AL’s Independence – A New Transom

Probably the one feature I like the least about this kit is the all-in-one cast metal transom. It’s certainly an easy way to deal with the transom and there is absolutely nothing wrong with building the kit using it if you want a decorative style model, which the AL kits are best for. But, in my case, this kit wasn’t my choice and I prefer a more authentic look, so I’m forced to scratch build the transom.

A lot of kits and plans really dress up this feature, but for a basic merchantman, I can’t help but think they the are sometimes overdone. Harold Hahn’s reconstruction of the colonial schooner Hannah has a very simple transom and so do most reconstructions of the schooner Sultana. I’m planning to keep the transom relatively plain, though I have added gallery windows similar to those on the cast metal transom. I’ve also added a few moldings and such, but I probably won’t go so far as adding carvings – I think I have enough work cut out for me on this feature.

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I started by drawing up a design on a piece of 1/32″ plywood saving the wooden backing piece included in the kit, just using it as a pattern. The most time consuming part so far has been the construction of the gallery windows. I just drew up a basic design and cut out openings in the plywood piece I cut. I then planked the piece, using a single wide piece of pear wood for the band across the window area. I will later add some boxwood decoration of some kind, which will form some contrast to the pear.

Bordering the pear wood sheet, I added boxwood moldings above and below. The molding shape was formed by using a scraper that I made from an old single-edged razor blade.

Cutting the scraper was a LOT easier than I thought it would be. I’ve read about making these, but never actually tried it. In my case, I simply took a Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel and ground a  sort of a “B” shape into the edge of the razor blade and that’s all it took. Works beautifully and so easy to make. I’ll write up something more about this later.

For the window frames, I decided to use some very thin strips of white holly and built them right into the transom. This doesn’t allow me to add “glass,” but I’ve seen windows done without glass before and they looked fine, so I did the same with mine.

A added an edging piece along the bottom and started working on a cap around the top and sides. I experimented with different ways of making/bending the cap and finally settled on using a former made from scrap wood. Using the metal transom piece from the kit, I traced the shape on the block of wood, sanded it to shape and glued it to a base.

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After that had dried, a piece of pear wood I prepared was soaked and carefully bent around the former and clamped in place to let dry. Later, I removed the wood and it had a nice bend that fit my transom.

More later…

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