Monthly Archives: April 2015

Shipyard’s 1:96-scale HMS Alert 1777, Paper Model Kit – Part V

Several months ago, I acquired Shipyard’s HMS Mercury 1/96-scale paper model kit. I had to check it out as part of my research into the hobby and also because I just couldn’t help myself.

In addition, I bought a matching laser cut detail set from GPM. The basic kit includes the laser cut frames, but the detail set includes some very nice features like the gratings, parts for the ship’s boats, cleats, blocks and deadeyes, cannon and carronade carriages, and especially nice are the laser cut parts for the stern and quarter galleries. I just couldn’t imaging using the printed windows or trying to cut out the frames.


I got an idea and looked over the 1/96-scale HMS Mercury detail set and discovered that several items in that set are compatibly with the Alert. Maybe that’s saying that the kits aren’t to precise scale. Nevertheless, the detail kit for the Mercury cost me about $35 shipped from Poland, and I’m quite willing to sacrifice it for the good of the cause.

Turns out that the quarter deck cannon carriages are a perfect match for the Alerts carriages (and the right quantity), the gratings look like I’ll be able to cut them to size, some of the cleats are perfect match and there are some others that I think I can trim quite easily. Also, while I’ve already acquired laser cut blocks and deadeyes of the right size, the Mercury detail set has a ton of these and enough of the smaller ones are the right size to use for the Alert.

Anyway, the point here being that if you want to make your life easier with this kit (and probably others too), get one of the detail sets from GPM. It’s definitely going to give my project a boost.

First thing I did was to replace the printed hatch gratings with the laser cut ones. They actually turned out to be a pretty close fit, needing only minor trimming. Once painted I put them in place and you can see them in place here with the printed ones next to them.


Now, getting back to the kit parts, I was on a roll and decided to make a simple sliding type hatch cover for the wardroom companionway. At 1/96 it doesn’t have to be that sophisticated. Needed planking, so I printed out 0.25pt lines 1/16″ apart. I’m using Adobe Illustrator for a number of other tasks, so it was easy enough to fire it up and make the pattern. I’ll probably add some kind of handle, either bent wire or a simple block type handle from paper. The completed piece was painted and set into place.

I also found an old screen in the garage. It turns out that the mesh is the exact size I need for the mullion pattern for the companion way over the captain’s cabin. I pulled out a bottle of canopy glue, which I bought for another project, but didn’t like the way it worked. For this one and the small glass panes, it worked great – Just squeezed a little out to fill in all the holes in the piece of screen material. Once dried it looked perfect, so I cut down to the exact size I needed and dropped it into place.

I also built and cleaned up the deck pumps and decided to give them natural wood looking handles instead of leaving them their printed color, which was red.



Being on a roll, I decided to try to make some progress with a rather daunting sub-assembly, the windlass. I say daunting because the windlass barrel alone consisted of 31 REALLY small parts that all had to be cut out and glued together properly. I did manage. However, it required a concerted effort to break the mental barrier of taking on the complicated assembly. Once started, it actually went pretty quickly.





DSC03993There’s still more to do here, but the basic barrel is done. As for what’s next, I try to keep that open. There are still many small assemblies that need to be completed, and there’s not particular order they need to be done in. Also, there is the matter of the cannon barrels. I went ahead and rolled the barrels using the kit patterns. I wanted to see how well they might work. But, I’m considering turning them in brass, or at least turning masters in brass if I decide to cast them.


Hurry, Only 30 Days Left to Enter NRG Photo Contest

The Nautical Research Guild’s 2015 Photographic Ship Model Competition is still open for entries. But, if you intend to submit your ship model photos, you’d better hurry as the deadline is May 31st, 2015. This is the third such competition, the first one being in 2011 and the next in 2013. There are some truly amazing models entered by NRG members, but it’s not all about winning, it’s also about learning from others. The submissions are reviewed by a panel of knowledgeable judges, who will score and provide comments and evaluation. It’s not easy to put yourself out on a limb to critique, but in the end it’s all about building better models.

This is my model of the Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813. It is a scratch-build based on kit plans from the old North River Scale Model company. Maybe I'll enter it finally this year.

This is my model of the Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813. It is a scratch-build based on kit plans from the old North River Scale Model company. Maybe I’ll finally enter it in the NRG competition this year.

I’ve personally never entered the contest, though I was all set to enter my Mary Taylor and Privateer Lively models in the first competition. But, at the time, the rules stated that no photo modifications were allowed and I couldn’t get a decent photo without adjusting the exposure and color balance settings, so I didn’t bother. I was a bit irked (and apparently wasn’t alone), when such adjustments were allowed, even though the rules said otherwise.

Since then, the rules have been modified to allow such photos as long as they are not retouched, so I think I will go ahead and enter a couple models, possibly even the Higaki Kaisen model, just to say I did it.

The competition is open only to NRG members, though that includes associate members. That means that all you have to do is sign up on the Model Ship World forum for free, since MSW is owned by the NRG and all MSW members are automatically given NRG associate member status.

If you aren’t an NRG member, but are interested and want to enter the competition, here’s a good opportunity to join, as the NRG has a special offer that include entry fee and NRG membership for only $55, which equates to joining the NRG and then paying only $7 for the first competition entry instead of the $15 that regular members have to pay or $20 for associate members.

Check out the details on the NRG site here:

A pdf of file of the rules can be downloaded along with the entry forms. Winners and prizes announced at the NRG Conference in Mystic, CT this Fall. Even if you don’t enter, I highly recommend supporting the NRG by becoming a member and receiving their quarterly journal.

The Last of the Big RC Tall Ship Model Kits – Follow up

After learning about these large scale ship model kit, I just had to find out more. I had a brief talk with the owner of the company and found out that the company is actually a medical hardware company that started producing these kits as a means to keep their employees working during slow times. Times have changed and it no longer makes sense for them to continue making the products.

However, they still have a few models left if you’re interested. According to the owner, Philip Roberts, they still have 3 HMS Surprise kits and 4 Prince de Neufchâtel kits available. Sorry, the HMS Cruiser brigs are gone.

Just out of curiosity, I’m going to try to make a visit in the next few weeks and see what’s there and what they’ve been producing. If they only had “low APR financing available on most models!”



The Last of the Big RC Tall Ship Model Kits

Just this morning, someone mentioned something about a large ship model kit that was being produced in California. But, it wasn’t just large, it was huge – An 8′ long R/C model of HMS Surprise (Patrick O’Brien fans take note). So, I did some poking around on the Internet and found the company.

S.5.lengthWLThe company is called Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson Ltd, and it appears that they produce what they refer to as complete kits that include everything needed to build and sail them including servos and fittings and a launching cart. You just need a 4 channel transmitter and receiver. These are very large 1:24-scale (1/2″ = 1) models of sailing ships. They have three different models, the HMS Surprise, a Cruiser-class Brig, and the American privateer Prince de Neufchâtel. When rigged, the smallest of these is about 7′ long and 6′ high, and prices start at $2,875 plus shipping.

Now the bad news…

Now that I’ve discovered these kits, I read further through the company’s website, and it turns out that they’re stopping production. I don’t know the details. As of their last website update, which was in the Summer 2014, they had 7 HMS Surprise kits and 4 each of the HMS Cruiser and Prince de Neufchâtels. I’ll be contacting them shortly to find out what’s left. Not that I can buy one before they sell out, but just to know.



Of course, this may just provide some of us with enough inspiration to build a monster sailing model from scratch…

Shipyard’s 1:96-scale HMS Alert 1777, Paper Model Kit – Part IV

As I mentioned previously, the Alert paper model has been somewhat of a distraction. But, after reaching a bit of burnout from a recent heavy workload, I needed the distraction. I’d actually worked on the model a bit more since my last posting and here’s an update of some of the work that was done.

The cap rail went on pretty easily, though cutting the rectangular openings for the timber heads  proved to be a challenge. As with most of the parts I worked on, I began by painting to get rid of the white edges. At some point, I’d get a little paint on the printed areas of the part and found it was just pretty much standard practice to paint over those areas too to even out the color.


I also installed the catheads, which are built-up from several layers of paper and then covered with the printed paper. Again, these look a lot better after cleaning up, but I was pretty pleased with how they went into place and how sturdy they were.


Those timber heads were a real pain to get half-way uniform looking and properly trimmed to shape. I also found it took some work to get them to fit the holes I’d cut into the cap rail and had to do a lot of extra fitting work. Still, when painted, it all looked pretty nice. Not perfect, but nice.


Next, I decided to tackle something that seemed like it would be pretty easy, the shot racks. The paper model just gives printed racks with black circles to represent the shot. At this small scale, it’s probably fine to leave it that as it’s hard to tell when you have scale cannon balls in place.

For the cannon balls, I found some appropriately sized ball bearing and blackened them. I’d originally used a larger size that seemed to look nice, but they were way out of scale, so I got a new order in of a smaller size that worked perfectly. Mounting these in the shot racks was a lot like playing those old games that used to come in boxes of Cracker Jacks where you have the tiny balls rolling around in a sealed plastic box and you had to get them all to settle into the tiny indents to “win.”

Note the one little ball bearing that escaped in the upper part of the picture. Somewhere buried in my carpet are several ball bearings that will NEVER be seen again, ever.


The first shot rack installed. It was a bit of a challenge to hold it in place while glueing. I found it easiest for me to use my thumb to hold the part against the bulwarks, then use a pair of hemostats in my free hand to nudge the part until it was perfectly straight, then drop the hemostats for a bottle of thin, fast setting CA. A tiny amount locked the piece in place and it is quite firmly set.


Though it’s a blurry photo, you can see that all the shot racks were put into place and then the white edges were painted. It all turned out quite nice.


When I would run into more daunting tasks, I’d occasionally assemble some of the parts needed for later assemblies. Here all the parts were assembled and cleaned up and touched up. There are plenty of parts like this that need to be done, so there’s no shortage of small tasks.

Things went together quite well, but the long, thin shanks of the anchors are a bit delicate. With the stocks attached, it’s going to be very easy to accidentally twist or buckle them, so I’m saving that assembly for later.

IMG_0413I also played around with making the mast and the cap and crosstrees for the topmast. I’d purchased the masting set for this model, which included dowels and laser-cut cardboard pieces for the details. But, I wasn’t particularly happy with the quality of the wood, so I used my own birch dowels, stained with, if I recall correctly now, Minwax Golden Oak stain.

I tried using the laser-cut cardboard parts, which were easy to assembly. But, I found that parts built-up from layers of paper were generally sturdier. For the mast cap, the laser-cut parts worked out fine, but I had more problems with the crosstrees. Also, I guess I didn’t get the squared section of the mast doubling small enough, so the crosstrees wouldn’t fit. I didn’t notice this until later in the build, so I had to adjust the work a little and seems okay.


I don’t have any photos of the most recent work, but I added the channels and other small hull details. I also didn’t like the way my original transom planking looked under the counter. I’ve redone the area twice and the last time it seemed to come out well enough for my task. I’ll post more photos of that work next time, along with any new work I complete.

Charles Yacht Review in Next Ships in Scale

A couple months ago I wrote up a formal write-up of my out-of-the-box kit review of Woody Joe’s Charles Royal Yacht and submitted it to Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine. A couple days ago I got the proofs and the layout looks really good. Today, I finished some minor corrections and sent the corrected proof back to the editors. Charles-Yacht-02

The article is 10 pages long with a lot of photos, including four provided by the Japanese ship model society The Rope thanks to SMA and Rope member Don Dressel, who connected me up with his friend and Rope member Norio Uriu. Mr. Uriu provided several photos from which I chose for this article. My intent was not only to show the model kit, but to introduce readers to the Japanese ship modelers and to provide some information about The Rope.

Given that this is my third Woody Joe kit review and these kits are not marketed in the U.S., it will probably be my last one for now. The first kit I reviewed was the Kanrin Maru, a Dutch-built Japanese screw steamer that was the first Japanese government ship to visit the United States, the second was the beautifully designed Edo period coastal transport called a Higaki Kaisen, and then this one, a ship that has no Japanese connection at all. Those seemed to cover the range of Woody Joe ship model kits, so I figured they were a good representation.

My next ship model articles will probably have more to do with the building of one of the Woody Joe kits. I’d been planning on writing up my Higaki Kaisen build, so maybe now is the time to get started on that.

If I do another kit review, which I really like doing, I may target one of the European manufacturers such as Caldercraft or one of the kits of Amati’s Victory Models line, since those seem to generate a lot of interest among modelers on the Internet. The only problem for me is that I’m currently doing some work for the U.S. distributor for these product lines and I don’t want to show or give any suspicion of bias based on that fact.

In any case, look for the new kit review article in the May-June issue of Seaways’ Ships in Scale, which I expect we should see in the next 2 or 3 weeks.

Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks in a VPR Interview

If you’ve been on my site here long enough, you’ve probably run across a link or my mention of American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. Recently I started up again, studying his blog writings, his website and any other information I can find on the Internet about his Japanese boat building projects. I’m trying to get some specifics for the construction of a model of a traditional Japanese boat called a Bekabune. This is a small, lightweight boat used in the harvesting of nori (seaweed).

So, while I was going through his website, his blog site and just doing general Internet searches on terms I’ve been trying to learn, I ran across this great recorded radio interview on VPR, a Vermont NPR News Source. In it, Mr. Brooks talks from his workshop about his work to preserve the art of Japanese boat building. It’s a great 6-minute interview.

By the way, it looks like his book about his five apprenticeships in Japan will be coming out this Fall. Look for him to do some book promotions in your area!

NRG Shop Notes Out of Print

I just learned this week that the Nautical Research Guild has run out of the original Ship Modeler’s Shop Notes book.


This is a classic compilation of technical articles from the first 25 years of the Nautical Research Journal and the NRG’s Secretary’s Monthly Letter. My own copy is pretty well worn out, but it looks like it’s going to have to keep together a little while longer and, fortunately, Ship Modeler’s Shop Notes II, which is made up of articles from the 1981-2005 is still available.

If you find an available copy of Shop Notes available and don’t have one, you might want to snatch it up. However, it’s probably not gone for good. At some point, I suspect that the NRG will offer it again in some form or another.