Building a model
ship often means actually build
ing several model
s because most ships have boats. Constellation had six.
My method for build
ing boats is nearly the same as for build
ing larger hulls and real boats - planks
I have a 1:12th scale
drawing of Constellation's boats in particular, from the National Archives. They not only printed me a paper copy, but gave me a .tif image which I could easily re-scale to 1:36.
I reproduced the lines as forms extended to a baseline so the boat could be built
upside down. I drew each boat's patterns and arranged each to fit on a sheet of copy paper. I printed this on full sheet label paper so I can rough cut them, stick them on the form material, and then cut the forms.
I had a few sheets of 1/8" balsa that I cut the forms from. A pine plank was used for the build
ing-board, and marked where each station would go, then the forms were glued on making sure each was 90° to the base and square to the center-line. A note on the build
-board, it doesn't have to be as wide as the boat, and should, in fact, be narrower. Then you can access inside the sheer and planking
, and later, removing the boat from the forms will be much easier. A small plank of 3/4" stock will let you get rubber bands completely around the model
, and it will also fit in a vice which is very convenient.
The edges of the forms are shaped so the planks
will lie flat on the surface, and not teeter on the edges. Using balsa makes this easy work, though you have to be careful not to snap them off the build
board. I sanded them nearly to shape before mounting them on the build
board, then fine tuned them with a plank laid on the forms as a guide.
The first boat I started with was the ship's 1st cutter, which is a lap-strake, or clinker-built
boat. (Only the launch is carvel planked
) it's frames
are 1/16" thick bass strips 3/32" wide. Each frame is dipped in ammonia and bent over it's form. I put a dab of glue at the ends that would eventually be cut off to hold it to the form, but for the frames
on the wine-glass
and hollow forms at the ends I used rubber bands to pull them into shape. Once the ammonia dries, they will hold this shape. Part of the reasoning behind using balsa for the forms is if anything gets glued that shouldn't, it's the form and not the model
that will give-way. So far, the forms used on both boats came through the process in usable condition, which is encouraging as I need to make two quarter boats just alike and will need to reuse the forms then.
The stem, stern
-post, and keel are 1/16" bass, assembled together while flat. First the top corners of the keel were planed off to make a sort of rabbet. The transom is also bass as it stays in the boat. The transom is cut taller to reach the build
-board, and partially cut at what will be it's top to make it easier when it's time to detach the boat. it's glued to the stern
post and the build
-board, the keel is glued to each frame, and the stem is glued to the build
-board. This pretty much forms the rigid skeleton of the boat.
There's two ways to represent lapstrake planking
on so small a model
. One way is to sand each plank so it's half as thick at it's top edge as its bottom edge. The planks
are butted on the boat, carvel style, thick against thin, giving the impression of overlapped planks
. I chose to actually overlap the planks
because the inside of the boat is open to view, and it's actually easier when dealing with wood only 1/32" thick.
Since each plank of a lapstrake boat overlaps the one below it, each plank has to be spieled, or shaped to fit, and the boat must be planked
from the keel to the sheer. I divide the length of the widest frame from the keel to the sheer into the number of planks
I want, then divide the lengths of the stem and the stern
by this number. You'll find the planks
will get narrow forward, and flare wider back aft. You may have to experiment a bit with the number of planks
to maintain at least 2 scale inches forward and not more than 5 scale inches aft, or the planking
will look nonsensical and out-of-scale.
the cutter in 1/32" thick bass. The first planks
are the garboards, next to the keel. For the next plank I placed a strip of card along side and used a piece of plank against the edge of the wood plank to mark the card. The marks are actually the bottom edge of the plank. Each plank is shaped on it's bottom edge to the plank before, and it's top edge is straight. Then I dip it in ammonia and clamp it in place, where the "clamps
" are rubber bands, blocks of wood, pins, clothes pins, whatever works. Again, a narrow build
-board allows the rubber bands to pull in as you reach the sheer rather than pulling them away from the boat.
Once your brain gets wrapped around spieling, the planking
will move along. But don't try to do too much too fast or you'll just get frustrated and ruin everything. Take lots of breaks.
need to be sanded thinner at their ends, almost to nothing, depending how much of a rabet was cut into the stem. At the stern
they run right off the transom and are cut flush. You can notch the transom into steps for each plank to fit into, of fill the little gaps where they overlap with putty later. Since they're getting paint
ed, I used putty.
When the planking
is done up to the sheer, it's best to add rub rails and strakes while the boat's still on the forms.
I then finished the cut in the transom, cut off the stem near the build
-board, and nipped off each frame where it was glued to the form. Then carefully lifted the boat off the forms. Some form may have come off with it, and some spots may need to be reglued.
I installed frames
in between each of the ones the boat was built
on, putting a frame about every scale foot. Seat clamps
, floor boards, seats, oar notches, lifting eyes, mast steps, etc, are all added bit-by-bit, before you know it, you've got another model
I'll get into the launch next.