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Secret Vessel "Morel" by Justin P. - FINISHED - Master Korabel - Scale 1:36

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This project captured my imagination the minute I first saw it.   It took some time to get my hands on it, as apparently Master Korabel released in Russian prior to developing and releasing and English version.  I was in touch with them, who then put me in touch with Egor Tsinko at  Crafty Sailor who after some weeks finally emailed me to let me know he received the kits in stock.  I ordered mine immediately at a little over $100 with shipping, and received it in less than 5 days.   On the whole, Im very pleased with the transaction and looking forward to the build, especially now that Im holed up in COVID quarantine and my other project is in a holding pattern as I await kit upgrades and tools from various vendors.  





This is marketed as a beginner kit, and on the surface appears to be aptly described.   Its not a large model, and seems quite doable in a few weeks to a months time.   Just looking at it, I would rate it somewhere just north of a Midwest small boat project on the complexity scale.   The history of the vessel is included in the documents that came with the kit, and after a quick read are roughly as accurate/dubious as any history you typically find with a kit.   Im hoping to update this log with more of my own research as time allows.   There are some interesting links out there, but Ive not done anything as in-depth as I typically do for such things.   This really is just a fun, quick build for me.   Something to just enjoy...  


For those interested go here for a quick read.


The kit itself is well made, and with an cursory inspection only found a few bits that I think might need replacement or upgrading.  It was well packaged for the long trip from Russia, and seems overall to be a quality kit.





The provided line for instance is a nylon, which Ill likely replace for sure, but otherwise the metal bits are all quality.   There does seem to be a bit of a limited allotment for error, so knowing myself Ill likely need to source some additional materials to cover mistake.  


The instructions are really great "looking."   Provided in separate English and Russian pamphlets.  Ive not read through them completely, but on the surface the pictorial version and narrative format both seem thorough and well translated.   Not like other foreign kits *cough* Mamoli *cough* that are mostly unintelligible in my experience.  I even road tested a digital translator and found it both a novelty, but also pretty accurate. 



Below is a screenshot from the Google Translate app, which does a real-time overlay of the English over the Russian:



In any case, I look forward to building this little kit in the next few weeks just as soon as I have more time to read and look over the instructions in a bit more detail.  Now that its bedtime, Ill put my little ones to sleep with a weird tale of a bizarre 18th century Russian Carpenter and his wine barrel submarine!





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2 hours ago, Osmosis said:

I was also intrigued by this model when I first read the pre-release review here on MSW. I will certainly enjoy watching this one.

As I said, I wanted to build it as soon as I saw it.   The posted build video from the Master Korabel news thread give a little insight as well:



The soundtrack of this video makes me smile.   I don't know why, but it just makes me think of a Bond film. 

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8 hours ago, mtaylor said:

Interesting looking model, Justin.   I'm curious what you find out about the history of it.

Me too...  though I anticipate it'll be a tough go of it.   There really isn't much out there, hoping my resources at work can be helpful to weed past all the novelty pages out there purporting to have the real story. 

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33 minutes ago, Cathead said:

Cool protoype, I've read nothing but good things about Master Korabel. I was a Russian major once upon a time and would love to be of help, though at this point I suspect Google is just as effective in most settings. Let me know if otherwise!

The kit provides pretty good English instructions, which is why - Im Told -  it took sometime since it was announced before it became available in the West.   They've been working on the translation.   

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The historical background provided by Master Korabel is lengthy by comparison to pretty much any other easily available resource and does provide a citation for the information they present.     They even provide a link, which is a great starting point.   I visited the link and found the cited article, and then processed it through Google Translate's document translation tool.  It looks like it might be a chapter or article from another publication titled: "The historical path of the creation, development and formation of submarines" by an unknown author.    Ill be looking a bit further into that, maybe if Cathead has some time to poke around the site he might find something useful.  


Russian Version



English Version

The historical path of the creation, development and formation of submarines.pdf


Should make some interesting reading, Im thinking of reaching out a bit deeper to the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts to see what else might be available.  

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Well I started into this evening and must say this little kit is a real pleasure to work with.   My only real complaint is the size of the tabs where the pieces need to be cut from the laser cut frames (look for them in the below image, keep in mind this is about 2.5" in diameter).   They're very tiny, and almost hard to see unless you look really closely. Otherwise the pieces are designed and cut so well that they literally fit together perfectly with very little, if any, modification needed.   Ive never experienced this kid of tight tolerance in a kit, nearly always expecting some degree of sanding.  In fact, I would say that if I took the time to sand away the char, in areas where it is more or less unnecessary, than it surely wouldn't fit together as well as it did.  


The instructions are pretty clear, with a few little idiosyncrasies that one quickly gets used to.   There are some very specific, if not oddly described elements that one must pay careful attention.  For instance, the manual often orients you the pieces according to which side the laser would have first began the cut.   Its oddly described and took me a minute to suss out exactly what was meant.  Otherwise the color pictorial companion does a splendid job almost on its own.    So well in fact that I sort of got the gist just looking at the pictures and referred to the narrative if something wasn't immediately clear. 



The first step was to kit the window box to the frames and set them in place over the "keel."   Then to to construct the upper hatch frame.  This was followed by setting the inner deck which was of a very nice quality.  All these pieces fit so perfectly, it was real joy to assemble.   Minimal adhesive was required nearly all the way through.


Then it was onto the interior ladder, which was probably the best made little laser cut ladder Ive had to assemble.  It went together so well, fit so tight that it really didn't need any adhesive at all.  It cleaned up nicely and with a light layer of wipe-on poly throughout the interior features, looked rather handsome. 


Then to fit the cross-members which were also extremely well made, with very tight tolerances.   They too, fit together and so effortlessly tight that I opted to forgo adhesive and just added a bit to the joint areas after assembly.  



Then after assembling the bow and stern parts, which were comprised of a sandwich of a nicely finished veneer and single piece of plywood, I was able to fit them into place with no trouble at all (again with little adhesive required).   The two pieces are guided together through the use of wire dowels so positioning them was idiot-proof.  



There is some beveling here and there, and some fairing to do overall but honestly it is very little and the instructions are quite clear (as is my experience) that this is best left until the very last minute and after careful review of the hull to ensure that you do not over sand.   There are guides that give some indication when enough is enough, but also the design is so simple it can't be too hard to determine when you done the job.  


The next step is some preliminary planking, and the provided timber comes pre-spiled.   Tomorrow will tell how well a job has been done with this.   What I do appreciate is the clever plank former that is provided.   You simply boil some of the planks and fit them in wet and leave to dry.   It will take about three sessions to get all the planks dried and I found the former to be almost perfect.   After fitting the planks two at the time as instructed I found that the final set of planks would absolutely not fit without damaging the edges of the planks.  So Ill just go with less and see if I can open that final slot a little with some sand paper.  




One little unhappy plank couldn't fit comfortably, so it was left out.  

All told, to this point I have about 3 hours into it. 


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Today I set to work on a few of the details.   Throughout the day I continued to soak and bend planks, which I stored as can be seen in the photo to preserve the bend while working with the others.  The plank former has surprisingly lasted through multiple sessions, though does need to be babied a bit to keep from wearing out.   Careful is the word here.   I never did bother opening the last slot in the former as I just didn't feel it necessary in the end.  Preparing and setting planks takes enough time that Im not in any desperate hurry to get many ready at a time.  And any time I rush, I always fail, break or screw something up.   


During drying sessions, I turned my attention to fairing the hull and building out the oars and interior oarlocks.  The oars were a bit of a pain, but I can't say Im a huge fan of lots of detail work on tiny things anyway.   I might have have appreciated attaching laser cut flat pieces to dowels, as opposed to flat pieces to larger, thicker flat pieces and then spending an hour sanding it round without breaking the damn thing!  All in all though, I think they turned out well.    There are some final details to add later, but glad to have the bulk of this work done. 


Fairing went really smoothly and took almost no time owing to the excellent design and fit of the pieces.   It basically only needed a bit of work at the bow and stern and a little around the portholes and hatchway.   I then began adding a few planks in the prescribed sequence.   Having pre-bent them, this is also going quite well.   Time will tell how well they begin to fit together.   The instructions only detail minor beveling of the plank edges, and do not mention any blackening (caulking) to the plank edges.   I added it in the customary fashion, however, with a soft pencil.  I just can't imagine the vessel wouldn't have been caulked in some fashion.  


Today cost me about 4 hours time, the bulk of which was spent on oars.  Im sure there is a faster way, but I don't know what it is.  Files, chisels, sandpaper and elbow grease is how I know how to do it without something going sideways.






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Planking is complete.  Probably the one the most pleasurable experiences Ive had planking, of course there was not much one could screw up with this.   No complicated curves or spiling.  Beveling was required and after I gave it a go on a couple planks with a file and sanding stick, I gave that up completely and just used a small luthiers plane (or thumb plane).   


Here is the shot of the final plank going in:



After a solid hour of sanding, checking, sanding some more and then sanding a whole lot more it got nice and smooth.   Unfortunately the gaps became much more pronounced.  So I swept up all the new dust I created, whipped up a nice paste with some Elmers glue (my favorite for this task), and used a small putty knife to fill.   That was another hour of fill and wipe, fill and wipe.   Let dry, fill and wipe some more.   All in all, it turned out pretty well Im happy with the result.   As always, Im tempted to give it another go and build this kit again sometime just to see if I can do better, but Ill finish it before I go there.  


A quick layer of wipe-on poly just to reward myself and below is the semi-complete product.   I think I may take a day away from it, and come back with fresh eyes to see if it needs any more sanding/filling before moving on. 



For what's it worth, the total planking period probably has about 8+ hours time into it. 

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22 hours ago, BobG said:

Gorgeous! What kind of wood is the planking, Justin?

I wish I knew.   Im not good with my wood identification beyond the obvious species and Ive not been able to find the info in my kit.    They are described either as wood, plywood or veneer.   My guess is Cherry based on a little round-about googling, but I can't say for sure.   If I had to make a second guess it might be Pear?

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