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Muirneag 1903 by Blue Ensign – 1:64 scale - A Scottish Zulu Fishing Boat Based on the Vanguard Models Zulu Kit

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Beautiful decking! She's coming along very nicely (and I completely agree about avoiding remaking the timberhead pieces).


39 minutes ago, Blue Ensign said:

I made the decision to sand down the back of the supplied deck to allow for the thickness of the Boxwood planking.

Did you do this by hand? and if so how did you achieve a nice even reduction is thickness?


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Thank you Tim,

Yes I sanded it by hand, I used one of those foam sanding blocks (medium grade) which happens to be the width of the deck.

It took a bit of time to get it down to less than 1mm thick, and I constantly checked the thickness as I went along.


The Fifie deck is thinner  but as it was a match to the Boxwood strip I was using I didn't need to use it.



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Post 12


Working out revised deck layout


Before I proceed further with fettling the deck planking I need to work out the revised layout for Muirneag specific fittings.

The Fore hatch has been planked over, and there is a slight shift in the positions of the coal bunker hatch, and the pump deck plate.



The plan is a pretty good fit as an overlay.


A major difference relates to the steering box.




A replacement was scratched out of spare Pearwood strip.




The box is smaller than that supplied with the kit and the aft thwart sits in a rebate in the box framing rather than part of a larger fitting called the rear bench pattern which combines with a knee at the stern post.




One slight puzzlement, there is a rise in the deck towards the stern which throws the steering box out of level and will ultimately give a forward lean to the steering wheel.


I will need to resolve this before final fitting.


At this point I return to progress the Poop deck structure, the carcase of which I assembled earlier in the build.

The Pearwood panels are now added but the aft panel which includes the Companionway, required some modification to suit Muirneag.




On Muirneag the companionway is offset from the centre line to Starboard.

In fact the whole Poop roof including the fish hatch boarding is  to be replaced.


DSC07407 (2).JPG


 Deck beams have been inserted to support the poop deck planking and carlings for the companionway sides.

The lower deck cabin area has been planked.

This is all necessary as I intend to have the Companionway  open and a ladder installed leading down to the cabin area.


DSC07418 (2).JPG


An off-cut of thin box sheet is used to form a ‘false’ poop deck roof, over which the planking will be laid. This will bring the overall thickness up to that of the provided kit part.

I could have used thicker individual planking, but a false deck makes it easier to mark and cut out for the fittings.


I will next move onto fitting out the Fish hold.





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For us Americans, I looked this up.


Fettle: to prepare or arrange (a thing, oneself, etc), esp to put a finishing touch to. b. to repair or mend (something). Not sure if BE is in Yorkshire, there it means to put in order.


It's a cool word, but one I'd never seen until reading BE's logs 🙂


Oh, and nice work as always BE. I enjoy your ever informative logs.

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Post 13


Detailing the Fish hatch


The Hatch depth on the Zulu kit is deeper than that of the Fifie so there is a little more scope for detailing.

Altho’ not a lot will be seen once the nets are in place, it is an interesting exercise to fit it out as far as possible. The idea is to give the impression that there is more there than there actually is.



The pierced boards of the hatch floor which allow the water to drain into the bilge are represented.



Atop these the framing and boards of the Net platform.



This is about as far as I can take it without a lot more chopping about which wouldn’t provide any greater visual advantage.




The net boarding partitions and boards will now be removed until the poop deck carcase is finally fitted.


Steering Box and Wheel


I’ve also been test fitting the steering box and wheel.

Note: the steering wheel stem is shown as pe part 29 in section 26 of the manual but is listed as part 27 in the parts lists, but it is easy to recognise.


When I test fitted the wheel in place it struck me that it looked a little high above the box. It is in fact 6.5mm which scales to 16.4”


I could not find an elevation shot of the wheel in place on either the kit plans or manual to give me a visual comparison.


Underhill’s plans however, show the wheel at a scale 9.5” above the box which at 1:64 scales to 3.75mm.

This puts the wheel at the level of the sliding roof of the companionway, which does seem more credible to me.



Muirneag model as built by Gordon Williams and now held in the Museum Nan Eilean, Stornoway.

This shot clearly shows the relative height of the wheel to the Companionway.



The difference is demonstrated here.



For the purpose of the exercise I used the kit Poop deck roof which won’t be used in the build.




This photo depicts the wheel on a reduced length stem which suits my eye much better.







All this stuff will now be removed to prepare the hull for painting.







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Post 14

Marking the waterline and getting some paint down

This is probably the point to get some paint on the lower hull if for no other reason than to highlight any areas requiring attention.

I will be using the scheme I used on the Fifie;

red below the waterline with a white watercut, and varnish to the gunwale but where the top rail will be painted in a fetching shade of Blue, yet to be determined.

In reality the hull would have been painted black but it’s a pity to cover all that rich natural Pearwood colour.


In marking the waterline on my Fifie build I was singularly unsuccessful using the Amati Waterline marker but I resolved to try again having marked the relevant points at the stem, stern, and midships.



The hull was placed on the provided stand, higher end forrad, which gives the necessary drag to the hull.

It is then a case of tweaking the position of the hull in the stand until the marker pencil hits the marked spots on the hull.

I took the precaution of taping the stand to a block of wood to reduce any tendency for movement.

So far so good but any thoughts of one smooth sweep along the hull each side with the lines meeting at bow and stern were quickly dashed.




After repeated applications where the damned thing seem to behave like a demented etch-a -sketch, I did achieve what looked like uniformity each side, sufficient anyway to tempt me to tape it up and lay down some paint.




Unlike the Fifie, Muirneag is well endowed with rubbing strakes; I was interested to get an idea of how these came together on the hull and the relationship to the paint lines.




To this end I used lining tape to represent the strips.




Several more adjustments of the waterline tape followed this.


A base coat laid down reveals areas that would benefit from a touch of filler.



Four sand/fill/recoat sessions later and it’s time to see how the line looks.



I am using Vallejo Flat red for the hull.




Tamiya tape is used to mark the position of the white watercut.




I used the kit proportions which compare very closely to the Underhill plans when converted from 1:24 to1:64.


I have now been actively working on this construction for only four weeks, but it feels much longer.




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Post 15


A little more progress on the paint front



Adding the line for the watercut is fairly straightforward with the waterline marked.




Just requires some careful masking.



The Top rail is painted blue (Underhill Plans) which is a common theme running thro’ all the models of Muirneag, and I have followed suit.



I used Humbrol 89 darkened a little with Humbrol 25.



Far from the impression given by dark b/w photo’s from bygone years, descriptions from the time note bright paintwork was a feature of Zulu’s, and Fifie’s too I suspect.




The framing for the Poop deck is also painted blue, still dry fitted in this shot.




The false deck has now been fitted to the poop framing and will be planked with 2.7mm Boxwood strip.


According to the paint specification on the plan the roof was coated with black varnish.

Not too sure about this in relation to my model, I’ll do some testing and see how it looks. I do have some antique oak varnish which for all practical purpose is black.


I also have some antique pine which is a rich brown colour, which may provide a more aesthetic contrast.



The deck was also apparently painted with black varnish, but for me that’s a step too far.







The next step is to look at the Rubbing Strakes.






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Thank you Guys for your supportive  comments and 'likes'


Post 16


Time to add the rubbing strakes.


The gunwale rubbing strakes are represented by two 2mm half round walnut strips.

On the real thing these are the gunwale a 7½” x 4½” timber faced with two half round iron strips.

The kit arrangement is not a bad visual interpretation of the wale.


The kit manual indicates that the gunwale strip is placed 4mm below the bulwark top. In practice this appears to follow the line of the top Pearwood strake.


Below the wale there are three rubbing strakes, (the beads) also faced with iron. These are represented by 1mm walnut strips.


I did think about replacing the strips with blackened half round brass strip but looking at old photo’s of Muirneag I decided the effort wasn’t worth it.


A key issue with fixing these strips is to get the correct angle of cut where the strip meets the stem and stern posts.




I use ca to fix the strip and ran a length of Tamiya tape along the top rail to protect it from any overspill.

I also have acetone and a small brush ready to wipe off any excess.



The second strip is placed immediately below the first which is less of an issue.


Lower 1mm strakes


The first of the three lower rubbing strakes is placed 6mm below the wale strip which allows for the Registration number to be accommodated.

I will use BECC 5mm self-adhesive lettering for this.


The second strake is set to be 4mm below the first.




 I use sections of pearwood planking to guide the position.




Sample lettering



First two strakes in place


I found fitting these strips a little tricky, for most of the length from the bow it is parallel to the Wale but towards the stern there is a subtle upward curve to the strip and a reduction in the width between the strakes to 3mm.




1mm Walnut strip is not the best material to work with and requires careful handling.

The kit provides only 5 strips, to meet the exact requirements.

No allowance is made for less than good lengths, and should the need arise to reposition an already glued strip, there is a high risk of breaking it.

A couple of extra strips included with the kit would be of benefit, I think.



The third strake only runs 140mm from the bow, which accords with the Underhill plans. Again I used Pearwood strips to aid positioning.



A final addition to the hull is an incised groove centred between the wale and the first rubbing strake and running from the stem to the Registration number.




The cut was made using scalpel and files and through masking tape to reduce any risk of the line running off grain.












I worked a day and a half fixing these tricky little beggars and there is still work to do re-touching the paint lines and cleaning up the hull for the application of wipe-on -poly.






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Cheers Guys,

@ Glenn - Fun is not exactly how I would describe it😄

@ Bob - Glad you're enjoying it. 👍

@ Jean- Paul -  The Vallejo flat red really seems to suit the Pearwood. I hesitated before adding the Blue,  but it was a feature of the real thing. 🙂

@ Tony -  Glad to have helped,  but I'm not quite sure  how  the sequence relates to the wale and waterline on this particular model.🤔


Post 17


A step forward and a step backwards



Re-visiting the Fish hold.



I thought initially that I would get away with leaving the fish hatch open as is with some interior detailing.




The problem is that on the kit it was designed to be closed, and the mdf carcase is way over scale for the true thickness of the hatch coamings.



My eye wouldn’t let me rest so there’s nothing like a spot of Sunday morning de-construction to sort things out.


Not difficult to pare down the mdf, it is soft and comes away easily, I should really have done this in the first place.


I know some people don’t like mdf but for carcase construction I love it, its use is of great benefit to the serial kit basher.




Most of the interior fitting out can’t be done until the carcase is fitted.



Progressing the Poop




Boxwood planking has now been applied to the Poop deck, and a ladder was constructed for the companionway as the hatch cover will be slid back.


I spent some time mulling over what colour to apply to the planking.


The scheme indicated is black varnish, which explains the colour scheme used in the NMM model (George Macleod) and the models made by Gordon Williams, and Jan van den Heuvel, all of which provide a valuable reference source for my build.


I tentatively tried Dark Jacobean oak dye but it didn’t work for  me.




I finally settled on Pitch pine wood dye which provided a contrast to the deck and I thought suited the scheme overall.




All the required fittings for the Poop deck of a Zulu are provided in the kit.


In addition to the Companionway these comprise the mast partners, the Foremast crutch, The Warp hatch and rollers, the steam Capstan, and the flue pipes that would serve the boiler and galley stove.



Modifications to suit Muirneag involve squaring the Mizen mast base (the mast is square section to just above the deck) and tweaking slightly the positions of the other fittings.




The major alteration to the poop was the repositioning of the companionway as covered in Post 12.






In these shots the rudder is slotted into place; I think it makes a big difference to the overall look of the hull. I won’t however be using the simplified kit arrangement when I get around to fitting.



Before the Poop deck assembly is finally put into place I will attend to the timberheads and bulwark stringers.






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Oh man! I can't imagine -- or, maybe I don't want to imagine -- fitting those rubbing strakes.  They line up perfectly, but you say nowt about how much spiling you had to do.


I can see why you're staying away from the black.  With the other bright colors, it would make for a bit of the peacock. 


And I have to confess that seeing the angle of the rudder made me do a double take.  A rather upright bow and sharply angled stern -- how very interesting!





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Thank you Yves, Martin and John.


I am now at the point where I can relax a little and enjoy the fitting out.


@ Martin


Rubbing strakes are a pain and it does help to have something on the hull to guide them.


She would look quite impressive painted as evidenced from the splendid model by Gordon Williams.


He did have the best of both worlds as the Starboard side is unpainted with large sections of the hull unplanked to show interior detail.


A point of interest is that a bilge keel is shown which isn’t evident on the Underhill plans but which also is shown on the NMM model (George Macleod)

Old photographs would suggest that Bilge keels were a feature of fishing boats of the era.

I need to decide whether to retro-fit one.


The Zulu is in effect a hybrid design combining features of two of the prominent designs of the time; the Scaffie fishing boat (Sharply raking stern) and the Fifie (which had a straight stem)


In any event it became a highly successful design, favoured by many of those engaged in the business of fishing.



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I agree that it's not relevant for your particular model, B.E. It's just that your approach would have been easier for me to use for the particular model I am experimenting on (a card/wood model of the Allège d'Arles at 1:100, and being experimental unlikely to have a build log). You gave me the idea of how to approach a problem with my build of a boat with a different waterline.


Your waterline comes very close to the wale, and would require good masking technique to paint it as a straight line if done after the wale was added. In my model, the wale dips below the waterline, making the angles as it crosses the waterline very acute. I am approaching this by painting the wales in white together with the hull below and hoping to mask it by cutting the masking tape with the acute angle, then painting the hull below the waterline black: This requires two separate strips of the tape, both at the acute angle. This should work, but for me it would have been a far simpler and more elegant solution to paint the waterline before placing the wales. That way, painting the wales afterwards would have made it a cinch.


On 10/5/2020 at 3:52 PM, Blue Ensign said:

@ Tony -  Glad to have helped,  but I'm not quite sure  how  the sequence relates to the wale and waterline on this particular model.


Thanks again for your continuing wealth of ideas!



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I've had a look at that model Tony, and I see what you mean.

It does look a very interesting  project and I see that Ancre has a publication out on the vessel.


I'm sure you will do the subject justice, I've picked up more that a few tips from your builds. 🙂





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Post 18


Timberheads and stringers.



There are 98 tiny laser cut Pearwood timberheads to be glued to the bulwarks, all handed and position specific, so each one has to be removed from the fret and glued individually before removing the next.




A tiresome business, but quite an ingenious method devised by Chris, and one that relieves the builder of the even more tiresome business of individually cutting small sections of square stuff.




It is also a nice touch to have the line of the stringers etched into the face of the timberheads.



The kit includes the major features along the bulwark, cavils, and cleats, but one slight puzzlement I have is that the cavils, provided as part of the timberhead set, don’t include the cross pieces.

This is easily rectified however, using pieces from the fret.



The Underhill plans show a wealth of additional fine detail which it is feasible to fit at 1:64 scale.




One immediate modification is the replacement of a single timberhead at the bow with a double timberhead rising above the rail.



The Pearwood stringers are attached next having been adjusted for Muirneag specifics.




These affect the aft section of the stringers where the morticed positions of the large cleats are filled in, and sockets are added to the back side to take the side light brackets.




 With the stringers firmly glued there are a series of infills between the timberheads, called doublers on the plan, these are topped with an iron plate and a socket to take a “ spring warp cage” whatever that is; something else to research.




In this shot the cross pieces have been added to the cavils, and the blocks that form the doublers are in place behind the stringers.



The Stringer cleats are now in place but except for the foremost set are repositioned to suit Muirneag.


DSC07739 (2).JPG


DSC07740 (2).JPG


The timberheads now need to be sanded level with the rail and the fittings cleaned up. The final task will be to add a series of bolts through the stringers which act as attachment points for purchases and rigging, and holes drilled to take horizontal belay pins.





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Post 19

Completing the rail fittings


All this work is best done before any of the deck fittings are put into place to give best access for drilling holes in the stringers.


I have now added the bolts that provide hooking points, and the metal plates to the doublers.



Metal bolts thro’ the stringer to provide belay points.

Cross pieces have been added to the cavils.


The Underhill plans show metal sheaves Port and Starboard for the Fore and Mizen halyards.



These are interesting features but I needed to work out an assembly method given their very small size.


One of the four belaying pins inserted horizontally through the stringers can be seen aft of the large cleat. For these I used the brass etched versions provided with the Alert kit but enhanced slightly.





The sheave bracket was silver soldered together using thin brass strip, and the sheave is represented by a section of brass tubing.



The completed items are only 9mm long x 1.5mm deep.


Most of this stuff wouldn’t be noticed by the casual observer, but it is on the plans, and if I can add it I will.



A final repaint of the top rail and I can finally move onto fitting the Poop deck and Fore mast partners.





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Post 20


Poop Deck and Fore-mast partners.


 Before these are finally glued into place it is worth test checking the fit of the Fore thwart and Mizen thwarts.


These should fit down on the stringers, and back to the bulwark. On my build I had to chisel the timberheads flush with the stringers to achieve this.


In reality the thwarts appear to be mortised thro’ the top rail, which is reflected on the plans and the representative models of Muirneag.



On Muirneag the Mizen thwart runs as a straight board, whereas the kit provided version has a flared outboard end.

These extensions were removed for the purposes of my build.


The kit Fore thwart is a good fit to the mast partners.



 The timberheads were cut away above the stringers to allow the thwart to sit fully down.





The Poop deck and Fore-mast partners are now glued into place, no issues with fit, and it is a nice touch that Chris provided a decking section below the partners.

The 8mm square Foremast fits perfectly between the partners and the mast stop.



I decided to add the Foc’sle ladder which sits just inside the inboard end of the partners.




Even with the mast lowered and resting on the crutch adjacent to the Mizen mast there is still access to the ladderway.

The kit has a separate fore hatch which seems a more practicable arrangement and one that is evident on the plans of other Zulu’s.


A question mark appears over the number and position of the partner knees on Muirneag.

The Underhill plan shows only two each side with a cleat between them.

This is reflected on the NMM model, but not the Gordon Williams model which has three.

The clincher is that a photo of Muirneag does indeed show three evenly spaced knees. (p288 Sailing Drifters.) but rising in depth as the partners get wider towards the fore part.



Modified knees in place.




The thwart is only trial fitted here.

I can now fit out the fish hatch.




Removeable Partition boards used to arrange and distribute the catch in the hold to suit the trim of the boat.



Net platform boards installed.




This is as far as I can take the fish hold detail, and most of this will be covered by the nets.



The companionway ladder can now be fitted.


I will next move onto the steering fittings.






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