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US Brig SYREN 1803 by Justin P. - Model Shipways - Scale 1:64

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I decided to jump into the deep end.   Wish me luck.   Ive spent countless hours reading through logs of this build, staring at my own kit and going through bits and working out a plan and knowing that it would be a long, likely arduous project.   I had intended on procrastinating further with other projects, but given the continued COVID related time at home I decided to go ahead.   I had planned that Medway Longboat would be my next build log, and it may yet become one of two ongoing projects but until I can get my hands on one of those I really only have this sitting around and a long abandoned Bounty Launch build to focus on.   


So, with being fully aware that I might come and go from this over time I decided I might as well get started.  


My kit came like all the rest - in the ubiquitous blue box, filled with random bits and sticks.   I was a little disappointed as others have been, that some of the castings and other parts are not nearly as nice as the design, planning and instructions that were created for it.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I have none of the warping in the plywood parts that others have observed.  Everything appears flat and ready to go.    The manual is hearty, but not made from the best paper so I'll likely transition that to a three-ring binder as it will never survive intact in my workspace over the time it will take to finish this build.   I do a lot of highlighting and marking up, which means it goes with me to work (2.5 hour commute by boat and train, each way) and will need something a little more conducive to travel.   I don't know about you guys, but with these manuals, I don't really fully grasp what Im reading until the third time through - so to say it gets used would be an understatement.


Today I started in on Chapter 1.   The only issues I noted were that none of the various keel and bulkhead former (BF) parts were the same dimensions, though they were definitely intended to be.  Everything seemed off by a 1/64" between the BF, stem knee and keel.  Finally, the timber provided for the false-keel is also off by 1/64".  No big deal.   In order for the stem knee to properly transition into the keel, I had to run the 3/16" x 3/16" timber through the thickness sander to take it down to match the thickness of the pairing end of the stem knee and provide a flush and completely flat surface with which to mate the false keel which also happens to be a hair shy.   I tried all 10 provided sticks and found they were all shy.  That is to say, the 3/16" was taken as a suggestion in the production of my kit and not a rule.


Forming, gluing and carving the rabbet.


I found the design and construction process of this rabbet far more pleasurable than past projects.  The bearding line was a little confusing, but I think will work in the end.   The laser bearding line cuts right through the center of the much heavier bearding guide holes so I followed as well as I could despite the fact that I wasn't sure If the guide holes should have been better accommodated in the carving.  


Assembling the stem knee and keel went by easily enough.   After determining where I needed to intervene to correct the dimensional issues everything came together very nicely.  




Next Ill probably go ahead and notch out the BF for masts as was originally suggested by Novastorm here whose also got an ingenious sanding violin bow (post #3) thing I intend to experiment with, and whose mast alteration step was seconded by Walrusguy here.  Both of whom Ive been following closely.  Ive also been following Patricks build here, whose hand skills are evident in his careful and clean construction.    I hope to learn much during this build from them, and the rest of various SYREN builds in the archives.   



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1 hour ago, glbarlow said:

It’s a nice looking kit, I’ll enjoy watching another of Chuck’s designs come together. 

where did you get those long brass clamps?

They sell them at Micromark, but you can also find them at Rocklers or even Amazon.   Not cheap, but really nice for what they do.  

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Good luck on what looks like an interesting build. I'm going to follow this one. I'm not planning on building The Syren, but I have a Pride Of Baltimore II in the "drydock" (aka on the shelf) and I'm thinking that I'll learn a lot of useful technique from your build as POB will be my first real planking build.

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I'm onboard for the voyage as well, Justin. This should be a good one!


On 6/11/2020 at 7:37 PM, Justin P. said:

(2.5 hour commute by boat and train, each way)

😲  5 hours of commuting a day!! How do you ever manage to find time to build your models with when you are not working from home?

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4 minutes ago, BobG said:

I'm onboard for the voyage as well, Justin. This should be a good one!


😲  5 hours of commuting a day!! How do you ever manage to find time to build your models with when you are not working from home?

Thanks Bob, good to have a familiar face :).   Yeah, the commute is no joke.  You get used to it, and if you use your time well it can have some good side effects.  Luckily I don’t drive more than 1 mile of it, otherwise I might lose it.    Ship modeling for me happens very slowly, Friday evenings and weekends when my duties are not otherwise assigned by Household Admin.    

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Not a lot to report thus far.   Taking my sweet time on this one as I'd really like apply the "each step is a mini-model" concept.   HOWEVER, right away I had to adjust the sequence a bit.   Not a criticism of the instructions at all, I just couldn't seem my way to success as written.   Particularly the step early in Ch.2 where one is meant to fair the hull prior to gluing or securing the frames to the bulkhead former (BF).


I wound up shaping them individually down to the guidelines as suggested and then test fitting them to the BF several times, before pulling out the model-building slip for gluing.   I did try to fair without securing them and whole thing just felt to flimsy and some breakage in my future.  



My local shop was plum out of basswood blocks of any significant size so I opted to go with 1/4" sheets cut down and laminated together.   My new sliding table on the Byrnes made quick and very precise work of this process.   Great addition to an already great tool.  



Spent some time cleaning up the deck to make sure things are nice and flush and Ill move onto final fairing.   The hull is, of course, much more sturdy now so as long as don't really make any huge mistakes it should fair up nicely.   Realized pretty quick some sandpapers are just crap when it comes to sanding ply (a process that I hate), but have good luck with a new type (Gator Zip) I haven't tried. Something about the grit type or something seems to work a lot better.   


Next are the bow filler pieces and battens...   updates to come on that. 


Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there.




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  • 2 months later...

Glad to be focusing back on this project.  Along with work I took some time away from Syren to finally finish my Bounty Launch which had been sitting around for some time.   Now that I have no more open projects, Im very happy to say my attention is squarely on this complex build.   


Reorienting myself to where I left off took a bit of time, I needed to assure myself that I had completed outer fairing to the point where I thought I ought to stop.   I couldn't quite recall where my mind was when I set this aside.   Needless to say I sanded a bit and ran a few battens satisfying myself that I indeed came to good stopping point.   


I then went ahead and installed the lower deck planks and stained according to Chucks good suggestion of Miniwax's Golden Oak.   I very much enjoy the warm, weathered look this stain imparts on basswood.   I'll need to experiment a bit to get the right whitened/silvered tone for the upper deck but suffice to say that on its own its a really nice color.  


The next few steps proceeded well.   I cut out the gunport templates, taped them together and strung them up to the bulkheads.   Unfortunately they didn't quite fit very well, which must be a problem with printing because I really couldn't hunt down a problem on my build.   Reading through the instructions a bit relieved my anxiety some, as it turns out the overlay of this template and the positioning of the bulkheads isn't terribly critical.   More important that the port sills go in along a smooth line and that they go in square.   Running another batten to check the line of the sills gave me the confidence to go ahead here.


After installing the port sills I went ahead and ran a second upper batten for the lintels.   



Of course something didn't feel right as I was checking this out.   This inner ear I credit to having read the instructions so many times, as Chuck clearly states that this isn't necessary, and that what I ought to do is simply measure the 15/32" from the top of the sills and mark the locations of the bottom of the lintels accordingly.   Curiously, I went ahead and took a line off my batten and then went back and cut a couple 15/32" sticks and sure enough had I gone ahead with my batten I would have screwed up.   Thankfully I caught this, and took the reminder to slow down and read the instructions yet again.   Something I must remember.  


The sticks proved very useful, leaving me with perfectly level equidistant port sills and lintels.    Next Ill finish off the bow and the gunport frames.   Then more sanding...





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On 8/25/2020 at 8:44 AM, NovaStorm said:

Your Syren work looks really clean and precise Justin.

Are you are planning to taper the stem in order to fit the figurehead? 

Thanks.   Yes I do plan to taper it.   I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes I deviate on steps, knowing how I work and in which order I might achieve greater success.   For instance, Im now working on the gun ports and will not fair any of it until the entirety is constructed.  The instructions say to fair as I go (i.e ports/lintels then the next step) but I know that just wont work for me.  Im bound to take too much off if there are multiple steps.   

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Busy week.   I managed to get all the gun and sweep ports constructed.   This took me forever, but Im happy with the result.   As mentioned above, I constructed everything all the way through this process against the recommended instructions, as I felt more comfortable with fewer passes with the fairing sticks.   I wanted everything in place so I could just fair once.   This may have meant two or three times the work, but for me, less room for error.  Below is shown this process, with the starboard fairing near complete, with the inboard and port sides left to be completed.   This work was done with a combination of knives and sand paper. 


And now pictured with everything completed to the point that I could move on. 


I then started work on the stern framing, which thanks to the excellent production quality of my particular sample everything went together nicely.   I proceeded with building out the ports in the same manner as above. 





Its at this point that the build proceeds into paint choices, upper wale planking and thoughts about finish and tree nailing.  I really wanted to think this process out before proceeding, so as I do in my professional life I decided to mock it up first.   I built a dummy section of upper wale with gun and sweep ports; painted and planked it and then added treenails.   Finally a wash of stain as per the recommendations.   Its at the treenails where I deviated.  In other Syren builds, the treenail examples Ive seen haven't sat well with me.   All other details might be wonderful, but it seems some of the proportions and material choices just put me off.   Im a big fan of the filament and/or pencil type so thats the direction I went.  



 Paint: Model Shipways "Bright Red Trim."  I had done the other in "Hull Red" but I rejected that immediately and did not move forward with that mock-up.  


At the moment Im feeling rather ambivalent about the result.   The full mock-up is done with a .5mm pencil while the partial mock-up below is done with .6mm monofilament.   The monofilament is much cleaner, while the pencil crushes the grain a bit and results in the elongated "eye" shape around the nails.   Not something I want all over my model.  The filament at .6mm is still a bit too large for this scale (in my opinion).   I may knock-out one more quick mock-up with a smaller filament size if I can find it, or I may try some blackened wood filler.   I should sleep on it.  Otherwise, Im happy with the Golden Oak Miniwax stain, the choice of graphite for the caulking and paint choice.  






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Not sure i totally follow how you have achieved the .5mm pencil treenails. Are you drilling a tiny hole and inserting a small piece of lead, sorry if this is a dumb question. The results with the pencil look great the eye effect makes it look aged and weathered especially with the stain you are using. Nice going ~

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1 hour ago, NovaStorm said:

Not sure i totally follow how you have achieved the .5mm pencil treenails. Are you drilling a tiny hole and inserting a small piece of lead, sorry if this is a dumb question. The results with the pencil look great the eye effect makes it look aged and weathered especially with the stain you are using. Nice going ~

Its just a mark.   Place pencil onto the wood, and twist back and forth like you are just trying to make a dot.   That mark will hold up against staining and light sanding.   In this case I think I just used too much pressure.

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  • 1 month later...

Yes...   Ive been plugging away.   School has started up and with COVID the kids are homeschooling, meanwhile Im also still working from home so things have been pretty hectic.   The last few stages of my build have gone well. Slowly, but well.    Its amazing just how much time some of these steps can take, and Ive just been chipping away as and when I get a few hours in the shipyard.  Also, I may be overdoing things a bit as my patience has grown and my ability to overlook flaws has diminished.  Just getting the painted gunports finished took awhile, as I really wanted them to be just so, and thus open many hours filing, filling, painting, and then in some cases going over them all again.  I really look forward to a time when I can get some of these things done right the first time.   The result is that my gunports are really squared up and have nice clean edges-which was the goal..


I then started in on planking in the sills and lintels.   This was a pleasurable enough task, but did take a LOT of time as notching in the along the ports took a lot of trial and error until I figured out a system and tool combination that provided consistent results.   I planked up both sides, sanded and then stained.   I was quite pleased with how it turned out.   The transom came out well, too.   I opted to deviate a bit here where the upper transom calls for a single piece of laser-cut 1/16th thick sheet cut out for framing in the ports.   I chose to simply plank it in as well.  This may well have been a mistake, we'll see when I get there. 



Then began the lower hull planking saga.   I think overall Im getting closer to doing it right, and farther from doing it wrong - BUT there are still a lot of problems...   I mean, its better than I was expecting it to be.   Ultimately this area is painted over and then coppered so Im not overly upset, and Im glad Im only gonna need a tiny bit of filler at the stern.   I used a combination of tapering, tick marks, and edge-bending, with the last plank on both sides needing to a be spiling job from a piece of sheet I had laying around.  


I also had a bit of trouble at the transom where the planks bend upward to meet the transom and stern post. I needed a bit more support to get things to lay down properly and so had to improvise some filler and an additional plank.  



Of course that was not the only improvising that was required - meet the rubber-band/post clamping jig.   


Some other planking shots and my edge-bending jig:


And here is where I am today:  


Yes, I stained it.   Why?  I have no idea.   I just felt compelled, and yes I am still going to paint it black per the instructions.   Next I need to add the second layer of wales just under the ports, and move onto the transom.   Anyway...   its coming along.   As for the trunnels I agonized over in an earlier post, I decided to forgo them completely.   I think at this scale they'll be a detail that will detract rather than provide to the overall piece.  Thanks for watching!




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On 9/4/2020 at 4:15 PM, glbarlow said:

I gave it a lot of thought and did several tests myself. And concluded I didn't want to muck up my hull with tree nails. I'm happy with my decision.


Great work on a nice model!

Yep...  that's basically what Ive decided as well.  

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So Ill try again here...   Messing about and realizing the MSW's photo resizing feature is currently broken caused my post to disappear.   My fault...  was trying to figure out the photo issue and didnt take a copy of my post.   Since then Ive gone and resized all my images manually to rewrite this post without it being outrageous with huge pictures!  


Hopefully that function is restored soon. 


Anyway, since my last post Ive been focusing on hull details, the stern and transom assembly.   I put up the second layer of wales without much trouble, filled and finished them prior to adding the stern post and applying the same finishing protocol to it as well:



Im using filler primarily on seams and joints where gaps might be unseemly or interfere with the paint job that is coming later.   After finishing I started in on the first components of the transom assembly, called the fashion pieces (odd name).  


The above photos show them in a unfinished state, as I was preoccupied and neglected to capture the finished product.   They are eventually covered by the transom cap so it doesnt really matter.  It was at this stage that I added the second transom component over the gun ports outboard and planked inboard. 

IMG_1827.JPG.c7b4c95c5a42f06efa543331bff33b4b.JPGIMG_1828.JPG.217d800a8be8fb87eb708b035131fe82.JPG IMG_1829_400.jpg.2e47c237c0859845292412598758f9af.jpg

 I did not like working with the provided stock for the transom cap as it provided little wiggle room, so I cut a wider strip from some 1/16th stock I and used that to bend and shape the cap.   This provided plenty of overlap in all the areas I need so that all I needed to worry about was the initial bend.   I could then shape and carve away to the appropriate dimensions.   



 It was here I double checked my with my cannon jig and noticed I added one too many planks and that my cannon jig was faulty!  For an embarrassingly long time I could not figure out why my cannon wouldn't line up properly.   I realized that I needed to remove the lower plank and cut off that 1/2" of wood that extended past the front wheel of gun carriage.   Anyway, I also tacked on two molding pieces just temporarily so that I could shape and carve the transom cap.   These will be removed and replaced with the more decorative molding pieces later.  



Ill leave the transom near completion but not quite finished until I take a closer look at the next few sequences.  I also made the correction to my cannon jig and as can be seen above everything is lining up much better. Ive now begun the inboard planking of the gunwales and then onto sanding, sanding and hopefully some final staining and painting before moving on to the cap rail and deck work. 



Edited by Justin P.
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