Monday, 7 February 2011

CSS Baltic and the USS Essex

Pictured above are the twentieth and twenty first models for my ACW scratch building project - the CSS Baltic (on the left) and the USS Essex (on the right). For the size of paddle boxes the casemate should have been longer and narrower (according to Gibbon's Warships and Naval Battles of the Civil War) but the only pictures I have been able to find of her were line drawings from Harpers's Weekly and she looks very 'boxy' and hunched up in profile so I guess this is a reasonable compromise. She was quite straightforward to build aside from the rectangular paddle box housing added on to the standard sloped casemate - even then it was more a case of time rather than difficulty.

USS Essex presented a challenge in the shape of the rear end of the casemate which was curved, rather like the end of a bath. I had numerous ideas on how best to make this but opted for using a single piece of balsa and carving it out. This was surprisingly easy to do but it did take a while and of course, needed care. Her distinctive circular pilot house originated from the top of a two stud 'Mega Blok' building brick and although a little small does convey the look of the original rather well. Essex will be joining her squadron mates comprising the four Cairo class gunboats and the Benton to form two sub divisions of three vessels each - historically it was often Benton with a pair of Cairos and the Essex with a pair.
With the completion of these two models I am now only three ships away from the 24 vessel threshold and planned at that point to take a break from the construction process and get down to some serious brush work. I am leaning away from this now as I only have a further 15 models to build in total (I am not including coal barges, mortar rafts and some very small gunboats in the total) and would really like to maintain the momentum. Some of the forthcoming attractions are similar to what I have built thus far so painting the whole batch of, say, casemate ironclads, makes a degree of sense. With this is mind then, I am going to compete the 'big build' first before I get any painting tackled. I am however, well advanced with the rules and in any event, am now looking to begin the paintwork at the end of the month.

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