Monthly Archives: September 2013

Ship Model Exhibit in Redwood City, California

Who would have thought that so many beautiful ship models would be on display in Redwood City. It is in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s not a place that comes to mind when you think about ship model exhibits. But, the San Mateo County History Museum has a beautiful collection of 24 ship models that were built by the late Charles Parsons.

The museum has done a truly wonderful job in creating the exhibit which takes up a room to itself and includes a video presentation of the late Mr. Parsons and his models. Parsons was a former mechanical engineer for Chevron and was a member of the South Bay Model Shipwrights group that now meets in Los Altos, CA.

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The models are mostly, if not all, scratch built and beautifully done. Some appear to be based on Hahn plans and built with frames exposed. Others include the USS Hartford in 1/8″ scale, the HMS Victory, also in 1/8″ scale, a Xebec, American privateer Prince de Neufchatel, Golden Hind, a Fletcher-class Destroyer, and many, many others.

If you’re in the area, this is something you’re going to want to check out. Here’s an article from 2005 on the exhibit: Naval passion on display / ‘Ships of the World’ exhibit shows artistry of late San Carlos resident – SFGate.

Visit the museum website for more details here: San Mateo County History Museum Home




AL’s Independence – New Stem, Sternpost and Keel

After the initial planking went on, it was sanded down carefully where it will meet the keel, stem and sternpost. The kit calls for adding the second or finish layer of planking next. This is a common practice with the AL kits and it works very well. The planking strips that are provided are very thin and flexible and with the keel, stem and sternpost out of the way, it’s quite easy to glue the planks down where you want them. Once this is done, the keel and such are added. To get a good fit, you may have to trim a little of the planking and sand the inner edges of the stem and other pieces until you have a perfect fit with no gaps. But, this is where I am deviating from the standard instructions.

I decided I’d add these pieces before planking and I would create a rabbet into which my finish planks would fit. It may actually be harder to build the model this way, but it feels more authentic. For most people, particularly beginning modelers, I recommend simply following the kit instructions. The method is pretty easy and it works very well and I think you’ll be very happy with the results. This is a feature that I think makes AL kits easier to construct than others.

I had decided from the start to replace the finish planking in the kit with either cherry or pear wood. I’ve done other hulls in cherry and used cherry quite extensively, but I’d never done anything using pear. I have some pear that I bought from The Lumberyard and I thought it would look nice and the model. I’ll also be doing deck furniture on the model in cherry, so I thought a different wood for the hull would be better. So, I went with pear for the hull.


The kit drawings were then photocopied to get the shape for the stem and sternpost and then outline the stem for the individual parts that make it up. Speaking of making it up, I really don’t know much about stem design, so I dug through some of my references and just came up with something that seemed to look correct.

The drawing was then cut up and glued to a pear sheet that I’d milled down to 3/16″ thick. The pieces were cut apart with a scroll saw and then worked to shape using the bench sander. Final shaping was done by hand until the pieces fit nicely together. I used a little black acrylic along the edges of the joints to get the seams to stand out and then glued the pieces together using thick CA.


After gluing up the pieces, the holes were drilled in it for the gammoning rope and the bobstay. The stem was then sanded to a nice gradual taper, and then I went over the seams with a scribing tool to enhance them a little.

Fitting the pieces into place required a bit of work. For the planking to lay flush against the sternpost and keel means that the hull has to be sanded down so that it is thinner than the these parts where they meet, allowing room for the planks. Also, it means that the parts have to be perfectly centered when they’re attached, so extra care is required there.


For the stem, I glued on a narrow strip of wood so that a rabbet is formed where it meets the hull. Still, the hull planking has to be trimmed so that the stem fits properly and so the planks will run nicely into it.


From a distance it looks really nice and you can’t see the scars and the filler used on the inner hull planking. All of this will be covered by the hull planking anyway.





An Interesting Exhibit for Clipper Ship Fans

Someone just pointed out on one of the online ship modeling forums that there is a neat exhibit recently opened (August 1st) of clipper ship advertising cards. The exhibit is at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, and is accessible M-F from 9am to 5pm. It runs now through February 2014.


There is a nice article about it on SFGate here: The beauty of the Clipper ship and the age of advertising. And the library’s exhibit page can be be viewed here: On Exhibit.

AL’s Independence – First Planking of the Hull

Here’s is where the fun begins and the ship starts to actually look like a ship.

Artesania Latina kits are a bit different from most others in that the stem, keel and stern posts are added after the hull is planked. This has the advantage of keeping these parts out of the way as you plank, giving you a little more breathing room. Additionally, it keeps these parts out of harms way.


Most kit manufacturers make these parts part of the inner keel or keelson as some call it. For those who like to add a rabbet, this is a bit of a pain as you must figure this out before you even begin constructing the model, and you generally have to figure out its location on your own. Some manufacturers, like Model Shipways, make the keel pieces separate and give you an idea where the rabbet line is. The separate pieces make the cutting process easier.

In the case of AL kits, you really don’t even have to worry about cutting a rabbet. The inner keel piece is thinner than the keel itself, and with the separate keel pieces, all that matters is that your planking at the keel edge isn’t thicker than the keel itself. Something you don’t have to worry about much until later in the build.

In any case, planking the inner hull begins with the bulwarks formers. This has been a common Artesania Latina feature for as long as I can remember. The trick in adding this piece is to get the pieces lined up evenly on both sides. The photo book that comes with the kit is a big help in seeing how the piece lines up with the deck at the bow and stern.

I used the scuppers as a guide since they need to be at deck level, or more precisely at the level of the waterways. Since the plans don’t show a raised waterways piece, I just lined up the holes at deck level. The stern was easy enough to line up so that the bulwarks pieces formed a very low lip at the deck’s edge. The bow required the most care. The plans call for an opening at the bow, 5mm wide for the bowsprit. So, I just made sure to take a lot of time to get this lined up nicely.

Rather than gluing the formers into place right away, I used brass nails included in the kit to hold them into place. I’ve generally liked using the Amati Nailer for this kind of work. The nails allow me to make adjustments to the position of the bulwarks former if necessary. I recommend measuring the height of the bulwarks from the deck on either side of the ship to make sure everything is even. Once I was happy with the position, I then used some thick CA glue applied from inside the hull around the deck edges and the bulkheads.

The planking strips in the kit work well. They are 2mm by 5mm strips of Ramin wood, which is a little fibrous and splintery when dry, but bends well when wet, at least at this thickness. There’s more than enough included in the kit to do the job. When I was done, I had about a good 16 strips left over, so lots of room for error.

Planking began right under the bulwarks former. The first three strips I added without tapering. The planks do require a little soaking in water, and then I used a heating tool to bend them. You might be tempted to bend the planks across the bulkheads right on the model, but doing that usually introduces a lot of flat spots that will take a lot of time and filler to fix later. So, bend first to get the curvature right before putting them on the model.

I used yellow carpenter’s glue for the planks with push pins holding them in place. Where necessary, I also use binder clips and small plastic clamps in strategic locations. Planks are glued to the bulkheads as well as to each other. I didn’t worry about making a mess here as the inner hull will get sanded later and will all be hidden in the end anyway. Of course, some care had to be taken to keep the deck nice.

After those first few planks, I dropped down about four plank widths below the last plank and laid a plank down naturally so that there was no need for edge bending. This plank was tapered as were all subsequent planks. Planks above this were then laid in and cut to fit in the band. Since I measure the space in terms of plank widths, all planks were full width at the midships frame. I repeated this process dropping down 4 or 5 plank widths and filling the opening.

IMG_0191Finally, I started at the keel with what was technically the garboard strake and worked upwards from there. The last plank had to be specially cut to fit the last opening. I kind of lucked out and found that a full width plank would fit with just a tiny gap remaining, which I’d take care of with a little filler later. The whole process went pretty quickly and did require the use of a couple stealers on each side.

The last bit planking was at the counter at the stern of the ship. The hull planking had to first be correctly trimmed first. Then, I added the last two pieces that make up the stern framing and planked the counter.

After all the planking was done, I carefully trimmed any plank edges that were sticking up, then sanded the whole thing down with some 60 grit sand paper. When it was mostly smoothed down, I used some Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler to deal with any gaps and sanded some more using 150 grit sand paper.

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Finally, I gave it a once over, looking for bumps and checking that the joint with the bulwarks former was even. All is well!

AL’s Independence – Planking the Deck, Part 2

At the edges of the deck, I cut some 1/32″ thick boxwood sheet and create a margin plan that the deck planks would be joggled into. The round shape of the Forecastle deck required me to make that margin plank from several pieces. I’ve always had a problem trying to figure out how to make scarf joints so that they don’t interfere with the joggling of the planks. I did my best, but I obviously still need to work on my technique there.


I’m not positive on this, but the Joggling or nibbing of planks may not have been necessary. Some reference I’ve read suggested that it was not done on small ships and that it’s not clear just when the practice began. It was regularly seen on ships of the 19th century, but not so much information prior to that. Model Shipway’s instructions for their Fair American kit says that the ship was too early for nibbing, and that was writting by master ship modeler Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.  That was written in 1978. Have we learned something more since then? I don’t know. I just followed the examples of other ship modelers who have nibbed planks on their models of the same era. If you want to keep things simple and skip it, there’s certainly good precedent for doing so.



One thing I’ve always enjoyed doing on my ship models is to add treenails to the deck, either actual or simulated. I like the process and I like the detail. Real treenails don’t stand out on deck planking, so I try to keep mine subdued. I’ve never liked light colored wood models speckled with dark treenails that make them look like they have a bad case of the measles. Also, treenails should be to scale. A 1″ diameter treenail, at 1/48 scale, should be about .021″. That’s a #75 drill bit, which is what I chose to use here.

As mentioned in my previous post, lines were drawn on the decks to represent the locations of deck beams. This served as a guide for laying down the butts of the planks. This also serves as a guide for locating the treenails. The pattern of treenails came from an illustration in the book Historic Ship Models by Wolfram zu Mondfeld. There are a couple patterns as shown in his book. I’m hesitant to post published materials, but I haven’t had a chance to create my own illustration for this and I’m only showing a piece of one of his illustrations (yes, I’m making excuses), so I’m showing it here.

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From Mondfeld

The pattern on the top is the one I used. I’ve noted that Don Dressel’s book Planking Techniques for Model Ship Builders only shows the lower pattern. I don’t know if that one is more common or not, but certainly the pattern I chose is simpler.

I decided not to make actual treenails, something I’ve done many times in the past, but to simulate them by filling the holes with sawdust and glue mixture. Afterwards, the deck was lightly sanded and wiped down with a very light coat of Watco Natural color Danish Wood Oil.

Once the deck was planked, I went ahead and added the planking for the exposed portions of the bulkheads at the breaks of the decks. I used 3/16″ cherry for this, laid vertically, and edged the planks with pencil. The bulwarks interior will be done with cherry also.

Finally, the boards that edge the deck were laid and I went on to the planking of the hull.

New Acrylic Paints Matched to Poly S Colors

Micromark recently released a new line of acrylic paints reportedly color matched to the now discontinued Floquil’s line of Poly S paints. This gives railroad modelers in particular, who have come to rely on the Poly S brand a new option. The new line is made up of 28 colors under the Microlux brand.


The paints are mixed by Acrylicos Vallejo of Spain. I’ve never personally used Vallejo acrylics, but I’ve seen that some modelers, particularly plastic modelers, use them regularly. I don’t know how thick the new paints are, but I suspect they are similar to other Vallejo paints. An Internet search on Vallejo paints will turn up some information by other modelers on getting the best results.

By Micromark’s description, the new paints look to be equivalent to Vallejo’s “Model Air” line, which are described as being useable in an airbrush with no thinning needed. In fact, the website shows many of the paints with Vallejo’s “Model Air” labels and actually lists them as Vallejo paints as well.

I’ve personally been considering trying out the Vallejo acrylics. This may make them easier to obtain and test out. We’ll see how successful the line is and whether or not classic ship colors will eventually be released.