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        Build Log HMS Beagle 1:36

#1 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 10:53 PM

HMS Beagle 1:36
After many years of pondering the idea of making a radio controlled model ship, I finally decided in October of 2010 to pull the trigger. The historical ship I chose was the HMS Beagle, the survey ship that made three extensive ocean voyages, the most famous being the second voyage with Charles Darwin onboard. The Beagle was one of over a hundred "Cherokee class" brigs commissions by the Royal Navy.

The goal is to make a fun, working model of the Beagle, with radio controls for her rudder, sails and some cool extras, and sail her like a proper square rig sailing ship. No small task, so I will be relying on the help of many people to get her ready for action (hopefully by Spring or Summer of 2011). Many thanks to all of you who have already helped out, both on the web and in my hometown of Indianapolis.

I'll also post my build as I go at my website: http://www.andrewaasmith.com/HMSBeagle/Intro.php

Having no experience in model ship building, I started small by buying some balsawood blocks and a cheap X-acto woodcarving set.

After deciding on the scale of 1:36 I hand carved out the hulls of two whale boats using my trusty buck knife and X-acto tool. The Beagle carried seven boats onboard so lots of boat making in my future.


#2 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 10:57 PM

Happy with the progress I began to look around for a large log to carve the hull from, preferably oak. After difficulty finding a suitable one I decide to use the bread and butter method of gluing several 8 inch wide oak boards together.

Then the gods intervened with a massive storm in Indianapolis that knocked over the beautiful pear tree in the front yard of the Humane Society, where I volunteer. Having walked many dogs underneath that tree (including several Beagles!) the staff were more than happy to let me have what I wanted. The research book "Historical Ship Models" described pear as "one of the ideal timbers for period shipbuilding."


I began to hand carve a beautiful three foot section of the thickest limb with my old hand axe and a new chisel and rubber mallet. Over the course of several days I made a lot of yummy pear-scented mulch and the hull started to take shape.


Because of the width of the tree limb I considered downsizing my build ratio from 1:36 to about 1:40, since the tree only had a maximum width of seven inches instead of the needed eight. But as the hull started to take form there was an extra couple of inches at the stern that I didn't really want to get rid of, so I opted to keep the 1:36 ratio length and make my Beagle a little thinner than the historical ship. (The Cherokee-class brigs always looked a bit pudgy anyway, so think of her as a "Stretch Beagle".)

#3 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 10:59 PM

More work on shaping the hull with hand axe and chisel/mallet. Some cracking starting to show in the wood before I was able to get the sides down to less than two inches thick. Plan to fill with wood filler later. I'm using the trunk of the pear tree as the work bench in the garage (too much wood chips and sawdust for inside). Thanks again to Treston from the Humane Society for chainsawing it for me.


Once the hull had the basic shape I wanted, I started using my father's old hand-me-down Sears Craftsman drill to sand the wood to more precise dimensions.


I measured for the keel and made a cardboard model to test. I then used my new jigsaw to cut out the real one from an oak board (1/4 inch x 2/12 inch x 24 inch). The tip of the stern post broke off (official Beagle SNAFU #1) so I had to glue it back on.

Meanwhile, shaping the hull continues, as its proving to be very difficult to exactly match the curves of the stem, sternpost and keel with the hull using my Mark I eyeballs. But its starting to finally look something like an actual ship's hull.


#4 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:01 PM

More shaping of the hull. Not having much success with precisely matching the stem and sternpost to the bow and stern, so I cut the stem and sternposts off to more easily resize them.

I decided to make an extra wide and deep keel, since it seems many r/c square rig modelers end up adding more after their model was knocked over by a wind gust. Glued two 3/4 inch x 2 1/2 inch oak boards on either side of a new 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch oak board, 24 inches long. Sanded down the top and bottom of the hull to an even length, then glued the keel to the bottom of the hull using Titebond III wood glue.


Sanded the edges of the keel a bit to give a better angle. Glued the resized stem and sternpost to the hull and keel, fitting much better than before. Used some wood filler and wood glue to fill up any gaps.


The two inch wide keel will also allow the model to sit securely without having to carry around a display base. Will consider adding a 2 inch wide copper bar to the bottom if more ballast weight is needed.

#5 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:03 PM

More sanding of the hull and hollowing out of the inside. Plan to cover entire hull below the waterline with copper tape. (The Beagle had copper plates to protect her from the wood boring worms of the Pacific.) Will be interesting to see how the copper changes color over time. Plan to plank the hull above the waterline with basswood strips, so no blemishes will show.


Drew deck plan and cut out the upper deck support from 1/2 inch oak plywood with jigsaw. This will raise deck level to the right height and allow for easier waterproofing on the inside top of the hull. Left two large openings on either side of main mast to access future servos and electronics.


(My dog Boomer meets the Beagle for the first time.)


She's almost looking like... a ship!

Plan to water test in bathtub with the model protected with a plastic garbage bag (since I haven't waterproofed the wood yet) to check how much ballast I may need to add to the keel. My wife Theresa had the better idea to use a clear plastic bag.

#6 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:05 PM

Did first water test with hull protected by plastic bag. Tilted to starboard a bit. Did some more shaping of hull to thin out the port side. Leveled out pretty well after that. Without any ballast the model is prone to bobble left and right -- go figure.


Just starting to realize that the bottom of the Beagle's gunports were only 5 feet from the waterline. That means at 1:36 ratio any open gunports will only be 1.67 inches from the water! I suddenly recall the story of the Mary Rose who sank when water poured into her open gunports too fast. Might scratch the idea of opening gunports (unless I can figure how to make it very watertight) and just fire the carronade up on the stern. Waterline to top rail would work out to 3.33 inches, a little safer than 1.67 I guess.

So anyway, the model needs enough weight to get deck level down somewhere between 1.33 to 1.5 inches from the waterline, about 1 1/2 inches to go. Roped an eight pound dumbbell to her keel and water tested again. Brought waterline down to just under 2 inches. Model was now very stable in water. Once I get a handle on how much weight the deck, masts, servos and everything else will add, then I'll look into adding a copper bar or something to the bottom of the keel. She now weighs 11.4 pounds, so the finished model should weigh over twenty pounds.


Sanded down the rim of the hull as flat as I could get it with my primitive woodworking skills and glued the deck support on. Weighed the whole thing down with about 80 pounds of weights while the glue dried.


Used wood filler to fill in any gaps and lined with waterproof wood glue inside and out. Not sure if I'm going to put drain spouts (scuppers) through the side of the deck or not (maybe a bilge pump wouldn't be a bad idea).


After crunching the numbers I placed the order for basswood sheets and copper tape for planking the hull, side rail and deck. Also ordered some 1/2 inch brass hinges for the rudder and maybe a try at the gunports.

#7 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:06 PM

The transom was cut from an oak board and planked with basswood strips. The Beagle's first real "details" are added over the flat planking.


Work begins on a cardboard prototype of the rudder system. This looks to be a real challenge. The plan is for the rudder post to go up inside the transom and not have any actual holes drilled into the pear wood hull. The main deck will overhang the deck support at the stern by about 1 1/4 inch.


Lengthened the sternpost to be even with deck support level and added some planking at the stern to make the overall angle better for attaching the rudder.


#8 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:08 PM

Work on the deck begins using 1/4 inch thick basswood sheets. Cut two large access panels on either side of the mainmast using an X-acto knife -- not as easy as I thought it would be.



Since the basswood sheets are only 6 inches wide I had to cut and shape several pieces to make the full deck.


Panels seemed to fit pretty well. We'll see how waterproof it will be.


#9 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:09 PM

Testing begins on what type of paint and waterproofing to use. Coated an oak plywood board with Titebond III wood glue on one half and Olympic Waterguard on the other. Then glued several basswood strips and copper tape on each side and placed in water several times. Then tested using black acrylic paint before and after applying more Waterguard. The ends of the copper tape definitely needs glue in addition to its own adhesive to stick. Also gave the hull its first coating of Waterguard.


Made the rudder from 1/4 inch basswood and an 5/16 inch oak dowel. Drilled the hole for the rudder assembly into the deck. Decided to make the rudder extra large since the real Beagle's rudder was going to be an itty bitty little thing at 1:36 scale. Hand carved a wooden guide piece to attach to the sternpost. The bottom of the rudder post will sit inside and (hopefully) keep it inline.


Covered the rudder with copper tape. Painted the rudder and transom with black acrylic paint. Painted the gunwale strips white and black for either side and glued together before gluing to the hull (Theresa's idea).


Added a top piece to the stem post to make it level with the deck. Had to "improvise" the clamping tool... seemed appropriate.


#10 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:11 PM

Glued on the gunwale sections, one at a time. Drying time slowed things down a bit.




Glued on the rudder guide and some extra basswood strips to give it a more secure support. Added a basswood strip to the stem post to reduce the gap between it and the rudder. Also painted the underside of the transom area.



Water tested the rudder to see how well the copper tape would stick. Not good. Reapplied copper tape along the spine with some Super Glue and tested again. Held much better.

#11 Jpop Andrew Dec 29, 2010 11:26 PM

Coppered the hull, overlapping the 1/4 inch copper tape down to the keel. Not technically "historically accurate" detailing compared to the larger copper plates used on the real Beagle, but good enough for my build. Applied a drop of Super Glue every inch and a half and at each end or bending point.




Decided to paint the extra large keel black instead of coppering. Might use something other than a copper bar for the bottom ballast since it will need to be painted black also.


#12 MILLERTIME Dec 30, 2010 12:09 AM

I'm watching this build.

#13 nick_75au Dec 30, 2010 06:25 AM

Wow, what an interesting build, I never look in this section :o
Lead would be better for the keel, its denser(and a lot cheaper)


#14 Jpop Andrew Jan 03, 2011 11:17 PM

Well my first attempt at planking a model ship deck begins. Used 1/4 x 1/16 inch basswood strips and wood glue. Decided it would be much easier to plank the entire deck and then glue the deck rail and structure over the actual planking later.


(Our doggie visitor Spirit loved sleeping under the shipyard.)

Did the access panels first, since it was going to be tough getting a close fit. Not real happy with aft panel since the angle left some gaps. Hopefully it won't look too bad after darkening the wood with some stain later. Since the deck of the Beagle will be very crowded with boats and structure, it probably won't be noticeable anyway.


The fore panel came out much better since it was straight. Both panels fit very tight, so much so that I'm afraid to put both on at the same time until I attach something to them for opening the panels from above.



Used my X-acto knife to smooth down the edges.


#15 Jpop Andrew Jan 10, 2011 02:59 PM

Time for some major planning on how the servos and sails will work. The usual way for talented/experienced shipwrights is to rig individual lines from the servos to each sail. Since that seems a bit overwhelming for my first model ship, I think I'll try mounting the masts directly on the servos and just turn the whole mast instead.

Originally I was thinking of drilling holes through the deck and putting the servos on the bottom of the hull. But before I got to the "drill baby drill" step more problems occur to me. My hull is hand carved and not flat at all, so how do you mount the masts perfectly straight? How do you waterproof the holes in the deck for the rotating masts?

So I think the plan will be to mount the servos directly on the deck, then put something around the servos to conceal/waterproof them. Since the deck of the real Beagle was very crowded with stuff, it shouldn't be too hard. (Boxes full of Darwin's fossils and specimens, or maybe some kegs of rum.) This should be much easier (for me) to do, and be much easier to fix any problem with a failed servo or damaged mast in the future.

I'll still have some rigging to attach the jib sails from the bowsprit to the foremast, and some supporting lines between the masts, so from a distance it will still look like it has rigging.

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