Thursday, 10 April 2014

Building SMS Kaiser

As a part of my 1866 naval project I thought I would keep a bit of a record of the progress of one of the ships from start to finish.

The ship I chose is SMS Kaiser a wooden hulled 92 gun steam powered ship of the line. Built between 1855 and 1858 she had a displacement of 5,200 tons, a complement of 471 men and a top speed of 12.5 knots. She was the last wooden ship of the line in the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
SMS Kaiser in 1859

I could not find an actual model of the Kaiser, but the Bay Area Yards model of the British ship "Hero" was very close, so I ordered it and it duly arrived with a number of other models to be used for screw frigates.

Preparing the Hull

The hull arrived damaged. Most of the starboard side railings were damaged beyond simple repair. There were also a number of places where air had become trapped in the mould and left holes in the casting, or where air has been trapped in the mould making process and small bubbles appeared on the surface of the casting. There was also some places where the moulds had clearly been damaged, where pieces of the silicone rubber had torn out, and the resin had filled the void.
The Repaired Hull

I easily cut away the bubbles and any resin that had flowed into mould voids. Then I filled any holes with Green Stuff. To repair the railings I cut away all the damaged portion between the forecastle and the stern-castle. I then cut a piece of thin card to fill the space and super glued it into place. When the glue was set I got out the liquid Green Stuff and brushed it into the card in a thin coat on both sides and let it dry. Over the course of the next couple of days I brushed several more layers onto the repair until it was about 0.5mm thick and quite rigid. I then filled some of the gun ports on the port side where I felt they were too thin to stand up to the rigours of play.

When all the Green Stuff had dried I sanded it lightly where required. The hull was ready. I then glued the bowsprit into place and when the glue was set I backfilled the gap between the cast hull and the bowsprit with Green Stuff. I glued the bowsprit yard to the bowsprit. When the glue was dry I bound the yard to the bowsprit with a length of polyester thread and applied superglue to the knot to make it rigid.
The Hull with Bowsprit fixed

I drilled out the holes for the masts, using a 3mm drill, going about 4mm into the hull.

Painting the Hull

First I sprayed it matt black, with three thin coats. I left this to dry hard.
The Undercoated Hull

I painted the deck using the  GW Mournfang Brown. Then I added a touch of white to the brown and drybrushed it over top, painting the bowsprit the same colour. When this was dry I applied a sepia wash all over the deck surface. I then painted the inside of the railings white.
The Decks Painted

I painted the funnel a deep orange, with a black band across the top. I then painted two white bands along the hull in line with the gun ports and then painted all of the gun ports black. Across the stern, where the officers quarters are, I drew the windows using a fine white gel pen - I am hopeless at painting thin lines, but  with a pen it is so much easier. I then sprayed the hull with matt varnish and started on making the masts.
The Fully Painted Hull


While Bay Area Yards make a range of cast white metal masts, I prefer to make my own from steel wire. This way I can make masts that stand up to the rigours of play.

The first thing to do was sort out the height of the masts. Without any plans I was forced to make some calculations against some rather poor quality photographs. It was clear from these photos that she was a fully rigged ship and that the main mast had a height roughly equivalent to three quarters the ship's length.

So I set about cutting some wire. For the Main mast, fore mast and mizzen mast I decided to make a 3mm diameter cut from a 50mm round head steel nail and the other masts would be 1.9mm piano wire. The yards would be cut from 1mm piano wire. To save time I cut all the wire and nails at the same time and grouped them into sets.
The Wire Cut for Masts

I then set about assembling the mast sets. I started with the foremast and with a drop of superglue fixed the fore-top mast to it with about a 5mm overlap. When the glue was set I took a piece of polyester thread about 70mm in length, tied a loop at one end then slipped the loop over the joint and pulled it tight. Another droplet of superglue is applied to the knot and then the excess thread is wound tightly around the rest of the joint. Another drop of superglue is then applied thinly all over the thread and allowed to dry. When it was fully dry I trimmed off the ends of the thread.

Next I cut the crow's nest from a piece of 1mm thick plastic card, 6mm wide and 8mm long and drilled a 3mm and an 2mm hole to fit the masts. I fixed this to the lower part of the glued and tied joint.

I then cut a crow's nest for the fore-top gallant mast and the fore top mast, and slipped it over the top mast ready for the next step. I then glued the fore-top gallant to the top mast, again with a 5mm overlap, tied, bound and glued it. The upper crow's nest was then fixed and glued.
With the mast proper finished I set about fixing the yards. First I made the gaff by bending a piece of steel wire to about 60 degrees and left approximately a 6mm foot to it and glued the foot to the mast. This was tied, bound and glued. 
The fore yard was the next. I used a touch of superglue to hold it in place and then resorted to thread. I tied a loop in the centre of a piece of thread about 100mm long and slipped it over the mast just above the yard and pulled it tight, applying a droplet of superglue to hold it in place. Next I looped the thread over the yard and around the mast in two directions and then applied super glue over the joint.
repeated the process for the Fore Topsail Yard, the Fore Topgallant Yard and the Fore Royal Yard. The fore mast set was complete.
repeated the whole process for the main and mizzen masts. Then painted them two shades of brown and when dry, glued the masts in place.

Rigging is one of those odd things that come with model sailing ships. It is a chore. But if it is done right it looks absolutely great, left undone or wrongly the model looks unfinished.

I like to keep the rigging simple. In part because my patience will not stand getting it  perfect and in part because too much rigging can detract from the model every bit as much as too little. So a fine balance must be found.  
The Rigged Model

The Finishing Touches
Three things remain to finish the model. First is the ships boats. These go a long way to completing the look of the model. I painted four of these white and then applied a black wash. Then I glued them to the deck. 

Second is the flags and streamers. The flags I took from the web, scaled appropriately and printed on a colour laser printer. I glueed them to the tops of fore and mizzen masts and then mounted one of a small flag pile and fixed it to the stern. The streamer I cut from paper and attached to the main mast top and painted red before bending and folding it into its final position.

The third task is the basing. I cut the base from heavy cardboard and glued the model to the base. When the glue is dry I mixed up some Emerkit, a locally available epoxy putty, and sculpted the sea flowing past the hull and left it to dry overnight.

The Model with the Base Texturing Completed

The base is then painted black and left to dry. I then mixed up a deep blue from some artist acrylic using a Phthalo Blue and black and painted the entire surface of the sea area. While the paint was still drying I brushed a small amount of Phthalo Blue through the base coat and left it all to dry. When the blue mixes were dry, I dry brushed some white over the high points of the sea. I also went back and touched up any areas on the hull where the blue had splashed. 

Finally I glued the ships name tag on the back of the base.
The Finished Model.

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