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De-Agostini HMS Surprise

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De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:54 am

Hi all, some background, with no apologies, my main interest is Naval History and modelling is just a part expression of it.

After disappointing results scratch building I opted to do a couple of part kits to hone my "skills" the first was the De-Agostini Yamato, which I promptly gave away to the 7 year old next door, it was horrible. Part kits have their advantages and draw backs and it seems Yamato had a ton, mainly:

Lack of overall plans, these were eventually sent near the end of the build, way too late.
Appalling translation of build instructions (ok, not restricted to part builds!)
Build instructions images too small, even to blow up.

I could go on, but on the up side I learned a hell of a lot and decided to have another go, this time with a sail ship. I have only ever built one in my life, the Airfix Victory. De-Ag are running a part kit for the Victory but I decided to get sensible and look down the scale. I wanted a Frigate and Surprise was the closest I could find available monthly. (Cannot slip the cost of a full model past the boss)

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This is not a picture of the model, but you get the idea. The beauty of HMS Surprise is there is very little hard facts about her, and those are open to a lot of interpretation, so no one can flame you if you go off plan, you have in fact a free hand.

Surprise has a real history and a fictional one. In real life she started out as the French L'Unite, a corvette with 28 8Pdr guns and 8 4Pdr guns, which is a lot for a corvette, her own first Captain thought so and complained the guns tended to foul each other.

Captured by the British the classification was a bit confused, she was of Brig size, but with three masts, the main mast being in fact a full ship mast, normal in a 36 gun frigate or bigger. Only rough sketches exist of her from this point, the conversion plans apparently lost. The Royal Navy had no such classification as the Corvette in those days, it was based mainly on guns, and with the intended fit of 24 9Pdr guns and 4 4Pdr she rated 28 guns (plus carronades which were strangely never counted) Which made her a Fifth Rate Ship, or Frigate.

It is not clear if she ever actually carried that armament, my guess is she did for a little while. But her British Captain persuaded the Navy to swap them out for 32 and 18 Pdr Carronades, Surprise becoming one of (but not thee first) "All Carronade" ship. The carronade was smaller with more hitting power, but of a shorter range than a cannon. Contrary to the Alexander Kent books they do not fire exploding shells filled with musket balls, but a solid ball. The confusion is probably due to the much repeated account of HMS VIctory's opening shot at the Battle of Trafalgar where she shot her for'ad Carronade double loaded with ball and a bucket of musket balls at the stern of the Bucentaure with devastating effect.

But with only 2 4Pdrs left as bow chasers the gun count demoted the Surprise to a Sixth Rate.

The real life Surprise became linked with one of the most infamous events in Royal Navy history, hence my interest. HMS Hermoine, a Frigate, had a noted evil Captain who one day, irritated at what he saw as the slowness of men coming down off the masts, ordered the last man down to be flogged. According to personal accounts two men fell in their rush and were injured. The Captain ordered the injured men be thrown over the side to drown.

The crew mutinied and murdered all officers, then sailed the ship into a Spanish port and surrendered her, then scattered to the trade winds.

HMS Surprise launched a cutting out operation and recaptured the Hermoine. But in a bizarre twist her captain, leading the attack, received a head wound and from then his character changed from a well loved leader to that similar to the former Captain of the Hermoine, becoming notorious for blind rages and cruel punishments of his own crew.

The Fictional Surprise is based on the actual ship and appears in a number of Patrick O'Brian's novels under the command of his character Jack Aubry. Two of the books were combined to form the film "Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World" where HMS Surprise is represented by the tall ship HMS Rose

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HMS Rose is a more conventionally equipped 20 gun Sixth Rate.

The De_Ag model is based on the actual Surprise as she was intended to be re-fitted, with a mix of 9 Pdr on the main gun deck and 4Pdr and Carronades on the upper deck. She has no Quarterdeck. There is no official paint scheme in the Navy at that time, the RN were gradually switching from black and white to black and yellow Ochre, as those were the paints that comprised ship stores toward the end of the century. Captain's had a free hand to paint as they liked, it would not be uncommon for a Captain to paint his French built ship with French Blue for instance to help fool the enemy, red Ochre was also popular with the Spanish and adopted into paint schemes, I shall be using all four and borrowing what would shortly become the de-facto Navy standard of the black on yellow gun ports, known as the Nelson scheme, though it is debatable he started it.

I am not coppering the hull, the tiles are not included and expensive to buy, I want to try that first on a smaller scale. This ship is 1/48 scale, which will make the model over 2.5 foot long, I have not worked out the height.

WIll post the first build photos tonight.
middle_watch
 
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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:24 pm

The first delivery clues you in on this model, the frames are a massive 6mm thick, forming a rigid skeleton that is a joy to build on.

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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:28 pm

But like the song says, "if there is a right way to screw it up!" The winding frames for the bow seem to a good fit, but they are too high, I have not slotted them in all the way, I do not spot it and head right into disaster.

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Stern view and a constant irritation to me as the instructions keep on referring to it as "Stern Forecastle" Aaarg!

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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:30 pm

The main gundeck comes in four parts and snugs down nicely on the frames.

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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:34 pm

First of many planking jobs, I differ from wisdom of the instructions here which suggests marking off the planks at 80mm lengths and using cut off pins to simulate the Trenails. I am not, I think 80mm is too short and also that you would not see the Trenails (Tree Nails) as they are not metal in these ships but wooden pegs hammered down flush and holy stonned regularly along with the planks themselves.

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In fact there is very little of this deck which will be viewable at all when the model is finished.
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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:40 pm

Starting the main outer planking, my error still not spotted, you can probably see it on this shot, that bow is just too high!

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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby robdurant on Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:15 am

Love that film! - I'll be really interested to watch this build coming along :) Great work with the deck planking!

Hope you find a simple solution for the level of those pieces.
Rob D
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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby snowwolflair on Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:44 pm

Nice to see something differet and it opens up a whole new set of build skills to learn from.
David
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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:32 am

It is all together different from a steel ship, even modeled in wood, here the wood is the end result and has to be treated nicely!

Well I completed the above water planking before I realised my error, these planks are Basswood, or Lime if you prefer. This stuff has no real grain so it is ideal for carving the gunports.

Anyway, once I realised that the upper deck was simply not going to fit over the raised interior of the bow I faced a hard choice. Give up seemed one good option, just one screw up too many, obviously I am not cut out to build model ships. I thought about it a long time, then got drastic, I sawed off the entire bow structure, trimmed back the planks and then seperated the cut off bow parts with hammer and chisel, smashing many parts. I rebuilt, using scrap from the frames cut out sheets to replace the smashed bits, here the bow is re-fitted....

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Problem now is I only have a short area to wind the planks around, I taught my suffering family some new expressions after time and again a curved section of lime pinged off with an escort of surrendering pins.
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Re: De-Agostini HMS Surprise

Postby middle_watch on Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:49 am

The joins were way too rough to pass so I layered on filler and then lay on a second layer of planks, ordering more to make up the shortfall from the kit.

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Below the waterline the kit supplies Sapele, a member of the mahogany family, it has a pronounced grain and is very tough, difficult to sand down lumps!

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Here I am working on the "Garboard" plank, in real life this would be a very broad plank which deals with the complex shaping from keel to hull proper, I am making do with kit supplied narrow planks. For the first time also I have found a use for the nail inserter, the kit says to pin down partly, then cut off the head and drive the nail shaft below the surface of the wood. I could not figure out how to do that without scarring so I used snipe nosed pliers to pull the pins back out when the glue is dry.

The rest of the planking was a steep curve, the first layer I followed the kit instructions and the result was yuk, I found an essay on line for this second layer which went into "stealers" and other such wonders. But the main gist was: "Never narrow a plank more than 50% of it's width and only cut one side so a datum is maintained for the next plank." Following that gospel I did a lot better job, and next time will be something else again!

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The gunports have been roughed out, ready for the interior frame. The gash at the stern is the start of work for the stern cabin where Captain Aubry would fiddle with the Doctor.
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