Monthly Archives: June 2015

Galley Washington, 1776 – New Plans from the NRG

I received a nice surprise in the mail today when a set of plans I ordered from the Nautical Research Guild showed up. I kind of splurged for my own birthday this year and got these plans and a few other things that I’ll write about in a future post.

The Washington was a galley built by General Arnold for service on the Lake Champlain in 1776. Because the prevailing winds on the lake blew along the length of the lake, she and her 3 sister ships were lateen rigged for the superior performance when sailing close to the wind.


These are VERY nice plans. They are model plans and designed for the construction of a 1/4″ scale plank-on-frame model. All the frames are drawn out, taking up 4 of the 10 sheets of plans. The details are nicely done and overall, the set of plans is top notch.

The NRG did managed to disappoint in one area. There are no standard plan views necessary to scratch-build the model in your own style. These are strictly plank-on-frame plans. There is also no sail plan.

But, given that the ship was lateen rigged, the latter issue shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though it’s harder to find detailed information on this type of rig than for the more conventional square rig or schooner rig. So, some additional planning would be required for the addition of sails.

As for the missing plan views, since Howard Chapelle already drew up the hull lines and includes them in his book The History of American Sailing Ships, they can be ordered easily enough from the Smithsonian for $25, which includes handling/processing charges.

In any case, it’s a really nice set of drawings that include all the frames, a framing jig, details of the keel, deadwood, stem pieces, beams, and internal features and more. I’m really excited to get these plans. This might finally be my entry to plank-on-frame ship modeling.

One interesting feature of the Washington and her sister ships is that they had some really wild selection of cannons – a result of having to use whatever ordnance was available. As a result, the Washington had a pair of 18 pdr cannons, a pair of 12s, a pair of 9s, four 4s, a 2 pdr, and eight swivels, though these plans don’t show the 2 pdr. I’ll guess I’ll have to read the monograph to learn more about this.

The monograph, by the way, is a free download from the NRG website. It too is a beautiful piece of work. All this was done, by the way, by Jeff Staudt, who also created the Bomb Vessel Granado Cross Section plans that are sold by the Model Ship Builder site.

Anyway, the 10-sheet set of plans is $65, plus $10 shipping in the US. They are copyright stamped in red with a unique identification number. A personalized letter of permission to copy for personal use is included, which references the identification number. If you get a set, and you’re an NRG member, be sure to contact the NRG office for a $15 coupon code before ordering. If you’re not a member, I highly recommend joining up!


USS Susquehanna, 1847 by Gilbert McArdle

I heard some rumor about this book a while back, but had forgotten about it at some point. I had no idea it was already in print until I started looking up details about Seawatch Books recent released of the revised Swan IV book and supplement. Stumbled upon this one totally by accident and I’m really excited because this is a subject that I have been considering for quite some time. It’s also related to some other subjects I’ve been interested in.


Susquehanna was one of the ships of the Perry Expedition to Japan and China in 1853-54. She was a side-paddlewheel ship termed a Steam Frigate and was built at the same time (though in different location) as the side-paddlwheeler Powhatan, which was also part of the Perry Expedition. The Susquehanna and the Powhatan are sometimes referred to as sister ships, but the Susquehanna is the slightly smaller of the two.

My real interest is in the Powhatan, but the Susquehanna should be close enough to teach me a few things about the construction of these ships. The book is $70 plus shipping from Seawatch Books. I’ve ordered mine and look forward to reading through Gib McArdle’s work.


Japanese Wasen Model Display in San Francisco

This week has been a kind of crazy week of dealing with the display of ship models. I now have 4 models out on display. Two of them are part of a display at the San Mateo County Fair headed up by the South Bay Model Shipwrights club. The other two are part of my own display that I’ve put together in the big window of Union Bank’s community room in Japantown, San Francisco.

The models are my Higaki Kaisen and Hacchoro models that I built from Woody Joe kits. The display is my second now, and I’ve learned a lot from my first display that I put up earlier in the year. That display was small for the window area and the models were hard to see and the display was not very attention grabbing.

This time around, I’ve had posters printed up using some new photos I’ve taken. I mounted these on foam core poster boards and also set up a large display board with 8″x10″ photos showing details of the models. To make the models easier to see, I removed them from their cases and raised them up closer to eye level by placing them on some pedestals I made from MDF board.

At the last minute this morning, I cut some acrylic sheet into strips and made some plastic clips to hang the posters from. The strips were cut to size and drilled and then heat bent to shape using a small torch. They aren’t perfect, but they work.

Late this morning, I crammed everything into my car and drove to San Francisco to set it all up.


Models set up and ready to put on display.


Homemade clips for hanging the posters.

This time, with all the display elements, it took me a lot longer to set up than I’d expected. I could imagine what it’s like to work setting up displays in department store windows. Overall, it was a good 45 minutes to bring everything up from the parking garage and to set it all up. The posters and the hangar clips took the most time to set up so that the posters hung at the right heights.

I felt I was kind of rushing the layout. It would definitely be helpful to get a second person to help with this so that one person can look at it and recommend adjustments while the other put the display elements into place.

In the end, I think it all worked pretty well and I’ve definitely got thoughts of Wasen Display 3.0 starting to develop. Having the third model will be good, which will most likely be Woody Joe’s Yakatabune as that’s a nice looking model and a quick build.


Higaki Kaisen model.


Photo Board and Hacchoro model. Note the hanging posters.

One thing I realized was that every time I’m in the mall where I have time to take photos, it’s roughly noonish and the sun comes streaming straight down through the skylights in the mall. So, I mostly get a lot of glare in these photos. I think at other times of the display, it is much easier to see the models and photos. I’m going to have to check out that theory and take some photos maybe late in the day or evening early evening. Maybe I can get some decent photos of the display then.


A much improved display over the last one.

Wasen Display 2.0 will run from Friday, June 5th through Friday, July 10th. I hope you will stop by to see it and let me know what you think!

Now Shipping: Amati Revenge, 1577

I have seen this kit and I was pretty well awestruck by it. I’ve never seen an instruction book that looked so good. A big thick stack of plans. Lots of wood. Well packaged. Lost of etched brass sheets. This was not on my list of kits to build, but I really want this kit now!

Ages of Sail



The long anticipated Amati kit of the English Race-built Galleon, Revenge, 1577, is now in stock and our first orders for the kit have been filled are on their way to their lucky owners.

These kits are BIG, and going through the contents, they look AWESOME. We had special pre-order pricing on these kits, but we’re going to keep to the special pricing as an intro price on the kit while we can. This is a very good deal on an incredible new kit.

Get yours while supplies last!

Get Amati Revenge on Ages of Sail

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AL’s Independence – New Hull Details and More

The biggest issue holding me back right now is what to do about the headrails and figurehead. I’m no carver, so I don’t foresee putting some grotesquely lumpy monstrosity below the bowsprit. I considered trying to dig up some existing figurine I could modify to put into place, but haven’t really come up with any good ideas for that. At least, not yet.

However, I did manage to add some more detail to the transom to make that more to my liking. I’ve shown this to others and most generally agree that the transom looks much better. Basically, all I did was to add some molded columns between the stern gallery lights using some boxwood strips.


The added transom detail can be seen from the side in the above photo. Also the next item to discuss, which is the quarterdeck railing.

This was a mental challenge more than a physical one. Actually building it was far easier than thinking about building it. I basically did a paper tracing of the caprail along the quarterdeck and used that as a guide for the shaping of the rail. For the rail itself, I wanted a molded shape so that there was a lower portion slightly narrower than the upper portion. I achieved this simply by making out of two separate layers of wood.

As I have been using pear wood throughout the build, it was easy enough to soak the wood and bend it to shape with the help of a little heat. I used my electric plank bender to steam the water in the strip and then gently shaped the piece by hand. I also used some plastic clamps that wouldn’t mar the existing work, and clamped the pieces right onto the bulwarks caprail until the pieces dried out, after which the two layers were glued together.

As you may notice, the stanchions have a bit of shape to them. I didn’t have much I could think to do to make these except to shape them by hand, one-by-one. But, there’s only a dozen of them, so once I got started, it didn’t take long to finish. I made a few extra just in case.

To mount these, I tried a method of simply marking the positions on the rail I just made, laid it down on top of the caprail and drilled them through so that the holes lined up. I’m not sure if I’d do this again because there was enough variation in positioning that the holes in the caprails weren’t perfectly centered. So, I had to end up re-drilling some. It wasn’t too much of a problem as the bottom of the stanchions were large enough to cover any small error.

To fix the stanchions in place, I used 1/32″ brass rod for strength. The brass shows through the top of the rail, but I figure that when the brass tarnishes, it will turn brown and then won’t stand out much. Plus, I could help it along a little with some Brass Brown or Blacken-It.

Mounting the Cannons

The question about how I wanted to fix the cannons to the deck was easy, as I’d been thinking about this for some time. Commonly, the deck guns are glued down to the deck. But, the only part of the cannon carriage that makes contact with the deck are the trucks, or wheels. This means the glue either shows, or the mounting is a bit weak. If weak, an accidental nudge of the barrel can knock the whole assembly loose. So, I decided to pin them into place.

I considered adding a pin to a pair of the trucks, but thought it would be simpler to use a small piece of brass rod through the front axle. Because this is well under the carriage, it should be pretty well invisible. I drilled corresponding holes in the deck and it looks like that will work fine when I come to permanently installing them, which I will do a little later on.



Masting and Rigging

I haven’t done too much more along this line, though I did experiment with using pre-cast bullseyes in the futtock shrouds. However, I never liked how they looked. They were too large, plus they had to be painted on a model that is otherwise pretty well devoid of paint, and just never seemed quite right. So, I’m going back to the simple wire futtock shrouds that I had started with.

Meanwhile, I did take care of rigging the footropes on the yards. It might be questionable as to whether footropes were actually needed on the yards of a small topsail schooner of the period. But, Harold Hahn put them on his Colonial Schooner models, so that’s good enough for me!

I used .015″ line for the footropes and stirrups. I pre-made the stirrups, tying the bottom of the stirrups around a sewing pin to form the hole for the footrope. While I try to avoid its use elsewhere in rigging, I used a tiny dab of thin CA to harden the loop. When dry, the pin pops loose without much effort and leaves a nice small hole, which is easy to thread the footrope through.

DSC04131 DSC04132

It might not be correct, but for the upper yards, they seemed small enough that I didn’t put stirrups on them, so just put them on the lower yards.

The next thing I’m working on, besides fixing the futtock shrouds, is to find the rigging line to use that I’m going to be happy with on this model. I have some different kinds of line on-hand, but I’m not really happy with any of it. I think on this model, I want to use model rope that looks right. I’ve been figuring I’d have to make my own, which I’ve done in the past, but if I do that, then it’s time for me to make a new motorized ropewalk. I’ve done some rope making by hand in the past, but I don’t want to do that any more. I have the plans for a very nice setup that was drawn up by ship modeler Jerry Blair, and I have all the parts necessary.

But, that’s yet another project and I’m feeling a bit lazy. So, I’m considering finding the guy who sells the stuff called MoRope. It’s expensive, but looks really good. I inherited some of what I believe is MoRope and it looks awesome, but I’ve never tried working with it. It would be much easier to get model rope from Syren Ship Model Company, which looks really good. But, I tend do notice thinks like z-layed versus s-layed rope, most rope being z-layed, while Syren’s is all s-layed.

Aside from that, I still have to figure out what to do about the figurehead. Also, there is a question as to whether I’m going to add sails. I’ve gone back and forth on this. Initially, the idea was to have furled sails. Then, it was going to have no sails. But now I’m thinking about full sails, especially after I recently picked up my model of the privateer Lively from the shop it was in. The sails looked really good the way I had done them. So, I’m thinking again about doing a set for the Colonial Schooner.


Sails on my scratch-built privateer Lively.

I don’t have to decide on the sails quite yet, but I’m getting awfully close. While I contemplate some of these questions, I’ll be moving forward by making some more cleats. I actually recently started this process and made a batch. Then, I discovered new laser-cut cleats being produced in a sheet by Syren Ship Model Company. These look really good on Syren’s website, so I ordered some to check out. I’ll post some info about those soon.









Selling on my Site

Well, here’s something new I thought I’d try.

I’m not trying to run a store in any way, but I do have some things from time to time that I’d consider putting up on Ebay or listing on Model Ship World or announcing at club meetings. But, I thought I’d kind of take the lazy way out and just list them here on my blog site.

Okay, it’s not EXACTLY the lazy way. I wanted to make it easy for the buyer, so I tried my hand at creating Paypal buttons. It took me a while, as putting the pre-made button code into the blog site isn’t as obvious as one might think.

So, far, the only thing I’ve listed is the Japanese Super Fine Cut Hobby Saw, which Zootoyz sells, but I’ll list a few kits in there that I should probably pass along as I’ll never get to them. Also, maybe there are a few hard to find items that I can pass along that I no longer need. Unfortunately, the pack rat in me says I need EVERYTHING, but I think he’s probably wrong. I’ll list what I can, contrary to his protestations…

Visit my For Sale page.