarding forward, but it all sanded out nicely in the end. The boards would not bend in three directions at a time...

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The rudder was interesting. I initially followed the AL plans, didn't like it and then determined that they were somewhat inaccurate compared to the Admiralty plans, so I redid the rudder after doing it once (I seem to do that a lot). Being OCD about stuff must be a requirement of this hobby... Note the number/position of rudder braces differs between the AL and Original plans. The rudder ended up being fragile and broke, so I had to jury rig it and reinforce with a trenail. The I recoppered it after filling in the vertical plank lines which looked crummy to me

 

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The AL rudder

 

Fixed rudder to follow. 

 

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Finished rudder

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Note trenail reinforcement and the planking is gone.

 

On to the Stern and the Captains cabin. This was a lot of fun with details and little things to try and figure out. First the stern, decided to make windows that opened in as per the moderator and the HMS Rose. Also, decided to use slide coverslips to make real glass windows as opposed to the acetate fake things that come with the kit. Used bamboo from the trenails to make tru divided light windows...

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For the roof of the captains galleries I used thick paper cut to look like round shingles then painted with black acrylic. Looks like the Geoff Hunt paintings as close as I could get.

Also, did a fair amount of the painting of the sides to try and make it as clean as possible. The Tamiya paint tape works really well.

Tried to follow the reference book and paint the sides black with a single blue strake in the stern and the yellow ocher checkered strip along the gunports. Paint was from Caldercraft which is based on chips from HMS Victory (or so they say). The red is close to the HMS Rose in San Diego.

 

Am missing some pics from my files so will retake tonight of the completed stern. 

 

 

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In the Captains cabin decided to paint the trim green so the gun port reflects that. 

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Found a race car victory flag and did the floor in cloth ala Nelson black and white squares at 18 inch to scale. Then used ModPodge to attach it to the flooring and stiffen it. Added the walls as per the Lavery book and the doors using the same measurements. Note doors with pin head door handle.

 

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Made the captains table with plates, spotted dog, and cups.

Added a world map 1805 reduced to 10% size, then added a blonde woman who could look like Sophie and framed that.

 

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A bookshelf, couple bottles of wine, a writing desk, ink well with feather were next. Found a copy of the London Gazette online with the Battle of Trafalgar report and reduced that to 5% and printed it and put it on the desk.

Added a cello, violin, Locatellis Violin Sonata in G (reduced to 8%), bows (strings made of dog hair), Ceremonial sword, and chairs.

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Will add final picture later as I am missing some pics.

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Used a glass cutter with athletic tape to cut microscope coverslips to the right size and shape. Got 1 of 3 to not snap, took awhile to figure it out.

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Added hinges so windows would open up to see inside cabin a little better.

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Side gallery windows had to be bent slightly to fit.

 

Note stern cut to mimic original plans so as not to have the big central peak in the AL model plans.

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