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Swift by GabeK - FINISHED - Artesania Latina - (First wooden ship build)

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The Preface


It has taken me a while to build up the courage to start this log...but after a few months of reading these forums I now realize just how accepting and supportive the people are here.  Also, discovering that I'm not the only person who has an "accidentally long-term project" has made me less embarrassed to tell my story! 


But first, please bear with me as I explain how it all started...



I was in grade 7 and I had just found out that a teacher in my school built wooden ship models.  How cool!  But I nearly died when I priced out kits in a local hobby store.  For years I would drop in and just dream of the day I could afford to buy one.   This started a minor obsession - I began reading Alexander Kent novels and I became an amateur historian of Napoleanic-era ships, particularly the Royal Navy.  Dreaming, ever dreaming. 



University was finished and I was starting a career.  Still a bit broke with rent and car payments – still dreaming of getting a kit.  My girlfriend (now my wife), knowing just how much ships have been on my mind all these years, gives me Artesania Latina's "Swift" as a Christmas gift.  (And that was probably the moment I knew she was the right one!)  Boxing week was spent buying tools and supplies.  


That same Christmas I happened to get a little journal from someone else and I decided to use it as a log for this build.  So, in the box with all the parts this little book has sat and I have faithfully (more or less) kept track of every step in this project.  The first entry...


"Thursday, January 1, 1987.  Cut false keel & bulkheads.  Shaped the frames.  2 hours."





Let's just say that over the next 25 years I spread the work out pretty thinly, with a few big gaps around the birth of our two sons and switching careers.  Between 1987 and 2012 I logged 156 hours and I had a hull with partially finished second planking.  Sitting in the box were completed cabins and tapered masts and spars.  In that time I also built a pretty good collection of books and tools.


A quarter century in and the Swift looked something like this:





In the next log I'll go over some of the highlights up to this point in the build.

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1987 - 2012


With a lack of skill with wooden models I knew I would have some difficulties with my first ship.  What I hadn't expected was that the kit itself would provide so many of my headaches:  unclear instructions and having to fabricate so many parts from scratch. 


Some interesting consequences of taking years to complete the Swift:

  1. my knowledge of ship construction increased with each book I bought and website I found.  In some ways this became a bit of a curse because I kept second-guessing every step of the build - which did not help speed things up.  
  2. On the bright side, my disposable income increased over the years so I could afford more and better tools. 


Because I don’t have a lot of pictures of the early stages of the Swift I’m not going to log all my work.  Here's just a rundown of some the headaches, mistakes and modifications I made during this time:


August 1989:  Planking and Bulwarks

The first layer of hull planking was finished but I can't say that the hull looked very good. I now understand the reason for tapering the edges of planks!  On the deck I had used black felt pen on the edges of the limewood strips to simulate caulk and I followed a very beautiful, regular pattern of staggering the butt joints.  I now realize that I was thinking more like I was building a deck in my yard rather than a deck on a boat.  A shipwright would want to have the longest possible planks with the fewest joints.  I discovered a layout (can’t remember the book…I’ll have to find it again) that made so much more sense and is much more accurate than the beautiful but inaccurate planking I had done on the Swift  


I was already noticing an asymmetry in hull.  I wasn't too concerned because I knew I was going to use filler before the second planking.   Little did I know how this would haunt me…20 years later!


It was now time to install the bulwarks.  Unfortunately, these die-cut plywood pieces, when dry-fitted, splayed outward drastically and did not follow the upward curve of the hull at all.  I tried shaping the lower edges to fit the deck line better but it was a losing cause.  I realized that I was going to have to fabricate new bulwark pieces. 


December 1989:  New bulwarks

Using the shape of the old bulwarks as a guide, I made patterns with card stock and traced them onto 1/16" plywood.  (I never knew such stuff existed!  Now I keep a little supply of this and 1/32" on hand.)  Much better lines now, but they didn’t meet well at the bow.  I ended up cutting off the bow section of these new bulwarks and making, yet again, new pieces.  After gluing I spent many hours working the edges of the bulwarks to get the shape I wanted. 


July 1993:  Planking the bulwarks; Deck Cabins; Tapering masts and spars

I found it odd that the outside of the bulwarks were going to be planked over, but the inside was to be the left plain plywood.  I decided to plank the insides to make it look a little more realistic.  As per the instructions, I planked the outer bulwarks and transom with limewood. 



[you can see the planking on the interior of the bulwarks and the deck planking pattern I followed]


In December 1993 my first son was born and in 1996 my second son came along.  The next entry in my log was…


July 1998:  Installing the keel and stem 

I bought a few books in the 5 intervening years and became an armchair modeller.  Based on several readings I departed from the instructions and chose to install the keel and stem before the second planking was done.  After they were affixed, I carefully cut a rabbet into these pieces for the next layer of planks to fit into.  I was much happier that I had done this.  This whole process took two days…the only two days I would work on the model in 1998 and I wouldn’t take the model out of the box until…


April 2003: Second planking on hull

From April 2003 to October 2012, between running kids to soccer, baseball, music, scouts, etc., back surgery and completing my M.Ed, I managed to squeeze in about 7 hours of work on planking the Swift.  I had started at the deck line and was working downward and I felt that I was doing a good job on tapering the planks at the bow.  And, I was very happy to hide the ends of the planks in the rabbet I had cut into the stem.  However, it became evident that I was going to have to install joggles.   I was also having a heck of a time getting the planks to sit flat on the hull, particularly at the bend in the bilge, even with screw clamps. 


So we’ve reached 2012. 

My boys are big, I have a pretty nice little workshop and I don’t have to pack away the model each time I stop.  I have actually started the Harvey and a vintage ship in the bottle kit I got on Ebay.  My ship modelling library has become fairly impressive and I started scratch-building a miniature of the Beagle.  I also got an iPad and it became really easy to document my work in photos and make quick little notes.  It sits beside me as I work – playing music and giving me quick access to the internet if I want to look something up.  I still kept up the written log in my little book, though.  The rest of this log should be in smaller chunks.


And…my wife still puts up with me!






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Greeting Gabe


Welcome to MSW. I so glad you decided to post your log. You right about the atmosphere of MSW and its members. Thanks also for making me feel not so slow. Its not the time you take though, but the fun you have along the way. You've come along way, farther then I'd have never made it without the input of MSW. Look forward to watching in on your build.

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October – December 2012:  Completing the second planking. 


At this point the planking was really worrying me.  The veneer was being badly forced into place and there were all kinds of little puckers.  To try and make things more manageable I decided to switch and install some planks upward from the keel and just shape planks to fit where the strakes would meet.  


(I should mention that I decided not to install the sternpost so that I would be able to let the planks run over the stern and be trimmed back later.  In hindsight, I would have caught a significant mistake before it was too late if I had installed it before planking. You'll see what I mean in an upcoming post) 



[The next plank on the cutting mat with a traced pattern taped over the end]


Stealers and joggles helped me finish the planking at the bow and stern. I used tracing paper to get the shapes for the ends of the planks that would be adjacent to these.  



[close up of a stealer]


As I sanded down the hull all the imperfections and gaps really became obvious.  I did my best to fill these with slivers and, in a few places, I made a filling paste with sanding dust and carpenter’s glue.  This paste worked…but I did see a slight difference in colour.  Ah well. In the end I became so tired of sanding and filling I decided that I would live with a few imperfections.  I really needed to move on to keep my sanity!



[second planking done and sanded]

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Hey Gabe

I agree on the keel and stem post (stern post also) placement before second planking. I did the psuedo-rabbet as you did and found it work excellently. On the thin veneer planking, just for future reference, I trimmed the width of the second planking ... then glued the end at the stem. I then wet the plank and used a sealing iron to get the thin second plank to shape and lay next to the adjacent plank. This took repeated wetting and ironing on some planks. Once shaped it was glued. Heat and moisture work wonders on wood. Personally I prefer a sealing iron to a plank bender, but there are lots of tricks you can find on MSW.

You can see all this in my log if your interested


here is the type of iron I used



Its hard to get the second planking perfect, I don't think I'll ever double plank another build for this reason. The Y in front of the stealer is a tough fit to make but it appears to be done well. The overall fit and finish of your planking looks excellent.

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Thanks for the feedback, folks!  


I've been trying everything to bend wood and was almost ready to buy one of these:  http://www.naturecoast.com/hobby/nc001.htm  However, the sealing iron looks like a sweet thing to have.  I think I'm going to give it a try.  By the way, Keith, what type of glue do you use to first attach the plank?




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I use almost exclusively PVA glue. It is specifically Elmers wood glue max which says its interior and exterior and stainable. The only place I used CA is on the deck as it was a real bugger getting it to lay on the frames with the compound curvature. CA really burns my eyes from the fumes and I've found that the PVA forces me to slow down. I glued the planks about 1 cm to 1/2 cm  on the end and slipped them into the psuedo-rabbet of the stempost, A pinch clamp then was enough end clamped on the stem to hold until dry. I'd then wet with a paint brush and iron it down. If it didn't shape like I wanted. re-wet and re-iron until it does. Page 40 in my log illustrates how I did this all if you haven't had a chance to get through my log yet. http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/997-swift-by-themadchemist-al-150-the-dock-side-of-the-moon-pink-floyd-custom-build/page-40


I have to say, never under estimate where on MSW you'll get an idea. Nearly ever technique I have, has been borrowed from some build log. I have also yet to find a member that if you ask a question, where they won't go out of their way to help. MSW has some excellently experience builders with decades of experience, but so far they have all been amazing in their willingness to help. It's quite refreshing in todays world of attitudes.


I can't say the other plank bender isn't good. I know others use them, but I purchased the Hobbico after seeing lamarvalley's (Randy) San Franscisco Galleon build where it did a beautiful number on the mahogany single planking. Check out here for pic's in Randy's build log here http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/741-san-francisco-2-by-lamarvalley-al/page-3 if I recall, look throught to page 7 where he tung oils the mahogany. Its absolutely gorgeous wood graining.


I've also see homemade benders made from metal pipe and soldiering irons and everything imaginable. Heat and moisture is the key, it makes otherwise unbendable wood submit easily. Prior to the second planking I used exclusively just wetting the first planking and got away with it on the softer basswood. On some of the second planking I didn't even need to clamp, it fit so well after 2 or 3 steamings with the iron.

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January 2013

The Mistake


It felt so good to be done the planking.  I could now look forward to doing something different from shaping and gluing planks.  First thing, I had to attach the stern post. 


And that's when I discovered The Mistake. 


Now, there were dozens of flaws in the model and I was expecting them.  But, this was a big one.  I was horrified to find that the deadwood region of the stern was MUCH wider than the sternpost.  I had neglected to check the width of the hull before starting the second layer of planks.  The wood and filler on the starboard side was left too thick.  Checking the log book I discovered that this oversight happened 20 years ago! 


There was no way to leave it the way it was - but I did not want to have to destroy the second layer I had just finished and reinstall the pieces.  I made a couple of decisions:

1.         I would do a partial fix

2.         I would never display the starboard side


First, I shaved down the area to bring the width the same as the sternpost.  I then glued veneer strips that matched the widths of the planks in this shaved area but were a bit longer and overlapped the lower wood.  I even tried to match the colours.  Once set, I sanded down the forward edges of the patches in an effort to feather the joint with the wood below.  Except for the bend in the wood the actual joint almost disappeared.  I was amazed.  What I should have done at this point was just redo this patch job by shaving further forward so there would be a gentler taper.  However, I was sick of planking and was worried that I would totally mess up the area.  Besides…I was never going to display the starboard side!  My credo about this model is now, “Don’t wreck the port side”.



"The Patch" for "The Mistake". 


This little trick of overlapping wood to create a patch came in handy very shortly. ( :o)


Attaching the sternpost was pretty quickly done.  Before gluing it in place I cut in a rabbet to hide the plank ends.  Now that the sternpost was in place I could complete the planking of the stern and drill the hole for the rudder. 

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Thanks, yet again, Keith!  


I have been following your log!  I've been on this site for several months and was looking for ideas for my build.  I am so impressed by your mods on the Swift.  The bulwarks and decking are fantastic.  (Love the figurehead, too!).  I hate to admit that I haven't read all the pages - I think I was skipping along to parts of the build that would apply to me (I was looking very closely at your stand)...but I'll definitely look at your bending technique. 


I absolutely get the feel of community at MSW - and it's the main reason that I decided to post this log.  I'm looking forward to many years here!


I've been pretty much entirely using PVA myself...I was just wondering if you used cyano for the start of those planks.  I'm not a fan of cyano either, and later I'll be posting my CA story for this build.  


On the first layer of this model I pretty well tried almost every bending technique.  When I first started (1987) I got a little impatient with some of the steam techniques so I started microwaving planks wrapped in a wet tea towel.  Lately, I like the plank bender (although I did chop right through a couple of test pieces at first!  Moral of that story:  look at the grain of the wood!. A quick dip in ammonia was recommended in one book I read...only to find in another book that says ammonia makes the wood brittle.  Didn't read that until after I bought a jug...it's sitting in my work room right now. I may try it out on some scrap when spring comes around and I can work outside.  




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Your Welcome Gabe and I'm glad if any part of my build log comes in handy. Seeing that everything I know I learned here, I figured it was only fitting I share my build back for others to use.

I definitely have problems following directions though. For me its more about the fun factor, which means rules are only guidelines. I kinda like painting myself into a corner just to see what happens. AL's poor instructions are to blame. I found them so lacking early on that I just decided to go my own way. Especially when I had MSW and the worlds best instruction set which include so many great builders to ask any question to.


Its amazing how well one can blend wood. isn't it. Your port side isn't all that horrible and for a first build, things like that happen. Its all part of learning. You did an amazing job on the colour match of the planks. I can't tell there different planks at all.

I attached the sternpost at the same time as the keel and stem, that way I prevented that headache. If I remember correctly, Popjack eliminated the first planking on the skeg to deal with this problem. Its a kit flaw, not yours as we both had issues on that, so your not the first.


As a chemist, I've never used the ammonia (NH4OH) as I've had to spend to many days in a lab reeking of its smell. The peterboro canoe I built suggested it and I skipped it due to it obnoxious odor. The canoe was also done 100% with CA as the midwest instructions suggested. Thats one of the things that kinda turned me off CA.


...curiously I was looking at your planking colour. My kit came with walnut but I switched to cherry as the walnut in my kit was MUCH darker then yours. I really like the light cocoa colour of your walnut. Ferits Berlin is also walnut and lighter like that. AL must use differing woods over time and the walnuts have alot of colour variation by species it seems. Ferit said his was labeled African walnut if I'm remembering correctly. I recently bought some peruvian walnut thats dark brown, even darker then what was in my kit. I'm saving my Swift walnut for the lobster smack though. I'm planning a SF Galleon in teak and the peru walnut. Anyway I rambling again.


Oh she looks good with the rubbing strakes on. That always really makes the planking job look so much more detailed and complete.

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February 2013
Wales, stanchions, cavils, benches, fife rail, top rail, scuppers, “battens”

Long ago I had planned on installing the stanchions (frame heads) in line with the butt lines of the deck planks. To ensure that I installed them parallel to each other I fashioned a jig for the width of the spacing using some picture matt board. I cut a pile of walnut pieces slightly over-sized so I could sand down to the top of the gunwales later. Before gluing each in place I filed a slight bevel on the bottom edge so that there wouldn't be a gap between the stanchions and waterways. Holding the jig up against the previous stanchion allowed me to quickly position the pieces. Spring clamps and clothes pins made sure of tight glue joints. Once dry, I sanded and filed the tops of the stanchions down to the top of the gunwales.

Scuppers were next and, following instructions, I drilled through the bulwarks between the appropriate stanchions. What a headache this became! I ended up marring some stanchions and the deck slightly and had to do some sanding to fix up the boo-boos. Getting them to an even width was also a pain, even with careful knife work and filing. My only saving grace was that the upper wale would run along the top of these holes and at least hide one edge. I'd appreciate any insights on how to do this better next time.

In order to get the placement of the main wale right I next installed the “bow gunwales” (not exactly sure what to call these pieces at the bow). A few passes with a plank bending tool allowed me to give them a bit of a curve.

With the location for the top of the main wale established with these “bow gunwales” I now took out the wood strip from the kit and discovered that it wasn't low enough to cover the joint between the limewood of the bulwarks and the walnut of the hull. (I always wondered why this kit used two different woods like this). Over the years I've been buying all kinds of tools and stockpiling materials and this is when it all paid off. I happened to have a piece of mahogany the right thickness and a mini table saw so just minutes later I had new, wider planks for the main wales. While installing them I nearly burst into tears because the pins I used to hold them at the bow stood out like sore thumbs and I damaged the wood trying to sink them. I ended up sanding the end down a fair amount and gluing a small, wedge-shaped piece of the same width over the area. By carefully sanding this I was able to feather it with the wood underneath and the joint was invisible. The upper wale installed nicely.
The disappearing patch

Once the glue dried I drilled through the bulwark for the bowsprit and the grommets for the hawse holes.

The kit supplied a little brass bushing to be installed for the rudder hole. After drilling through the deck I began dry fitting this bushing and I really didn’t like the look. Part of this dislike came from a period boat I saw in, of all places, Thunder Bay, Ontario. In 1987, just a few months after starting this model, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I were visiting her brother. We spent a day at Fort William Historic Park (http://www.fwhp.ca/ ) where, a little off the beaten path, was a lonely boat moored and undergoing some repairs. The masts were off, but as soon as I saw it I thought, “It’s the Swift!” Nobody was around to ask, but this was likely a replica of a trade schooner that would have plied the great lakes in the early 1800s. It was obviously not exactly a Virginia Pilot Boat, but there were some cool details that were likely accurate for the period and I decided to take a bunch of photographs. One picture was of how the tiller was rigged. So, instead of installing a thick brass bushing I crafted a wooden ring to surround the hole for the rudder. I used this same picture to shape the end of the tiller. I’m still debating about wrapping the tiller with metal, like in this picture. For now I’ve left it all wood.
Photo from a period replica ship.

The rails from the kit, in addition to being brittle and difficult to cut away from the die-stamped sheet of plywood did not match the shape of the gunwales. Because I had fabricated new gunwales (see earlier log entry) none of the pieces lined up properly. I did a bit of research on rails and found an article from a modeller in which he cut the entire top rail from a single sheet of plywood. So, I turned over the hull and traced the shape onto the same 1/16” plywood I had used for the gunwales. I drew offsets from this line to the width of the top rail and cut out a single piece using a fret saw. After a bit of shaping and sanding it was then glued in place, tacked with a few pins and clamped using large, reusable electrical tie wraps. By chaining two of these tie wraps together you can get a nice d-shape. Because of the curve at the bow the tie wraps don't work well so I used elastics.
demonstration of how I chained tie-wraps to be used as clamps

There were a few more parts that were either so brittle or poorly fitting that I had to refabricate them: the “stern battens” (I think they should be called standards) and the fife rail at the transom. I decided to shape the ends of the cavils to make them a look a little more authentic.
Details at the stern - several refabricated. Yeah, the hole for the rudder now looks like a toilet seat!


[i have to read more carefully or get a new prescription on my progressives!  I thought the max size for ALL files in a post was 2 MB.  Now that I know better, here's a pic of a cavil]

Edited by GabeK
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This is a great first build Gabe, I can tell you have taken the time to research and accept others help and it is coming along great. It does get easier and even more challenging with each new build. Smooth seas do not create good sailors. Lots of luck to you and hope to see more in the builds future. A.J.

Edited by greatgalleons
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February - May 2013

The Rudder

I couldn’t make any sense of the instructions on how the rudder should be shaped. That was ok… this kind of stuff didn’t faze me anymore. I just hit the books and internet and soon had an idea of how I was going to proceed. But, sure enough, the kit threw another curve ball my way. The pintles and gudgeons supplied in the kit were just wrong. They were too long, extending past the edge of the rudder. Cutting them down was not an option because the pre-drilled holes were badly placed and, frankly, too few and too far apart. The chunk of brass rod that was supposed to be the pin in the pintle was massive. AND, even if I wanted to use these parts the brass snapped the first time I tried to shape it to the rudder.


So…I began fabricating yet another set of parts. I already had some brass tubing and wire (I bought a good stash of these types of materials when a local hobby store was closing. Yup, materials and AL`s HMS Bounty and Harvey!) I just had to get some brass shim stock. Cutting with tin snips or scissors made an ugly curl on the edges, so I decided to just use a straight edge and a snap-blade. It takes a bit of elbow grease and quite a few passes with the knife but you eventually have strips that are quite even and usable. Using a snap blade it was easy to make sure I had a sharp edge. I cut 4 pieces of brass tubing to a length that matched the thickness of the strips I had just cut. I shaped the strips first by wrapping them around half of the tube to make a long, narrow u-shape. I then used a trick I learned when I had to teach electronics one year: I tinned the parts first. In tinning you pre-solder your parts separately where they will be in contact. When it comes time to attach the parts you just clamp them together and just heat the joint with an iron until the solder melts. I used a bit of sanding chord and sand paper to clean the surfaces. To hold things in place I drove a straight pin through the tubes into a board. I then heated one side of each tube while holding the solder against the opposite side. I repeated the process for the bent strips, heating the outside of the bend while holding the solder on the inside of the bend. It only takes a little bit of solder. I fashioned a clamp out of a clothes pin and, while clamping a tube and strip together I just heated the top of the tube just until the solder melted. There’s an obvious movement in the parts when this happens. For two of these I inserted a piece of pre-tinned brass wire into the tube.




The next step was to drill the holes for the pins I was going to use to attach these to the rudder and hull. With some careful measuring and a bit of math I decided on a spacing that would look good on both the upper and lower pintles. After drilling the holes in the brass I placed the pintles on the rudder and used them as templates to drill the holes for the nails.


Although I'm sure it's historically wrong, I wanted the heads of the nails to be prominent. I cut down oval-headed brass pin/nails and glued them in place with cyanoacrylate.






The rudder was done, but I didn't install it yet. I wanted to construct the display base and have the hull mounted first.

Edited by GabeK
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Thanks, folks, for the support! I've noticed a huge improvement in my skills over the course of this build and, I think more importantly, an incredible increase in confidence. Having a lot more tools helps, too!



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The cabins had been built and have been sitting in the kit box since 1993. In general, these builds went well. I was able to get a nice, tight fit between the cabins and the deck by laying sandpaper on the deck, essentially using it like a sanding block, and moving the cabins back and forth. The only real fly in the ointment was that I began running out of the walnut veneer strips. Because this was early on in my model building experience I really didn't know where to purchase more and only managed to find some mahogany strips at a toy store that sold doll houses. (Now, I know the shops in town and have a stack of all kinds of veneer on hand and the tools to cut them to size). I went ahead and finished the companion covers with a mix of mahogany and walnut, thinking that the difference wouldn't be noticeable. Wrong. I considered trying to remove them or just rebuilding the cover but never did. Ah, well.

I also should mention that I decided to build the doors based on the Fort William replica ship I saw in 1987. (Mentioned in a previous log entry). One of the pictures showed raised panels on the cabin doors, which were different from AL's instructions. Whether historically accurate for a Virginia pilot boat or not I was going to add this detail.


[Photo from period replica]

A couple of things that I did do at this time were to add the hinges and cover the all the bare edges of the plywood that was used to build the cabin. These edges, frankly, looked ugly. I was very happy that I did the edging. It gave the cabins a much more finished look. I only wish I had seen Popjack's build log first and got the idea to make these in a dark contrast. The colours of his Swift look great: http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/1765-swift-by-popjack-artesania-latina-virginia-pilot-boat-1805-older-version/page-7?hl=swift I plan on painting the Harvey model that I started, largely on how his model looks.

While the cabins look ok the hinges, however, look huge and a little out of scale. I tried to give them a little bend to simulate the hinge joint and pin. Not entirely happy with the look.


[Darn ugly hinges, mixed wood on the companionway covers]

The cast metal ventilation funnels from the kit did not look like pipes because the funnel end was flat. To make them look like they could actually carry air I drilled into the funnel by hand using a fairly large bit inserted into a hex driver. The tip of the bit made a cone shaped hole and, I think, looks ok. I spray painted the funnels flat black and attached them to the cabins with cyano. BUT, when I varnished them later they took on a gloss finish. Historically, I'm guessing they would have been flat but, being ventilation and not a chimney, would they have been painted to protect them from rusting? And, would the paint have been glossy? If anyone has some insights on this I'd be happy to hear them.


So, the cabins were done, and it was time to install them. And this is my 'encounter' with cyano. In general, I have found cyanoacrylate glue to be a big con job. Anything I have tried to 'super glue' together has pretty much fallen apart. (Of course everything I don't want joined, like my fingers, stick like crazy.) I spent weeks researching the best method to attach the cabins and, because I had already varnished the hull, my worry was about the bond. I was pretty much convinced I should use epoxy but, literally, at the last minute I decided to use a gel formulation of CA that was supposed to give me few seconds before it set. I knew that I wouldn't have much time to manoeuvre the cabins so I found my landmarks on the deck and practiced placing them several times. Big moment came, I took a deep breath, and squeezed out a nice bead of glue on the bottom of the fore cabin (I love the newer bottles with the easy squeeze sides). I lined it up and touched it down to the deck and it INSTANTLY adhered a fraction of a millimetre too far toward the bow. I tried to give it just a little nudge but no way, it was secure. So much for a few seconds. I'm sure that nobody will be able to tell but just under the coaming there is a thin sliver of black that is actually the opening to below deck. Nuts! I was terrified to try the aft cabin now. Practiced that even more. Even so, it ended up just the smallest amount off the deck line I was trying to hit. At least both cabins are square to the deck and don't look off-kilter. The speed that the glue took hold and how firm the joint was totally surprised me. Sure, when I wanted the glue to give me some play it doesn't, and when I need it to be fast it isn't.

I learned my lesson and, for the mooring bits, I inserted brass pins underneath and drilled register holes in the hull to make sure they would be glued exactly where I wanted them. Those went smoothly.


Edited by GabeK
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August 2013

Assembled the display base.


For over 25 years this ship bounced around in a box. I moved 4 times, it was taken back and forth to the cottage and, throughout it all, it was sitting on an assembly stand that I had made out of a scrap piece of oak and the wooden 'sprue' left over from the sheet the bulkheads were cut from. Only a few months ago I switched to Micromark's foam stand and the oak was sitting with my stored wood.



(The "chunk" in action as an assembly stand)


Now, the unbelievable was happening...I was ready to install the hull on a display base! And, for the first time in over 25 years, it dawned on me that this kit didn't come with a base!


At this point I realized that I just had to use that chunk of oak that had been the companion of this model for all this time. I had taken up relief carving as a hobby and, inspired by a book in which a ship modeller carved the base to look like waves, I envisioned a rippling water surface under the ship. I didn't want rolling waves because the Swift didn't have sails, just little ripples as if it was at anchor. (So, now I'm thinking of having an anchor cable over the gunwales and strung through the base to simulate this.) I also toyed with the idea of embedding the keel into the wooden waves but decided against it. While still trying to decide how to attach the model to the base, I took out my gouges and carved waves and ripples into the oak. The waves don't look exactly how I wanted, but they will do. (Note: basswood is much easier to carve than red oak!) I cut the board to size on the table saw with a slight bevel. Sanded and varnished, the base looked ok.




After mulling for several weeks and checking out brass and wooden options I eventually settled on wooden craft barrels for the standoffs. After determining the placement of the stand offs I drilled holes through the oak and, using forstner bits, drilled counter sinks into the base so the barrels would sit just a fraction into the waves. How to actually fasten it all together was a problem. A dado in the top of the barrel would hopefully keep the keel in place. I was having a hard time finding screws that were slender and long enough to attach through the base and barrels into the keel so I decided to use a two-tiered connection. First, drill through the barrels and fasten them to the keel with 1" screws that were deeply set into a larger countersink. Second, large diameter t-nuts in the bottom of the barrels would let me use machine screws through the oak. The t-nuts would have to be inserted first, so I chose a size that would allow me to insert a screwdriver through it to fasten the screws.



Top, bottom and the bottom of a barrel with the t-nut installed



Bandsaw cuts and a utility knife helped make the dado for the keel.




Before the actual assembly of the base I installed the rudder. I predrilled holes in the hull using the gudgeons as templates and then affixed them with brass pins that I cut to about 3/16" in length. A drop of cyano was applied to each pin before pushing them in.


The idea of drilling in to the keel was making me sweat bullets. I needed to make sure the pilot holes I drilled were centred, straight and plumb, so I used the occasion to buy a drill press for my Dremel. I used reusable electrical tie wraps to level and secure the model to the foam base and set it under the Dremel, where I had marked the depth of the pilot hole on the bit. Thinking of that fast moving bit and how rapidly it can remove material, I got nervous about going off centre and drilling through the side of the keel. So, I actually turned the chuck by hand to drill these holes. Thank goodness this worked. I probably should have searched MSW a little more for advice on how to do this next time. I'd be happy to hear what you folks do.



The final assembly of the base actually went very smoothly. Screwed the barrels into the keel, then screwed the base to the barrels.




Edited by GabeK
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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Masts - part one

October 2013


The masts had been tapered years ago, but now a mistake in the instructions became evident. There is no mention of shaping in shoulders even though they appear in the plans. From the diagrams I had assumed that there was a bushing of some kind in the kit that would be installed. Not so.



Shoulders indicated on the plans...but not addressed in the directions.



The good thing was that I hadn't tapered the masts completely to their final diameter. I cut in to the masts with a hobby knife to mark the top of the shoulders and went at it with files and sanding pads. To complete the tapering I put the base of the masts into the chuck of my drill and used it like a lathe to sand them down..



Shoulders cut into the masts


The brass strips from the kit for the earrings and bands on the masts were very stiff and snapped when I began working on them. I therefore cut 5 mm strips off of brass shim stock using a straight edge and snap blade knife. My first attempt at the mainmast earrings looked good but when I dry fit the flag mast to to main I realized that the distance between them was much too big. The second attempt was much better. To keep solder from the outside of the brass I purposely left excess brass on the end. I tinned the inside surfaces first and then clamped the earrings with a hemostat and clothespin. It just took a little heat on the outer surface with the soldering iron to reflow the solder and make a tight joint. Trimmed the tail pieces to length, shaped the ends and drilled holes for the rings and the earrings were done. I followed this technique for the bands on the ends of the masts, bowsprit and boom.





The final earrings-with the mark I sitting in front


Fitted and installed brass bands on the ends of the jib boom and main boom. Here's another place where the instructions and the plans were at odds - and perhaps neither are historically accurate. The instructions called for two ring bolts placed on either side of the main boom through holes drilled in the brass. The plans show only one ringbolt on top of the boom and not through the brass but further out along the boom. The sheet appears to be wrapped around the boom just inside the brass. Again, I hit the books to find which one I should follow, eventually settled on the arrangement on the plans. I believe that, to be accurate, a sheave should be built right into the boom for the spanker sheet or a block on a pendant tied right onto the boom. I may just drill a hole to simulate a sheave. Can't decide just now...I want to get moving

Edited by GabeK
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I just hated the idea of installing the brass "crab jaws" that the kit provided so I began crafting wooden replacements. To get all the jaws for the spars to be at least close in size and shape I glued two pieces of solid mahogany with spray adhesive and traced a pattern on top. Before gluing them together like this, I drilled a hole in the centre of the piece and then sawed through the centre of the hole. I kept these two pieces together for all the rough cuts and shaping. I followed diagrams in Mastini and Lever for the pattern but, wouldn't you know it, the day after gluing the jaws in place on the boom I was checking out Longridge and The Anatomy of a Ship book, "The Cutter Alert" for details about the parrels and trucks and realized that I probably made a mistake on the shape and length of the jaws. Ah well, it's at least better than what AL had in my opinion.







I drilled holes for the thread that will hold the parrel trucks, which ended up being a bit premature because...


I still wasn't happy with the bulky look of the jaws on the spars so I brought out the file once again. After shaping the jaws a bit more I realized that I had just wrecked the location of a couple of the holes I had just drilled! Nuts! A bit more drilling fixed a couple of the holes but I ended up having to patch one hole and drill it again.


In my research on the jaws I read that they would usually be lined with leather to prevent damage from friction. Not exactly sure how this looked I did a quick search on the web and found several images. To simulate the leather I painted different shades of brown onto tracing paper. I chose tracing paper because it was very thin and would suit the scale of the ship better. After the glue dried on oversized strips of the painted paper I trimmed them back to size.




And speaking of trimming...I decided to sand the spars down a bit more. I brushed on some varethane and ran some thread through the holes in the jaws to make sure they weren't clogged. I tried out the beads I bought for the trucks.


Edited by GabeK
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  • 4 weeks later...

December 25-26, 2013


After the gift opening, family phone calls and a bite to eat, I headed to the work room with the goal of trying to finish the model by New Year's day - which would make it exactly 27 years since I started the Swift. The only thing in my way was my stubbornness to not put up with AL's interpretation of ship building, and my lack of skill.


After installing several ringbolts on the deck it was time to add cleats. I really could not bring myself to install the cleats from the kit as they were extremely thick. I decided to reduce the width down to 1.8 mm instead of the 2.5 mm using a sanding stick I made by gluing sandpaper to a long piece of hardwood. After thinning the cleats I drilled each one through the middle for a pin and gave them all a varnish.





Before installing the bowsprit I read ahead in the plans and, sure enough, a hole had to be drilled for the jib tack and it would be so much easier to do this now. In order to make the 3D bend shown in the plans I also replaced the brass strip that was to be the bracket on the bowsprit with thinner stock. I installed all the cleats on the decks and masts.




I now came to a big moment - time to step the masts. I realized that in order to get the angle of the saddles and the mast 'grommets' (I've forgotten the name for the ring at the base of the mast!) correct I needed to establish the angle. I had built a Modified Mastini Mast Machine for this purpose, but I still spent a lot of time messing about trying to get all the angles right and making sure that the saddles would end up parallel to the deck. I'd appreciate any advice on how to make this easier the next time. For instance, should I glue the grommet before or after stepping? I've seen both methods, and I chose to glue them before thinking that it would set the rake of the masts. I also had a problem to fix...namely, the oversized hole for the foremast.


I thought I had written about this earlier but, looking back, I see I never posted anything about THIS mistake. So, a bit of a flashback...


The deck was done, hull was done and it was time to drill the holes for the masts. After a bit of research, I made my Modified Mastini Mast Machine to set the angle for the drill. Using a titanium bit...I screwed up my courage and started up the drill. I watched in horror as it skipped over and the hole ended up noticeably off centre. I'm not too proud to tell you that the air became blue with curses. I realized that a pilot hole was the answer so, once I calmed down, I drilled a pilot hole for the main mast and moved up to the larger bit - worked great. However, I now had to mend the mistake. Round files were used to widen the hole over and I glued a piece of balsa to fill in the off-centre side of the hole. Next problem, to patch the deck. Over the years the once almost white limewood had aged on the model and the pieces in the box were much lighter. My solution, I used an x-acto knife to lift a piece from where the cabins would cover the deck, fitted it and glued it in place.



Release the Kraken?


Back to the present, the hole was still a bit large and there was play in the mast when I was dry-fitting it. I wanted to tighten up the hole, but I didn't want to mess around gluing more wood and push the alignment. And this is where living in a cold country makes you an expert on filling in small spaces. I had a roll of closed cell foam weather stripping sitting nearby. I sliced a small piece of it down the middle and glued it to the mast. This made for a nice, snug fit and I went ahead and glued the masts in place, main first, using Gorilla glue. The Modified Mastini Mast Machine was used to keep the mast in place while the glue set. I chose Gorilla glue because it expands while setting, hopefully filling in any gaps around the masts.




Edited by GabeK
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December 25-27

Sail Hoops


It was really bugging me (just like it did for Themadchemist on his Swift) to put brass rings for sail hoops. So I used a modified version Edwin Lief's method to make wooden ones - I soaked a piece of light-coloured veneer in water for a few hours, blotted it dry and coated one side with waterproof wood glue. I tightly wound it around a 3/8" foil-wrapped dowel and used masking tape to keep it firmly in place. I stopped wrapping after three complete winds of the wood. After one day I removed the tape. The glue was holding but the wood still felt a little damp so I let it dry for one more day.




The layer of aluminum foil allowed me to slide the wood to the end of the dowel, but I did not remove the veneer roll. I used my mini table saw with the rip fence set to 1/16" to cut disks off the end. I wanted to see if I could do this without the table saw so I used a hand-held razor saw and a miter box for a few cuts. I found that I could easily cut disks by hand as well. After a bit of shaping and sanding with a sanding pad I gently pushed the dowel portion out of the centre of these disks, separating it from the veneer hoop. For the most part the aluminum foil came off very easily with just a little help from an awl or tweezers. For a couple of the hoops I had to take a file to remove a little bit of foil that was left behind. Next time I try this method I'm going to spend more time tapering the leading and trailing edges to reduce the amount of sanding needed to make the inside and outside edges smooth and the hoops an even width all the way around.




I gave the hoops a coat of varnish and slid them on the masts.


As I was admiring my work my oldest son came into the room and I proudly pointed out the hoops. He asked, "So, are you going to stain them?"




I was so caught up in making the hoops that I really hadn't noticed that they were almost white! I was actually after a warmer shade that would resemble pine, not alabaster! Ah well, they were already varnished and I really didn't feel like making more. Sigh.





In this kit the scuttle butt was just a barrel to be glued to the deck - which I just couldn't believe. So, a bit more research and I found a few good photos of USS Constitution's scuttle butt AND BobF's post right here on MSW: http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/2900-barrels/?hl=%2Bscuttle+%2Bbutt#entry80571 I made a stand out of mahogany strips and decided to copy BobF's rig. To simulate the scuttle I just glued a small rectangle of veneer in place. I thought long and hard but I chose not to paint the barrel hoops - I thought that it might stand out too much and detract from the model.





Edited by GabeK
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You are doing good work. I like the way you are getting around the problems and getting good results. Nice work.



Thanks, Russ! I appreciate the feedback. I'm working on the rigging right now and feel like screaming. Getting feedback like this is helping me persevere!

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Do not fret. You have shown that you can work around the problems you encounter. That is one of the most important aspects of model building.


Is there anything particular in the rigging that is giving you fits?



Edited by russ
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