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HMS Surprise by Brian Skinner - 1:61 scale Circa 1820 after refit\


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Hi folks, 

 

I've decided to start a build log so I can share with folks that ask about my latest ship model. This will be HMS Surprise 100% scratch (if I can) built. It will be stained with no or very little painting. I've already made a couple of errors so I just assume that Dr. Materin has been doing some refitting after buying her out of the service.  ;)  The build is single plank on bulkhead. We'll see how that goes. This is my third build after Armed Virginia Sloop and Niagara so I expect some challenges. Just bought a Byrnes table saw and thicknesser and plan to purchase a lathe soon. I spend a lot of time reviewing Dan Vadas Vulture build so many of the things I do will be copied from Dan. (Thanks Dan!)

 

Pics to follow. 

 

Brian

 

Like others I bought the Lavery and Hunt book on Surprise, made copies of the drawings and then enlarged them to actual size. I am using one foot = 5mm which comes out to 1/61 scale. I like working in metric and this gives me about the right size model when complete. 

 

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After enlarging and making several copies I cut out the bulkheads and used them to trace onto 5ply 1/4 ply. 

 

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I was struggling to figure a good deck height so I cut the bulkheads lower than the deck should be so I could add the decks later. This also gave me more flexibility to move the bulkheads to adjust for the ports. 

 

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Now we'll see if I'm adding the pictures correctly....

 

Brian

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I added the upper deck frames by marking the deck according to the profile plans and then gluing curved plywood deck beams to the bulkheads. I started aft and worked forward adjusting a bit as I went using thick planking to make sure each beam was aligned. 

 

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Next I built out the transom framing. The outer frames I shaped to match the framing forward of them so I can plank back to them. 

 

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The cabin is curved and you can see the framing curved per the plans. 

 

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The frames align with the lights. I left them long when I built them because I still wasn't sure how those would finish off.

 

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The wood I am using for this build is Central American Rosewood, African Pearwood, and Guatambu (boxwood substitute) I ordered from Woodworkers Source which was one of the resources in the forum for materials. The wood they sent is very nice with straight grain. I would recommend them to others. 

 

I've started cutting planking for the upper deck (middle deck really, the quarter deck is above the upper deck). I'm using the Pearwood for the planking and the Byrnes table saw and thickness sander is ideal! Wish I had bought them years ago.

 

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I applied natural Minwax to each of the woods and they look great together. 

 

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I've build the hatch coamings and companionways out of the Pearwood using the method Dan Vadas showed for his Vulture build.

 

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I've completed the ladders to the lower deck and installed them. I used the Byrnes table saw to cut the grooves for the steps. The blade on the saw cuts a kerf about 0.8mm so I used the thickness sander to get the right thickness for the steps to match the grooves. 

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I also installed the hatch covers and applied natural Minwax to all. I'll install railings and ring bolts after I finish the deck planking. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Installing the decking planks. I didn't really like the way the screw clamps strip in the plywood bulkheads so I built some different clamps. The one that works the best is the spring loaded clamp shown below. It's easy to use with one hand and has adjustable tension. I use a black sharpie pen to lightly rub along the planking edge to simulate the caulking between planks. 

 

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Toni, 

 

Thanks for the heads up! I made a test section of planking with the edge's marked with Sharpie and applied some Minwax to it. I don't see any bleeding but I'll keep an eye on it to see if it bleeds over time. Do you have a suggestion for a different method? When I get to the upper deck I'll be more careful. 

 

Brian

 

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Hi Brian,

 

Just found your build log and had a good read.

 

We are heading down the same path but I seem to have about a year's head start. I suspect you will rapidly gain and then I will watch your progress as you accelerate away. 

 

I decided on 1:75 as I didn't want the finished product to be too big for the limited storage space that I have.

 

Your build is looking good so far, I will watch with interest.

 

Cheers,

 

David.

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Sorry for the delayed response.  I would suggest an archival marker instead of Sharpie.  The ink is alcohol based and so is stable with alkyd products like Minwax and Danish wood oil.  You can pick them up at Hobby Lobby.  The office supply stores and Michaels do not carry them.

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Hi Brian,

 

I am about to work on the stern and have been searching to resolve the detail, particularly at the top, around the curved element.

 

There seem to be several interpretations starting with the diagram that you have attached to your stern frames. This looks like it is out of the Lavery & Hudson book and I have been using this as well. I have been a bit confused about what is solid and what is open.

 

Searching through L & H I have found these illustrations which seem to shed some light:

 

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The bottom pic looks closer to the drawing as it includes the "hooked" cut-outs near the ends. The other pic deletes these all together.

 

Other kits/models have a range of layouts:

 

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The film replica isn't really helpful although the cut-outs at the sides may be relevant.

 

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I will be going with the lower of the 2 pics from L & H.

 

Cheers,

 

David.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi David, I have also followed your log and really like how your build looks. I agree with you there seems to be numerous interpretations of the stern. I really appreciate the pictures you posted. It gives me some different perspectives. I have been using the Lavery drawings as you mentioned but they really don't have enough detail on the cutouts as you mentioned. Not sure yet what I'll do there. 

 

Toni, thanks for the advise. I've completed the upper gun deck planking using the sharpie but I'll switch to the alkyl marker going forward. 

 

Here are some shots of the upper deck planking. I've started to mark the treenail patterns which explain the pencil marks across the deck.

 

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Next I am going to work on the planking and gun ports above the upper deck. 

 

Brian

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been working on the pumps. I decided to make only two pumps since they won't be very visible through the opening in the quarterdeck and I wasn't able to find anything conclusive that told me Surprise would have had more than two. I started with a solid block of basswood and then added planking. For the pump cover I started with a 1/2" dowel, cut it in two and planked it. I used a couple of different woods to provide some contrast. Next I need to work on the pump handles. 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I've been working on the stem, stern, and keel. It was time to get serious so I bought a Sherline 8 axis milling machine. What a difference it makes in fashioning pieces from Rosewood which is like working with steel. I still need to fill, final sand, and stain but I've decided to make the wales from ebony and complete the planking below the wales in rosewood so I'll do the finish work later. 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Sinan, Mark, and Greg, thanks for the kind words.

 

Sinan, the only plans I'm using is the Hunt & Lavery drawings from their book The Frigate Surprise. Not very detailed but it's a start. I then look at pictures of other Surprise models and some pictures I took of the refurbished ship used in the movie Master and Commander. Funny story, I talked my wife into a Memorial day trip to San Diego so we could go to the beach and so I could revisit the Surprise and take some more photos. Unfortunately, the Surprise was not where I expected. It was in the yard somewhere for refurbishing. Dang it! We still had a nice time in San Diego and did some sailing on the bay. Very nice!

 

Mark, the only way I could make the notch was to assemble the pieces on the ship so I knew where to cut. Not something I would normally do but it did work out pretty well.  B)

 

I've completed the pump parts. I won't be installing them until later. 

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I've also complete the galley stove and will install later as well. 

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I tried using ebony for the wales but gave up after breaking several pieces when trying to bend them. Soaking, steaming, back cutting, nothing worked. So now I'm using pear and I found some ebony stain made by Varathane that will give me a similar look. 

 

Brian

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  • 1 month later...

Hello Greg. Thanks for checking in. 

 

I've been working on the wales and have them finished. As I mentioned previously, I wanted to use ebony but it was just too difficult to bend the bow planks without breaking them so I used African Pear instead and then stained them with ebony Varathane. 

 

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I've started the planking below the wales but realized I need to figure out the transom before I add additional rows. I left the wales and the first row of planking long then trimmed down to the level of the cabin. Below that the lower transom planking needs to but against the side planks. I cut a curved plank for the transom below the windows/lights. Not sure if I am looking at the plans correctly but this plank would be pretty huge in real life. About 6"x30"x25'. Perhaps it should be two planks but the cross section of the plan looks like one. Anyway, I soaked the plank and clamped it to the frames to dry. I left it long for now so I can trim once the bottom cabin extensions are in place. 

 

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Brian

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