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USS Constitution by Boatsinc2000 (Jeff Hayes) - Model Shipways MS2040 + Hunt Practicum - 1:76 scale

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First some background...  I started this build in 2004 using Bob Hunt's practicum so my build will continue to use the practicum.  About 6 months into the build Bob was looking for someone to mill wood for his new kit business and that was the start of HobbyMill.  So the kit has laid idle for 17 years while I did HobbyMill and eventually relocated to Phoenix from Cincinnati.


This is also my first build so I'm making all of the typical mistakes of a newbie.   Over the years I've had the privilege to observe so many great builds and learn from the commentary on this site so I was a little intimidated to post a log.  However, after spending some time lurking here recently and the wealth of information that I have received, I decided to try to give something back...even if its just all of the mistakes that I'm making.


Lessons Learned:

  • Modeling is a lot harder than milling wood
  • Don't wait 17 years between steps in a build


Once I figure out how to upload some pics, I'll start my build.  Unfortunately I must have deleted some of my early pics from 2004 so we'll start from where we are today.



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Posted (edited)

As I mentioned in the last post I had started this build a very long time ago.  At that time I had completed building the deck, hatches, bulwarks, and planking down through the wales.  In the recent past I've spent time planking the hull and wasn't going to do a log unless I successfully completed the planking.  Having completed the planking here are some pics.


For the most part I'm using the kit supplied materials.  The deck and bulwarks were all completed long before HobbyMill existed.


Didn't care for the historically correct stain used on the deck so 17 years ago I used shellac.  I omitted adding the rivets and the green is a Floquil paint that is no longer available, so that may be an issue going forward if I need to do any touch-up.




Here is a pic with the hatches...





Gratings are kit supplied with some wipe-on poly.  Hatch frames is some swiss pear that I had milled a very long time ago when I first got my Preac saw.

Edited by Boatsinc2000
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Thanks Chuck and Jeff!


I did produce a supplemental wood package for the hatch combings and main rail per Bob's practicum.  In my case I was never able to make the scraper out of razor blades so I used my Preac to mill the grooves for the rail.  Next time I need to create a scraper I need to search MSW for a better approach.  Following Bob's instructions I can remember the cuttoff blade exploding when trying to make the scraper and luckily I had my glasses on.  Thinking that I used a .010  blade on the Preac for the groove.





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Posted (edited)

Hull Planking

I finished planking the hull a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures along the way.  I used nearly all 1/6x1/8 planks except for a few wider ones towards the bottom and at the stern.

A few lessons learned...

  • When I did the initial construction and faring of the bulkheads, I could have done a better job as there were some dips where I needed to add some supplemental strips of 1/32 material along the way.
  • If I were doing this build over again, I would add extra blocks both fore and aft (between A and B, and between Q and R) because that is where there is a significant amount of bend
  • Not sure if the counter and stern filler blocks are shaped correctly on the plans or perhaps it was just me.  Seems like everyone really struggles with planking the stern.  On a redo I think I would perhaps make the stern block with a little less severe bend and at least check it out with some planks before winding up that portion of the build.
  •  Do a better job of laying out the planking belts.  In my case I didn't fully understand some of the issues and should have looked more closely at some of the other builds on MSW.  I found myself redoing some of the belts part way through the planking simply because I was a newbie.
  • Hold off planking the transom and counter until after the galleries are completed.  I needed to redo this section because the galleries stuck out too much.  Hunt mentions this but doesn't give any details and I think he had to redo that section as well.
  • If you can check the thickness of the planking stock so that most of the planks are the same thickness this will help a lot when you go to sand everything.  Towards the end I milled some of my own planks from the same sheet of stock and I was amazed at how nice they came out.
  • If a plank doesn't fit, then don't force it by using glue.  Instead reshape it.  Experienced builders know this.
  • If a plank dips or doesn't look right, fix it before you go on.  Everyone says that they will fix the problem with wood putty, but that is really the wrong approach and most of us are disappointed with the results of using wood putty.
  • Found that diluting wood filler before applying and then sanding with 240X or finer works better.  Be really gentle and try to fair out any edges from the wood filler.

All of these are pretty well known concepts to the experienced builder, but perhaps they will be helpful to a newbie on this build.


Here are some pics of the hull after planking.  Will add some more pics as soon as I work on some details of rotation and editing pics.














Edited by Boatsinc2000
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Sorry for the slow response...I'm relearning the MSW interface and it seems as if whenever I learn something else there are 3 more aspects that I need to learn, too.


Thanks for all of the likes!


Mark, Ryland, and Glenn thanks for looking in.  It's really great to reconnect with friends!  I've been building for several weeks and with summer here in AZ we'll have a few more months of extreme weather so that should afford me some quality build time.  Really appreciate the kind words but all of you have created a great learning base and some high standards to aspire to.


Jeff and Glenn,  thanks for the comments on the scraper.  I'll search for Chuck's tutorial whenever I have a moment...great idea.   My issue was in just cutting / shaping the metal scraper.   What tool did you use?  As I said, a dremel and thin cut-off blade exploded a couple times so I gave up.  Do have a variable speed dremel now.

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As my work is progressing I'm continually seeing flaws in the hull or with the wood filler.  Sanded another half dozen spots just this morning.  The practicum suggested going ahead and painting the entire hull, but I'm thinking that it may be best to wait until most of the stern and bow are completed.  I've already noticed some scratches with just my handling.


After 4 or 5 rebuilds to the galleries I feel pretty good about the roughed in portions.  Used a scroll saw for the rough shapes, followed by a disc sander, and finally a dremel for the roof.  The galleries stuck out a little beyond the transom so I had to redo the planking on it a couple times.  Really suggest waiting on planking the transom and perhaps counter until the galleries are roughed in.


Decided to begin some painting and add the white stripe.





Only problem was that I forgot to paint the lower gun ports first.  So these pics show where I'm masking them off for painting.  Was pretty concerned about the fine line tape pulling off the white acrylic, but quickly found out that its all about the direction of the pull once you're removing the tape.





Once that was completed I could mask off the top and bottom of the gun ports and paint the black areas both above the ports and down to the wales.



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Posted (edited)

Painting:  This is the first time that I've done any significant painting.  The paint from the earlier portion of the build was all Floquil, which I had to pitch when we moved cross country.  Have read nearly all of the painting section on MSW and was still uncertain as to which paints to choose.  In my case, I'll be limited to brushing.

In the end I picked up some tubes of Grumbacher titanium white and lamp black and used about a 50%+ dilution.  Also discovered that using some fine bristled synthetic brushes helped a lot.  For this type of painting I mainly used flat brushes and went back over everything one last time very lightly just before the paint dried with each coat.  Somewhere I think that was one of Chuck's suggestions?  In any case after about 5 or so coats it seemed to work out pretty well.  In bright light there is still a satin sheen.  The Floquil is definitely a flat finish.


Bob Hunt had also recommended using Minwax PolyAcrylic as a primer, so everything above the wales had 3-4 coats of that before I started painting.  Was wondering if anyone has any suggestions if I should continue to use the PolyAcrylic with my acrylic paints or skip it as I paint the remainder of the hull?


So the above is what I did.  Are there better methods or products that I should be using and what about the PolyAcrylic?  Any thoughts or suggestions would be really appreciated.


I realize that this isn't the best place to ask these questions, but I wanted to document what I've been using in my log.  If no suggestions, I'll post in the painting section.



Edited by Boatsinc2000
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Hey Jeff,


So great to see you posting a build here! I have some very fond memories of my interactions with you when you were running Hobby Mill and I still have a lifetime’s supply of your excellent product for all of the projects on my bucket list. 


Your build is looking excellent so far and I’ll enjoy following along the rest of the journey.


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Thanks Jeff.  Had similar thoughts.


Hey Grant,

Great to hear from you.   Thanks for looking in.  Milling was a whole lot easier than this, but modeling is a lot more enjoyable.   I too enjoyed those conversations and have sorely missed that portion of HobbyMill. 


Starting work on the gallery windows so that will keep me occupied for awhile.   The practicum suggests using styrene for the trim throughout the build.  I'm a little skeptical as to how that will look.  If not then I can always mill some holly as a fallback. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Jeff. Just found your build log and your Connie looks great so far. I did not use PolyAcrylic on mine but I did use diluted Gesso as a primer, which helped me visualize the areas of the hull that needed more sanding or filler, especially where the copper plates will go. It made a good base for the adhesive on the copper tape.

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Hi Tom, thanks for looking in.  I really appreciate your wonderful log and refer to it often...just spent a few hours reading through it and picked up several ideas.  Thanks so much for taking the time to fully document your build and the suggestion of the gesso.


Bob, your work is always exquisite and I have been a long time admirer of your work.   You've always made my products look wonderful. 


Took a break for some overdue visits with the grandchildren but now back working on things.  After 4 tries I'm getting closer on one of the galleries and hope to post an update soon. 

Thanks again for looking in.


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I just discovered your build today and am glad to have you back and your build log to read. I think the last time I communicated with you, was over some errors in Mr. Hunt's practicum for the Rattlesnake. I think I drove you a bit crazy. You were so gracious, I felt guilty asking for the missing wood. I still have a lot of the wood I purchased and it is a pleasure to work with. I still can't cut a long piece of wood with your precision, and I use the Byrne's saw!



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Since you're new here, a bit of guidance.....  Welcome aboard MSW. 


All caps is considered yelling.  So go with upper and lower case please.


Also, don't put your email addy in a post.   We get crawled by a lot of bots and it won't be long before you get horrible amounts of spam or worse.   I've removed your email from your post.


Do an introduction here:  https://modelshipworld.com/forum/3-new-member-introductions/  if you would.


As for your question, you should probably ask it here:  https://modelshipworld.com/forum/13-discussions-for-ships-plans-and-project-research-general-research-on-specific-vessels-and-ship-types/   


Having said that, I don't think the Constitution was ever on the Great Lakes.

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Hi Gary, thanks for looking in.  Always feel free to chime in.  The site has grown tremendously and it can be a bit overwhelming so I would suggest that you review some of Mark's comments, but don't let them deter you from participating.  That's the only way that we learn all of the in and outs.


There are a few builds currently in process on the Conny and several that were completed a while ago, so I would search for them under this general section on kits from 1751-1800 for a lot of information.  Jon, who posted just ahead of you and then provided some links to the museum has done a lot of research on the Conny so I would defer to his advice.  Sorry, but I can't help you on the history of the armament.


You're probably aware of this, but many of us have a link to our build logs in our signature.  Currently Jon is building the MS version of the Conny with numerous scratch enhancements.  Suggest too that you click on the Conny link in his signature to go to his really great log.



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Hi Jon,

Thanks for looking in too!  I recognized you right away as a past customer.  Don't remember the issue with the Rattlesnake, but just glad that it worked out.


Been following your Conny log and refer to it often.  Great job and I'm really impressed as to the extra details that you've been adding.  I'll just be happy to get this build completed following the kit, let alone all of your modifications.  Thanks again for your comments and for the Conny log!


Anytime that you would like any tips on the Byrnes saw just PM me.

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Posted (edited)

Well I guess it's time for an update on my galleries.  As a reminder, this is my first build so I can't give a lot of good suggestions, but perhaps I can point out a few errors to avoid.


First, the practicum recommended setting the roof 25/32" higher than the gallery floor.  That really worked well for me and I milled a block of basswood to that size for placement of the roof.  I could also slip that block behind the windows to help support them in place as I was gluing them in place.  Benefit was that for the height I could use the same size wood as the practicum.


For both the roof and lower gallery pieces I followed the plans and per the practicum I needed to extend them to align with the gun ports.  Picked up some extra sheets of thicker basswood as the kit didn't supply enough and I had to remake them several times.  Cut them using my scroll saw (had one that I had purchased when I was milling wood with the intention that I would use it for modeling, but it was still in the original box moved from Ohio).  Used my Byrnes disc sander to do fine shaping for the profiles and a Dremel to shape the roof.  Everyone probably does this, but whenever I make a part and have the sizing completed, I always mark off another piece on the raw stock assuming that I may need to create another part.


With respect to the windows and the remainder of the gallery build, I had the same issues as everyone else...


I was also intimidated by trying to add the styrene strips using CA directly on the model.  So I started out by trying to build the pieces off of the model and then gluing them in place.

Here are some of my early attempts.



It was good for some practice.  Found that by placing a drop of CA and anchoring one end of the strips works really well.  Wait a minute and by just taking a toothpick and touching the backside of the strip I could direct and put the other end in place.  Will use this technique for all of the styrene trim.  Before the CA dried I used another toothpick to wipe up any excess glue.  This really worked well.  When you trim the strip always cut it a little long because you can come back and trim it again.  Only took me 4 tries to figure it out that too short really looks nasty!


I also wanted to use the kit supplied windows and here is an early attempt to build off of the model.



The problem with the windows is that the angle of the windows is wrong and it is not consistent between windows, especially with the forward smallest window.  It has very different slants on fore and aft portion.  So this makes it tough to determine size and shape of the pilasters.  The changing angles also plays havoc with trying to align the simulated column pieces off of the model.  The windows are laser cut from 3/32" stock, which make them a little too thick.  That does help if you want to add some curvature, but they are too fragile for much sanding.


Here is an early attempt to make the pieces off model and then adding them.




In the first pic the brown interior is some support pieces inserted to help with placement and gluing.  It looks pretty rough and what you can't see very well is that there are a number of issues with that forward window.


So after several attempts and almost giving up here's what I came up with:


1)  If you use the kit supplied windows, make the first 3 pilasters a little smaller.  I used 3/16" and having all of them the same size made the proportions come out a little better.  The 3rd pilaster needed to be trimmed a little at the top...1/64+" starting at the base of the window to the top.  The 4th pilaster just filled the area to the hull.


2)  There is a lot of rounding needed for the 4th pilaster so I needed to use my Dremel on the inside top of that piece and just round the edges on the exterior.


3)  Wait and place the styrene trim until the after the pilasters and windows are in place.


4)  For the columns I didn't try to add the extra pieces at the top.  On my final build, I created a little template and cut all of the column tops and bottoms the same size for symmetry.


5)  I picked up one of those AL scrapers for shaping the .060 x .080 styrene trim.  Suggest pre-bending that piece over the edge of your workbench as its a little too stiff for the CA to hold it without some pre-shaping on tight bends.


6)  Started to mill some new windows from holly, but the odd angles were going to be an issue for me.  If I had started initially making my own windows it may have about as fast as redoing this multiple times.  Didn't think that I would like building them from styrene, so I never tried.  The white would match better with the styrene.


7)  There needs to be some rounding, especially at the top with the horizontal pieces.  In some cases I went with 3/32 stock so that I had more thickness to work with to do the rounding.


8) On my last attempt, I added a 1/16 insert on the floor to have something to support from the inside.  Could do the same at the top, but I just used the roof edge and thinned the pilaster tops.




And some closer pics...really ugly.




Overall I wouldn't give myself high marks on the galleries, but hopefully my experience will help someone else.


While I was waiting for things to dry I started to add port lights and sculpers to one side.  Suggest waiting until you have sealed the hull and at least extend the black paint below them as it makes everything easier to paint.

Edited by Boatsinc2000
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Working today on sealing the hull using 3 coats of Poly Acrylic Matt finish.  Using ScotchBrite between coats.  Will then extend paint below waterline where the top of the copper comes up before moving over to transom and adding port lights to other side of hull.  Started with a bristle brush and the poly really wasn't going on well.  Switched over to a higher quality synthetic "wash brush" about 3/4" wide and that really made a difference.  Use a headlamp and go over it with long strokes when its nearly dry makes a difference and avoids leaving any heavy areas.


Was considering gesso, but never worked with it.  I really liked that suggestion though, thanks!


Have decided to try to copper the hull.  Because my roll of copper that came with the kit is over 20 yrs old was planning on purchasing new rolls of copper.  Any input on the thickness of the copper?  Is thicker better than thinner?  Kit supplied was 1.5mil, looks like 1.25mil is available and was thinking that I saw some that was 2.5mil.  Will get multiple rolls.  Thank goodness for Amazon!


Last pics of hull with initial coat of poly.  After reworking it multiple times I think that it will copper up pretty well.  Thinning the wood filler and using my fingers really helped to smooth out everything.  Also sanding the filler with pretty fine paper made a difference.  



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I haven’t started the quarter galleries yet, but you have given me some trepidations. Not only is it good to watch a professional model builder do their stuff, but I learn where the pit falls are by watching the less skilled builders (no slight intended) because they fall into the traps the experience builder doesn’t. In this case as you indicated, the quarter galleries have no straight lines or consistent angles. Even the laser cut pieces don’t seem to be perfect.


My go-to expert for the USS Constitution build is Ken Forman (xKen), a professional model builder of wood and brass. I watched his build with awe and yet he too struggled with the quarter galleries. He built a beautiful pair of quarter galleries (post #69) only to realize later, he built them too high on the hull (post #199) which had to be ripped out and rebuilt.


My congrats that you stuck it out and didn’t quit.

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