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Hesper by frenchguy - Pilot Schooner - scale 1/48

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Nov 20, 2012:


Good day everyone!

After much thinking and soul searching (well, not really),  I decided to embark in the construction of a ¼ model of “Hesper”. I will do my best to keep the construction log here.

A bit of background: I started model ship building about 15 years ago, starting with a wooden kit of “Marie-Jeanne” from Artesania Latina. Being French-American, I have always been interested in the fishing boats along Normandy and Brittany at the turn of the century (the previous one!).  This in turn got me interested in the fishing schooner history along New England coast. I then went on to build “Jolie Brise”, also from AL, then “Le Renard” which was the beautiful privateer of French corsaire Surcouf, then “Bluenose”, “Smuggler” , then another version of “Marie-Jeanne” and finally “Pride of Baltimore II” which I started 3 years ago.


I also took a break from ship modeling to build “Alexandra” , a floating model of a steam powered launch complete with a small steam engine http://greppizone.blogspot.com/

Three years ago, when I finished Marie-Jeanne take two,  and was looking for the next project, I attended a talk given by Erik Ronnberg in Gloucester about the  models he built for the painter xx. This was at the time these models were exposed at the Mystic Seaport museum. I had the chance of meeting Erik in person and went to his shop to discuss models and all good stuff. As I am very interested in the stories of schooners and other pilots along the New England coast, Erik suggested I take a look at Hesper, for which he spent considerable time researching and documenting. He built a model of her and wrote several articles for the Nautical Research Guild.


At that time, I obtained the plans and instructions and the issues of NRG. As expected, the precision and details of these plans are impeccable. However, I still got cold feet about starting this model, so I started pride of Baltimore II from a kit instead.

So I was thinking about my next project. I had already purchased a kit from Model Shipways, “America” which I find very attractive and again has a lot of history behind her. But I was still thinking about Hesper. So I called Erik Ronnberg again a few weeks ago, and met him to discuss Hesper in more details. As it turns out, Erik had just completed a 3/8” scale model of the yacht America for Bill Koch. Erik showed me the details and photos, details  and all the research work he did on that magnificent model, and I felt both humbled and totally depressed :( .


Anyway, I reiterated my interest in Hesper, but not using his lift carving method. For copyright reasons, I won’t reproduce  here the pictures of the NRG June 1994 issue where he details the construction, but the technique produces an impressive result, although Erik would confess he has done carving from a very tender age, so he is very comfortable with the technique – unlike me. Instead, I wanted to explore a Plank on Frame approach.  Erik very graciously offered a modified plan he made for another modeler who wanted also to build a POF Model of Hesper. I understand this modeler completed the model and was shown at a recent ship modeler convention.  Erick also gave me pictures of a model he made using POF approach for guidance.


So I studied the plan using POF approach, and concluded this was way over my modest ship modeling skills. In addition, I am a part time modeler (as demonstrated in taking 3 years to complete pride of Baltimore) and I wanted to complete that model in my lifetime :) .  So I decided to use a safer  plank on bulkhead approach.

I decided on Hesper because:


  •  I wanted my next model to be built from scratch (unlike all my previous models, even if I did a lot of improvements on the kit contents)I wanted a larger scale. Face it, I’m not getting any younger. One way to increase the details is to increase the scale… ¼” or 1/48 scale is big enough so that you can really work out the details and not big enough that your wife will threaten to move out of the house :)
  • I wanted a well documented model; say no more,  Erik’s plans, instructions and articles in NRG are second to none. There is also the Chapelle book, and the” Pilot Schooners of North America and Great Britain” book
  • I was really interested by the copper hull. Here again, Erik developed a method for hull coppering. We’ll get there at some point in the future…

I have been watching the Arethusa posts in that same forum, and felt really inspired to document my building adventures along the way, so here it is!


That’s it for now. Next I’ll go into my thinking about POB construction.


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A bit of history and references:

Excerpt from Erik A.R. Ronnberg notes on Hesper:

“The pilot  schooner Hesper was designed by Dennison J. Laylor and built in 1884 by Montgomery & Howard at Chelsea, Massachusetts (Note from Stephan: this by the way is where I dock my sailboat in the summer !).  Lawlor had designed many pilot boats in his long career, but Hesper was his undisputed masterpiece, the greatest of all the Boston pilot boats, and one of the finest examples of the two-masted fore-and-aft rig in all of sailing ship history.”

“ Hesper’s 1889 match race with the new Burgess-designed fishing schooner Fredonia (campaigned as a yacht in her first year) ended in defeat for the pilots, though not without mutterings about Fredonia mainsail, which had been borrowed from the yacht Puritan. In truth, Hesper also borrowed a few gimcracks from yachtsman to help her performance, and some feel that her performance was hurt by the oversize balloon jib, which set poorly on windward tacks. Under working conditions, few vessels could outsail her and none could match her seakeeping abilities in the worst winter weather.

Hesper remained in the pilot service until 1903, when she was sold and converted to a yacht. Her tall rig was reduced and her stern was lengthened to form a long counter and small transom. She remained a fixture of the northern  New England summer cruising circuit until American entry in the first World War. In 1918, she was converted to a gasoline auxiliary fisherman, re-registered at Castine, Maine. The following year, she was lost off the Delaware Capes, but with no loss of life.”


My sources for this construction:

  • First and foremost, the set of plans and notes from Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.  (43 pages of detailed notes!)
  • The articles written by Erik in Nautical Research Journal, Vol. 38, No 4 and Vol. 39 Nos 1 & 2.
  • “The American Fishing Schooners”, Howard I. Chapelle
  • ” Pilot Schooners of North America and Great Britain”, Tom Cunliffe

Also, just Google “Hesper Pilot Schooner” for some great paintings and pictures.



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(Dec 2012 post)


Ok, so I have studied the plans now for some time. First step is to develop the templates for the center keel and the bulkheads.  The plans from Erik Ronnberg are very detailed, unfortunately the first sheet showing the bow and buttock lines and water lines is meant for a lift build approach rather than POF or POB. In particular, I had trouble identifying the line for the top of the deck at the center line, and was trying –improperly-  to use the waist line as a reference point.


I finally realized that I just had to use the section on center line on sheet 3 that Erik draw, which shows exactly the height of each bulkhead above the water line. I did some measurement cross checking between the different sheets and, as expected,  everything is matching up beautifully. I just need to draw the camber of the deck from the top of each bulkhead at the center line and I should be pretty ok.


I have the great chance to be able to use a professional quality copy machine (meaning no distortion, and one that can use transparencies without  jamming the machine!), and made copies in preparation of the templates.




I will make the keel from 1/4 plywood, and the bulkhead from 3/16 plywood, beveling the keel along the rabbet line, and then add the outer keel, probably using 1/4  basswood.

My biggest concern is the whole transom/stern assembly. That part always gave me hard time on all my previous models. I really want to make it as the real Hesper, as I think the curves of the transom and the stern are so elegant! I am actually thinking of doing just a model of the stern part, with maybe a couple of bulkheads to see how it will look like.

Ok, that’s it for today. I’m on a business trip for 10 days so I’ll get back to it at some point. I realize what I’m babbling out here must seem very simple to a lot of you experienced modeler, but I have fun writing this anyway!



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(Dec 2012 post)


Hi all, a bit of progress update:

I realized I messed up when I first traced the bulkheads. I used the profiles in the body plan, but overlooked the fact that the dimensions are measured to the outer hull; in other words I did  not take into account the 1/16 bulkhead  planking. Also I need to correct the center keel; I need to shave 3/32 of the top of the center keel to take into account  the false deck and the deck planking.


See below




Now I see I have 2 choices: retrace every bulkhead to shave the 1/16 planking and the 3/32 deck planking (painful); That way I maintain the scale of the plans,




Forget about it, I use the profiles as they are on the plan, and adjust for the 3/32 additional height of the deck, and any discrepancies that I’m sure I’ll find along the way.

I’d be interested in any comments/suggestions.


Also I am still pondering whether to extend the bulkheads with extensions. I have read many articles on this blog, especially Arethusa, on the topic. The stern part of Hesper is very particular, with a very pronounced inward curvature of the stanchions at the stern  (sorry, I know this is a poor description). Trying to make this very elegant form with free standing stanchions would definitely be challenging. However, there is a solid log rail piece over the stern that may help in the process if I don’t use false stanchions. Still thinking about it…

Also, as shown in the picture above, the bulkhead planking (1/16)  extend above the foredeck , and is about the same level as the deck on the quarter deck. Then the topside planking (1/32) extends to the rail.


Talking about Arethusa, and never hesitating to copy a good idea when I see one J, I will  make the stern part, keel and rudder post assembly in a similar fashion as Elia describes (Thank you!). I am in the process of prototyping the stern assembly. See pictures below. I see already that I will need to make some more changes as the transom on Hesper looks really different than Arethusa.


Stay tuned for more progress and pics…


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(Dec 2012 post)


Happy Holidays to all!


Some progress report on Hesper:

 Prototyping the stern part of Hesper was definitely a learning experience. I came to the conclusion I will not be able to shape the stern part by the sole mean of bulkhead and planking. I will therefore use a block of wood for the stern that I will shape and sand to the appropriate shape.

The other conclusion I came up with is that I will not make the bulkheads with a  stanchion extension. If that extension could be useful for the forward part of the hull, it would not be useful or practical for the aft part. Again this is because of the very particular shape of the stern part of Hesper. The diagram below shows a stern section of the hull looking aft.  The stanchions are not in any way a prolongation of the bulkheads. After the great beam, and  toward the stern of Hesper the bulkward planking and topside planking start to separate, and the waist is at the same level as the quarter deck

I cut all bulkheads and the two halves of the hull. I need now to work on the keel itself, cut the rabbet, make the horn timber part etc..

More pictures soon.






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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, looks like Hesper is going to stay on a shelf untl next winter :( . I was about to start the planking, but the stern is still giving me headaches. But really, with the good days approaching, I will have to prepare my real sailboat for the sailing season. In the meantime, I posted a few pictures in the completed kit model gallery of my Pride of Baltimore II and le Renard.

I will use the remaining winter modeling evenings to repair the rigging on my Smuggler. I'll post pictures when completed.


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Bummer.  I understand - once spring and summer arrives I tend to become outdoor focused, and my modeling time wanes.  I look forward to your progress once you return to Hesper.  Maybe the time will allow you to think through a solution or two on that transom, counter, stanchions, etc.





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  • 1 year later...

As I am going through the construction of the Benjamin Latham, I finally realized what I was doing wrong in building the transom of Hesper.

It will now have to wait until I complete my Latham kit, but I will get back to Hesper right after.

Stay tuned...

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  • 4 years later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 3 months later...

So, I finished my Benjamin W. Latham back last December, and resumed working on Hesper. I realized I did not make pictures of the planking in progress, so I have a couple pictures of the planking completed. After planking and sanding, I applied several layers of Gesso, sanding between layers, to provide a good basis for painting and also coppering. Starting this fall, I'll work on planking the deck, bullwarks, stanchions, railing etc..




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Comment ai-je pu manquer ce thread? FrenchGuy, vivant a Lexington, MA et passione de modeles de bateaux.

Ce ne pouvait etre que Stephane Greppi.


Comment vas tu? Je suis impressionne par tes realisations et la Barque a vapeur Alexandra (c'est aussi le nom de ma fille) est absolument superbe.


Je n'ai pas fait grand chose mais j'ai un ou deux threads sur ce forum: 



Celui-ci etant le plus actif pour lemoment.


Au plaisir de te lire.



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