AL’s Independence – Swivel Guns

It occurred to me that I haven’t been posting enough about my own traditional western-style model ships what with my Japanese boat models and now the Japanese shrine build. Also, as I’d been in something of a slump due to project overload, I thought it might help me move forward by writing some more project updates.

Though I’ve written plenty about the cannons on my model, I don’t think I’ve said anything about the swivel guns. Clearly, I’ve replaced everything else from the original kit, and the swivel guns are no exception. I’ve being going back and forth on the scale of this model, and for the person I’m building this for, I don’t think the exact scale really matters. For the swivel guns, I ended up going with the 1/48-scale turned brass swivel guns sold by Syren Ship Model Company.

AL kit barrels in brass. Lumberyard replacements in pewter.

I had originally purchased a set of cast metal swivel guns from The Lumberyard, but as I’ve found occasionally happens with castings I’ve bought there, the barrels were oval shaped and not round. I’ve had this happen with my own castings when the silicone mold is clamp together too tightly. I actually did try to use them, but in order to mount a handle, I needed to add a wire around the cascabel, the little ball shape at the back end of the barrel, and I couldn’t solder the wire as it would melt the casting.

As it turned out, I had purchased some brass swivel guns from Syren Ship Model Company to use as carriage guns on my little HMS Alert model as they were the perfect size, and was already familiar with the product. So, I purchased some in 1/4″ scale, and they were perfect. They’re a little bit small for this model, actually, but they look great and nobody is going to care that they’re a little small.

Adding the brass wire I just mentioned was easy. The trick was making little wooden handles. I considered making them from polymer clay, but that actually didn’t turn out to be any easier. I just ended up carving them. There are only six of them. After I made the first one, there were only five left to make, and so on.

I used some Peruvian walnut that I found on sale at the local Rocker store. This was the same piece I used for the dark planking strake under the quarterdeck rail. I think it ended up being too dark for the swivel handles, as it’s so hard to see that they’re actually wood.

I left the swivel guns off the model until the rigging was complete, so they wouldn’t get in the way. In fact, I didn’t make the yokes to mount them until just a couple weeks ago. For that, I drilled out some brass strip and bent it to a hard U-shape. The swivel gun barrels come with pre-sized pieces of wire for the trunnions, so that determined the exact width of the U.

Next, I had to practice my soldering skills, as I haven’t done much of it in quite a while. At the bottom of the U piece, I silver-soldered a piece of thin brass rod for the mounting post.

I don’t have that much to say about soldering, as I’m really not very good at it, even though I’ve had experience as a kid with electronic projects and have done a small amount of soldering for various ship model projects. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to do consistently good soldering jobs. For now, I manage to get by.

With the swivels now added, I think my main comment is simply that if you’re building in 1/64″ to 1/4″ scale or something really close, buy these swivel gun barrels. They’re worth it as they look really great on the model. The amount of soldering needed to make the yokes or to add handles is really minimal.

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