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RMS Carpathia, Scratchbuild, 1/500 Scale

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RMS Carpathia


In 1912 Harold Thomas Cottam was the RMS Carpathia's wireless operator. Early in the morning of 15th of April, whilst Carpathia was Eastbound in the North Atlantic, he was about to retire to bed following a long but entirely routine shift. Instead of going to bed however, purely on an impulse, he decided to send a courtesy message to Titanic regarding some undelivered commercial messages that he intended to relay on his next shift. Instead of receiving a polite nod of thanks from Titanic - he received this...


'Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a CQD OM.'     CQD  = 'All Stations - Distress!'


Carpathia's Captain - Arthur Rostron - was immediately alerted and, despite the extraordinary improbability of the events that were unfolding, he quickly grasped  the situation and realised that he was within range to help. He turned Carpathia toward the Titanic's last stated position and ran her at speeds exceeding the ship’s nominal maximum through hazardous waters known - self evidently - to contain dangerous icebergs.


Carpathia arrived at the scene of the disaster approximately four hours later -  just before sunrise. Heartbreakingly she was too late for the 1503 souls that died that night.  She was however able to recover 705 survivors and following a harrowing journey deliver them safely to New York city.


Of the several ships associated with the Titanic disaster Carpathia was really the only one with her reputation enhanced in any way.  For this reason it is perhaps a little surprising that she is not modelled more frequently. After all she is  the hero in the most famous episode in maritime history.


Right now however, as some of you will know, I'm in the middle of scratch-building an Avro 504k in 1/32 scale and I'm greatly enjoying the challenge, Here's the WIP if you are interested.

So why am I sitting here writing about Carpathia? Well, the Avro project is going well but is progressing very slowly and is about to enter, yet another difficult phase involving cockpits and struts and rigging and what-not... I was hoping to have the Avro ready for the Western Australian Model Expo in May 2019 but, frankly that's looking very unlikely. So I've decided to have a crack at a quicker build that, for the time being, will take priority - RMS Carpathia, Scratch built in 1/500 scale. 


Here's a book on the subject - just to prove I can read 🙂




And here are the plans - enlarged from 1/1200 scale from John Bowen's excellent publication 'More Miniature Merchant Ships'.




And here is the first cut in the entire project.




And the wood selected for the hull - superb stuff this - maybe even as good as bass wood for carving...




When doing fuselages and hulls and other symmetrical things I like to temporarily glue two even halves together at the start of the project. This creates a natural centre line to work from but I'm still be able to split the two halves apart later on if need be. For example when it comes to fitting the masts and other centreline accruements. If you follow the thread you'll see what I mean.




I've decided to cut the sheer first. The sheer - nautical term that! It means the lovely curve along the top of the hull.




I'm using a bench sander for this job as the thickness of the wood is just a whisker too great for my little bandsaw. Besides - belt sanders are fun! 🙂




It leaves this effect. A nice even curve running the entire length of the hull and a smooth top surface onto which to stick...




This! Note how the join in the wood allows us to get the plan's centreline dead in the middle of the job.




And now we can cut this... (using a bandsaw of course) 😎




and use the bench sander to sand the correct rake on the stem of the ship's bow.




Fire up the bandsaw again to start shaping the Carpathia's beautiful 'counter-stern' - which I fear is going to be one of the tricky bits in this build.




A bench sander is essential for this kind of work - perhaps even as important as a bandsaw! 😧




After about two hours work we have this roughed out initial shape of the Carpathia's hull.




Not a bad return on a minimal time investment I reckon. I'm going to try to complete this model quickly. I don't want to mess around too much. 2019 is shaping up to be a hectic year for me so on the brief occasions I'll get out into my 'factory' I'm aiming to get a fair bit done.  This is a labour of love - but it's not going to be the work of a perfectionist!


Hope to see all my old maritime mates back showing an interest in this one!

Very Best Regards,

Bandsaw Steve.

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Great idea for a build … @ 1/500 :hypnotised:


I was worried at first that there was no mention of the bandsaw. Following your recommendations do we now call Bandsaw/Sander Steve or BSS for short. 😉


Will be following with interest . . .




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This is an extremely cunning plan which I shall be following closely. I shall even try to behave to help things along, quiet @longshanks !


Reformed of Mars 👽


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Okay, I caught you trying to get this one in under the radar.


So, gave up on the Avro did we?   Flying things too complicated for you then?



7 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

Here's a book on the subject - just to prove I can read


All I see is a picture of a floaty boaty



2 hours ago, Martian Hale said:

I shall even try to behave






Nice start Steve.   Are you still Bandsaw Steve?, or is it now Belt Sander Steve?  (I'm sure Martian will pick up that cue!)


Sad though I am not to see the Avro continuing for the moment, it's good to see you putting your skills back to good use.



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38 minutes ago, hendie said:


That's nice isn't it! Have some faith Hendie. Anyway aren't you Scottish types supposed to be out doing Hogmanay or some such thing rather than picking on innocent aliens?


Martian 👽

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42 minutes ago, hendie said:

Nice start Steve.   Are you still Bandsaw Steve?, or is it now Belt Sander Steve?  (I'm sure Martian will pick up that cue!)

Working on it Hendie, working on it.



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No messing about...


I'm going to try to make this build fairly prompt as I'm aiming for a May deadline. I reckon today has been a productive day and I'm hoping for another update tomorrow evening.


Not much to say really, most of today's efforts have been very simple. Just cutting out various geometrical shapes of different sizes and shapes.


I've been using the bandsaw...




a jeweller's saw...




and the disk sander quite a bit today.




In addition I've had to cut out a couple of thin sheets of plastic to form the boat deck and bridge deck using the usual combination of scalpel and scissors.


Here's where I'm up to so far.




Please note that the reason the ship is sitting so proud above the 'water' is that I've intentionally cut the hull to a line about a centimeter below the true waterline. This is to help me embed the model into the sea that I will be making for her to sit in.


Here's the view from astern.




So far I reckon I'm making good progress and am feeling confident about May.


But we shall see...  😉



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i'll grab a seat.


got a sudden phobia of wingy things??


looking like a interesting build anyway

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Always been fascinated with the things concerning the Titanic.

I actually spoke with a survivor many years ago.

I am VERY surprised that there isnt a kit of this heroic vessel that dashed to help but I suppose thats down to other reasons.


I look forward to seeing how this develops. Best of luck with the build Skipper



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6 hours ago, SA80A2AR said:


got a sudden phobia of wingy things??

 Nope - just running out of time to have the Avro done for May. Will get back to it once this is completed.

2 hours ago, Courageous said:


But hold on, what have you done at the stern...looks shaped?


Some preliminary work done but there’s a lot more shaping of the hull to go. Will be starting soon.


2 hours ago, Mancunian airman said:

Always been fascinated with the things concerning the Titanic.

I actually spoke with a survivor many years ago.

I am VERY surprised that there isnt a kit of this heroic vessel that dashed to help but I suppose thats down to other reasons.


Never mind Titanic - you spoke with someone who had been on Carpathia! 😁👍👍👍


Agree that it’s surprising that after more than a century of relentless public fascination with Titanic that none of the major kit manufacturers have seen fit to cover Carpathia. They might need to box it as ‘Titanic Survivor’s Rescue Ship’ or some such - but I would have thought there would be a market for it.


Trumpeter seems to be doing a lot of early 20th century stuff of late... 🤔


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My grandad always said we had a relative on the Carpathia when she responded to the Titanic, but damned if I can remember who it was.


I look forward to seeing this one coming together. May, you say? Looks like there's at least as many fiddly bits as an Avro. Wonder if anyone's running a book... 

Edited by Churchill
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Lots of fiddly bits - yes - but fewer outright difficulties, like balancing wings on the tops of struts, to overcome. ☹️


Also, with this build I’ve accepted from the start that there’s going to be  a focus on speed; with the Avro I’ve taken my own sweet time from day one and want to do so right to the end. 

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It seems to that it would be an interesting idea to follow this build with one of the Californian. Or doth this alien think too much?


Martian 👽

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Californian eh....🤔


I have the drawings and she’s a straightforward looking build...


It could happen, but I have to finish this one first then the Avro 504 and then there’s one or two other projects in the pipeline. 



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All Steam to the Engines


During the run to the site of Titanic's last reported position Captain Arthur Rostron ordered 'all steam to the engines'. This meant that all of the steam driven services on the ship, including cabin heating and hot water were shut down in order maximise steam pressure and hence speed. For many of the passengers the first sign that anything was amiss was when they woke up in a cold cabin with no hot running water.


This project is intended to be a quick build - so 'all steam to the engines' and let's see how I go...


Firstly there's a bunch of little structures scattered across the various decks that are - I dunno - various lockers and hatches for ropes or buoys or luggage or whatever other weird bits and pieces sailors carry with them. Again I've been fortunate here because the plans show that they are all the same height (or near as damn) and I have a beautiful sheet of sappelli wood that's exactly the right thickness at 1:500 scale.


Not much commentary to add - just cut and sand a series of appropriate sized squares and rectangles.  Am still loving this bench-sander.




Here's the result with those extra deck fittings added.




Now she needs a funnel. More luck! That same bit of plastic piping that I used to make the Mig-15's jet pipe from is exactly the correct diameter.


Here's a good pub quiz night question for you... 'Is the external diameter of a 1/48 scale Mig-15 jet tailpipe the same as that of a 1/500 scale funnel for the ship RMS Carpathia?' (I love organising quiz nights but after the first couple no one came any more...)


The answer to the above question is 'YES'  - which is a shame really, as I was hoping that with this job I would finally have to use my lathe for something. I spent a fair bit of money on that lathe and although it's fun to play with I have not yet actually needed it for anything...😟




Some appropriate holes had to be cut here and there to put the funnel in the correct spot and to place it with a 5 degree rake. Here's where the funnel passes through the boat deck.




And here's what the model looks like with the funnel dry fitted. The hull is still sitting too high in the water though, and I've changed my mind about intentionally building it too high and then setting it into the water. I've decided I'm going to build down to the waterline and then set her on blocks later on if need be.



 That's going to involve trimming about a centimeter off the bottom of the hull and then using the disc sander to flatten off the base of the hull.




Don't sand off too much or you will be left with this...




Luckily I didn't make that mistake.  Now she sit's much nicer in the water, but the hull is still pretty crude. It's essentially just a 2D slab - there's no cross-sectional contouring of the hull yet.




So here's a sneak preview of next update - I'm going to try to contour that hull. I hope to have that update by tomorrow night.




I am happy with the progress here. I feel like I'm making good speed by applying all of my steam to this project. Am thinking that I'm going to make the May deadline and my decision to put the Avro on ice is looking justified. :clap2:


Something must be about to go wrong...


Best Regards,


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36 minutes ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

... Something must be about to go wrong...

I bet you forgot to install the boiler. :winkgrin:


She's looking great Steve.  



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Seriously impressed with the speed of this.  That much work would have taken me at least a month.  Interesting choice of scale.  Was there a rationale behind that?


I seem to recall my Grandmother saying that her Aunt and Uncle perished in Titanic but that her cousin survived so she must have been rescued by Carpathia.  In their honour I shall be following this with interest.

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Slow Ahead


After the mad dash above we now come to a more considered and careful phase in the build. Carving the hull into a sensible 3D contoured shape.


Stuff this up and I'll have to make the entire hull again - so there isn't much room for error.


Start by sticking the waterline shape onto the base of the hull and laminating, several times, the cross-sectional contours.




With carving the greatest danger is that you might remove something you should not. That type of mistake is difficult to repair and is best avoided if at all possible. So - before I start carving, I generally put dabs of red paint on the surfaces that are 'no go' or 'stop-lines'. In this case however I have finally come to realise that red ink from a biro works just as well. It's a simpler, quicker cheaper alternative.  Here the red ink is reminding me not to touch either the stem of the bow or the top edge of the hull. Both of those edges are essentially in the correct spot already and although they may require some finessing - they certainly don't need to be carved into.




Now cut out the various templates to represent the cross-sectional shapes on each of the station lines. Here is the correct shape that must be achieved on station number 1...




With those views firmly in mind take a nice sharp chisel (there's plenty of videos on the net on how to sharpen chisels and they are well worth learning from) and gently - slowly start working your way through the job.




Check against the templates periodically.




Use a pencil to mark up the next area that you want to work on - generally it will be the area on the working surface that is standing too proud.




Periodically stop work and sand the job down to an even surface. Taking the individual chisel strokes off the surface makes it much clearer where the work is not matching the template. Also when you restart chiselling it also makes your current set of work very clear since only the newest round of chisel strokes will remain.




Maintain symmetry - frequently alternate between port and starboard sides and constantly check that you have not bitten into any of the red edges.  Here is the view of the topside of the ship after the bow has had it's initial contouring completed. I've very pleased with this as the outline from above is untouched...👍




And here's what she looks like from the front. Again, I'm happy. The shape looks about right and - above all - is looking symmetrical.  The stem of the bow is still a bit blunt but sharpening that up is a job for another day.




Now we move to the stern and start again. Look at how this beautiful NZ Kahikatea just peels off like an apple skin.  




Although the carving process is very similar at the stern the shapes are a bit more demanding. So carve slower - mark up often and check, check, check against the templates.




Here I'm about half way though the work at the stern.




Here's an action shot!  🙂  I do love doing this stuff. It's very satisfying work.




Towards the end it gets a bit too hair-raising to continue using chisels so I reverted to a series of shaped files - generally curved on one side - as I approached the end point.


The lion's share of the hull shaping is done now but  I've left a bit of surplus on most carved surfaces at this point just to ensure that I don't over-do it anywhere. I'll finish up with a sanding session at some point in the future just to sharpen everything up. For now though...




I'm pretty happy with this!




And am especially happy with this. so far I've thought that the contouring of the stern was potentially going to be the most difficult part of this build - but so far it has passed without incident so … fingers crossed...




And just in case you are interested in the size of this model here it is next to a set of sunglasses and a biro.  She's about 34 cm long.




Hope you enjoyed that,


I certainly did! :penguin:


Bandsaw Steve


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