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Sea Witch 1846 by Zooker - RESTORATION


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My late uncle built this model in 1956, and I'm wondering whether it is possible to learn which company made the kit.  After he recently died, I asked his caregiver to set it aside for me.  As you can see, she was not very careful about protecting it until I was able to pick it up.  Also,  what is the best glue to use on these damaged masts?  Something that sets quickly? I can't see how I would be able clamp them in place.  I'm going to do my utmost  to restore this model the best I can because  I can't even think about throwing into a landfill.

Sea Witch 1.jpg

Sea Witch 2.jpg

Sea Witch 3.jpg

Sea Witch 4.jpg

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The only Sea Witch kit that I know of what the old Scientific Models kit, which is long since out of production. Restoration work is challenging to be sure, but we have some members here who can give you pointers. A clipper like yours is one of the most difficult ship types to rig, so they will probably also suggest some reference works for you to peruse.

 

Good luck on your project!

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The only ship model I ever built was the Robert E. Lee riverboat and that was in 1976.  I am no ship modeler by any stretch of the imagination, but I can learn.  I was hoping to learn the name of the kit maker in hopes of getting a copy of the plans that would help me with the rerigging.  What are stub masts?  

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12 minutes ago, ccoyle said:

I see.  Well, stub masts in this case wouldn't do justice to this model.

 

The only ship model I ever built was the Robert E. Lee riverboat and that was in 1976.  I am no ship modeler by any stretch of the imagination, but I can learn.  I was hoping to learn the name of the kit maker in hopes of getting a copy of the plans that would help me with the rerigging.  What are stub masts?  

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Marine Models Company, no longer in business, had a 1/8" scale model kit of Sea Witch. From your photos this may have been what was used. There may be a set of plans out there on the web someplace. The only glue I know of that sets quickly would be the Super Glue type. Depending on what glue was used originally, you may have problems with Super Glue setting correctly. The other glue I use is Duco Cement. A few individuals prefer to use a carpenters type glue, but I have had great success using Duco for over 55 years on dry surfaces. I believe there are some threads on the subject of glues on this site.

 

Good luck with this. It may be a lot more challenging to get it back to as close as normal then you realize.

 

Scott

 

 

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As for glues, epoxy adhesive is probably the strongest of all. I'd be inclined to use epoxy for broken spars because they do have to have some strength when rigged. (Rigging tensions can add up surprisingly.)  It's tedious to use, so practice a bit on scrap wood first. Excess epoxy adhesive can be cleaned up before curing using acetone or vinegar. 

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Looks like a very nice model and well worth the effort of re-rigging, especially as it was made by your uncle.  If you are able to straighten out the broken masts temporarily and take a heap of photos of the rigging you'll find that a big help in re-doing the job.  The best way to repair the broken spars is to drill the ends of the broken pieces and secure them with a short length of wire as well as the glue.  This will give them the strength to support the rigging.  Probably the most comprehensive book on the rigging of clipper ships is Harold Underhill's "Masting and Rigging: The Clipper Ship And Ocean Carrier".  You should be able to pick up a second hand copy from Abe Books for around 30 or 40 dollars.

 

John

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2 hours ago, Zooker said:

As far as the epoxy glue (those with a 5-minute set), I guess I'd have to hold the pieces together by hand?  

Perhaps, but if the pieces fit together well, that's not necessary. One of the (few) advantages of epoxy adhesive for modeling purposes is that its bonding strength isn't dependent upon clamping pressure.

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1 hour ago, Jim Lad said:

The best way to repair the broken spars is to drill the ends of the broken pieces and secure them with a short length of wire as well as the glue. 

A good epoxy bond should be as strong as needed. Pinning the pieces would be advised if you were using ordinary PVA wood glue, especially since clamping sticks end to end is difficult. Pinning is also difficult because you have to drill a straight hole into exactly the same spot on both broken ends or the two ends won't join together perfectly. (Hint: It's done on a lathe with the end in the headstock chuck and the drill bit in the tailstock chuck.)

 

38 minutes ago, Zooker said:

Where might I find the apparently very tiny drill bits for such an endeavor?

 
There are lots of online sources for micro-drill bits. You aren't likely to find them in a hardware store, although sometimes a few of the larger small sizes may be available in the Dremel tool display case. They are used a lot in the electronics industry and elsewhere.  You can get a standard set of numbered-sized bits for between $20 and $30. You can also sometimes find them individually for about $.75 each at a good hobby shop or in tubes of ten or a dozen on line. You will find yourself using (and breaking) the same few sizes, so "buying in bulk" provides a significant savings over buying individual bits, especially if you can "stock up" when one of the dealers has a sale.
 
 
Gyros High Speed Steel Wire Gauge Drill Bit 20 Piece Set |Includes HSS Bit Sizes 61 to 80 | with Convenient Clear Dome Storage Case (45-22010)
 
 
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Get on the Micro-Mark catalog mailing list. https://www.micromark.com/ They have a wide selection of modeling tools and hobby supplies and their catalog will give you a good idea of what is available on the market. Their tool offerings are often not the best of their type (i.e. "hobby quality") and they are often much more expensive that elsewhere. Their prices get more reasonable if you sign up for their email advertisements, which always have "loss leader" deals and substantial discounts on things. Syren Ship Models (click on their icon in the "sponsors" bar on the MSW forum home page) is the go-to place for blocks ("pulleys" to the landsmen) and rigging line. (Although you may want to try to duplicate the original rigging line on the model, which may be simply sewing thread.) Sourcing obscure tools and materials is actually part of the fun of the hobby. 
 
If you are new to the hobby, it never hurts to post a question in the "Modeling Tools and Workshop Equipment" section of the forum. You will get plenty of advice on what you need and where it can be had for the least money. (Generally speaking, any tool the advertisements say is "essential for ship modeling" probably isn't!) There are also good articles on tools in the "Articles Database" in the address bar at the top of the forum homepage. 
 
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Thanks to  everybody who offered advice re:  this model.  I've learned an awful lot in just a few days and now must decide on a course of action.   In regards to the glue situtation, what is the model now is pretty visible in certain areas.  It's whitish in color and is "clumped" around the joined parts.

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6 hours ago, Zooker said:

Thanks to  everybody who offered advice re:  this model.  I've learned an awful lot in just a few days and now must decide on a course of action.   In regards to the glue situtation, what is the model now is pretty visible in certain areas.  It's whitish in color and is "clumped" around the joined parts.

Several ways to deal with this depending on the glue.  If it's white glue and some yellow glues, you can use a cotton swap soaked in alcohol.  Wet the glue, rub gently and remove the glue as it dissolves.  If there's a lot of glue, try using a file or a bit of sandpaper to remove as much as possible first.

 

One way to prevent it is use a toothpick and as little glue as possible.

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It may take a while for the glue to soften.  You may also try a bit of tissue paper (blow the nose type, not wrapping) and just keep it moist with alcohol.   Also, give some thought to opening a log in the Scratch area with the keyword "RESTORATION" in the title.  It's a great way to get help.

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Restoration work is not for the faint of heart!  My advice is to take your time, enjoy the research and the new skills you will develop and spend time on this site.  The most important information I obtained for my restoration has come from looking through this site.  There are some truly brilliant modelers on here who are more than willing to share their lessons learned.  Best of luck!

Mark

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For clarification, I built the Scientific Sea Witch kit when I was a kid decades ago. It did not look anything like the attached photo and was smaller.  If the manufacturer name is not on the brass plate on the stand then more then likely it is the Marine Models Company kit.  Although I have never seen it. Basing the size of the vessel you have pictured with the size of the table it looks like 1/8" in scale.   Your uncle may or may have not followed the plans exactly when making it and used his own judgement on how it looked.  Other than the hull, mast, and spar dimensions there are no plans of deck arrangement.  Any plans existing today are all conjectured.

 

Scott

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A.J. Fisher also made a number of Clipper Ship model kits.  Piel Craftsmen lists an A.J. Fisher Sea Witch on their home page and lists the over all length of their model as 18-1/2 inches; I assume that this is the model’s hull length only.

 

If you intend to display the model fully rigged, there are lots of references available. An old standby that your uncle might have used when he built the model would be Ship Model Making (Volume II) by E. Armitage McCann.  This covers building of the Clipper Soverign of the Seas.  Try to get a copy with the large scale plans included. This includes a rigging plan.  Don’t get Volume I as this is for building a decorative (aka-ugly!) “Spanish Galleon.”

 

It is my opinion that the rigging for these older ship models was not unique from ship to ship.  In other words, you can use the rigging plan for Soverign of the Seas for Sea Witch.

 

IF you decide to go down this path and have trouble finding these reference materials, send me a PM.

 

Roger

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Roger:

 

Thanks for this info.  I'm new to this whole thing, so I don't know what a "PM" is.  Anyway, the main mast is about 21.5" tall and the overall hull length is slightly more than 30" (I can't get an exact measurement because the bow sprite is broken off (but still repairable.)  The brass plate identifying this model, BTW, includes this:  "Canton Clipper Ship."

Zooker

 

P.S.  I have no illusions about a perfect restoration on this, e.g., the entire railing is gone from the back of the stern.  My goal is to at least restore the masts, spars and rigging so it will look respectable.  My uncle would be so PO'd if he could see what has happened to this model!

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