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Malabar I by MrPete - RADIO - 1922 John Alden Schooner

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I'm about to try and build an RC racing schooner, the Malabar One, designed in 1922 by John Alden.  It was the first of a series of ten schooners he designed all named Malabar.




I've never bult a boat from scratch, so it will be interesting how it comes out.


A friend gave me an empty fiberglass hull, a lead keel and a stack of old drawings, and that's it.  

The hull is 48" stem to stern. The keel weights 18 lbs.




Here's what I have as reference materials to go by:






This is from a different, but similar boat also designed by John Alden:




I was also given an old print of another build using the same hull:





So I have lot's of questions about woods and techniques.

The original boat used White Oak for framing, and hard pine for deck planks. (Why pine? - seems soft and not water friendly)

I've been told that aircraft spruce works great for model framing members.

I also have easy access to lots of white oak, and the tools to machine it.


I originally planed to do the deck in teak, and the deck houses and details in mahogany.  

The deck MUST be water-proof - this will be a working, sailing model, so I guess I have to seal and varnish the deck or ??


Don't know what to make the masts and spars out of. (spruce?)


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I know I need a reference frame to hold the fiberglass hull while I build the deck.

I had a big piece of melamine coated particle board sitting around - if well supported it likes to stay nice and flat, so I used it and laid out the centerline and the 12 station marks:




I traced the hulls lines from the drawing I had to a piece of velum so I could cutout the hull supports:




I transferred the information from the drawings to a piece of pboard for the keel support:






And cut out the hull supports using the velum copies in 1/2" birch plywood:






Now I need to figure out how thick the deck will be so I can mark where the sheer strip goes.

Edited by MrPete
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I feel like I should decide exactly what I'm going to do in a number of areas before I begin anything.

How the deck gets constructed is not nailed down, nor am I comfortable about wood selections yet.


I decided to try building the deck beams out of a couple different woods to see what happenens.

I wanted to try bent laminations to see if it would keep the crown shape better than steam bending.


I scaled info about the deck crown from the real boat drawings ( 6" in 10'-6" ) to my boat ( 5/8" in 14" ) and made a form out of a 2x4 and 3/4" MDF:




I ripped 3/4" white oak into strips 3/4" x 3/32"




Glued 4 of them together with epoxy and pressed them together in the form:




After the epoxy set, I ripped the 3/4" lamination down the center with a band saw and ended up with two crowned oak beams 16" long:




Here they are - just checking how they look across the hull:




The beams seem to be holding their shape, they only spring out 1/16" when they come out of the press.  

I might try steam bending the oak strips first, then glueing them, to relieve some stress and get beams that want to keep their shape.


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A very attractive yacht, but then I don't think Alden designed any ugly ones!!


The last time I was involved with laminating deck beams we made a temporary jig to epoxy up a few 'trial' runs, predominantly to establish the spring back. Once that was complete we then made the 'proper' jig which was then used to laminate the beams. Epoxy really likes well seasoned (ie, dry) wood - would seem to be a pity to start out with dry stuff and then make it good 'un wet!!


I'll certainly try and keep up with your progress - vicarious building sure as hell beats not getting into the workshop...





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I need to figure out how thick the deck is going to be, so I can establish the under-deck framing plan.



      Should I put in a plywood sub-deck first ?

      What kind of wood should I use for the deck planks ?

      How thick should the deck planks be ?

      How do I make the deck water-proof ?


The hull is 48" stem to stern, 14" wide at the waist.

The deck has a two way curve - the deck beams are crowned, and the hull curves front to back. (one piece of ply-wood won't fit easily)


It MUST be water-proof.  ( the ship will be radio controlled - insides can't get wet )


I was going to use Teak for the deck - 'cause I thought it was traditional, but it's usually left un-finished for skid control.

I guess I'll have to varnish the entire deck for water-proof-ness, or come up with some way to guarantee all joints are sealed.


I have access to oak, spruce, teak, port-orford cedar, mahogany and pine.  I guess I could find other stuff if I need.


thanks in advance for any suggestions and advice.



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John Alden was a fine designer.  My yawl was a takeoff of the Malabar Jr. designed by John Alden in 1924. 


When I was in an RC club we did our decks like this.  A sheet of plywood with decking on top.  Where the deck house was we built a wall 1/4 to 1/2 inch high just the right size to set the deck house over.  Then the whole deck was sealed with epoxy resin mixed half and half with alcohol.  This was put on like varnish.  With the deck house over the short wall no water got in.  With sailboats this was usually an interference fit or a clip hidden somewhere to keep it on while heeling.







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Do you have the Alden plans for Malabar 1? The plans for Malabar 2 are readily available, but I've never seen them for M1.




capnharv2 - No, I don't have plans for Malabar I.  I have some plans for a "37' Aux Cruising Schooner" designed by John in 1930.  It is similar, but the deck houses are different.  I have some old photos of the Malabar I and some pics of other models of the M1, but no plans.


I kind of like the single deck house of the Malabar 2 instead of the two house design of the M1.  Still haven't decided which to go with.


Where did you see the plans for the M2 ?

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MrPete, I forgot to mention, although Cap'n'Bob has covered it and I'd certainly agree, a plywood subdeck with an over-layed plank finish running either fore & aft or parallel to the sheer strake (ie following curvature of hull top) would be the method most assured of giving a watertight finish. Traditionalists would balk at this, after all ships have been built for hundreds of years with planked decks and payed seams. Mind you, that almost invariably made for a miserable life below decks - eventually they always leaked...!!


If I may also comment on 'piperjoes' post, I agree 100% that dropping the planks into a pan of water for 10-15 seconds would definitely not result in the oak being left wet. In fairness, my comment was in response to your suggestion for steaming. As a rule of thumb white oak is steamed for 1hr per 1" of thickness the time being given a pro-rata adjustment for differing thicknesses which assumes an efficient method of generation for the steam and of course a well insulated steam box, with infinitely better results coming from green oak.


Another suggestion for your beams, particularly considering their scantlings, what about simply cutting them to shape? I can't imagine that any additional strength afforded by laminating will be of benefit to a model yacht of this size. Food for thought if nothing else...


I'm looking forward to seeing how you progress with this beautiful boat!





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  • 10 months later...

Twister - I completely agree - soaking for 10 minutes does nothing but raise the grain.  I tried a number of steaming techniques, but they ended up being more work than they were worth.  Cutting them out is not a bad idea - I may try that.  


I'm still un-decided about the plywood sub-deck.  I did some mockups of how I was going to lay up the deck, and they turned out great. (see next post) I thin I can make a water-proof deck just with planks.  We'll see.


Thanks for your comments and interest.



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I wanted to confirm exactly how I was going to build the deck system, so I tried mocking up one idea, to see 1) how it looked, and 2) how was I going to build it (clamping, glues, sand, finish - techniques)  It turned out clamping is going to be a really big consideration.


I wanted to simulate the caulking between planks.  I've tried a number of different techniques, but for this project wanted to try something new.  I milled some Alaskan Yellow Cedar into 1/8" thick, 1/4" wide planks and then used some stripped fiber mat material, that my guitar builder friends use for perfling on guitars as the caulk material.  The stuff comes in specific widths and thicknesses.  I found some that are 0.020" thick by 5 feet long by 3/16" wide.  Close enough.


I first cut the edge strip (please forgive my lack of boat terms) from mahogany and glued it to two beams I built for the mockup.  After the glue set, I laid a piece of the black fiber strip, then a plank of yellow cedar, then a black strip, then cedar, so I had two of each laid down.  I throughly applied epoxy to both edges of the strips and planks before assembling them, and then clamped them tightly to the curve of the edge piece and to each other, and to the beams.


Clamping this mess during assembly is going to be the hard part.  It needs to pull the planks tight against each other, but also keep the planks pressed tight against the beams.  I may use an over-head go-bar system.  (like luthiers use)


I let the epoxy set for the first group of 4 pieces (two planks, two caulking strips) then did it again.

After sanding, here is the result - It looks fantastic, better than I imagined.





Edited by MrPete
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How about a plank sub deck, course sanded and sealed with a flexable sealer. Then deck over using wood planks. That would simplify working with the two curves and provide additional stringth for Standing and Running Rigging anchor points. Another benefit is that would get yout elbow limbered up,  from the sanding.

After reading your last post, it might allow for the use of screws in the subdeck for clamping, removed and sealed well befor being covered.


Edited by shiloh
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  • 4 weeks later...

Just a thought on the deck build... When building a strip kayak over frames and strongback, duct tape is used to cover these so that when the cedar strips are glued and clamped tight, they can be lifted off later. Usually the outside is finished and 'glassed, then it is lifted off and the inside is 'glassed.


I would think it's possible to build your deck this way. Use a layer of fiberglass on the inside, and it will be waterproof and strong. If you preplan the locations, additional sections of reinforcing plywood need only be epoxied and glassed in at specific locations.


Whatever you do, the example you made looks fabulous !



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