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C.W. Morgan Whaleboat by Salty Sea Dog - Artesania Latina - Scale 1:25 Wood POF (First wooden boat build) - SMALL

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Yesterday started like this:

After shoveling a spot for our little white dogs with low ground clearance to do their thing, I decided it was the perfect day to
gather up info to start a build log. I had the day off anyway.

My wife gave me this kit for Christmas back in 1986 after I casually left a Model Expo catalog laying open in her chair with a note saying 'I'd really like this for Christmas'. I got a good start on it back then, but life got in the way and it sat until about a year ago. Back in 1986, Model Expo used to sell this kit for $24.95, and although the kit is no longer made, they show up on eBay for about $25 every now and then. This boat is inflation proof! Here are the box pictures, which I beleive by build log law, must be shown about now:




This kit is designed to be double-planked with wide pre-shaped limewood first layer planking and "walnut" veneer second layer planking (my kit's 2nd layer strips were a dark red-brown wood with giant pores like oak end grain). The instructions said that if you prefer, you could buy some 1.5mm x 5mm walnut strips instead. Of course the nice pictures of this boat on the box and in the catalog showed it as single planked with good walnut. I thought it would look wierd in an open boat if the backside of the planks didn't match the outside, so I ordered some walnut planking from Model Expo. Besides looking better, I figured that it would be twice as easy to build this way since it would only be one layer! My logic could have been wrong about that...

So here is where I am in the build now. The hull is about ready to receive a finish and the detail parts made. I've taken pictures with the boat sitting on a really nice maple board because anything would look better than it really is while sitting on it! :D



I'll add posts to try to discuss some of the challenges and little triumphs I encountered along the way until I get caught up to the current build activity. I am to slow as Popeye is to fast, so if I can stay ahead of my posts in real life, I hopefuly will be able to avoid long delays between posts. Starting this log should also put a fire under my ...

Edited by Dan Vadas
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2) Original work done in 1986/87

The frames on this kit are plywood so they were lightly sanded then stained in dark walnut before assembly to help conceal the laminations. I stole that idea from the picture on the box. There was no internet back then to learn about planking (I was using a state-of-the-art PC with dual floppies at work!) so the 16 page booklet "Planking Model Ships" by Richard Mansir was my guide. Once I started the single planking it became obvious that I really needed to get the edge joints beveled just right. I found it tricky to get the joints to look tight on both the outside and the inside. After one plank was installed and secured and the next one was spiled and bent, I slid a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper back and forth between the 2 planks while holding the new plank against the previous one. Also shown in this picture, although it was done more recently, is the finish that I applied on the ramin wood parts. Because the wood is so light and porous it showed dirt (or walnut dust transferred from fingers) easily. The floor boards and centerboard case are sealed with clear (super-blonde) shellac. The thwart seats and oarlock bases are finished in garnet shellac.



My first screw-up was only ordering the 5mm wide walnut planking.The garboard planks would have been better if I had used 10mm planks for them. I first tried staining the little wedge shaped areas of the false keel that showed at each end but that looked like poop. Later I cut shallow pockets into the false keel and inlayed some wedge shaped pieces of walnut, but they are a lousy color match and are too light. I may try coloring them before I put a finish on. Another problem that has occurred over the years is that some of the walnut planks have shrunk or developed splits. I'll need to repair these before applying a finish too. The nails that came with the kit were really soft and even with pre-drilling, they bent too easily. I used stainless steel straight pins instead. Each one had to be clipped off which left a wedge shape tip which was carefully ground down as close to the planks as I dared with a Dremel grinding wheel. I then used a small drift punch to seat them flush and then finished with block sanding with a hard block. Stainless pins are a pain! The pins are staggered side-to-side on each plank per Mansir's book while still hitting the frames.





At the time the boat was set aside, the keel, prow and stern posts and floor boards were added but nothing else in the pictures were. 

Edited by Salty Sea Dog
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3) Work done during the last year


So my little whaleboat sat around for a bunch of years and I would look at it every now and then. I wasn't ever satisfied with the fit of the keel between the stern and the prow. The kit supplied keel is fit with a butt joint at each end and it was just a tiny bit too short. Not too bad, but just enough of a loose fit to nag at me when I looked at it. It taunted and mocked me! I had been working on another project and had a scrap piece of mahogany that was a nice color match to make a new keel, so I cut/chopped/chiseled/filed the old one out and made a new one using half-lap joints at each end. I figured that would look more boat-like but mostly it was just fun to play with a little saw and a chisel. :)






I got such a kick out of fixing the keel that I kept going. I liked the look of the really dark wood wales and gunwales (cap rails?) used in the photo on the box lid. I had a left over Brazillian Rosewood binding strip from a guitar repair job and decided to use it for the gunwales. FYI - Per the CITES treaty, Brazillian Rosewood is banned for sale in the USA unless it is certified as pre-ban or salvaged from old stumps like these strips were. I had been lucky enough to locate 3 binding strips for the repair job (a 1927 Martin OO-18 if you're into guitars) and one strip was a spare. It was a special piece of wood to me and I thought it would be cool to use it in my boat. I used a dark scrap of cocobolo for the wales since it looks similar. The centerboard case, thwart seats, mast hinge and the rest of the top of the boat was also built at this time. The kit supplied mast hinge was huge and had to be cut down.






I had the most fun making the rudder. The kit showed using a clunky looking folded piece of brass to attach the tiller and it just seemed wrong to me. I cut a little bridle joint and double pinned it instead. The hinge pins were soldered in place as were the cross pins through the straps and rudder.








(edited to correct typo of Martin guitar model to a OO-18 instead of D-18, still a very cool guitar!)

Edited by Salty Sea Dog
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Buck your work looks terrific. The finish on the wood looks so rich your hinge joint on the rudder is first class and your hand made keel is perfect! Good job on showing so much care on the little things they really shine. Your boat makes me wish I was by the sea sailing away. Thanks for the posts.



Edited by bgarden
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Hi Crackers!

Thank you for the nice words. I am working on the details now and will post those pretty soon. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview. By the way, does anyone know where the boat's hatchet was typically stored in a whaleboat? I've been looking through the "To Build A Whaleboat" book at the photos and construction details but did not find one. I imagine that it should be up front to sever the harpoon line in case things got scary.



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Hi Michael!


I checked out your scratch Bristol Pilot Cutter build and it is AMAZING! You have serious skills. I lmao at your photoshopped mini-you pictures and that's inspired me to learn how to do it so I can put my dogs in my whaleboat! :D


I have been thinking about what to build next, and I'm unsure. I would like to tackle something that will require rigging, but I'm all thumbs and that stuff scares me! I have an AL Dallas that would not break my heart if I screwed up so maybe that will be next so I can learn rigging. Either that or I may do a work boat to put off the scary rigging stuff! Your ropes are works of art by the way!

Edited by Salty Sea Dog
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Wayne- Thanks for the hatchet info and the kind words. Much appreciated! Your harbor master needs to allocate a larger dry dock for you! :D


Mario- Thank you for your kind words. You have been an inspiration to me and have really fueled my interest in small boats. I have some Midwest kits in the ships locker because of your builds. The dinghy diarama is the coolest!!

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4) Re-purposing some tools for model ship building


Thought I'd show some tools and techniques that I found useful that may interest some of you.


To thickness sand the rosewood and cocobolo strips, I used a homenmade fence clamped to an oscillating spindle sander table. The spindle turns counter-clockwise and I feed the strips from right to left with the rotation. It's easier to work with the rotation and there's less chance of breakage on thin pieces (unless you let go and they go flying!! :o ). Press the outfeed side against the fence to prevent dips in the sanded surface. It's best to sand longer pieces and cut them to length later as there may be a bit of snipe at the ends. To use this type of setup, you initially set the fence so there is just a hint of resistance when trying to slide the workpiece past the spindle with the machine off. After power sanding a few passes, loosen the clamp slightly on the infeed side and gently tap the fence forward a hair, re-clamp and sand again. Repeat until you acheive the thickness you want.








The straight wale and gunwale strips had to be bent sideways and curved edgeways too. That could have been tricky with hardwoods like rosewood and cocobolo, but it was soooo easy with a guitar side bending iron. I wish I had this bad boy when I was bending the planks. These irons can be clamped either vertically or horizontally which leaves you with both hands free to work the wood. Wet the wood before bending. The eliptical shape of the iron allows a bunch of different radius choices. These irons are probably a bit too expensive for casual use, but it makes the bending job easy and allows a lot of precision. If you do a lot of ship building, the cost might make more sense. Like many tools, it takes a little practice to get good with it. It's mostly getting used to moving the wood and feeling when the wood is ready to bend. That's a pretty thick piece of mahogany in the picture behind the bender, and behind that, purpleheart and maple. That's a purpleheart guitar side clamped in the form in back (another project underway that divides up my time!).




There are several places that offer bending irons, but I like the accessory bands this company offers. The bands seem to help when bending edgeways.


There were a few posts recently on how to form the brass rudder hinge straps around the pins. Here's how I went about it. There's probably better ways to do it, but this is cheap. I took a pair of inexpensive end cutters and ground the sharp tips to flat faces so they would be able to grip without cutting. I originally used them to pull bone saddles out of the tight slots in acoustic guitar bridges. It turns out they work pretty well for the rudder hinges too. They easily squeezed the brass straps tightly around the pins so I could solder them.






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5) Prepping the hull for finish


The gaps and splits in the walnut planking that had occurred over the years due to dryness and wood shrinkage (shown in the earlier photos) were repaired with sawdust and thinned white glue and sanded. The triangular garboard fillers at the ends of the keel were stained for a better color match.





Then the fun part. Lemon oil was applied to all the bare wood. Instant magic! I just love the look of oiled wood. :) The main thing was to NOT use an oil with wax or silicone in it as that could interfere with my plans for a shellac top coat.



The exterior was rubbed down with a few applications of oil and the interior was oiled using a brush. The previously shellacked floorboards and seats were unaffected and any stray oil was wiped off of them.







This will need to sit for a few days before I apply a thinned out shellac wash coat to seal it.

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I love your techniques with wood working and even with the brass are very crisp and clean.  I really like the tools that you employe to form the wood and not stress or damage anything, this leaves the wood to sing with the inherent beauty of the woods you have chosen.  The lemon oil seems really fantastic.  I think that it gives the wood the perfect depth without going too over board and drowning out the grain.  Thanks for the posts.



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Buck the mini me is not photo shopped I just printed a picture of myself and cut it out with a pair of sharp scissors. The low tech version of having fun, I stuck some raw treenail rod on the back of the photo so I could stick it anywhere on the deck before I filled the holes.


Thanks for the compliment on the Bristol Cutter.


Your restoration on the little boat is really nice. and I have filed away your neat trick with the cutters, that was very clever thinking.



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I think she's just adorable. It takes a brave man to pin with stainless!


Your skills with wood, including finishing, are impressive. VERY well done.


Will look forward to finishing details.

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Brian, Thanks so much for the awesome comments! I admit I am a wood geek and I get excited about a nice piece of wood. :)  


Dave, It really is my first wooden boat kit. I was self-employed as a guitar repairman for 8 years with a specialty in structural damage. I always tried for an invisible repair. Fretwork involves a lot of metal shaping and extremely tight tolerances (a good guitar setup requires measurements less than 1/1000 of an inch!). I was a detail engineer in the telecom industry for 20 years prior to that.  If you look up retentive in the dictionary, there could be a picture of me there! :D


gerty, Thanks!  And thanks for stopping in to check out my build.


Michael, The mini-me cutout was hilarious and had me laughing out loud!  I'm hoping to try something like that. I'm glad you liked the trick with the modified cutters.


Augie, Thank you for the very kind words!


Crackers, That picture is frightening! To quote the line from jaws - " I think we're gonna need a bigger boat" :o Thanks for the info on the details. I didn't know about the flags but that makes a lot of sense. I'm imagining something about the length and size of a golf flag with a sharpened tip- would that be right?

Edited by Salty Sea Dog
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6) Making some little stuff:


Because I had some left over cocobolo, it was used for the oar blades instead of the kit provided walnut. The instructions say to paint the blades white and add black stripes but I didn't want to risk being arrested by the wood police for vandalizing nice wood! White stripes were used on the dark cocobolo instead. I practiced masking off and painting the white stripes on scrap wood, but it was looking pretty sad. I ended up using 1/32" Pactra pin striping tape. The tape looked too thick after applying it so I figured a thick finish like varnish would help blend it into the surface. I used some varnish that I had, and thinned it down 50% with naptha (naptha thins varnish and shortens the long dry time too). A little dust still managed to settle in the finish so the oars were wet sanded with soapy water, cleaned and recoated. It took 3 coats to get a build that subdued the thickness of the tape. On the last coat, I thinned the varnish another 50% further with naptha to really speed up the dry time and get a very thin smooth coat. No dust this time! The oar handles were fun to whittle! Heck, all this stuff is fun! :)





The line tubs in the kit were short pieces of dowel hollowed out a little on one side. I mixed up some concentrated water based stain to get them to look like dark barrel wood. I got it a little too dark so I dipped them in clean water and dabbed them with a brush to lighten the stain. WARNING! DON"T DO THAT!! The barrels got swollen and burst open like blooming flowers! I was bummed out and called it a night. The next morning, the barrels had dried and had almost closed up. Having nothing to loose, I decided to really try to dry them out in the microwave. That actually worked!  Some water-thin super glue was "painted" on the inside of the barrels to try to keep the cracks closed. The brass bands were then soldered around the barrels and the solder joints were cleaned up with sandpaper.





A few days later the weather changed and the humidity went up causing the line tubs to swell a little. The bands popped open at the solder joint. Aarghhh! I resoldered them to fit the new plus size barrels and decided to varnish the barrels inside and out to try to keep their sizes stable. So far, so good!. The brass bands for the barrels were 2mm wide which looked too wide. I lapped them down on some self-stick 220 grit sandpaper using an eraser to grip them. I decided 1.5mm looked OK. I was worried that if the bands got too narrow, it might not take much humidity to make the solder joints pop again. I'm holding off with the rope coils in the barrels for now to make sure that the bands will be OK.



A collection of little stuff:





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Thanks Augie! I started going through your Syren build and it is gorgeous!! I love the details. My head about explodes looking at your rigging- that stuff scares me! I hope that I can get half as good as you some day.


I had to laugh seeing your cat. We used to have a calico years ago when I did engineering work. I would sometimes be working on large floor plan type drawings and she would plop down on top and watch. She was critical of my work and would bat at my pencil while I was trying to make scale additions! I'm kind of glad she's not here to help with boat building!

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Hey, don't let rigging scare you.  This is my first time through it and it's just FUN ----- filling up all that empty space with 'stuff'.  I'll have an update tomorrow (don't tell anyone.......I just finished the standing rigging).  Your skills that I'm seeing here will carry through to rigging......for SURE.


Callie thanks you for the complement!

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Thank you for the kind words Bob -much appreciated. Thanks for the link too. I had not seen that before and it is very cool to see real ones being made. The brass roller has given me an idea.... Good luck with your Lobster Smack! 


P.S. - If you ever think about throwing your "rough sketch" away, I'd take it and hang it on my wall!

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Hell Buck

 Geez I love this kit. tI has a lot of character and personality with all the wood variations. I've been watching ebay and the last 3 that have sold on ebay have been around $50 or over, so it's definitely inflation proof. Love your wood substitutions, those type of details really make the model POP. Enjoying your build enough I had to quit lurking and say something. Keep up the beautiful work.


Shine On -/\=


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Hi Keith- Thanks for dropping in! I recently noticed a newer version of this AL kit on eBay with a painted boat on the box lid. The old kit had a wood non-painted boat on the box lid (like the one in my first post). The newer "painted" kit sems to sell for twice as much as the old kit but I don't think there is any difference. Maybe there are better instructions in the newer kit! 


Just curious, but do you have a favorite Pink Floyd album? I've always been fond of the "Wish You Were Here" album.

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Hey Buck

The newer kit isn't the Morgan whaleboat, I think its called the New England Whale boat. They appear to be based on the same kit but the Morgans has a WAY cooler rudder. Plus I'm a wood guy, rather then paint, even if it isn't historic. It seems the longer I'm in this hobby the more my attention is drawn to the smaller boats and ships.


As far as favorite PF album, its mood dependent (I honestly dont have a song they play that I dont like) but I'm definitely a pre-DSotM fan, the psychedelic stuff. I paid an insane amount to see Gilmour in chicago in 2006 from 2nd row. After I found out Echoes was in the lineup, I had to, he will never tour again, Tammy and I saw both nights. WYWH is such a great album. Did you know they started playing bits of WYWH and Animals in 1974 Live, but then they toured the DSotM the whole year of 72 before its release in 73. I have a 100 disc changer with all studio and at least 1 show per each tour, it plays a constant loop, PULSE just finished. My MS may be in chemistry, but my Ph.D is in Floydology.


So do you build instruments professionally or a hobby. I've always found the building of string instruments fascinating. It is so amazing how every piece of wood has its own sound. Wish I could play, but my brain doesn't work that way. I play a mean stereo though, but nothing beats live music.


Shine On -/\=


Edited by themadchemist
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Oh BTW, the ones I was referring to on ebay were the old discontinued Morgan whaleboat (I like it better). I tracked one last week that stayed at $31 for days and in the last few minutes ran to $49.50. My limit on that ones $30 but I've spent my budget this month :huh: , I wish an old Double planked San Francisco I would show up.


I will confirm that I have ships in the ship locker, but deny whether its enough yet....



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Oh my, beautiful project. Your attention to super small details is so nice to look at, such as the two pins that attach to your rudder arm. So well articulated; as well as so many other very noticeable tiny details. So cool

PS: love the ax.



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