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Barque Stefano by robdurant - MarisStella - 1:63

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Hi all,


As I draw to an end with Ethalion, I was thrilled and surprised to find that in these somewhat uncertain times of COVID, the model I ordered from Croatia arrived a day early. So - I thought I'd put an initial post in what looks like being another build log that will take some time.  I need to finish my HMS Ethalion build first, so there may be a few weeks delay to getting started, but then we'll be up and running. 


What I can do in the meantime is give a few first impressions of both MarisStella and their kit, and once I've read the book about what happened to Barque Stefano and her crew I shall understand better why this is such an historically important vessel.  If you want to know more, I'd recommend looking at the build logs of MarisStella.hr, and HeronGuy who have said more on this subject.


The company

I found the company a joy to deal with. Yes, they don't have a traditional payment gateway on their website, but they do live up to their claims as far as personal service is concerned. They were quick to respond to my initial enquiry, helpful with all my questions, and absolutely true to their word when I went ahead with buying the kit. From ordering to my door was six days. 1 quicker than they said it might be. I think that's enough said.


The kit

I can't comment on how the kit goes together yet... as I haven't started it. But the kit has certainly survived a long journey in excellent condition. I bought the upgrade version (as opposed to the retro version) It was in a good heavy, outer brown cardboard box, and the inner kit box is really nice with nice big colour printed image of the model. It's built to be good and sturdy with helpful and well thought out packing inside that keeps everything really well secured. The plans themselves are heavy! (14 sheets of well printed, clearly set out plans at the same scale as the model that at first glance look really good quality). The plan booklet contains a copy in good English, and various diagrams and schematics adding detail to the sheet plans.


The materials look good at first glance - building the kit will give a better idea. The photo etch and copper plates were well packaged to give protection from the journey and arrived in perfect shape. The copper plates had some black marks on them, but I'm confident that this will come off with a little clean up. No big deal I'm sure. They are so finely etched that I'm really looking forward to fitting them. They have a lovely deep copper red lustre which should look amazing when fitted, and as has been mentioned before, they are -handed so will overlap as on the real ship (if I get it right when I build the model!).


All-in-all, I'm really impressed. 


So. If anyone wants to join in the journey, please do. I'm pretty sure that being a more modern vessel there's going to be a bunch of metal work to do that I've never done before... but it's all part of the learning experience, so we'll make it.


I'll try and take some pictures to go alongside these comments in the next few days.



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You're very welcome Jason. As I said, it might be a few weeks before I really get going on this build, as I must finish Ethalion :)

In the meantime, here's some pictures of what you get in the kit:




In the shot below, the laser cut sheets are all stacked up - there are LOADS of them, all of which look beautifully cut. I figured I wouldn't give anyone looking to knock off this kit a head start, but they look good! A nice uniform colour to the walnut, too, which will help as we move ahead. Note as well, bottom right are the pre-sewn sails - again the sewing is very fine, but I haven't had the material out of the pack yet... I want to keep it clean. I've only done sails out of tissue before, but I was pleased with that effect. When the time comes, I shall offer them up against each other and see which I feel will give the better outcome. Nice to have the option, though, and this model WILL be fully rigged with sails unfurled. 




You can see the black marking on the copper plates - this marking is on each of the numerous sheets. I'm not too worried about this. I figure when the time comes I can get it clean with some acetone. We'll see.




And finally the plans... and plans... and plans... all beautifully detailed. Again, I don't want to give anyone wanting to copy the kit a headstart, so I haven't shown the contents here. Doubtless snippets will appear as the build progresses. I've never seen such detailed plans on a kit. They really are lovely, so I suspect this aspect of the build will be an absolute pleasure. I'm a sucker for a nice plan!




Finally, a picture of the book by Gustave Rathe, grandson of one of the people onboard the Barque when she sank. I'm looking forward to reading this in preparation for the build.




That's it for now until I finish Ethalion :)


Happy building!




p.s. my ten-year-old son has just demonstrated he can climb inside the box this kit was delivered in and the lid pretty much closes.... Are my builds getting over-ambitious?!?!

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Thanks Chris :)


I mentioned above that the copper plates provided had fairly significant marking across each of the sheets. I was reasonably confident it would come off, but didn't want to leave it until I came to the point of wanting to install them just in case I was wrong.


Well, here are the results of my test... 


1. The whole sheet before testing... (as it came in the box)




I cut out one tile to experiment on from the centre of the worst marking. Here's a close-up...




2. Test one: Acetone (nail-varnish remover)


The first attempt to remove the marks was with acetone. Despite bathing the tile in the acetone (in a sealed container for about five minutes) and then scrubbing it with a toothbrush, this seemed to have absolutely no effect.


The tile ended up looking precisely as it started, when compared to the sheet it had come from.


3. Test two: neat Lemon juice


The second attempt was using neat lemon juice... and scrubbing gently with a toothbrush. (The detail on the etching is so fine, it shreds tissue paper, and I was concerned I'd damage the tiles)


This method provided almost instant results. Within 20 seconds the tile was completely shiny, as I would hope - all marking entirely gone. I was conscious that the active ingredient is citric acid, so I rinsed the tile afterwards in plenty of water to remove the acid.


Here's the tile on it's own...




And in situ to compare to the rest of the sheet...








I'm much more confident it's all going to be fine now, so I can pack it all away and concentrate on Ethalion :)


Take care, and a very happy Christmas to you all!





Update: Zoran from MarisStella has helpfully pointed out the putting the sheet into Coca Cola for a few seconds, and then rinsing with clean water will clean the copper well, too. Thanks Zoran :)

Edited by robdurant
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I'd like to follow along as well, once you get started.  I've seen a few other build logs of Marisstella kits and it seems the builders are always impressed by the kits, and what I see in the logs looks really good as well, to the point I am considering one of their kits myself.   Also good to hear that your customer service experience was good as well.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, it finally happened. Lockdown began in the UK, and I ran out of the rope I needed to continue with Ethalion... so, it was over to Stefano for a bit...


The build begins with the parts for the false keel being taken out of the walnut sheet. These are laser cut and fit well. Here they are laid out...




The angle on the cut was quite significant (I don't know whether it's more than on other builds, as I've only built CNC cut parts before. I didn't sand these down as they were a snug fit already, and I didn't want to make the joint loose. Instead, I glued it as was (but NOT the stern post or the front of the bow part... I want these to be nice and neat, so I'll add them later).


I spent some time thinning down the stern so that the planking will not stick out from the stern post when added. The stern post will not be added until at least the first planking is complete, and that way I'll be able to thin the first planking down to 1mm short of the width of the post, so that it fits nicely when the second planking goes on... Here's the thinning in progress (test fitted with the other parts)




And how it looks once glued... 




Here they are being glued (I discovered that baking paper DOES stick to carpenter's glue *sigh*...  The metre ruler makes sure that the keel is glued straight.




Having glued the parts together, I spent a little time working on a rabbet at bow and stern to provide a guide for the planking. This was done with a proxxon mini drill and an engraving tool... it's a bit messy, but I'll tidy it up once the balsa is in.


The next day, I noticed there was a little twist in the keel - but I'm not expecting this to be an issue once the hull structure is together.


I made up the building board with some highly engineered parts being used for the bow and stern supports (courtesy of my son!) - it turns out if you leave one dot between the side supports, then add 2mm of wood, it makes the perfect width for the walnut to fit in.




I went ahead and took out the bulkheads... 



These are beautifully cut. No issues at all about shaping... They look perfect. Trial fits confirmed that they are indeed very accurate... The 14mm dowels that connect them together were cut to size as per the plans (nb: the top and bottom plans measure slightly differently on sheet 3... I used the bottom measurements which are P5, as mentioned in the instructions. The difference isn't major, but certainly one to watch out for.


The main-mast step is fitted into bulkhead 12. This has to fit so that the step goes back to the notch on the false keel, but with the hole itself sitting slightly inside the extent of the bulkhead so that the part is flush with the forward edge of the bulkhead. It makes sense when you put it together, and the plans and instructions are well done. Whatever you do, don't do what I nearly did and glue it onto the false keel blocking the way for the bulkhead to be inserted!




At this stage bulkhead 12 is glued to the mast step, but nothing is glued to the false keel.


A strip is added to bulkhead 2, which will act as the deck support. I used some leftover walnut from Ethalion, but it does tell you which wood you can use in the kit. The top side is curved... I didn't try to edge bend the wood, I just sanded a curved profile in it. This was nice and easy.


You'll notice in the images below that the upper two holes in Bulkhead 2 are assymetrical (the left hand hole is further from the bowsprit hole... There's no mention of this as far as I can tell in the instructions... I'm working on the assumption that I can fix it later easily enough if I need to, but in the meantime, I looked at the MarisStella.hr log, and copied their prototype... Hence the pencil marking for aft / fore on either side. You'll need to work this out before you stick on the strip because it goes on the aft side.






All this gets hidden under the raised deck platform at the bow, so I'm not too concerned about looks. No-one will see it, from what I can tell.


This post is quite long enough, so I'll start another one.


Happy building




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The next stage is to trial fit the bulkheads, checking that they are a comfy, but not stressed fit. This was remarkably easy - again the accuracy of the laser-cutting was great... When I tried putting in the wooden dowels they slid in really easily - one dowel was a little oval in cross-section, so I sanded it down, but the holes for the dowels were perfectly placed, and when sighting along the hull with the dowels in, I was thrilled to find the hull was really nice and smooth... (bulkhead fairing excepted)


Lego was employed to check squareness. As HeronGuy noted, the dowels will make a wonderfully rigid structure, but you do need to check it's all straight. 




Once satisfied with the vertical and widthways squareness of the parts, I took the whole thing apart, and glued it bit by bit with carpenter's glue. This diverted from the instructions which suggest brushing on watered down glue. I wasn't confident that the glue would work effectively enough for my liking, and I didn't want things coming unstuck during the fairing process. I had one oopsy moment, where I realised that I'd got a bulkhead slightly high, but pushing it down, the dowels fitted like a glove. The carpenter's glue gave Just enough time to double-check things to make sure all was square, and that brings us up to date. It's now going to be left overnight to glue nice and solid ready for fairing tomorrow.




Here's the glue I've been using (for every model I've built so far). I can't fault it. Good strength, quick grab, plenty of moving time, and waters down brilliantly for the rigging. It dries clear with a dull sheen. (And no I don't work for them :) )




I've ordered some extra balsa, which will hopefully arrive in the next few days. I wasn't expecting to get so far so quickly, but it's testament to MarisStella that I have.


One last photo... Ethalion and Stefano in the same room... 




They're very comparable in size. I think I'm going to rig this model with yards braced round, as per some contemporary models in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. e.g. https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/66318.html It could help with the space 🤣


So far, I'm falling just as in love with this kit as with Ethalion, which bodes well for the next few years!


Happy building







Edited by robdurant
Oops... added a picture twice... edited to remove.
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I'm looking forward to following along on your build, Rob. My second build was the Maristella Batelina and I enjoyed it very much. I really like of the line of models offered by MarisStella and the shipment from Croatia and communication with Zoran was excellent.


I decided to build the Stilac after the Batelina but got completely bogged down and confused at a similar point just a little further along than you are currently on your build of the Stefano. Although the instructions had numerous computer generated illustrations, they didn't prove to be that helpful for me. So I put the model on the shelf and decided I'd come back to it once I felt I was experienced enough to try and figure things out. Of course, my inexperience at the time may have had a lot to do with it.


I will be following your build closely. It's a beautiful looking model. Good luck!



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  • 2 weeks later...

So here's a little update. The next step in this build is to fair the bulkheads. The plans (specifically an overhead view, P5 on plan sheet 3) provide lines at three levels. Specifically the main rail along the top of the hull (where the planking stops at the top), the deck level, and a third level... This was defined in the plans as the "highest wooden plating line"....  Some head-scratching was done, and comparing the widths of that profile at the bulkhead seemed to confirm that this is in fact the highest copper plating line. This being the case, it's effectively the shape of the hull at the waterline.


Once I'd figured that out, I went on to work out the difference in bulkhead width from front to back, as below.




These were then carefully marked out at those three levels on forward three frames... and the shaping began, with a mix of a sharp x-acto blade and some files. Bulkhead two was roughly shaped off the model, and then glued in place where the balsa blocks will be added and the shaping will be finessed.




Once the time came to fit bulkhead two again, I realised that the part I glued to the back side was blocking it going into the slot. So the bar across the back was modified as shown below.






Bulkhead two was then glued in place.


The same was done for bulkheads 20 and 21 at the stern.






I haven't glued bulkhead 21 in yet, as I'm still feeling my way with this build a bit.


Finally, a few shots taken this morning of the build so far.








It really shows the accuracy of the laser cutting off, doesn't it!


Okay - more soon :)


Happy building.



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One thing (well, two actually) about these kits from MarisStella is the doweling of the bulkheads, which should produce a rock-solid substructure and eliminate alignment issues (unless the laser cutting is ever off for some reason), as well as the number of bulkheads supplied. The kit appears to have about half again as many as one normally sees in a PoB kit.

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24 minutes ago, ccoyle said:

...as well as the number of bulkheads supplied. The kit appears to have about half again as many as one normally sees in a PoB kit.


Yes, it's 21, compared to 17 in HMS Diana by Caldercraft (the only similar example I have personal experience of), which makes a hull almost identical length. This is particularly at the bow and stern, where the bulkheads are closer together, and this should make a big difference when fairing for the first planking, especially in avoiding the bumps and flats where the planks can get pulled too tight across the bulkheads.

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  • 1 month later...

Okay - with the gradual wrapping up of Ethalion (the rigging is completed), it's time for an update on the Barque Stefano.


With the bulkheads roughly faired, we finished last time with them glued into place, save the final bulkhead at the stern. The next task is to fair the balsa blocks that provide shape for the bow and stern.


I scanned the plans, and created CAD copies of the pertinent outlines to help me shape the blocks, and once these were stuck onto cardboard and cut out, they made good templates...




This was done before the balsa was stuck on, and then I rough shaped the balsa off the model using a coping saw to stop the room being consumed by a pile of shavings... The false keel and bulkheads gave the rough pattern for what shapes these parts should be. The block was built up so that the gap that would be left on the outside was filled at the bow so the whole area would be solid in front of the front two bulkheads. (Sorry - an ugly sentence, but hopefully the picture explains)


(Remember these are handed - they have to fit either side of the bow!, I almost forgot.)


It doesn't have to be pretty at this stage... it's all going to get sanded down and up soon enough.




The blocks are then stuck into place.


I quickly realised that sanding was going to take forever to remove this much material, and still created buckets of dust, so I switched to a small plane... Finishing off was then done by sandpaper  folded to make it fairly firm, and in broad sweeps to get nice curves... 




And here are the profile templates...




The gap between the first and second bulkheads was also filled at the outer edge... and then sanded back to make a smooth curve... 




Next up is the stern balsa former...  But this post is long enough already.


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The stern former


As with the bow, the stern is shaped using balsa formers. These are a little more tricky than at the bow, as it's one single piece that is entirely responsible for the eventual shape of the stern in all three dimensions.


It all begins with three identical balsa blocks of equal shape.


Again, I made a cad drawing of the plans given by MarisStella so I could take some measurements off it and put extra lines onto it. The extra lines showed where the balsa blocks should start and finish on the x, y and z axes. This enabled me to cut them down to rough shape in the vertical and horizontal planes before sticking them together.




I've tried to draw a picture of how I went about this... hopefully it gives some idea... basically the idea is to take away what you know WON'T be in the final shape one axis at a time, and then see what you're left with... when you've done that, you can start to take off the edges back to the curves you will eventually want.




As they say, the way to eat an elephant is slice by slice! When done this way the whole thing feels much more achievable.


The first wood I removed was the angle at the top - This forms the continuation of the line that runs along the tops of the bulkheads, and is not horizontal... it is higher at the stern than at the final bulkhead. (see 1 on the diagram.)


This was achieved by marking the difference in height from the plans, and then sawing off the majority and sanding flat with sandpaper laid on a flat surface. The slope can kind of be seen below:




Here are some more photos of progress... I marked the outline of the third balsa block - this is more than all that will be left of it once shaped, so why stick on the rest? It'll only need to be sanded or cut away... 




And here it is cut down and attached...




Then I marked the angle of the backside of the stern (the transom) - again, this is not vertical... the curve of the stern at the top of the block sticks out more than the curve at the bottom of the block... I started this shape by removing the excess straight across the stern.




Then, using a template made from the plans, I shaped the lower curve so that it was the right shape... (slowly and carefully, checking progress lots...) As I got closer I used a strip of paper pinned into the balsa to mark the line of the wale... 






And in this way, the shape gradually took form... Once it was close, I stuck it on to the bulkhead (using gravity to keep it in place as it stuck - which was either brave or possibly stupid, but I seemed to get away with it... ), hence the angle of this photo...




I noticed that the angle of the rear bulkhead could easily be wrong, so I used balsa blocks to wedge it up and make sure it stuck in at right angles to the false keel. (There are no dowels through this bulkhead to help you out! 


Final shaping was then done on the model.


Next up is first planking. But again, that will need a separate post.


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First planking


First I should probably say that I went back and added a rabbet at the bearding line, as on Ethalion, as I figured that would give the best chance of a neat termination for the planks at the stern post, once the second planking was in place.


The lime wood planks provided with this kit are lovely - really well cut and nice and easy to shape... even so, the stern transom of this ship is a challenge... 


Using an app called conecalc, I worked out the radius the plank would need to be bent to laterally to sit flat round the stern... it's pretty severe, and my first few efforts at bending the plank like that were dismal. I ended up using 3x1.5mm beech I already had in the end so that I could get the bend. And even with soaking, and using a rib-bending iron, it was still quite the task. 


The planks were added with superglue, and once the whole hull was first-planked, I painted watered down carpenter's glue (Aliphatic resin) over the hull to stick the planks together. This seemed to give a really nice solid base.




The rib-bending iron is great... in a matter of seconds, you can get something like the the result below (and the wood is dry from the heat before it goes onto the hull, so it isn't going to shrink, either...)




With carefully edge bending using the rib iron, and gently teasing the planks, I managed to plank half way down the hull, and also the garboard  strake and the two planks above without tapering any of them...  The rest was then filled by letting the planks lie as they wanted to.




Once the hull was closed up on both sides, a liberal coat of wood filler was added, and the hull sanded back to get a really smooth finish, ready for the second planking. The sternpost, and the strip that adds onto the bow? were also added now that the sanding was mainly done and they wouldn't get damaged.










After taking these photos, I went over the whole hull and sanded it down further, as I realised there was more filler left than I wanted, but it gives an idea of the result. It'll do for a first planking.


I've begun the second planking, but no photos to show yet. So that's me up to date.


Thanks for all the likes and for looking in.




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1 hour ago, BobG said:

This demonstrates how much I have yet to learn about gathering information from the plans and then be able to make something like these filler blocks from that information. Nice job!


Thanks Bob. I'm gradually learning. I think I probably over-engineer a lot of my solutions, but I have fun doing it, and it's a hobby, so what's not to like :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks Bob


Not much progress to show but I have been working little by little on  the second planking. None of these planks are tapered but a single stealer was put in at the stern to help the run under the transom. I'm not a great fan of the beech(?) veneer. It's pretty splintery and not very forgiving but this hull will be painted so it's not really a big deal. Careful application with superglue seems to be working out okay.


I'm about half way down on the starboard side so far.





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