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Viking Drakkar by Balclutha75 - Amati - 1:50 - First Ever Wooden Model

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Thanks for looking at my first ever build log!

For my first wooden model project I chose the 1:50 Amati Drakkar Viking ship for several reasons.

  •          The kit seemed challenging enough, but not too challenging, and perhaps forgiving of beginner errors. We shall see.
  •          Being optimistic, I have a perfect shelf to display the finished model.

  •           We recently finished binge watching “The Vikings” and “The Last Kingdom” mini-series, so we’re on board the Viking craze bandwagon.


Criticism and comments on my build or log are welcome. Praise is also accepted, but only if warranted. 😊


For starters I wanted a dedicated workbench and found a nice one on amazon. The kit and a few preliminary tools came from Ages of Sail. More tools were ordered from Model Expo. The folks at both of those two shops were extremely helpful.




I checked the kit’s “List of Materials” and everything was present and accounted for.


The first step in the instructions is to draw a guideline for the strakes at the stem and stern. I copied the 1:1 scale drawing and used cutouts from that.  


A part not listed in the kit is a more ornate curve for the stern. James H’s MSW build log pointed that out to me. This curve is apparently based on the Oseberg ship reconstruction, which itself comes from images on 9th century coins and picture stones. So, my very first cut was to remove existing curve from the stern. The replacement is on the right.




The next decision was how to square the frames to the keel. On my kit the frames were rather loose fitting. I looked through several build logs of this kit but didn’t find a precise answer. Matt H suggested using Lego blocks, which seemed good. But I don’t have any, and didn’t want to buy a huge set of them. I found some 59-cent hardware store brackets in my household tools. I convinced myself, probably incorrectly, that these were square. I used one and cautiously started gluing with Titebond II.


Here is Captain Aegir watching the progress.




When done I dry fitted the deck and realized that I screwed up two frames:  #7 was tilted several degrees to port, and #5 was 1 mm above the level of the keel, creating a gap between the deck and keel from frames #4 to 6. I tried ungluing with 91% isopropyl alcohol, but that didn’t seem to work. That stuff is hard to come by these days anyway.


After thinking about it, I decided to use my new razor saw to cut through the joint.




After cutting the four legs of the “H” I easily squared off #7. Repeated gentle wiggling on #5 allowed me to remove it and file the slots so it’s level with the keel. The frames are now all glued, no doubt not perfect, but hopefully good enough.




After going through all that I discovered jack.aubrey’s build log of a Dusek Viking boat. He posted a simple solution to squaring the frames that I wished I had seen earlier. Live and learn.

- Nelson

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For research I purchased these two books. Both are enjoyable and give a layperson background to Viking ship history and construction.








There is plenty of stuff to find online and I have a bunch of links saved if anyone is interested, some of which came from MSW. Last night we started watching a 3-part YouTube series “Evolution of the Viking Longship”. That link is the first episode, it’s pretty good.


At this point I tried to fit the mast and learned that the slot in the keel was too narrow to accept the dowel, so I filed that out. I realize this is not an exciting photo to you guys, but I was pleased I discovered this before the deck or planks were glued. Learning the importance of dry fitting.




Next up: the intimidation of planking the hull. I will definitely have a question or two.


- Nelson

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Good to see you under way on your build, Nelson. There are a lot of Viking ships among the build logs - and not just kits; there are some amazing scratch builds as well.


Before planking, read everything you can in the build logs. And perhaps do some practice planking before you commit yourself to doing it on the model itself. Clinker is fairly difficult, especially with planking following the curved stem and stern posts.


Good luck with it, and have fun!

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Thanks for the encouragement Steven.


I have not looked at many scratch build logs since they can be intimidating to a newbie! But I'll take you advice and dive in.


Here's my question, which may be answered in a log, but I'll post here anyway.


The planks need to be both bent and twisted. Amati says to soak the planks in 50/50 solution of white glue and water, and also to score the center of the plank with a blade. I'm not too thrilled about doing that, as I'm pretty sure I'll mess it up.








What if I tried to bend the planks using heat and water? I've seen Chuck's planking video and he makes using the travel iron look easy (ha-ha). I could get one of those irons, or invest in a basic plank bender. Seems like that would be more interesting and educational than the water/glue/score process. I could practice on strips from the plank sheets.


Thoughts appreciated. But I will look through more logs.


And I am having fun!




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Hi Balclutla, nice start,


I thing that scoring of the plank is not for easier twisting but it is a mark where next plank shoud owerlaps. So I think you do not have to score it with blade necesarily. Maybe the pencil, or somthing that will survive water treatment, will do.

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bigpetr, Thanks for that thought.


The Amati instructions say "Before applying upper strakes it is advisable to make small cuts (along dotted line) ... These cuts will help the wood to bend and to lean into the lower stake for an easy glueing".


However your post got me thinking. I just received a pointed divider from Model Expo. I guess I can use that to transfer the distance between strakes from the plans to the model, and make tick marks on the frames, just like a real model builder!


- Nelson

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Nice problem solving so far, glad to hear you're enjoying your first build! If possible, I'd strongly suggest experimenting with plank bending on any similar scrap material you may possibly have around, just to get a physical sense of how it works and feels. Many skills in wooden model building end up being tactile as much as intellectual, in my opinion, and there's nothing like feeling how something works before you do it for real.


One note when using water/soaking to bend planks: wet planks are compressible and can receive damage while drying (such as from an overly tight clamp). It's so frustrating to bend a wet plank, then find out later it has a big clamp divot in it. This is especially true for open boats like this where the planks can be seen from both sides (at least the upper ones). This is another case where experimentation with scrap will help you figure out what you can and can't get away with.


I'm not familiar with this model, but from the page you showed, it looks like the planks are pre-spiled? Meaning that they aren't straight strips but are pre-cut in a curve that will help them take the shape of the hull? If so, that eases your job considerably. Planks that come with bundles of straight strips mean a lot more difficult bending work. On the other hand, pre-spiled planks make it all the more important to practice your methods first since you only have one shot at each plank.


Great start and I can't wait to see where you go with this.

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Thanks much for the information Here's where things are so far.


A couple days ago my wife let me use her curling iron, about the same diameter as those blank benders. I cut a scrap strip from the plank sheet, so I'm using the same plywood. I got the wood wet, but didn't have any luck with the iron.


Next she gave me an old aluminum baking pan she never uses. I soaked the strip in there for several hours, then clamped it to the frames to dry. The result is ...




... which I think is a step in the right direction.


There might be a small clamp divot, but I wasn't paying attention, hadn't seen your reply yet. It could have been there, but in any case it's minor. I'll experiment with another scrap piece with this in mind.


The frames are pre-stiled (thanks for defining that), so yes that will help. Soon I'll bend the real plank, but will rehearse clamping it before applying the glue. The clamps I have tend to slide off frames 3 and 9, so I'll have to figure that out.


Thanks again!


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Looks good. My normal procedure (everyone has a different one) is to use warm water, as I've read that the heat helps loosen the wood fibers. I think it partially depends on the thickness of the plank.


What kind of clamps are you using? The sort of three-dimensional geometry that's needed to hold a plank to a frame is pretty complicated. Here's one of my favorite styles (not my original design), made by adapting standard office-supply binder clips. These are great because they hold really solidly to the frame/bulkhead, but don't directly clamp onto the wet plank, minimizing the chances of deformity (photo from my last build):



Obviously I'm also using more typical clamps here as well, but in this case I'd tested and found that I wasn't getting too much plank compression.

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15 hours ago, Cathead said:

What kind of clamps are you using?

Thanks again Eric.


Here is my meager clamp library so far. (I have more than pictured, but those are the only styles.)




The ones you pictured would probably do the trick, or in any case be handy to have. Looks like you sacrificed a binder clip in order to make two of your clamps, maybe slid some plastic/vinyl tubing over the arm?


I used hot tap water for the first try, but when I practice on the second piece I might add some hot water from a tea kettle, see what happens.




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Yes, the clamps are made by combining multiple pieces. It's 2 for 3, as you take the two arms out of one and each arm gets inserted in another clip. The "tubing" was just how some of them came, I have both types and don't think it matters. I keep the original pieces so I can always put them back together the normal way if desired. I have various types; sometimes it works well to insert an arm from a larger type into a clip from a smaller type, but you can experiment with what works best for you.


Also, if you haven't run across this idea yet, inverting normal clothespins makes them much more useful. Those are also shown in the image above. You basically flip the two halves over within the spring, giving a smooth clamping surface. This also makes the grip a LOT stronger. I have a bunch of these and use them all the time.

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Eric, thanks again, really appreciate it.


I found "soft grip binder clips" on amazon, a Staples brand, so I can probably find them at any office store. Great idea, whoever thought it up, I'll give it a try.


The clothespin trick is new to me as well, thanks for that. Now I'm looking around the house and wondering what other things I might have that could be useful!



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  • 2 weeks later...

With the dog days of summer here I've been maximizing outdoor time and haven't done much on the boat in recent weeks.


But the other day I decided to take a step forward and glue the garboard strakes. I first bent them with the water immersion technique mentioned above, and the result seemed pretty good. This is where she sits right now.



(Starboard side view, bent port side plank sitting in front)




With this bending technique - soak, clamp, glue, clamp - I can only do max one strake per day, and since that won’t happen it will be well over a month before the hull is planked. I’ll report back then.


Being my first ever build, at this point I have no idea how good of a job I’m doing or if things will turn out well. Perhaps that’s makes this hobby seem like an adventure!

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On 8/4/2020 at 10:42 PM, Louie da fly said:

Nice work, Balclutha!

Thanks, but not quite so fast Steven! 😄


I have a screw up in the planking.


Due to poor fairing of the frame, excessive clamping, or some other combination of missteps, I've broken the smooth curve of the hull at the last frames. This photo should indicate it, though this a bit exaggerated, it's not quite this bad. You can see the divot in the garboard strake.




My plan for making it better is to place a tapered shim under the next plank, something like this.




Then the next plank can resume the desired curve. It looked pretty good when I laid the next plank on top of the shim, it kind of disappears.


Please stop me before I start gluing if someone has a better idea.






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Seems reasonable? One of those things you may notice but no one else will, and that will vanish into the overall coolness of the finished model. Would it work to sand down the outer edge a bit to minimize the thicker shadow, or would that mess up the staining?

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3 minutes ago, Cathead said:

sand down the outer edge a bit to minimize the thicker shadow

Thanks, yes that could work and I'll do that. Actually, the shadow is not as bad as it looks in the photo because more clamps will help, but they obstructed what I was trying to show.


My wife said I should just ignore it, but it's kind of fun to think through a solution to the problem. And I think it will look better. I'll wait another couple days before gluing. Hopefully the finished model will have "coolness". 🙂


By the way, as you can see I'm making use of the clamps you showed me. I found the soft handled ones at the pharmacy a week ago. I like the colors since I can find them easily.

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My little shim seemed like it achieved the desired effect. Whether it was actually necessary or not is an open question, but I'm glad I did it.


I did do something I had thought of earlier up thread - used my new divider to transfer the distances on the 1:1 scale drawing to the bow. Presumably that will help in correctly positioning the strakes as I proceed with gluing.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Making some slow progress, now have four strakes on each side, but want to point out a problem in case it helps another beginner some day. Kind of related to my shim question above. After the 4th strake I dry fitted the bow and stern deck pieces and they didn't fit. The strakes were bent in to far after the last frame. So I'm having to sand a bit off each of the decks. Now I'm planning to glue these pieces before adding any more strakes, which should help reestablish the proper curve to the hull.


The circles show where I had to sand to get the deck to fit.





Here's Captain Aegir, in authentic Viking garb, checking out the hull. He wishes Floki was working on it instead of me, but so far he's not planning to cut back on my ale allowance.




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It's good that you've caught that problem with the decks at this stage, rather than having to fix it down the track which would involve a lot more work (and authentic Viking cursing!)


The planking looks very good. Those are beautiful curves. Tell Floki to take a back seat.

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Thanks for the encouragement Steven! There are a number of construction flaws I could point out, but all in all, considering it's a first ever model so far it's "OK".


Next up, I've just purchased a can of MinWax pre-stain conditioner and will start experimenting with applying stain to some scrap pieces.

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  • 1 month later...

I suspect many of you have been waiting on tenterhooks to see how this build has been progressing, and that you can recognize sarcasm when you see it.


I've slowly moved forward in between several large home projects, and have now reached a possible impasse. The hull planks have been moving steadily away from the frames for several strakes. I saw this happening but figured I would come up with something near the last strake. And I think I have: my goose is cooked!













As you can see, the angle of the upper strakes needs to be more vertical. I've thought of steaming or soaking the entire side of the boat and bending inward so I can glue to the frames. But I suspect disaster lies down that path (?).


The Skipper (she doesn't want to be an Admiral) has said that for "only" $108 I should chalk this up to a learning experience, get another kit, and start anew. There is clearly some benefit to that strategy, and perhaps the next best move.


I suppose some solace can be found in James H's build log. He is an MSW Admin who gave a generally favorable review to this kit. But the last entry in his nice log  simply says: "Struggling with pre-formed ply planking at moment, so put on hiatus."


By the way, I turned 71 last month and the Skipper got me a very nice stylized Viking boat T-shirt. Looks great! 




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Having a similar problem on my build. The pre-cut notches in the frames were cut so that there was almost no overlap in the planks, such that I was forced to start shifting planks inward to get good gluing surfaces. This meant that by now, on the last strake, they don't line up at all with the frame notches and also display a distinct tendency to bow outward as you show here. I'm hoping that installing the internal cross-braces that come later in the build will help pull it back together.

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Hi, Balclutha


I feel for your Viking ship and its planking! 

That is where I am heading and I hope that I am sufficiently wise and lucky to be able to side-step problems like this


My (Billings) ship has no notches on the frames until the last 2 vertical strakes - and these certainly gave problems to my gurus (VonKossa and Jack P)


But I find that  71 is an excellent age for life and problem-solving (with or without Tee shirts) 

Now only you and I know my real age, to others I only admit to seventy-mumble

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