Constellation, the sloop of war c.1856 in 1:36 scale for R/C sailing

JerryTodd

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#1
I have a project I started nearly 19 years ago, so here's a "build log" for it, but first we need to go back in time and get caught up...

I've built working model boats of all sorts, but most being smallish tended to bob like corks in Baltimore's Inner Harbor where I sailed them. I wanted to build something large that would sail like a boat. I was inspired to action by a model of the Rattlesnake I saw in back-issue of Model Ship Builder magazine, but wasn't sure what boat to build.
msb25.jpg

The hermaphrodite, or "jackass" bark was a favorite rig...
Jackass.jpg

But a friend suggested a local boat that had (it's 1999) just gone into dry-dock for restoration; the sloop of war Constellation, which the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a good idea.
simone1856.jpg Constellation at Naples 1856 by Tomasa deSimone

I won't get into the "controversy" surrounding this boat besides saying, this vessel is not and never was a frigate by any measure. The only people that buy that story also think the world is flat. Her history can be found at:

I made a visit to the National Archives in College Park Maryland and came home with her lines in 1:36 scale, her 1854 sail plan, and several other drawings of the ship, even the lines for her boats.

Rattlesnake was built with extended forms on a baseboard, something like Harold Hahn's method, and that's how I went about building Constellation. The forms were cut from thin plywood paneling pulled out of my house when I remodeled it on a particle-board base, also scrap from the remodel. The keel is 1/2" birch plywood.
con19990218a.jpg

Before I started planking I came across a book by William Mowell about building the iron frigate Warrior. He battened the forms instead of planking and covered the hull in layers of brown paper packing tape, which he covered in masking tape, made a fiberglass mold from that, and laid up a fiberglass hull in that mold, the original "plug" being destroyed. This seemed like a great idea and a mold would allow me to easily make more than one hull, in fact, I decided to make three; one as the RC model, and two unrigged static models; one to be donated and the other sold, figuring a local Baltimore company would like a 5 foot hull of the Constellation in their lobby, and the money would pay for the whole project.
warrior.jpg

So off on this tangent I went...
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The idea was to lay on planking and other details on the "plug" to impart things like plank lines and moldings to the mold, but there were a lot of such details not shown on anything I found at the archives, so I had more research to do. In the mean time we moved to a small farm and the plug was store under plastic in the corner of the barn. The wife and I split up, we sold the farm and the plug went into a storage unit. I bought a house with a workshop in a separate building and in 2009 pulled the old plug out to resume work on it, a decade later.
dyws20090905.jpg dyws20090105.jpg

Next up: How NOT to build a hull
 
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Uwek

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#2
Hallo Jerry, first of all a warm welcome back to the forum.....
A very interesting project you want to show us here, and thanks that you start from the beginning.
RC sailing models have their special needs and problems......I got once from Pier Books the book „William Fredericks (1874) scale journey“ for review. In this book the author is describing the built of a RC model of a 3 mast sailing ship. So I have a small insight of the problems with ballast, running rigging etc.
Is / will your model be motor forced or by wind force?
I am looking forward and will follow your log with high interest.
 
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JerryTodd

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#4
Now with a proper shop, I picked up where I had left off; that is, applying planking and coppering, and other details with brown paper tape to impart those details to the eventual mold. In the meantime, the ship had been launched and returned to her dock, so I went and paid a visit to get some data, measurements, etc.
MVC-581F.JPG
I got to see how the ship didn't have typical bulwarks, but wainscotted hammock bulwarks instead.

hammockrail_.jpg hammockiron.jpg

She mounted 10" shell guns on pivot mounts on the spar deck, one fore, one aft, and the "solid" bulwarks there were hinged to fold down, or be removed, when the guns were in action. The forward one were on the ship up until she was removed from the Navy list and went to Baltimore in 1955, and most of the original bronze hinges from them still exist.
hinge.jpg
I was given a bunch of pieces of live oak removed from the ship during her restoration, which I had to figure out how to incorporate into my model.
I also got to see drawings on the pivot guns and their carriages, and poke around in the darker recesses.

I had made the plug with a bulwark attached; this new information meant I had to cut the hull down as the bulwark would be built on later.
con20090105a.jpg
I also started fashioning the quarter galleries so they would be a part of the hull when it was cast.
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I wasn't really happy with this paper hull so I distracted myself by working on making the masts so I could mock up the controls and figure them out - I'll get into that in a later post. Eventually I gave up on making a mold and decided to just make the one hull. This is where I feel I made the wrong decision. What I should have done was strip the plug of it's paper and battens, set the forms up again, and properly plank it with wood. What I did do was lay 4 oz cloth on the outside, slush some resin and sawdust around inside to fill, somewhat, the space between the battens, and lay-up glass matting inside the hull.
con19990331k.jpg con20090404e.jpg
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So, the hull was a hull, and no longer a "plug." For better or worst, this was the model.
 

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JerryTodd

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#5
Moving on, I made the quarter galleries as separate parts that were held on with a screw, but would later be permanently epoxied to the hull as well. They were made from scrap pine and bass sheet.
con20090427a.jpg con20090502a.jpg con20090502e.jpg

More pine, cut into strips, was glued in as the deck clamp, and a "sub-deck" of 3/16 luan plywood was cut to fit. It was later cut into 2" wide section to help in conform to the combined sheer and camber of the deck. Deck beams were 3/4" square pine with the camber cut into them, and notched to fit the deck clamp from underneath. The thinking here was te sub-deck and beams would sandwich the clamps between them. All of this was a bit over-built than it needed to be, but that wasn't a problem.
con20090506b.jpg con20090506c.jpg

Here's a cross-section showing the structure of the deck and it's relation to the hull, as well as how the removable ballast is made and attached.
cross-section.jpg

I wasn't going to model the gun-deck or any of the decks below the spar-deck, but I did need a deck below to mount the controls on, and it seemed a good place to step the masts as well. That's were I could use that live oak from the real ship - mast steps!
con20090512c.jpg con20090513h.jpg

This "mechanical deck" was 3/8" plywood sitting on 1" square beams with no sheer or camber. A separate deck is mounted a bit high aft where the rudder servo and mizzen step live. In-between was where the battery would go. I built a box from aircraft plywood the battery would slide upright into, but scrapped that idea and glued in a plywood deck for it to lay down on with Velcro tabs to hold it in place.
con20090520a.jpg
 

JerryTodd

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#9
While at the lumber yard for something else, I happened across some nice looking white cedar boards and bought a couple to make Constellation's masts.
With the "mechanical deck" settled and where the masts would step known, I knew what the "bury" for each mast would be. Each was cut to length at the correct angle for it's rake. The taper draw and shaved to that line with a block plane. Made 8-sided, then where is was going to round, 16-sided, then round. The doubling was cut in, tenon for the cap, etc. Being an 1850's vessel, her masts were simpler than say, Constitution's were. The hounds a basically bolted on and banding was represented by more of the infamous brown paper tape. A front fish was added for the topmast to ride on when it's lowered.

con20090208b.jpg con20090208e.jpg con20090208n.jpg

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Some crosstrees and trestle trees were made, and some quickie caps from red oak that would be replaced later. I then made the topmasts now that I had somewhere for them to go.
con20090214b.jpg con20090321g.jpg
 

JerryTodd

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#10
The basis for the rudder was what used in the kits by Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson
The rudder itself is Plexiglas made oversized to give it more authority under weigh. It's attached to a brass rod with glue and rod drifts. Thinner Plexi panels to the shape of the scale rudder on either side make the whole assembly the scale width of the actual rudder. A bit of maple dowel slides over the rod to make the rudder head it's scale size.
rudderplan.jpg con20090514e.jpg con20090704a.jpg con20090711a.jpg
Instead of gudgeons and pintles, only the top and bottom of the rudder post/rod are secured to the model. A brass tube pokes through the counter of the hull and shows a little looking like the the curved plate on the actual ship. The dowell that's the head of the rudder fits into this tupe, but only a little bit, it stops about 1/8" in. Inside this tube is a smaller tube suspended in JB Weld epoxy. This keeps the rudder from riding up.
con20090510a.jpg con20090511d.jpg con20090511h.jpg real_rudder.jpg

The bottom, or heel of the rudder is held by a copper plate. The keel was mortised and sealed with resin - this is critical as any water that gets into the wood will cause swelling and rot - EVERY hole in the hull is drilled over size, filled with epoxy, and then drilled to size so NO wood in the hull is exposed to water.
A heel plate with 5 holes, 2 of them threaded, was attached with copper wood screws and epoxy to the keel. A gudgeon plate was attached to the heel plate's 2 threaded holes with copper machine screws, so it's easily removeable as need be. A hole in the aft end of the gudgeon plate received the bottom of the rudder post rod forming the bottom "hinge" of the rudder.

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Inside, a copper tiller are was soldiered to a steel collar with a set-screw in it. It slides onto the rudder post rod inside the model.
con20090704d.jpg con20090711c.jpg

This is the rudder arrangement I use in all my working models. It's strong, simple, and easy to disassemble and maintain.
 

JerryTodd

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#11
Setting up a model square rigger to actually sail by remote control isn't especially difficult, unless you're trying to maintain a scale appearance to the operation, that is, the braces attach and routed the way they did on the actual vessel, and the yards brace at something like a scale speed. There's two major geometry issues to deal with; the yard braces, and any sails that overlap each other or a stay, such as the heads'ls.

The usual way of dealing with bracing the yards is to put the widest set of arms on the brace control servo that will fit in the hull. The braces are run up to the yards and attached the same distance out from the center line on the yard as they are out from the center of the servo arm. This basically forms a parallelogram where everything moves evenly. The problem is, this isn't how the braces run on a real ship; they are run out almost at the end of the yard, out-board of the side of the hull.

The best way to deal with this is to use a drum on a servo designed to rotate multiple times, a winch servo. I initially intended to directly control the braces for the fore and main course yards, the crossjack, and the fore and main tops'l yards. The other yards would be pulled along by the sails below them. I also intend to control the fore mast braces separately from the main and mizzen masts so I can back the fore when tacking ship.

This meant I needed two winch drums for each controlled yard for a total of 4 for the foremast and 6 for the main and mizzen. The problem is, again, geometry. The fore course yard is longer than the fore tops'l yard (measuring between the points where the braces attach. The winch rotates 3.5 times. If the drum were the same size for each yard the braces would be pulled more for the shorter yards than for the longer ones - I wanted them all to come around evenly together.

The simple answer is different sized drums for each yard, but nothing is ever simple. When the yards are squared across the hull, the braces are at their tightest. As the yard is pulled to one side, the opposite brace is fed off the winch at the same rate and goes slack. Bracing the other way the braces both go taught as the yard squares, then the paying out brace goes slack.

Slack lines on a remotely controlled model are not good. They tend to snag and catch on things, and the brace paying out could actually run off the drum and tangle. To deal with this I intended to run each brace through a block on a spring that would keep tension on each brace all the time. Initially I also planned to put some bungee else where in the circuit to be sure, but in the end I felt only the springs were needed.
brace_scematic.jpg
The winches would be mounted on a pallet that would fasten to the mechanical deck in the model, so the entire control system could be removed as a unit if required. They would also be offset vertically so they wouldn't interfere with each other. A set of guides would go in near the drums to make sure each brace fed on and off it's drum without crossing.
winch_stagger.jpg
con20090802k.jpg servo_wiring_for_stella_old.gif

Some algebra determined the size each winch drum needed to be to move it's yard from one side to the other. The drums were 1/8" thick pine disks and the flanges were compact-discs.

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A typical brace would run from it's anchor point, on a stay for instance, to a block on the yard-arm, to a block in the rig turning it toward the deck, through the deck forward to a block on a spring, and to the winch. That seemed simple enough - but it was to change. ;)
old_brace_routing.jpg
 

JerryTodd

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#12
The main ballast would be external, bolted to the bottom of the hull. I wanted to cast a lead bar for this and even made a wood mock-up, but I never got up the courage or equipment to melt and pour a 40-50 pound lead bar.
con20090527a.jpg
What I opted to do was pour the lead shot I had into a 2" i.d. PVC pipe. I put some smaller tubing through the pipe so the attaching bolts could pass through and leave the pipe water-tight (see the cross-section image in a prior post), glued on one end-cap, and donning my mask, glasses, and rubber gloves, poured the shot into the open end. I tamped the lead down with a pole, tapped the pipe with a rubber mallet, and actually duct-taped a vibrating sander to it, to help settle the shot as tightly as I could. I drilled a 1/2" hole in the other end-cap and glued it onto the pipe, then I continued filling it with shot while tapping and vibrating it all down. When I felt the lead was as tightly packed as it could be, I plugged the hole and the "torpedo" was done. It would up weighing 42 pounds when complete.
con20090916c.jpg
In each smaller tube a 5/16" stainless connecting nut is pressed in and a hex-head bolt and washer are screwed into it from below, with a bit of Lock-Tite to be safe. Two 5/16" stainless threaded rods go through tubes in the hull and thread into the connecting nuts in the ballast tube. On deck, they have nylon lock-bolts, but the ends of the rods have slots cut into them so they can get set with a screwdriver. The aft rod is hidden under the great cabin sky-light, and the forward rod is disguised with the galley smoke stack.
con20090525c.jpg con20090527e.jpg

Now I was itching to put this thing in the water. On October 14th, 2009, we took my day-sailor out, and I put the model in the truck. When we got back, I put the model in the water for it's first ever float. I forgot the ballast rods, so all I could do was push it down to the waterline by hand to see if it leaked - it didn't.
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Three days later I took the model to the water again, remembering the rods, and even sticking the battery and lower masts in the hull.
con20091007m.jpg con20091007k.jpg

With a little over 50 pounds in her, she still floated some 2" high in the water. I knew the ballast tube wouldn't be enough to put her on her lines, in fact I wanted internal ballast I could move around inside to trim her where I wanted her to float. I estimated the finished model, ready to sail, would weight about 100 pounds.