USS Canonicus Monitor Build - RC Groups
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May 03, 2008, 09:50 AM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar
Build Log

USS Canonicus Monitor Build

As a few of you already know, I've taken a liking to some older subjects & have started building USS Tecumseh (&/or Manhattan), a Civil War era Canonicus monitor that gave Adm. Farragut reason to give us that famous quote, "Damn the torpedos, FULL SPEED AHEAD!" CSS Tennessee will follow & both will be equipped with air soft guns from Heng Long for some spirited battles in the pond outside my office.

I first have to say thanks to Steve Lund of Old Navy for his valued assistance & suggestions. If anyone is interested in Civil War ironclads & haven't already seen Steve & Bill Hathaway's book, you'll want to download their free book Modeling Civil War Ironclad Ships Its referenced over on an earlier post with photos that I put up on their group The Old Navy .

My son was to bring over my wood supplies last month, but left them behind due to concern over the TSA & Northwurst's baggage policy, so I ventured into Shanghai yesterday & scoured the LHS for balsa & basswood. Luck was with me on the first store I visited, so I spent this afternoon cutting out, trimming & gluing the hull sections. I'm doing a very simple built-up balsa hull which will be glassed with raft & deck then covered in Steve's riveted plate skins. Since ironclads are not meant to be speed demons, I'll either use a modified servo to drive the single prop or gear down a 380 motor.

Here are some photos of what she's supposed to look like along with a few of mine I took this evening while letting the glue dry. From all accounts, this looks to be a very fast build & easy lesson in scratch building for this neophyte while I continue on with finishing Yamato.


Last edited by herrmill; May 04, 2008 at 10:17 PM.
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May 03, 2008, 09:56 AM
Mmm, tugs...
patmat2350's Avatar
Ahh, the modeler's form of a "blank canvas"-- a pile of balsa and a plan set!

Looking forward to the build...

Pat M
May 03, 2008, 03:02 PM
RELAX. You'll live longer
785boats's Avatar
I've been waiting for this Chuck. Don't you just love the start of a new project? Looks like a good one.
May 03, 2008, 03:26 PM
1855-1921 Naval Fan
Stu :)'s Avatar
Wahoo! An Ironclad. I should really get my sorry rear-end into gear and do mine... I've got all the balsa with cutouts drawn waiting in the garage.
That's a very good PDF on ironclads if anyone is interested in building one.

Chuck with regards to propulsion, do you own/use a computer radio?


PS. Monitor?... plans??... huh???
May 03, 2008, 08:19 PM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar
I had far more enjoyment cutting & laying up the balsa yesterday than with any plastic kits I'd been working on since getting back into modeling. Looks like I may be putting up some of my stash on Taobao (China's eBay).

Stu, you are the one who got me off dead center & into this new genre, so get to work on Monitor. I know a very good source of inspiration so let me know if you want Steve's contact info; he really knows his Civil War history & always eager to help others get into building. Its funny you mention the radios since I'm currently talking to a local factory that offers them.

We're already bouncing around ideas on the his next project: Kearsarge vs my interest in the armored rams the Confederacy had built in Great Britain Laird Rams & France CSS Stonewall. Being a history buff, I find the rams fascinating subjects on how they came to be, the advancements they offered in naval construction as well as their eventual use here in Asia.

May 03, 2008, 09:42 PM
Damp and Dizzy member
Brooks's Avatar
Should be a very nice vessel, Herrmill. Thanks for the history panel, too. Does anyone know why Tecumseh did not stay in the clear channel before engaging Tennessee?
May 03, 2008, 11:09 PM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar
Brooks, am not certain since Farragut gave orders for his fleet to proceed to starboard of buoy the known torpedo field in the shadow of Ft. Morgan. Considering Tecumseh turned to port to engage Tennessee as she to ram her, I would presume she ventured too close to the mines. Below is an interesting commentary on the new use of this weapon by the Confederacy & a personal account from one of Manhattan's crew who was immediately aft & to starboard of the ill-fated monitor. Coming from one of their engineers, it gives a hellish account of what a sailor's life was like in the bowls of these ironclads.

In an attempt to counteract the Union Navy, especially the ironclads, the Confederates introduced the torpedo, which became very controversial. Before the Civil War, explosive devices had been floated towards enemy ships, but these could be seen on the surface allowing time for reaction. Torpedoes, on the other hand, remained hidden below the water, which provoked complaints from the North that no civilized country would use an "invisible" weapon. Union Adm. David Farragut explained the dilemma the North found itself facing: "Torpedoes are not so agreeable when used on both sides; therefore, I have reluctantly brought myself to it. I have always deemed it unworthy [of] a chivalrous nation, but it does not do to give your enemy such a decided superiority over you."

Library of Congress, Harper's Weekly, v. 8, Sept. 24, 1864, p. 613

Union Vessels:
A. Tecumseh, sunk by torpedo
B. Manhattan
C. Winnebago
D. Chickasaw
E. Course of Union Fleet.

1. Brooklyn
2. Octorora
3. Hartford (Farragut's flagship)
4. Metacomet
5. Richmond
6. Port Royal
7. Lackawanna
8. Seminole
9. Monongahela
10. Kennebec
11. Ossipee
12. Itasca
13. Oneida
14. Galena

Rebel Vessels:
F. Ram Tennessee
G. Morgan
H. Gaines
I. Selma

Actions Taken:
J. Course of Ram Tennessee.
K. Retreat of Rebel Wooden Vessels.
L. Morgan and Gaine's course toward Fort Morgan.
M. Hartford turning out for Brooklyn to back.
N. Course taken by Ram during second attack.
O. Tennessee surrendered.
P. Selma surrendered to Metacomet.
Q. Formed line; read prayers.
R. Union Fleet anchored.

Personal Account of the
Battle of Mobile Bay by Harrie Webster,
Third Assistant Engineer, USS Manhattan

About half past seven, while the action was at its height, our gun had just been revolved for a shot at Fort Morgan, a momentary view was had of the Tecumseh, and in that instant occurred the catastrophe whereby a good ship filled with men, with a brave captain, in the twinkling of an eye vanished from the field of battle.

A tiny white comber [a long curling wave] of froth curled around her bow, a tremendous shock ran through our ship as though we had struck a rock, and as rapidly as these words flow from my pen the Tecumseh reeled a little to starboard, her bows settled beneath the surface, and while we looked her stern lifted high in the air with the propeller still revolving, and the ship pitched out of sight like an arrow twanged from the bow. We were steaming slowly ahead when this tragedy occurred and, being close aboard of the ill-fated craft, we were in imminent danger of running foul of her as she sank. "Back hard" was the order shouted below to the engine room, and, as the Manhattan felt the effects of the reversed propeller, the bubbling water round our bows, and the huge swirls on either hand, told us that we were passing directly over the struggling wretches fighting with death in the Tecumseh.

The effect on our men was in some cases terrible. One of the firemen was crazed by the incident. But the battle was not yet over. After coming to a standstill for a few minutes, during which the commotion of the water set up by the foundered ship passed away, the Manhattan steamed ahead into line and took the duty by now being performed by her lost consort. As the Tecumseh sank to the bottom, the crew of the Hartford sprang to her starboard rail and gave three ringing cheers in defiance of the enemy and in honor of the dying.

Perhaps some drowning wretch on the Tecumseh took that cheer in his ears as he sank to a hero's grave, and we may imagine the sound as it pierced the roar of battle, giving courage to some fainting heart as his face turned for the last time to the light of that sun whose rising and setting was at an end for him.

But Mobile Bay was yet before us. Immediately following the events just related, my tour of duty in the turret ended for the time being, and I once more returned to the engine room. The first effect of going from the cool air of the turret to the terrible heat of the engine room was that of a curious chilliness. This, in a minute or two, was succeeded by a most copious perspiration, so violent that one's clothing became soaking wet, and the perspiration coursing down the scantily clothed body and limbs, filled the shoes so that they "chuckled" as one walked.

At 150 F. the glass in a lantern will crackle and break, the lamps burn dimly, and it is impossible to handle any metal with the bare hands. Pieces of canvas, like flat-iron holders [flat irons were heated on a hot stove and then used to press or iron clothing; holders were similar to hot pads] alone enable one to grasp a hand-rail or valve handle. Of course frequent bulletins of the fight were brought to the poor devils sweating their lives out in the engine room, and we got some idea of what was going on through the signal which at frequent intervals came from the pilot house.... The sounds produced by a shot striking our turret were far different from what I had anticipated. The scream of the shot would arrive at about the same time with the projectile, with far from a severe thud, and then the air would be filled with that peculiar shrill singing sound of violently broken glass, or perhaps more like the noise made by flinging a nail violently through the air. The shock of discharge of our own guns was especially hard on the ears of those in the turret, and it seemed at times as though the tympanums must give way.... At about eight o'clock the fire on our port hand began to slacken, and the word was passed below that the wooden fleet had entered the bay and that the fight was over.

Here's a short history on USS Tecumseh & CSS_Tennessee that gives some insight as to their respective careers.

Last edited by herrmill; May 03, 2008 at 11:19 PM.
May 04, 2008, 09:40 PM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar
Here are some photos of the hull layup. I can't find thick balsa or even waxpaper here so am having to improvise with laminated planks for the hull bottom & using aluminum foil to keep from gluing all to my build board.

I'll cut it to shape, carve the stern blocks from foam & attach the hull sides this evening. The raft will be made of 1/8" door skin & balsa sides. Again, with all the construction in the neighborhood, half of the boat will be made of scrap I find on the street.


May 05, 2008, 04:13 PM
Irregular... need..fiber!
HorribleHarry's Avatar
Great subject! I should get going on my Winnebago, and my Atlanta, and my Virginia, and my Monitor, and my queen of the west, and my tyler, ... jeesh I have too many irons in the fire!
Keep up the great work!
May 06, 2008, 07:53 PM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar

Hull Layup

As is usually the case, construction was delayed due to customers' needs taking priority over playtime, but the hull sides are on & I am carving the stern; will get this fitted tonight along with the corner fillers & then start carving & sanding to shape. I already see some need to fill & will be sure to double check my dimensions before cutting to size for the raft... what's that old saying... measure twice, cut once.

As you can see from the last photo, my apprentice isn't helping much... he seems to have acquired a taste for Gorilla Glue. What's with Chinese kids these days & substance abuse??


May 06, 2008, 10:20 PM
Irregular... need..fiber!
HorribleHarry's Avatar
Jeesh, good help is hard to find these days huh?
May 06, 2008, 11:01 PM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar
Yea & as you can see, he's trying to live up to his given name, BangBang. Bang bang (big stick) is the term used for the porters who carry goods on the end of a bamboo pole.

Here's an interesting article that appeared last month about one bang bang in Chongqing, where my wife is from. I've used them before myself, but will now will have to view them in a different light

To paraphrase Dylan, "In China, the times, they are a changing..."

May 08, 2008, 07:44 AM
1855-1921 Naval Fan
Stu :)'s Avatar
Don't worry my Baldrick (yes my cat is named Baldrick) likes to chew and eat balsa as well. I now find it convenient to keep old pill bottle with kitty treats in the workshop top draw.

Funny you should give me a rev' up over the Monitor... I'm going to lay down the CSS/USS Teaser this weekend, got the balsa (3x 3mm, 2x 6.5mm and 2x 9.5mm) and card (one each of doubled coated 380gsm and 720gsm) today. I've got enough bits in the "spares box" to complete her, just need some Ø 32mm PVC pipe for the funnel and a Rx crystal. Checked the cupboard and got ample supplies of dope, epoxy and PVA. Contemplated doing it 1/72 but at 330mm is just TOO small, so I'm building her in 1/48 (O Gauge) which makes her 508mm long and 115mm wide, not only convenient for building but also I can drop in a decent motor and tow hook so she can take part in the club tug competitions and... I just happen to have a spare bookcase shelf that will fit her

Fine build so far Chuck! Keep it up and here's some inspiration...

Ironclad R-C Boats (2 min 37 sec)

Last edited by Stu :); May 08, 2008 at 09:24 AM.
May 08, 2008, 08:13 AM
Is life for real?
pkboo's Avatar

Did it!

Soooo, you finally decided to start with wood, I guess it was to be expected and goin' to war too I like that and I'll be keeping a close watch on this one. Who knows you might be the one to pull me in for wood, however that's going to take a while, I need to finish (and start) the ones I still have going and yes I did it! Seeing your type VII in the background and contrary to my last PM I cracked and bought the type VII C/41 Atlantic version from Revell. Keep us interested like you always do Eugène
May 08, 2008, 08:36 AM
1855-1921 Naval Fan
Stu :)'s Avatar
Opps... I've just remembered that you have already posted that video before Chuck
Oh well another 'bump' for the Old Navy guys


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