HMS Pegasus, 1776

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orthofox

Well-Known Member
...or building of old wooden ships for landlubbers.

This thread will be a build log for a 1:64 scale model of the HMS Pegasus, a British sloop-of-war built in 1776. The model is from Victory models.

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"But wait
," you're thinking, "aren't there entire forums dedicated to wooden ship models?"

Why yes, there are. The most popular one is literally called modelshipworld.com.

"So go post your silly boat build log over there
," you're now thinking.

Well, I would. But I've grown rather fond of the RPF's model builder's group, and noticing a great dearth of old wooden British naval war ships on the RPF, I thought this would be an opportunity to give every one here a nice nap. Compared to the frenetic sexiness of the Millennium Falcon, or a Blade Runner spinner, a British Naval warship is the equivalent of watching a bowling tournament (not that there is anything wrong with that). So, this may not be the build log you are looking for. That said, wooden ship models of the British warships from the Age of Sail can be incredibly detailed and historically accurate, and reflect the state of the art in naval engineering at the time. They are like history lessons.

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(And just remember how handy a model of the Acheron was in the film Master and Commander!)

Good, now that we've established this might not be the most riveting of threads, let's get on with it. So why do I feel the need to chronicle the building of this model? Well, first off, because apparently I am a nerd. Secondly, I need a place to stash all of my research and notes regarding this build, and a thread seems a reasonable place to do so. (I quickly learned that the background research that goes into building a ship like this was quite a bit more extensive than other models I've built. This, in part, is because the instructions are translated from Italian, are devoid of critical detail, and feature the frequent use of words like fo’c’sle and futtock which I don't know the definitions to but definitely like to say as if I did). Lastly, I like to take pictures of things I screw up. So here you go. You can learn about old ships and watch me make a mess of this thing. I’ll also try to add in some fun stuff along the way related to the topic.

Disclaimer: I am not expert on anything. I have never built a wooden model of a British ship before in my life. I don’t even live close to an ocean, but I do like fish and chips. And I love the movie Master and Commander. So channel your best Lucky Jack and "Let fly!"

 
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orthofox

Well-Known Member
HMS Pegasus and the Swan-class sloops-of-war.

And now for a history of the ship whose model I’ll be trying to build. (Most of this was cribbed straight from wikipedia who cribbed it from a bunch of obscure history books that like 5 people in the world own - so I don’t feel that bad about reposting it all here.)

The Pegasus was a 14 gun sloop of the Swan class designed by Surveyor of the Navy, John Williams. Ordered on 10 April 1775, she was built by the Chatham dockyard which was depicted in this 1790 painting by Nicholas Pocock.

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These are the actual plans for the HMS Pegasus.

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The Pegasus was launched on 27 December 1776 and was commissioned the same month under Commander John Hamilton Gore for convoy escort and dispatch duty. After completing on 3 March 1777, she sailed for Newfoundland on 3 April. She was lost with all hands in a storm off Newfoundland in October.

The Swan-class sloops were built as a 14-gun class of ship for the Royal Navy, although an extra 2 guns were added soon after completion. Two vessels, Swan and Kingfisher, were ordered in January 1766. Twenty-three more were ordered to the same design between 1773 and 1779; they formed the ‘standard’ ship sloop design of the British Navy during the American Revolutionary War, during which eleven of them were lost. Surviving vessels went on to serve during the French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic War.

Another Swan-class sloop, the HMS Fairy, is seen in this painting. She is on the left with three masts.

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The Swan class sloops were known for being particularly attractive and ornate for their type of vessel. Not only did they have sleek hull lines but they also carried an unusual amount of decoration for their size. They were built just before the Admiralty issued orders that all vessels (especially lesser rates and unrated vessels) should have minimal decoration and carvings to save on costs, due to the seemingly ever-continuing war with France and other nations.

A model of the Pegasus' Swan-class sloop sister, Kingfisher, is depicted in these paintings by marine painter, Joseph Marshall completed in 1775, commissioned by King George III.

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(She is a rather sexy little minx, I have to say.)

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(And just look at that aft.)

The 14-gun sloops were small enough to not be rated on the rating system the Royal Navy used at the time. The largest of the unrated ships were called “sloops” as a catchall term. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy increased the number of sloops in service by some 400% as it found that it needed vast numbers of these small vessels for escorting convoys, combating privateers and taking prizes.

Most who have seen the film Master and Commander will be familiar with the HMS Surprise. She was categorized as a sixth-rate post ship, the smallest of the so-called "rated" class of ships. To be rated, the ship had to carry at least 20 guns, which the sloops fell short of.

But they were still dead sexy...
 
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orthofox

Well-Known Member
And away we go...and I’m already lost.

When the model arrived, I was struck by how much it weighed. It felt like someone had shipped me a cinder block. Opening it, I discovered numerous lasercut sheets of MDF and various types of wood and a lot, I mean a lot, of long wooden strips - uncut. As I've never tackled anything quite like this before I decided to devote some time to RTFD.

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Even the directions say to RTFD first. This seems a bit ominous.

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Something else I noticed in the directions.

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Is it just me, or is the phrase “…as easy to build as we can make it,” a little dismissive and patronizing? They might as well say, “Listen, moron - we dumbed this thing down just about as much as we could - if you screw it up it’s on you.

The other thing I notice is that the directions are very scant on detail. So I went online to do a little research and everything I read indicates to not rely on the instructions alone - to buy some books to help guide me. So I bought some books.

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Five hours into this entire project and I got exactly this far.
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Two cups of coffee, reading ALL the F* directions, consulting deeply with Messrs. Mastini and Petersson and scrolling through page after page on modelshipworld.com for 5 hours, I came to a basic realization: The instructions have omitted the exact first step of what I should be doing. There is literally no mention of what everything else is telling me to do as quite literally, THE FIRST STEP.

This is what I believe is referred to as a portent.
 
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orthofox

Well-Known Member
The Bearded Rabbet

So, as this model is what is called a plank-on-frame model, I will be adding wooden planks over some pre-fabbed frame bulkheads that are secured to a false keel. From what I’ve read, this is not easy to do when you have no idea what you are doing. That said, all references (outside of the directions, which will henceforth be referred to as the FD, short for futtock directions) have strongly suggested, AS THE FIRST STEP, both marking a “bearding line” and cutting a “rabbet” line along the keel. I have no idea what any of this means. Time for some research.

Bearding Line - a curved line made by bearding (removal of wood) along the centerline timbers (stem, keel, stern post, dead woods) to enable the planks to fit in the rabbet.

Rabbet line - from the word rebate, an incision in a piece of timber where the planks interact with the centerline timbers (stem, keel, stern post, deadwoods, etc.).

Ok Dr. Google - work your magic and give me a link:

The link above takes you to a site dedicated to the preservation of traditional maritime skills. In this site, you can find a video showing master shipwright Chris Rees mark the bearding line and cut a rabbet line on a real wooden ship. Here are some stills.

Here is Master Rees pointing to the bearding line:

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"It's right here, dummy."

But seriously, the bearding line will mark the contour of the hull and show where the excess wood needs to be removed to make way for the hull planks. The rabbet line then is an actual trough that is cut to receive the planks.
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And here is Master Rees cutting the rabbet with an adze. An ADZE, people.


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Because I'm quite sure Master Rees will never read this thread on this site, I don't have to worry about embarrassing myself in admitting that I wish I was his neighbor and could help him cut rabbet lines with an adze for the rest of my life in Cornwall. But as I live in the middle of the US, this would mean that I’d lose my job and probably my wife, so I’ll have to settle for using an Xacto blade on my little MDF keel. In my case, I cut a 1.5 X 1.2 mm rabbet along the edge of what is called the false keel.

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Now, this may look weird (and not anything like Mr. Rees’ rabbet and that’s because I’ve not yet glued on the walnut true keel to the bottom of this MDF false keel at this stage.

Here’s the completed rabbet once the full-thickness walnut true keel and stem components have been assembled and glued to the false keel. You can also make out some of the frame bulkheads that I've positioned on the keel to trial fit them. That's coming next.

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And here's another photo demonstrating how the bearding line will be fashioned into the false keel. (I shamelessly pilfered this photo from the interwebs.)
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Up next: framing 101!
 

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orthofox

Well-Known Member
A framing we will go.

In a real wooden ship, the frames would exist as the “ribs” of the ship that are transverse to the keel and support the hull giving the ship both its strength and shape. Each frame would be composed of several sections so that the grain of the wood can follow the curve of the frame.

A CGI depiction of what the frames of HMS Pegasus would have looked like (source) :

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Like literally everything in ship building, each section has its own name that is simultaneously nonsensical, fun to say and an etymologist’s wet dream.

Let’s dissect the frame. The main components of a traditional wooden frame would be the floor timber (resting on the keel) with futtocks, numbered as first, second, third, and top timbers extending upward from them.
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The HMS Pegasus model I am trying to construct doesn’t have traditional mult-segmented frames like this, but rather MDF bulkheads. That said, I’ll still refer to them as frames. The first thing that is critical to do is number them before removing them from the laser-cut MDF sheet according to the included parts blueprint, because they are not numbered and if you just punch them out they are going to be all mixed up.
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There are 13. Again, I believe this is what they refer to as a portent.

And here they are laid out in sequential order.
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Like slices of a CT scan, if you stack these, you will get an approximation of the lines of the hull of the ship, which can also be seen by studying the drafting detail of the original ships plans.
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The slot on each frame will accommodate the false keel.

Next up, fairing the frames.
 
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orthofox

Well-Known Member
Fairing the frames

As seen in the previous posts, there is an obvious discrepancy in the number of frames a true sloop-of-war would have had (approximately 60-70) compared to the 13 bulkhead frames this model has. Thus, the problem becomes quickly apparent of how to plank these frames while maintaining a nice smooth curvature to the hull. Bending the planks around sharp corners will stress and deform them and the hull will have a tendency to have bumps and flat spots. There are two ways I am supposed to overcome this. The first is replicating something done in real ships, called fairing, and the second is a very contrived practice specific to models of this kind called filling.

We'll cover fairing first.

Essentially fairing is creating a bevel on the leading or trailing edge of each frame to accommodate the planks. The angle of the bevel for each frame varies between frames as they widen and the arc of curvature of the hull changes but also within the frame from top to bottom as the hull either widens or tapers to give it its characteristic shape. Fairing also maximizes the amount of surface contact between the hull planks and the frames which is important structurally.

If we go back to the Traditional Maritime Skills website, we can watch a shipwright fair a ship's frames with a belt sander to accommodate the hull planks:

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From what I've read, fairing is absolutely critical to getting a good shape to the hull. The instructions make sure to say that it is a necessary step but give practically no guidance whatsoever in how much is required at which levels. So, borrowing a technique from conventional ship building, I fashioned a fairing plank from a long strip of 1mm thick styrene and laid it upon the frames to see where it touched either the leading edge (on the bow frames) or trailing edge (on the stern frames). If it barely touched the edge, then I sanded it down with a small file until which point that the surface of the plank actually made contact with the beveled surface of the frame.

The result:

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You'll also note the placement of some "plank termination" fillers that are positioned between the bow frames. These too were beveled with a file and small sanding stick following the curve established by the fairing plank. At this point I have absolutely no idea if this is sufficient. You can also see the rabbet line sitting just in front of the plank termination filler and at the bottom of my frames as this will be the groove that will hopefully accept the hull planks....one day.

Next up - fillers and lots and lots and lots and lots of sanding.
 
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orthofox

Well-Known Member
Filling Frustrations

To complete the effect of having 60-70+ faired frames comprising the structure of the Pegasus' hull, I have learned that I have to fill the bays between the bulkhead frames of this model. Now, there are many opinions on what to fill them with - but it must be something I can shape that that will be solid enough upon which to attach the hull planking. Most builders choose balsa wood. Fortunately, I don't have to fill all the bays - just those at the bow and stern, where the planking experiences the most complex curves. So, after some web searches, I dove in.

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Essentially, I would measure the cubic volume of each bay, cut a corresponding piece of balsa and place it. Then I would trace the contour of the frame both fore and aft of the block I placed. Then, using a small saw and a sanding disk, I'd start to shape that block down.

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Once the piece was roughly close to what I think it should ultimately look like, I put it in place. Final sanding would be completed with the filler in place with a fine grit foam drywalling sanding block. Then, rinse and repeat.

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Each bay is uniquely sized and shaped, so each pair of fillers (one for port and one for starboard) had to be uniquely cut and shaped. And these fillers start to take on some truly unique and complex shapes.

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The end results. Note in this photo that the lower deck plate is also in position, because much of the filler will be on top it AND because this lower deck holds the bulkhead frames true and square, which is essential for cutting the fillers appropriately.

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All the fillers, frames and lower deck were then glued in place with normal PVA glue and let to dry overnight.

What I DON'T have a photo of is me scrutinizing my progress the next morning and realizing something wasn't right. I also don't have a photo of me spending 3 hours staring at and measuring everything trying to figure out what was out of alignment. Further, I also didn't photograph me finally realizing that frame #10 is the culprit and is riding about 4mm too high and that it AND the bay fillers between frames #10 and #11 will have to be ripped out on both sides and completely redone representing many hours wasted. What I DID photograph was me setting the ship down gently and taking my dog for a long run.

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Next up - Testing the aerodynamics of an unfinished 1:64 scale model of the HMS Pegasus when thrown from a second story deck.
 
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patrickivan

Sr Member
Filling Frustrations

To complete the effect of having 60-70+ faired frames comprising the structure of the Pegasus' hull, I have learned that I have to fill the bays between the bulkhead frames of this model. Now, there are many opinions on what to fill them with - but it must be something I can shape that that will be solid enough upon which to attach the hull planking. Most builders choose balsa wood. Fortunately, I don't have to fill all the bays - just those at the bow and stern, where the planking experiences the most complex curves. So, after some web searches, I dove in.

View attachment 963947

Essentially, I would measure the cubic volume of each bay, cut a corresponding piece of balsa and place it. Then I would trace the contour of the frame both fore and aft of the block I placed. Then, using a small saw and a sanding disk, I'd start to shape that block down.

View attachment 963948

Once the piece was roughly close to what I think it should ultimately look like, I put it in place. Final sanding would be completed with the filler in place with a fine grit foam drywalling sanding block. Then, rinse and repeat.

View attachment 963949

View attachment 963950

Each bay is uniquely sized and shaped, so each pair of fillers (one for port and one for starboard) had to be uniquely cut and shaped. And these fillers start to take on some truly unique and complex shapes.

View attachment 963951

The end results. Note in this photo that the lower deck plate is also in position, because much of the filler will be on top it AND because this lower deck holds the bulkhead frames true and square, which is essential for cutting the fillers appropriately.

View attachment 963952

All the fillers, frames and lower deck were then glued in place with normal PVA glue and let to dry overnight.

What I DON'T have a photo of is me scrutinizing my progress the next morning and realizing something wasn't right. I also don't have a photo of me spending 3 hours staring at and measuring everything trying to figure out what was out of alignment. Further, I also didn't photography me finally realizing that frame #10 is the culprit and is riding about 4mm too high and that it AND the bay fillers between frames #10 and #11 will have to be ripped out on both sides and completely redone representing many hours. What I DID photograph was me setting the ship down gently and taking my dog for a long run.

View attachment 963953

Next up - Testing the aerodynamics of an unfinished 1:64 scale model of the HMS Pegasus when thrown from a second story deck.

Great stuff so far. Makes me want to build one. And take my BC for a walk as well LOL.
 

orthofox

Well-Known Member
Well hopefully future you can use this thread as a source of what not to do. I have the dark feeling this will not be the last thing I will be revising on this little baby. What I've already learned is that you have to check things 3 or 4 times before you commit to any step because so much of this requires individual customization of pieces that 1) you don't really know if things are fitting together perfectly and 2) it's easy to miss minor (or even moderate) mistakes until you are many steps down the line. You can customize yourself right into a false sense of security, only to be followed by much consternation and profanity and puzzled looks from the dog. Anyway - thanks for your encouragement and big hugs to your BC.
 

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orthofox

Well-Known Member
Affixing the stern counters

After ripping out fillers between #10 and #11 (not too bad), I loosened frame #10 (very very bad) and dropped it down until it was flush with the hidden lower deck plate and glued it in place. Then refashioned fillers for the bay between #10 and #11. At this point, the instructions said to place the stern counters. Check. What's a stern counter?

Aside: If you are actually contemplating embarking on this insanity and, like me, are a complete neophyte, I highly recommend this resource. The Illustrated Glossary of Ship and Boat Terms, The Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology by J. Richard Steffy. (link).

Counter - The transverse section between the bottom of the stern and the wing transom.

The stern is just the back end of the ship and the wing transom (as defined by Mr. Steffy) is the major transom, mounted on the inner sternpost, which forms the foundation for the counter and the stern. So, I think in this model that would be equivalent to bulkhead frame #13 - the last one. So essentially the stern counters are the pieces that support the aft of the ship's overhang.

So, the FIRST time I affixed the stern counters (there are 4) I just found the slots they fit within, glued them in and called it good. Notice I said that's what I did the FIRST time.

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After the glue had dried, I realized that they were flared out WAY too wide laterally on both sides. I then placed the quarterdeck (the upper deck that will ultimately be placed over the main gun deck at the back of the ship) and saw the problem. The outer stern counters need to be in alignment with the quarterdeck to be able to support it. Perhaps the instructions could have mentioned this. So the lesson I'm learning is, you cannot just focus on the task at hand, but think about how the task at hand will impact the entire build and especially the next 10 steps, because you can modify the fit of virtually every single piece. So anyway, the outer counters were removed and redone to match the lines of the quarterdeck not yet placed. Here the quarter deck is lying in front of the stern counters to show the parallelism of the lines when they are affixed correctly. This quarterdeck will ultimately rest upon these counters.
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And here are some shots of the redone aft fillers, and after a LOT more sanding of all the fillers to try to match the corresponding frames also featuring the new position of frame #10 and the stern counters.
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Next up - the gun deck.
 
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division 6

Master Member
GO BIG OR GO HOME...

I applaud your jumping in and tying something new and will be watching with great interest.
You think you're having troubles now, wait till you get to the rigging.:p
If you really want your head to hurt, check out the rigging this gentleman in Russia is doing.

I've built a few plastic ships but never a wooden one. have a few (plastic) in my stash including the large Black Pearl that I intend to convert to the first movie version.

There is a guy over on Finescale Modeler that is building a 36 gun Dutch Merchant from scratch.
There is also a woman in Russia I believe that does beautiful ships out of card stock (also from scratch)

MicroMark sells specialty tools for doing plank on frame ships as well as tools for rigging.
Syren Ship model Co. sells useful parts and tools for ships building as well.
 

orthofox

Well-Known Member
"I applaud your jumping in and tying something new and will be watching with great interest.
You think you're having troubles now, wait till you get to the rigging.:p
If you really want your head to hurt, check out the rigging this gentleman in Russia is doing."



Yeah - that doesn't make me feel suddenly self-conscious or anything. That dude's rigging is the best I've ever seen - because he not only has the detail down, but he has the weathering down as well - that's something I don't see in many wooden ship models. Everyone always builds them to look absolutely pristine. I've not decided which direction to go with that.

Thanks a ton for all the links. I was actually looking for the Syren link - had found it before and lost it!
 

orthofox

Well-Known Member
Starting the Gundeck

Having (somewhat) successfully fashioned the main body of the ship with all frames, fillers and stern counters in pace, it is now time to start work on the gundeck. The HMS Pegasus only had a single gundeck upon which the cannons (guns) resided, similar to the slightly larger sixth-rate HMS Surprise depicted in the movie Master and Commander.

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The Victory model of the Pegasus uses a "false deck" system for all of its decks. This means that the first step constructing the gundeck is positioning a pre-cut 1mm thick sheet of plywood upon the frames and fillers. In this model, this false deck is bifurcated longitudinally to ease the placement between what would be the third futtocks, or upper extensions, of the frames. Trying to dry fit these, I immediately recognized that they didn't fit.
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Each hemi-deck required individual modification and "opening" of the slots fashioned for the frames with a small file.
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After much fussing, I was finally able to get both halves to lie flat on the frames and match up to one another. Having learned my lesson from previous steps, however, I read ahead to what would be coming next BEFORE I attached it. I needed to contemplate how the deck planks should be laid upon the plywood false deck first. There are entire pages, posts and sites dedicated to how decks were planked on the 18th century British ships of war (and absolutely nobody here is surprised by this). I decided to plank this deck using what is called a 4-butt pattern which I will discuss next time. But what this meant was that I needed to mark the lines of the bulkhead frames upon the false deck so that I know where to put my butt joints on the deck planks. So, after a quick drawing of what a 4-butt pattern would look like to ensure I understood it, the deck was labeled with pencil.
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Then, after another trial dry fitting to make sure everything looked OK, it was glued and pinned to the frames and fillers.

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So you may be wondering why I had to pin the deck down. This is because there is a slight arc to the deck beams of the frame (although this model doesn't actually have separate beams for the gun deck - they are part of the MDF frame bulkheads.) So in order to conform the flat plywood false deck to the arced frames, it was pinned to each one using some regular map pins.
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Next up - Planking the Deck.
 
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