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A 1:250-scale model of the Imperial Russian Navy monitor Uragan

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I suffer from a long-standing fascination with the sometimes bizarre vessels generated by the combination of steam power, armour protection, and iron construction. Over the years it has led me to build models of dozens of these often odd vessels.


At the moment I seem to be drawn to monitors. USS Monitor, by any standards, was both enormously influential and very unusual for its time. Its impact on warship design at the time was significant, with navies all over the world seizing on its features, for better or worse. The ramifications of this intrigue me.


One of the oddities of history is that almost the first non-United States producer of monitors was Imperial Russia. This was a consequence of the then far from cordial relations between Russia and Great Britain, in particular (how things have changed!). The Russian naval attaché to the United States at the time was impressed by USS Monitor’s performance at Hampton Roads and was able, perfectly legitimately and with the consent of the United States government, to obtain and transmit detailed drawings of the follow-on class of monitors developed for the US Navy. Russia promptly laid down ten clones of the Passaic class, the first of which was Uragan.


I also have become (once again) very enthusiastic about paper modelling as a medium for creating replicas of iron or steel warships in particular. It is not always an easy medium with which to work but it also is amazingly flexible. My latest project is to build a model of Uragan. It is based on a very nice freely-downloadable 1:250-scale paper model of Lehigh, a Passaic class monitor, by the fine designer Magnus Mörck (who sadly died quite recently) from http://www.modelsnmoore.com/. Note that, though Models 'n Moore is based in the United States, the download is designed for printing on A4 paper. This download also offers the option of building a model of USS Catskill or USS Patapsco of the same class (this is significant for my project) and a very attractive little tug that I certainly will build in the imminent future. Here is what the download provides.










There were some differences between the American and Russian warships when they entered service. The most significant, from a paper modeller’s perspective, was that it seems that the Russian ships initially wore ‘Victorian’ livery. My first problem, therefore, was to transition to this from a US Navy all-black colour scheme, quite easy for plastic/resin/wood builders using paint but much more complicated for paper modellers. I should mention that a professional computer geek ‘accidentally’ deleted Photoshop from my computer (using which would make changing colours straightforward) and Adobe offered to rectify the situation very quickly and easily…for several hundred euros! Mörck’s model has a black hull, but his inclusion of Catskill means he provides a white turret that would work with some tweaks. I needed a grey deck and a yellow funnel. Esselte AB might come to the rescue here (file folders)!

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Thank you all for taking an interest.


The first stages of building a paper ship model usually are quite speedy. I am building this as a waterline model that I want to set in a sea base, meaning that I would like to depict at least a small amount of the underwater hull. This requires a deeper baseplate, which I created by laminating three layers of card. I like to use dry-mounting tissue (who remembers that stuff’s existence?) because it does not buckle paper stock and the laminated material is ready for use immediately.




I first spot glued the baseplate to a piece of plate glass to make sure everything was flat (note the duct tape binding on the sides--I have enough very sharp tools for paper modelling lying around on my bench without having to run the risk of slitting my wrist (accidentally, of course!) on the edge of a piece of glass). After the hull structure is solidly integral, I can separate it from the glass using a wide flat craft knife blade. (Somehow, I have ended up building multiple monitors--you may note a couple of KuK Marine Donaumonitoren under construction in the background.)


Then I dealt with a very common problem with paper models: the central spine is designed so that the tabs (and the spine, in this case) fold up but the scoring guide is set up for the tabs and so on to fold down. Rather than try to transfer the scoring guides, I simply used a needle point to mark the ends of the guide lines for the bulkheads to the reverse side and drew them in. After that I could cut out the spine elements and use them upside down knowing that I would be able to fit the bulkheads in position with accuracy.




Mörck’s frame structure is quite interesting and unusual. He has the builder place on top of the base plate what is essentially a structure of two L-girders with the vertical webs joined back to back, thus creating a spine that is guaranteed to be upright and centred accurately.




One then adds the transverse bulkheads (this is why I needed to transfer their positions as mentioned above. They are double thickness card. Most card ship models interlock the bulkheads and spine in the manner of an egg crate but this is not practical for this model because the hull is too shallow. The disc amidships is the support for the turret.



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7 hours ago, Courageous said:

Already thinking about what card models can be used as templates to make plastic versions :hmmm:.


Or wooden ones! 🤔

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On 9/1/2020 at 12:25 AM, Courageous said:

A good informative start Maurice. Already thinking about what card models can be used as templates to make plastic versions :hmmm:.



At one time I used to do this. My most ambitious effort was using the 1:250-scale Wilhelmshavener kit for USS Forrestal as in 1956 to build a model to the same scale from styrene and perspex. It was just over 1.2 m long and 30 cm wide, and had a matching Fletcher class destroyer modified from the Wilhelmshavener kit for the Federal German Z-1. Neither survived multiple moves around the world and I do not think I would attempt such a project again!


An acquaintance of mine is building a mid-eighteenth-century sloop in wood using a Shipyard (of Poland) paper kit as a pattern. It will be interesting to see how it works.


Thanks very much again for your interest in this rather esoteric project.


Mörck’s design envisages a rotating turret (not something I want for a static display model). To that end, he envisaged fitting the turret through the deck from below. Nevertheless, I did not want to deviate too much from his construction procedure so the next step was to build the turret. The upper segment of his Catskill turret was black, so I cut it away and replaced it with a suitable strip of white card. I glued a wider strip of tracing paper on the back to strengthen the join, burnished the front face to minimise the join’s prominence, and added the rivet detail with pencil dots.




I find I have to have a different mental approach to building models in card from how I approach building a plastic or even wooden model. It is essential to pre-shape card parts to the correct configuration before assembling them. Card is very light and it does not work well to expect glue to hold parts together that do not match where they connect. In this instance the circular turret walls were pre-formed around a small paint jar.


The Russian monitors used different guns at various times (9-inch Krupp muzzle-loading smoothbore guns initially, then 15-inch Dahlgren muzzle-loading smoothbore guns produced under licence, and finally 9-inch M1867 breech-loading rifled guns), but I defy anyone to tell the difference when looking into the gunports of a 1:250-scale model, so I used the gun carriages and barrels provided to represent the 9-inch smoothbore guns mounted initially. (There is some confusion about the Dahlgrens but it appears that they really were Dahlgrens but cast using the Rodman system, so many writers refer to them as Rodmans.)




I used a suitable drill shank as a mandrel and rolled the paper shape provided around it to make the barrels—each is a single piece. My technique for rolling such pieces is to start with a drill shank rather smaller than the final diameter and roll it across the paper while pressing down on a somewhat yielding surface—I usually use a finger tip! After quite a few successive passes the paper roll is close to the correct diameter. I transfer it to drill shank of the right size and start gluing.




After I completed the guns, I painted over the visible white edges. I think it is important to finish the cut edges of the card parts to eliminate the white lines that otherwise would attract too much attention. I use watercolour brush tip pens or watercolour pencils that match the colour of the part. Some people become obsessed with trying to get an exact match but I find that just covering the white edges with a colour that is a close enough match satisfies me.




Mörck’s kit provides an optional white conning tower, so I used that. To achieve the domed shape of the conning tower roof I cut tiny wedges out of the rim and pressed it into the palm of my hand using the end of an ink pen. I fixed it solidly by gluing a small piece of tissue paper inside the roof, using the pen top again to maintain the shape. The strange ‘antenna’ projecting from the conning tower’s roof is not present because I was attempting to make a model of one of R2D2’s friends--it is a periscope that several US Navy monitors used and seems to have been fitted on all the Russian monitors (some writers have suggested it is the ship’s binnacle, but other documentation indicates that this is incorrect). It is single inverted L-shaped piece wrapped around a very small drill bit as a mandrel.




The turret top rim provided was black, so I simply installed it upside down to get a white rim. I temporarily removed the periscope because I knew I would break it if I left it sticking up. The turret top on the Russian monitors was surrounded with stowage for the crew’s hammocks but I have yet to devise an effective way to represent them (any suggestions will be much appreciated, and I hope I will come up with an answer before getting to the end of this project).


Thank you all for looking.




Edited by mdesaxe
Clarification of weapon types.
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For the deck (black in Mörck’s kit) I used a grey file folder. I printed out the deck on the obverse of my card and then used a needle point to transfer the layout arrangement of the characteristic ‘tiles’ of US Navy monitor deck armour to the visible side, drawing in its delineation with a very hard pencil. I printed out a copy of the deck on very thin paper, punched out the deck lights and coaling scuttles, and glued them onto my grey deck. I also marked the positions of various skylights and deck fittings (bollards and the like). Finally, I sealed everything with several light sprayed coats of clear flat lacquer (applying water-based finishes to large areas of paper or card is a really bad idea). After inserting the turret from below, I installed the deck.




To prepare the hull sides I used Kabuki tape (it comes off without tearing the card) to mask along the bottom edge of Mörck’s black hull sides and represented a red lower hull with a permanent marker (these bleed very little into the card, if at all). The white sheer stripe was 0.4mm dry transfer striping (I dislike dry transfers, but I detest waterslide decals even more!) To protect this work, I again sealed everything with several light sprayed coats of clear flat lacquer. I then measured the height of the stem and stern using tick strips (I worked my way through university in a boatbuilding yard—I quickly learned never to rely on a ruler for measurements!). I transferred the heights to the hull sides, measuring downwards from the sheer, and cut the sides to match, which left a small amount of red anti-fouling visible.


I hope that this project is of interest.



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Fabulous!  Always interesting to learn from other branches of our hobby, and the results are stunning.  

[Your technique of “rolling on a yielding surface with a rod slightly smaller than your desired radius”... works just as well with brass as it does with paper / card!]

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Thank you for all the liked and comments.


On 9/6/2020 at 1:06 AM, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

[Your technique of “rolling on a yielding surface with a rod slightly smaller than your desired radius”... works just as well with brass as it does with paper / card!]

I do not think I would recommend using a finger tip as the yielding surface when working with brass, though!




The last large structure to construct for this project is the funnel. The funnels of these Russian monitors were much taller than those of their American counterparts (8.75m versus 6.25m or less), probably to increase the draft for the furnaces because they had to use poorer quality coal than the Pennsylvania anthracite available to the US Navy. I used Mörck’s design as a pattern, added height to match my drawings, and marked it out. Initially I tried using a piece of yellow file folder for the funnel but this proved to be too thick and insufficiently flexible and homogeneous for the work.+ Instead I used a leftover piece of yellow card stock. I drew the plating divisions with a hard pencil and coloured the top section black using a permanent marker, masking the edge with Kabuki tape. I also painted the reverse side very dark grey using a watercolour brush tip pen to avoid any possible bleeding through of the colour to the front from choosing to use a marker again.




After making the basic piece, a layer of 1mm card formed the basis for the armour around the bottom of the funnel and more thin yellow card stock ensured a finished appearance. A circular strip of the same card created the rain protection gutter/air intake. The steam pipe is from a length of painted brass rod.


From this point on, the project will progress less rapidly because the work ahead is making and adding all the fittings that litter the decks of late 19th-century warships.



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When they first entered service these Russian monitors, like their American counterparts, had very little in the way of superstructure. This changed greatly later in their careers but initially the most prominent superstructure feature was a small boxlike structure towards the stern which housed the galley (not found on American monitors which employed a portable ‘cook box’ on the open deck). One odd feature was that the forward half of the roof was hinged to lift upwards, possibly to cool the interior in the summer. I made the galley from plain white card with a door (and its window) added. I painted the roof with medium grey watercolour, drew in the hinge line, and added a piece of painted brass rod for the galley stack.


On the American monitors, almost everything else on the deck was detachable and stowed below when clearing for action. This included the unusual skylights that taper outwards from the base to increase the glazed area and the cowl ventilators (the openings left by the removal of these fittings were sealed with plates to keep out water and shot). Even the bollards were detachable so that they would not become shot traps. The Russian monitors duplicated this distinctive feature.




Since my model is not to be cleared for action I needed to make all the fittings that clutter the deck the rest of the time. I made most of these from Mörck’s parts modified as necessary. First came the skylights. These needed to be white, so I made them from the parts supplied but assembled inside out and used dark blue-grey paper that matched the deck lights I made previously to replicate the glazing.




My spare parts collection was the source for the two canvas-covered ‘heads’ which, despite their name, are right aft.


Thank you all for your time and I hope you keep following as I add fittings.




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I have started working on making up al the small fittings that add so much interest to the appearance of ships of this era.




The anchor bitts, two sizes of bollards, and the fairleads all were Mörck’s parts. The bitts and bollards are not difficult to make but it is a quite monotonous project—rolling a dozen or so tiny paper tubes and capping them with punched discs of the appropriate size.




The fairleads, however, are very small (4mm by 2mm by 2mm) and end up with rather thin sections, so they gave me quite some challenge to make them. I do not like using CA glue for assembling paper models because it bleeds instantly into the card and discolours it permanently (there will be no prizes for working out how I discovered this, nor for guessing my reaction to the discovery!). Nevertheless, to strengthen the fairleads I added a tiny amount of CA to each one as I completed it. This stiffened them and allowed me to use a small file for final shaping. They finally were painted very  dark grey before installation. Even using CA, my wastage rate was quite high—I had to attempt eleven fairleads in order to end up with the six I needed for the model.




I received some additional information from a correspondent in Riga. Amongst other things, it made clear that the galley I made originally was too narrow from side to side, so I have made a new version of the correct dimensions.




When adding small  parts that are tall relative to their base diameters, I like to set pins in position to increase their stability. These pins, short lengths of either plastic or brass rod, do not need to fit tightly but they make the pieces much more secure. Here is an overall view of Uragan at this point. You can see several plastic pins here that are waiting for the ventilation cowls—which come next.


Thank you all for following this project.



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  • 5 weeks later...

Thank you all for your likes and comments.


Now that I have completed two of the model projects--1:250 scale Imperial German Navy Monitor Mosel and 1:250 scale Imperial and Royal Navy Danube River monitor Leitha (both in Ready for Inspection)--that I had started before beginning Uragan I feel comfortable returning to it. (You may notice a subject theme now!)


I suspect that cowl ventilators must be the bane of their existence for both paper model designers and builders. The overwhelming majority of cowl ventilators have bowl shaped cowls. There are a very few that function by taking advantage of the venturi effect and have conical cowls with small holes at the rear but these are very exceptional.




The design and construction challenge is to produce a bowl shape using paper, which inherently is flat. Designers have tried several different approaches, amongst which are a series of wedge-shaped rings that stack to make the bowl.




Some use petal shapes that curve into a bowl.




Or the commonest which uses a shaft extended at the upper rear to form the lower part of the bowl and a second element that curves into a modified cone (often simply settling for a cone and trying to finesse the issue). Mörck supplies this last type of cowl ventilator, so I decided I needed to do what I could to end up with a respectable approximation to a bowl shaped cowl. I started by rolling the shaft itself in the conventional way. After cutting out the cowl part, I used a simple domed hard wood tool I have fabricated to simultaneously roll the cowl part into a conical shape and dish the paper as I rolled it by pressing it onto a semi-resilient pad (a folded paper towel works well, as does the palm of my hand). I found that if I persisted with this process the paper formed itself into quite a reasonable approximation to a bowl.




After butt joining the small ends of the piece, I let it dry thoroughly and then glued it to the shaft. Again, the assembly was allowed to dry thoroughly, after which I carefully used the dome tool to press the assembly onto the semi-resilient pad. The end result was quite satisfactory.






 I admit I had to apply a coat of white acrylic ink (not paint, which is too thick) to eradicate some variations in tone on the outside from handling. The inside of the cowl I painted red with watercolour paint. Here are all five of Uragan's ventilators installed on the deck.


Some paper model builders have suggested dampening the paper of the cowls to make it easier to create the bowl shape. I must admit that the idea of doing this makes me nervous (I have had some unfortunate outcomes from dampening paper parts in the past) but I may very well try it on a future project.


The next challenge will be making the ship’s boats and their davits.


Thank you for looking and for your encouragement.




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Thanks you again for your likes and comments.


I had said that the next stage of this project would be to make up and fit the boats and their davits. Fortunately, before I had progressed much with this work, I remembered that I still had to finish working on the details on the turret top. If the boats and davits were in place, they would obstruct this work and also be virtually guaranteed to suffer damage, so I stopped building the boats and davits and turned back to the turret.


I first had to carefully remove the ‘rifle proof’ palisade around the turret top because the material I received recently on these monitors made it clear that these were fitted some time later in their careers and were of a more elaborate shape. Luckily this was not too difficult and caused no damage to the model.


Next I had to make up and fit the distinctive awning stanchions. I marked out the positions for the sixteen stanchions and made small holes to accommodate their feet. The stanchions themselves were made from 0.5mm brass wire bent to shape using a simple jig. I used lacquer thinners to degrease them and chemically blackened them.




I then needed to work out how to represent the hammock in their stowage (the hammocks were stowed around the perimeter of the turret top to act as protection against small arms fire—a usage that went back to the era of sailing ships-of-the-line). I found a reasonable method to replicate them completely by accident. I was studying details for an imminent future construction project of a rather more conventional vessel when I noticed that it had hammock stowage in the wooden troughs along the tops of the bulwarks that replaced the netting used on earlier warships. When I was thinking about how to model the hammocks I remembered that I had some Evergreen sheets for corrugated metal siding and thought that a 1mm-wide strip of this might look quite like stowed hammocks when put on top of the model’s bulwarks. I made a quick test piece and confirmed it would work and then realised that I could use the same material for Uragan’s hammock stowage if suitably adapted.


The stowed hammocks on Uragan are Evergreen’s 1mm pitch corrugated siding with lines scribed across it at 1mm intervals. I cut a 5mm wide strip and curled it appropriately. I painted it a lightish tan colour and then drybrushed it with a pale sand shade so that the tan delineated the divisions between the individual hammocks. After I adjusted each stanchion to the correct height, I attached the ‘hammocks’ around them and glued some darkened laser-cut paper railings on them to represent the cagework that retained the hammocks. I think it works quite well even though I know there are no divisions on the inner face—a fact that I hope I can ignore, since I am fitting the awning that these Russian monitors seem almost always to have rigged and this should disguise the omission.


You may have noticed that there is a gap in the ‘palisade’. This is because the Russian monitors fitted a semi-permanent stairway for access to the turret top instead of the vertical ladder used on the American vessels. Mine is from laser-cut paper.




The Russian awnings were different from those seen on American monitors; they had almost no ‘pitch’. I made mine from a circle of thin cream-coloured paper. I drew pencil lines on the bottom to represent the stays running to the heads of the stanchions (this also imparted a slight crease that made it seem as though the ‘canvas’ of the awning sagged a little over the stays). I also cut a narrow wedge so that the finished awning was very slightly conical instead of completely flat.




To finish work on the turret I made a small hole in the centre of the awning and installed the periscope made earlier. I also made a hole off-centre for the mast that was stepped on the turret top. I will fit the mast itself at a later stage to avoid breaking it off whilst I am working on the model.




I realised that I had one more thing to do before I could move on to making and installing the boats and their davits. The funnel stays would be very difficult to fit with the davits in place, so I fitted them now from very fine chemically blackened copper wire.


I now feel comfortable moving on to the boats and davits.


Thank you all fr looking and you nice comments.




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Thank you all for looking at this project's progress.


The boats Magnus Mörck provides for USS Lehigh probably are appropriate for an American monitor but the Russian vessels embarked very different craft. Fortunately, I was able to replace them with the correct boats by taking them from a kit published by Paper Shipwright for the Russian monitor Smerch, an exact contemporary of Uragan but equipped with two Coles pattern turrets instead of the single Ericsson type.


The challenge with making small boats from paper is to give them a proper boat-like shape. Often what is provided makes a V-shape from the sheer to the keel, which is not very prototypical.




For these boats, after I cut out the hull part I rolled it fore and aft to give it a curve from the keel to the sheer.






Then I used the round end of a paintbrush and pressed the part on a pad of paper towels to introduce a convex shape into the bow area.




I glued the thwarts unit into one side first.




After it had dried thoroughly I brought up the other side and glued it to the thwarts unit.




To maintain the curvature of the cross section, after I had cut the bottom board into two pieces, I inserted the forward section through the thwarts, pressed it into place, and glued it from underneath using a length of fine wire as an applicator. When that was dry, I inserted the after section of floorboards and glued this the same way.




Finally, I added the transom  and rub rails before fitting oars and a rudder. The finished boats are 3cm long overall.


Thanks again for looking at this project.



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The davits on the Russian monitors were very different from those on their American equivalents. Davits on Russian ships at this time were not of the radial type but pivoted at the heel near the deck directly outboard with control coming from an inboard  tackle. Furthermore, the davits on these monitors were much taller because the Russian designers had the idea that they should carry the boats above the level of the turret top so that the boats and davits would not obstruct the turret guns’ field of fire. I am very dubious about the efficacy of this concept because I think it highly likely that when firing the guns beneath the boats the muzzle blast would at the very least cause significant damage to the boats and more probably destroy them.




I made new davits from square brass rod bent to shape on another jig. I made them a little longer so that I could insert the feet into holes in the deck to make them more stable. The dummy pivots are tiny triangles of card.




The tackles that lower the davits outboard I made from fine copper wire and punched card discs. They were assembled on a jig and are a single piece of wire from end to end. Because the davits were so tall, they were braced from side to side with stays—also copper wire on the model. As you can see, I still have to add a little white and dark tan paint (for the blocks and the actual lines) and blacken the stays.


Thank you all again for looking.



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