Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Zdravstvujtye” to our Russian Visitors

Ship Modeling is truly an international hobby practiced by enthusiast around the world.

One of the nice things about have a blog site on a service like WordPress is that you get some statistical information about how people are finding your blog, how many visitors you’re getting each day, what’s the most popular topic people are reading, and things like that. No specifics on the individual visitors, but just general information to help determine what visitors are interested in and such.

One of the things that is also provided is information on what countries visitors are from. It’s surprising and kind of neat to see the diverse number of countries that people are reaching my  blog site from. Almost 2 dozen countries in the past week. And, you’d think the bulk of the visitors would be from the USA.

But, in the past few days, I’ve been getting the most visitors from the Russian Federation. I think this has much to do with the  content about Woody Joe kits. A Russian ship modeling site,, an online store I think, lists Woody Joe kits right alongside the traditional European kits and it seems that someone on their online forum found my blog and my Kanrin Maru kit review articles and mentioned it, linking to this blog site. So, I have this great increase in viewers all of a sudden.

So, to my fellow ship modelers in Russia, welcome! And to all visiting ship modelers from across the globe for that matter, including my own beloved USA, welcome! I hope you find something useful here, or at least something entertaining.

A Nail Pattern Technique for Copper Sheathing Plates

[The following is an article I wrote last year for The Foghorn, the newsletter publication of the South Bay Model Shipwrights that meets in Los Altos, California]

Copper sheathing is a feature I’ve always liked on ship models. I’ve built several ship models that feature copper sheathed hulls starting with my first ever wooden ship model, Model Shipways’ pilot boat Phantom.

One question that I’ve had to deal with in all cases is how to make the nail pattern on the plates. One school of thought is to ignore the nails as they are hardly visible anyway. But, I like detail, so I think the nail pattern is important to include if it can be done well.

While the nail patterns seemed to vary greatly depending on the ship yard, the nail patterns on a given ship are regular and consistent. In the past, I’ve used pounce wheels and my technique with them has improved. I’ve even managed to work a technique to make the plates pretty consistent, but these techniques proved to be very time consuming.

My latest technique in the long quest for a good balance between expediency and accuracy is the use of a steel die to emboss the pattern onto the copper.

I’d always wanted to try pressing copper sheathing plates using a metal die, but published techniques I’ve read called for machining, for which I have little experience and no tools. Model Shipways’ Syren kit includes a description of making a die from small nails mounted in a wooden block, but the results are still not to my satisfaction.

Then I began an experiment when I discovered that a brass etching kit I purchased recently from Micromark ( also works on steel. What if I could chemical etch a die?


  Micromark’s metal etching kit

I won’t go into great detail here, but chemical etching of metal is a multi-step process that starts with creating artwork using a computer, printing it and transferring it onto a piece of metal using light and a light-sensitive coating on the metal referred to as “Photo Resist”. When placed in a chemical bath, the unexposed areas of the photo resist allow the chemical to  come in direct contact with the metal, dissolving away the material.

Press Template copy 2

The artwork shown here was created on a computer, and was made for full plates at different scales.

When the metal has been in the etchant sufficient time to dissolve some of the metal, but before it’s eaten too far through it, the metal is removed from the etchant and cleaned up. The result is a steel plate that has the nail pattern embossed on its surface.


The etched steel and some embossed test pieces

The dies were cut from the metal sheet and mounted in a little jig I made for embossing copper tape. This embossing process isn’t perfect and I’ll continue to experiment with methods to improve it, but I made it work for now. Simply lay the copper face down on the die and use the butt end of a small tool’s wooden handle to rub the pattern onto the tape.


 The nail pattern embossing jig for 3/16” scale

The idea of different left and right side copper plates seem to have become popularized as an accurate feature by Amati and others, but I think the distinction is unnecessary since the plates overlap top and bottom anyway, and the overlap covers up one edge row of nails.

The standard die for a plate made as part of a strip of copper tape is slightly shorter than for a full-sized plate since it represents a plate that has been overlapped by the plate next to it. Because of this, these plates also need to omit one end row of nails.

Press Template - Single Strip Plate

Press Template - Single Full Plate

Die for copper tape at top, for individual plate at bottom.


Copper sheathing going on the hull of the yacht America

I made dies for 3/16” scale and also for 1/8” scale use. The first use of the dies was on my scratch model of the yacht America in 3/16” scale. I’m pretty happy with the results. And, while the process of making the dies took some work, the actual embossing of the plates was not difficult. It still took time to emboss each plate – more time than using a pounce wheel. But this has been the quickest way for me to get pretty accurate and consistent plates, and the amount of wasted material was very small.

New Project for 2013 – Artesania Latina’s schooner Independence

As if I didn’t have enough projects in progress, I took on yet another. This one is a commissioned project from the same person that asked me to rigged the Mantua San Felipe model. This one is the schooner Independence, 1775, a kit manufactured by Artesania Latina of Spain.


As this is a commissioned project, I tried to convince the buyer to let me build something from scratch and tried to find a subject he was really interested in. But, I didn’t have much luck. I went ahead and accepted the project, but it’s almost impossible for me to build a kit without changing the heck out of it – “kit bashing” as it’s called. So, at least I did manage to convince him to allow me to make modifications.

It didn’t take a whole lot of research to find that the model does not resemble any known vessel called Independence from the period of the American War of Independence. My first look at the kit was to note that it seems to be based on the colonial schooner Halifax, but with some modifications to make it seem like a different ship. But, it was clearly based on the Halifax.

The scale of the kit is purported to be 1/35th scale. This is so close to a more convenient 1/32nd scale that I figured I’d just treat it as such. But, I looked at some measurements of known colonial schooners of the period, Hannah (though a reconstruction), Sultana, Halifax, and Sir Edward Hawk. If the Independence were 1/32 scale the actual ship would have been smaller than the Sultana, a ship described in Harold Hahn’s book The Colonial Schooner as “the smallest of them all”. Yet, this model was to carry the same armament as the Halifax: Six carriage guns and 8 swivels. This just didn’t seem right.

So, I decided to reset the scale and built the Independence as if it were at 1/48 scale, or 1/4″ = 1′. At that scale, it would fit in nicely with the other colonial schooners. Intending to replace everything on the model anyway, this actually seems to make things easier, as parts for a 1/4″ scale model are easier to locate.

Looking at the kit itself, I would say that aside from the scale accuracy issue and the historical question, it’s a great kit for the beginning ship modeler. I started test fitting the bulkheads and was really surprised at how perfectly the parts fit together. And they were nicely snug, not too tight, requiring almost no sanding at all. The only problem I ran into was the slight warp in the keel – something I’ll need to deal with during the build.

So, I’ve got about a year to finish the kit, which should give me plenty of time to work on my other projects. I’ve decided to plank the decks with Boxwood, replace the keel pieces with ones cut from Cherry and the plank the bulk of the hull with Cherry veneer. Above the whales, I will probably use some Pau Marfim strips I bought a long time ago and never had occasion to use or maybe I’ll just use more Boxwood.

The cannons in the kit are made from turned brass, but are badly designed. Instead of these, I will purchase some 4-pdr cast pewter cannon barrels and swivel guns, both of which The Lumberyard carries in 1/4″ scale.

Those interested in purchasing the kit may have to search around. The main sites I purchase from don’t seem to have this kit. I’ve sent an email to Ages of Sail to find out if the kit may be out of production. Of course, there is always ebay.

Kit Review: Kanrin Maru by Woody Joe – Addendum

Having actually started work on the kit, there is one thing I want to point out. As I mentioned in the earlier parts of my review, some of the wood used for the laser cut parts in the Woody Joe kit are very thin and have been laser cut very finely. For the plywood parts and the thicker wooden parts (which look like Poplar) that’s not much of a problem. But, some of the finer parts are cut from thin Mahogany. And, to the company’s credit, they use straight Mahogany, not Mahogany plywood. For larger pieces, this isn’t too much of a problem, but the skylight frames and the mast top details have some very thin pieces and even if you are very careful, they will break in multiple places.


When building the mast tops, I was very careful, but I still had the first two laser cut Mahogany pieces break on me. This isn’t really a tragedy as long as you keep all the pieces closely accounted for. It is wood, after all, and anything wooden is relatively straight forward to repair cleanly. But, by the time I got to the last one, I got smart (it happens now and again) and here’s is my advice:

Continue reading

Mary Taylor Article – Final Update

This last week, I returned the edited proof of the final installment of Mary Taylor article I wrote for Seaways’ Ships in Scale.

I seem to have miscalculated the number of parts the article would be broken into. I even had to go back and re-check my own text to see if something had been cut. But, no, the article parts were simply larger chunks than I’d anticipated. So, this next issue will see the third and final installment.

I have to say that realizing this has left me feeling a bit sad. Yes, it’s great that the whole thing is now out there, but the ongoing process of having your work in print is really a great feeling. Now that I know it’s over, it’s left me kind of wondering what to do next.

It’s kind of motivated me to push ahead on a magazine version of the Woody Joe Kanrin Maru kit review. Also, I’ve been working on the Kanrin Maru build and I’d really like to write about it. But, I really want to be careful not to be building the model so I can write about it. When that happens, the quality of the build becomes somewhat secondary and I don’t want that to happen to my work. Still, I do like to write, so I think I just need to be careful about my builds.

In any case, July/August 2013 is the final article section. Now, you readers out there have it all together and, hopefully, someone will take what I wrote and run with it and build their own Mary Taylor model.

And, who knows, it was a fun project and I do have a BlueJacket Mary Taylor kit sitting on the shelf. Maybe I’ll build the kit with modifications. Well… no, I think I have enough projects in the works for now. I guess I’ll leave that to another modeler.