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USS Cairo 1862 by MPB521 – Scale 1:48 - American Civil War Ironclad - First Scratch Build

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Merry Christmas Everyone,


I figured I'd get one more quick update in before the end of the year.


While I still sort out my hull color, I started working on the cannon carriages.


I started out with pasting the template as a pattern and cutting out the rough form on my bandsaw.





With a little sanding and carving I pieced them together. Please forgive my lack of pictures on these, I totally forgot to take them while building them.



Temp installed in one of the gun ports.




The more I looked at the carriages, the more I became dissatisfied with them. So while I pondered yet another quandary, I decided to work on putting in the waterway knee braces. I managed to find some dollhouse molding that I thought would work perfect for these braces. They may be a little bit more fancier than what was actually used, but since none of them survived the salvage, I went with what I thought would work. Besides, compared to the HSR, they look pretty close.





First one in place.



All done. I'll clean them up a bit before the paint goes on.



Once the knee braces were installed, I worked on building the rudders. Again I apologize for the lack of pictures, I guess I was just too engrossed in my work to focus on anything else but the build.




Next I started working on the casemate planking. This time I remembered to take pictures.


Lining things up for the casemate planks.



I made little jig to ensure that all sills were the same height. It seemed to work pretty good.



Aft lower sills in place.



Planking begins.



Aft and starboard planking.



Port side planking. It is here where I finally figured out how I wanted to show the insides. I was struggling with how to show off some of the details inside. I wasn't sure if I wanted to leave the whole thing opened like the model in the Cairo Museum, or make a removable panel, or what. I wasn't too keen on leaving the whole side open, due to the fact that it seems that the integrity of the side would not be there without any support. Not that I'll be handling the model much after it is completed, it was just a concern. 


Then I thought that maybe I could install a few removeable panels to allow access to the inside views, but I ruled that out because I didn't want to have to take it out of the case every time I wanted to show someone the insides. It wasn't until I was looking for some parts on Model Expo when I saw a picture of the USS Confederacy that the Idea to leave the planking off the side and expose the framing. The frames are spaced far enough apart that you will be able to see inside and there is no issue with compromising the structure.



Completed port side with cutaway.



Finished planking the starboard side and starting the gun port cutouts.



Aft planking done and working on the gun port cutouts.



Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I just couldn't get over the look of my first attempt at the gun carriages. They just didn't look right. So I went ahead and rebuilt them. This time I took pictures of the process.



Shaping the boards.



Sides stacked and glued together.



Trunnion notches filed out.



More shaping.



Turning the axles.





Pieced together.





Mostly completed, just need to add the trucks to it. Then assemble 12 more.



I am much more pleased with the outcome of these than my first attempt.



Well that is all for now. Hopefully on the next update I will have some progress on the hull painting and a few other things.


I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday Season. Please be safe and take care of yourselves.


Thanks for looking in.




SB Casemates.JPG


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  • 1 month later...

Greetings again all, hope everyone had a great New Years.


It's been a bit since my last update. Since Christmas things have been a little slow on the build and I have not had a whole lot of post worthy work to show.


I did however get a few things accomplished recently. One of them being completion of the forward casemates.





Also complete were the starboard side interior walls.





Next I started work on some of the forward deck features. First were the bollards.





Next were the forward bulwarks and fairleads.



I have found that spare deadeyes make perfect rollers on the fairleads. 







Next up were the aft bollards.










After extensive research and several info requests, I came up empty on my search for hull color. I finally made the decision that I am going to take my builders liberties with this and paint the hull something other than black. During my research I came across build after build and model after model of Ironclads that had some type of red color on the hull below the waterline. Unfortunately no info exists on whether or not the Cairo had a painted hull, so my choice is to paint it. I tried several different colors before deciding on a reddish-brown red oxide color. I wanted something that would break up the mostly black paint scheme of the casemates and armor plating, but something that would not stick out like a sore thumb.  Many of the examples that I ran across the builders used a bright red paint, much like many of the modern day anti fouling reds that are used today. I just felt this would not have been the case and went with a more subdued color that will separate the black, but still maintain some of the boats stealthy-ness. 


Here is the color I came up with. As always, comments are definitely welcome. It may not look like much now, but as soon as I get the black paint on it, I think it will blend in nicely.




Next was the completion of the cannon carriages. 


Here are the six large carriages. I had some leftover red from the hull, so I decided to use it on the carriages to. This way it transfers some of the color to the inside of the boat as well.



Large carriages completed



And all thirteen carriages completed.



I had started turning down the cannons, but I was having trouble getting them to come out looking the same. After several attempts I finally conceded defeat and decided to take a different approach. I was speaking with one of my uncles who used to be a machinist and still has some connections at his old shop that could 'hook me up" with some turned brass ones. All I need to do was to send him the dimensions and plans for them and he would take care of them for me. So this is the route that I am taking. Hopefully the truest out there won't look down on me for cheating a bit, but I just don't think that my skills on the lathe are there yet.


In the meantime, I built me a mockup of one of the gun ports for rigging the cannons and I set up my first attempted carriage and one of my failed turned wooden barrels in it. This will allow me to rig everything up with easy access and then all I have to do is transfer it to the model. Should provide me with a lot more room to work instead the close confines of the gun deck.









Everything is ready to go for the rigging, I'm just waiting on my order of blocks and rope from Chuck over at Syren Ship Company to come in and I'll make my first attempt at getting the cannons rigged up.


Well that is it for this update, hopefully it won't be so long before the next one.


Thanks again for the likes and for stopping by. Everyone please stay safe.



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2 hours ago, wefalck said:

Did they have roller-fairleads at that time and on such rather improvised vessels ?



Most definitely. Here is a picture of her forward ones as she sits today. The aft ones were either lost in the recovery or just not installed on the display. I am not able to find any reference to fate of the aft ones for the Cairo in the HSR or otherwise. However, they are visible in some of the old pictures of other City Class boats and they are also called out on the HSR plans.








HSR Plans:




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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
1 hour ago, Keith Black said:

What a beautiful day to move to the Bahamas! Sick of snow I tell you, sick of it. 



I’m sure this is a common occurrence for you northern folks, but a 12 degree day with -5 windchill is unheard of here in Texas. But I have to agree with you, the Bahamas would be nice right about now. 


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2 hours ago, mbp521 said:

but a 12 degree day with -5 windchill is unheard of here in Texas

 Brian, I remember changing the rod bearings in my 46 Chevy pickup out on the curb in Arlington when it was 11 degrees. We drove down from Washington State to visit my folks. I also remember another time driving on two inches of ice coming back from a business trip to Louisiana. Texas winter weather can turn deadly when the Polar Express drops down through Amarillo. Plus you can get a tornado or two in the Spring and 115 degree heat in the summer..........now I remember why I left Texas! ;) 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a bit late, but...


There may be some records in the National Archives from the Army Quartermaster General's office with the receipts (in any case, Ed Bearss cited records indicating that Eads had submitted receipts.


And, if you look at Hard Luck Ironclad, the Ingalls Shipbuilding examination of the Cairo listed the exterior as 'black', interior as 'white washed', with colored identification bands on the stacks.


The ship looks great - and not convinced I would do anything about it.

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On 2/24/2021 at 9:03 PM, gak1965 said:

This is a bit late, but...


There may be some records in the National Archives from the Army Quartermaster General's office with the receipts (in any case, Ed Bearss cited records indicating that Eads had submitted receipts.


And, if you look at Hard Luck Ironclad, the Ingalls Shipbuilding examination of the Cairo listed the exterior as 'black', interior as 'white washed', with colored identification bands on the stacks.

Thanks for the kind words. Better late to the party than never and always glad to have additional input.


In my research I have run across many places that state the interior being whitewashed and exterior being black, and since all seven of these boats were nearly identical, the colored bands on the stacks served as an identifier as to which boat she was. Unfortunately there is no information at all (that I have been able to run down) on the hull coloring of the City Class boats. Even with the extensive research that the group in St. Louis has done on their build, they have not turned up any clarification of the color used, so I went with the color I though would be best for my build. So far, I am not disappointed.


I did manage to find a used copy of the Hardluck Ironclad on Amazon, and I will definitely give that a read. The more info that I can cram into my head on this boat the better.




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Greeting everyone,


Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.


I am back with another update on my build. I have not made much progress on the boat itself, but I have managed to get several interior pieces done in spite of not having electricity or water for four days due to the "Big Texas Freeze and Snow Storm". What an adventure that was.


Starting off, I finally managed to tackle the engines. This was one of the builds that I was dreading due to the fact that I just couldn't get my head around how to make them look somewhat realistic. The more I pondered them the more I finally came to the conclusion that for the most part not much of them will be seen and did my best to replicate what I though would be visible through the viewport. So this is is what I came up with.


Earlier in the build I had started the framework and pistons along with the pitman arm yoke. During the process if building them, I wasn't liking the scale and look of the yoke. That's when I sidelined them. I really didn't want to rebuild the entire thing, so I salvaged what I could and made some adjustments here and there.


The beginnings of the frames and pistons as well as version 1.0 of the yoke.Capture1.JPG.988f177fb43951c0c7690bfd67a92ced.JPG








At this point is where started the revision. Unfortunately I didn't take very many pictures due to the fact that I wasn't really sure if I was going to use this version of them or not. But the more I worked on them, the better they started to look.


More pieces and parts added. Forgive me, but I am not up on the nomenclature of all the parts that make up the engines so for now pieces and parts will have to do. 



Again my aluminum tape came in handy to make the rivets along the sides of the yoke guides. I made a visit to the local Hobby Lobby and found all kinds of neat little wooden parts that were useful in the construction of the engines (and other parts). Some of these included miniature spools, wooden beads, and wooden discs. The rocker arms (best guess at what they are called) are the same aluminum strips that I used to form the rings on my paddlewheel.





Completed port engine, minus paint.



The finished product, port side. 



...and both engines completed. There are various linkages that still need to be fabricated, but I'll get to them when I am ready to install them and the paddle wheel




Next up were the foot lockers and ammo crates.


For the foot lockers, I just cut out a few blocks  and trimmed them with some 1/8"x1/16" basswood strips around the tops and 1/32"x3/16" strips on the ends to hide the grain of the blocks. I used some thin 1/8" wide brass strips for the hasps, then aged the brass with Brass Black and the wood with a mini torch. A light sanding and a coat of satin varnish, then fitted the handles made from standard tan rigging line and viola.






The ammo crates were constructed similarly to the foot lockers. I used some scrap Teak blocks that I had and trimmed the tops of these with 1/16"x1/16" basswood strips.







Next I added a divider in the middle and painted the bottoms black for depth.




Next was the fun part. There are four different types of cannons on board (not counting the deck Howitzer on the Hurricane deck). That means that there were four different sizes of cannon balls used. Well, it was easy to scale the 8" parrot rifle since the bore size is given in the name. 8" roughly converts to 4.2mm in 1:48th scale. However, how do you convert 42lbs, 32lbs and 30lbs into inches and then millimeters? Thank goodness for the internet. I'm not sure how I made it through High School and College without it, but is sure comes in handy nowadays. I found this most useful website in my research that all Civil War buffs should check out (if you don't already know about it). Civil War Artillery is a fascinating site, full of all sorts of facts and history on none other than Civil War Artillery. They even have a conversion table that converts the cannon ball poundage into its proper diameter (caliber). So according to their table the 42lb ammo is roughly 7" in diameter, converted to 1:48th is about 3.7mm. The 32lb ammo is roughly 6.4" and 3.4mm converted and the 30lb ammo is roughly 6.3" and 3.3mm converted.


Now where I am going with this is I needed to fill the ammo boxes with, what else, ammo. During my Hobby Lobby adventure, I found the bead section and it is full of potential "cannon ball" material. So with that being said I managed to find some black plastic beads that measured 4mm and 3.5mm. I figured that the differences between 3.7mm and 3.3mm was so negligible that 4mm and 3.5mm would suffice for what I needed, and the fact that there were no intermediate sizes, I made do with what they had. And with that, I stocked up the ammo crates. Another thought that I had was did they use different size crate for the different size ammo or did they go to that much expense? I went with the thought that they kept it simple, and had a one size fits all for the crates. That is why some of my crates look a little more like they are overflowing than the others. Again this is another feature that will mostly be hidden, but I still wanted to get it as accurate looking as possible.




Next piece was another one that I was somewhat dreading, but after I got started on it, it actually turned out to be a lot of fun to build. This was the "Doctor" pump or Auxiliary Engine. The original "Doctor" pump from the Cairo was lost during the salvage operation and there was no accurate documentation of it's actual construction. However there are tons of examples out there, I just stuck with the example given in the HSR. 


First step was the construction of the fly-wheel.







Next was the construction of the base, supports and top frame.











Then it was on to the various pump housings, push rods and linkage.







The valves I simulated with some small beads and wooden discs cut from the end of 1/4" mahogany dowels.



The pillow block oilers also made with small beads and brass nails.



More linkages and the flywheel brake installed.







Then everything was given a coat of black and clear satin for looks.





I still have a few more valves to add as well as the piping for the preheaters mounted on top and a few other details, but I'll get to those later. Some of the valves will require the pump to be in place due to the fact that I will have to drill a hole in the hull (yikes) for the fresh water intake.


So that is all for this update. I hope to have more next time. My plan is to work on the bilge pump and capstan, and hopefully of my cannon barrels come in soon, so I can get started installing them in the carriages and getting them rigged up.


Until next time, thank you all for stopping in and the likes and kind words.



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4 hours ago, mbp521 said:


I did manage to find a used copy of the Hardluck Ironclad on Amazon, and I will definitely give that a read. The more info that I can cram into my head on this boat the better.




Ed Bearrs who wrote Hardluck Ironclad and was part of the recovery team just died last September (he was 97).

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18 hours ago, mtaylor said:

If I just look at the finished work, I'd swear you used cast iron for the engines and pump.   Incredible detail going on.

Mark - mission accomplished. That was definitely the look that I was going for. 




17 hours ago, gak1965 said:

Ed Bearrs who wrote Hardluck Ironclad and was part of the recovery team just died last September (he was 97).

gak1965 - That is amazing. He definitely had a good run. I can only hope to last that long.



17 hours ago, Keith Black said:

Brian, fantastic modeling. A real treat viewing your latest mini builds. 

Keith - there seem to be an over abundance if mini builds with this one. A lot more that I had initially expected, but well worth it. It definitely breaks the build up and gives me a chance to clear my workbench every now and then. 



15 hours ago, Cathead said:

Looks so, so good. Thanks for sharing the detailed steps.

Eric - Thanks. The photos definitely help keep track of the process. If it weren't for those, I would most likely lose track of what and how I did it. The build log certainly helps.



14 hours ago, mcb said:

Looks great .  Especially the distressed foot lockers.

MCB - I appreciate the compliment. It's almost a shame that most of these features will hidden inside and difficult to see. But, at least I'll have photographic evidence that they are there.



7 hours ago, vaddoc said:

Brian, indeed a treat to follow your build. Wonderful work! Looking forward for the rest of the journey.

vaddoc - Thank you and happy to have you along on the Journey. Still a long ways to go, so kick back and enjoy the ride. I'll try to keep it as entertaining as possible.



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