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USS Cairo by Cathead - FINISHED - BlueJacket Shipcrafters - 1:192


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My next project will be the USS Cairo kit from BlueJacket. This vessel was an ironclad gunboat designed and built during the American Civil War for service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as part of the Union's push to control the West's inland waterways and cut off Confederate supply lines, communications, and commerce. Her actual service was unremarkable, and she sank less than a year after her commissioning upon hitting several mines near Vicksburg, Mississippi. However, she became immortal when her wreck was discovered mostly intact in the mid-1960s and eventually salvaged, restored, and placed on display at Vicksburg National Military Park. I've visited the display and associated museum, where it's absolutely fascinating to be able to actually walk around the vessel and peer into her depths. 

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When completed, this will join my scratchbuilt Western River steamboats Arabia and Bertrand, two other examples of mid-19th century Western River steamboats salvaged from old river channels in the American interior. This kit is a much smaller scale than those two models (1:64 and 1:87, respectively), so will nestle comfortably alongside the Bertrand

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For inspiration, I'll have on hand this simple paperweight acquired at the Cairo museum!

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Announcing the start of this build feels unusually good, as I've had a forced ~7 month hiatus from modeling building due to a complicated situation involving a serious hatched-derived wrist injury (with subsequent surgery and long recovery) that, for a while, had me unsure if I'd regain the dexterity and strength necessary to keep building scale models (much less the larger-scale timber management and building work I do in real life). The Cairo kit is a 43rd birthday present but also a celebration of a return to reasonable normality.

 

Thanks for looking in! Next post, I'll cover why I chose this model and what I hope to achieve with it.

 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Cathead said:

I've had a forced ~7 month hiatus from modeling building due to a complicated situation involving a serious hatched-derived wrist injury (with subsequent surgery and long recovery) that, for a while, had me unsure if I'd regain the dexterity and strength necessary to keep building scale models

 

Wow -- that sounds alarming. Glad you were able to recover!

Chris Coyle
Greer, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco

Current builds: Brigantine Phoenix, Speeljacht

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 I look forward to following along, Eric.

Current Builds: 1880s Floating Steam Donkey Pile Driver by Keith Black 1:120 Scale

                             Wood Hull Screw Frigate USS Tennessee

                             Decorative Carrack Warship Restoration, the Amelia

 

Completed: Early Swift 1805 Model Restoration

 

 

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Build goals

 

Although I have a couple scratchbuilds planned in my head, I chose this kit as my next project for a couple reasons.

 

  1. The outstanding large-scale detailed scratchbuilds of USS Cairo by @mbp521 and her sister ironclad USS St. Louis by @thorn21g and the Gateway Model Shipcrafter's Guild have been really fascinating and inspiring.
  2. MSW doesn't have any completed build logs for this kit; the only log of any kind didn't get beyond an opening post before being abandoned. BlueJacket is a good company but seems under-represented on MSW build logs, so I wanted to raise awareness of their kits (and this one in particular). There are so few realistic riverboat kits that this one should get more attention. I hope @MrBlueJacket will be able to pop in from time to time.
  3. I don't have a full workshop right now and am not ready to dive into a full scratchbuild. Just before my injury last winter, I packed up my entire workshop in preparation for remodeling a spare room into a permanent improved workshop, but that's been on hold ever since. I'll be building some kind of small portable workstation to bridge the gap until I can complete the home renovations necessary to start on a real scratchbuild again.
  4. It'll let me learn/practice some new skills. 
    1. I've never built anything at this small a scale.
    2. I've never built a solid-hull model.
    3. I've never worked with this much metal, and especially not fine-scale brass details.
  5. I'm still really backed up on other real-world projects and don't have the mental bandwidth to dive into a complex scratchbuild right now, so hopefully a simpler kit lets me ease back into model-building.

So overall my goal is for this project to be a fun and relatively straightforward return to building, though I'm quite certain I'll find various ways to enhance the kit with alterations or details based on the above-mentioned builds. I also hope it'll serve as a review of this kit for other MSW members who might consider it. Thanks in advance for looking in and following along.

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Wooohooo!  Another Cairo build and another Cathead log. Really looking forward to following along on this journey. Glad to see you back at the bench again Eric. 
 

-Brian

Current Builds:                                                                                                 Completed Builds:

Mississippi River Towboat Caroline N.                                                    HMB Endeavor: Artesania Latina

                                                                                                                    USS Constitution - Cross Section: Mamoli

Non-Ship Builds:                                                                                              HMS Victory - Cross Section: Corel

New Shipyard                                                                                             King of the Mississippi - Steamboat: Artesania Latina

                                                                                                                     Battle Station Section: Panart (Gallery)

In Dry-dock                                                                                               Chaperon - 1884 Steamer: Model Shipways  

USS Constellation: Aretesania Latina                                                       USS Cairo - 1862 Ironclad: Scratch Build 

Flying Fish: Model Shipways                                                                               

                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                            

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2 hours ago, ccoyle said:

 

Wow -- that sounds alarming. Glad you were able to recover!

That is alarming. Glad to hear you are recovering and going to follow along.

Current Builds: Bluejacket USS KearsargeRRS Discovery 1:72 scratch

Completed Builds: Model Shipways 1:96 Flying Fish | Model Shipways 1:64 US Brig Niagara | Model Shipways 1:64 Pride of Baltimore II (modified) | Midwest Muscongus Bay Lobster Smack | Heller 1:150 Passat | Revell 1:96 USS Constitution

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@Cathead, do you play the hammered dulcimer. I think I see one in the background there, a certain similarity to my home office.IMG_20220910_231414437.thumb.jpg.0972c6de419c99c8ca791605bd69ecaa.jpg

Current Builds: Bluejacket USS KearsargeRRS Discovery 1:72 scratch

Completed Builds: Model Shipways 1:96 Flying Fish | Model Shipways 1:64 US Brig Niagara | Model Shipways 1:64 Pride of Baltimore II (modified) | Midwest Muscongus Bay Lobster Smack | Heller 1:150 Passat | Revell 1:96 USS Constitution

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@gak1965, it most certainly is a hammered dulcimer (or more precisely, a stand and case; the dulcimer is set up behind the camera view)! That's hilarious, how similar our two settings are. If you're interested, I've started posting music videos on my YouTube channel, which mostly focuses on interpreting Missouri's geologic and natural history. But we should probably keep any further dulcimer discussion to private messages so as not to steer this thread into the shoals! I'd love to hear more about your playing.

 

Brian, thanks, I knew you'd be in the gallery. I'm going to have to force myself to make compromises from your level of attention to detail or I'll never complete this thing! And I do want to get back to scratchbuilding. But it's going to be really interesting to see what I can adapt from your work into this tiny scale.

 

Welcome to all others, too.

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Eric, glad to read you've recovered. And starting this build. I'm in. I've been eyeing this kit, but wanted to see a build before I pulled the trigger.

Ken

Started: MS Bounty Longboat,

On Hold:  Heinkel USS Choctaw paper

Down the road: Shipyard HMC Alert 1/96 paper, Mamoli Constitution Cross, MS USN Picket Boat #1

Scratchbuild: Echo Cross Section

 

Member Nautical Research Guild

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I'm a bit late but in for this build.  I'm glad you were able to get a full recovery, Eric.  

Mark
"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans - ON HOLD           Triton Cross-Section   

 NRG Hallf Hull Planking Kit                                                                            HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               

 

Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         

         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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Thanks for all the well-wishes. It was definitely quite the saga. It's still stiff and (at times) sore, but I've been able to return to normal work, including 1:1 scale construction.

 

Workspace 

Starting this log when I did was a bit of a bait-and-switch, as I'm not sure how much actual work I'll get done on this model in the next few weeks. I've been working hard to catch up on lots of other projects, and my stepfather (a nearly retired professional woodworker) is about to arrive for a two-week visit during which we're going to build a timber-framed outdoor kitchen together. But I was so excited to start my first model since last winter that I just had to dive in.

 

The first step was creating a setting in which I could work on the model. As noted above, my normal workbench/shop is all packed up. So I threw together this portable work tray from scrap wood, on which the essentials can stack:

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The storage unit can then be unpacked, leaving a nice work mat free:

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This will let me move around the house and work wherever desired/practical. This idea/plan also factored into buying a small-scale model like the Cairo, which is less than a foot long.

 

Unpacking

With that ready, I can unpack the kit. BlueJacket has a nice unboxing/content video, so I won't go into details, but here's how the kit contents appear right out of the box. Solid wood hull, sheet of brass details, cast metal details, some strips of thin material, big sheet of plans, instruction booklet:

 

IMG_8189.jpeg.d2b126e0cb92e94e70a5b67333ec8d3c.jpeg

And if you were wondering, and at risk of derailing this thread again, here are some examples of the other 1:1 projects I've been catching up on now that I'm functional again. We added a screened porch to our house this summer, and the plan was always for me to build furniture for it. So here are two sets of newly completed Adirondack chairs and footrests, a small dividing table, and a full-size dining table, all built from Eastern Red Cedar we cut and milled on-farm. The outdoor kitchen will also be framed in on-farm cedar.

 

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IMG_8149.jpeg.c4ab2834a8d56043a079dc58816a86e7.jpeg

 

And to swing back to the model again, I may even get to work on the initial steps with my stepfather. He's a lifelong woodworker who has incredible skills, and he recently built himself a full-scale rowboat, but he's never built a model and has been very interested in following my work. So it could be fun for us to dabble in this together while he's here. I'll keep you posted. At worst, I'll dive into it in October. 

 

Thanks for the support and interest!

 

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2 hours ago, Cathead said:

we're going to build a timber-framed outdoor kitchen together

 Eric, please start a build log in the Shore Leave Forum when you and your stepdad start the kitchen. I love a good timber frame story. What are your timber dimensions? 

 

 The chairs and table are very nice and the fact that the lumber was milled from the farm is fantastic. 

Edited by Keith Black

Current Builds: 1880s Floating Steam Donkey Pile Driver by Keith Black 1:120 Scale

                             Wood Hull Screw Frigate USS Tennessee

                             Decorative Carrack Warship Restoration, the Amelia

 

Completed: Early Swift 1805 Model Restoration

 

 

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6x6 posts, 4x6 cross beams, 2x10 lengthwise beams, 2x6 rafters, 10x12 footprint. May seem over-engineered but as cedar is a coarse-grained softwood I wanted sufficient space/strength for joins. Not my first cedar building. Don't want to go into more detail to keep this thread reasonably on track. I'll consider the separate log, I wasn't going to so I could just enjoy the experience, but I can see an argument for documenting as I go, even if the posts come late.

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  'Don't use cedar much, and will only cut it outside since I have a 'sensitivity' to cedar dust.  Someone I know said that for outdoor use, he recommends some sort of clear preservative to extend the life of the wood.  Yet a neighbor's cedar stockade fence has stood there the last 17 years with no attention ever paid to it, and it still look more-or-less OK - although a weathered grey color.

 

  Best wishes on your recovery ... AND the new build.  BTW, I just love your previously built riverboats!       Johnny

Completed builds:  Khufu Solar Barge - 1:72 Woody Joe

Current project(s): Gorch Fock restoration 1:100, Billing Wasa (bust) - 1:100 Billings, Great Harry (bust) 1:88 ex. Sergal 1:65

 

 

 

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So after an intense week cutting and shaping all the parts for the outdoor kitchen (essentially making the "kit" we'll start assembling this weekend), I decided to take Friday evening to relax and fiddle with my other kit. By the way, if you want to follow the kitchen project, I yielded to peer pressure and started a Shore Leave build log.

 

I started reading through the instructions and comparing them to the kit contents and, unfortunately, halfway through the first page I'm already pretty confused. The instructions are pretty minimalist with almost no useful graphics or drawings. Let's work through my confusion step by step.

 

LATER EDIT: Most of the confusion related below turns out to have been caused by faulty hull and casement pieces in the kit I was sent. After I sent a message to BlueJacket asking about this, they promptly sent out new parts which are much cleaner and clear up most of the confusion. See later posts in this thread. Just noting it here so prospective builders aren't scared off; you shouldn't expect to see the parts below in your kit! Although the instructions remain a bit vague, proper kit parts make it much easier to work out what to do.

 

Question 1: What is this piece?

There are three big pieces of hull-shaped wood in my box.

IMG_8250.jpeg.2edf65ed06fad213409a10124e0f3be3.jpegUnfortunately, only two seem to exist in the instructions: casement and hull:

 

IMG_8249.jpeg.cfae29a45cd4d9d6f8805cb8bdcb8605.jpeg

And the plans pretty clearly show a two-part hull; I'm pretty convinced I've identified the listed casement and hull. The mystery/extra piece seems to be the extra-charred piece in the middle of the first photo, as it doesn't correspond to anything on the plans:

 

IMG_8252.thumb.jpeg.08cfdfdc0de93d27380e2068ded9c648.jpeg

So what is this? A packing mistake?

 

Question 2: Is gluing the laser-cut deck on before sanding the hull really a good idea?

The hull/casement pieces are VERY rough and will need extensive smoothing and reshaping. The very first step in the entire project is to glue the thin laser-cut main deck sheet onto the solid hull, before doing any shaping. 

 

This order makes me very nervous. First, it'd be really easy to take off too much of the deck while sanding the much thicker hull. Why not do rough shaping BEFORE gluing on the thin deck? Here are four photos showing how the deck looks when held onto the hull. The instructions blandly say "align it [the deck] with the hull and glue it in place" but it doesn't feel that simple. Notice in the photos below that the deck both overlaps and underlaps the hull in places, so how to achieve a smooth line along the entire thing? They also say that the deck should be slightly wider than the hull, but mine seems to fit with no overhang.

 

IMG_8253.thumb.jpeg.43233bace517e51ac957d8e39e9a6abd.jpeg

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Question 3: Is gluing the casement onto the deck before sanding really a good idea?

 Similar to Question 2, the instructions next tell you to glue the casement to the top of the main deck before doing most shaping (they do tell you to sand the fore/aft parts, presumably because these cut across the deck surface). But as with the hull, there's a LOT of shaping to be done, and it makes me nervous to do this with the thin deck already glued on. Here's the very rough casement piece:

 

IMG_8258.jpeg.3d74fca930f96d49ac686e31907330db.jpeg

IMG_8259.jpeg.04731b33ddc7f2f4c984058653b2f854.jpeg

Basically, you're supposed to make a hull-deck-casement sandwich before doing any shaping around the perimeter, and that just makes me really nervous.

 

Question 4: What's the intended shape of the hull/casement when sanded?

Guidance for shaping the hull/casement is also very limited. The instructions just say "sand the hull and casement sides smooth". OK...does that mean convert the two angles present to one single surface? Or sand both surfaces smooth, preserving the original angles? If they're supposed to be one surface, why not just cut the piece that way in the first place? Same question for the hull, which is also a rough two-angle surface over much of the piece (see earlier photos). The plans imply that all of these pieces should be single surfaces from top to bottom, but it's not made clear and is really making me hesitate. The curve of the bow is also pretty inconsistent on the port and starboard side, which will make shaping extra-fun.

 

Question 5: How to align the casement on the hull?

When it's time to glue the casement on, the instructions just say "mark the location of the casement on the main deck and glue it in place". OK...based on what? I guess measurements from the plans? This is confusing because the scribing on the deck extends well underneath what the casement would cover, so it's initially unclear whether we're supposed to be lining up one of the casement ends with where the scribing stops:

 

IMG_8260.jpeg.a221bcc56718906f77f9bb31a285ed7b.jpeg

 

As far as I can tell, and based on the plans, you just have to overlap the deck scribing at both ends, but this seems unnecessarily confusing to me.

 

So far, not that impressed. I'm a few paragraphs in, already I have five questions that are confusing me, I just spent a bunch of time photographing and writing up these questions, and I'm definitely not relaxed. I'd be very grateful if @MrBlueJacket is around and could clarify these for me. I think I understand how things are meant to align (based on the plans and writing up these questions), but it took a while to figure out from the vague instructions. I'm a reasonably experienced modeler and wasn't expecting to be this stumped this quickly.

 

BlueJacket sells a separate CD of build images that would probably be really helpful in figuring out stuff like this, but I didn't buy it. Felt kind of like a luggage charge, and I thought it was reasonable to think the original instructions and plans would be sufficient. Maybe I'm just thinking slowly after a long week of 1:1 scale woodworking, but these seem like questions that could confuse other builders, especially new ones.

 

Probably won't get back to this for a few days, so letting these ideas simmer will probably help me sort them out, along with any suggestions/interpretations from commenters. Thanks for reading, hopefully I can show some actual progress soon!

Edited by Cathead
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I  can see a lot of shaping of the hull as the stern area isn't rounded but made with a series of straight cuts.   As for the "huh?" piece.... that is weird unless it's supposed to go on the  bottom of the hull.  But then cuts in the two pieces don't match.  Send Mr. Bluejacket a PM to have a look here on your log and advise.  

Mark
"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans - ON HOLD           Triton Cross-Section   

 NRG Hallf Hull Planking Kit                                                                            HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               

 

Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         

         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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Mark, I should have clarified that the instructions do provide a clear photo of how to round the stern sections, but not for any other part. 

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There is something seriously wrong with the shaped hull, that should never have gone out the door. I will send a replacement on Monday. Your mystery piece is an unfinished hull blank, again, should not be there.

 

Although we suggest an assembly sequence, if it bothers you, you can always make your own decision.

 

Nic

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12 hours ago, Cathead said:

Notice in the photos below that the deck both overlaps and underlaps the hull in places, so how to achieve a smooth line along the entire thing?

Eric, quite the conundrum. The top of the hull should align with the deck with no overlap or underlap. Where the casements meet with the hull on the sides at the knuckle should be a fine point where the armor plating goes and then a rub rail extends along the hull forward and aft of the casements. 
 

Just a thought, but it might not hurt to use the Cairo HSR drawings as a reference to get the shape correct. For the most part they are accurate and would definitely help in your build. If you like I can send you a copy of the drawings that I used. Also, if you happen across the Bob Hill plans, take caution. His representation of the hull at the stern chine is not correct. I found this out the hard way. 
 

-Brian

Current Builds:                                                                                                 Completed Builds:

Mississippi River Towboat Caroline N.                                                    HMB Endeavor: Artesania Latina

                                                                                                                    USS Constitution - Cross Section: Mamoli

Non-Ship Builds:                                                                                              HMS Victory - Cross Section: Corel

New Shipyard                                                                                             King of the Mississippi - Steamboat: Artesania Latina

                                                                                                                     Battle Station Section: Panart (Gallery)

In Dry-dock                                                                                               Chaperon - 1884 Steamer: Model Shipways  

USS Constellation: Aretesania Latina                                                       USS Cairo - 1862 Ironclad: Scratch Build 

Flying Fish: Model Shipways                                                                               

                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                            

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Thanks, Nic, that's a relief! Will look forward to the new piece. I'll send you a PM with the order number to ensure you know where to send it.

 

Brian, it would certainly be interesting to see your plans if it's not too much trouble. Did you mean digital or mail?

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I meant digitally. I sent them in a PM to you, let me know if you are able to open the file. I also have printed plans that I am pretty much done with if you would like them. They are a little marked up, but you are more than welcome to them if you want them.

 

-Brian

Current Builds:                                                                                                 Completed Builds:

Mississippi River Towboat Caroline N.                                                    HMB Endeavor: Artesania Latina

                                                                                                                    USS Constitution - Cross Section: Mamoli

Non-Ship Builds:                                                                                              HMS Victory - Cross Section: Corel

New Shipyard                                                                                             King of the Mississippi - Steamboat: Artesania Latina

                                                                                                                     Battle Station Section: Panart (Gallery)

In Dry-dock                                                                                               Chaperon - 1884 Steamer: Model Shipways  

USS Constellation: Aretesania Latina                                                       USS Cairo - 1862 Ironclad: Scratch Build 

Flying Fish: Model Shipways                                                                               

                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                            

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Got them, wonderful resource, thank you! May not get back to this project right away as (a) still very involved in kitchen-building and (b) will be taking my stepfather on a hiking/floating trip in the Ozarks next week as a thank-you reward for all the hard work this week. Plus I want to wait for the new hull from BlueJacket.

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I have not been actively participating in this forum for quite a while.  I retired a few years ago and got involved in building plastic models and dioramas.  Decided to get back to wooden ship modelling a short while ago.  I rummaged around in my stash and recovered this model of the Cairo that I had purchased several years ago.  I am a bit of a Civil War history buff and have read a bit about the "naval" battles on the Mississippi river.  I started this model a couple of nights ago and find that while it appears simple (low parts count, solid hull, etc.) it is turning out to be a more challenging project than I thought.  I guess I should count myself lucky, however, as I have not run into any "Huh" parts yet.  The instructions are not as clear as I would like and photos of steps would be more helpful than sketches.  It also looks like fit is also going to be a challenge.  Us old plastic modelers expect perfect fit with no seams.  Finally, a list of terms would help.  I had no idea what a "casement" was until I looked it up on the internet.

 

While I did not expect to open a build log; I will if I can figure out how to do it.  Had a few logs a few years back so I should be able to work through it.  Cathead, as we move along; perhaps we can help each other and learn from our mistakes.  I will also send for those marked up plans.

Completed Builds:  USS Cairo by BlueJacket;  Nave Egizia by Amati;  Harriet Lane by Model Shipways

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1 hour ago, rcmdrvr said:

While I did not expect to open a build log; I will if I can figure out how to do it.  Had a few logs a few years back so I should be able to work through it.  Cathead, as we move along; perhaps we can help each other and learn from our mistakes.  I will also send for those marked up plans.

Have a look here:  

 Basically the same as a kit to open a log.  The only difference is area and some details in the title.  Use Cathead's topic title as an example.  

 

For refreshers...  there's pinned topics here:  https://modelshipworld.com/forum/47-how-to-use-the-msw-forum-no-modeling-content /

Mark
"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans - ON HOLD           Triton Cross-Section   

 NRG Hallf Hull Planking Kit                                                                            HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               

 

Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         

         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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@rcmdrvr Welcome! I find build logs to be a really useful resource, both for advice and help, but also for motivation. Knowing others are paying attention to, and care about, my work, helps keep me going and helps discourage sloppiness.

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