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 After much research I am ready to build Chuck Passaro’s  @Chuck  Revenue Cutter Cheerful 1806. And so it begins...


After completing nine kits over the years I am making my first attempt at scratch building. Well, I say scratch building but Chuck’s Cheerful plans, starter kit, wood package, and sub-assemblies along with his instructions and always gracious guidance make it a much easier transition.


While I’m a decent kit modeler I’m hesitant to post a build log for Cheerful. There are several outstanding logs already on MSW, some from builders I’ve admired, some I’ve just discovered in searching Cheerful, and of course the master himself, Chuck. I don’t know how I can add anything to what they’ve already done. They do say however every model is unique, I’m pretty sure I’ll prove that...


One thing is for sure, I’m going to learn a lot along the way. A good reason for a build log is having the council and support of the MSW community. I’m going to build it to the best of my ability, and I’m certain at the end of the build my ability will be a bit better than when I started. I’ll ask questions and share how I do things, hoping there is something useful for the next builder. I’d like to think my log will be a Cheerful read and not a Surly one (see what I did there…).


For proper motivation I ordered a copy of the British NMM plan for Cheerful. I plan to hang it in my shop (next to the NMM plan of Pegasus) once frame shops are open again, whenever that is (Covid shut down for future readers). These plans are wonderful to look at - the fact these drawings turned into a ship and stood the test of time to become today’s model … very cool.


We custom built our house, from the very first drawing I had the intent to include room for my model building. The architect didn’t quite get it initially, but the final blueprint has the notation “Ship Room.” We don’t have basements here in Texas due to the soil condition, so it’s fitted into the architecture tucked away on the lower of the three levels. The upside is it’s a nice sized well lit room for building, the down side is that there isn’t a lot of room for machinery, which I don’t have anyway other than the Byrnes saw and sander, so Cheerful, hand tools it is. The tub on the back right is loaded with my Cheerful collection of wood, sub-assemblies, blocks, and rope - ready to become a ship.


The first thing was to print off Chuck’s instructions from the website and have them bound in a spiral notebook, something that will always be by my side along with my iPad to cross check what I’m doing with other build logs, So thanks in advance for the good ideas and experiences I’ll find and happily steal, I mean learn from. Next I laid out the frame and keel parts from the starter package and thought wow, there are a lot of bulkheads, and felt just a touch better about my first attempt at single planking. Then I remembered fairing and thought, wow, there are a lot of bulkheads…


The starter package didn’t include the rabbet strip (as Chuck says, welcome to scratch building). For some reason I had the perfect 1/8 x 1/16  boxwood strip in my stock, one of the few remaining bits I had from our retired friend Jeff of HobbyMill fame. Then I wasted no time in stealing a good idea, so from BE’s log I used the waste from the hull billet to shape the rabbet strip at the bow, making it easier to install.


With the two hull parts joined I glued on the rabbet strip using Tite Bond yellow wood glue, it sets up fast! I pre-positioned my rubber bands but I had to move quickly to center the strip. I have some brass gauges, the 1/16th size allowed me to quickly run the edges to get it centered. 


Next up, the bearding line, the keel and stem...


Looking forward to comments and feedback. My log has begun.


Edited by glbarlow
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Two quick posts to get started, they may come a bit slower from here.



I’ve cut a lot of bearding lines but never so easily as I did this time.  On the recommendation of another MSWer as part of a discussion about using square stock for masts I ordered this IBEX flat finger plane. It is pricy but well worth it. I’ve tried planes in the past with no luck other than gouging up wood, but this small little tool made short work of creating the bearding line.


I never toss stands from past models, this one I made for Vanguard is a perfect fit, so yay. A block of wood, some curved shoe molding backed by 1x1 strip covered with felt. Build board done.


I followed the stern reference mark on one side of the hull and with tracing paper transferred it to the other side. The plane slides easily to make the taper down to the rabbit strip. Maybe too easy. I may have gotten a little too much angle. I’m thinking that will be ok…won’t it…I can’t put it back on….


I removed the stem pieces from the billet and initially was a little disappointed. I have no experience with Alaska Yellow Cedar. I did some test some WOP on billet scrap and wasn’t seeing it. But I knew there was beautiful wood there somewhere - and there was. There is a Lot of char to remove and sanding to do, a lot of work with 220 and 320 grade sandpaper since I didn’t want to risk taking too much or alter the shape of the stem pieces.


After a considerable amount of work (not complaining, I’m not on a schedule) there it was - the Alaskan Cedar is better than anything I’ve seen, it is very nice. A bit lighter color than boxwood, it feels almost like a piece of ivory when sanded smooth. I’m looking forward to working more with it as the ship progresses. 



I followed Chuck’s practicum by adding the simulated tree nails using a #76 bit, #2 pencil and natural wood filler, I simulated caulking between the joints of the stem also with the pencil. I have some charcoal pencils I’ve used in the past but I think subtlety here is the name of the game, a little pencil goes a long way. I finished the night putting the first coat of poly on the stem and keel, big impact on color and grain showing up.


One practice I’ve followed for every model I’ve built is addressing the display mounting very early, no different for Cheerful. I already have the display board, 12" walnut. I’ll figure out the pedestals later, the ones shown are my stock that may not work. However this was a great time to drill the holes through the keel. I use these machine screws, long enough for the board, pedestals, and to go past the keel into the frame, I epoxy them in eventually, no nut needed (other than the builder).


All I needed to do now is drill the holes in the keel, once its securely mounted to the frame I’ll extend the depth of the holes an inch or more into the frame. Then years from now when I finally finish this epic build it will be simple to complete the display mount. A lot easier than trying to turn over a completed ship. I like my models firmly secured to a display board verses a cradle and if I change my mind the holes aren’t going to show…


Now on to mounting the stem and installing the bulkheads. 

Edited by glbarlow
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I'm following along as well, Glenn. I'm currently between builds at the moment having just completed the Medway Longboat and the Cheerful is on short my list. The Medway Longboat was a big step up in complexity for me and the Cheerful would be yet another very big step up in the learning curve for me.


Have you already purchased all the Cheerful materials you will need to complete the entire build including such things as the various, optional Cheerful packages plus rope, blocks and deadeyes, etc? I would like to make a list of everything I would need to buy plus some extras of various materials. I've browsed the Cheerful on the Syren website but I'm not sure that I'm am fully understanding what would a complete list of everything consist of.  If you have such a list and could post it, that would be great. Thanks. 

Edited by BobG
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Remember...Cheerful isnt an all-in-the box kit like the longboat or barge.   More scratch parts etc.   Not a kit at all.   It is a semi scratch project with some fittings and parts lasercut.  I really do wish more would try scratch building some of those fittings as well.  Everything you need is listed on the website including a list of rope and blocks.   But you may need a few odd pieces of wood for some stuff not seen like the false deck and rabbet strip.  You can simply buy basswood for this other stuff.



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1 hour ago, BobG said:

purchased all the Cheerful materials

Hi Bob,

Yes I've purchased everything available from Chuck's site, keeping in mind as Chuck says, it's not a kit. There are a few more things that are commonly available items (like the 1/16th x 1/8th bearding strip I mentioned) you need separately but for the most part all the big stuff I have from his site. Under the Cheerful tab on the Syren Ship Model webpage is a wood list and blocks/rope list showing everything you need.  When the shop is open displayed below that  (still on the Cheerful tab) are all the sub-assemblies (you can get all or none, your choice), the plans, starter kit (keel, bulkheads, and stem), and the wood package. Even with all that there are still things I'll have to build from scratch - I'm looking forward to that challenge.


While you can get your own wood based on the list, I highly recommend the Alaskan Yellow Cedar. It's a new wood to me but I really like it. While you could also cut your own bulkheads the ones in the starter kit also have reference lines that help in placing gun port sills and other things - plus its in great wood as well. Remember you'll have to cut and rip everything, it's a scratch build.


Hope that helps, everything from Syren Ship Model Company is great quality and well-made.


I'm thinking of getting the longboat to store away a future build, my hands are plenty full for now.

Edited by glbarlow
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Many thanks Chuck and Glenn for your replies.


I do understand that the Cheerful is a semi-scratch build with options regarding how many things you can select or not to build from scratch. I would probably buy all the optional packages and only scratch build what is absolutely necessary since this would only be my 4th build. I've read several logs and, even with buying all the optional packages, this build would be a significant challenge for me at my current skill level. I think I could make a reasonable go at it with the excellent instructions and some help from other Cheerful modelers. I'd certainly make mistakes along the way and would probably ask some questions that would make people roll their eyes but, I'd swallow my pride and simply try to learn and enjoy the journey.


1 hour ago, glbarlow said:

I highly recommend the Alaskan Yellow Cedar.

I loved using Alaskan Yellow Cedar in building the Medway Longboat. It looks beautiful and is easy to work with. I did find that I needed to wear a dust mask when sanding it though. I seem to have a sensitivity to it and it would set me off coughing pretty quickly when I would sand it without a mask. 

Edited by BobG
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It’s fun to glue the stem and keel onto a bearing strip that is half its width while keep it it all centered well bound. I used my Admiralty White PVA glue here just to be sure I had enough time to make the alignments. I'm going to the yellow TiteBond glue for the frames so they can take the beating of fairing. 


First rule of modeling, when you think you have enough clamps, go buy more clamps. I’ve had these, and more of them, for a long time. The rubber bands though are new, the idea borrowed from another MSW builder. They are much more handy than I would have guessed in adding support.


I have all the MDF waste from prior models, the Vanguard was a good source of quality waste. I have and use all sorts of sizes I cut for various jigs. In this case they came in handy by ensuring the keel was glued exactly center down the frame by placing then clamping them along the sides - the various MDF sizes are just what I had laying around. The rubber bands give me more room to use clamps both for the centering and the holding down.


Was it too early to glue on the stern post and rudder, seems like it’s too soon 😄 Just kidding, both the sternpost and rudder are already put away for much later. It was nice to see how well designed the ship is, and a little positive affirmation that I got it on right - such a nice fit and look. I lightly sanded the keel and stem and made sure the bearding line was clear of glue.


I now have the mounting holes 1 inch into the frame past the keel. An important step to make sure some future day the model doesn’t snap off at the keel when pushed or pulled by a small grandchild. Now I can put the screws away forget about this for about a year…


The 2nd coat of WOP (the color is more even than it appears in this photo) and the frame is now ready to install bulkheads. I’m sure there is a very good reason for the out of sequence numbers aft and letters forward of those bulkheads. Doesn’t matter I just follow the plan and the clear direction to ensure the reference lines face the correct way.


It’s my understanding  it doesn’t matter which way the + bulkhead faces?  

I hope that’s true because I started with it and right now the glue is drying… I will install bulkheads 1 to 2 at a time triple checking each is square…and facing the right direction. So I’ll be back later with more excessive detail.


Thanks for the comments, likes, and follows. It’s always nice to know someone is watching. I did my last build log (and it will be my last build log there) on that other site, it was like writing a letter to myself, in an empty room, where even the crickets were quiet.

Edited by glbarlow
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Framed, taped, and ready for fairing to begin. I only had to make a few adjustments on bulkhead 8 otherwise everything dropped right in and easily squared up. I used my mini-squares and worked from bulkhead [+] in both directions, that gave me room to clamp the mini-square as I went. Not sure why the photo is so big, this is about twice the size of the actual tools.


These little square have been one of my best buys. They come in handy a lot throughout a build.


The bow and port fillers fit without adjustment, a testament to the design, but another of those positive affirmation things that let me know I’m doing ok so far.


Now, unless I can outsource, the fun of fairing begins. First I moved to a stand that allows me to safely hold it upside down. I opt for function over form. I’m not a woodworker and just use what I have available, in this case adapting the fairing stand I had for Vanguard (why it’s oddly long). Furniture anti-slip pads on the bottom, some felt on top, sized to fit the deck and high enough protect the extensions and the stem. Nothing fancy and about an hour’s work. So yay.


I’ll use the laser burn as a guide keeping the edge closest to mid-ships brown until the very end. Then finish it off. This will keep me from removing to much wood and/or losing the proper shape of the hull. We’ll see how that goes…


Now to do a google search for model ship fairing outsourcing...

Edited by glbarlow
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Now interesting stuff starts to happen, or interesting for me anyway.


Failing to find an outsourcer, (I didn’t really look, I instead did my isometric exercises Sand On, Sand Off) I spent a couple of days sanding to get to this point. I concluded it was time to stop and get the ports in before I sanded away the bulkhead extensions.


Lining up the ports is so much more easy thanks to the reference lines Chuck provides on the starter kit bulkheads. I’m not sure I’d started this project if I had to cut them out myself, where’s the fun. I was prepared to make micro adjustments by measuring and doing the look test but frankly it was near spot on just with tacking the batton to the reference lines, though I still measured and looked to be sure.


I later met with near disaster when I started the starboard side. The hard part of this task is getting the pushpins to stay in the bulkhead extension, I pushed a little hard and snap.:-/ I pinned it back with an inserted brass rod and splinted it up. It’s not so pretty now, but it will be covered up soon enough. I should know how to avoid this mistake, stupid pushpin, and I was even pre-drilling the holes…Oh well, I’ll be sure to check the fairing closely, though I tried to account for that as I repaired it.


Modelers don’t panic, we adapt, overcome, and improvise - Clint Eastwood  in Heartbreak Ridge would approve.


I started doing testing what color red I am going to use. I’ve always used Admiralty Paints but their only red - Ensign Red - just wasn’t red enough and Cheerful has to be red, right.  To be clear, I really like red with this ship. I settled on Golden Cadium. Go Red or Go Home. I’ve since tested it on a piece of Yellow Cedar thinned down and multiple coats (7 so far), I like the look of it.


As I installed the lower port sill I made sure they were level with the hull, my many variations of little levels make this easy. I was working from outside in so I could have room for the clamps. There is a little fun beveling to get the outer ones to fit the shape of the hull, just a little bit.


I went ahead and thinned down the bow port filler to about 1/8 with my Dremel after reading ahead in Chuck’s practicum, then cut the port. One of my many uses of left over MDF from past kits is in this case making port sizers. So yay, the chase port is a square smooth 17/32 like it’s suppose to be. I’m still having trouble adapting to imperial measurements, this is my first time not using metric. I’ll say it again, metric just makes so much more sense to me. Why is the US still stuck…he said rhetorically.


Here is where I as a kit builder knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The sides of the gun ports call for multiple, seven to be precise, different sizes to match up to the plan location and size for the ports between the bulkheads. This I where kits wouldn’t go, they’d be limited to a few sizes of stock wood, and of course gun port patterns. It took me a second to wrap my head around the fact I was no longer limited by what stock wood is included in a typical kit.


I purchased the wood package from Chuck, this lovely bundle of Alaskan Yellow Cedar billets comes in multiple sizes, six of the seven needed were in the package. I used my Byrnes saw to rip ¼ inch widths of 1/32, 1/16. 3/32, 5/16, 1/8, 5/16 (all in the package). For the last one I just took one a piece of the 5/16 square piece I’d already ripped for the port sill and cut it to the called for 3/16. See how I did all that imperial thing there…


I will say once again the best tool I ever bought for model building is my Byrnes saw. Now, with a little help from Chuck, Rusty, and Jim Byrnes, that I know how to properly rip a plank with the proper blade, I’m cutting and ripping whatever I need with joy in my heart and fingers still attached to my hands. If you don’t own a Byrnes saw, buy one. You’ll never regret it. (Though I learned he’s on Covid hold until the end of June for new orders waiting for his supplier to deliver 120v engines, he still has 220v).


I made a longer gunport checker for the gun ports, which I will also use to make sure they are lined up with the other side. I also use it to double check the two side pieces will create the called for 7/32 opening. That whole measure twice cut once thing. I also determined I didn’t need the pieces quite this tall…



So here she is with the port side ported and faired. The batten lays smoothly top to bottom. Now that I’ve splinted my broken bulkhead extension work can begin on the starboard side. Comments and feedback welcome.


It will be a day or two before I can get back at it again, I still have to process my granddaughter’s 7th birthday portraits as part of my other photography hobby. On a side note, if you ever want to make a 7 year old's day, prevented from having a normal birthday party by Covid and 2020 catch phrases like lock down and social distancing, hold a car parade. Her parents arranged to have her friends and family do a slow drive-by their house honking horns, holding signs, and making noise. She got to see friends she hasn't seen since schools were closed in early March, her teacher participated as well. I have an English friend who shared the Facebook video with the very true statement "if this doesn't cheer you up, nothing will." She was sooo happy. And as a result, so was I.

Edited by glbarlow
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Hi Glenn 


Just found your new log. You've made a great start and I shall certainly be following along. 


I see you've got the little finger plane you mentioned on my log - I'm seriously tempted to go for one myself. I've already got a range of planes including miniature ones, but to borrow your quote about clamps, a man can never have enough planes.


I was also impressed with your NMM plan. Those old plans are works of art in their own right - I saw one recently that had been photocopied down to a smaller size and incorporated in the base of the display case. It looked stunning.


Great idea for your granddaughter's birthday. All three of my daughters are experienced teachers with five of their own kids between them, but they've all described home-schooling them during lockdown as being "like trying to nail jelly to the wall".  I'm not sure jelly has the same meaning in the US, but I'm sure you get the idea.


Anyway, best wishes and good luck with Cheerful.




P.S.  Your workshop is too tidy. You've made me feel bad so now I'll have to go and sort mine out.



Edited by DelF
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Thanks Chuck,
I appreciate your keeping an eye on it as I proceed. While the ports are new to me I know I have bigger challenges ahead.  Fun stuff.  



I was never a fan of planes, or they weren’t a fan of me, but this little jewel is making me a believer. That photo was after I finished my last model and before starting this one. It was a momentary moment of being organized 🙂 


We have our grandkids 3 days a week, so I’ve become a teacher following the online program her school put together. I had respect for teachers before now I an even greater appreciation. Yes, jelly is the same here and I know exactly what they mean. 

Edited by glbarlow
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