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Two years ago, the Guild started selling the half hull kit, a project designed to include modelers who had no access to power tools.  The purpose of the kit was to teach modelers how to plank a hull by spiling.  The Guild has a new project, actually two projects, designed to expand your modeling skills and develop confidence in the step towards scratch building.  As you know, the Guild’s logo is a capstan.  Our next project is construction of a capstan, shown on its step, with a hatch and grating.  The first project is designed for the builder whose only power tools are a Dremel-type rotary tool and a hobby circular saw.  The second is for the builder who has all the “toys”, including a lathe and mill.   This is a picture of the completed intermediate-level capstan.



Because this is an introduction to scratch building, the project will be sold as a download which will include a monograph and fully dimensioned plans for both the intermediate and advanced projects.  No wood is included.  The builder will choose the scale of construction and develop their own lumber list.  Most of the plans are drawn at a scale of 1:16 (3/4 scale).  At this scale, the completed model measures approximately 6” x 6” without the capstan bars and 12” x 12” with them installed. 


Let’s get started…

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The first thing any builder should do is read the entire instruction set for both intermediate and advanced and look at the plans.  This will help in two ways, first you will be less likely to make stupid mistakes.  Secondly, you may want to build one part from the intermediate and another from the advanced project (for example, you own a lathe but not a mill and want to build the advanced barrel but the intermediate drumhead).  Make sure you understand the plans.  Most of us are not used to looking at engineered drawings; kits typically include perspective or distorted drawings to prevent copying.  Decide on your scale, develop a materials list and gather your lumber.  If you are using contrasting species of wood, buy a lot more than you think you need.  I had to change species for my advanced hatch coaming because I ran short and could not color match replacement wood.  Except for the capstan barrel, do not attempt to build this with soft woods.  Now to get started.


The individual subassemblies (deck, barrel, drum head, hatch and grating) can be built in any order; they are assembled as the last step.  I started with the deck.  There are three beams and two carlings between each beam.  The carlings support the capstan step and the hatch.  For simplicity, the mortices in the beams are cut at an angle.  This is readily accomplished with a razor saw to make the cuts and an 11-blade to remove the wood between them.  Once the carlings are installed, no one will know you "cheated".


The carlings are next.  Again, the tenon has been simplified.  On the right, you can see the simplified tenon and on the left a proper one.  Looking from above, there is no difference.



And here is how it looks with the beams and carlings assembled.  Make sure everything is square.




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Toni, where does one view/buy/download the monograph and plans? You gave no link and the NRG's Plans and Projects page doesn't have anything listed for this. Forgive me if I'm being dense and missing something obvious. This is the first I've heard of this project and would like to know more. 

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Now that the deck structure is complete, it is time to build the capstan step.  There are three parts to the step and in real life they would be connected with half lap joints.  To keep things simple, on this model they are glued together side-by-side.  The middle piece is thicker than the outer pieces.  This adds strength to the area where the capstan spindle extends through the step.  The extra thickness is added as a separate piece.  Items 6 and 8 are the outer pieces and 7a1 is the upper part of the middle piece.  7a2 is shorter because it fits between the beams.


Throughout the build log you will find discrepancies with the instruction set.  This is because, as the build was progressing, I sometimes discovered better ways to accomplish a task.  The following picture shows the step glued up, with holed drilled for the bolts into the beams and the bolts for the brakes.  It is easier to defer drilling these holes until the step is mounted on the beams.  All sharp edges are rounded over.  The hole has been drilled for the capstan spindle.  This was done with a standard drill because of its size.  The last picture shows the step temporarily installed onto the deck assembly. 



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The hatch and gratings are next.  The coamings and head ledges will be connected with half-lap joints.  These are easily made with hand saw and chisel.  There is a rabbet on the coaming to support the grating.  The hatch may appear overly tall but keep in mind that the hatch sits on top of the beams and carlings, not on top of the deck planking.  This is also a top deck hatch which would be taller to prevent water from entering through the hatch.


Glue up the head ledge and coaming.  Once dry, install the rabbet for a tight fit.  The outer edges and corners need to be rounded off to the level of the deck.  The lower two inches is left square for a tight fit with the deck planking.  The upper half of the hatch is also chamfered 1/2".  In the picture below you can see the rounding of the edges and the sharp corners at the deck.  Please make your rabbet nicer than mine!  The picture also shows the relative height difference between upper and lower deck hatches.  Both of these hatches are made from the same sheet of cherry.  I did not apply a finish yet to the upper one.


There are a few things on the weather decks that draw the observer's eye.  One of them is the gratings (of course, the capstan is another).  Once you learn how to make your own grating, you will never go back to kit-supplied ones.  What makes kit gratings so bad?  They are almost always out of scale.  A prototypical grating would have battens and ledges that are approximately two inches wide with similar sized openings.  Remember, sailors walked on these gratings so the openings need to be small enough to prevent a foot or shoe from getting caught in it.  I measured leftover grating parts from two kits.  The first was from a 1:96 Victory.  The blanks were scale 3.5" wide with openings over 10 inches square!  The other was from the 1:62 Prince.  These blanks were almost five inches wide with similar sized openings.  The next problem is that they never fit the opening.  You always end up with gratings that do not have solid wood on all four sides.  Well, I always did.  Finally, they are made from soft wood, so the teeth break off easily.  Choose a hardwood for these.  


They are incredibly easy to make if you have a hobby circular saw.  And you only need enough toothed slats for the ledges; the battens are narrow slats of wood that fit into the the recesses of the ledges.  Here is another "trick".  Even though I make my hatches first and fit the grating to them, if you have any concern about sizing your grating correctly, make it first and then build the hatch around the completed grating.  Take a look at the picture below.  There is a solid slat of wood on all four sides of the grating.  If you look carefully you can the the difference in thickness between the battens and the ledges.  The openings are the same size as the width of the slats.


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The monograph goes into detail how I made the gratings.  If you are building at larger scale, consider adding the grating fastenings.  On the left, the fastenings are 0.25" trunnels and on the right are simulated fastenings made with the point of a compass.


The capstan barrel is made in a rather unconventional manner.  The requirements were that it needed be perfectly round, not elliptical, and that it could be made with just a saw and hand tools. 


The top of the barrel is square and fits into the drumhead.  The lower part is round and passes through the hole in the step.  The middle part of the barrel is built up using a series of alternating wedges. This will allow for exact alignment of the whelps without the need for a lathe and mill.  The following is my method for making the barrel wedges.  Make a V-jig from scrap wood.  The angle that the strips make with each other is not critical; on this jig it is 90 degrees.  A piece of wood is glued to the end of the “V” to prevent the stock from sliding off the jig.  Cut two strips of wood, one 7.25” square and the other 6.00” square and long enough to make at least five wedges.  Cut the strip into pieces a little longer than needed for the barrel and draw the shape of the wedge on both ends of the strips.  


Using a sharp chisel, carefully remove the excess wood. The keys to success are take your time, remove only a little bit of wood with each pass and keep your chisel sharp. If you find that the chisel is not cutting smoothly, you are probably cutting against the grain.  Reversing the strip in the jig usually solves the problem. The final shaping can be done with a sanding block.


And the final result.  I was able to shape all ten pieces in a few hours.  The wedges on the left are the final result.  The ones on the right show before and after pictures.  Because the barrel is mostly invisible, a softer wood can be used as long at there is no appreciable grain to catch the chisel (such as basswood).  You can also laminate the square blanks as I did with the two wedges on the right.


The barrel is now assembled, alternating the two sized wedges.  Since this is hand work, there will be slight discrepancies among the wedges.  I sanded off the tip of the wedges for that reason.  You can also see the two wedges made from laminated wood.


The rest of the parts for the barrel can now be made and trial fitted.  Dowels are used to align and secure the top and bottom spindle.  The spindle is made up from wedges that were sanded into a cylinder.  Also seen in the picture is the retaining pin.  This will be located under the capstan step, securing the capstan onto the step.  Nothing is glued together at this point except the ten wedges.




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Five whelps are required.  In real life, the whelp became wider from top to bottom.  For simplicity, these whelps are the same width throughout.  The picture shows the sequence of construction.  I glued a template of the whelp onto the blank.  Using a razor saw, the outer face was cut out.  The whelps were then glued together and the top and bottom sanded to ensure they were the same height.  I also used this as the opportunity to mark the locations of the chocks and drill the bolt holes.  The glue was dissolved in isopropanol.  A bevel was sanded into the back of the whelp to fit against the recessed barrel wedges.  Cuts were made for the top of the mortices and a chisel was used to remove the wood from the mortice.



There are two sizes of chocks.  These were cut oversized because they all require some custom fitting. 


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It is time to glue the whelps onto the recessed wedges on the spindle.  After the assembly has dried, sand the top and bottom flush.  Test fit the upper and lower parts of the spindle but do not glue them yet.  The next two pictures are before and after sanding.  The wedge design makes it difficult to misalign the whelps.




Slide the chocks onto the whelps.  You can see how much extra material I have protruding from the barrel.


Just for fun, put everything together that has been completed.  To allow the capstan to turn without rubbing against the step, I have placed a gasket on the spindle just below the whelps.


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The last step is to shape the chocks.  The upper chocks are convex and the lower ones are concave.  This is actually the capstan barrel from the advanced version but they are done the same way.


The next part to build is the drumhead.  Again, this is simplified to allow use of only hand tools.  There are five wood components to the drumhead:  two upper drumhead halves, two lower drumhead halves and the cap.  Other components include the iron ring, and miscellaneous bolts, ringbolts, pins and chain.  The two halves for the upper and lower drumheads are glued together.  They will be oriented 90 degrees to each other when the drumhead is assembled.  Draw the drumhead on the wood, using the glue line as the center point.  A compass works best for this.  I used a jeweler's saw to cut out the drumheads.



This capstan has openings in the drumhead for six capstan bars.  Mark the location for the bars on both parts, taking care that they line up with each other.  Using a razor saw, the outer edges of the slots were cut.  The rest of the wood was removed with a chisel.



The square top of the barrel fits into the lower drumhead.  Mark this opening on the lower drumhead and cut it out.  The easiest way to do this is to drill a hole just large enough to allow the blade from the jeweler's saw through it.  Detach the blade from one side of the saw, thread the blade through the hole, re-attach the blade to the saw, tension the blade, and cut the opening.  


Glue the two halves together, remembering to align them at 90 degrees to each other.  Clean up the openings for the bars.  Now that the two halves are glued up, finish sand the perimeter.


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The cap is glued to the top of the upper drumhead.  The edge is rounded over prior to installation.  The iron ring is actually made from paper painted with black marker.  Before gluing the iron ring onto the drumhead, make sure the ink is color-fast with whatever finish you plan to use.  In this case, I used an archival marker and Watco's Danish Wood Oil Natural.  These pictures are taken before applying the finish.



The holes have been drilled for the bolts, eyebolts and pins.  Use a pin to prick the iron ring before drilling to prevent tear out.  The bolts are brass pins that were filed flat.  In these pictures, the finish has been applied.  The color contrast of the various wood species stands out now.


The eyebolts, capstan bar pins and chain have been installed.  The bar pins go all the way through the drumhead, securing the capstan bars during use.


There are six capstan bars. The picture shows the sequence of construction from left to right.  Cut the capstan bar blanks from square stock.  Using a razor saw, cut in the shoulder.  The part of the bar that inserts into the drumhead was removed with a chisel.  The bars were then tapered and the edges rounded off.  The hole for the swifter was drilled next.  Finally, insert the bar into the drumhead. Drill the hole for the bar pin by drilling through the previously drilled hole in the drumhead. 




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Just purchased my version. Won't be getting to it right away (need to finish my current project first), but this gives me incentive to keep moving. I have a bunch of wood that I cut and milled on my rural property (cherry, maple, walnut), and have been curing, as I want to start building with my own materials, and this will be a great early step in that direction.


I do have a question, though. In both the PDF and here, you mention the need for a "hobby sized circular saw". In the woodshop parlance I'm familiar with (having grown up with a cabinet-maker stepfather and having a variety of building experience myself), a circular saw is a handheld saw like this:




Or sometimes a miter saw like this:




However, I'm pretty sure from context you're referring to a table saw, like the popular Byrnes model:




That's what's shown on p. 10 of the PDF. Can you clarify what you mean, and perhaps consider changing the wording to say "table saw"? I actually went Googling for a "hobby size circular saw" to see what you were talking about and couldn't find anything, so I doubt I'd be the only person potentially confused by that wording.


Thanks for putting together this great project!

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Now it is time to put everything together.  Glue the step onto the deck assembly and insert the bolts.  Temporarily install the capstan onto its step.  Position the brakes to their free ends fit between the whelps and the bolted ends are on the beams.  Remove the capstan, drill holes for the brakes and install them, making sure they can rotate.  Install the hatch and its grating.  Insert the bolts into the chocks and whelps.  Finally place the capstan back on the step and insert the retaining pin below the step, making sure the capstan can turn.  Install the drumhead onto the capstan barrel and insert the bars into the holes.  


I hope some of you will give this project a try.  In a few weeks, I will start the build log for the advanced capstan project.





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Apologies if this question is better answered or more appropriate elsewhere...


Ive never been completely confident in my understanding of scale, rescaling and plans use.  Ive read through the instructions and have spent quite a lot of time looking through the plans.  Im currently looking at converting some of the real dimensions on my plans and wondered why the majority of the relevant sheets are drawn to 1:16, while a couple other crucial components are drawn 1:1?   


The reason I ask is that in order to print, I need to separate the file into parts in order to print everything in one scale.  If I were to try and rescale the 1:1 sheets to 1:16  in printing (so that all the required sheets for building are of the same scale), where would I go for good instruction on this?   


I suppose Im used to a certain way of building, where I can rely on a plan to act as a sort of template.  If the intent is that I work out a way to construct the part by converting the dimensions alone, Im sure I could manage.   It just seems easier to me to have drawn everything in a single scale, making rescaling less complicated.   This is not a criticism at all of how these plans were produced, Im just curious about the scaling decisions - and then where I can go to learn how to rescale them accurately. 


Thanks in advance, really looking forward to build!  

Edited by Justin P.
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This isn't the type of project where templates are needed.   Every dimension of each part is provided in full size so marking the parts in any scale the builder picks is able to be accomplished with more precision than printing out the plans to use as a template.


The primary purpose of this project, like the half hull planking project is to educate the modeler.  The NRG is chartered as an educational organization.  Following the monograph will help educate builders in scales and drawing interpretations without going through unnecessary rescaling calculations.


Toni's without access to the internet till next week.  She may have more to add later.


Take care,




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