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Fair American by Pine Tar – Model Shipways – 1:48

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After getting my feet wet, so to speak, with a couple of “learner” projects, I wanted to get into something a bit more involved. Model Shipway's Fair American seemed to fill the bill – complicated and detailed enough to be a significant challenge but not entirely overwhelming.

The larger scale – 1:48 – less complicated rigging and the modest price tag helped a lot too...


I received the kit a few weeks ago. Since then I've been studying the instructions and plans, and reading through the various Fair American build logs here on MSW. A lot of talented folks doing some really nice work, not to mention, taking the time and energy to share your knowledge and experience with us! Thanks!


The box and what's inside...




Model Shipways stuff always comes very well packed; kudos for the nice sturdy blue box.


Getting started...

After inventorying the kit contents, one of the first things I wanted to do was look for some of the initial problems with the kit that other builders had found.


The plans...

There does seem to be some discrepancy in the scale of the printed plan sheets. After measuring the printed scale on each of the sheets, I found three of the large sheets – the Hull & Decking Plan sheets and the smaller Mast & Spar Plan sheet - appear to have been printed a bit undersized. The 4th large sheet - Rigging Plan sheet - was a printed a bit oversized. But when comparing the center keel and bulkheads to the sheets I found that for the most part, they seem to match up with the plan sheet as is. I guess that makes this a non-issue for the time being.




Center keel and bulkheads...

The center keel in the kit I received is a single piece, laser cut from 3/16” basswood. It does appear to be straight, no warps or curves, and fits the template of the plan sheet. The bulkheads are laser cut from 3/16” plywood. On sheet “C”, the laser did not cut all the way through on a couple of the bulkheads. No real problem, just took a little more patience to get them out of the sheet intact. All of the plywood parts look pretty solid. No visible gaps in the inside plies and fairly smooth on the exterior surfaces. All of them tended to match up with the plan sheet within a line width or so.




Stem, stern post and keel...

These parts are laser cut from the same 3/16” basswood sheet as the center keel. The only discrepancy here, as others have mentioned, is the keel being about 1/4” short when compared to the drawing. Looks like there's enough spare material to cut another one from the original sheet or just add an extension onto the original part. The curve of the stem didn't quite match the center keel, but should fit OK with a little trimming and fitting.




That's about it for now.

Again,  THANKS!   to all who have taken time to share your work.

Your critique and comments are always welcome.

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The plans...

There does seem to be some discrepancy in the scale of the printed plan sheets. After measuring the printed scale on each of the sheets, I found three of the large sheets – the Hull & Decking Plan sheets and the smaller Mast & Spar Plan sheet - appear to have been printed a bit undersized. The 4th large sheet - Rigging Plan sheet - was a printed a bit oversized. But when comparing the center keel and bulkheads to the sheets I found that for the most part, they seem to match up with the plan sheet as is. I guess that makes this a non-issue for the time being.


For those of us who have yet to build a larger craft such as this, might I ask:


When the plan sheet is larger/smaller than the stated scale, and the parts do not necessarily match the plan, which is to be considered accurate - the plan or the part?

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Thanks Pops and GuntherMT for the comments!


Pops:  In this case, as the parts are already cut and fit the plan sheet templates, I'm going with the parts. I would imagine if I was going to scratch build from just the plans, I would have them copied and reprinted to actual 1:48 scale and proceed from there.


Carving the rabbet...

After a little practice carving on the remnant of the sheet the center keel was cut from I felt a bit more comfortable putting the blade to the to the real thing. To keep the remaining edge of the rabbett consistent, I took a piece of 1/16” x 1/8” strip, soaked it and shaped it around the center keel. After it dried, I colored the 1/16” edge of the strip with a permanent marker. I clamped it and the center keel to the workbench, then tack glued the strip to the center keel edge, keeping both flat on the workbench. The 1/8” wide strip against the 3/16” thick center keel left 1/16” of free material to be cut away for the rabbet. This way I could carve the center keel and the strip down until the colored edge of the strip was carved away with a consistent 1/16” cut. Repeating this on the opposite side of the piece gave a relatively consistent 1/16” cut off each side and 1/16” edge down the center of the center keel.




Fitting the bulkheads to the center keel...

None of the bulkheads would slip into the center keel slots as cut – the bulkhead thickness measured .208” while the center keel slots measured .183” - plus the laser cut indexing made for a bit of trimming, sanding and fitting. The dry fitting looked OK, bulkhead tops flush with the top of the center keel. The bottoms of bulkheads 10 – 16 didn't quite reach the bearding line though. May have to shim them up a bit when we get to fairing the bulkheads.




So far, so good... 

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THANKS! everyone for the comments and the "likes."

Your critique and comments are always welcome.


Fitting and attaching the stem, keel, and stern post...

I cut a new keel piece of proper length from the remnant of the 3/16” basswood sheet. After a little sanding and fitting I attached it, the stem and the stern post to the center keel.




More to come... 

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Although I have a good bit of model building experience – mostly model railroading – I'm quite new at model ship building. I've always been sort of a “scratch-basher,” very seldom building anything according to the plans and instructions. I learned pretty quick that model ship building doesn't work that way... So, with this project I'm making every effort to stick with the plans and instructions. I'm also using as a practicum several of the Fair American build logs, especially those of Pete, Bob, Gary, Kevin and Ed. Excellent work Gentlemen!   And THANKS! for sharing your work.




Once again I dry-fit all the bulkheads on the center keel assembly to make sure everything still went together OK. I beveled the forward four and the aft four bulkheads, but not quite as much as the plans called for, wanting to be sure I didn't remove too much material before I got ready to begin fairing.


Satisfied with the fit of the bulkheads, I clamped and glued each one individually, making sure they were square to and flush with the top of the center keel. After setting overnight, everything looked straight and square.



Creative Clamping 101...   or maybe some medieval torture device????







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Looking real nice Len. I'm now following your build also. Please check your PM box. I sent a couple of messages. Also, I'm having trouble using the Picassa web photos. It's probably on my end, but don't know enough about how to use it. Do you have a different format you could use to send them to me if this won't work?

Thanks, John

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Thanks !   everyone for the comments and "likes."


Moving along with the basic hull construction...


Bulkhead fillers...

Cut, fit, and glued the first set of bulkhead filler blocks using 1” x 2” balsa.








Thanks for dropping in to take a look!

Your advice, suggestions and questions are always welcome.

Edited by PineTar
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More bulkhead fillers...

OK – I know this was probably not necessary but I went ahead and filled the majority of the bulkhead spaces with balsa, making this essentially a solid hull. When I faired and planked one of my “learner” projects, I found fairing the bulkheads was easier and the planking was much smoother on the portions of the hull where I had filled the bulkhead spaces. So...


After finishing the fillers and some basic fairing...




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  • 1 month later...

Been a while since we posted... Why, You ask?


#1 - The work bench got commandeered by the Admiral. “Can I use your workbench to wrap a few things Dear?” “Of course, My Love...” Five days later. “You probably need to empty your trash, Dear. I have just a few more things to wrap...” Then, of course, I had my stuff to wrap.


#2 – Vacation... Viva Las Vegas!   and another five days.... Actually we go for the shows, restaurants and the fact you can get a suite in a nice hotel for about 80 bucks a night...


Yesterday I finally managed to get back to the workbench.


After reading through the instructions and the several build logs, I decided to plank the deck before doing the bulwarks and gun ports. So, yesterday and today we worked on fairing the balsa deck fillers so the planking will hopefully lay in fairly smooth and flat. Added the waterway and the margin planks. I cut the forward sections from 1/16 basswood sheet and the remainder of 1/16 x 3/16 strip. The scarph joints look a little rough, but...   practice makes perfect? More like practice makes lots of trash.


As for deck planking, I think I'm going to use the 3/16 wide stuff. That comes out to 9” scale, probably a bit wide, but I'll lay in a few pieces and see how it looks.




On another note... I see the NRG annual meeting in 2015 is going to be held at Mystic Seaport. Nice timing... I went to Mystic and Boston in October instead of going to St. Louis. I'd been wanting to go to Mystic and Boston to see the Constitution before it went to drydock, so off we went. All the while I was at Mystic, I kept thinking, “Just watch. The NRG get together next year will be at Mystic.” Looks like a return trip may be in order.


By the way, I posted a bunch of photos of the C. W. Morgan on my Picasa Web Albums. I have a bunch more of Mystic Seaport and the Constitution that I'll be posting in the near future. I make a separate post about that.

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Thanks everyone for the comments and the “likes.”


I decided to go ahead and plank the main deck with the 3/16” basswood supplied in the kit.


Before I cut and glued the planking, I sanded each piece with 220, 400, and 600 grit, applied Minwax Pre-stain conditioner and then stained the pieces with Minwax Golden Oak stain. Used a #2 pencil to mark the caulk lines. As for glue, I normally use Aleene's Tacky Glue, but this time I thought I'd try a medium CA. Worked just fine. Main thing was I didn't have to clamp and wait for the glue to dry before putting down the next plank. I applied just a drop to the top edge of each bulkhead the plank covered and laid the plank in. The medium CA gives you some wiggle time to get the plank in straight and butt-up to the previous one. Fifteen seconds or so and the plank is stuck. After the planking was down, I used Scotch tape to mark the guide lines and drilled the trunnel holes. I then lightly sanded the deck down to fill the holes with sanding dust and applied another coat of stain and a couple coats of Minwax satin finish Wipe-On-Poly.







Overall no big problems. The scarph joints in the margin plank were a little rough and I'm still having a time getting the planking more level, but we're getting there. I did have some problem with the stain wicking up the grain on the butt ends of the planks and the trunnel holes with the basswood. I'm not quite ready to invest in a stock of alternative woods, but I will certainly consider some boxwood, holly, or swiss pear for my next build.


As always, your comments, suggestions and advice are always welcome. Thanks for taking time to look and comment.

Edited by PineTar
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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks everyone for the comments and “likes.”


I see Ken has finished his Fair American. Beautiful ship! Looks like I'd better get to moving smartly.


I constructed the deck hatches and gratings. I used walnut for the coamings and the grating supplied in the kit. I sanded the bottoms to shape using a sheet of sandpaper taped down to the deck and glued them down.


Next I framed the gunports. Following Ken and others lead, I put a 1/8 x 3/32 piece across the tops of the bulkheads to facilitate the larger gunports. After a good bit of trial and error – mostly error – I managed to build up the fixed sheaves somewhat like Bob's. Notice the “somewhat”... Thanks, Bob. Got them framed in.




Thanks again everyone for taking time to look and comment!

Edited by PineTar
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Len -

You are doing a very nice job on your FAIR AMERICAN.  You appear to have learned from Bob's and Ken's build logs ( I did too...).  I will continue to follow your build log and will be happy to offer any advice that might be helpful. 




p.s. Read the other build logs carefully.  There are some really good observations embedded in the text that can be of help.

Edited by GaryKap
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  • 4 months later...

EEEgads!  Four months since a post. Lotta water gone under the bridge since then - no pun intended...  Been lurking about the Forum, just a lot of distractions. Revamped the mancave/workshop/office. Bought some stuff, sold some stuff, Goodwilled a bunch of stuff, threw a bunch of stuff in the dumpster. Still trying to get completely retired. Sometimes I think retiring is more work than work - maybe by August. Fixin' to put the FA back on the work bench. I see all of y'all have been doing some mighty fine work and making a lot of progress on your projects.

Best to all and, hopefully, we'll have the shipyard up and running here in a few days.

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  • 1 year later...

I posted earlier this week that my FA build was being retired.  Well not so fast...


Its been almost 2 years since I did any model ship work. I've spent most of that time trying get settled into retirement, selling big house, buying smaller house, moving all the work shop stuff, the work bench, the model railroad, all the wife's artsy-crafty stuff... Then unpacking, finding everything and getting it all set up in a newer, smaller space... I'm sure most of you have "been there, done that" 


Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I finally got around to getting the FA back on the workbench. Man, what a mess. The gun ports were the wrong size and way out of position, the quarterdeck was too high,  the deck planking was just plain bad. I really considered scrapping the whole build and starting on something else, but after a couple days of looking it over I thought better of it. So I got busy and rebuilt everything that didn't look right, including re-planking the main deck. The quarterdeck is going to get re-planked this weekend. Lot happier with it now, so I guess this build will continue after all.


Sort of where we're at now...



I want to thank all the folks here who take time to post their work. Its so helpful and inspirational to all of us. Thanks!

Edited by Len Turner
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