HMS Mercury in 1/96 Scale – The Build, Part 2

I’m not a paper/card modeler, but after building Shipyard’s paper model of HMS Alert, I enjoyed the project so much that I tinkered with a couple other subjects. I have two of them at the moment, and like with my ship modeling scratch build projects, I start on a few different ones until one of them stands out and calls to me to be taken to completion. That’s actually how HMS Alert came to be. I had no particular plans to complete the model initially – it was just a tinkering project.

Now, one of my current paper model tinkering projects is  Shipyard’s 1/96-scale HMS Mercury paper model kit. The ship is a 28-gun Enterprize-class sixth-rate frigate. As I mentioned before, there is a 1/72-scale boxed version where all the parts are laser-cut instead of printed, but that kit is around $500. Mine is about $35 at the North American distributor for Shipyard products, Ages of Sail.

Detail Sets from Poland

One of the things I decided to do for this kit is to purchase a 3rd party detail set from the Polish company GPM. Their website gpm.pl can be viewed in English, and they have a lot of paper/card model kits and accessories. GPM carries many Shipyard kits and laser-cut frame sets and Super Detail kits for many of them.

The Super Detail sets are generally just a sheet or two of laser-cut card stock, but include things like real windows for the stern galleries and laser-cut gratings. These are a far cry from the printed versions that are included in the paper kits, so I highly recommend getting the set if there is one available for the kit you’re working on. The sets also tend to include things like the gun carriage parts, blocks, frames for the ship’s boats, capstan parts, and such, saving you a lot of construction time.

Shipping is the only issue. The format of the shipping forms don’t seem to be well suited for American addresses. I’ve ordered from them several times though, and it has all worked out. Usually, there is a comments window where I’ll enter a properly formatted address.

As for shipping costs, that has gone up over the past couple years since I started ordering from them. But, if you’re only ordering a detail kit, which costs about $24, the shipping is only $13, though it jumps up to $30 pretty quickly if you add to your order. When you use the site, you’ll see prices in Zlotty, the Polish currency, which is about $0.27 to the dollar.

 

Back to the Build

Keeping in mind that this is really just a sideline project that I work on here-and-there, I don’t make a lot of quick progress. However, I volunteered to work at a model building demonstration table for the South Bay Model Shipwrights club at the San Mateo County Fair last weekend. And, since I needed to work on a couple projects over the course of the day, I chose my HMS Mercury as one of them. You can see where I’m at on the model in the following photos.

Here I am, working on the 1/96 paper model of HMS Mercury, 1779. That’s my scratch-built model of the Mary Taylor on the right, in front of my much needed cup of coffee.

Test fitting internal bulwarks piece on HMS Mercury.

Some of the inner bulwarks on the port side have been glued into place.

Going back to where I left off last time, the interior partitions had just gone into place. The next step was to add the knees which support the bulwarks. You can see three of them on the port side in the above photo. These have to be made and then glued into place. It’s easy to locate their positions, as they are outlined on the printed deck piece.

These inverted knees are a bit odd as they don’t exist in real ships. In reality, the bulwarks are supported by the hull frames. Knees generally are used to support overhead beams, not the bulwarks itself. However, with no frames to support the bulwarks, these are the manufacturer’s compromise.

You’ll note the white edging on each of these as well as along the outer edges of the partitions. These serve as a guide for the printed inner bulwarks pieces. In effect, they define the thickness of the hull as they separate the internal bulwarks pieces from the external bulwark pieces, which can be seen laying on the table under the hull.

Note that the windows in the partitions and doors are simply printed a silvery gray color. I thought I was okay with these printed windows since most of them aren’t very visible on the final model. However, enough of these would be in plain view that I decided to back up a step and do something with them.

I first removed the doors and affected partitions. Next I took a new narrow edge scalpel and cu out the windows completely, then trimmed away the “glass” portion of the removed windows, leaving just the inner frame.

The frames were then glued back into place in the window openings and the partitions and doors were touched up with paint. When that was dry, I used canopy glue in the openings, which dried to create the window glass.

Doors with new windows back in place.

Now, the addition of these windows was an afterthought, so they probably don’t look as good as they would had I planned on the clear windows from the start. But, these are mostly inside the ship, so they’ll serve to allow some light in. An observer probably won’t see the details as much as seeing light coming through the windows, so I think these should be fine.

You’ll probably notice that the above photo shows the external bulwarks sheet in place. I did a lot of test fitting over the course of many days. I used the internal bulwarks pieces to help me determine the proper alignment of the external sheet.

Working out the proper positioning of the bulwarks sheets, making sure the gun ports would line up.

But, before I could even finalize that, it was necessary to add the gun port frames. The kit includes parts that need to be cut apart, of course. I choose the easy way and used some parts that came in the Super Detail kit I purchased from GPM. This included properly sized card stock, with the gun port frame pieces laser-cut. It was still a bit of a challenge making sure I used the right parts for the right gun port. There are variations in the pieces as the curvature of the ship’s hull requires slightly different shapes for many of the gun port frames.

With the gun ports lined, I then added the bulwarks sheets to the hull. For me, this was a bit nerve wracking, as the alignment should be critical if the hull exterior is going to look correct.

You can see in the above photo that I had a slight issue with the alignment of the forward end of the bulwarks sheet. With the internal bulwarks pieces in place and the final hull planking layer added, the gap will disappear. I don’t know for sure, however, if I won’t end up with an alignment problem later. But, I don’t expect to see any serious issues.

I found it extremely helpful to write the part numbers on the backs of parts if possible. Note that parts aren’t labeled P for Port, as on the other side, they’re labeled L, which I just think of as Left. No doubt, these are abbreviations for left and right (port and starboard) in Polish.

Interior bulwarks pieces to be fit into place.


 

With variations in placement of parts, the interior bulwarks pieces each had to be trimmed to fit into place and so that the gun ports would line up properly. In some cases, I had to trim quite a bit. I don’t anticipate it will create any problems in the long run, but it did take some time to fit pieces into place.

Once everything was glued in position, some gun ports needed a little trimming. In all cases, I had to use a bit of red paint to touch up the white paper edges.

With a kit of this type, there is no exact order of build. It’s mostly a matter of following the build by the part numbers. But, looking at the kit’s diagrams, it looks like after I finish the internal bulwarks pieces, it will be time to work on some of the great cabin and gun deck details, which should be a lot of fun, something to look forward to next time.

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