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jlheureux

San Francisco II by jlheureux - Artesania Latina - 1:90 - first ship build

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New to building wooden ships and jumped right in. Really happy with my work and want to continue learning and helping others. I plan on posting through my build log to get some feedback from others. This forum was so helpful to me in getting started I'd like to help out if anyone has a question.

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So first I'll start with these as a quick unboxing. Most posters show a little of this but I have found that not a lot goes into the contents. The bundle of sticks was intimidating as a first timer. How would this possibly turn into a model ship? The nice plastic boxes of bits - hang onto them. They're handy for organizing your game pieces if you're into that like I am. Most of the components were pretty good I thought. You could definitely tell they were not the TOP of quality, but not to bad. 

 

I have the 2012 kit so it came with laser cut wooden cannon carriages which was a big relief because the worst part of the bits was the cheap metal cannon carriages. 

 

I also quickly observed that the line supplied is not the best quality. As I found out later it's really fine for ratlines and stays and the like, but for running lines going through the blocks it was just not going to happen. I investigated alternative line. (More on that later.) I also used my pin-vice to drill out the holes on the blocks and double blocks and dead eyes. Being VERY careful because I learned very quickly you can't drill them out much more than they are already drilled because they would snap in half very easily. 

 

Let's organize our parts, do a quick inventory, review the instructions and get started!

 

Note about the instructions: There are a LOT of rants on here about how the Artesania Latina instructions are horrible. They're not great. There is a definite learning curve. The wood and lines are hard to distinguish from one another. But I found that taking it slow, reading and re-reading, measuring everything (including line thickness), looking at the box cover, the instructions (Front to back) the full scale photos and the blueprint I was able to figure out 75% of this on my own without to much trouble. Thanks to folks on here like Robyn and Desertwolf whose logs I trolled because this site filled in the blanks and was a lifesaver! Then again I'm one of the few people in the world who enjoyed the challenge of having to guess, research and figure out how things worked. 

 




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So first I had to cut out the laser cut bulkheads and keel. I found I had to cut carefully cause the wood is ply and it was prone to split if I wasn't careful. I got it cut out without to much trouble and put the bulkheads onto the keel. I needed to shimmy them a little to get them to fit, sand them to make sure they were seated properly, and square them up carefully before gluing them. My rabbit was very helpful at organizing the parts.

 




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Then it was onto the deck plating.

 

I got the pieces sanded up and prepped real nice and it was an easy process to use the thin planks to get it planked. I've seen several ways to go about this. Some folks did the planking in long strips but I saw a few people who cut strips into lengths to simulate timbers which is what I did. I cut them all to standard lengths and used a staggering pattern to make them look organized but even. If I went back and did it again there might be an easier way to go about it, but I was happy with the result.

 

I didn't like the finish however. I then read somewhere about pencil lining the strips and using a sharp pencil to simulate peg holes. I read that this was a fun look on a model but that on a real ship the peg holes would have been covered. I pencil lined it. I wasn't happy with the result as it bled a little and wasn't quite even but I found a trick: I took a wet cloth and wiped down the deck pieces after I pencil lined them. The wet cloth took up enough of the pencil and just left the shadows and I was happy with it then. So i went ahead and glued the deck to the bulkheads.

 

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This was my introduction to the mahogany strips. The thick ones for the hull were very difficult to work with, more on that later.

 

The super thin ones used to face the ship were HELL. This type of wood is very brittle and sensitive and breaks so easily. I had a couple spots that created problems on this step as a result. However, I also learned a valuable lesson on the forum here: Anything wood can be fixed. It was easier than I thought it would be to patch up most of my mistakes and i anything I think it adds to the overall impression as the ships carpenter on my little vessel is clearly kept pretty busy.

 



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I would ABSOLUTELY suggest test fitting some planks before you just start going to town. I read on the forum the importance of sanding the bulkheads as you go to get a nice even fit and the one or two places where I didn't do as well on this came back to haunt me later. It all worked out, but take it slow right?
 
I also found that filling out the bow and stern with balsa is very helpful. I didn't have the best balsa, and i didn't have a dremel for these steps. On my next ship I plan on doing a better job as it absolutely makes a difference. I know I coulda done better at this step but I was in a rush to get it going.
 
They don't really give a lot of good advice in the directions on the next few steps. I got some great guidance here on the forum about plank bending and hull planking which made a huge difference. Like I said this mahogony is HELL. I read about some folks not having enough wood in their kit after breaking some planks but i ended up having some extra so I got lucky. This stuff is SUPER fragile. I found steaming it in a pot of boiling water would loosen it up pretty good but it was still breaking when I took it out of the water to bend it. I've read of a lot of ways to go about it from plank irons, to flat irons, to elaborate dices but I had my own way.
 
I would pre-bend it while it was still in the pot and under the water. By pushing the end along the curve of the pot I could get it bent to almost 90 degrees as long as it stayed hot and saturated. I quickly took it out of the water and stuck it onto my super high tech bendy device and let it dry. I got a great system together where I could bend a half a dozen at a time and by the time I was done with the next set the first set was dry and ready to come off the rack. To it's credit: this wood takes water quickly, dries quickly, takes glue quickly and sands very forgivingly.
 
Also attached bulwarks, also laser cut.
 

 

Edited by jlheureux

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This next step was my favorite as far as the instructions go.

 

Quote: "Go ahead and plank the hull." is exactly what the instructions says. Like it's no big deal and just like that. "Go ahead and plank the hull." 

 

Carefully. Don't break the planks. Really check to make sure they line up and hit all the bulkheads. There's a lot of tutorials and help on here about how to do this which were of great help to me. It's a learn by trial sort of thing. I will say that the guy at my local hobby shot sold me on an "indian girl canoe" which he twisted my arm into doing before I bought the San Francisco...I'm really glad he did because it gave me the experience with laying plank on a frame that made doing this hull way easier. I also found that since this is a much bigger hull it was actually easier to bend the planks and get them to line up even.

 

The biggest learning curve was learning to bend the planks without breaking them. Then as I got along I had to get more careful about cutting and sanding and trimming to fit. Now I've done it once I know I'll do a better job the next time. I was unsure of the 'pattern' to go and just kind of winged it. I know I'll do better on my next one.

 

When I finally sealed the hull I had some rough spots that I had to tweak but really not to bad overall. I found that if you used some wood glue in the tracks and then sanded the hell out of it the sawdust would fill in minor mistakes. I used 3 grades of sand paper and finally got it really nice and smooth. A quick wet cloth over it to get it brushed up and I had myself a hull.

 

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From there I took a break and knocked out a few of the little things. I didn't like how the longboat was a solid hunk of metal, but they provided some nice pieces to it to make a hybrid metal / wood model. I went a little further and used some extra wood I had laying around to fully plank onto the solid metal hull. All things considered once I got a little paint on it and some stain and got it mounded to the deck it really doesn't matter one way or another. Part of me wanted to paint the longboat and I think I should have, but I was going for a natural finish on this first model s I didn't.

 

The wooden cannon carriages were a lifesaver. The metal ones were horrible and I really didn't want to fabricate 12 of them from scratch. Only problem is the kit didn't come with WHEELS for these cannon which I thought was kinda strange. I emailed the company, but they never got back to me. Some guy on here made these crazy amazing wheels but I didn't have all the needed tools so I just cut simple ones out of dowel and glued them on. I probably should have taken some more time on them. I wish I had penciled in an axle but now that they are glued onto the deck you really can't tell so it's another great learning point. 

 

I also made the little wheelhouse. I'd never heard of a ship that didn't have the wheel on the main deck but it's kinda cool. My next ship I really want to have the wheel on deck though.

 






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The grates were also pretty complicated. The kit also came with wooden grates instead of the reported metal or plastic ones that I hear other versions of this kit came with. The wooden pieces of the grate were rough and needed a lot of sanding. I could tell they were not of the best quality but still better than metal. Took a lot of finesse, sanding and wood glue but I got it down.

 

I was now ready to cut cannon ports. Not really a lot of photos of this step because it was probably my least favorite step in this whole kit. I really just needed to power through it. The gun ports were too deep to just rest on the outside of the hull. I had to cut into it. I could have left spaces as I planked but that would have raised other issues with hull integrity so it was basically just me an exacto knife and a loooot of time cutting those holes out. Good luck is all I can say. My only tip: MEASURE HARDCORE. You really want these to be the right size, the right shape, in the right spot and level. You can't go back if you make a mistake here as easily so I'd just say be really careful and study the color blueprint.

 



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SO jumping ahead a couple of steps. Once I got those gunports cut I sort of partied on a few steps. I liked puttin on the rubbing strakes and the gunports came out pretty good too. I put on the railing and revealed my first 'major' mistake. I tried to measure and pre-fit the balcony on teh stern really good but somehow my last set of gunports still came out to far aft and overlapped the balcony railing. Clearly this was unacceptable so I made some adjustments and cut the balcony a little shorter. It looks good now, but for new builders it's something to look out for. Overall though now that it's done you really cant tell I made a mistake here. 

 




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I also got the bow on and laid in the deck gratings, pinrails and deck furniture. 

 

I also put the pins into the pinrails. I will say I learned: No point in putting the pins in early, cause once I started running rigging I just had to pull them ALL out again. Also I learned: space out those pins as far as possible. Once all the pins get onto the rack and you start wrapping line it gets pretty crowded pretty quick. I will just say thank GOD I didn't pre-glue down all of those pins. I woulda been screwed.

 

Once that was all down and squared away I gave the hull one last wipe down. Then I hit it with a light stain. Do your reading on finishing options for different types of wood and make a test swatch with some scrap (did anyone ever mention NEVER throw away any scrap lumber? never know what you will need when!)

 

I went with a light stain which really darkened the wood. I liked that impact on the dark wood, but it's a matter of personal preference.

Then when that was dry after 24 hours or so I hit the whole thing with a clear semi-gloss. I chose not to stain the deck and the clear varnish did darken it up a little bit anyway. Overall I like it. I don't know how a spray can would have worked, I just used a brush and a generic minwax stain.

 

Edited by jlheureux

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Note the difference after I clear coated the hull. It dried out to a nice semi-shine

 

I took another time out to work with the masts. New lesson learned: MEASURE SEVERAL TIMES before you start cutting the dowels. I found I had BARELY enough dowel to do all the masts and a couple of the dowels are pretty darn close in size on visual inspection. The instructions were pretty good on the blueprint with cutting the lengths I needed but I accidentally confused the bowsprit with the foremain. It wasn't to difficult to fix. I bought another dowel and stained it to match, it blended in pretty well on the final product.

 

I then pre-wired as much of the blocks as I could onto the masts and yards. A few folks on here have some good photos of that and the blueprint was pretty exact on this step as well. I will say a drawback of 2d blueprints is there were many places on the blueprints where you see one single block, but in reality two (one going port one starboard) So it's detective work time: look at the box cover, look through the instructions (over and over) as well as the blueprint and the full size photos. I found it pretty easy to figure out once I got used to the idea. The trick is to think about what each piece of rope and tacke is used for and if you can figure that then you can figure what it's used for.

 



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So now I worked on the bow. I broke over and over the grate for the bow. I'm surprised I made it work but I ended up finding a way to make it work. So then I inserted the bowsprit and lashed it down to the bow. 

 

I stuck in the fore, main, and mizzen masts and glued them into place. This let me get the stays into place. (Make sure you really get the masts straight. Mine are slightly crooked, but you really can't tell on the finished product. Also: The kit gets really vague about what line is what here. The green line is on 2 reels but it's the same thickness. Then there is really thick brown, mid-thick brown (which is most of it) and then super thin brown. Really read what you need for what as the stays are the thickest brown for example.

 

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I went ahead and rigged the cannons. I did it a little bit differently than the instructions in terms of how they are roped onto the deck but i like how I did it. It's not historically accurate, but this was my first ship and I didn't have the parts or the scale to fully tackle the cannons. I also found some black beads at Hobby Lobby that worked for cannon balls and I made little cannon ball boxes for the deck. Heck, may also not be historically accurate but I think it added a nice look.

 

Then I rigged the shroud lines. Instructions are pretty good on this too, but look at the pictures. I will say be careful because you only have so much of the mid-length line and it's important to get it right. I passed the line through the masts and back around rigging the lines in pairs like a real ship. Some good posts on here somewhere helped me a lot with this step too.

 

Really measure where and how those deadeyes go. The blueprint tells you the path of the rope. I didn't have a 'serving machine' and doing it on my own didn't work at all. Fortunately my wife has nimble fingers and she helped me serve the deadeyes on the shourds by having me holding them and then she wound some black thread around and around to get the look right. A little glue and bam, we're in god shape. Make sure you work at getting the deadeyes level and straight. It took me a little while to get it and while my very first should is pretty crappy, as I went on I started getting better. Again, make sure your deadeyes and shouds don't overlap anything important like cannon ports!

 

 

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SO. Now I proceeded to hate my life for several days. Tying knot after knot doing those ratlines was a ton of work. I really couldn't find a lot of help online with technique on here and it's a real learned skill to get it right. I used some tweezers and the green thread provided. My first shroud is pretty bad, and I thought about re-doing it. Now that the whole ship is done I chalk it up to experience as you really can't tell and the rest of my lines were much better. It's just hard getting the technique down of evenly spaced, tight knots, level, and moving up. Some people use templates to get them even, but for me the big problem was getting each foot line tight enough so it wasn't too lose.

 

"Hey-why is this rope green?" I asked the same thing. It simulates the impact of salt and sea on white rope as it ages. Remembering these models are designed to be looked at from a table top distance it actually looks pretty good when done. I wouldn't get too caught up in rope color as really outside of the shoud lines which were tarred (but which slowly wore off revealing the brownness to the rope underneight) on a working ship there wasn't a lot of bright bleached white.

 

Edited by jlheureux

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So now it was time to get out my tools and do some rigging.

 

I started with the bowsprit. Then I did the jib boom. I know this is a little backwards, but I wanted to start with what would be the easiest to rip out and do over.

Now on this step the green thread supplied was NOT going to work for me with the supplied blocks. Drilling out the blocks only caused them to break so I needed to get creative. Instead I went with a button thread that was the same shade as the supplied green. The pros is it was easy to work with, matched, threaded easily, and doesn't get all hairy like the supplied thread. The down side is it doesn't hold tension very well and can be difficult to tie. Overall, I'm glad I used it on this model. It was my first model and I didn't want to fight with the rigging so much I ended up hating the model. My hope is that on a higher quality kit the supplied blocks and line will be a higher quality.

 

Edited by jlheureux

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Following this success it was a flurry of sail hanging as I threaded and rigged the main and top sails.

 

I also forgot to mention that I HATED the stupid looking metal crows nests provided with the kit.

Some folks on the forum re-fabricated them form wood to look the same as the metal ones.

Other older versions of the kit came with 'bucket nests'

 

I opted to fabricate my own out of wood, but made platforms instead of nests. I like how they came out.

 

Note: The mastcaps have important lines going through them used to haul up the yards which I didn't get at first on the blueprint, but when I looked at other peoples builds it made a lot more sense.

 

Note on blueprints: Yes, they are a little confusing. Go slow, really look at them, find other photos of this and other ships. Look at the photos and plans provided with the kit. They do not explain every line very well, this is the hardest part of the kit. However, just take it one rope at a time and think about: What is this rope for? Where does it start and where does it end. That's what I did and really it wasn't too hard to figure out once I got used to reading the blueprints. The blueprint will label the 'end' of the rope, then you just gotta look at the schematic of the pin-racks to see where to tie it off.

 

I also added wooden steps onto the ratlines. I've seen them on ships before. Not sure what they are called and the instructions didn't call for them but I think they look cool.

 

Edited by jlheureux

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This left me with finishing up the rope rigging. The last 2 steps of the rigging blueprints are the hardest. Doing the ropework in between the masts is the most difficult. Things are starting to get filled up and there are ropes everywhere which makes it easier to tangle stuff up. Just go slow.

 

Oh yea, I had some extra wire left so I added one more thing not in the plans. I put footropes on all of the yards. You can see the extra black line on the yards. I don't know if it was just British ships that used these and since it's supposed to be a Spanish ship...whatever. I think they look cool and it was a fun thing to add. I think I read once that the french didn't use footropes and just shimmied out onto the yards.

 

I also learned a trick with the sails: These sails with this kit come pre-sewn which is super nice, but a little frumpy. I found if you use a heavy spray starch and an ion you can get a little more spring into the sails and they look a bit more like they have actual wind in them.

 

 

Edited by jlheureux

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In running the lines: I found that if i pulled out the pin and stuck the line through the hole, then stuck the pin back it made giving tension to the lines 10000 times easier. I then made little rope coils and used my tweezers to stick them over the pins. I know this isn't 'authentic' cause in real life the sailors figure 8 the line onto the pinrack and then coil the extra line in a specific way, but this model is just too small and I didn't care enough (being my first ever model) to do it. I plan on practicing this skill in the future on my next project. As I said a drawback of the button thread I used is it doesn't handle tension super well so making coils and doing wraps on pins was super difficult with this thread.

 

Notice my ships bell? I added that as well!

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So now I'm finishing up. I'm working on getting the last of the rigging in-between the masts done. I just have to do the funky lines attached to the middle of the sails, get the flags on, and finish doing my faux-rope coils for the pin-racks.

 

Can anyone tell me what the ropes in the middle of the sails on the sides are? They're not shroud lines...It's the last step of the rigging blueprint.

 

Anyhow, I know all my pictures are pretty crummy. I just shot as I went with my iphone. I will finish up this model and post some 'finished display' pictures so you guys can get a good look at it.

 

At this point I need some feedback on anything else anyone saw that I missed to improve upon for next time and what my next project should be! I paid $150 bucks for this San Francisco model and am ready for something in that ball-park or more, but I just can't swing a grand for a museum quality Victory yet....I do want something nice so what might folks suggest. I know the Syren is popular right now.

 

Thanks in advance!!

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