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40-Years on the Shelf of Neglect -- USS Nautilus SSN-571

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The first step in creating the illusion of a separate casing over the hull is to mark with tape where the desired edge will be:




I'm using auto pinstriping tape, only because I have a bunch of it on hand. The tape is very thin, so I applied layers of it until I got a thickness that looked appropriate.


I used Tamiya masking tape for curves at the rear of the casing:




There's no need to be super-careful about getting a straight line... Nautilus's casing had all sorts of curves, sags, and dents!




With the tape in place, the next step involves a fresh tube of (you guessed it) Bondo!




This new tube has a bunch more warnings than my old one:




What's this about "Overexposure may affect hearing"? Huh?


I should have mentioned earlier, but I have a set of rubber-tipped clay sculpting tools that are perfect for applying Bondo. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This is the one I use most often:




First layer of Bondo is on:




It looks pretty ugly, but stay calm and have faith!




I'll let the Bondo dry, sand it smooth, and repeat until done.




When I'm finished, I should have created a "step" something like the example below (which was created unintentionally when I was working on the rear deck):





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Here we go! After three Bondo sessions I had the courage to pull of the tape. Let's see how our casing looks...


Forward casing looks good:



Good sharp line down the side:



I will have to do some touchup at the very rear:



All-in-all, I'm quite happy with the result!






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Bill this is fantastic, but I’m seriously slightly wondering why you didn’t start off with maybe a length of plastic drainpipe, given that you are reworking everything else.


That said, I’m really enjoying watching your modelling techniques in action, and the back story is great too.


[edit - It was a surprise to me that a nuclear submarine would have a wooden deck.]




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Thoroughly enjoying reading through this.  And learning a lot too.  Especially about Bondo which previously just sounded a bit risque befre I found out what it was.

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5 hours ago, AdrianMF said:

I’m seriously slightly wondering why you didn’t start off with maybe a length of plastic drainpipe, given that you are reworking everything else.


Believe me, I’ve asked myself that very same guestion more than once. Those old Aurora kits on eBay aren’t cheap (and now, I have two of them)


Another sea story. When I first arrived on Nautilus I was given the prestigious-sounding job of “First Lieutenant”, which meant I was in charge of the team that was responsible for keeping the exterior of the sub painted and rust free. Whenever we were about to leave port, I personally had to crawl through the superstructure (I was a skinny lad then) to ensure there was nothing loose that could create noise when submerged. I recall finding numerous cracks in the casing supports and skin.  I informed the Captain, and repairs were put on the “to do” list for our next shipyard availability (a couple years off).

About a year later, while submerged, one of the cracked frames broke and the aft emergency buoy came free. (The emergency buoys, of which we had two, are meant to be released in case the sub is stuck on the sea bottom. They each have a cable attached to the sub’s escape hatches. A rescue diving bell can use the cable to haul itself down to the sub to retrieve the crew).  Anyway, our buoy came loose and for days we had a bright orange float trailing behind us, just like that scene in Jaws.  🦈 🟠



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3 hours ago, JohnT said:

... learning a lot ... especially about Bondo

Bondo is good for filling small holes and cracks, but it isn’t very strong and can’t be used for large shapes. That’s why I used Apoxie Sculpt to build up the edge of the after deck.

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5 hours ago, AdrianMF said:

It was a surprise to me that a nuclear submarine would have a wooden deck.



We had a strange mix of modern and WW2-era technology. For instance, this mechanical monster was our torpedo direction computer:


but ours was specially modified to interface with the Navy’s most modern torpedoes (we carried Mk48 heavyweight and Mk37 lightweight torps).

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46 minutes ago, billn53 said:

this mechanical monster

Interesting video. In the 1980s I was working in the UK on submarine systems and torpedoes, updating technology that looked very similar to that!


I’m guessing Bondo is quite like Isopon P38 over here, which is a car body filler.




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1 minute ago, AdrianMF said:


I’m guessing Bondo is quite like Isopon P38 over here, which is a car body filler.


Yes, I buy my Bondo at the auto supply store

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26 minutes ago, AdrianMF said:

In the 1980s I was working in the UK on submarine systems and torpedoes, updating technology that looked very similar to that!

In late 1979 (or early 1980?), I had the pleasure of riding HMS Churchill from San Diego to Alameda, California. Churchill was in the States being outfitted for Harpoon missiles. It was interesting seeing the differences between US and RN submarine operations. 

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This morning I carved the basic shape for the sail from basswood. I didn't trust the drawing I have (it shows Nautilus's original sail, not the one from when I was on board), so I got my dimensions off photos like this one:




49978629682_a8ca62783a_z.jpg   49978629647_d7312d1f50_z.jpg 


I'll add a layer of styrene sheet at the top to create the detailing for the masts, etc. This way, if I screw it up, I can just try again with another piece of styrene instead of carving an entire new sail. When I'm done, hopefully it will look something like this:





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Well, I must have had a total loss of attention when I did the basswood sail above, because it's too short! It's obvious when you compare with the real thing:


49977647913_f40de71aa5.jpg   49978629682_a8ca62783a.jpg 


So, I made another one, this time taking special care when transcribing dimensions from my photos. Here it is:


49977647913_f40de71aa5.jpg  49978997976_f98ce7e52f.jpg 


My new sail is a good 0.3-inches longer than my first attempt:




You will notice that I didn't use basswood this time around. Instead, I tried a material that is new to me: saturated resin board (a.k.a. resin proofing board). It is much easier to cut, carve, and sand than basswood, and has a smooth, grainless surface. I got mine off of Amazon, but it can also be found on eBay.




Another advantage is that I was able to get a good, sharp edge at the rear of the sail. On the downside, the resin is brittle and you can see I lost a bit at the bottom corner of the sail:




It was easy enough to fill in the lost corner. I simply superglued a small chunk of resin onto the corner and carefully sanded it to shape.




This resin board is really neat stuff, and now I'm thinking I should have used it for my replacement stern.

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Focus this afternoon has been on the top of the sail.


I topped the resin sail with a strip of styrene, which I shaped to match photos of the actual sail:




Next, I added openings for the periscopes, antennae, and other masts:




None of the drawings I found showing the top of the sail are accurate for Nautilus's later years. And, there are very few photos showing this area. The best photo I've found is this one:




And no, I do not intend to have any masts in the raised position. But, if you're wondering, here is an example showing the variety of masts Nautilus carried:




At the very front is a removable amber beacon, which could be installed when surfaced to make us more visible to other ships at night. Behind that are the two periscopes. The forward, fatter scope is the one we used most often. It has larger optics (for better low-light performance) and includes a simple radar warning receiver. The taller, skinny scope is the "attack scope" -- less likely to be seen when stalking surface targets. Next in line is the surface search radar. Directly opposite and partly obscured by the radar is the HF radio mast. It is by far the tallest mast Nautilus carried (in the photo it is only partially raised). I've forgotten what the mast with the black dome is, but the one behind it with the large gray dome is the ESM receiver. Last in this photo, with the teardrop shape, is the UHF radio mast. 


Excuse me, I got a bit distracted! Let's get back to the build.


At the front of the sail I carved the opening for the surface watchstanders. I'm planning on adding a few details to this area. For example, there should be a hatch for the sail access trunk, which leads down to the attack center.




That's where I am so far on a Sunday afternoon.


She's beginning to look like a submarine!




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I got some good bench time in yesterday and this morning, the sail is now very nearly finished.


I made up the tops for the masts that will be visible through the openings at the top of the sail. Here, they are test-fitted in place:




I added the splash shield to the front of the sail and did some detailing in the bridge area. I decided to have the bridge access trunk open, the hatch will be added later:




Another view of the bridge. The circular item is the gyro repeater, and the rectangular box to its left is for the sound-powered phone:




These triangular plates divert exhaust from the emergency diesels away from the snorkel mast. The snorkel mast is represented by the scribed circle at the very rear of the sail:




And, this little notch is for the stern light:




Items still on my sail "to do" list are to scribe the doors for the port & starboard running lights; add the port-side access door; add the hand rails; and drill an opening at the front of the sail for the ship's whistle.






Before I sign off, yesterday I had a visit from one of God's creatures. I found this critter in my yard:




It is a "common snapping turtle", about a foot long. It definitely didn't belong in my yard, so I collected it up (very carefully, as I have need for all of my fingers) and relocated it to the nearest stream.




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Scribed doors for the running lights and sail access entry; drilled out a hole for the whistle; and added handrails:




Painted and installed all the bits and bobs represent the tops of the masts:




Detailed the bridge area (a hatch for the bridge access trunk will be added later):




The postman just delivered these little sailor dudes by Trumpeter. They are a bit overscale (1/200), but I doubt anyone will notice:




All-in-all, this sail is much improved over the one I made back in 1980:





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Billin that boat is turning out ship shape in Bristol fashion... I mean Groton Fashion. Looks Great!

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Last night's work was to open the starboard casing to create a home for the anchor. Here are a few pics of the actual thing:





49994230433_2fcccba46c.jpg  49995002487_4325ff12a7.jpg 


First, I had to locate exactly where the opening should be. Easier said than done! The drawing I have seems to be a bit off, compared to photos. Eventually, I made a decision and outlined on the casing where I would be cutting:




A sharp scalpel blade, chisel, and a fair amount of elbow grease gave me this. Fortunately, the plastic in this area of the hull is very thick, which allowed me to create the anchor recess without adding any additional styrene:




A test fit with my anchor confirms everything is a-ok so far:




I framed the opening with 0.010-in thick styrene strip:




After a bit of Bondo and shot of primer, it's looking mighty fine!




I'm calling this job done.



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Wow, that last shot of the bow area and anchor housing in primer looks superb. Like GMK, I am also really enjoying this build. It is inspiring me to pull one of only two submarines from my stash and build it!



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I’m not normally that interested in submarine models - no doubt heresy to some, but they’re mostly black tubes to me (plus I was an anti-submarine pilot...).  But this is superb stuff.

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6 hours ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

I was an anti-submarine pilot...

Boy, do I have some stories I could tell about operating with anti-sub aircraft... some where they did great, others where they weren’t so hot.

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Today, I decided the shape of the kit's bow needs to be refined. Nautilus carried the BQR-4 passive sonar, which consisted of a horseshoe-shaped array of transducers that wrapped around the bow below the torpedo tubes. This created a noticeable "chin", which can be seen in these drydock photos:








I also found these 3D renders, made by Matt Thor for a radio-controlled model project:


49998441891_ec0e8ff147.jpg   49998692942_d1b80482b8.jpg 


Finally, here is a pic of the RC-model under construction:




I mixed up some Apoxie Sculpt and rolled it into a thin sheet. I then used pieces of the sheet to build up my chin bulge. Apoxie sculpt is easily shaped with water, so I used wet fingers to form the shape I wanted:








I'll let this set up and then do some additional shaping with sandpaper. I expect the initial result won't be entirely satisfactory, so another round with Apoxie Sculpt will likely be required.

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As I expected, my first application of Apoxie Sculpt needed enhancement, so I added another layer. The chin is now, intentionally, a bit oversized. After the Apoxie Sculpt has hardened I'll sand it down to the proper dimensions.


49999378558_f49a7a8eb4_z.jpg  50000151157_db4f78c021_z.jpg 



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I believe I am done with the sonar "chin" on the bow. Tell me what you think...








Comparison to photos:


50000596582_1418ef090e.jpg   49998399091_1f2a5e32b9.jpg 


49999822968_e741dc034f_z.jpg   49998441881_8b8ae44c1b_z.jpg 


Here is the view from beneath.  Still a bit of sanding needed to get the transition to the hull smooth:




Another job done!




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