George F. Campbell

The neophyte shipmodeller`s jackstay


The mashine carved wood hull

The hull supplied with most model kits is of pine, machine carved to reasonably accurate lines. Pine is perhaps the best all-around wood for modelling purposes. A top grade poplar (whitewood) is excellent, but there is a great variation in its quality. A soft Honduras mahogany is very good, but still pine is our choice. A fault of pine is its resin content. It is well to seal in the wood juices with a coat of lacquer or dope. Otherwise if the wood has an amount of resin, it is liable to appear as small blisters under the painted finish.



To withstand handling in shipment, certain fragile parts of the hull are cut thick, intentionally. These thick parts are the bulwarks, the skeg and the transom. If required, the bulwarks are thinned with a chisel. As a guide, mark with pencil the desired thickness. Fig. 2, then cut from the inside to this line. Slight cuts on the deck surface will not matter, since sheet planking will cover the deck at a later stage. Making the bulwarks thin enough to scale is something of a problem. If left too thick, the rail width will not cover the thickness of the bulwarks plus the timberheads. Where a thickness of 1/16th or less is indicated—more the rule than the exception — you may "cheat" by leaving a slight taper upward in the bulwarks thereby giving them strength with a minimum loss in appearance, Fig. 3.

Turning to the outside of the hull, the first step is to form a level surface along the center line of the hull; that is, a flat surface on which a center line may be scribed as a measuring guide during construction. Fig. 4. This may be done with a small plane. Then mark the centerline with a pencil. Also mark on this flat strip approximately the width of the keel. Now shave and fair the hull lines to meet the flats, giving the final shape of the outside. Use a wide chisel for this. A few passes with a file (not a rasp!) will identify and level unwanted bumps. Finish with a fine sandpaper.

Sanding calls for particular care. Do not round edges which should have angles. Often a modeller will view his over'sanded, rounded'line hull with satisfaction, not realizing that smooth rounded edges are anathema to the scale-hound. Keep the edges crisp and clean. This will take some doing, but the sharpness will be rewarding.

Kit hulls are always cut to their topmost deck — a frigate will have the exposed waist, down to the maindeck, Fig. 5. If you wish a full maindeck with the quarter and forecastle deck above, you will have to chisel out these two latter decks, then frame and sheet'plank them in again. Fig. 6. This will give you the stem to stern sweep of the main deck. Note that on frigates there were no bulkheads at the ends, or break, of these decks to cut up the main deck.


To hold the model make a vise'hold as per sketch, Fig. 7. This involves drilling two pilot holes into the hull on the keel line.

The quarter and forecastle deck beams may be fitted early, Fig. 6, but the decking should be delayed somewhat until you are ready to install the cannon on the main deck (see GUNPORTS, below). You will note that the height of the 'tween decks had little apparent relation to the height of a man, even the shorter ones of that day.

Now fit the KEEL, STERN TOST and STEM, in that order. The keel extends under the stem-post, while the stem piece (s) will lap over the forward end of the keel, Fig. 8. Fix these parts with pins and cement, removing the pins later. The sternpost will have a curved upper end where it fits to the counter. Try to join the members with a minimum of light showing thru. If a part is cut too small, throw it away and start again.

When heavy timbers were needed for curves, such as around the stem, shipbuilders would select a suitably curved or "kneed" tree, called a crook, and saw it to width, thus having a woodgrain to conform to the ships curve. On the model too this may be done, but it is just as well to "piece up" the stem in two or more parts, Fig. 8, thus reducing the cross-grain to a practical minimum. These joints (scarphs, or scarphing) could be complex, but on 1/8” scale a simpler joint is alright.

The HEAD KNEE of early ships was quite deep, and requires further piecing to attain the profile. Be careful to follow the plan closely on this profile, as for some reason the headknee's shape attracts more than its share of attention. Study its shape and functions carefully.

Before tackling the finer detail, it would be best to drill and cut the necessary holes in the hull.