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USS Constitution by M. Pajulahti - Model Shipways - Scale 1:76

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This is my first build log. I started this hobby about three years ago and here are my previous builds:

Revell - Dom Fernando II e Gloria




Artesania Latina - Mare Nostrum




Corel - Flattie






Now it felt i'm ready for something bigger, so I bought the USS Constitution. Why? Basicly it just felt like a good choice, and I like the ships of that period. Also, I wanted the best quality kit for that, so my choice was Model Shipways. It's funny, because I'm from Finland (if you don't know, it's in North Europe) and everyone around here are building just european or asian model kits. In finnish modelbuildingsite they don't even mention MS in a list of manufacturers, so I guess i'm really the only one around here who is building this. :D

So this will be my third wooden build, but the first wooden sailing ship and first in this size. For now, it feels pretty big challenge, and I know it will very long build, but I'll always enjoyed building and thought that it's more fun if there are a lot of pieces.
The kit looks excellent and i'm very happy to get started. :)

Here are the first photos, just setting the keel pieces...


Edited by M. Pajulahti
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So... the first problem. I found an error from the plans. Maybe someone else has found the same thing...

I've been checking the bulkheads and drawing reference lines, until I found out something's badly wrong with the symmetry.


Everything seems ok there:




Same part from the other side:




Not good at all. The slot for the false keel is not straight. And you can see the result here:




Midpoint isn't where it should be. For now, i've found the same problem is with bulkheads C,D and E. And i'm yet not sure how to calculate the right place since the plans won't help, and where those changes will lead in the upper side of bulkheads. Seems the deck levels will go awry?  Any ideas?



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As far as plan errors go, My Constitution had a few. It's a Constructo kit. I looked at other kits and actual photos of the Constitution,  as well as asking MSW members what to do. I took their advise which was to use my own head to figure out what to do. I just used common sense, but it is frustrating. I have probably deviated a dozen times from the their plans.

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After few days i've figured out some things. At first, I measured the width from different points, but I did it overall, from side to side. And the results were wrong, because these parts are not symmetrical.




Next I found out THESE lines are perpendicular to the deck lines in ALL of the bulkheads, so they must be correct, and I measured the middle points from there.




I was glad to found out the rest of the bulkheads were OK, and the biggest problem was just with bulkhead D. I filed it to be straight and now the middle point is where it should be.




Filed out from keel slot to turn the bulkhead in it's right angle. The difference was 1 degree, and I wasn't sure if the deck will go awry when i turn the slot's angle. I think everything will go pretty OK, since now I've drawed all the reference lines, checked all the bulkheads and found the right middle points. Well, I still have this result, but it won't be a problem. I had the same troubles with my Corel kit. ;)




Next I'm gonna draw the rabbet lines. Not sure should I file the bulkhead bevels before or after the assembly, since there seems to be some differences in bulkhead symmetries and hull lines, which I will see perfectly only after gluing. Need to think about that.



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I have checked now all of the bulkheads using paper templates, which I learned from Frank Mastini's Shipmodel Simplified -book. Good news are, bulkheads symmetries were OK in all of them! No need to fix anything.




Just a little notable thing next. The shape of keel part 2 is almost the same upside down. The only difference is 0,5mm higher other end. Small, but important thing, because if this part goes backwards, there will be small space between keel and false keel.




Now i've cutted the rabbet. I used paper template for the stern part, so both sides would be symmetrical.




And then I have finally glued the first keel parts together after million checks that it goes right. I noticed the reference line in plan sheet 1 isn't 100% straight during all the parts, so I have glued the parts like they are in plan sheet 2. There is the final result, how they should be after glueing. :)





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I have a pleasure to report that I've glued the false keel and it's very straight and looking good! I compared it to the drawing of plan sheet 2.




Then i've been fairing the bulkheads. And found out, there still was small errors with bulkheads J, K and L. Glad I checked them many times to find out that. I hope I can get the hull lines to set properly with those bulkheads I've filed and turned to fit better with their symmetry.




Today I've been glueing the keel pieces. Everything good and no problems.






Because I cutted the rabbet before keel assembly, needed to add little scrap wood piece to hold the stern in right place. Now the middle point sets correctly with the keel.





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Thank you CaptainSteve and Rich. :)

Yes, I know these first steps are the very important ones, and if there would be some mistakes, they would follow me forever. I'm gonna use many years with this build, and not going to do it with mistakes, that I would always know they are there.


I was pretty surprised to found so many errors in lasercut parts and plans. Even they are all just 1-2mm or 1° errors, I was excepting higher quality from MS. Maybe this is just so popular kit and they have done so many copies from it, that there's born some manufacturing errors during the processes. Well, at least in instruction book there is a mention of it: "manufacturing errors can occur". That's why It's important to check and re-check everything. :)



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I tapered the stem and sternpost, and finally started glueing the bulkheads!


Here's the first one. One small step for mankind, one giant leap for ship builder. :)


Three already...




And four...






Those damn bulkheads has a predilection to go awry after glueing. Permanent struts are great idea to keep everything straight.




Now I have already six bulkheads glued. They're pretty much straight and OK from deck and underside. Instead of that extensions for bulwarks are not in line, but need to see later what can I do with them. Also bulkhead G has 1mm extra in right side, which needs to be removed. I'm focusing to keep the deck lines and lower hull lines in balance, and everything else comes after that.


I also spent some money today. Ordered some Dremel tools. I will show them when they arrive. :)



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All the bulkheads are glued now. They are not perfect, but after corrections, fileing and sanding I believe it's going to be very good. At least the hull is straight and there are no bigger problems. :)







Also my new tools arrived today. They are my first power tools. Here they are:




Hope they will be very helpful during my build. :)



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Dremel tools - gotta love it! :D

It was fun and easy to saw some wood pieces, which I added between bulkheads to make the hull stronger, because my forthcoming sanding and correction process.



Also added wood glue to bulkheads, yes, just at this point. Earlier, I used just few drops of yellow special glue to hold the bulkheads in place. Then I added the permanent struts and more wood strips to support the whole hull shape. Now it's possible to add as much glue as I want when can be sure the glue won't twist the hull shape when it dries.

Then I have checked the shapes and started correcting the bow. Dremel is very good tool in this.




Here we can see the difference. Bow line before, very bumpy:



And after:





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  • 2 months later...

I've been busy with work, so not much time to continue my build. However, there's some small progress i've made.


Deck line corrections first. I added more wood or filed some away, so the lines go smooth now.


Oh, and those are not the waterways yet, I'm just testing the lines and correcting the bulkhead extensions.




Hull line corrections... what a job. These took a lot of time to make sure it's correct. As a reminder, some bulkheads were 1mm too wide from the other side, and some were not symmetrical from the middle, so needed to add more stuff and remove from other side.






I've also added the mast supports.





Then i started to make the filler blocks. I'm glad these are the biggest blocks to saw, because this was hard job enough for my Dremel Saw. But it came out ok.



Not in final shape yet, and not glued.






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  • 1 month later...

A little progress and a problem.

First, i've finished the bow filler blocks.


And the stern filler blocks are almost in final shape too.


I also made the first gun ports. They are good.


Then, i'm starting to build the bow framing and here's the first parts:


And there we have a problem, because this is where they will be:


But what is the right level for them? In plans we have them here, almost in top, at spar deck level where i believe they are ment to be:


But in the other hand... in instruction book the level is this:


I think the spar deck level is correct, but then we gonna have a problem with bowsprit later, because those pieces in bow framing are too high and bowsprit don't fit. Are those parts ment to file away where bowsprit will go thru them? Or should i add them where the instrucion book picture shows them to be?


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And the solution for that problem is...

This is the wrong shape in the plans and the right shape how that part should be:


Because like that the bowsprit has space enough. This is also the best time to test fit the bowsprit in this area. And of course I haven't done the bowsprit yet, so i just used the dowel.



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Nice job Markku. I also had problems with those plans at the bow which I modified as I went along. I still have to drill through the bow bulwark planking for the bow sprit, but I test fit before planking to make sure there was room for it, as you did here. I will enjoy following along with your build.

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The bow framing is finished now.


I've been making the stern filler blocks and found out the stern frames are too high. I've checked the hights of my filler blocks and also the deck level from bulkhead R is correct. So.. could anybody tell me, are these stern frames ment to cut from there?



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Markku, from that last picture it looks to me like your transom filler block may be rounded a little bit on top, so I would first make sure it was sanded flat. Then you could remove any excess at the top of the stern frames.I had to take some off the top of these so the deck didn't pitch up too high at the transom.

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Thank you from your tips. Yes, i've already filed the filler block top more flat and it's as low as it can be if comparing to plans. Also i've noticed the frame 3 is way too large so it can be filed to fit in place. Following the same logic, I think i can cut off the extra 1mm from the stern frames, as you did.


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Almost losed my mind yesturday thinking what's wrong with my transom and how could the plans show some things so different and even impossible, but finally got this solved.

The answer might be here. The plans show how top of the counter block goes downward from the middle to the sides, and that causes the backside going curved as you can see there:


But is that counter block ment to go like that after all? Maybe it should be just straight? Because with curved backside transom frame 3 goes way too over and that was what disrupted me, because i tryed to get that frame to fit like the plans show. But cutting frame 3 shorter makes the extension of it (what goes to main rail) going so strangely, that it couldn't be the right way.

Also, with where the extension needs to be, it was impossible to get the other side of the frame to right position so the edge would be in the same level with bulkhead R edge, right there (the arrow):


So after that all, I've changed the angle and finished glueing all the 6 transom frames! I was very happy to get them done.

Needed to use some wood strips to help me get the places right. It felt like i'm building an aeroplane :D



Edited by M. Pajulahti
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  • 3 months later...

It's been a while since my last post. I've been busy with my work, but finally i'll have more time to continue my build.

So i've done the stern framing:


And now i'm starting to make the spar deck gunport framing. I've been thinking how to get all the gunports to the right level, and after few attempts i've decided to use the deck level as the main start. Because everything there starts from the deck. I made a little "waterway+planksheer-simulation" which is very easy way to mark the spar deck's lower gunport frame places. Just draw a line there (red mark):



After this i've added 2 planks to just for a test that both sides are in the same width and it seems to be in balance.




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  • 2 weeks later...

So i've added the spar decks gun port lower support strips. Hoping they support the bulwark extensions a bit, because I often accidentally hit my hands in them  :huh:




And I also ordered more wood to play with.




First i wasn't gonna make any gun deck, but because I want to make the ladders to there, it means there will be some of the gun deck floor visible (I think), so what we need then to do. At least some parts of the gun deck floor. I started that glueing supports under the spar deck, so when i'll cut the bulkhead middle supports off, there will be enough endurance to hold the spar deck construction later.





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