USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

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catopower
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USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby catopower » Fri May 24, 2013 10:56 am

Hello all! This is my first build log on SOS. I started this project about a year ago and it will take me a while to get caught up on the build logs. It used to be on MSW before the crash. I started recreating it, but most of the research and tidbits I recorded in that log are gone and it's been hard to start it up again. But, now that one project is finally at completion, I need to get back to this model and I figure this is a good way to keep my head in it.


A Brief History
 

The Saginaw was the first ship built at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on San Francisco Bay. She was launched in 1859 as the USS Toucey, in honor of the then Secretary of the Navy, but was commissioned as the USS Saginaw. The last paddlewheel steamer built before the American Civil War, she was specifically ordered for use in the shallow waters of the China station where she operated until she returned home to be refit and relaunched in 1863.



She served in the Pacific Squadron during the Civil War, being on the alert for Confederate activities and for the Confederate raider Shenandoah, whose captain, James Waddell had originally served aboard the Saginaw as one of her officers.



Among other activities, the ship charted the coastal waters of the newly acquired Alaska Territory in 1868. In 1869, after the US Army's run in with the Tlingit Indians (apparently following several incidents over the years), she was ordered to destroy three evacuated villages on an island near what is now Saginaw Bay.



On October 29, 1870, following the support of dredging operations at Midway Island, she was returning to San Francisco by way of the rarely visited Ocean Island, where she went to check for stranded sailors. She arrived ahead of schedule, but struck a reef in the process, which doomed the ship. 



While her hull was pounded by breakers, her crew abandoned the ship, taking as many supplies as possible, and went ashore on the desert island. In mid-November, one of the ship's boats was built up and a small group of volunteers sailed for 31 days and 1500 miles to the Hawaiian islands. Sadly, in the breakers off Kauai, the boat overturned and only one member of the starving and weakened crew survived. As soon as his story was relayed to authorities, the king of Hawaii dispatched a steamer to rescue the stranded crew.



This model represents the ship shortly before she was lost in 1870. At that time, she was equipped with two 30-pdr parrot rifles on pivot mounts, four 24-pdr boat guns, and I managed to discover from Mare Island logs in the National Archives that she also carried a light 12-pdr gun, though the mount is unspecified.



While she was originally rigged as a fore topsail schooner, which is illustrated in the plans in the National Archives, I believe she was probably rigged with topsails on both masts by 1870. This is how she appears in the only known photo of her and I believe this is from later in her career, as I found one reference indicating that for at least one year late in 1860s, she operated almost exclusively under sail. I would tend to suspect that this was during a period when she was a little more heavily rigged. 



There are several other small structural changes between her original 1859 configuration and that following her 1863 refit. These include the removal of her original pilot house, the rearrangement of her boilers, coal bunkers and forward hold, a change in the appearance of her decorative work on the wheel houses, and the relocation of some of the deck hatches.
 
 
The Model and Initial Research
 
The model is being built at 1/8" scale (1:96) as plank on solid hull construction. The solid hull is built up from basswood lifts and is planked over using holly. Keel, stern and stem posts are beech and the deck planking is boxwood. This is actually a prototype model that I'm using to work out various details since Civil War period ships are somewhat out of my area of knowledge. So too are steamers and, in particular, paddle wheel ships. My plan is to build a larger version, probably at 3/16" scale (1:64), though I expect that I'll probably build that as plank on bulkhead.
 
I was originally inspired by a photo of a custom Saginaw model that BlueJacket built for a client. I've always been somewhat intrigued by the ships of the sail and steam transition and then some simple online research turned up the fact that the Saginaw was the first ship built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which is just about a 30 minute drive from where I live. 
 
My normal suppliers for ship plans showed no sign of Saginaw plans, so inquired with BlueJacket about their source.
But, when I asked about the plans, they told me that because their efforts were funded by their client that they couldn't share any information with me. After a while, I sent an email to one of the librarians at the J Porter Shaw Library at the San Francisco Maritime National Park. My main contact there is always very helpful and she again showed her worth when she did some searching and found that copies of the National Archives plans were available from Maryland Silver Company.
 
I ordered these plans without delay and, while I was waiting for those, began researching what I could. I discovered that a book had been written about the Saginaw called A Civil War Gunboat in Pacific Waters: Life Aboard the USS Saginaw, but it's an expensive one, and the local library's inter-library loan system had no access to it either. I discovered that there was a copy at the UC Berkeley library, but that is a real pain to use unless you are a student or faculty. 
 
But, fortune was smiling on the project and it turned out that the author of the book, Hans Konrad Van Tilburg, had done some of his research at the Vallejo Museum and gave them a copy of the book. So, a trip to their research library gave me access to this and some other records on the Saginaw. Though it was a pricey book at about $70, I found that it had enough information in it that I was compelled to buy a copy. 
 
In the meantime, the plans from Maryland Silver Company arrived and I had also discovered that there was an article in the Nautical Research Journal regarding the construction of the Saginaw and that I had it in their back issues CD.
 
 
Clare



20110822061732!USS_Saginaw.jpg



Saginaw_sail_plan 2.jpg



Saginaw deck plans.jpg



internal plans sm.jpg
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby GaryM » Fri May 24, 2013 3:37 pm

Interesting. Did not know that Mare Island ever had anything to do with the sailing era.
Personally, the 1863 version looks better to me even though there is little difference in the outward appearance. My eye just seem to like the lines better and seemed to be more seaworthy.
Happy modeling,
Gary Maple

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Current build: Sergal Sovereign of the Seas
In Que: Sergal: Cutty Sark and Amerigo Vespucci; Billings Titanic
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby catopower » Sat May 25, 2013 2:38 am

Hi Gary,

Mary Island became operational in 1854, but I think it was mostly there for maintenance and repair. Saginaw was the first built there, keel laid in 1858. The next one I'm aware of is the USS Mohican, for which construction didn't begin until 1872. So, not much construction there early on.

On the appearance of the USS Saginaw, I agree. I like the look of the 1863 version and that's the version I'm building. But, I suspect part of that is really the way the plans are drawn. I was kind of puzzled though that the pilot house shown on the 1859 plans was removed in 1863. Seems like a useful feature, but I guess it must have been just the opposite.

Clare
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby catopower » Sat May 25, 2013 2:55 am

A Snapshot of the Saginaw
 

The model I’m building will show Saginaw as I believe she appeared shortly before her loss in 1870. I’m basing her appearance on the 1863 plans, which show different style of wheelhouse decoration and no pilot house. Her deck arrangement had also changed slightly from her original 1859 plans. Her armament will consist of a pair of 30-pdr parrot rifles on pivot mounts, one foreward and one aft, four 24-pdr boat guns broadside, and a single 12-pdr (L) boat gun, probably on a portable two-wheel carriage mount lashed to the deck.
 
The armament decisions were initially based on an article titled “The Narrative of William Halford,” published in The Naval Institute Proceedings in July of 1935, and a survey of the wreckage done by a NOAA research team led by Hans Van Tilburg and described in his book. Further details were found in the 1870 “Armaments of US Vessels” of Mare Island, which I discovered on one of my research visits to the National Archives in San Francisco.
 
The rig on the model will be modified from that shown in the 1863 rigging plan to match the only known photo of the ship. While the photo is undated, I found a comment in Halford’s narrative that indicated that Saginaw operated mostly under sail in later years, and I think it’s reasonable that had her rig beefed up a little at this time.
 
I’ve also decided to build the Saginaw with a hurricane deck that spans the space between the wheel houses. These are not shown on any plans and BlueJacket didn’t build their model with one, but there is more than one reference to a hurricane deck in the book “The Last Cruise of the USS Saginaw” by George Reed, one of Saginaw’s officers at the time of her loss. I’ve also discussed this at length with a fellow ship modeler, who wrote two fine Ship’s in Scale articles on his models of similar paddlewheel gunboats and built both of these with hurricane decks.

 
Preparing the Drawings
 

After spending time sorting through the plans of the different configurations of the Saginaw, I settled on the waterlines and shear profile plans that I would use for the model. Carefully studying the text on the drawings, I’d determined this set to mostly likely be the original plans of the Saginaw.
 
Oddly enough, there was only one body plan included in all three sets of drawings, and it had only the aft stations labeled. The forward stations were drawn, but not labeled. So, I took some measurements and immediately ran into a problem. There were different station lines drawn on the different sets of plans, and some of the station lines in the body plan were not on waterlines and shear profile plans that I chose to use. This required me to draw in new station lines on my shear profile and waterlines plans. 
 
 
Clare
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby catopower » Sat May 25, 2013 3:00 am

Starting the Hull
 

With the drawing done, I did some copy and paste work in Photoshop to make a full-hull waterlines plan. I made enough copies of this to cut patterns for each of the waterlines needed. I did the same thing with the body plan, making templates to check progress and accuracy when shaping the hull.
 
At 1/8” scale, the waterlines came out exactly 1/4” apart, so I bought some 1/4” basswood to use for the lifts that would make up the hull. 
 
From past experience, I found that it was handy to be able to pull the lifts apart when shaping the hull, so I drilled holes in the lifts before shaping them and held them together with wood screws. Another set of holes allowed my to screw the whole assembly down onto a building board marked with station lines.
 
The building board was extremely useful and allowed me to hold the hull very steady while carving and sanding, gave me a solid surface with clearly marked station lines for the proper alignment of the hull templates, and also made the whole thing easier to store. 
 
After the hull is shaped, drilling a couple holes in the bottom of the hull allows the hull to sit upright securely so I can more easily shape the deck.
 
 
 
Clare


DSC00023.jpg

I glue copies of the waterlines onto the wood using rubber cement. I can then remove these after the lift is cut to shape and alignment marks (station lines, center line) are drawn onto the wood. Before removing the paper, I also drill alignment holes for the screws which will be used to temporarily hold the lifts together while I'm working on them.


DSC00019.jpg

The lifts stacked up showing the rough shape of the hull. The station lines visible here are of course temporary and used to check that the lifts are properly aligned before the carving and sanding take place. 
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby popeye » Sat May 25, 2013 5:11 am

the hull looks really nice........I haven't see too many done like this before. it'll be neat to watch ;)
finished builds:
Nordkap 476 / Cux 87 / Gundalow
Mary Ann / Susan A. / M&M fun ship
Phylly C & Denny-Zen / AmericA
Andrea Gail

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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby GaryM » Sat May 25, 2013 2:09 pm

Nice start. I built the Mantua paddle wheeler shown in the gallery. This should prove interesting.
Happy modeling,
Gary Maple

Problems are just challenges waiting for your solution.

Current build: Sergal Sovereign of the Seas
In Que: Sergal: Cutty Sark and Amerigo Vespucci; Billings Titanic
Completed: Amati: HMS Prince (old 1:78 version); Billings: Norske Love and Vasa; Mantua: La Couronne; Sergal: Mississippi Riverboat and La Soleil Royal
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby catopower » Sat May 25, 2013 10:42 pm

Thanks, Popeye, Gary.

This is about the seventh hull I've built-up this way. The first 6 were mostly for practice. One of them turned into the Mary Taylor model which is currently running in Ships in Scale. If you subscribe, you'll see some details on how that was build – basically the same as this one, but I've developed my work technique a little more now.

Keeping the lifts separable, only held together by screws, and screwing them down as needed to the building board is a more recent development. I have the station lines marked on the building board, so I don't have to worry about sanding away lines drawn on the model. Also, I can assure that the hull is always perfectly level when I check the shape and that's been a great help.

This is the first paddle wheeler I've ever done and what's more it's the first time I've tried to scratch build a paddle wheeler. At this scale, it's proved to be challenge and I still haven't solved the issue of making the paddle wheels yet. I'm pretty sure I'm going to use some amount of etched brass work to do it, but my technique hasn't been up to the mark yet. I'm hoping to make a breakthrough soon!

Clare
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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby catopower » Sun May 26, 2013 3:55 am

Shaping the Hull

With the lifts cut, getting the final shape was pretty easy, and a relatively small amount of wood had to be removed.

It’s important to note that the lines on these plans are drawn to the inside of the planking. If I was going to make this a straight solid hull model, I would have had to redraw all the lines of the plans. Fortunately for me, I like the looks of planks and I plank my solid hull models. So, this worked out really well.

Using the profile templates I made earlier, I regularly checked my work and started on the hull by carving away most of the extra wood. Carving saved myself a lot of extra sanding, but required a bit of care so as not to cut away too much, which is very easy to do. Of course, that’s what wood filler is for, so a mistake here isn’t the end of the world.

DSC01175.jpg

One of the station templates


The hardest areas to carve are the concave areas of the hull up under the stern. Since the hull lifts were held together with screws, it was possible to separate them, and this made it easier to access those hollows.

Also, if you look at my photos, you might note that the upper most lift has been omitted. I didn’t add this piece in until the rest of the hull was pretty much cut to shape. The main reason was to allow easier shaping of the hollow under the stern.

You may also notice from the photos that the ends of the hull look squared off. I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep lifts properly aligned, getting a good straight line for the keel and stern and stem posts, if I made all the lifts the same length. So, the shape of each lift was extended. Once all the other shaping was done, I used another profile template to shape the stern and stem posts.

The last thing I did was to measure the shear of the deck and mark the upper most lift to the height of the centerline of the deck, minus the planking – Since I planned to use 1/32” thick deck planks, I made sure to allow for that.

A bench top belt sander made quick work of the deck shear, but it’s important to slow down when getting anywhere close to the shear line so as not to cut away too much. Once the deck shear is cut, the deck camber can be added. I added this by simply drawing the height of the deck at the edge on both sides of the hull. Then, I cut a curved piece of wood the shape of the camber as a guide and sanded the deck carefully to match the guide.

With that, the basic hull shape was essentially done and pretty much what you would get if you went out and purchased a solid hull ship model kit (minus all the plans and fittings, of course).


Clare


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Re: USS Saginaw, 1859 - Paddlewheel Steamer

Postby shipbuilder » Mon May 27, 2013 1:29 am

Clare,
That is a beautifully shaped hull. I often think it was a pity to put paddle wheels on either side of ships like that! Look forward to seeing the build progress.
Bob

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