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HMS Bellona by Yves Vidal - CAF Model - 1:48

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Well, after breathing plastic and PLA dust for a few months, I needed to go back to the original material, the wood created by our mother Earth. 


A while back (10 years ago), Chris Watton realized and displayed on our forum an exquisite piece of naval beauty: the HMS Bellona in the scale of 1/72nd. When I saw his model, I felt in love with it and knew that I had to at least give it a try. Fast forward in time.....and CAF Models announced an HMS Bellona in five sessions in my favorite scale:  1/48th. Of course, I am not a fool and know that I will not get even close to the perfection of Chris's model of the Bellona. 


The Name of that vessel, its prestige and specific missions (Gibraltar, the Tropical and Caribbean Islands) appealed to me immensely. Although I am busy with multiple projects, it felt like it would be nice to try the Session #1 of that model. If I manage to complete it with success, I may order Session #2. I have to say that I like this approach, that allows you to build a large and detailed vessel without investing your 401K in the process. You can attack a model of your choice progressively, without disbursing upfront $2,000 or more.


The kit was purchased on E-Bay (milia_3) for $370 including shipping. At first I realized I had made a mistake with the shipping (Free shipping - included in the price of the kit in fact usually means SLOW shipping....), but E-Bay SPEEDPAK did a wonderful job and I got my model in less than three weeks: Ordered August 07, received 08/31. Packaging was excellent with double boxing on top of the CAF box and plastic corners for protection. The parcel flew (thanks God) and did not spent its time in a container stuck in a harbor somewhere. I would recommend that Milia_3 vendor and my experience has been really good with them.


So, without more delays, let's discover this great and heavy kit. 








Inside the box, we find some instructions, a complete list and drawings of all the parts and a full size plan: 










A lot of wood is provided, with bulkheads of 5 mm thickness and some sherry wood parts: 


















About 44 wooden "sprues" are provided with the kit. It will take a large board to build this monster (1.25 meter long, 30 cm wide) and it should be interesting. Session #1 is basically the skeleton of the hull and nothing more..... I am trying to moderate the enthusiasm of certain readers, here....





Below is what I am shooting for: 




I still have to make progress on the Flower Class Corvette, and thus the Bellona will not be started immediately.



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So, I could not help myself and had to start the kit and glue some wood. I am sure you will understand my struggle....


Building the main spine of the vessel (steps #1 and #2): 




The spine is made of two layers (A's and B's) that are sandwiched together.




The A's side is drying. You have to have a perfectly plane surface and a kitchen counter top made of granite seemed ideal for that purpose: 




I am using plates of heavy copper to apply a significant amount of pressure to each side. The dovetailing is very nice and precise. I did not remove the charring and I am glad I kept it, as the parts are fitting perfectly.




One side is done: This is going to be a massive hull !




Both sides are ready to be sandwiched: 




You can see that the cuts are staggered on each side, allowing a very solid and sturdy spine, once glued: 




Et voila....






The A side has all the markings for the bulkheads. And yes, it is straight....




I still have to do some sanding to put the two sides perfectly smooth and square.





Edited by yvesvidal
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I just decided to see how the bulkheads fit on the spine: Perfectly !!! You barely have to remove some charring on the spine and the bulkhead will slide in and be perfectly square and flush. I am truly impressed by the quality of the cuts and fit. On such a large model, it is impressive: 










Hmm... I thin Bulkhead #18, needs to sit lower. I misplaced it.






The keel is built separately and then glued to the spine. The keel is made of three layers of cherry wood.



Edited by yvesvidal
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2 hours ago, yvesvidal said:

I just decided to see how the bulkheads fit on the spine: Perfectly !!! You barely have to remove some charring on the spine and the bulkhead will slide in and be perfectly square and flush. I am truly impressed by the quality of the cuts and fit. On such a large model, it is impressive: 










Hmm... I thin Bulkhead #18, needs to sit lower. I misplaced it.






The keel is built separately and then glued to the spine. The keel is made of three layers of cherry wood.



Keep these pics coming! Great to see it take shape


Mike Draper

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Looking at the keel and pondering: 




The keel is made up of three layers of the exact same parts. What you see on the picture (above) is one layer only and the main spine. The spine is 10 mm thick and the three layers of cherry wood making up the keel, will be about 12 mm. That creates a rabbet of 1 mm deep on each side, which should be enough. 


What I do not like is the fact that the parts are not staggered, for solidity and straightness. 




I am thinking about cutting the first part (L4 on the instructions) shorter and staggering at least the middle section of the three layers sandwich. Cutting it short by an inch or two, would automatically create an offset that will force the flat and straight L3 parts to be staggered. The stern L2 can also go through the same treatment.


To build that keel, you have to secure both sides with straight guides and glue all these small parts within the trough created by the guides. Hopefully the result will be straight and the staggering can only help. I just wish CAF had thought about this possible improvement.



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I decided to cut the front part L4 and the stern part L2 and came up with the following. Before cutting L2 below, L4 above: 




 In the picture below, you can see the L4 modified part and the L4 part from the kit. The modified part will go in the middle and will be sandwiched, creating the deFacto staggering that I was looking for. 




Now, I just have to assemble the horizontal section of the keel....



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Working on the keel of the ship. I glued all parts of the bow, three at a time. This is still a puzzle....




All the parts are made of three layers of cherry wood. The parts are designed in such a way, that both external sides are not burn by the cutting laser, which is a nice attention and a time saver.




The next part is building the horizontal keel, using the staggered arrangement: 




A bench is designed with the help of Lowe's and Home Depot. Some shrink wrap plastic sheet is used to prevent the glue from running on the rulers and the bench. 




The parts are stuck in the trough and inserted very tightly.




Making sure it is straight.... the keel is about 40 inches long and comprised of 18 parts.








After removal, the keel is very strong and absolutely straight.



Edited by yvesvidal
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I am now building the stem. Steps 4 and 5: 






The fit is pretty good, out of the box: 




The keel is now glued to the main spine: 




This is done with the Lowe's ruler, clamped to a flat table to provide a good base. The keel is placed against the ruler and the spine rests on styrene cards of 1 mm thick. Spine is 10 mm, keel is 12 mm thick, leaving 1 mm on each side. Plenty of heavy weights are placed upon the assembly to make sure the whole keel/spine is perfectly flat.


In the meantime, the stem has been glued, cleaned and polished. The cherry wood is very pleasant for the eyes and even better to the touch:  




Finally, the stem is glued to the previous keel/spine assembly: 




This ship is going to be massive: 






And yes, it holds vertically, by itself: 




Next, we will be assembling bulkheads and placing them on the spine. So far, I am very pleased with the kit and even though the cherry wood is hard to work at (at least with my tools - I do everything by hand, no electric sander), all the parts are fitting very well.






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I have a few questions for the experts of period ships: 


1) How do you finish the angles of the stem? Do you leave them square or do you sand them slightly to smooth the sharp edges? I am assuming that these ships did not have a polished and round stem to break the waves at 3 to 5 knots of speed....not really useful.


2) What is the best way to protect that cherry stem, for now? Would you use an oil? The final model is supposed to have the copper tiles and a stem painted black. However, it may be months or years before I get to that stage, if I ever do.





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Moving along with Steps 10 and 11: 




I built the Bulkhead #5. You really have to be careful about the small parts, where to find them and how to piece them together. It is a real puzzle.

If you decide to detach parts too early from their wood sprues, you are toasted. The manual and the drawing of the parts location is your only chance of success.




Once you have gathered all the right parts, the assembly is a breeze. It is like gluing a puzzle or building a Lego. The fit is perfect and everything is well thought out by the kit designer(s).




These two "bones" can be glued to Bulkhead #5. The manual only displays pictures. It is like building an IKEA furniture, in a way. I wished they could have put some text and recommendations in plain English to help with the novice builders like me. All the little parts are made with cherry wood.


Bulkhead #5 is now glued to the spine: 




I have oiled the stem and keel and really like the color and the silkiness of the cherry wood. It brings a nice distraction from the plywood and make the model so much more precious. Moving along with more parts....




That model is going to be HUGE !!!!!





Edited by yvesvidal
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I completed Steps #12 and #13. That stem is massive and ultra solid. Did I mention heavy ?




For the following steps, I think I am going to divert slightly from the instructions. I am still debating a solution that works and allows me to start shaping the hull, without installing the "horns" on the bulkheads. I am too afraid of breaking them.





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On 9/11/2021 at 5:59 PM, Old Collingwood said:

I have a question  for you   for way down the line   - are you tempted to man her with a  crew?



O.C. I f I do, I will put you in charge as a Captain !! 🙂



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On 9/7/2021 at 9:27 PM, yvesvidal said:

What is the best way to protect that cherry stem, for now?

 The oil looks very nice and you might apply more coats as time goes on..


To protect it as you go forward, you will see a lot of builds where the stem and keel are covered with painters tape until the major hull finishing is done.

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A few progress with the assembly and installation of Bulkheads 4, (5 was already in place), 6 and 7: 




On the port side, I started smoothing the hull:. All the upper parts are made of cherry wood.








For the bulkheads #2 and #3, it is difficult to complete them correctly as I did not glue the extensions using the plan, before installing them on the spine. Fortunately, Tom from CAF Model provided me with the distances between the top of the "horns" for all bulkheads.


Before gluing the bulkheads 2, 3 and 4, you should really attach the upper extensions, before installing them against the spine. The documentation is not exactly clear regarding this problem.


For Bulkheads 5 to 18, it is easy and you just have to glue the extensions to the main plywood piece using the plan and then glue the completed bulkhead to the spine. For the stem, it is not so easy and the shapes of the Bellona stem are very tortured and unusual.


I hope that the deck parts will fit correctly, into that cavernous hull. These are only provided with Session #2 and Session #3.



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  • yvesvidal changed the title to HMS Bellona by Yves Vidal - CAF Model - 1:48

A quick update on the progress of the Bellona Session#1. I have been struggling with a few discrepancies in the kit, but Tom from CAF model has been very quick to respond and very supportive, providing me with all the information I needed to move forward. 


For people who may want to use that Build Log as a guide in their future endeavor, I will detail the pitfalls I fell into and how to work around them. I am hoping that future versions of the kit will be corrected, when needed.


I have been gluing bulkheads up to #9: Those are secured using Titebond Professional Indoor Use, which is very good, quite strong and dries relatively fast (in a few minutes if not using too much glue).




The bulkheads are built in the following way. Bulkheads #5 to #8 are done in a certain way, whereas Bulkheads #9 to #18 are done in the reverse way. You really need to be careful, especially for the second rear set, as the slots on the sides of the futtocks, are staggered and glued in reverse from the stem section. Spatial visualization is a must in this case.... 




Assemble the futtocks (upper sections) carefully. Sand them carefully, glue the deck supports A, B and C in certain cases. Then place the bulkhead on the plan, and glue carefully the futtocks making sure that the alignment is perfect and matching the plan. A slight deviation at the base of the futtocks will cause a very large change of dimension at the top. When dry, glue the assembly on the main spine.




As I moved along, I realized that the cross members between the bulkheads were bending them slightly. After checking with Tom, he suggested to assemble in sections and not try to do them all in sequence. Doing so will provide you with perfectly square sections that can be linked later with some minor adjustments. The reason of this, is that the kit is incredibly precise in its cuts and all parts fit perfectly, without any need for sanding or adjusting.


When working on Bulkhead #10, I realized that I had a problem there: 




The piece of plywood does not match the blueprint for #10. All others are spot on. The plywood part is a little too wide 6 mm overall and the bottom of the part does not match the drawing. I dry-fitted it and using a flexible metallic ruler, verified that the curvature of the hull is not affected. It seems to match and align with Bulkheads #9 and #11 and all others. I suspect that the blueprint is wrong (slightly too small) but the plywood part matches the dimensions provided by Tom. So, I will have to be brave and build it. The challenge will be to position the futtocks as the drawing does not match the parts.


Below are a few pictures of where the shipyard is sitting as of today: 












Another issue I found is that the blueprint is mis-labelling Bulkhead #18. It shows as #17 on the plan and in most of the instructions, where in fact it should be labelled #18: 




Bulkhead #17 is just an ersatz of bulkhead and is there to allow a smoother curve on the stern.


Overall, it makes for a very massive and intricate model, with all the numerous cross-members creating the ports for the 74 guns: 




Assembling this part of the hull requires a lot of concentration to make sure the futtocks/horns are correctly assembled. Their positioning on the main bulkhead is delicate and requires patience and care. I wish that CAF would have provided some kind of wooden templates to make sure that the distance at the top of the futtocks is correct. Below is what I mean.... a piece of wood validating that your assembly is correct....




A discrepancy at this stage will be horrible and I cringe thinking about the installation of the upper decks (Session #3)..... I hope CAF Model will take into account my request and provide for future kits, such guidance for the upper deck and middle deck of the futtocks.


I am going to try to finish the main section of the hull as well as the Stern, and then will go back to the Stem.



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I am publishing some of the information that Tom provided me with, in the hope that it may help the modelers that will attempt this kit. 


The first part is related to the building of Bulkhead #18.The bulkhead is 5 mm thick, whereas the futtocks assembly will be 6 mm to 7mm thick. There will be some extra wood material and this should be placed towards the stern, as depicted by the drawings below: 






The second part is related to the distances between the futtocks, when you build the bulkheads. Here are the precise measurements given to me by Tom. I realized that I will probably have to de-construct and re-construct Bulkhead #4 since I am 5 mm too short.










All the above is incredible material and I wish it would be included with the instructions booklet. Tom indicated to me that some information was removed from the current booklet, because of the Chinese piracy on his kits. 





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