The cross-section model of the whale ship CHARLES W. MORGAN offered by BlueJackets.

SEARSPORT – It is no secret one of my favorite places to stop on the coast is at BlueJacket Shipcrafters in Searsport, which is slightly east across the street from Hamilton Marine. They produce wooden model kits of various boats and supply modelers with fittings and other supplies. These kits are not like those that were produced several decades ago, which contained a number of pieces of wood, some fittings and a set of plans. Now they come with laser cut pieces of wood, fittings and very detailed plans, both on paper or video making the project much easier to build.

        Several years ago they asked the modeling public for input as to what they want to see in the way of models. One of the suggestions was a cross-section of the whale ship CHARLES W. MORGAN, which is at the Mystic Seaport Museum, in Mystic, CT. Modeler Al Ross said, “When you are dealing with the general public, have to go with something they would recognize as opposed to the ESSEX or WANDERER (two other whale ships). The MORGAN is a museum ship and it is preserved so people at least have a general knowledge of it.”

        Al was given the task of producing the model so he purchased the plans from Mystic Seaport and then took a lot of photographs, which he could refer to when creating the plans for the model. The plans from Mystic were interesting as they are not the way the original ship was built as the between deck was lowered so people could walk around much easier and Al made the model as she would have been originally.

        Al added, “The cross-section is at the tri-works and is about 20 feet of the hull and the frames start to change a little bit as you go forward. Given the size of the model and the way it was being made, it became problematic so all the frames are the same. It was a very small amount of change, but if somebody wants to go crazy, go for it. If you include the bricks, there is something like 1,200 laser cut pieces. I took a different approach on the plans because it is so big and to use regular, single sheets didn’t work. It is all on 11 x 17 pages and is about 25 pages of plans at full scale and half scale. There is no measuring involved because everything is pre-cut.”

        “There is 800 bricks for the tri-works, individual bricks,” continued Al, “and basically it is a box, a wooden box all laser cut. You make the box and on the outside of the box all the courses of brick are lasered on the face of it so what you do is you just line the bricks with the drawing on the side of the box and you lay the first course all around. You are given 1/64 by about 1/8-inch wide plywood strips and you lay those down on top of the bricks and you just lay the second course on those so you have always got consistent spacing on the bricks. It builds actually quite quickly, despite there being 800 bricks. You take the bricks, which are laser cut cork, put a little puddle of carpenter’s glue down, and dip them in it. Once you have got all the bricks laid out then you just take a sanding block and clean them off a little bit, make sure everything is pretty consistent. Spray the bricks with red automotive primer, spackle them, and then wipe the spackle off so it looks like mortar on bricks.”

        There are about 150 copper plates that will need to be placed on the bottom. Al explained, “You just have to be careful. The plates are about 5/8 x 2 inches. You lay the first course then you overlap the next course. The way it is set up you have got all those nails across the top and across the bottom so you just line up the next one, you are actually lapping them like they were originally. You just have to be careful. In this case, I used masking tape and I would mask off where I had to go and then just carefully make sure that the copper plates are staying in line as you go up.”

        This is not classified as a difficult model, but having some experience would be a help. Al said, “You have to shape two pieces of wood, the waterways and they just have a 45 degree angle on them, but everything else is shaped. So you are gluing stuff together. It is built on a jig and the frames have seven pieces, so you have this plywood jig that you build and the keelson is glued to it. There are slots for those and then each half frame has two pieces and they have a laser cut joint so that you can’t get them off kilter. The frames in the MORGAN are not evenly spaced based on the plans and that is reflected in the model. It is designed for success and there is a limited probably you could make a mistake. This is an impressive kit when it is done and ultimately looks more impressive than the perceived difficulty. Typically cross-sections are for the really experienced modeler because they are intricate. I won’t say this is every person’s model but a relatively skilled person should have no problem.”

        There are some interesting things included in this model like the chicken coup, with chickens that come from the tug SEGUIN model. Looking inside the hull you will note the bolt heads on the knees, which there are about 350 of. You have to drill the knees using a jig so the holes are spaced properly and then glue the bolt heads in place. Some will be happy that there is no rigging to do, but other might want to add a small section to the hull and put in the foremast. They are also selling the tri-works separately as some modelers want to build it as is or include it in another model.

        When completed this model was taken to the Nautical Research Guild’s annual meeting at Connecticut in April and was well received.

        Al is now working on several other projects. One is revising the 207 lobster boat kit, which he is making easier to build, but not diminishing the quality. There is very little shaping in this model and by laser cutting more of the pieces it will make building much easier. The hull is constructed plank on bulkheads. The old model had a carved piece of bass wood at the bow that the planks were fitted to. Al is changing this so that the planks go right to the stem and this also gives a larger gluing surface so it is unlikely the planks will come unglued. Al has also changed the traps, which are now all laser cut and very easy to build.

        Coming up Al will be creating a model of the battleship OREGON, which will be about 31 or 32 inches long. One interesting aspect of this project is that he wants to show the interior of one of the 13-inch turrets. The ironclad CAIRO is still on the to-do list and will be a cut-away model showing the interior. Al added, “They look like they were built by house builders because it is all 45 degree angles with a flat bottom and the paddle wheel is amidships in a tunnel.