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Rattlesnake by javajohn - Model Shipways - 1:64

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For my first build log I chose the Rattlesnake kit from Model Shipways because it’s just such a pretty looking ship. I think I am up to the task of building it, although I still consider my self more of a beginner-intermediate modeler.


I also have Bob Hunt’s Rattlesnake practicum for the Mamoli version of the kit which I will probably look to for ideas. I’ve spent quite a but of time reading other build logs for the Rattlesnake here on the forums and I have to thank all of the modelers for posting them; those build logs will help tremendously as I work through the kit.


The Kit


The kit arrived and I took inventory. I’m glad I did because it was missing the filler blocks. Model-Expo has a good missing parts policy so I got them replaced. Unfortunately, they only sent me one of the bow filler blocks, but I don’t think that will be an issue as there is plenty to go around.


The britannia fittings are in pretty poor shape. I’m probably going to replace most of them with alternatives. I’m not sure what to do about the transom carving. It looks like the mold may have split so the border is bulging out a bit. Also, like others have posted, the curve of the transom carving is too narrow and will have to be widened by bending it. the curve is off by so much that I fear it will break from bending.



The Keel


Construction of the keel was straightforward, but the curve where the stem meets the center keel was way off so I had to trim it you can see the amount I have to trim on the center keel in the photo. . I also had to add a shim between the two center keel pieces to get the length to match the plans. Even so, the slots were still a bit off.



The shim between the center keel pieces



I wish I had cut the rabbet before installing the keel, stem and sternpost. It would have been easier.


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On to the Bukkheads. The first thing I did was to copy the bulkhead templates and cut them out. I marked the reference line by placing the template over the bulkhead and lining it up as best I could, then used a knife to score the line into the wood. Here are some photos of how I did that:



Most of the bulkheads followed the plans pretty well, but a few were way off. Bulkheads D and H are really off. I double-checked the templates against the hull lines from the George Campbell plan included in the kit, and they are very close. It is definitely the laser-cut bulkheads that are off. Some of the templates are a bit asymmetric, but there are within maybe 0.5mm, so I think that can be corrected by shimming and sanding.

IMG_1813.JPG.ef68a66e5dd336768013051605ffa70f.JPG   IMG_1814.JPG.daf4ae381047633b6964866faac9e92b.JPG


I faired bulkheads A, B and M off the model and left the others intact.


A few of the slots in the keel were much too narrow as can be seen here. So, they were trimmed. I made sure I trimmed the slots to match the plans as closely as possible.



I test fit the bulkheads on the keel and was satisfied with it. I glued each bulkhead with Titebond II one at a time, letting each set for an hour before moving on. Apparently, that wasn’t enough time – once the glue completely dried, a few of the bulkheads twisted a bit, so they are not at quite a right angle. It’s not much of an error, but now I’m wondering if I should correct it? Would it make sense to put in fillers throughout the lower part of the bulkheads as Bob Hunt does in his Rattlesnake practicum? It will be more work, but I’d like to get things accurate. Also, filling in the bulkheads might make planking easier.


Not letting the glue set properly, you can see this bulkhead is not at right angles to the keel.



Here's the final result so far:


Edited by javajohn
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Next Steps


The instructions say to fair the bulkheads before installing the filler pieces, but that seems backwards to me. Any suggestions?


I don’t own a scroll saw but I do have a Byrnes table saw. I was thinking about rather than using solid filler blocks and carving them to shape, to instead layer pieces of thinner stock that are easier to cut. Are there advantages either way?

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I think the Rattlesnake is a very interesting and beautiful ship. I look forward to following your build. 


It's a bit distressing that you ran into poorly cut parts right at the start and had to make so many corrections to the bulkheads and the false keel. It's too bad that the Britannia parts are of such poor quality also. You might want to let Model Shipways know about the problems you have encountered. It's apparent that they need to update their molds for the metal parts and fix the laser cutting errors too.


Good job at correcting these problems though! 

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You might find the high resolution plans of Cormorant at Wikimedia commons helpful..  There are several different sheets..  You can click through them at the link provided.



All Rattlesnake kits are based on these plans.


image.thumb.png.785588eb164824f983cbf39e4d197cb3.png  image.png.06ca33f7f4ad44b021c3a71cc683e367.png


The plans do not show any quarter badges, but they make a nice extra touch..



The carving detail and figurehead are very interesting..

Edited by Gregory
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Thank you all for the suggestions and comments.


Most of the britannia fittings I wanted to replace anyway, like the bitts, ladders, gunport lids, elm pumps and buckets. I will build my own binnacle just because I want to see if I can do it. So, I'll probably contact Model Shipways to see if they have better carvings. I think the rest I can work to make look OK.


I've decided to try my hand at creating fillers between the bulkheads using basswood sheets - laminating in a bread and butter buttock fashion. They should be here Monday. In the meantime I will cut up some of the laser-cut sheet to test it out. This will give me a solid hull to plank.


Another laser error to point out is in the last picture above showing looking aft with all the bulkheads installed - you can see on the starboard side (left in picture) of bulkhead B they cut the top correctly, but the side goes in way too far.


@Gregory Thanks for pointing out the plans. The transom carving is quite different than the one in the kit. The kit has a very thick border around the outer edge. Much thicker than the Campbell plan drawing in the kit, and the original plans have just a thin one near the top and bottom sides. I'm thinking if I cut off the thick border, it may just work. I will probably still go ahead and get a new transom fitting, but I can play with the one I have when the time comes.




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  • 2 weeks later...

It's been a while since I last posted. Work on the Rattlesnake has been slow. I ordered some basswood sheets to use as fillers between the bulkheads, but I got the wrong thing - too thin and it was plywood. I tried creating a filler from it but it would take too long. So, I ordered what I think will work better - 3/8 inch solid basswood sheets. They should be here soon.


@Dziadeczek Your carving is unbelievable. Do you remember how long it took you to carve it?


On with the build...


I was able to carve the counter, bow and stern filler blocks. Nothing is really faired yet, just rough shaping.




I got a bit too aggressive with the filing of the starboard bow filler piece, so I made some wood filler with basswood sawdust and watered-down wood glue. It worked pretty well.



The counter took several hours for me to shape. I'm curious how long it usually takes. I took my time, checking and rechecking with the plans to make sure it was accurate.


Here you can see how I had to use some of the laser-cut billet material to build up the bow fillers since I was shorted on the filler blocks in the kit. I actually found building up the stern filler pieces was easier than the carving the solid blocks for the bow fillers.



The next step will be to fill between the bulkheads, at least in the most curved areas of the bow and stern. Then, I will start faring the hull and deck.


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Hi Javajohn ,

Since I built this model a long time ago, I don't remember now how long it took me to carve the transom. A few hours, at most. (I am a painfully slow modeler, I once knew a Japanese modeler, who would build three very intricate models in the time it took me to build one!)


Today I took a close up, macro pic of this transom. When I look at this pic, I think that it was rather a thin slice of boxwood I carved, instead of cherry - the color is more creamy/yellowish. The rest of the stern is cherry though.

I remember I made for this task a few tiny carving gouges, two from old discarded Dremel tips ground to the desired shape, and two or three from medical needles with their tips ground properly. You cannot buy such small gouges for this work anywhere, as far as I know!

Alltogether, this model is quite difficult and tricky to build, due to its small size. I remember they said that it was intended for an intermediate modeler, but I think that because of the size of tiny details and their delicate nature, it should be build by a more advanced modeler. One has to have a delicate touch and respect for the wood, plus very sharp tools...

PS: I just first noticed this glue blob oozing from the underneath of the lower left end of the transom;  the pic is much larger than the model, so it exaggerates details and imperfections...

Happy modeling!

Rattlesnake transom.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's been a while since my last update. Unfortunately, I injured my right wrist and have not been able to work on the model. It is almost healed now so I will be able to continue working this weekend.


I started fairing the hull before my wrist issue and decided I'd try to get the bulkheads as symmetrical as possible first using the templates with some sanding and shimming, then put in the support blocks before final fairing. 


In hindsight, it might have been easier to do the initial trimming and shimming of the bulkheads before they were attached to the model. The curves above the deck line are pretty inconsistent too; the bulkhead drawings don't match the hull plan above the deck line. So, there will be much trimming and shimming to get everything to line up properly. In all my previous models, I never paid this much attention to the accuracy of the hull. I hope it pays off!


I hope to have some pictures next week of my progress




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  • 2 weeks later...

This week has all been about fairing the bulkheads. The templates were pretty close to the plans, but the laser cut pieces were not symmetrical, so some had shims on one side and trimming on the other. I also added support blocks to stiffen up the hull.


The first thing to do was to add supports to stiffen up the hull. Some of the bulkheads were a bit out of alignment and the support blocks squared them up nicely. Rubber bands and hemostats make great clamps.




Here you can see two bulkheads were there I had to add quite a thick shim.. Later on, I trimmed the inside of these bulkheads.



To check the curvature of the quarter and forecastle decks, I made a template out of some card stock.



Here is the final result. I think there will still be some trimming and shimming to be done, especially on the bulwarks side, but I'm pretty happy with it. I also finally made a building jig to hold the model in place. I created a very slight taper to hold the keel, maybe 0.5 mm difference from end-to-end. This allows me to put the model into the jig and push it towards the tapered end to "lock" it. I'm not sure if that's a good idea or not, but I don't have to use any clamps.


Edited by javajohn
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I'm starting to look at the transom now. There are a few concerns I have with the transom that I'm trying to figure out how best to resolve.

The first is if I should plank the transom. I think it will look better, even though I plan on painting the ship. If I do plank the transom, should I reduce its thickness to compensate for the planks?


The second is the windows. They are cut too small. It will not be possible to glue them into the frames, so I'm wondering how best to fix that. I like how Dziadeczek framed his windows, so I might do that.

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