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Chris Craft 1938 27’ Triple Cockpit Barrel Back by usedtosail - FINISHED - Dumas - 1/24

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And now for something completely different.


My wife gave me this kit for Christmas a few years ago. Since we live on a lake in New Hampshire it seems obligatory to have a wooden speedboat on display somewhere, so this will be it. I'll show box contents in the next post.


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Here is what the contents of the kit look like. The instructions seem good and pretty straight forward. I am also using the book shown as a guide, even though it is not this kit that they use in the book. I forgot to mention that I am making this as a static model so no RC components.


The laser cut sheets are either mahogany for the pieces that show or balsa for the frame structure. I have not used balsa before like this so it is going to be interesting. The fittings are urethane and look pretty bad. One if the blades on the prop is deformed, for instance. I bought some chrome spray paint so maybe they will look better after they are cleaned up but I will most likely try making new metal parts instead. Another problem you can see if you look closely at the top mahogany sheet is that the deck planks are laser printed onto the deck. This would be fine except that there should be white caulking between the planks, like the picture on the book cover shows. I may try cutting the deck planks out of the deck frame and plank them with the caulking. The supplied decals are stick on, not the kind you soak in water, so we will see how they work out. I haven't done any plastic modeling since I was a kid so some aspects of this kit are out of my comfort zone, but it will be fun learning.'


The kit supplied a flimsy plastic display board, but while cleaning the workshop I found this piece of oak that I will use instead. At least the supplied pedestals are wood.


The first steps are to add thickness pieces to the frames and gluing them to the keel. I have pics of that later.

Edited by usedtosail
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I glued the frames to the keel using Lego blocks to hold them perpendicular to the keel. Remember that the keel is balsa wood and very thin in places, so much care was taken in this process. I was able to get them all on without breaking the keel so I was very happy.


The next step was to glue two chine strips to the frames. I pre-bent the forward ends of the strips so there was no tension on the frames because with that balsa keel it can be bent very easily. I first put the keel in the clamp to help keep it straight, then glued the strips to each frame one at a time and at the same time, so I could check the straightness of the keel as I went. I used medium CA glue so that I could hold them by hand instead of clamping them. After about an hour I had them glued to all the frames.


I also experimented with making some bevels for the instrument panel from aluminum round stock on the lathe. Here is my first attempt compared to the decal that is supposed to represent the dash. The outside diameter matches the decal when measured but the bevel looks too thick so I will try making them thinner.


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I pre-bent and glued the sheer strips to the frames using the same technique as the chine strips. They have a big twist on the last two frames but I was able to clamp them while the glue dried.


I also took another shot at the bevels. I was able to make them look thinner than the first try and I also was able to make the smaller ones too. I have two more small ones to make.IMG_0520.thumb.jpg.305aa3a8c418f7a81808cd6f55667c93.jpg

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I made a lot of progress over the last couple of days. On the hull I glued in the mahogany sections that make up the cockpit sides and floors. There were some slight gaps along the floor joints so I used some excess mahogany from the laser sheet to cover them on the underside of the cockpits. These will be planked in so they won't show later. In fact the next step is to add the first layer of planking which are balsa strips like the one shown in this picture. They are certainly easy to bend but this is a first for me. They will bne covered later with mahogany strips.IMG_0522.thumb.jpg.79953e200ba38d0380cfbf932cce2314.jpg

I spent some time today working on making a propeller since the plastic supplied prop was pretty bad. I started with two brass tubes that slide together. I will use the smaller tube for the prop shaft and used the larger one for the prop hub. I set up the Sherline mill as shown, which is the most complex set up I have done to date and it is all for three small slots. On the mill side, I used a Dremel saw disk in the drill chuck to get enough distance of the blade from the mill column. On the lathe bed I first mounted the angle plate at a 90 degree angle, then added a long work plate that has holes for mounting the rotary table. This was needed to get the 3 jaw chuck that was mounted in the rotary table high enough to get under the working distance of the mill column. I put the brass tubing for the hub in the chuck and brought the saw down to make a small slot, rotated the chuck 120 degrees two times to make the other two slot.



I was pleasantly surprised that the hub stayed together with those cuts. I made the blades from some brass sheet I had, which I cut out and filed to shape. I made one and used it as a template for the other two. I then used the third hand and some forceps to hold the hub and blade will I soldered them together. I did this one blade at a time using Stay Bright low temp solder, but I cut a very small piece of solder and placed it on the blade, then used a butane mini torch to heat them instead of a soldering iron. This worked really well and I had no problem with the previous blades desoldering while I soldered the next blade. I think if I tried to do this with a soldering iron I would have had problems.



You can see the propeller after the last blade was soldered on in the previous picture. I need to clean it up now but I am very happy with how it came out so far. I have also been working on the gauges and will have pictures of them tomorrow.

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I am a bit behind on the build log so here is what I have been up to this week. First I cleaned up the propeller with files, sandpaper and a wire brush in the Dremel. Here is how it came out next to the supplied plastic propeller. I have a piece of tubing cut for the strut, but I will make the strut when I can fit it to the model later.


I finished the gauges for the dash board too. I shrunk images of real gauges and used a circle cutter to cut them to fit into the large gauges. I didn't have a circle cutter small enough for the small gauges so I made one out of some brass tubing and a piece of dowel, which you can see here. I used an X-Acto blade around the inside of the tube to sharpen it then just pushed it into the paper while turning it to cut the images. I glued all the images into the gauges using the Micro Kristal Klear and also used it to cover the images to create a sort of glass cover. It goes on white and dries very clear.


Here are the gauges compared to the dashboard decal that came with the kit.


I have also been adding the sub-planking the hull using the fairly thick balsa strips that came in the kit. I have not used balsa very much so there was a bit of a learning curve. First of all, it breaks very easily, so I couldn't bend it like I do basswood. I found if I just soak it for a few minutes it will then bend very easily. Also, wood glue didn't work too well without clamps and you can't clamp the balsa at all without crushing it, so I have been using medium CA to hold the planks down, which works very well. I first planked from the chine strips to the keel, after doing a little fairing on the frames where the chine strips meet the frames. I sanded the excess and here is how it came out. You can see I had a bit of a problem at the first two frames.


I then started adding the sub-planking of the sides by first building up the sheer strip and frames in places where the sub-planking strips fell short of the outside edge of the sheer. These were tapered so the planks fit flush to the adjacent planks. I then glued the first plank along the outside edge of the chine strip. Instead of planking up from there, I decided to add the plank along the sheer next and then I will plank between them. I also decided to taper the planks like I would do on any other planking job instead of using full width planks that would come to points along the sheer, as the instructions wanted me to do. So I measured off the distances at each frame and tapered two planks, soaked them for a few minutes and started gluing it down at the first frame, then each frame until I got to the aft end. This worked really well and now I can start filling in the area with three more tapered planks on each side.


Edited by usedtosail
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I finished adding the sub planking to the frames and sanded them to shape. The chine sort of disappears at the bow. 


For the bow area I used the supplied balsa block to make filler pieces then carved and sanded them to shape. A problem I found with this model, which you can see in the previous picture, is that the first frame does not meet the bottom of the keel, but the planks should, which is very obvious when you add the bow filler pieces. I could have made filler pieces to fit this area but I just filled it with wood filler and sanded it to shape. Since this will all be covered by the mahogany planking it will not be seen later. Here is the finished sub planking. I used wood filler on the gaps and low spots too.


The instructions suggested staining the mahogany with mahogany stain to even out the color, so I tried it on some scrap from the laser cut sheet. The stain is on the bottom section below the number 1.


I liked the look so I figured this was the time to stain the cockpit interiors before I started adding details which are the next steps.


Above the stain they suggest to coat the mahogany with Sanding Sealer, so again I tried it on the scrap stained piece and liked the look, so I applied it to the interior cockpit pieces. In between these tasks I made a new rudder from brass sheet and tubing. Here is the new rudder compared to the supplied plastic one.


I did clean up the plastic steering wheel and painted the spokes and hub with silver enamel paint and it looks good to me, so I then painted the rim with brown enamel. The jury is still out on this but I think it may be better than one I could make. I'll have pictures when it is done. I also found this picture of the dashboard of an existing boat that this model represents.


You can see how the gauges are on a metal backing, so I cut a piece of aluminum sheet to glue them, which I will then glue to the mahogany dashboard. More to come on this too.

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Here is how the steering wheel and instrument cluster came out.


I was happy with the plastic steering wheel so I cleaned up the rest of the plastic trim pieces and mounted them to a piece of scrap with double sided tape. I will spray them with some chrome spray paint that I bought for this model and see how them come out. For the horns I drilled a small hole in the base so I could glue some wire into them as a handle.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks Mike.


To continue with the plastic parts, I gave them a few light coats of the glossy black undercoating. I am using the Spaz Stix brand of Mirror Chrome Finish. I found this in gjdale's build log of a larger Chris Craft model.


I let these dry for 3 days then gave them many very thin coats of the mirror finish. I let them dry for a few more days and here is how they came out.

IMG_0564.thumb.jpg.e6c4dda96d2065f83edcc90e226168c5.jpgThe coating seems to be durable but I shouldn't have to handle these too much.

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to try planking the deck areas with white caulking between the planks. I am not sure I can do this so I want to keep the supplied deck in one piece in case I need to fall back and use it. So I ordered some 1/16" mahogany sheet to try making a deck piece with the planked areas cut out. I put the supplied deck in a copy machine and made a copy of it, then cut out the planked areas and the cockpit openings with an X-Acto knife. I left a piece on the aft end to hold the two ends at the right distance apart. Here is the template with the supplied deck for reference.

IMG_0555.thumb.jpg.ae785c030c0936fa7cd40d2989f46287.jpgI glued the template to the mahogany sheet with a glue stick, but I glued it on upside down so the glue will be on the underside of the new deck.


Next step will be to cut out the inside areas with a jig saw with a very fine blade.


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Well that was a spectacular failure. Let's just say the deck did not stay in one piece as I cut it out with the jig saw. Also the cuts on the underside were very rough. So on to plan B. I made templates of the two sides of the deck and cut those out with the good side up. I cut them just after the middle cockpit and will make templates for the aft sections later. I made sure the inside edges were sanded smooth because they would be hard to sand after they are glued down. I left the outside edges wider and rough because they will be sanded along with the hull planking later.IMG_0567.thumb.jpg.1d4fe3a65a4b8b8069acbfb95045fb52.jpg

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I spent today making the various cockpit opening and engine cover pieces. I started at the bow and worked my way back. I still have to finish the piece that goes behind the aft cockpit. I was able to get better cuts on the jig saw without tearing out the undersides too much by placing the mahogany on some basswood sheet while cutting it. I also used some excess mahogany from the laser cut sheets for the cross pieces, which is better wood that what I had bought and cuts better. I also started adding the styrene strips between the side pieces I glued down yesterday and the pieces I cut today.



I again left a lot of overlap on the outside edges which will be sanded down after the hull planking. I am hoping I can make that last piece in one piece but the aft parts of it are very thin so we shall see.

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I finished adding the deck pieces that are not planks. I gave them a rough sanding to even them out and thin them down a bit, since I will be using thinner mahogany for the planks.

IMG_0574.thumb.jpg.da6cdf1b1d6ddd31b04453de7a9a0d22.jpgI set up the Byrnes saw with a planking jig I made from plans that were in the NRJ a few issues back. I did add the cap screw so that I could make micro adjustments to the width once the jig is screwed down. I saw this on a jig Michael Mott made for the same purpose. It works really well to get the width just right.

IMG_0575.thumb.jpg.a425bff556af1f14c01278a73b8a8ce2.jpgAnd here is the first batch of planks, all from that blank in the picture above.

IMG_0576.thumb.jpg.982e506e41569d9efb3b671e7f1dddfe.jpgPlanking can now begin.

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I planked the front deck with the 3mm mahogany planks I made and .015" wide styrene strips. I used medium CA to glue the styrene and mahogany together. I am going to use a sanding drum in the Dremel to shape the ends of the planks to the cockpit profile.


I made the engine covers by gluing up the planks and styrene. I added supports in the openings to hold them up. I need to sand the covers to fit into the openings, then add the rest of the planks on the transom deck.IMG_0580.thumb.jpg.5d6ae1cc538a3bd1b3b710e39963058b.jpg

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Yves, funny you should mention those round shapes. I was unsure how to trim those planks to make them, but I knew if I tried cutting or sawing them it would be a disaster. So i tried a sanding drum in a Dremel that was just about the right diameter. Also, because the planks protrude into the cockpit area, the ends are exposed so the bottoms of the planks must look good too. Well I tried it on the front cockpit and was really happy with the result. I still need to trim the planks at the aft cockpit but will use the same method.


A lot more sanding is needed but it is nice to have all the planks in place. One thing I learned from this exercise is that I could have run the mahogany sheets through the thickness sander before I cut the pieces to get them thinner and with a better finish. They are very rough and need a lot of sanding now. On well, live and learn. I have half the front deck sanded and the caulking really stands out there now. I'll have pictures after I get more sanding done.

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So here are some pictures of the sanding of the front deck. Here the starboard side is sanded down.

IMG_0583.thumb.jpg.047ca3b46f53adfe252b7af3588d144c.jpgAnd here is the deck with both sides sanded. This is still rough and needs to be leveled out but the caulking is now showing the way I want. This was done with a sanding disk in a Dremel tool but now I will finish it with a sanding block.

IMG_0584.thumb.jpg.b69b3bf6d719bfb07f7ee3418e91420a.jpgStill a lot more to go but I know I can get there eventually. Remember the outside edges will get sanded to shape when I plank the sides of the hull.

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So I had a major set back today. After more sanding of the deck I was noticing that in some areas the sanding was introducing gaps and splinters in the joints. Also, there were some areas where there were deep gouges in the mahogany that when sanded out made the deck much too thin. So I made the decision to remove the planked decking and replace it with the kit supplied deck, which, except for the absence of the white caulking, looks pretty good. I am not happy that I had to remove the planked deck, but I am not unhappy with the kit suppled deck either.  I used medium CA and rubber bands to hold the deck to the hull while the glue dried.


The cockpit openings fit perfectly over the cockpits and the rest of the deck fit really well too. I had to trim some of the balsa under the deck so that the side planking fits underneath it, but only in a few areas. I used an X-Acto knife and flat scraper to trim the balsa.


You can see in the above picture that even the supplied deck has some gouges along the port side. I do not want to try to sand these out because that will sand through the deck lines, so I am only going to give this a sanding with medium and fine sandpaper. I am coming to hate mahogany for modeling. The supplied mahogany planks for the hull were also pretty rough, so I ran all of them through the thickness sander to clean up one side. I only took off about .004" but they look much better on that side. The edges are also pretty bad so I need to clean those up as I fit the planks. I now need to measure off the sides and bottom so I know how the plank widths need to be tapered to fit.


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I have started the hull planking using the mahogany planks that came with the kit. The instructions say that there are plenty but by my calculation I have exactly enough if I don't screw any up, which I already have. Luckily I have mahogany sheets that I can use to cut more planks, which I will use on the bottom. I started my gluing a plank along each chine, leaving enough over the chine so that they will overlap the bottom planks. I am now planking up from those planks to the deck. After measuring off the hull I trim each plank to the width at the marked lines. I made a jig from two pieces of aluminum angle and some thumb screws for a previous build to hold the planks while I use a small plane to trim them. After the planks are trimmed I taper the cut side and curve the bow end with a plank bender to fit the curve at the bow. For the last few planks near the deck I also need to edge bend them slightly which I am using Chuck's method of clamping around a form and heating with a heat gun. So far so good but there are a few minor gaps that I will need to fill with wood glue and saw dust, mostly on the port side.


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I finished planking the sides of the hull and have started planking the bottom. Here is the port side with a little sanding. Underneath, you can see the first of the bottom planks along the keel. Most of the bottom will be planked with full width planks, trimmed along the edges at the chine.


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The bottom planking is now completed. I have not started sanding the bottom planks yet. I ended up with square openings around the holes for pedestals because the mahogany was splintering around the holes. The pedestals will cover these square holes so they won't be seen. Only the transom is left to plank. I am going to let the side and bottom planks extend past the ends of the transom planks so the ends will not show from the sides. I had just enough long planks for the sides and bottom. The pile of short planks is what is left which I will use to plank the transom.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Just a quick update. I haven't had too much time to work on the model over the last month as we were away for part of that time and some other issues, but I am slowly getting back at it. I planked the transom and have given the whole hull a rough sanding. I am now filling in cracks and holes with saw dust and white glue and sanding the hull with medium grit paper. My goal is to get as smooth as surface as I can, which is difficult with the kit supplied mahogany but it is getting much better. I'll have pictures when it is closer to done.

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Thanks Mike. I think I got the idea to use the Spaz products from your build log. I was very happy with the results.


I hit a bit of a milestone today - the hull is finally filled and sanded after many weeks. I made a thinned solution of wood filler and added some mahogany stain to it, then used it to fill all the thin cracks and tiny holes in the hull. After a final sanding this is what the hull looked like.


I then gave the hull a coat of mahogany stain, which evened out the colors really well.


I am contemplating giving the hull a few coats of glossy polyurethane but I still have to glue a bunch of stuff to it, so I may wait. Seats are next to do. I am going to practice with some extra balsa to see if I can carve a realistic looking seat cushion.


Stay healthy and happy.

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