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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:01 am 
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Hello to Everyone on Model Warship.
My name is Neal Callen Clarke. Over on Steel Navy I post as 'Neal Clarke'. Here I post as 'callen' but they're both me. Kind of confusing, I know.
I wanted to share with this great international group of modelers my adventure getting into scratch building. So first, some background.

Almost from the moment I re entered the Ship Model Hobby as an adult I was attempting to scratch build ships. Each time was a dismal failure. I was groping in the dark for a way to create a three dimensional hull out of flat sheets and strips of styrene. Of course I was building kits too. My first few kits were abysmal. Then my wife bought me a Tamiya King George V to build for her. It took ten years, but at the end of that time, I could make my own decals, work with photo-etch and use an airbrush. I bought more kits, started building a stash like everyone else here.

I bought a Tamiya Yamato, made a good start, tried to scratch a shogun barge like I'd seen on the miniseries of that name. Again, no technique, complete failure. I don't like using putty if I can help it, so I was looking for a method of creating the whole ship from plastic if possible. I was also getting more and more firmly committed to 1/700th scale. Then I saw some pics here and elsewhere of some very simple scratch built sailing ships. It inspired me.

That brings us to 2009. I was invited into a group build of the Niko USS Vermont by Bob Cicconi. The group included Bruce Kapito, Rob Kernaghan and Bruno Gire. All four of them are a great bunch of guys, but, for some reason, Bruno Gire and I really seemed to hit it off. Bruno, as it turns out is a Photo Etch Master, and typically creates his own custom sets for whatever he is working on. Along with his friend Jean Mahieux they have created an amazing diorama work-in-progress of the Mare Island Navy Yard in WWII, which is viewable elsewhere on this site. Bruno, as it turned out, was not only one of the best modelers I've ever (not) met, but also a super nice guy and an enthusiastic collaborator. Bruno created custom PE for the Vermont that was superior to what came with the kit. He was kind enough to sell me a set of it, which I used in my build.

After receiving a lot of very helpful advice from the guys in the group, and some definite encouragement to enter my build of the Niko Vermont in a contest, I decided to enter a regional model convention. Amazingly I wound up taking both best ship and best of show. More out of politeness to the judges than anything else I decided to follow their advice and enter my little cage mast battleship in the IPMS Nationals this past year. Here she is in Phoenix Arizona, waiting to be judged.
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My little battleship with the custom French Brass from my friend Bruno took 3rd place in the Nationals. It was my second contest. Needless to say I was completely thrilled. As a result of that I decided to join the local IPMS chapter, a great bunch of guys, and began also to think about my next project. There are a lot more resin kits I'd like to build, and I really enjoyed creating cage masts. But I decided to try one more time to create something from scratch.

I had been haunting these pages watching other people do things and, on a whim took a stab, one more time at an original ship. I have always been interested in ships from different eras, and as I got more into the Hobby it seemed to me that the more remote a particular ship was from the usual model subjects, the more I had a desire to build it. I also thought it would be really cool to create a detailed Age of Sail subject in 700th scale. I decided I would start out with a Carrack, a high-charged warship from the 16th Century, partly because I thought they were exotic looking, and partly because I felt the lack of documentation would give me a little leeway in my first attempt at creating a ship from scratch.


This was my first pic. I didn't start documenting until well into the build.
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Ok, so hopefully these pics will post and I can continue as I have begun...

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:45 am 
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Hi Callen Welcome Good to see another scratch builder on the board. . You Carrack is an unusual project and at 1:700 is reminiscent in some respects to the builds by the great French POW models of the late 18th early 19th century . Please keep the build pictures coming .
Dave Wooley :thumbs_up_1: :thumbs_up_1: :thumbs_up_1: :wave_1:


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:38 am 
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Hi, Neal! :wave_1:

You know that I already love your USS Vermont. A friend brought it to Phoenix, for you, didn't he? I recall missing the chance to meet you, then, and I hope you'll make it to Omaha, this year.

This tiny model(s) sounds like one that you "just have to" work at and get it out of your system and get it out of your brain and into tangible reality. I think we all have ideas that haunt us in the back of our minds and into our sleeping, and daytime, dreams.

"Why did you build it, sir?" the layman asked. "Because it wasn't there." the modeler replied.

Incredible tiny detail in the penny-size ship, Neal! Do you plan to resin-cast some and make sets for sale? Just an idea.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:33 am 
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Hello Dave, hello Carl.
Good to hear from you both! I'm glad you're feeling better Carl.

Funny you should ask about resin casts Carl... That plays right into a continuation of the story.

Here are some more pics
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Soon after I reached this point I decided to take it to the IPMS club. One of the guys there is the renowned Rusty White of Flagship Models. Rusty looked at it for a second, and immediately talked about the problems and potential of selling it as a kit. How it would cast, what I would need to change in order to make it cast well. This was one of those moments this last year when my thinking about models suddenly began to open up and take on new directions. Still thinking about what Rusty said, I took it home, worked on it some more and showed it to my online friends Bruno and Jean (among others.) Bruno emailed me back saying 'I want one!' ...

Now I knew, because of the way I had constructed the ship that it would not cast properly (because of what Rusty had told me about the casting process) So what I decided to do was to begin again with a second 'castable carrack' that I could cast from resin and send the copies to Bruno and Jean. I was also hoping that Bruno would be willing to perhaps create some custom photo etch for it to help snazz it up a bit. But Bruno went much further...

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:44 am 
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Bruno offered not only to create custom etch for the ship, but to design custom turned brass for the cannons, for the mast tops, yards and bowsprit. With the inclusion of PE shrouds, I started to realize the possibilities.

I also needed to think of a name for my little ship. I remembered reading about the Atocha, and how the real name of the ship was the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, this really long name, so I thought a plausible name for my little ship would need to be very long as well. I did some research on Portuguese saints and finally settled on the name 'Santo Amaro de Beja' who was a sort of Iberian St. Brendan, who sailed off and discovered Paradise, or something to that effect. I don't know if there was ever a Portuguese ship with this name, but it had a plausible ring to me. I asked Bruno what he wanted me to call his version of the 'Beja' and he said 'San Bruno, of course!'
Here is the beginning of the 1st San Bruno. This shows the method I used for the construction of both models.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:07 am 
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More of the San Bruno.
After creating the basic hull shape I took strip styrene 0.020 x 0.010 and began to lay it down in strakes along the side of the hull. After gluing each strake down I would cut the strakes into segments, being careful to stagger the cuts. The resulting effect looks like planking. It also looks as though each plank were individually cut and placed, which would be extremely time consuming, but that is not the case. Here is more of the 1st Bruno:
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After planking the hull up to the level of the weather deck, I added 0.020 thick styrene around the edge of the weather deck to create gunwales, etc. These would be trimmed to shape afterwards.
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Once that was done I continued the planking up the gunwales.
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The next step was to carve out the hold.
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And then to begin placing the frame ends inside the gunwales. These are glued first and trimmed later.
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Much easier and faster than trimming before fitting.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:15 am 
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While I was working on the Bruno, I also continued work on the Beja, the original carrack attempt.
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Unlike all of my previous scratch building attempts this was going really well. Part of what I liked about building these ships is they are almost completely styrene, which I enjoy working in. I was able to avoid having to use putty, for the most part, which was good, because I am not very good at it.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:19 am 
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Holy Cow, Neal! The first photos didn't do this justice. These latter ones truly show the insanely, meticulous work you are doing on these.

You wouldn't think, after looking at photos 3 and 4, above (the small pile of stryene strips), that such a shapely and detailed sailing ship could ever come from such of a keel laying. It's kind of like the sculpter envisioning the statue within the block of stone...........but, without the stone......just nothing. This takes great imaginative skills, Neal. :thumbs_up_1:

The name, Nuestra Senora de Atocha, would be longer than the model, itself, I'd think. I concur with the name "San Bruno"! Patron Saint of Photo-Etch and Turned Brass, wasn't he? :big_grin:

Personally, and this is up to you of course, but, I would keep seeking out a real name of such a ship, from history. Maybe Rui Matos (also on this board) could help out with some research and names. Maybe start another message thread for submissions. You might get lucky and there was an actual San Bruno carrack.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:25 am 
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The man must perform open heart surgery on fleas :twitch:

Stellar work sir, can't wait to see it finished. How do you plan on handling the sails?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:29 am 
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This is "AMAZING" work , Question is this model making or Art? .
Dave Wooley :worship_1:


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:33 am 
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Hello Cliff!
Thanks for your comments.
Sails! Good question! I don't like to see sails on a sailing ship model generally, but since these ships are crying out for diorama use, I will have to think of something. I did a little experimenting with both cellophane (no good) and tin foil. In discussions with Rusty I began to think that paper might work. I will be doing some experimenting on that end soon. As of yet I don't have a solution. I would ideally like for the sails to have that 'full bellied' look to them. The artists of the time, particularly Breugel, really made an emphasis of that. But as of yet I had no solution, although I have a few ideas... :big_grin:

Most kind Dave! Thank you. I'm not sure how to reply to that... umm... I don't own a beret. :thumbs_up_1: Personally I'd rather be a Modeler than an Artist. They're easier to get along with and have more interesting conversation! :woo_hoo:

Here's some more:


The Beja in paint.
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Beja and Bruno 1 comparison:
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These were taken at a slightly earlier stage in the construction of the Bruno, so they're a little bit out of order.
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By now the Sailing Ship Bug was really taking hold. This is a shot with the Venetian Galleass Master that I started at the same time. However, I think I will need to deal with the Galleass in a separate post.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:48 am 
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By this time the San Bruno had reached this stage. This is about November of last year.
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I began construction of the superstructure parts. I decided that these also would eventually be cast in resin. I decided to make each level of the superstructure an independent piece so that various configurations could be made from multiple casts. By the way, I want to thank my friend Jean Mahieux for encouraging me to document all of this stuff. He insisted I start taking pictures as soon as he saw the first pics of the Beja. That's the only reason I have these pics now. Here's more.
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This is a 'proto galleon' configuration. I had the thought that once the galleon was developed many of the carracks might have been cut down and made 'race-built' to emulate the qualities of the galleon, even though the hull lines of the two types are different.
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By this point I was fairly pleased with my efforts. However in going over some of the documentation that Jean sent me, I soon realized that I had gotten it all wrong. If you look at some of the pics of the Bruno in the earlier post, you will see that the shape of the stern becomes wider as it rises from the waterline. I was beginning to realize that this was precisely the opposite of what was actually the case. In the case of the Beja I had made the stern taper to the rudder post, which I was able to find support for in contemporary illustrations, but in the case of the transom stern, which was most common, they were always (as far as I have been able to ascertain) wider at the waterline and narrower as they rose. This was undoubtedly in order to create a water plane to support the weight of the high stern on these vessels. After considering the question I realized that it would be too messy and difficult to try to correct the stern of the Bruno. I also wanted to get it right for my French friends who had helped me so much and were waiting for me to send them casts of the ships. I realized finally that I would have to start over completely with a new Bruno...

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:55 am 
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wow as dave says it is a work of art.if i were building something that small i would spend most of my time trying to find it :big_grin: to build something that small and detailed is a talent all of its own.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:04 pm 
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Thank you for your response Carl. I didn't see it in the 'review' function earlier, or I would have replied above. Yes, I'm not sure if he realized it or not... but Bruno was indeed the patron saint of Photo Etch and Turned Brass... :big_grin: I'm going to tell Bruno that. He'll laugh I'm sure.

It's true I haven't been working from a plan, but, to be honest, plans still scare me a little bit. I haven't actually attempted to make something from a plan yet... That's another bridge I'll need to cross at some point. The hardest thing I've found about these builds is getting symmetrical results on both sides. You can't take anything for granted. Just because you laid so many rows of planks on one side doesn't mean the wales will line up on both sides, microscopic spaces between the strips can lead to noticeable results in the final build. So far I've gotten lucky, I think, but I'm also improving. Eventually you come to the conclusion that symmetricality is 'relative', and that actually it probably was on the real thing as well. After all, they were built 'by eye' just like I'm building mine.

Ok, so here is the birth of Bruno 2:
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This time I decided to start finally using my Dremel Tool, which sped the process up considerably.
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Here you can see the crucial difference between the transoms of Bruno 1 and Bruno 2 A chunk is missing from the stern of Bruno 2, but that will be added shortly.
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Another comparison shot. The Bruno 2 has a higher stern. Also the widest beam has moved forward from amidships, a feature, that, on reflection I started to worry about, but I've decided to go through with the completion.
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Laying the deck, which is Nscale box car siding.
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Filling out the stern...


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:20 pm 
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Thanks Russ. I appreciate the encouragement. I need encouragement because, despite the fact I've been working on these things for more than six months, I still don't have a finished model! It's hard to keep going when you know the end is a long way off... But I know the payoff will be worth it.

A lot of my friends and fellow modelers have commented on the the size, and how difficult it is to work with. But I don't find it any more difficult than working with PE on a big build. Actually, just getting the hand rails right on a typical 700th or 350th build is, for me, more difficult than anything I've done building these ships so far. Of course there's a lot more to go. The rigging will be a bear. Trying not to think about that... :roll_eyes:

Here is more of Bruno 2 At this point I realized that Bruno 2 was much improved over the previous attempts.
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I was able to lay the planking in a diagonal pattern on the transom. Hopefully this detail will come out in paint...
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Another shot of the transom planking.
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Again, comparison of the transoms of Bruno 1 & 2.
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Each one comes out a little different...
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dry fit with the parts for the 'Heavy Carrack' configuration.

I felt good about Bruno 2. Bruno (the real Bruno) seemed pleased as well. We began discussing PE details and started to talk about superstructure bulwarks in brass that would have the typical arches, columns and ornate ports that you see on ships from this era. We began to realize that with different superstructure tops and various combinations of details, we could create as many as a dozen different ships from the same basic molds. That got me thinking about a new hull, something that would be the same size as Bruno 2, but different.

Jean had made a comment about the curves in the hulls of these ships and I decided I wanted to create something really round, so that we could, if we chose, model the Argosy and the Venetian Roundship type. Since we had multiple superstructure parts, now we would have multiple hulls, creating even more possibilities. I decided to call the new hull 'Fatty.' :cool_1:


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New Bruno33.jpg
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:35 pm 
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So this is Fatty, and this brings us up to this week. I know it's probably confusing, but there's actually four different builds that I've documented here. Bruno 1 will be discarded. The original Beja I've decided to complete as a scratch build and not wait for the turned brass and photo etch. I don't want to waste Bruno's details on the Beja when the others are going to turn out better. I will skip the majority of photos of Fatty. It was constructed the same way as the others.
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Part of the problem with Fatty was that she was really really high out of the water, keep in mind this is just to the weather deck, no gunwales yet, which would only increase the height. I thought about sanding down the bottom of the hull, but that would have destroyed so much of the curves that I worked so hard to create. The solution, I finally realized, was to carve out the waste deck into the existing hull and create, what was in essence, an upper deck with fore and aft superstructure out of the weather deck. Here is the result:
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A little scary, and I did actually break through the gunwale on one side at one point, but it was only a minor error, not really noticeable.
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Here are some 'family portraits' Beja, Bruno 2 and Fatty together. Fatty will be the tallest and the largest in every respect. The Beja, although it looks the largest at the moment with the Superstructures in place, will actually be the smallest of the three.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:46 pm 
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A few more family portraits, and this brings us up to date. I won't be able to post any more until I actually get more done, so stay tuned...
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As you can see from these pics, the Beja now has lower masts. I have been attempting to create cannon masters from left over model parts... still working on it.

Here is a shot from Bruno of the turned brass that BMK made for us. Cannons! :woo_hoo: I can't wait to get it!


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Portuguese carracks Bowsprit and topmasts.jpg
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Portuguese carracks ML gun lengths.jpg
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Portuguese carracks Yards.jpg
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Pessimists see the world as it truly is...
Optimists change the world.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:08 pm 
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This looks absolutely brilliant! More please!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:28 pm 
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What can I say I'm speachless and that's a first . Over the years I've writen a number of articles referencing the French POW models which are not all made from bone but other materials available at the time this is part of that heritage . Seeing Callen using all his dexterity and his shipwright skill to form these hulls at such a fine scales and those fittings are out of this world . Rigging such a model is going to be a great test I shall watching with interest.
Dave Wooley :worship_1:


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:33 pm 
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Dave Wooley wrote:
. Rigging such a model is going to be a great test I shall watching with interest.
Dave Wooley :worship_1:

You'd have to hire a tiny spider to rig these tiny vessels, I'd guess.

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