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  1. Ahoy there me hearties! "Woof! Bertie’s edited this big first post on June 20 because many of his predictions about start dates turned out to be way off. Nothing new there. Woof woof!” Three months ago I discovered the challenge and joy of building 'Old Time Ship Models', meaning sailing ship models made mostly from wood, brass, cloth and string. On opening the box, my first wooden model was quite intimidating, it seemed to be little than a box full of sticks. "Where's the model then?" Well, it turned out that I was expected to shape the sticks into the beautiful shape of the boat. Oh dear, oh dear! Well, it hasn't been easy and I've only just finished that first one, a Scottish herring drifter called Lady Isabella. (Here's a link to the WIP). I'm now fairly confident that with patience and a willingness to mess it all up and then repair it, sometimes several times, these kits are a feasible proposition for any reasonably skilled and experienced modeller, and perhaps even by me! As it happens, I finished that relatively simple fishing boat a lot faster than expected and now I’m starting this much bigger project, HMS Beagle by OcCre, a Spanish model manufacturer based in Barcelona (one of my favourite places). The Beagle is one of my favourite ships too. I think it will take around six months to finish her, though it's still a wild guess. As a teenager, I was given a book called The Voyage of the Beagle by her most famous passenger, Charles Darwin. It was a book in a series called Books which have changed man's thinking. During his five year cruise, starting on 27 December 1831, Darwin discovered the mechanism by which evolution operates, which he called natural selection. Evolution had been known about for generations, Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin had written about it decades before, and people had been evolving new strains of working animals for thousands of years, but no-one understood how species evolved in nature. Young Darwin was a scientist, a naturalist and something of a genius and found this missing link in man's knowledge. I've recently bought another copy of that book and of about a dozen more on Darwin, the ship and the trip. Surprisingly little is known for certain about the Beagle herself and there will be a lot of guesswork required in making the model. It's 1/60 scale and will be 72cm long and 48cm high when finished. I said above that I will be starting in around three months but in fact I've already had to begin. When I unpacked the kit to have a look around, I found a slightly bowed critical component which required some long term corrective action so I began that ages ago. It’s now the 20th June as I edit and my decks are clear for action with no other projects in progress. Let's have a quick tour inside. There's not a sprue to be seen! It's nicely packed and nothing appeared to be damaged at first sight. The 'sticks' are separated from the 'boards', the smaller components are packaged in a plastic multi compartment tray and the sails are in a paper bag. The boards, mostly plywood were sealed in a plastic bag, vacuum packed, and that may have been the cause of my minor problem. This piece of laser cut plywood has been pulled out of straight, I think by the bag designed to protect it from warping due to humidity changes in storage. How ironic! It's a very small bend but this is the false keel which will be the spine of the ship so it is important. I intend to leave it held flat under that old oven door for the summer by which time it will be straight again ... probably. (If not there are other things I can do.) Going back to the box I found some cast metal components. Not bad. Some clean up required but in this genre of our hobby, everything had to be made to fit so that's normal. Some half inch nails! I know what they are intended for and may well elect not to use them. We shall see... The big circles are mast trucks, the heart shapes are for the ends of the stays and the little black beads are parrel beads. Simple. I am beginning to speak nautical, quite haltingly at the moment, but getting better with each volume of Patrick O'Brian's books. More metalwork. The big pieces are quarter galleries and I don't like them. I would much prefer wooden construction for these 'bay windows' at the aft corners of the ship and might have a go at scratch building them. That's not going to be a decision for 2022 though. Two compartments full of blocks and belaying pins. Again, not a problem this year. I won't be rigging until well after Christmas unless things go impossibly well. It strikes me as bizarre to be planing over such an extended build and this is quite a small ship! More metalwork. I think these are ring bolts for tying off the standing rigging but I could be wrong. Chains, anchors and four diameters of brass rod - purpose unknown. Four reels of 'rope'. I thought it was quite thick but was relieved that there were only four. And then I found the other eight, hidden in the packet with the sails. I guess they like to show that string is included, via that cutaway box top, but don't want to scare people off by the vast quantity of the stuff. Speaking of sails, here they are. A bit coarse and crude. There doesn't seem to be a really accurate looking sail material yet and many ship modellers build ships with bare poles. I haven't made up my mind about that yet. There's a specimen of the on line form for requesting replacement parts. I believe the customer service at OcCre is very good. Now we get back to the plywood sheets. These are the bulkheads that will be mounted on the false keel and will in turn carry the planks that make up the hull. The deck and my first aerial view of the ship. I was surprised by how broad in the beam she is. Thinner plywood and more interesting pieces, including parts for the many boats carried on the ship. A sheet of MDF (ew!) for those small boats. Note that they are built in the same way as the ship with planks on ribs on a keel. The large shapes are just building jigs. Walnut plywood for some of the fancy bits like the stand. Now we are getting to the sticks, with those bulwarks of plywood being a bit of a shortcut and having the gun ports pre-cut which is a big labour saver! These are the first layer of planks which are supposed to be nailed to the ribs of the ship. They make the shape and then the second layer makes it look beautiful. The dark and very thin planks are the second planking. The rest is as yet, unidentified. The third bundle is my spars, the masts and yards. A thick sheet of PE for ladders and such. In 1/60 it's quite chunky and I can handle it ok. The 1/350 and smaller ships with PE are incredible and well beyond me now (and always really). The instructions are photos which are cheaper to produce than drawings. There are very few words. OcCre make up for this by having a complete video build in, I think, 161 short episodes, on YouTube. There's a link to this on their website which I linked to above, just in case you want to read ahead. I intend to watch them all before I start serious construction as I'm still such a newb at this. This page shows how the plywood bulkheads and decks are individually planked and panelled with real wood. It looks brilliant like that. I love these things! And here's a sneaky peek at the ship's boats. The masts look complicated. making them straight will be a challenge but then the rigging will help by pulling them into line just as on the real thing. There are pages and pages of plans. A lot deal with rigging. That's probably more than an afternoon's work! Let go all moorings, we’re off!
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