Building OcCre’s Spanish 74-gun Ship Montañes from Part Kits – Part 3

Having still not come to my senses, I continue to plan modifications to my Montañes model. More and more, I am considering modifying the cannons and gun ports. As none of the cannon parts are included in the initial parts pack (remember, I only have Pack 1 of the six available for this kit), I contacted OcCre about ordering some of the cannon barrels and parts.

I have to say that OcCre’s customer service seems to be top notch. I communicated by messaging them through their Facebook page, which is easy to do and replies are usually within 24 hours. I provided the part numbers from the kit and the quantities. Basically, I just wanted 4 of each of the cannons and carriages, which would be enough for me work with, and allow me to at least expand the number of full cannons on the upper gun deck. Anyway, the parts aren’t very expensive, but right now in particular, with Covid limitations, the shipping is the expensive part. I think it ended up costing me around $26 for these few parts. But, since I’m experimenting and writing about my build, I decided to go ahead.

It didn’t take me long to get the parts I’d ordered, giving me some idea of how I might proceed with the build. First off, I had a hunch from looking at the photos of the part packs that OcCre had changed their kit from the original design, to use cheaper materials. So, while disappointing, it came as no surprise that the cannon barrels were all cast metal parts, not the beautiful looking brass gun barrels that you see on all the model photos.

For me, it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference, as I usually prefer my cannon barrels blackened to appear more like the real ones. And, as castings go, they aren’t bad. On the larger dummy barrels, you can hardly see any mold seams.

But, as with so many kit manufacturers, the cannon barrels don’t look a whole lot like real cannon barrels. I don’t know who designed these cannon barrels, but clearly they either have no idea what a cannon barrel looks like, or they just don’t care.

In this case, however, I think the issue is probably that OcCre used the original brass barrels to make molds for the cast metal barrels. You see, I’ve turned cannon barrels before, and giving them the right taper is much harder than making the barrels like rods with ridges. But then my lathe isn’t CNC equipped, so every feature and change in taper has to be handled manually. A company making ship models in quantity must be getting the barrels turned on a CNC equipped lathe. But, even if they don’t, there’s still no excuse for making poorly designed cast metal cannon barrels. It is just as easy to cast correct cannon barrels as it is to cast poor ones.

So, here I am faced with the decision of whether to use these or to make another change to my build, which was again supposed to be sticking to the original kit! I haven’t decided for sure. But, having said that, I think think I have to admit that I really HAVE made the decision to use better looking cannon barrels. The question is now “what barrels to use?”

I’ve gone online and ordered a selection of Caldercraft’s cannon barrels, as I’ve seen these before and they look good. But, I’ve also looked at ones made by Amati and ones I think I bought from The Lumberyard. I’ll be examining these once I get them to see what will look and work best.

Note that looking online, Montañes apparently had a couple gun configurations on record: the 1794 configuration on the 1805 configuration. This, from a website called ThreeDecks.org, which lists the following for Montañes.

1794 Armament
Lower Gun Deck, 28 Spanish 24-pounders
Upper Gun Deck, 30 Spanish 18-pounders
Quarterdeck/Forecastle, 16 Spanish 8-pounders

1805 Armament
Lower Gun Deck, 28 Spanish 36-pounders
Upper Gun Deck, 30 Spanish 18-pounders
Quarterdeck/Forecastle, 10 Spanish 30-pounder Obusier* (the French answer to the Carronade)
Quarterdeck/Forecastle, 8 Spanish 8-pounders

More about the cannons at another time, but I will point out that if you look at dimensions of similar sized guns, the castings for the 8-pounders look okay in terms of length, but the 18-pounders seem too small, maybe by about 1/4″. So, I’m looking for some cannon barrels about 1″ long for the 8-pounders, and 1.4″ long for the 18-pounders. The lower deck guns depend on the year I chose for the model. But, given that the lower deck guns are all dummy barrels, the length of the gun isn’t significant, as long as the barrel/bore diameter seems appropriate.

Modifying the gun ports

Now, since I can’t leave well enough alone, and I am looking at using different cannon barrels anyway, I need to look at the modifying the gun ports. To this end, I went ahead and painted the insides of the bulwarks plates red, and temporarily mounted them to the hull.

As this is only a temporary fit, I didn’t bother to cut the pieces out of the lower gun ports.

Now, the first reason to modify the guns and gunports is that the provided dummy cannon barrels are so short, any replacements I end up using will stick out like Cyrano’s nose. So the ports have to be deepend. Plus, I’ve never like gun ports that just had a black painted wall right behind the open gun port. I much prefer open gun ports where the barrels are mounted on a fake carriage or at least mounted in a recessed wall. I want to a better illusion that the ship model is fully armed.

Also, since OcCre provides a complete, planked upper gun deck, why close it all up with dummy gun barrels? With some modifications, the ship could have a full compliment of guns on their carriages. They don’t necessarily have to be rigged, as that would be hard to see anyway. Just giving the illusion that there’s more to the model should be enough. This is partly spurred by Disar’s recent release of their Hermione kit, which does provide a full gun deck with full cannons and carriages.

For the lower gun ports, I still figure on needing to use dummy gun barrels. My though is to simply make boxes, to be glued behind each gun port. These can be however deep I need to make them, depending on the length of the available dummy gun barrels.

Looking at the position of the gun ports and the bulkheads, I can see where the few problems will be. With the lower gun ports, there are several places where a gun port is centered right on a bulkhead. I counted a total of 5 conflicts on each side. But I think these can be resolved by cutting out a notch in each of these bulkheads without seriously weakening the integrity of the model.

This seems like resolvable, even if the results won’t be perfect. I already see that the cannons that are visible have bulkhead sections right next to them, so that it’s not possible to properly rig the cannons without some major ship modeling trickery of some sort. And I’m just looking at adding full cannons and carriages and don’t know if I’m up for any serious re-engineering.

For the upper gun ports, things might get a little trickier, as the section of the bulkhead that gets in the way is only a narrow piece that supports the beams that support the spar deck. Fortunately, there is only one gun port that seems to have this problem. I’ll just have to devise some way to support that upper deck beam.

But, probably my biggest disappointment is that at the opening of the spar deck, where some of the upper gun deck is visible, these two gun ports have vertical bulkhead pieces, call them timberheads, that are right next to the gun ports. These prevent me from properly rigging these guns – something that the kit doesn’t have you do anyway. In fact, the kit doesn’t even provide these carriages with trucks. They just sit flat on the deck. To me, particularly since these guns will be partly visible, the really ought to be rigged.

So, that’s where this part kit project stands at the moment. As soon as I have source the cannons I will use for this model, I’ll be able to start working on dealing with the gun ports and bulkheads, which should be quite soon.

And, just to give you an idea of what I am thinking, in the photo below, on right side are the kit’s cannon barrels. There’s actually another set of dummy barrels for the upper gun deck which I neglected to include. Thy look the same as the dummy barrels on the right, but just a tad smaller in diameter. On the left are the barrels I’m considering replacing them with.

The dummy cannons are actually pretty similar at the muzzle, which is what matters. The ones I’m looking at are just a lot longer, so I’m going to need to really deepen those lower gun ports. In any case, gun, when run out, should stick out a lot further than just out the opening. Otherwise, I think the concussion from the firing guns would break the hinges off the gun port lids.

On the lower left, one of these is actually the standard Billing Boats cannon barrel. I think the other one is one I got from Syren Ship Model Company. By the way, I think I got the full barrels on the right reversed. The larger barrel should be in the middle to compare correctly with the ones on the left. The middle gun on the left is actually a bit of a mystery yet. I’m not positive where this one came from. It’s possible it’s one of my own castings, but I don’t recall what master I used.

In any case, to save on cost, I may end up making a mold of whatever barrels I end up with and pouring my own pewter castings. The downside to this is that I then have to try to drill out the bore in the muzzle so that it’s perfectly centered. Yes, it’s more and more of a project, I know. But, it’s either that, or I need to buy 74 barrels that will average around $2 each, for a cost that’s close to $150, just for the gun barrels. After all, I need to save that money to buy the next Montañes pack!

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