Friday, 14 May 2021

Frigates, Sloops, Masts, Spars and the C.S.S. Webb

A speculative plan of the C.S.S. Webb - note the twin ‘walking beam’ engines. Her paddles were powered independently which meant that at low speed she was very manoeuvrable but much less so at full power

 Work has begun on the next batch of five models for the ACW project. I have also settled on what he remaining models after these five are completed - and a small order to Warbases was needed to furnish the appropriate parts. Allowing for the time it will take to build the five currently under construction and four of the remaining ten models I should have the pieces I need for the final half dozen.

Summing that rather convoluted paragraph I have sufficient material from stock to build nine of the remaining fifteen models with the final six following once the Warbases order arrives!

The five currently under construction are all fully masted and so will take a little longer to complete. Building masts is far easier than building octagonal or curved casemates - even box casemates come to that - but one has to be careful as it cannot be rushed. So I have fifteen masts and five bowsprits to tackle - luckily they will all be more or less the same design so an assembly line of sorts can be used.

I am building three ships for the Union - a frigate and two sloops - and a pair for the Confederates - a commerce raider and a blockade runner although the latter may not even require the full sailing rig as I have yet to decide which one I shall build.

The top down view showing how by using the ‘stepping’ of the masts and spars along with use of the stylised fighting tops helps to make for a far stronger join due to more surface area being in contact for gluing

A view from the underside again showing the intentionally larger ‘sticking’ points. Also showing are the raw materials I use and a mast built for the now abandoned third 90 Day gunboat that will be repurposed for a Confederate ship

For services as a model in the pictures above it is only fair that I show the C.S.S. Stonewall in all her glory! It seems like a long time ago that I built this particular model and her sister ship!

My mast building technique is quite stylised and the end result is pretty robust. I use Bamboo barbecue for the masts and wooden cocktail sticks for the spars. By using MDF cut fighting tops in strategic positions I am able to get a good area for glue coverage so the spars have a larger area to be stuck to. Where a spar is free standing I carefully file a shallow recess on the upright so that it ‘sits’ in rather than on the mast. Again, the area is larger so that the glue has more surface to bite on. I use superglue exclusively for my masts.

Why the C.S.S. Webb? Well, she lasted a long while to start with and by virtue of having two walking beam engines was pretty fast in a straight line. I am currently gauging opinions as to how fast she actually was but she was able to break out from the Red River and breeze along the Mississippi at a fair pace until confronted by by a Union sloop. At this point her crew ran her aground and set fire to her.  She was originally built as an ocean going paddle wheeled tug but was equipped with a ram and a spar torpedo in addition to her artillery when the Confederates added her to their forces. 

I have settled on the models I shall be building for the final batch of fifteen with the sole exception of the Rebel blockade runner. I shall send some time thinking about this over the weekend but for now it is one with the mast building.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Filling in the gaps

The last of the Confederate casemate ironclads

 I was really not looking forward to building the last of the Confederate ironclads. Building the larger version of the ship you see above was frustrating enough but the smaller version was a different order of pain altogether! In theory it should be easy enough - just ensure that the top octagon matched the bottom one - but the slightest deviation on the angles throws the whole thing out of alignment.

That is what happened. 

Assembly of the ‘cross’ of the casemate was easy enough, it was the angled faces that caused the problems. The problems were largely of my own making as I do not have any material I can use for the angled faced that is thin and flexible enough. I thought I had some appropriately gauged plastic card but no, only the thick stuff. I tried several alternatives but none worked as would have liked and so in a moment of desperation I opted for the nuclear option - and promptly filled each angle with filler!

The filled casemate prior to final sanding. Unconventional perhaps but it seemed to work out well enough!

To my surprise and delight it actually worked.

By carefully building the filler up in layers, allowing it to dry thoroughly and then lightly sanding I was able to get a pretty smooth finish. Once the gunports are in place, the whole thing sealed, painted and varnished you would hardly notice the difference!

The two octagonal casemates types - little and large!

For all the pain involved I am rather pleased with how she turned out and as mentioned, she is the final ironclad for the Confederates. I have built a dozen of which six are modelled on historic ships:

C.S.S. Virginia

C.S.S. Georgia

C.S.S. Louisiana

C.S.S. Missouri

C.S.S. Arkansas

C.S.S. Manassas 

Of the above the Georgia and the Louisiana were little better than floating batteries but having said that they certainly look suitably imposing.

The six historical types - from the top left we have the Virginia, the Louisiana and the Georgia whilst in the bottom row the brown and rusted Arkansas is joined by the Missouri and the Manassas

The other six models are more generic looking and so will serve as required - either as historic or ‘imagi-naval’ style vessels.

These are the six generic types that be used as required

As an aside rechecked the number of models the collection will consist of as I must have miscounted. It actually comes to 59 whereas I was convinced it was 60. Since I am sixty years of age I shall sneak in another model for the Union so there will be a model for each of my years!

The full dozen in all their glory. There are now 45 models completed with 15 to go

On with the next batch!

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Madasahatta in the 17th Century

Madasahatta in 1914. Over two hundred years previously the landscape would be very different although the settlements that would eventually become Port Maleesh, Bluchershafen and Port Victoria were already established.

 For sometime I have been thinking about pirates and Madasahatta - although not simultaneously! The 17th century came to the fore with my acquisition of Oak and Iron by Firelock Games. This includes a selection of 1:600th scale 17th century ships of various types that could be readily supplemented but the expansion packs available as well as those from the very nice range produced by Miniairons. That all round good egg The Jolly Broom Man added to my collection a selection of models from them and they are really very nice indeed (many thanks once again old chap!). My interest in the whole pirate thing was originally from the naval side but now is more in terms of having a land dimension as well using those very nice figures produced by Peter Pig.

I have finally ‘pulled the trigger’ and taken delivery of sufficient Peter Pig 15mm Pirates to give me two HOTT/PW sized forces that will also include a contingent of Barbary Corsairs. Whilst I have sufficient models for the Pirates and likely government opposition I shall need to avail myself of some Xebecs for the Corsairs - Warlord are launching some in their Black Seas range but these are 1:700th. I rather like the variety available from Miniairons so will probably use theirs.

So where does Madasahatta come in to all this?

Well, as a ready made environment for gaming it has plenty of potential. By winding the clock back some two hundred odd year to the latter end of the 17th century then a very different picture emerges of what Madasahatta looks like - before the Colonial period and later.

To begin with, the island would be largely unexplored but with some key players already making their mark on the landscape. Bluchershafen was originally a Dutch settlement with a garrison and was a vital staging post en route to the Dutch East Indies and their spices. Although a strong position and adequately garrisoned the Dutch were content to keep themselves to themselves but woe betide anybody attempting to interfere with their spice trade. 

Port Maleesh was a Barbary enclave owing allegiance to the Sublime Porte. Privateering was rife and the slave markets in the merchants quarter were well renowned for the quality of their merchandise and the speed with which they could fleece the unwary.

Port Victoria was a pirate stronghold operated by the Brethren of the Coast (Indian Ocean Chapter) and modelled (rather unsuccessfully it must be said) on the fabled pirate utopia of Libertalia.

From this little lot the following emerges. The pirates will pick on anybody but are wary about being too obvious when it comes to the Dutch or the Barbary Corsairs. The Dutch will pick up the odd prize here and there but for the most part are more concerned with their lucrative spice trade. The Barbary Corsairs will take on anybody as long as they have a local superiority - occasionally that are very dangerous when the Sultan is behind them.

So the scene is being set for a variety of raids, privateering and general mischief making in the early days of Madasahatta.

That is the plan in any event but first of all the ACW ships need finishing.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Fifteen to go....

 C.S.S. Virginia. The brown ‘V’ on the foredeck was designed to divert water away as she had a very low freeboard. The grey section at the stern was 2” armour plating used to protect the steering.

I was able to finish the last of the ‘purpose built’ historical Confederate Ironclads meaning that I now have 11 built with one remaining and that one is next on the assembly line.

The C.S.S. Virginia needs little introduction from me but I will share some of the building details. Her casemate was rounded at both ends and thus far the only way I have successfully been able to model this is by using layered Balsa wood cut and sanded into shape. The U.S.S. Essex has one curved end but thus far I had never attempted tackling both ends. Happily it worked out fine but I did take the precaution of having a number of breaks whilst shaping them which certainly helped with my concentration!

The pilot house should really be a conical affair that follows the line of the casemate but my version does not. Nor does my version have gunports of the correct shape - I opted for my tried and tested 5mm square pieces of card - and as for the armoured stern section (to protect the steering) it is probably the wrong shape. She looks quite stocky but as I am working to a 6” maximum (two grid squares in my ACW naval rules) she is about as large as I can go. For all of this she looks ‘like what she is supposed to’ so I am happy! I am quite chuffed with how she turned out.

Of course if you are going to have the C.S.S.Virginia then it would churlish not to have the U.S.S. Monitor in the same picture!

The ‘Fifteen to go’ of the title of this post of course refers to the number of models I have left to build for the project. There are seven Confederate and eight Union ships although by Friday the Confederate numbers will be down to six as I complete the final casemate ironclad.

Of the fifteen models four of them will required a full set of masts and spars, three of them are ironclads and the remaining eight are gunboats of various types.

We are getting there!

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Something New

Boot sale bargains and a first for me in the audible books stakes 

It is Sunday so once again SWMBO and I headed out to our local boot sale and today I was able to pick up a couple of bargains. The book cost me the princely sum of 50p and it has more than sufficient information for my needs for when I get to WW2 (again).

The audio book is a new one for me as I have never listened to one before! There are six CDs contained in the set and so the plan is to upload it to my iTunes account so that I can listen to it via my iPad on the train when I return to the city in July.

I suppose that it was somehow inevitable that my first foray into the world of audible books was The Seven Pillars of Wisdom given my interest in Lawrence of Arabia. I have a hardback copy of the Seven Pillars, a Kindle version, the film Lawrence of Arabia and the soundtrack so I guess this completed the set!

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Next Steps

The work in progress - the white section is plastic card and needs further shaping but bear in mind that this model is, as usual, based upon rather than historically accurate!

A bird’s eye view and profile of the C.S.S. Virginia

 After having completed the pair of 90 Day gunboats for the Union I decided that next up will be the remaining pair of Confederate casemate ironclads. When complete I will have a round dozen of them - six modelled on actual ships and the remaining six more generic in design. Of the final two I am building one of them is of the smaller octagonal casemate type whilst the other is the famous C.S.S. Virginia of the Battle of Hampton Roads fame. Pictured above is where she is at for the moment - in other words at a very early stage of construction.

She will be the longest ship in the collection and indeed, I had to modify a standard hull template to allow for the rear overhang designed to protect the steering. I am more or less happy with the hull and the real work will be building the casemate as she is curved at both ends.

I already have the U.S.S.Monitor built so the prospect of refighting the battle of Hampton Roads is a tantalising one and I shall certainly give it some thought. 

Once I have finished these two ironclads I shall revisit the Union as they will be getting a further City class gunboat and one other. I have narrowed the choice down to two ships so I will doubtless change my mind a few times before I get to build them!

Friday, 7 May 2021

....And then there were two....

The two 90 Day gunboats ready for action

So these are the two 90 Day gunboats duly completed and ready to chase down blockade runners and other nefarious types although they were not the speediest of vessels.

There are 17 models left to build to complete the project and I have until the end of June to finish them.  

Like I said yesterday, no pressure then....