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USS Barbel SS 580 by torpedochief - Finished

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Little tough building this guy so far. It has nothing to do with the technical aspect of building the model. This brings back some memories of the USS BONEFISH which had a battery fire and burned out, with the loss of three shipmates.


At the time of the fire I was on shore duty in Charleston serving in Engine build up of Navy Torpedo Facility. When we heard of the fire we knew our shipmate TM2/SS Ken Kutcher was aboard.  We also knew they were abandoning ship.  The theory about what the PBXN-103 explosive within the warheads of the MK-48 torpedoes would do when exposed to high temp was just that, a theory.


We watched on CCTV as our shipmates lined on the smoldering deck that was so hot their shoes melted to the steel. True submariners they waited as helicopters carried a few at a time to safety. Each second seemed hours as we prayed the weapons designers were right. The plastic explosive should just melt and burn....should.


Finally the last soul left the burning ship.  There was little else to do but watch it burn and hope for the best. Three days later the fires went out. After a week the sad submarine was towed back to her berth at Pier Mike.


I was divorced at the time and volunteered to go inside the burned submarine to check the status of the 12 MK-48 Mod 3 torpedoes.  The explosive had indeed melted and some had burned. The situation was now very dangerous. The melted explosive was now devoid of a desensitizer and could detonate from shock or being stepped on. 700 gallons of peanut oil was used provide some reduction of risk as we cleaned up the explosive and off load the weapons.  Each day we had to walk by where one of our Sailors departed on Eternal Patrol. I will not go into it but he was unable to be moved until our work was done.


BARBEL and her sisters BLUEBACK, and BONEFISH known as the "B Girls" were the first "combat" submarines to use a teardrop hull for greater underwater performance. Diesel powered these little submarines played a big roll in the future development of our Submarine Fleet.


Originally launched with bow planes like ALBACORE, BARBEL was soon fitted with planes on the forward end of the sail or as we call them "Fairwater Planes." This move provided two major advantages for the time. 1. Moving the planes gave better depth control at periscope depth.  Radar at the time was becoming effective enough to detect periscopes. The whole sail sticking out would be a very good way to have a bad day.  2. This eliminated any mechanical noise near the passive sonar array. for that matter it left more for additional systems that for some strange reason are still classified.


To begin the model I selected a very closed grain lemon wood.  Tough but workable.  Using plans I made half templates, and turned the hull on my little Dremel lathe.  Once turned and sanded, the hull was fastened into a building cradle. This not only held the hull secure but gave me a way of making perfect holes for the stand. It also enabled a secure work surface as I planed and sanded the flat deck area. 


With modern submarines it is very ease to get the hull out of round. Whenever I work I continue to use my waterline marker to ensure the lines are where they should be as I remove material. 


Ok up next I will get some detail scribed in, build the sail, and see what other trouble we can get into.








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Hi Chief


That was a fascinating introduction to your build log and I loved reading it. The fact that you have first hand actual experience in the incident, is even more remarkable. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


As for your model, I'm definitely going to follow along.





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Hi Chief, thanks for sharing the background info. I have a number of buddies who served in the Silent Service. I've been in a few boats and admire all of your dedication.

I too will be following your build. I'll be interested in how you hide the wood grain. I've used sanding sealers to some effect, but am not happy with my results.

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Sanding sealers are glorified baby powder in lacquer. What this takes in my opinion is a good primer like Zinnzer.  However to really beat the grain you first have to raise it up.  A damp rag along the wood will lift the grain that you knock down again with some very fine sand paper.  Remember you are going after the raised grain not the wood.  After doing this a few times use the Zinnzer in very light coats. 0000 Steel wool is then used to gently remove most of the primer.   Keep doing this and you will notice the grain starting to fill up.  It will take a while but it will be worth the effort.


Going Deep!!     

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I too will be pulling up a chair if you don't mind Chief. Like Patrick, and everybody else I suspect, I was fascinated with your story. I think knowing some of the historical background will make watching the build even more interesting!  B)  Thanks for sharing sir.


Cheers  :cheers:

Edited by GLakie
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Thank you all for your kind words.  I bet there are more than a few of us who model for a type of therapy I imagine.  Many people think we submariners go to sea and just sit down there. Oh no my brothers and sisters. If I could tell you some stories, you would have a new out look on not only the submariners of the US but around the world under many flags.  However those who talk don't know and those who know don't talk.  Well I know and I talk a little.....


                                                                          SUBMARINE FACT TIME!!!


                   The largest US submarines are the OHIO Class.  Only 12 Pounds of air hold them on the surface.    



This model was an 'Honor Build" for a former crew member who will not be with us much longer. I do want to make more since as of now or at least will be the only model of BARBEL class there is, (as far as I know.) 


After the master plug was turned as we discussed last evening. I made a silicone mold of the hull. This was cast in resin and became my intermediate master with this hull I could add further details that would not scribe well in wood.  A note here: Know your materials!  Cheap is not always best. I recommend you get the best quality silicone and resin you can afford and please if you do go ala carte read read read!  You might find you have a platinum base rubber that a type of resin will have for lunch.  Still scraping out what looks like a bad version of the movie blob from one of my 688 masters.


With the hull cast and the master plug put away, (Keep everything you make. Never know when a model company might want to give you a little bit for your efforts.)  I determined what I needed to etch and how tough would it be to get to. Fortunately BARBEL has a superstructure. The top of the boat is not part of the pressure hull. This makes a place for the crew to walk about, and provides wet storage areas for lines, and such.  I was relieved I would be able to get away with easy etching.


You can buy etching guides but chances are you will not get the shape or size you need in that one instance. So I make my own etching stencils.  Like the photo etch parts I make, I can also make etching stencils. I did a how to a while back about photo etching for about $0. Take a look at that and have a ball. makes life easier and much cheaper.


Another tip on etching details into resin or plastic. Use the proper tool. Blades and scribes basically push the material aside without real etching.  You will see what I mean after you spend 3 weeks etching a 1/96 scale Typhoon. Yes you stand back and look at your masterpiece, and think you are the stuff. Well that is until you paint it and all your detail line fill up with paint.  Micro Mark has etching tools that seem to work ok, but again I make my own.


I went about making the control surfaces (rudders, stern planes, fairwater planes,) from sheet styrene. Once cut they were brought to shape with a file and finished with 600 grit sandpaper.  Other than the rudders I only built one of each.  I will cast these to be sure they match perfectly.


                                                                               SUBMARINE FACT TIME!!


Have you ever built a modern US Sub? I bet you did it wrong.  Little known fact: The rudder is offset 1 degree to counteract the torque of the screw.


Speaking of rudders. Do your research. On some classes the upper and lower rudders are not connected. On some classes only the upper rudder turns


I was ready to now cast the production master.  I cut the hull shape in sheet. This was sized so the hull would fit half way in.  I then added the key ways to mold alignment;  I call it the casting flange. The hull was gently pressed into blue clay. The flange was placed over top and clay was used to fill in gaps.  Folks this takes a long time to get right, so go slow.  I turned a filling hole and used a tiny drop of CA to attach it to the stern.


I also made up the mold box for the control surfaces and mounted them on styrene sticks.  These sticks were beveled so there will be less resin where I want the control surface to snap from the sprue.


Mixed the ole rubber up and poured the top half and control surfaces. Oh before I poured the mold for the control surfaces I used CA to attach micro slivers of bamboo for venting.


Hit the rack Shippys!!                         












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Welcome back shipmates!


With the top half of the hull mold cured. I turned the mold box upside down and removed the bottom. The clay was removed carefully as not to upset the intermediate in the top mold. If you move your master there is the possibility the top coat of rubber will seep past your master and into the cavity. Since there is no way to apply rubber to rubber mold release into the cavity your mold will be a failure. 


After removing the clay and cleaning up the bottom with cotton swaps moistened with denatured alcohol, I placed vents for the hull.  It was convenient that the mounting screw holes where right where the vents needed to go.


I extended the mold box bottom (now the top) with sheet styrene to provide a deeper pour on the bottom mold.


Rubber to rubber mold release was applied in three coats making sure I hit all the areas I could and then some.  After the last coat dried I mixed the rubber and poured the bottom mold.


                                                                            SUBMARINE FACT TIME!!


  The Pilgrim Nut is used to hold the screw on a 688 class submarine. The torque spec for the nut is  "Hand Tight."


After a 3 hour cure the mold box was removed from around the mold. I trimmed what rubber had seeped down the side and ever so gently separated the mold halves. These will need a bit of cleanup, and a dusting of talc before you use them.


The casting resin I use works better if the molds are warm. Double edged sword here. It makes the resin kick faster, however it makes the resin kick faster.  One the one hand fast cure is good, but when you are trying to get your resin down a tiny fill hole within 2 minutes you are flirting with frustration. It will happen that your fill hole will sure before the mold is completely filled.  Uggggg!!


Time to call in the heavy reinforcements!  Well not really heavy.  You know those meat injectors for the ole BBQ?  Get you a couple and some fish tank air line hose.  You are going to be tempted to use the needle that is attached to the injector. It will do the job....once.  After the resin cures in the needle there is way to clean it out that I know of.  Instead remove it an put your airline hose over the nipple. The hose you can toss and be good to go on the next pour.


I inserted small gauge hose into the vents for the bottom mold. thee were secured using tape that holds the mold together during the pour.


More later Shipmates.  I hear the rack calling!!






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First of all I want to thank you all for the kind words. I do love all ships, however I spent from my late teens to my 40s riding submarines. So bear with me.  Still have many projects going.  Scratch Building the LEE, upgrading a little Academy Whale Ship.  Oh yeah and a 1/700 EDMUND FITZGERALD.


Lets Rig for Dive and get this little puppy to bed!


Well I poured the mold by using the syringe method to ensure the pour hole did not become clogged and result with a missing mid ship.


                                                                            SUBMARINE FACT TIME!!!


                   On a US 688 Class Fast Attack there are only two water tight doors. One is at Frame 57 and separates operations from engineering.  We have another name for forward people and after people.  We are Coners (We work in the cone.) and Nukes.  The other water tight door is the washing machine in the laundry space.


I did not attach any control surface to the master prior to pouring.  Thin areas of a pour take forever to cure out as they can not generate heat that well. Also unless you can spin cast or have a pressure pot there is always the chance a bubble will somehow get trapped and really complicate your day.


After 30 minutes I de-molded the hull, and re-drilled the mounting holes. 


The mold for the control surfaces was heated to 150 F  in the oven.  Your mold might sweat some so be sure you wipe it clean and give it a bit of mold conditioner.  With the mold heated I mixed and poured the control surfaces.


The surfaces were allowed to cure for an hour then removed from the mold and the little bit of flash trimmed away.


The surfaces were attached to the hull at locations indicated by the plan using CA. A fillet was made where the vertical stabilizers meet the hull just forward of the Stern Planes using Green Filler Putty, and sanded smooth.


Three light coats of auto primer were applied. After each the hull was given a light going over with 0000 steel wool.


With the primer coats dried I next airbrushed Flat Black Acryl over the entire hull.  As with the Primer this was steel wooled between coats.


While these dried I used GIMP 2.0 to design the screw and decals for the model.  The decals were printed and sealed and the screw was photo-etched.


With my water line marker I retraced the previous marks and taped the hull at the line. The lower hull was air brushed with a mixture of 80% Red 10% dark Blue and 10% Black.


With the paint cured I gave the little monster a few coats of clear coat.  Then the dry transfer hull numbers went on the sail.  Along with the BARBEL'S  BATTLE E Award.  We love getting those! Means we are best of the best.  Of course!


I then applied the draft marks and locked then down with Micro sol decal solution.  Black ink was used to highlight the hatches and Bronze was used to paint the capstan.


I made the base from Walnut and added the ships patch and a set of Dolphins.  After a coat or so of clear, the ole girl was moored on her base.


Well that is that friends.  BARBEL was the test bed for many of the systems modern subs use.  It was found that bow mounted torpedo tubes can really interfere with passive sonar as it is also bow mounted.  Starting with PERMIT 594 Class SSNs the tubes were located on the sides of the ship.  These are at and angle of 8.5 degrees off centerline. S.I.N.S was tested on BARBEL  Ships Inertial Navigation System.  This system was in use until late 637 and all 688 Class Attack boats.


Hope you enjoyed the build and a little sub history.


All clear on the broadcast. All messages aboard. Lower all masts and antennas. Going Deep!!














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