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Viking Drakkar by Balclutha75 - Amati - 1:50 - TAKE II, First Ever Model

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In the belief that it’s better to get back on the horse than walk away, I decided to try again to construct the Amati Drakkar model. Of course, it’s better to not fall off the horse in the first place, but that option doesn’t usually exist for me.


My first attempt ended when I decided that the hull was not forming along the ribs properly and was pulling too far away as I approached the gunwale.


As it turned out I abandoned ship too soon. I have since learned that, with some effort, I could have disassembled the hull and tried again. Live and learn.


Here is the hull as it looks today. Kind of a funky and beat-up appearance, looks like it’s had a few encounters with reefs or other solid objects.


The cap rail on the gunwale is not part of the Amati kit, but fashioned from boxwood strips. Also, the planking inside the gunwale is not part of the kit, but an addition that I decided to add for reason I'll explain in a subsequent post.


I always liked the red and yellow combination and thought I’d at least do my sail that way. So I needed no convincing, but cathead’s log  convinced me that the red and yellow was a nice combination.




In Matt H’s log I learned of the minor problem inserting the rope for the rudder after the deck is installed, so I decided to take care of that detail in advance.


Edited by Balclutha75
Fix title typo
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Here is a brief recap of some decisions made along the way. One of the problems I had on the first kit was that the frames were not square to the keel. This was because I used some 99 cent hardware store brackets for alignment.


For this round I decided to purchase a Hobbyzone Small Building Slip. It gets decent reviews and cost $34 in the USA plus shipping. It’s better than anything I could cobble up. With a minor modification I was able to fashion a poor man’s “jack aubrey style” alignment jig.



On to the framing. Interestingly the strake plywood in this kit was quite different from the first kit, lighter colored and more rigid, harder to bend in the narrow direction. In fact, I snapped the garboard strake when gluing it, something that never was close to occurring on the first kit. Breaking the strake was a disappointment, but I repaired it so even I have trouble finding the spot, so it was actually a good learning experience.


But as I continued framing I still could not get the strakes to lay flat on the frames, a déjà vu experience. Using scrap pieces, I tried the Amati instruction’s suggestions of soaking in 50/50 glue solution and scoring the strakes so they bent, but had poor results from that.


I learned that applying heat with a travel iron seemed to work. However, I had no good way to clamp the hot wood, and it would unbend when cool.


Then I thought, what if I glued the overlapping part of the strakes first? The glue could act as the clamp so I could heat and bend the remainder of the strake. I tried this and it worked really well for strakes 6,7 and 8.


You can see in these photos where I heated the strake and it conforms to the ribs. I’d make my way down the strake two ribs at a time. It was actually fairly easy and those new Woodcraft clamps helped a lot.






I had to get the strake hot enough to bend but not so hot that the glue melted. This was learned from experimentation on scrap.

Edited by Balclutha75
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However, strake 9 still resisted this technique. After several tries I decided to install a boxwood strip as a shim.



This solved the gap problem but the boxwood looked terrible on the inside of the gunwale. Since I have the two kits I decided to take some deck planking from the first kit and use it to line the gunwale, hiding the boxwood.


Somewhere I saw a photo of a replica Viking boat that had apparently done this. If any justification was needed, that was good enough for me. Finally, the hull was complete.




I stained it with a mix of cherry and walnut, added the cap rail, painted the yellow strake, drilled the oar holes, attached the shield rail and the rudder block. All of this went smoothly.


The shield rail standoffs were my first use of CA glue and I was impressed. I can see its value in the right situation. I used DAP RapidFuse which is thicker that regular Super Glue and has a 30 second set time.




Next, on to the deck and more new territory in my modeling education!


Edited by Balclutha75
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Good to see you back, nose to the grindstone again. The new model looks very good, and your solution to the strake problem seems to be working.


Who knows, when you're finished you might like to revisit the first model and fix it as well . . . or not :P.



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Thanks for the likes guys, appreciated.


On 2/8/2021 at 5:10 PM, Louie da fly said:

Who knows, when you're finished you might like to revisit the first model and fix it as well . . . or not :P.


Nice thought Steven, but getting impossible. The first hull has been used for a variety of experiments including stain colors, varnish, plank bending with heat, gluing the cap rail, and most recently installing rivets.


The brass rivets that come with the kit are too large, I think. The heads are 1.6 mm diameter or 80 mm / 3 1/4 inches to scale. Seems oversize. But I did use a  sanding drum on a Dremel to make them smaller and flatter. Also tried #8 sequin pins, which have smaller heads. I blackened them with Birchwood Casey Brass Black and installed about a dozen on the old hull.


I decided I could possibly pull it off successfully, but also that it's not worth the effort. Most of the rivets will be hardly visible when the ship is displayed, especially given how dark the hull is. There are some Tichy Train Group plastic rivets in smaller sizes that may be worth looking at, potentially easier to work with. But at the moment the plan is to skip the rivet step.


Coincidentally I just now saw cathead's log and see he arrived at a similar conclusion.


Thanks for the comment.

- Nelson


Edited by Balclutha75
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So fun to see a second attempt. That's so rarely done in model building, but such an interesting way to test ones' improved skills and knowledge. It reminds me of the need, in science, for more researchers who focus on retesting/checking others' results. In theory I'd love to take another crack at my longship with all the insights I've gained, but I also really don't need two gigantic longships hanging around the house!


I like your shield rail, I'm debating whether to add one to mine or not.

Edited by Cathead
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Thanks Eric, much appreciated! For me it was the right decision to get the second kit, even if it's still not going to be a masterpiece. But I'm having a lot of fun and learning all the time. The shield rail is part of the Amati kit. Working on the deck planks now.


Coincidentally I  just finished scanning something that I'm going to send you regarding your rigging question from your log. It's from an Osprey book I have "The Viking Longship" by Keith Durham. It might be useful. I don't think I can post it here since it's copyrighted.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Making progress on the deck now, the planks are all glued. I've started experimenting with stain colors, and perhaps even learning some weathering techniques. (This is different than just doing a poor beginner's job so that it kind of looks weathered, although that may yet be the outcome!)


For now I'll share this one photo from last week of the sub-deck being glued into position. Captain Aegir came aboard to inspect his cargo of precious stainless steel ingots.





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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks much for the comments guys, really appreciate it.


The deck is down now and stained. It's pretty rough looking compared to most of the models on this website, but I'm pleased with it. After experimenting with several color options I wound up with a water based stain called Saman Golden Wheat that I ordered from amazon. I want to stick with water based paints because I don't have great ventilation in my work area and don't want to mess around with solvents. So easy to clean up with soap and water.




Is it my imagination or do models look worse in photos than they do in person? I see all kinds of little flaws here, which must exist, but maybe some of them are increased by lighting glare. In any case, I'll have a look after I post this!


Captain Aegir was struggling with the deck stain, decided he needed an Admiral by his side, and has been joined by Admiral Helga. She is pleased with color. 




I followed the Amati suggestion of staggering the planks, and decided to paint the mast fish. The piece supplied by the kit is copper colored metal, which I didn't like. I contemplated trying to carve one myself from a piece of wood, but am happy with the paint.


For the two deck cross beams that are under the mast fish, I did not put any glue on that center. That allowed me to cut them away so the mast fish sits flush to the deck, which worked out fine. Here's a photo before the mast fish was glues in place. I used CA glue for that.




Still having fun with this and generally satisfied with how it looks, given what I knew about my skill set going into this hobby. On the deck trestles next.



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I agree that photos bring out every flaw in a model. The natural eye is far more forgiving. I also use only water-based paints as I work in my living room and have no interest in fumes or messy cleanup. 


I think this will look great on display when you're done!

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Thanks Eric! I'm thinking it will look OK too. Maybe I'll experiment with some additional lighting on photos, but I won't sweat that one.


BTW, I did experiment on some scrap pieces with actually weathering the deck with various secondary colors, that was my original plan. But my experiments led to the conclusion that It's best to leave well enough alone. I may revisit.

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A quick post about a somewhat obscure and confusing (at least to me), part of the Amati Drakkar kit. Part number 46 is called "swinging boom steps" in the Amati English translation. The installation instructions are not clear and I've seen it installed at least three different ways in build logs or galleries.


I think what Amati has in mind is to simply lay it against the bulwarks, something like this.




But what the heck is it for? Some web searching led me to this page:





I didn't fully understand that, but then I noticed the foldout picture of a Viking ship from National Geographic that I actually have on the wall of by my workbench. It shows one in action. And you can see the slots on the port side next to the man pulling on the line.




My Osprey book calls the pole a beiti-***, instead of beitass, and the little part in question the beiti-*** block. Surprisingly I could find neither of those terms on MSW.


The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea has this to say:



beitass: The old Norse name for a luff spar which was used in Viking ships, particularly the knarr, to hold the luff of the sail taut, thus enabling the vessel to claw off to windward. A step was fitted in the vessel just forward of the mast with one or two socket holes each side, and the end of the beitass was stepped in one of these when in use.


Carry on.



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Nice!  Thanks for posting your research.  I had the same set of questions.  I'm reluctant to put something on the model that I don't understand.  I did notice that the english language build notes refer to the poles as swinging booms and the socket as swinging boom steps. Your research puts a lot of flesh on those bones.

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Yep, I went through the same learning process and same conclusion. One of your photos shows the top of the beitass on the Skuldelev 2 reproduction (prototype for my longboat). Here's how it looks on my model based on following the instructions. This was a dubious decision but I couldn't find a photo of the block on the reproduction, so had little choice. And it seems to match that shown on other vessels, as you show above. 




Somewhere I read a possibly apocryphal account of a beitass coming loose and knocking a chieftain overboard to his death. Seems believable, that much stress on a loose pole.

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Making progress on sanding the spars and beitass. Looking good as far as I'm concerned. However I did see a problem with my hull workmanship.


Amati calls for a hole drilled in the stern keel for the braces coming from the yard.




However, due to my poor job on the hull, the strakes are shifted too far aft and there is no room for that hole, unless I drilled the through strake or higher up in the dragon's tail.




To be honest I wasn't crazy about the hole there anyway, so I decided I would lash some rope around the keel and use one of the kit supplied blocks for the brace. Something like so (first pass attempt, not glued or snugged up yet):




Let me know if that is a bad idea, otherwise forging ahead here. I think it will look OK since that block matches the ones that will be hanging from the yard.





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Nice model!


Don't quite get why a block is needed at sternpost when brace blocks are on the yardarm pendants. Since the fixed ends are at the sternpost, if you don't like the hole why not just frap a rope around a few turns like you have done, and its two ends become the two braces?


Just another idea.......... 🙂


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Thanks for the comments guys, much appreciated.


13 hours ago, Ian_Grant said:

why not just frap a rope around a few turns like you have done, and its two ends become the two braces?


I thought about that, think I understand what you are saying, and it makes sense. I believe the kit intent is not to have the braces fixed at the sternpost, as Cathead notes based on the Skuldelev 2 reproduction. I just found this which seems (?) to show the hole in the stern, not a fixed brace:






In any case, I appreciate the suggestion and may do something like that. At least I feel good not drilling that hole, even though I arrived at this point due to my own error.


Moving forward and ready to stain the mast soon.

Thanks again for comments and suggestion.



Edited by Balclutha75
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Those lines running from blocks at the end of the yard appear to be rigged double-purchase. The line runs from an attachment point high on the stern, through the block and the control end would be cleated off, or something analogous, at the operating end. They would introduce a 2-1 mechanical advantage, so pulling the control line would require half the force over two times the distance which might be required to swing the yard for running closer to the wind.

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4 hours ago, End Of The Line said:

introduce a 2-1 mechanical advantage


That looks correct End Of The Line, guess I'll keep my rigged block, or maybe an iron ring.


If you don't mind I'd like to use your idea for the rudder in this post. I think I can cobble that up and agree looks better than the kit part.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've got the mast and yard shaped to my satisfaction, and am ready to start on the four shrouds. When gluing the hull the Amati instructions said "Make holes for shrouds, too". These would be in the upper strake located behind the shield rack. I didn't like that at the time and still don't since you'd have a rope tied around the gunwale.


In some online searching I found these photos of the Saga Oseberg reproduction. One can see where they used the frames to anchor the shrouds, with what looks like a combination of holes in the frames and perhaps an iron ring (?).




So I thought I'd drill holes in my frames and simply do that, but two problems arose: 1) I can't get a drill bit in there at that angle now; 2) it might interfere with placement of the oar racks.


So I thought about adding four additional knees to anchor the two shrouds on each side of the mast. See photo below. The knees are just sitting there, only the lower one is somewhat shaped and has the hole drilled.




Another option would be to blacken the 3mm brass rings I picked up, and screw those into the knees. Or omit the knees and screw the rings into the edge of the deck. The rings are also in the photo.


Thoughts are welcome! Meanwhile, I am forging ahead with holes in the knees.



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I struggled with the same question, and also liked the idea of shrouds connected to knees rather  than through the gunwale. I, too, came to the realization too late to adapt my model's existing structure to it. I just went ahead and tied off to the gunwale, but I like your idea of the added knees. Looks good and captures the essence of the idea. No one but  the most pedantic observer will ask "hey, why are  there more frames in that section?"

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57 minutes ago, Cathead said:

No one but  the most pedantic observer will ask "hey, why are  there more frames in that section?

Thanks Eric, I thought of that and decided once the shrouds were attached then it would be obvious why they were there, and perhaps even "make sense". Anyway I'm forging ahead with that plan so far.


In drilling the hole I had bits that went from 1 mm to 1.5 mm in one step. Making that big step caused the plywood from the kit to crack, so I've just ordered a bit set from Otto Frei that includes almost each size by 0.1 mm increments from 0.6 to 2.3 mm.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've sailed into the doldrums a bit with the rigging. Even though I worked for The San Francisco Maritime Museum and had other jobs in my youth where I did big-boy rigging, this small scale stuff is another world, very challenging.


But yesterday I did go ahead and add the additional knees I mentioned above. I took Cathead's comment to heart about more frames in that area looking out of place, and decided to add two more knees on each side as a kind of balance. Even if they don't really belong there I think t works OK. It's all crude workmanship, which is my style I guess 🙂, but it's moving forward!


I added the flying cleats for the shrouds and next step will be the mast and shrouds.



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  • 4 weeks later...

The shrouds are in place. For a while I wasn't sure how to proceed, but finally I just proceeded and am most satisfied with the result. I've seen numerous ways that blocks and lanyards are done on Viking ship models and reconstructions. I settled on using the H-shaped blocks included with the kit, ran lanyards through that, and up to a closed heart in an eye on the shroud.


It looks reasonably nautical though to what extent Viking I'm not sure. Debating on whether I should stain the shrouds brown like the lanyards, but at present holding off.




They seem pretty even because when I slightly pull on the mast in the direction of the forestay  they all snug up at the same time.


I now have some understanding of why folks here have high praise from Syren's rope, or go to the extent of making their own with a ropework. In looking at photos I can see the huge difference in how the strands look. For instance check out this in rvchima's build, which looks far nicer than my work. (No doubt the degree of builder skill counts for a great deal.)


But I learned a lot and expect there will be more kits in my future.




I did purchase some third party rope from Billings and a couple other sources, but settled in the Amati kit rope for the shrouds.


However, I did use the Billings for the anchor rope. I blackened the brass chain with Birchwood Casey Brass Black, the first time I've ever used a product like that and once again am basically satisfied with the result.


Amati did not show the anchor attached to anything so I added another block to the deck.




I guess it's time to start thinking about the sail - how to sew, paint, shape. It's all an adventure!



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