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Pilar by jspector - Constructo - Scale 1:27, 1934 pleasure yacht as specified and commissioned by Ernest Hemingway

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In 1988, at the age of 35, I bought the cross-section model kit of the Constitution from Mamoli, (which is still available). During a long illness at that time, I built the bulkhead, easily planked the 70mm length surface and carved the multi-deck furniture.  I put it away at that stage, having returned to health and work.  Admittedly, I was also intimidated by the rigging and mast/spar construction ahead.

 

Over the years, I made sure to preserve the model, though not very delicately. I must have used good glue as I lost no parts or furniture.  Now I'm 61 and returned to this Constitution about 8 months ago.  I thoroughly enjoyed finishing up all the fittings and furniture.  I then tackled the rigging.  Other than some basic work, I left it without finishing the mast, spars, shrouds or sails.  I am pleased and proud of it anyway as this was my first build.

 

My second build was just finished - the Gretel by Mamoli.  It is an 18th Dutch pleasure yacht, which was the early era of such vessels.  The whole construction took me about 8 weeks.  I now realize how rushed that time frame was.  The planking was difficult but I pushed ahead without reading up on this skill.  The finished product was flawed, with gaps and razor thin splines.  But the decking, mast, spars, gaffs and wood fittings went very well.  And this time I completed the rigging!

 

Mamoli makes challenging models in  my opinion, with skimpy supplies and inaccurate plans. I had to make a lot of emergency alterations because of some misleading illustrations and quality issues. I do have to say the wood was top quality (except one warped delaminated plywood deck).

 

Now, on to my third build, which I share here.  I'll need support and advice on this project!  Pilar made by Constructo.

 

I ordered the Pilar because it will require a lot of planking.  I didn't do even a good job on the Gretel, so I now have an eighteen inch long model to be completely planked, top to bottom.  Great practice!  The romance of the Pilar being Ernest Hemingway's yacht also makes it even more interesting to build.  The original boat still resides in a Hemingway museum in Cuba.

 

I received the kit via UPS from Florida to Boston today in great condition.  I opened the box and saw that all the plastic bags of parts had shifted out of their compartments. The attached pictures depict the contents that I had to reorganized by part number / step. Mamoli had a hard, transparent lid that sealed each compartment, so that parts were less likely to get lost.

 

The first problem I am encountering was evident when I removed the timber. Other than the thicker lime for the first planking, the wood is a mystery.  There is one bundle of a single species, which is encouraging if I can figure out what species it is and where it will go.  The other two bundles contain a variety of unmarked wood in different shapes, thicknesses and species.  These woods are exotic, not the standard walnut or mahogany.  Very confusing and irritating.

 

Signing off for now from this first post. Thanks for reading. I promise to be less wordy in the future as the build progresses. First thing is for me to read the instruction booklet and plans, then read it again, and then it read for the third time. No rushing!

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Edited by jspector

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Lots of natural wood planking and no rigging. Sounds like a winner to me. This one or a Dumas Chris Craft is on my long list. I will follow closely.

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So, my last post was left off with me taking out the wood.  After a number of very supportive Personal Messages with general suggestions and information on wood sources, I closely examined the wood this morning.  I separated the wood into series-specific bundles and counted everything.  I am very concerned.  While the trim and strake wood was seemingly of good quality, the second-planking and decking wood is of poor milling, with rough edges and surfaces.  My decision: replace all the strips.  The challenge is that, in researching the Pilar on Google, the description of the boat was all mahogany, whereas Constructo chose Manzonia (which is another redwood) for the hull and Sappelli for the decks.  Do I go with Mahogany for the second-planking, which means I also have to replace the trim to match?  Same question with the deck.  Sappelli is also similar to Mahogany, but a different shade than the Manzonia.  I'd like to keep the contrast of hull to deck, but for the woods not to clash.  The Gretel had a Mahogany/Walnut contrast, which I didn't find the best match.
 
Does anyone know where I can get wood samples?
 
I ordered the boat modeler's vise from MicroMark this morning, as well as their wire-forming pliers.  I noticed that the instructions for the Pilar calsl for the fabrication of straight brass railing, while Constructo just provides a wound-up brass wire.  This is disappointing. So, I went to a local art store to buy straight brass rods to give me a better chance to replicate the original railing design.  I'll need to get some brass stripping and u-channel as well.  What fun!
 
I haven't started reading about planking yet, but the Underhill and Mastini books are encouraging.  I'm one of picture learning, so the complicated text may not be the best help for me.

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Hi John,

try your local Woodcraft store, there is one in the Boston area at 313 Montvale Ave Woburn, MA.  They sell full size lumber but also have a nice selection of modeling size wood in several species of hardwood. 

 

For brass rod I don't think you can beat the selection offered by Sprue Brothers.  http://www.spruebrothers.com/

they also ship your order amazingly fast.

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http://tinyurl.com/ncdzfm5

 

The above link to the Pilar's FaceBook page deepens my quandry as to (a) the woods I should use on the model and  whether I should change the color scheme to the pictures of the boat in Havana.  Obviously, if I do paint it, then all the work I will be doing on the planking won't be seen.  Now, I've certainly built some custom things for models that only I will ever know because they are hidden within the kits I've made.  But all that planking just to paint it?  Not so sure.

 

In the meantime, I'm working on getting the proper quality woods.  One of our fellow MSW 2.0 members has offered to mill strips for me...a real gesture of kindness.  He'll give me recommendations of woods that best match the pictures of the original and/or the kit instructions.

 

What I have been doing in the meantime is order some more tools and supplies, such as wire bending pliers for the brass trim.  I am trying to reconcile the instructions showing side portholes and the original boat having windows.  As windows would only show an empty interior of air and bulkheads, I decided to compromise and order portholes that have glass inserts that look good, but I'll block behind with translucent film..  They are slightly larger (3mm x 5mm rather than 2mm x 4mm) and should finish off the sides nicely.  I found on-line brass tubing of 2mm for the railing, and a small pipe bender tool to fabricate the top deck rails..

 

I have been fascinated by the various methods of clamping planks for the second planking.  For the first planking, I guess I'll use brass or black nails, snipped off after the glue dries (or should I pull them to make sanding easier?).  For the second, I thought I'd use small model railroad track spikes, as one member suggests.  So I bought a package of spikes from MicroMark.  What I didn't do is look closely at the size of what I ordered:  micro-spikes at about 2mm in length!  So much for that!  They'll be returned and I'll place a new order today for the right length.  Along with the clamps I have now, I should be all set to begin the keel and bulkheads after another read of the instructions.

 

Here's an image of my work station in our small back bedroom.

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Edited by jspector

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Today I began the kit by cutting out the keel and 9 bulkhead pieces.  The good news is that the cutting was easy.  Though not laser cut, the stamped cuts were clean and even.  The bad news:  the keel is warped and the bulkheads are very loose in their slots.  Not thrilled with the quality of the wood.  Soft, almost like balsa, three-ply.

 

This will make for an interesting process of setting the bulkheads to the keel!  The deck situation is at various heights, so using a cardboard false deck doesn't seem to be the solution in setting everything at right angles.  I'll await my basswood blocks for the bow supports, and use that as a basis for setting a true line for the first bulkhead. 

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This morning, I placed the keel in a vise and rechecked the line.  It is very, very warped and I am worried.  It will need to be corrected first...the frames are not going to straighten anything. The idea I now have is:

 

1. Cut to size and glue as horizontal supports a number of popsicle sticks between each frame.

2. Prepare the decks as per the instruction steps and hand fit into the frames. No glue yet.

3. Square everything up

4. Pin frames to keel temporarily but not the decks

5. Sand carefully and hand fit again

6. Install basswood blocks as right-angle bolsters on either side of most of the frames.

 

BUT....before I try this, I am thinking about whether I can correct the warp by soaking and bending the keel, pinning it to dry with a weight on it. Or, carefully use the electric plank bender to dry it straight.  I am testing a piece of the sheet three-ply wood to see whether the soaked piece will delaminate. We'll see later today

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The 4" test piece was soaked in warm water for about 3 hours. I then used the electric plank bender and the curving block.  In applying light pressure and heat, I was able to nicely achieve an arc to the wood.  Unfortunately, the inside surface of the soft wood laminate had buckled slightly.  When I lightly bent it back to a straight line, the middle ply cracked.  So, the straightening of all the large pieces (decks, keel, etc.) is going to be a delicate process.

 

A good soul has offered to recreate the keel in a stronger wood for me.  For now though, we'll try to straighten the original keel as planned. I soaked the whole keel for about 5 minutes in very hot water and placed in between two slightly warped walnut boards.  Their warp was great because I could use it as a "mold" to bend the warped keel in the opposite direction. (see photo).  The keel is being dried now.  Behind the assembly, you can see the new keel vise that I'll use for the assembly.   

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I removed the wood boards from the vise and clamps. When separating the boards, the keel came out in two pieces, having broken near the stern.  Luckily, again on great advice, I made a Xerox of the keel last night and now have the blueprint and the two parts of the keel to now figure out to fabricate a replacement.  I'm also concerned that the bulkheads will also meet the same fate when planking. There is so much to learn. So much for beginning the kit this week! 

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Update:

 

I've sent to my new MSW mentor a box containing the broken keel, bulkhead frames, plans, instruction book and xerox images of all the defective pieces. When the pieces are fabricated and the new planking milled, all the woods will be of a higher quality and more accurate.  To help in deciding what deviations from the kit to make in my version, I was sent the following article on the Pilar (thanks Tarbrush!):

 

http://www.woodenboatrepair.com/articles/woodenboat0713.pdf

Edited by jspector

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Until the frames and keel are completed, along with milling of the finish planking and some other parts, much of the last week was in preparation. My friend and mentor is making an incredible effort to help me out by doing all of this milling (sorry for the broken blade!).

 

- I purchased an Iwata dual-action airbrush and all of the accessories.  Because of the size of the Pilar model, I decided to use the propellant cans for now rather than the investment in a good-quality compressor.

 

-I found on-line a great color that seems to match the original in Havana.  Also the red and black.  The black is for the possibility that the hull planking does not go well.

 

- I know I need to bolster the hull with wood blocks.  I got some balsa wood as a shortcut because it is easy to sand.  Then I tested the adhesion to the test planks.  I was not too impressed as the top layer of balsa separated from the block.  So I bought basswood blocks instead.

 

-I worked on the components of the flying deck railing.  I decided on a 2mm brass tube rather than 3mm because of the 1:27 scale.  2mm x 27 = 54mm = 2".  The support rods and wheel shaft will be 1.5mm.

 

-Cornwall Models and Cast Your Anchor have had some interesting parts that I can substitute or add, such as the glazed airports, a brass horn, and base flanges for the railing.

 

More later....

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I wanted to add a number of images from the kit, and a few comments

 

- First, the supplies brass "railing" from Constructo. Note how they expect one to perfectly straighten the curled wire.  Kudos to those who can!  I bought tubing and rod from K&S, 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm.

 

 

- Some images of the smaller parts: photo-etched and laser cut, instead of the stamped parts for the keel, bulkheads and majority of wood components.

 

 

-  First coat of a brass and acrylic paint for running lights, etc. from the Britannia grey metal.  I'll straighten the lines on the next coat.

 

 

- This striping will be fun!

 

Supplies for soldering and airbrushing arrive today, so I'll be practicing these next days.

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Edited by jspector

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I learned another thing yesterday while working on the railings with 1.5mm brass tubing............a soldering iron does not work.  I was melting the solder into the joint, rather than heating up the brass.  The result was the solder either slide off or piled on.  Even if the joint did stick, it immediately broke upon sanding it. 

 

As I couldn't get the railing red hot with my iron, I'll now attempt a butane torch.  This is really jewelry making at this point, but - heck - its another interesting challenge!

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I'm interested in constructing a larger Pilar, working perhaps from Constructo's basic design.

 

Question: How does Constructo represent Pilar's stern post or skeg? A standard vertical design, or one of these extended skegs, as seen in the linked image? (These were apparently all the rage in that time period).

 

Extended skeg:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=6303763

 

 

 

EDIT: Nevermind! I see it in this photo of the real Pilar-- it should be the extended skeg (regardless of what's in the Constructo kit):

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/77/Pilar_%28Ernest_Hemingway%27s_boat%29_Cuba.jpg/800px-Pilar_%28Ernest_Hemingway%27s_boat%29_Cuba.jpg

Edited by Pat Matthews

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The 4" test piece was soaked in warm water for about 3 hours. I then used the electric plank bender and the curving block. In applying light pressure and heat, I was able to nicely achieve an arc to the wood. Unfortunately, the inside surface of the soft wood laminate had buckled slightly. When I lightly bent it back to a straight line, the middle ply cracked. So, the straightening of all the large pieces (decks, keel, etc.) is going to be a delicate process.

 

A good soul has offered to recreate the keel in a stronger wood for me. For now though, we'll try to straighten the original keel as planned. I soaked the whole keel for about 5 minutes in very hot water and placed in between two slightly warped walnut boards. Their warp was great because I could use it as a "mold" to bend the warped keel in the opposite direction. (see photo). The keel is being dried now. Behind the assembly, you can see the new keel vise that I'll use for the assembly.

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