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USS Enterprise 1799 by manic8479 - Constructo - My first ever build

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Hi guys,


I was advised to create a build log and so here goes...


I am kinda happy with the deck - although I kind of wish you could make out the individual planks more:






I snapped the bit off the front which I will need to fix but that should be simple enough - i just hope the glue I use is strong enough to allow the planks to be attached to it without it snapping again.




I have completed the first layer of planking and have sanded down - although I want to give it another good sanding before I move on. Then I will start building up the Bulwarks. I thought I would get away with only a very little filler but it seems more white than red. Non the less I am pleased and relieved to have done as well as I have....











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I went to the shed to do some work on the ship and have just realised I am a plank short of a picnic. One plank short 😔. I went to order some more but I cannot seem to buy Sapele anywhere in the UK. I did some research and Sapele is also known as "African Mahogany", would I be able to use a strip of mahogany instead??? Is this a reasonable substitute? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Having little experience with either wood, I can't answer that directly, but a related question is whether you plan to paint the hull to match the real vessel or to display it as raw wood? If the former, the choice of wood won't matter nearly as much and you can supplement something else with little difficulty.


As for your concern about filler use, it's part of the natural learning curve. It's pretty normal to need filler on your first planking attempt. Time and practice will help you develop the skills that allow for planking with minimal filler. However, this could be another reason to consider painting the hull rather than leaving it as raw wood, if you're not sure about being able to do the second planking with more than minimal filler (which will likely show up more strongly on a natural-wood hull).

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I was hoping to leave it as real wood and to varnish it - but that will depend heavily on the quality of the second planking. It is comforting to know that in the worst case scenario I can hide my mistakes under a layer of paint 

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I have been trying different methods of bending the wooden planks. I have use an iron and clamps to try and get an upward bend/curve on the planks, and then the heating iron to curve it around the hull. Not sure it is the correct way but it seems to be getting the job done. I am also not sure the hull is supposed to bend upwards - not sure how that happened and looking at it, I am not sure whether there is any way I can fix it. This ship may end up looking really odd but it is a fun learning curve.


I also discovered that the table melts a little when you leave an iron on it for too long...














boat 2.jpeg

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I have decided to take a little break from Planking. I have not even finished the first layer of planking, which makes it seem like the task will never finish -  I have decided instead to switch to making the canons - ensuring that the task will not be finished anytime soon. A mini break form planking will be welcome break but I don't want to put off the rest of the planking for too long or I might never return to it.  


Here I am with my tools and bits all set up.....




and here is the finished product...








1 down, 13 to go. I wont lie - it took much longer than I thought to make just one canon but I love the finished product. Hopefully with practice I will become more proficient at making them.


I had been trying to decide whether to leave them as brass or whether to paint them. In the end I decided that since I am not painting the boat but am varnishing the natural wood, it would look somewhat out of place to paint the brass in the canons. I am already thinking ahead to my next build saying to myself that I will paint the canons in that ship to be period specific but for now the look I am going for is natural wood and 'natural' brass. 


I have tried to make sure the barrel remains movable so that I can adjust the height of the canons depending on the height of the canon ports.


I was also wondering about buying 2 brass Dummy Barrels to place in the rear of the ship. There are 2 gun ports which I could keep open and have the dummy's coming out of. I haven't seen any photo's of modellers who have done this with this particular ship which could mean I do it and get an original and distinctive look - or it could mean that there is a reason this hasn't been done! 


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Although I'm  not familiar with  this kit, it's pretty normal for hulls to rise toward the bow. Putting the double bend into planks is difficult, because wood doesn't like to bend that way. Many prototype (and model) builders "spile" planks instead, which means pre-cutting the plank to what looks like an awkward shape when flat but actually allows for the proper curve lying naturally along the hull. You can read more about this (and other  planking methods) in MSW's various planking tutorials. Spiling doesn't help with a kit unless you replace all the planking, though.


What you're doing is what I've done before, add some "vertical" bend off-model using a jig, then the "horizontal" bend on-model. It's really helpful to plan out how all the planking lines will run, and to start tapering planks toward the ends so they keep following a nice curve. Otherwise you'll likely suddenly end up with a really awkward joint as the hull starts to narrow. You may also find that sanding the upper/lower edges of the planks will help them fit better together edge-edge and make the planking look nicer. 


Keep working at it, as you said, practice is how you get there! You don't want to see my first  planking!

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Thank you for the advice 'Cathead' - I will certainly look into "spile"ing? the planks. It is a shame I didn't know to do this when I started. I guess I was so excited I just jumped straight in and then realised there is a lot of planning involved! 



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I have been trying to plan ahead so as not to make any dumb mistakes as I go along and I was looking at attaching the keel - I have been wondering whether to attach the keel before I do the second planking or after and I discovered that the keel doesn't seem to fit the shape of the hull. I assumed the fault was mine but as you can see in the picture below it was never going to fit.




If I remove the excess wood along the line I drew below the keel will be too weak and flimsy




I was wondering about cutting into the planking and insetting the keel - I wasn't sure id this was the way it was supposed to be done anyway or if this was just an ok fix? 


I have also been debating making a new one but cannot even begin to start that process until I figure out how I am going to install it. In the videos I have seen online the keel is already on the model when they start planking so I cannot get inspiration from them.


keel 2.jpeg

keel 1.jpeg

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I should have clarified, spiling isn't something you can  do with kit-supplied material. It involves cutting all-new planks out of wider sheets of wood. I mentioned it to make the point that planking with strips of consistent width inherently causes trouble because of the geometry and stress involved.   Though most kits do it this way because it's so much easier for the manufacturer. It's not wrong, plenty of lovely models are planked using bent strips. Read up on planking in the tutorials and you'll get a better sense of how the two methods compare.


As for the keel question, can you share an image of how the instructions handle this? Hard to advise further when I don't know what the kit maker intended.

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The plans do not seem to be that detailed ....






It basically just say to glue it but doesn't address the fact that it wasn't ever going to fit since it is a different curve to the 'frame'. the picture on the next page is also a little useless. It shows the finished look, but no information on how to get there.









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Certainly a common problem on foreign kits like this is terrible instructions and sometimes terrible design. I agree those are not as helpful as they could be, although the  basic premise seems clear.  These pieces should just fit over the planked hull and be glued into place. 


By the way, the part you're having trouble with is the stem, not the keel.  Sounds pedantic, but using accurate terminology helps  make things  clear.


The idea certainly seems to be that the stem should just get glued onto the bow (the mention of "drilling" implies using a few pins to help hold it there,  though that could also be poor translation). The mismatch between the bow's curve and the pre-cut stem is pretty wild. Your log starts with your hull already planked; do you have any photos of the earlier stages? Is it possible your planking somehow changed the shape of the bow to not fit the stem? Did you ever test-fit the stem with the internal framing of the model before planking?  This is really hard to  diagnose without more knowledge about the kit and build. I'm not assuming you're to blame, just discussing various possibilities. Poor kit design is also possible.


I think your best bet, if you can, is to fashion a new stem.  If you can get your hands on some wood of similar thickness, or possible use one or more pieces of scrap from around the pre-cut pieces, you can trace the original stem and draw a new inside curve to match your bow. It would be ok to do this in multiple pieces, allowing you to use smaller bits of scrap wood. If you make the joints well, it'll be  barely noticeable.


Keep your head up, problem-solving is part of the hobby and you learn a lot from early builds!

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Thanks for the advice. I am afraid I didn't take any photos early on. I didn't realise how much help I would need, or how helpful progress photo's would turn out to be. I also didn't dry fit the stem before planking which also doesn't help. It is a lesson learned and certainly something I will take into any future build - as well as 'slow down', I jumped in head first and am now reaping the fruits of my impatience. 


I think the only real solution is for me to follow your advice and fashion a new stem. I will make a scrap stem first from off cuts and then, once happy with the shape, make the final piece. 


I have started the second planking - the planking strips are essentially a veneer, measuring less then 1mm thick, but it should hide my mistakes and make the hull look much nicer. I am also taking much more time on each strip trying to ensure tight 'seams', 'joins'...? Hopefully in a couple of weeks or so it will be done and I can put the stem on - so I have plenty of time to make one I am happy with and if need be order some nice wood to cut the final piece out of.


I will show you some pics once I have done some more on the build.

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We all learn as we get better at this challenging but fascinating hobby. One more thought, if you still have the sheets from which the laser-cut pieces were drawn, you could compare the original curves to better determine the balance of user- vs. kit-based error. But at this point it's moot, making a new stem is the way to go and you're right on target with making a test one before doing the final version!


One other thought, I can't tell from the instructions, but does it want you to glue the stem/keel/sternpost on AFTER the second planking, or BEFORE? I ask, because on the real thing planking would be applied onto the completed frame (planking applied after stem, not before). For example, at the bow, the planks should butt up against the stem rather than going behind it.


On your model, you can do it either way, and I'm not saying you should do it "the real way". I'm asking because the two methods have different advantages from a model-building perspective.  Putting the stem/keel/sternpost on at the end helps hide errors at the ends of the planking (as it covers them up), but means you have to get the internal shape of those pieces very, very right to avoid awkward gaps between stem  and hull. On the other hand, applying the stem/keel/sternpost over the first planking and then planking up to their edge (as in real life) means you have to be more careful about plank ends and edges, but the planking helps hide any gaps between stem and hull. I realize that's a lot of verbiage; can you envision what I'm describing?


You mentioned taking more time to shape and lay each plank, which is definitely a good approach. Very sage advice I once saw and  have tried to follow  ever since stated that each plank should be treated as its own mini-project, not just as a step toward something else. That helps the builder focus on what needs to be done, and helps with a sense of accomplishment when each "project" is done right. 


Hang in there, planking is something many people find difficult but it's really rewarding when you realize you have a hull that's really starting to look like something. I'm looking forward to sticking with you, we only get a "first" project once in our lives! 

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  • 2 months later...

I have done so, much work on the ship since my last post and apologise for not having written anything in such a long time.


Cathead: your advice was great. I finished the first layer of planking and then attached my newly made (with my newly acquired band saw - a steal from ebay). It fitted well and I am pleased with the final result.


I am now about a third of the way through the second layer of planking which is going much better than the first, giving me hope that I wont need any filler and can varnish, or wax the hull keeping it natural.




I have also made my first canon hole (or port). I couldn't resist. Again I am really happy with the finished look - especially the contrast between light and dark wood. I still have a long way to go, but it is exhilarating to have made it this far.




what you said about treating each plank as its own mini project really helped me celebrate the achievement of each piece added, rather than despair that one piece had managed to take so long to do. it is a very encouraging way to approach the project as a whole.


There is still a long way to go, and I now have about 3 separate mini projects on the go, but I am loving the experience and the journey.



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Although I still have some way to go on the second planking, I have been continuing on the gun ports. One side is now finished and looking good. I have also attached the Transom Stern. I am rather pleased with the look. I am still debating whether to attach dummy canons in the gun ports on the Stern. I still have the whole port side to do, but I am pleased with my progress so far. I know I should definitely have finished the second planking before progressing this far - I am hoping to get to a point where I cannot continue without finishing the planking, and therefore force myself to get it done!! Perhaps if I ban myself from anything else till the planking is done I will get on with it - but I recon I would just put the model down for a month instead - HAHA. I will finish it - I wont be able to stand it not being done to perfection! anyway, here she is so far.IMG_4984.thumb.JPG.6a4084a496500a28b3904004ea71c0e8.JPG








I plan to plank at least some of the port side next since I cannot really do the canon holes (windows) until it is done.


hopefully I will have an update for you soon.









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  • 2 months later...

Well its been a very long time since I posted anything... I have just (today) finished the planking of the hull. That is not to say it has taken me this long to do the planking itself - rather it has taken me this long to be motivated to get it done. - I have however kept myself busy with other aspects of the ship. and it is starting to take shape.










I am so relived that planking is behind me. I and really excited about the rest of the ship.


I have been busy making the "deck bits" hatches, anchor pull thingy, barrels etc and am nearly ready to add them to the deck. I am delayed by needed a piece of wood which is on order. Once it arrives I will be full steam ahead with the rest of the model.


I also need to commit to the finish of the ship, oil, wax, varnish etc. I am still open to any suggestions you may have.


Thanks for all your support.





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Well I am ploughing along with the ship having made some of the railings and the "deck bits" - I really should learn some nautical terms - ok according to the plans I have made the: hatch covers, gratings, pinrails, capstan (which I have subsequently lost 😒, the ladders, the barrels and the chimney (although not pictured) and am ready to glue them into place.






There are a few more pieces I need to make and shape before I can oil the ship. I have finally decided to use Danish oil, although I am happy to be corrected if this is a bad choice. 


All in all it seems to be going very well and I can't wait to see how she looks once everything is oiled and in place. 





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I need a little help


The instructions are describing the brass pipe projecting from the ship as the Cats-head (75 - in the picture)



it says that I should ....




the pipe is only 2mm thick




how then am I supposed to use a 2mm drill bit and what it it supposed to accomplish.


my confusion is not helped by the fact that I don't actually understand what I am trying to achieve or what its purpose will be in the future. I have tried to find it using the internet but all I can find are examples of the wooden cats-heads which I have already installed





any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Thank you




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This is an especially common problem with kits produced by manufacturers for whom English is not a native language. Few bother to have their instructions checked for language or clarity. Even native-language instructions can have errors, but it's particularly prominent in "foreign" kits, although in fairness this varies quite a bit by manufacturer.

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Cathead - for my next ship (whenever I get to it) could you suggest a manufacturer who's instructions are good and easier to follow. I intend to finish this ship to the best of my abilities, but am already planning ahead to my next. I am hoping to have a fleet built to the same scale of 3 or 4 ships of different sizes and styles.

I was thinking of something like the HMS fly or similar - working my way up to a frigate

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I have started working installing the canons onto the deck. I have seen a method of attaching the pulleys but am hopeless at soldering and so I have adapted it. Here is my trial run













Although I class it as a success I later discovered that because the gap between the single and double block and the hoop was so long it meant that the 2 blocks (the one one hull and the one on the canon) were almost touching each other and therefore I lost the effect I was trying to create. I am going to give it another go to try and get the authentic look I am hoping for. I know that it should really have a metal hook on the block attached by rope, as shown in the image below - but I feel this would only exacerbate the issue I already have and increase the distance between the 2. 




I am already using smaller blocks then were provided with the ship (the plans call for a 5mm and a 3mm block to be used) but this would look ridiculous! I think the method is sound and hopefully my next try will yield a better result as I aim to make it a few millimetres smaller.... and then repeat 56 times







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That's a good method for simulating the real effect at a small scale. One note, especially if you're going to redo this anyway: model blocks should be oriented so that the hole is on the opposite end of the loop made by the string as it goes through the hole. In other words, you'll want to flip the blocks shown in your photo end-to-end. This is because, on real blocks, the line is going around a pulley in the center of the block, so it needs to pass over most of the block before going through the "hole". In even other words, the line should pass over most of the block before looping through the hole, not looping through the hole at the very tip of the block. Look really closely at the drawing you posted above and compare where the line passes through the real block compared to where it passes through on the model block you show above. This is always hard to explain in text, let me know if it makes sense. It's a really common thing to overlook and nothing to be ashamed of.


As for manufacturers, certainly BlueJacket and Model Shipways tend to have clearer instructions. I've seen Vanguard and Caldercraft mentioned as well, though have never built a kit from them. There are lots of threads on kit/manufacturer reviews elsewhere on MSW that you can dive into. It's complex enough that any one person's opinion only counts for so much. Some manufacturers provide the instructions as a free digital file, which is especially good for evaluating a kit ahead of time.

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Thank you for the advice. I have get what your saying about the blocks and have turned them around. I have only made 14 so far but that is enough for tonight. I have a comparison photo below and the space saved will make the overall effect much better.




Sorry for the whitewashed photo - I didn't even have a flash on but for some reason it came out looking like this. 


Thank you also for the advice about kit review threads - I will start researching ready for my next acquisition 🙂




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