Beginning the actual construction of the Montañes started with the marking of the parts needed for the first steps. The parts are all laser-cut, all nice and neat on their respective sheets, but they parts aren’t marked. To find the parts, you have to use the diagrams of the laser-cut sheets in the instructions.
But, it’s easy enough to identify the correct sheets and then using a pencil, write the part numbers on the wooden parts. There were a couple times when the similarity of a couple sheets of bulkheads had me check and re-checking to make sure I was marking the parts correctly.
It was during this process that I discovered one of the sheets I needed was missing from the kit. I wrote about this in my article An OcCre Part Kit Order, so I won’t go into much detail about it here. But, the error did cost me a few weeks before I could start construction, as it was one of the main keel pieces.
With that problem easily and fairly quickly resolved by OcCre, I assembled the keel, and Immediately, I messed up the build. I fit the keel pieces together and and added the reinforcements that overlap the seam between them. I clamped the assembly down and let it dry. Unfortunately, I hadn’t notice, but in the process of clamping the pieces in place, the joint slipped, and the two sections of the were out of alignment.
As I use Titebond wood glue, I was able to soften the glue enough to slip a large knife blade in between the parts and eventually worked them free. It was without some damage, but it turned out to be nothing that I couldn’t repair. Still, I kept an eye out for alignment issues with the decks and bulkheads and all, and did a lot of test fitting.
Already, Deviation from the Kit
Well, it didn’t take long for me to deviate from the kit instructions. My first modification was with the deck planking. I wanted a model with a nice, medium tone wood deck. So, instead of using the kit supplied deck planking, which is a kind of a straw yellow color, I ended up buying some tanganyika strips from Ages of Sail. This is the same wood supplied in some Amati kits, and it has a darker, slightly grayer, color. Now, I noted that the kit supplied deck planking actually looks considerably darker when wet or with some finish coat applied to it. It doesn’t look bad, but I just had my heart set on the tanganyika, I suppose.
The second deviation from the kit is that I wanted to add deck camber. Now, the plywood base for the decks in the kit are pretty thick and it wasn’t easy to bend it. But, I did the best I could. I also added some wood strips to fit between the deck and the tops of the bulkheads, to give the decks more support.
So, I laid the lower deck pieces into place first and then I planked the deck on the model, as opposed to planking the deck first and then adding it to the model. That’s how the kit tells you to build. I might have tried it, but as the deck has a right half and left half (or starboard and port), I was worried that I’d end up with an obvious seam down the centerline of the deck.
Planking the Decks
The kit instructions tell you to cut the strips for the deck planking to random lengths. Well, there was no way I was going to do that. I chose to use a 2-plank shift of butts. Looking back, I think 3-plank or 4-plank shift would be better, but I already have the deck down.
My method is to draw parallel reference lines across the deck every 30mm. The ends of the planks needed to rest on beams, so these are the locations of my imaginary beams. Had I a reference plan for the actual beam locations, I would have used those. Lacking that, or maybe ignoring that, the reference lines would give about the same visual effect.
To simulate caulking, I clamp the strips of planking material together and paint one side with black acrylic paint. When dry, I cut these apart with a sharp blade, and the scrape or sand away any that managed to leak between the strips.
By the way, I think I actually learned these techniques from the now out of print book Historic Ship Models by Wolfram zu Mondfeld. It is an excellent book that is an ideal guide for the ship modeler who has moved on from the Beginner’s stage of ship modeling. There are plenty of used paperback editions available at reasonable prices.
Below is a photo of the finished deck. Note that I also cut curved beams for the spar deck to rest on. I had to make these beams about 1mm thicker than the kit instruction say, in order to accommodate a thinner plywood sub-deck I’m using instead of the kit supplied sub-deck, as it’s just far easier to bend to shape. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers that this doesn’t create a domino effect where it requires me to modify more and more of the build.
The Spar Deck
Next came the spar deck. Another variation from the kit. I found that the OcCre supplied sub-deck was too thick for me to bend easily. With the gun deck it wasn’t so bad, since I could clamp the sub-deck down to the very sturdy bulkheads and stringers beneath (being careful not to twist the hull!). But, with the spar deck, there was no such structure, just the glued in beams. So, I used a large piece of 1/32″ thick plywood, tracing the shape of the spar deck, and cutting out the openings for all the bulkhead extensions.
The deck was cut to shape and planked in the same fashion as the gun deck, then glued into place.
If you look carefully, you may notice that stern bulkhead extension on the starboard side is missing. Yes, I had a mishap somewhere during the fitting of the spar deck and I snapped it off. Fortunately, I was able to glue it back into place later.
Looking at the model at this stage, it sure seems a shame to not have more cannons on that gun deck. The kit does have the center-most 4 or 5 guns on each side. But, oddly enough, they don’t have wheels on the carriages. It may not make much of a difference, because with the ships boats in the way and all, it’s really going to be hard to see down onto that gun deck. But, people always try.
I know I said I’m limiting my modifications to the kit, so I’m trying to hold off. But, just in case, my mind is busy thinking of ways to maybe added wheels to the carriages, rig those visible cannons and carriages, and maybe expand the number of full cannons by 4, placing one more full cannon on either side of what’s provided in the kit.
Of course, that means I need more cannons and carriages. Would it be simpler just to use third-party parts for these cannons and dummy barrels? I see the stormy clouds of the modification monster looming on the horizon.
And here’s my biggest problem with buying this kit in parts: I can’t test fit the cannons and such, since I don’t have them yet. So, word of advice from early in this build. Don’t buy it in packs if you plan to do a lot of modifications. Buy in packs if you’re happy to build the kit as provided.
I’m still a ways off from needing the second pack, which should include hull planking and some of the quarter deck and stern gallery details, but thinking about seeing if I can jump ahead and get one or two of the later packs early so I can check out the parts in detail, unless I can come to my senses and just build the kit as-is…