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Wasa 1628 by Snug Harbor Johnny - Billing Boats - 1:100 - old kit c. 1970

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  Ahoy!  from Snug Harbor Johnny, this is my first build log but not my first build.  All (but one) of the models I constructed  (ships, planes, rockets in wood, paper or plastic) growing up in the 60s & 70s did not (alas) survive transitioning to adulthood, and my adult non-work activities ranged through a wide variety of Colonial crafts demoed in public with my wife - who got me into 're-enacting' time periods ranging from Renaissance to Edwardian ... but mostly of the 18th & 19th century.  Now in semi-retirement, I want to more-or-less finish the old first-issue Billings Wasa that works out (as best as I can compare the model to the original) to about 1:105 scale.  The information on the newly-raised warship was in the early stages in those days, so I don't fault the kit for making some assumptions to 'fill in blanks' (which there were a few then) - perhaps influenced by a contemporary model of another Wasa built in the late 18th c.  (A 17th c ivory model of the Norwegian Lion - a near contemporary warship to the first Wasa comes much closer to the mark, and could be a 'twin' ... but that's another story.)




  Here is the aging plan (separated down the middle and slightly misaligned) from Billings, which shows the ship having an 18th c windowed stern cupola, the stern not as high as now known, a forecastle deck and a figure head not as jutting as later restored to the original in a Stockholm museum.  In fact, the state of restoration and knowledge of the original (and pictures available on line and in books) is astounding - so I'd like to do at least some 'surgery' to make my model come reasonably close to the original.  It will by no means by 'museum quality' or 'dead-on' accurate, but still should be recognized by knowledgable modelers as the Wasa.  I anticipate that the effort to undo the forecastle deck (forced by the internal bulkheads in the kit at that time) may not be worth the effort.  Or I could be wrong about this and with a little guidance I might chance to undertake it.  Ah yes, note the hank of full-sized jute rope in the upper left of the picture, which I made myself on a real rope walk that is one of the crafts I demonstrate at historic houses and fairs. (Other crafts have included book binding, candle dipping /molding, colonial gun making, harpsichord playing - on one of three I built myself - and dancing, of all things ... I was strongly encouraged by my wife to help her start an historic dance group.)  So I mat yet build a mini-rope walk for making my own scale rope for ship models.




  Well, there's the hull - untouched for decades - that was single-planked, and has a slight 'bulge' from the middle bulkhead being just a tad fat as supplied (and can be seen on other vintage build of this kit not corrected by fairing) ... and I did not appreciate the finer points of fairing in those days.  I drilled little holes and filled then with round toothpicks to simulate wood pegging (tree nails ?).  The modeled rings around the gun ports of the weather deck were done as follows:  I modeled one in clay on a piece of glass, then painted successive layers of latex gunk (drying thoroughly between coats) to produce a one-sided rubber mold, which I peeled off the glass and cleaned out.  Modeling plaster over the back of the latex mold to support the flimsy latex and then multiple 'copies' of the gunport rings could be made from hard dental plastering the mold - taken out when cured.  I did the same for little lion's head for the inside of the gun ports (yet to be made.) More on those gunport later.




  Here's the stern, and the 'carvings' were modeled as described above - except that due to the complexity, I just slathered wood putty into the mold and slapped it onto the back to set.  After all, it will all be painted anyway.  But the arrangement of the carvings and size of the stern were what was thought by Billings around 1970.  I plan to cut of the top below the feet of the lions and move that piece upward to raise the stern to where it needs to be - as well as correct the relationship to the pair of cupids below ... and many more figures need to be added - another challenge.



  Now for those gun ports.  After cutting them (many are not quite square) I glued false 'decking' below each line of ports to support gun carriages and pieces of wooden dowel I drilled-out so that the 'half-cannons' supplied in the kit would fit into them.  I also 'lined' the gun ports with small pieces of wood for a better look.  Yeah, I know now that the plank widths are out of scale - they should be half the width - and the pegs are way out of scale ... they are what they are, and they really look OK on the model to the casual observer.




  Now you can see the 'stanchions' (extensions of the kit bulkheads are fat, but they can be trimmed and additional false stations added.  There needs to be a third level in the stern, and raining the stern will provide space for that - but it will won't be exactly like to original ... just closer.  I'll have to make the 'coffin-like' doored companionways as well.



  And there's the darned forecastle deck - most warships (at least drawings of them) before and after do have it this way, and perhaps I'll leave it but add a bulwark plus railing.  There would be a lot of nasty cutting to get rid of it, and the deck would definitely show a surgical 'scar'.  Under where each mast is to go I've already glued a large block of wood to drill a hole into for the mast.  Do I try and mess with it, or just leave it alone?



  Here are some of the kit fittings.  The full cannons leave much to be desired, but the ports on the weather deck already align to the carriages as-is.  I can carefully belt sand some off the underside and glue 'wheels' on the outside so there will appear to be a little space underneath the carriage.  Yeah, the blocks an deadeyes are plastic - but I bought a bunch of wooden ones to use instead.  I'll have to make triangular deadeyes for the shrouds.  Those bits in the plastic box are little lion heads cast from a latex mold - a few are flipped over to the flat reverse.DSC03663.thumb.JPG.2c7c51988cfc762d620422082c14f28e.JPG



  Now here's a view with the 'half-cannons' installed, and they look OK - a whole lot better than just painting a black square and drilling a small hole to stick the half-barrels in as the kit suggested.  Decals were provided for the lion heads for the open gun ports, and the ones I make with 3-D gold painted lion heads will be a definite improvement ... but I might glue the lids open against the hull.  I'm trying to imagine the trouble of trying to fashion hinges that will be covered-up anyway, since almost all will be open.   Plenty of guns, yeah, I'm all for that ... maybe its a 'guy' thing to build a warship bristling with cannon (a compensation or wishful thinking?)




  Here's a close-up of the guns, and they have a natural patina from just sitting around for so long.  I know I have a great 'head start' (after a long hiatus) to build on what I have and end-up with a pretty good model.  I'm NOT aiming for 'perfection' - 'good enough' is good enough for me.  I don't want to put sails on - in fact, I'm considering to build it to the restored state of the original in Stockholm that has the first sections of the masts in place and shrouds/ratlines on them.  That would be like some sort of Admiralty or dockyard model - plus the lower masts instead of cut-off (or serrated) 'stubs'.  Or I could just do the masts and yards complete with standing rigging.  That way the sails and scads of running rigging won't be needed.  The third option would be to have just the few sails set that were actually used on the disastrous 'maiden voyage' ...  most of the sails were found still in storage when the ship was salvaged.  Your comments/suggestions are welcome.


Fair sailing!   Johnny


Edited by Snug Harbor Johnny
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  • 2 weeks later...

    Ahoy !  ... I've been doing more homework the past couple weeks, and I've gained more insights (and some 'aha' moments) concerning how to proceed on my 70s version Billings Wasa (original issue) previously pictured.  The planking is mahogany, a wood often used by BB back them - and is harder to get these days.  An inherited BB kit of a Vikings Skibbe (same vintage, and an improved version is now called the Roar Edge) also uses mahogany for the strakes - but the outlines are merely printed on veneer, as are all the other parts on plywood ... everything would have to be carefully cut out individually and the thin flitch-cut hardwood veneer (1/64" thick) splits like crazy.  The kit suffered water damage anyway, so I salvaged materials for other projects from the box.  I now have the current Oseberg kit - a well planned laser-cut version - and will glue very thin black walnut veneer to the plywood strakes on the outside so I won't have to apply stain, just a little 'boiled' linseed oil thinned with turpentine - something I've used on furniture and scratch built firelocks many times.


  The mahogany strakes on my Wasa look just fine and won't need staining.  I'm surprised how well the planking turned out (done 45 years ago as a teen).  Before putting on any decking, my idea of 'lining' the gun ports (balsa was used and tined darker), putting in strips of 'false gun decks' and making ersatz wood gun carriages to accept the brass 'half cannons' in the kit worked out also.  I'd be inclined today to have double planked for better fairing, and would cut gun ports after the first planking slightly smaller than the port to be cut in the second planking, but still employ false deck strips and simplified carriages.  That was the good news.


 I still have to do major surgery to make the stern right, but have a plan which I won't try and describe here - but will show pictures as the process goes forward (slowly, I'd say).  Now for the forecastle deck.  R.C. Anderson has a lot to say about the ORIGINAL Norske Love launched in 1634  in his book 'The Rigging of Ships in the Days of the Spritsail Topmast 1600 - 1720'.  Another source indicated that Captain Henrik Span commanded her in the battle of Koge Bay on July 1st, 1677.  She was named for the Norwegian/Danish Coat of Arms and translates as 'Norwegian Law'.  A magnificent ivory and silver model of her was made between 1651 and 1654 (while she was extant) by Jacob Jensen Nordmark for Fredrick III, and is still on display in Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen.  An photo in the public domain (from the book) is pasted below.




  NOW it should be clear why I've studied this near contemporary of the Wasa.  The two ships appears almost like twins, although the Danish model (a rare survivor from the 17th c.) shows a single gun deck, with a smattering of lighter guns above ... hence more sea worthiness than the over gunned Wasa.  Note the forecastle deck on the Love - something that every period drawing/painting of large warships before and after also have forecastle decks.  Whether the piece of ivory 'bridging' the middle of the ship represents canvass shade cloth or some sort of walkway is unclear.  Another view of the same model is shown below.




  BTW, the cost was no object in the commissioning of this model, and the ivory with silver rigging and guns has survived without deterioration that other materials have been subject to.    Note also that the OTHER Norske Love built in the 18th c. is a very different ship indeed, with models and model kits made of the later vessel.  Now the present conservations of the original Wasa in Stockholm does not have a forecastle deck but one may have been intended, due to the hight of the bulwarks in the forward area.


  The way the first issue of the BB Wasa is put together internally (not just bulkheads but with fore-and-aft plywood interlocked), the sort of surgery needed to try and cut away the forecastle deck (a logical presumption at the time, considering the 1654 model, contemporary artwork and drawings) and everything already well glued-in (including solid wood to drill the fore mast hole) will be more difficult and messy than what I propose for increasing the height of the stern (which is mostly adding material to build it up).  My thoughts are now to leave it and bring everything else into reasonable conformity.  After all, building in any particular scale involves at least some compromises (for most builders), and my result should still not be confused with other ships - given the specific heraldry and other features of the stern, plus other distinctive aspects.


  So far my build site has had a few observers, but no comments as of yet.  Perhaps the above arguments might promote a few comments or suggestions.  'Almost forget ... the out-of-scale guns on the forecastle deck already pictured there don't belong - just put there on a whim.    The railing to be installed wouldn't take serious gun recoil anyway, so there won't be any.


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Good day,

Dear Sir,

This model doesn't look like as Vasa at all, look at  the hull shape which is complitely different from Vasa lines ! ...

in the begining I even didn't understand that this model would represents  famous Vasa 🤔

 I 've thought this is the model of some another ship named  Vasa... :)))

But if this is the Vasa model ,than  It will be very interesting to see what You could do with it , how it could be transformed into the Vasa model? ...

I can't imagine now what could be done with complitely finished hull at this stage? 

Wish You all the best !

Just for the case , there is Vasa forum  https://warshipvasa.freeforums.net/ 

where a lot of information about Vasa ship could be found ...

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Hello!  I think you have your work cut out for you!  Extending the beakhead, building up the stern, making all the figures we now know she was adorned with, etc. It looks like you planked your deck; I just left it with the inked planking as supplied 😞 .


I will enjoy watching your progress. Now to figure out how to "follow" you!


I too tried to build this model as a teen in the 70's but didn't get as far as adding wales or cutting gunports. I do remember the lump in the hull; I didn't know about fairing either. Your planking is much better than mine was.


I painted some blue on it, as far as I recall. But when I read in the instructions that I was to carve two lions out of the supplied balsa blocks I decided that this model was beyond me. I switched to the Revell 1:96 Cutty Sark and Constitution kits instead.


My Wasa hull is long gone, but I still have the fittings kit if anyone is interested.........

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  As Kirill4 noted, the lines are different - but that is how the 'old' (first issue) Billings kit was, and as teen in the 70s I didn't know any better than to try and follow the plans provided with the kit.  (My Dad gave it as a gift, presumably to keep my busy - which it did for some time.)  In the intervening decades Billings radically changed and upgraded their Wasa kit as a wealth of information became available.


 I have a 'legacy' situation and will try to cobble things to be more like the original, ... 'warts and all'.   There was indeed another 'Wasa' launched a century later, and a model of that likely influenced the kit manufacturer more than the ivory model of the Norske Love shown above - at least looking at the  side view of the original BB drawing.  The present aim is to make the best of what I have, since starting over is not an option.  

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Ahoy, mates!   Well I've had the benefit of some feedback, and I've decided to take the plunge (walk the plank?) and try to cobble my old (and 'dated') BB kit to more closely resemble the 1628 Wasa known today, thanks to the amazing amount of original material recovered and preserved (95% of what is on display in Stockholm) and the unsurpassed conservatorship of marine scholars.  That means, yes, taking the route of cutting away the forecastle deck on the model.  As mentioned before, I don't fault the manufacturer since the ca. 1970 kit was based on very limited data compared to what is known today.  Anyonecoming by any earlier version of a Wasa  kit can see the superb level of craftsmanship exhibited on Model Ship World, and use that as a basis for making appropriate corrections.


  So first I pried off that deck to remind myself of what lay underneath 




  Yup - bulkheads, stringers and a (too small) piece of balsa meant to be drilled into for the fore mast.



  You can see the toothpick ends (representing treenails from the outside) and the wee bit of false decking to supper wooden mounts for the turned brass half-cannons that will be seen from the outside ... that seemed to be a good enough arrangement.


  Then I took metal cutting wheel on an equivalent to a variable speed Dremel to slice away what needed to be sliced away.  I also cut down the bulwark amidships to resemble how the original ship has been reconstructed.  There's plenty more to do, but I have to be careful how and what that should be ... more pics will follow in time.  BTW  the model hull measures 19" in length, compared to an approximate hull length of 166' on the prototype (226' "sparred" length that includes the jutting beak and bowsprit on the original).





  I state again that whatever I do will be a 'compromise', as there are a number of inaccuracies permanently 'built into' what I have already ... a "legacy" form myself as a well-meaning teenager.  Nevertheless, I hope that whatever finished state I can manage will be 'recognizable' as the 1628 Wasa.  It is perhaps fortunate that higher education interrupted the work (such as it was), or it would've been finished per the original ca. 1970 drawing (thus 'unmodifiable').  In the above view, one can see a distinctive "bulge" amidships caused by the middle bulkhead being a little too wide in relation to its neighbors (greater tumblehome in that spot?), and this is typical of that kit version.  I cannot hope to come close to the level of craftsmanship and accuracy of many models seen on this forum, and I'm not blaming poorer vision and unsteady hands these days either.  We shall see ...


Fair Sailing!     Johny




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Ahoy!  So I found the broken part meant to hold the brass half-cannon down in the hold, so now its glued with epoxy back onto the false carriage as seen in the picture below.DSC03670.thumb.JPG.6e3f476365dee3bd8a3e824fa09badc0.JPG


Sloppy, yes, but won't show from the outside - as seen in the next picture.



  Smalls steps, but what's the rush.  BTW, a friend sent me a couple of pictures I haven't seen in decades.  Back in College (I think I was 20 at the time) I built a 12' long three-man Viking dinghy,  Two could row while one manned the steerboard (on the starboard side, of course).  It also had a mast and square sail  when the wind was favorable.  The strakes were white pine bent over plywood frames, and it was carvel built.  I painted it black on the outside and red inside.  It had slow leaks, but nothing that couldn't be handled by a trusty bilge pump.  The first shot is on display at the library of the University of Maryland with repro. Viking gear in the cases.


 The Herjan (the boat's name) was used in conjunction with the See Earn (Sea Eagle) - a converted surplus Navy Whaleboat that our Ship's Company turned into a Viking ship (28' ?) - perhaps more like a small knarr than a raider - that plied the Severn River from the Valentine Creek down to Annapolis, MD.  Since the Herjan (aka 'short ship') was used for shore relief, some called it the 'John Boat' or alternatively the 'Half Moon'.



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An interesting challenge you have put for yourself. I have recently started to read up on Vasa and have just today received a couple of used books, and a folder with modeling plans from the early eighties. I will follow your work with some interest and hopefully learn something more. Good luck!

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Ahoy!  After a couple days thinking of the next step, putting in a block of wood to drill (after decking) a hole for the fore mast would be good.  Also, to re-mount the decking that used to be a forecastle deck onto the weather deck (upper gun deck), I'd have to glue support strips on the sides, and a couple of small pieces of fill elsewhere.  Below is a pic, and the glue is drying now.  I'm using Titebond (aliphatic resin) since it has a reasonable work time to allow for re-positioning, yet 'tacks' readily after 5 - 10 minutes.  I have a bottle where the glue has lost water through evaporation, producing a much thicker glue that 'tacks' in about 3 minutes.




   The planking wood Billings used for this kit is indeed mahogany, as many of their 'old' kits had.  Mahogany does not bend as readily as other types of wood, but it has natural coloring and does not need staining.  Actually, I've seen a few model ships where the stain was overdone, at least some seemed too dark.  Wood like mahogany, some oaks and exotics or black walnut (my favorite) they can be left 'natural' or, if desired, given a SPARING rub with boiled linseed oil thinned with turpentine - both natural products available for many centuries.


  I'm surprised how well I was able to plank the hull all those years ago.  As I recall the wood was soaked a little in boiling water and I used my teeth as a 'bending jig'.  The 'mouth feel' and sensitivity is such that I could sense when small fibers were starting to break, so I could avoid over-stressing.  If one avoids outright breaks and minimizes gaps (regardless whether one is single-planking or planking over an underlayment), the model will look well enough to please.  


  Once I got over my trepidation about tearing-out the forecastle deck, I dove right in (with care).  The tools used so far have been simple:  an X-Acto knife, a model train track saw, tweezers, straight and curved files, a variable speed Dremel-like tool (and attachment set) with a foot control (found at Harbor freight ... how appropriate) and sandpaper.  The work is not that hard, as long as one has thought out the steps to take beforehand.  THAT is where the new modeler is at a disadvantage.  Without much prior experience, it is hard to plan out the needed steps in sequence.  One often has to learn by mistakes, hopefully most of those can be corrected.  Patience is a virtue in this hobby.  Yet studying the same or similar builds in this Forum can help make-up for lack of first hand experience.


  I suspect that the biggest challenge further down the road will be the carvings.  There are no available ones for the Wasa in 1:100 scale, and even so they would be expensive.  I may try to find about the right size figures made for small dioramas that old-school war gamers use, since many of the Wasa carvings represent men-at-arms, roman emperors and kings.  Otherwise, I'll have to try my hand at chip carving on a small scale.  I'm using a piece of headgear with a light and drop-down magnifiers of varying strength to compensate for 'senior vision' ... and I've had prior cataract surgery to replace the lenses in both eyes, so I no longer have 'adaptive' vision.


  BTW, I found the mast pieces and spars, and Billings provided them properly tapered in the kit ... a pleasant realization.


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  Now that the glue has set I have to fit (trim) the old forecastle deck pieces to fit inside the bulwark.  The first pic show this material.




  The pieces were damaged somewhat by prying them off so I've glues some reinforcement.  I realize now that this sort of planking is meant to be glued to a false deck beneath ... I've got to play the hand I'm dealt with this model.  The next pic show the installed decking (with some patching done), and it didn't come out all that bad. ... 'Good enough' for me on this project, which is more of a 'salvage'.




  I remember the movie 'Cool Runnings' about the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team.  The coach told them, "Winning a medal is a wonderful thing.  But if you're not good enough without the medal, then you won't be good enough with it."  What Island you from, man?

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  A big 'Ah-hah' moment ... I found a small folded paper from my Billings kit WITH a stated scale - 1:100 by gosh.  So my 'calculated' scale of 1:105 was off by 5% (not too bad), and I have edited my title to reflect the manufacturer's stated scale seen in the picture below.




I have also found some small figures at attention in a local hobby store that can be modified for use on my build ... carving the tiny ones would be quite difficult.  The larger model kits at 1:65 have molded sets of figures to work with, and they are big models indeed.



  I'll try to focus on fixing the bow as the next phase.


Edited by Snug Harbor Johnny
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  I though to marry a bow extension to the existing wood, and cut basswood stock with a dremel-type jig saw into three pieces.  So I'm adding said saw, plus a jeweler's saw, small files and miniature carving tools (for duck decoys?) to the previously mentioned list of tools - as well as whatever clamps are handy.  



  I decided to try and carve the mermaid (from the original), plus a second one to make a pair (my idea - hey, the old kit as it is has a number of differences with the state of knowledge today - so the whole thing is a learning experience.)  As it turns out, basswood is harder to carve tiny things out of, since it is relatively soft (but not so much as balsa).  Fruitwood would be better, or even maple, so sharp tools are a must.  Below is a closer shot of my 'mermaids', and small wood fibers are also a problem.  I used a sealer to help quell fibers, and will paint the figures before proceeding.



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  The mermaids were painted and the prow assembled.  Then I had to carve a lion - once again, the basswood is not suited to fine carving, and I'm no Michaelangelo ... but he come out 'good enough' for my purposes.  The prow is trial fitted, and hold on by a friction fit on the keel stub.  This might be wise because there is a lot more to construct in this area, and it could be prone to breakage in the process.  My photos don't have quite the focus, but it is an inexpensive, borrowed camera and I'm an amateur when it comes to photography.





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  • 3 weeks later...

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