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USS Constitution by Alexi - Model Shipways - Tribute to the Conny

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I've wanted to build a wooden ship model since I was 6 years old and staring at my neighbor's model of the Golden Hind.  Last year I finally took the plunge and started this build.  The Constitution has always been the ship I wanted to build.  I may only have time to do one wooden ship model in my lifetime, so I figured I should just jump in and start this one, rather than building up to it.  


I picked the MS2040 kit because it was more common and larger than the Bluejacket one.  I plan on attempting several modifications - and hope to hear advice from all the more experienced modelers on this site.


As this kit build is very popular and there are many excellent examples on MSW, I'll primarily be posting things that deviate from the plans or Bob Hunt's practicum.


Hope you enjoy.





I live in Boston and visit the ship regularly.  This is my son Sam who enjoys the ship as well.


Pictures of the build to come soon.




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Hi Alexi.  There are several of us Conny builders on here, you're sure to be able to find any help you need.  I assume you have Bob Hunt's practicum.  Since this is your first ship model I think you made the right choice.  I too am a newbie to wooden ship modeling (but not to working with wood) and there's no way I could build that kit without it.  The kit instructions are NOT a practicum.  


Lucky you to live close to the real deal and be able to visit her. I'm jealous....


Please post pics, we love to look at pics   :piratetongueor4:


Good luck!

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So my first modification was to use a different wood than the basswood supplied in the kit on visible portions of the ship. This build is more of an artistic tribute to the Constitution rather than a historically accurate re-creation.  I plan on playing with the color scheme a bit.  I decided to go with Pau Marfim for most of the exterior as I liked the color and slight variations. I was especially inspired with the color Gary (garyshipwright) got out of the pau on his build of Alfred.

The MS kit keel, stem and sternpost are formed from two 1/8 inch thick basswood pieces sandwhiched together. I cut and shaped 1/4 inch thick pieces from Pau instead. I'm using dark brown Titebond glue to accentuate the joints.


post-2041-0-21987500-1383789933_thumb.jpg  This photo shows the pau sternpost being shaped in the vise, using the basswood from the kit as a guide.


post-2041-0-58598100-1383789945_thumb.jpg All the alternate pieces.





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Looks good Alexi! I assume you're not finishing her in the usual Black Hull/White Stripe/Copper bottom?


I toyed with the idea of finishing my MS Connie in boxwood and ebony, but I didn't think of it till after I finished planking her with the basswood. Oh well, I have a few others I can do that way.


Like several others on the forum, I'm also building my Connie to Bob's practicum. I found it to be a big help.


Have fun!



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Thanks, Harvey.  I plan on doing the majority of the planking in pau marfim, with some black accents (either ebony or dyed swiss pear) for wales, cap rails, etc - similar to the color scheme on Chuck's Confederacy.  I hope to create the white gunstripe in holly if the contrast with the pau is enough.  I plan on doing some tests soon to see if I like it.  


I won't do the copper bottom - as I like the look of the wood better. 





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  • 2 weeks later...

Bow and Stern framework.
This will take me up to the current level of progress.  There are no special adaptations to this part - just following the practicum and the plans.




Bow framework.  Cutting the mortises and getting the fit right was a bit of a pain - but my skills are growing through the process.




Stern framework with the additional filler pieces added and shaped.




View from stern.  You can just make out the curve of the deck that I took some time to ensure carried over onto the stern framework.  The photo makes it look like the starboard-most stern transom is canted inwards more than the other, but it is much better than it appears in the photo.  I spent a long time measuring and agonizing over these difficult angles to ensure symmetry.



In the next update I will start discussing my thoughts on building a gundeck.  I admit that there are a few challenges.  Has anyone built a gundeck for this kit?   


I would love to learn from anyone who has experience tackling this challenge.

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Looking good Alexi. The only problem with the Conny is that it is such a big undertaking. There a lot of things I would have done differently. It is great to see you thoughts and ideas. Maybe next time I will incorporate some of the new ways to build her. Until then I can watch as you build continues. Sorry no experience on the gun deck.

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I have been working on and off on my Conny for over 5 years. I finally retired in May and now put more time into her. Over those five plus years my modeling skills have improved some and I wish I could go back and redo some things. If I were to do it again I would leave out the copper nail heads on the plates. Too big for real scale. I would have just done the copper plates the same way without the nail heads. The one thing I did do was to copper both the hull and the rudder at the same time. That way they  the color aged the same. On the ships boats, I put too much stuff in the boats. Maybe next time just a few of the boat ores. The ship boats just have too much stuff and you don't see any of it. I might not have darken the deck the way the practicum said. But when you look at the real pictures the color is quite close.  


With a scale of 1/76 the details are hard to add and be in scale. That's why in the future I will probably go with 1/48 or larger. I am doing the rigging right now and really enjoying the Byrnes Ropewalk. I feel as though the rigging will be more in scale, check out the kit instructions on that one. I did rig the anchor and the guns with some of the kit supplied rope. That was before I got the Ropewalk.


The best thing about modeling is the end result is totally yours. Do it your way and have fun. But be careful, you will get hooked on details :)


PS Think about doing the copper plate. The ship is so large you will have plenty of wood to show off your skills. I just think the Conny looks great with the copper plates.

Edited by Geoff Matson
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Alexi, you're doing a great job!  I think you're transom framing came out much better than mine, I too had sweated and fretted those details and I still made errors.  


If you intend to plank the entire gundeck, then I assume you'll be cutting out the bulkhead "cross beams" above the gundeck.. On thing to keep in mind, the way Bob H's practicum works is all the hull and bullwark planking register off the waterway, which sits on the bulkhead cross beams.  I would leave enough of the cross beam in place for the waterway to sit on.  If you don't, you'll have no reference point.  And then you'll have to add cross beams back for the spar deck.  You could make splice plates and glue the original cross beams back in their original position, all except the main hatch where they will need to be moved and placed in the proper positions.  Well, there's my 25 cents on that!!


Good luck on your gundeck!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Update: planning for gundeck.


I can't stand the idea of spending so much time and effort on this model only to put in the "dummy" guns with their blind boxes as supplied in the kit.  No judgement on any other builders who went that route, just for me - the whole appeal of the Constitution is in her fighting history and significance for our nation's history.  Her design was unique in her era in that she was faster than most ships larger than her, and much stronger and well armed than ships her size or smaller.  Her array of 24 pounders is one of the most important details of her design and therefore my neurosis won't let me follow the kit for her guns...


In order to build out her gundeck, I have had to take into consideration some structural changes and additions.  The spar deck beams and center supports from the kit supplied bulkheads must be removed in order to have adequate access to the gundeck.  Also, the model is constructed such that the top of the bulkheads at the level of the gundeck actually corresponds to the top of the gundeck planks on the real ship (see sheet 2 of the plans).  




Also, Bob Hunt's practicum uses the spar deck waterway as the point of reference for all the hull planking.  This waterway sits on top of the spar deck beams, which must be removed.  Therefore, a lot of careful planning is needed in order to not destroy any dependencies.  


I started the process by adding basswood blocks between the bulkheads at the level of the gundeck to strengthen the hull, as the bulkheads will become much weaker and prone to warping or breaking after the spar deck beams are removed.  This process also gave me the opportunity to correct small errors in alignment in the bulkheads.  These elements are structural only and I didn't care if they are perfectly symmetric or aligned.  




My 5 year old son, Sam made one of the pieces and put his name on it.




I purchased a set of plans from the USS Constitution museum which contain numerous sheets from various times in the history of the ship.  I believe most of the plans are from the 1920 restoration, but I could be wrong.  In any case, they show a different configuration to the spar deck beams than the MS 2040 kit, and also show that there was a series of hatches through all the decks that were positioned directly above and below each other to allow cargo and supplies to be winched from the hold all the way to the spar deck if necessary.  I plan on leaving the main hatch on the spar deck open so a portion of the gundeck can be easily seen.  I thought it would also add depth to the model to leave this 'cargo' hatch on the gundeck open, so a small portion of the berth deck could be seen.  I plan on leaving the berth deck hatch closed (although going down to the orlop deck was a temptation).  


In order to do this some minor surgery was required.  The following photos show in sequence removing the spar deck beam  and center support of bulkhead J (taking care to leave enough at the bulkheads to allow correct placement of the spar deck waterway), removing a portion of the center keel down to the level of the berth deck beams, and finally removing a good portion of bulkhead J.




I have cut a piece of cardstock that simulates an open main hatch.  In some of the photos you can see how I try to envision the final appearance of the model using this 'guide'.  Here you can see the added depth that will be seen down to the berth deck.




Then I added larger stengthening blocks at the level of the berth deck which will eventually hold the planks and closed berth deck hatch.  



This photo shows the support blocks being placed with a slight slant to keep the curvature of the berth deck.



Fairing and sanding is still required, but I hope this will form a solid structure to base the finished deck planks on.  Next is more structural work to support the bulkheads prior to removing the spar deck beams and center supports...


Merry Christmas, everyone!





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