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HMS Pelican by Modeler12 - per Harold Hahn’s plans

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Although I am not yet finished with my current build, I went ahead and decided to buy the plans from Chris Hahn (Harold Hahn’s son). The ship is the Pelican which was captured by the British from a French privateer when it was still the Frederick. Harold Hahn described the history in his book and also showed how he made this rather small ship model.

I was intrigued by the fact that it is made with frame and plank construction (something I have not yet done) but yet is mostly planked, whereas most of his other models leave the bottoms open to show the frames and parts of the interior. This model has one side fully planked, but the starboard side has a large section that is cut away to fully show the interior along with a couple of the frames. I like that idea since it gives me a chance to show the actual hull construction as well as the living quarters and storage areas of this ship.

Harold made this model to his usual 1/8 to the foot scale. I decided to increase that to 3/16 or 64:1. Hence the first thing I did was to enlarge the three drawings in the package from Chris.

The reason I am starting this log is to show what I have done thus far. I wanted to make sure I have some idea what I am getting into, what kind of tooling and materials I need and then put this aside until I am finished with my Conny.

So, what have I done?
At first I thought I would go all out and use boxwood for the frames. I quickly found out that to do that would mean throwing a lot of nice wood in the garbage can. Harold made his frames by laminating several pieces together such that the grain runs mostly in the ‘strong’ direction, but also he used two pieces on top of each other with the seams located in different sections, thus strengthening the whole part. He also basically used one shape for all of his ‘solid’ frames and another for the canted frames and those that are attached to the deadwood and stem.



I followed his method and made a couple laminates, glued them up and cut out one frame. The picture above shows that I used strips that were 1.5 inches wide by 3/32 inch thick. It also shows all the waste involved. To make one laminate uses six different shapes. The angles of these shapes varied from 90, 75, 60 and 45 degrees. A lot of setups and pieces!!

At this point I re-designed this by using pieces that have only 90 and 45 degree cuts. I also reduced the width from 1.5 to 0.75 inches. This saves a lot of material and is also easier to rip. Even at that, I used poplar wood since most of the frames don’t show any way. Those dark areas are not burn marks. It is part of the wood coloring and has no effect on the strength.


To be sure, this does not work for all the frames. There are a total of 45 frames and I was able to make the new setup work for 20. For the others I had to go to one inch wide strips and make two fixtures as shown below. But I still was able to limit the angles to 90 and 45 degrees. Again I made sure that there are no narrow cross sections with the grain running in the ‘wrong’ direction.


Harold had a nice idea for cutting the pieces from the strips. He made a fixture that fitted his table saw. It had cutouts for each piece. I did something similar but instead of a cutout for each segment, I made ‘inserts’ (marked with a black dot) that would allow me to cut the six segments using only two slots. My table saw has a sliding table which is real handy for this kind cross or miter cutting.


After the two patterns are edge glued, they are laminated back to back. For this I will be using the fixture with the three toggle clamps shown below. After fine tuning the height of these clamps they can apply a lot of pressure.

post-246-0-52736200-1368478723.jpg  post-246-0-34410300-1368478730.jpg

I will be using PVA for this bonding, and, yes, wax where glue might stick to the fixtures..

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Looks like you are off to a fine start. Good to see you've posted a build log.


Thanks Jeff. Now that the cat is out of the bag, let me add that I would like to use wood as much as possible and minimize paint. That is why I want to do some planning about the kinds of wood for the various areas. I might even consider using ebony for the lower spars like Harold did. He used that black stuff a lot and I have never tried it (even though I have a piece on my shelf that has been there for eons).


The other thing is that I want to accumulate information about what typical cargo might have looked like and I would love to hear from others about that. Barrels, of course, what about extra sails, carpentry wood, spare parts, etc?? 

Mark Taylor has already given me a great web site for French ship models. Since this was a former French privateer, that might make the interior more interesting (I am thinking ovens, furniture, etc). 

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That is one reason I wanted to plan this thing well in advance. I have some different kinds of wood but will need to order much of it precut.

Below are samples of ebony, bloodwood, walnut, mahogany, Swiss pear (right), boxwood and holly. So there can be lots of contrasts. The bloodwood, for example, could be for the bulwarks and gun ports, holly for the decks and walnut for the hatch trim (like I did on the Conny).


Any way there is lots of time before I go too far.

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  • 10 months later...

It has been a while since I did anything more with the Pelican model. But, while finishing my Connie, I couldn't help but check something about the deck furnishings.

I intent to add lights to the inside of the hull and, besides the cut-away view, I want to have light shining up through the officers hatchway and sky lights. Here is how I made them thus far.


I redesigned the hatch with doors that are made out of two different woods. The frame of the hatch is 1/32 inch thick walnut.post-246-0-29852100-1395698547_thumb.jpg

After cutting the sides to size, I glued them with PVA using a 'squaring jig' and a block of wood (coated with wax) to hold the sides together.

post-246-0-27427100-1395698561_thumb.jpg post-246-0-84466100-1395698576_thumb.jpg

After some sanding, I added a brass railing to the inside, next to the stairs, and one on the back side.




I was not happy with my first crack at making the sky lights. I took the approach of making the frame first and adding the plastic windows afterwards. It did not work well. So, now I am making the windows first and adding the frame to them.


I started by cutting out stiff paper stiles, painted them black and glued them to a piece of plastic that is frosted on one side. It is one of those CD holders.


After cutting those out, I painted the edges black also. Now it is matter of making the frames out of walnut. Notice there are two sky lights, one with three and one with four panes.


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Nice to see the re purposing of some packaging material.



I assume you are referring to the plastic, Michael.

I have used this before making windows on the USS Constitution.

At that time I was a bit sloppy and had too much CA on them. But the overall effect was ok.


Now that I look at the pictures (they always show what I don't see at first), I may have to redo the black tape on the windows. Too much handling, sanding, etc. It was only 1/64 inch wide.

Edited by Modeler12
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Thank you Geoff and Tom, I need to get back to my Connie, but I just had to make some more sawdust instead of loose ends of rope. When I am finished with the two skylights I will stop this Pelican for a while.


Just to show how the first skylight turned out, let me continue where I stopped above.

When the window panes were painted black, I matched them with the walnut pieces for the ends and sides.

I had to notch the ends so the windows sat inside the frame. Again I used my mini mill to do that.

Then it was a matter of gluing the parts together.

post-246-0-63055500-1395783847_thumb.jpg post-246-0-29056300-1395783831_thumb.jpg

Instead of a wooden strip on top I decided to use a piece of brass. It gives it a bit more 'character', I think. As I look at these pictures, I see more touch up work to be done, but I will hold off until later.



Now I have to do the same thing with the smaller skylight.

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One more thing about hatches. Most of the time the grating of hatches is left uncovered on models. But in real life they are covered when the weather is bad.

I decided that the Pelican will be at anchor loading and unloading cargo; hence the main hatch grating will be removed and set aside. So is the roll of canvas which will have a couple of lines to hold it and be placed near the grating.

The second hatch shown below will also have the canvas partly rolled and fastened as shown on the third small hatch. This way I still show the grating as well as the canvas covers.


I simply used a piece of cloth and painted it brown. It is held together with some PVA

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There are two other threads dealing with the cannons I am making for the Pelican. The first shows how I made the sides of the gun carriage using my mini mill:



And the second was a request to find a supplier of thin steel wire that I used for making the tiny eyebolts.



Here I want to continue and show some more pictures. I want to do that for my own record of this build, my log, if you please.


After milling the block of pear to the shape of the carriage sides, I cut the individual pieces to a thickness of 0.050 inches. I need 32 of those (16 guns) but was able to get only 28 pieces. I do have another block that was not milled, but I decided to go ahead with what I have.


The next step was to drill the two holes for the eyebolts. One of those has a small ring for the breach rope. I used a small fixture and my Dremmel-like tool to drill the #75 holes. Later I enlarge those with a pinvise and a #74 drill.

post-246-0-30846800-1396195996_thumb.jpg  post-246-0-64775600-1396196124_thumb.jpg


In the next post I will show a few more pictures of how I made the eyebolts. 



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For the eyebolts I am using steel wire that is 0.010 inch in diameter. The rings were made with brass wire .016 inch diameter. When assembled, I blackened them with my patina (Novacam).

To start, I cut the wire to about one inch length. Then made a loop, clamped each one with a hemostat and used the pinvise with the hook to twirl the wire. I visually judged when the twisting was done and then cut the part to eliminate the ends held in the hemostat.

post-246-0-73865500-1396196458_thumb.jpg   post-246-0-68507700-1396196472_thumb.jpg   post-246-0-46157600-1396196492_thumb.jpg   post-246-0-88783000-1396196509_thumb.jpg


Here is a sampling of the eyebotls: post-246-0-46932500-1396197278_thumb.jpg


The next step was to add these parts to the carriage sides. Next post

Edited by Modeler12
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I did not want the front surface of the wood to show the adhesive, so I decided to add a tiny drop of epoxy to the back side (after I snipped off the extra twisted wires.

The epoxy I used has a long pot life. It has a mix ratio of 1:5 but I usually add a bit more hardener than the stoicometric optimum. Less is worse than a bit more.

post-246-0-70057300-1396196876_thumb.jpg   post-246-0-82322600-1396196894_thumb.jpg

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After the epoxy had cured enough to be handled (in this case about six hours), I sanded the back sides.

I also noticed that the thin epoxy had migrated through the hole and in between the part, It showed a little bit on the front sides. 

However, it was not as bad as if I had tried to apply epoxy to the front to start with.

Below are two front and two back views.



Next I cleaned up the edges with a sanding board.

Instead of the ones you can buy, I simply cut a standard nail file board . .

and you can go from there.



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What epoxy are you using?





Harvey, it is an old can of epoxy that I bought several years ago at a boat supply store here in Alameda. I got a gallon of resin and a quart of hardener. It is called West System 105.

I have used it on all sorts of wood working projects, just recently glued a loose tile on our patio and all sorts of other things.

Of course, you also need the hardener. It comes in different formulations. For details go to 



PS. The resin comes in quart cans as well as the gallon size I happen to have.


One thing I never tried is to use the epoxy resin from Locktite or others and the slow curing hardener. It is really the catalyst or hardener that dictates how fast the resin kicks over.

Edited by Modeler12
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Thanks Jay. When you mentioned the ratios, I thought it was West System. I haven't had the best of luck with it, but I'm sure it's user error.


Glad to see your progress on Pelican. One day (when or if I get caught up with my unfinished/unopened kits) I want to do a model to one of his plans-I think I have copies of them all.



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Harvey, I know what you mean about 'some day'. I still have tons of work to do on my Connie and here I am working on my second ship.

But I am having fun.

The epoxy from West Systems has never been a real problem for me. There have been times when I did not add enough hardener, but that was my fault, of course. I do like the longer pot life and this is the first time I have used it in tiny quantities. I just eye balled the ratio and it set up fine after about six to eight hours.


Let me continue.

I am using brass cannons made by Constructo. I like them a lot better than the cast ones in my Connie kit, but still don't like the profile they used to make them. The barrel is a bit long and the end too bulky. I thought about turning them down on my lathe and decided to hold off.

So, I went ahead and blackened them. post-246-0-99875900-1396305418_thumb.jpg

I also had to make the trunnions for them.

I did not have any brass or steel of the right diameter (0.053 inch) and simply made them out of wood.

That will be painted black and trimmed after mounting the barrels later on.

I used a small rat file to hollow out the side panels for the trunnions. 

I should add here that the black oxide on the barrels rubs off a bit and, with all the handling, the brass is stating to show through on the ridges. Again I will hold off doing anything about that now. The black selenium oxide ended up on my fingers and I had to thoroughly scrub them afterwards.

The next step is to make the wheels, shafts and other parts of the carriage.

Edited by Modeler12
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Just came across this. Great work and an ambitious step up from the world of kits that I'm sure - can already see - you'll handle with aplomb.


Do you have a wider picture or profiles of Pelican? It'd be nice to see where you are heading.


Those barrels have very heavy bands but your improvements are well worth it. It maybe worth looking at some other alternatives e.g. Syren Ship Models?




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Hi Alistair,

As you know I have a long way to go on the USS Constitution, but I could not help but start using my new toys on the next project. The Pelican was a French privateer, captured by the British and converted for 'shore patrol'. Below are two more pictures of the model that Harold Hahn built.
I like his idea of cutting the hull planking and part of the frames so you can see the below deck details. His was very small (1/8 scale) and I increased that to 3/16 so I could concentrate a bit more on the details (hopefully). 


For my modeling, I like to 'improvise' and make the whole thing look interesting if I can. That may mean taking some liberties if I don't know better. In this case, I may have to do that also and consider the Pelican to be a British ship with a French birthplace. Meaning, some of this and some of that. For example, the whole thing about the French and British way of framing does not matter to me. I am going ahead like Harold showed on his model and plans. The stairs aft for the officers is one example and the partly covered hatch may not be at all like it was for the French, but I was able to put it together the way I remember from my old sailing days.

I have been intrigued about the tiny LEDs and have planned to use some in the cut-away view. I also want to have the 'scene' to be one of the ship at anchor, loading barrels and other goods. That means the main hatch is open, the boat is along sides and the spars and tackles are in position to be used for all of this. The sails may be furled on most spars, etc. etc.

I am learning a lot from even this simple start and constantly add more thought to 'how and what'. I never knew what a 'bread room' was until a couple weeks ago. Now I am looking for details of stoves for a small ship like this.
The display below is where Harold had the Pelican at anchor with a section of 'water' partly surrounding the model (the starboard side). I may not do that quite like he did, but it is part of the fun to consider.

post-246-0-67133700-1396398124_thumb.jpg   post-246-0-39409300-1396398137_thumb.jpg

I have noticed your beautiful work on the Fly. The coppering worked wonderfully and your painting skills are terrific. Are you sure you would not rather be an artist rather than an architect (come to think of that, it really is the same thing. NO?). It would take the earthquakes out of your concerns.

Say hello to Sharon




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Thanks Jay

Harold's little touch with water is intriguing. Whenever I look at the plans of Fly - or other ships for that matter - I realise how much of the hull was below water and how sleek they would look above water. The Swan sloops didn't have much freeboard and when you add in the mast height they, like Pelican, must have been very elegant on the sea. Hahn's attempt to capture that is clever but a bit awkward too. I wonder aside from a diorama and a waterline model how it can be done? Maybe a simple sheet of glass or Perspex at the waterline through the whole area of a display case?


You are too kind with your praise - your Constitution and all your tips are a master class! And now you build from scratch. I like your ideas for presentation. It is good to think beyond a frozen thing and something in realistic activity. I'm not quite up for that yet.




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. . . . I like your ideas for presentation. It is good to think beyond a frozen thing and something in realistic activity. I'm not quite up for that yet.




When I look at your build past and present, I think you are too modest to say that you are not quite up to doing a scratch build.

I am willing to bet that the next project will be just that.


Any way, back to making wheels for the gun carriages.

I am finding that the kind of wood to use for a lot of machining makes a world of difference. I started making the wheels out of birch dowel and had a heck of time keeping it from splintering. I had bought some samples of different kind of woods from Hobby Mill, used the pear for the carriage frames (milled just great) and then cut a square log out of the boxwood. Turning the square into 0.177 inch round, drilling a small hole in the center and then cutting the thing to 0.053 inch lengths is tricky but doable with the boxwood.

I am encountering a lot of rejects and need to improve on my method of drilling the holes and cutting the wheels to length. Below is a sample.

The pear rod will be one of the axles but, because I am using a different size barrel, I need to redraw Harold's plan for the carriage width.

The little rods on top are some of the trunnions. They are tarnished with the selenium oxide from the barrels and I have to be careful not to get that all over the carriage parts. The trunnions will be painted black after I install them.


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Making wheels got better after I took the approach I should have used to start with. 

1. Use a center drill to locate and start a hole!!!

2. Use the dial indicator setup, I had previously installed on my lathe, to cut the wheels to the right width.


When I drilled holes without using the center drill, the result was a small wobble as the drill entered the wood. Obviously it got worse as the drill went deeper and the hole became eccentric.

Hence, a good start means everything, even here. The final holes were a lot more to my liking.

post-246-0-92417600-1396489254_thumb.jpg  post-246-0-17666000-1396489278_thumb.jpg

I used a 'cut-off' bit to part the wheels from the turned wood. I added up the thicknesses of the bit and wheel and spaced the next turnoff accordingly. Both methods gave me much better wheels (although I still had some cleaning up to do).


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The next step was to make a fixture that allows me to assemble the carriage. The axles dictate where the side walls are going to be (at least that is my interpretation).
Yet, the gun barrel needs clearance as it protrudes forwards, which results in a tapered carriage.

To account for this I measured the diameters of the guns at two places and drew the tapered section I needed. The first picture below shows the 'bonding fixture' that resulted. As it turned out those dimensions are almost what Harold's plans call for.


Pear is still the order for the axles and it turned out nicely when I filed the round parts on the lathe. I took a short cut from the plans and used 1/8 inch width for both front and rear axle beams. But both had to be turned to the shaft diameter, as shown The upper beam needs to be turned yet. I also intend to use the same wheels front and back. Pardon me Harold.

The basswood fixture has two 1/8 inch wide grooves milled in the bottom. They help to align the axles as I dry assembled one of the sides. I still think this will work, BUT>>>>>>>

post-246-0-79802500-1396490911_thumb.jpg  post-246-0-56756200-1396491063_thumb.jpg


I really don't like the way the barrel sits on the carriage. It is too far forward. And, of course, the original is way too heavy near the end. I actually had to prop it up for the picture you see above. Of course I remedied some of this by machining the end, but now this new problem.

So . . . redo the sides and move the trunnion support slots further back . . . or make new gun barrels from scratch?????

 . . . .but, Jay, these are only tiny guns!!!!!!! And who is going to notice????? . . . .Where are you going to buy brass to make those things? Besides you don't have time, remember??  . . . .



The barrel still sits too far forward. And those rings are too big and in the wrong places.

Perhaps the brass barrels you bought are not really good for anything????

Edited by Modeler12
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