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Drinking from the firehose

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Hi all, 


New to the forum and to the ship modeling world. I retired in 2018 after 27 years on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. I then spent a few years as a lead mechanic in a Maine woodturning mill before fully retiring this year, though I still do a lot of backcountry search and rescue work on our county’s technical rope rescue team.

I live on an 11.5 acre property near the 45th parallel in the western Maine mountains. Fortunately, there was a great workshop space on the property. I’ve been slowly renovating that space (a 30x13 single car garage that is now a full time hobby workshop.) All I have left to do is to build some insulated carriage doors and add climate control. In the meantime, I am making a small temporary shipyard in the house to start down this cool rabbit hole of ship modeling. 

I haven’t yet selected a first model, but am leaning toward the Model Shipways three kit skill builder set. I also have a MS Phantom NY Pilot boat solid hull kit and for some years down the road a used MS USS Constitution kit which surprisingly still had a complete inventory. Of course the previous owner had started and failed at the center keel step. I managed to carefully separate the three center keel pieces and it looks like I can salvage that and the two broken and patched bulkheads. But, that’s a kit for another time. 

Anyway, just saying hi and hoping to learn everything I can from all of you. 

Here’s a photo of the Constitution kit I scored. Even came with a tote full of balsa and basswood scrap.



After inventory, I found all the parts were there, but three were damaged or poorly done.


Though I’m not starting with the Constitution, I did want to see if that center keel would be salvageable. Careful cutting with an exacto blade separated the three keel pieces. Some file work and it appears as though I can salvage this kit just fine.



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6 hours ago, USCGDave said:

am leaning toward the Model Shipways three kit skill builder set

I second the motion.  Every newbie would be well served to start with this three vessel series.  Not only will it give you useful experience in the build, but will teach you what to watch for in future kits if you go the kit route or even help you with scratch building techniques if you choose to join the many members hanging out on the dark side.   


Welcome to this motley crew.



Edited by allanyed
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Thanks all,


it is definitely a deep hole, but coming at it with a bit of woodworking experience both at home and in a commercial shop, I’ll hopefully be able to take those processes and tackle them in miniature. 

The shipwright series of kits is on the Christmas list so we’ll se where I end up starting. The good thing is that working at a commercial mill gave me a good background in reading plans/schematics and then developing the jigs and process for creating parts. 

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    Hi Dave!  Welcome aboard.  :cheers:


    Before getting philosophical, a suggestion.  You mentioned "Careful cutting with an exacto blade separated the three keel pieces. ".  If the parts were glued with wood glue these can easily be separated by soaking the joints in rubbing alcohol (cotton balls or Q tips work for me) for a bit, then separating with  the exacto.


    Drinking from a firehose, indeed.  A big newbie problem is coming aboard wanting to build a scratch built, fully framed HMS VICTORY or USS CONSTITUTION.   They are quickly overwhelmed.  It looks like you have chosen the more reasonable path of starting small and learning the 'trade'.  I have found that even experienced wood workers learn new things when dealing with bendy-curvey hulls and compound curved planking. 


    Read build logs of ships you are working on and ones you may work on...and ones that interest you.  I have found valuable info from logs having nothing to do with the model I am working on.  Use the archives and ask questions.  That 'stupid question' you might be afraid to ask...we probably all asked it at some point.  You don't learn if you don't ask.


    Don't be afraid to pull apart things that are not right.  Errors compound.  Wood is forgiving and easy to come by.


    Have fun!!  There will be times of frustration when things don't work out (at least for me there were) but think it through and it will work out (usually).  :default_wallbash:


    And remember, you can never have too many clamps.


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Welcome aboard Dave. In addition to checking out other build logs of the kits you are working on, get a notebook and take notes for future reference. There is close to a million years of kit building knowledge here for the finding. Don't limit your build log reading to just the ships you are interested in, read others and the NRG Resources, YouTube also has some good videos if you are more of a visual learner. Above all else have fun, if something has got you frustrated or stuck take a break and come back to it.



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Chuck, I wish that Constitution keel had been glued with simple wood glue. It was more than likely done with foaming gorilla glue, which expanded the joints and caused huge gaps. But, those gaps made it easy to slip a blade in without hitting wood. Then I took a sharp chisel and carefully pared away the remaining foamed glue. But you’re definitely right about it not being the first build. I’ll be going way more modest than that and then working up to it. 

thanks all for the welcome. Been spending a whole lot of time reading all the articles in the library. 

Edited by USCGDave
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3 hours ago, USCGDave said:

Chuck, I wish that Constitution keel had been glued with simple wood glue. It was more than likely done with foaming gorilla glue,



    A lesson in and of itself.  You will find many discussions here regarding glues.  IMHO superglue has its place but wood glue is best.  Others disagree.  Not sure ANYBODY likes foaming gorilla glue.

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