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Schooner Eagle


Alex Bellinger
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Schooner Eagle

 

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Schooner Eagle and her sister Arrowsic were built on the Arrowsic River in Maine in 1847 by master builder Samuel Pattee.  Eagle went into the “packet” service between Bath and New York while Arrowsic entered the coastal lumber trade.   Both were considered good sailors with fast passages to their credit.  Arrowsic capsized off Block Island in 1860 from carrying too much sail in a gale.

 

These schooners were examples of the kind of humble working vessels that kept the pulse of the American maritime economy going for most of the 19th century and well into the 20th.  Before the expansion of rails and roads, coasting schooners like these were the primary means of transportation and communication between many coastal and Down East communities.  Once a very familiar sight all along the seaboard, these coastal schooners were overshadowed by the glamorous clippers, adventurous privateers and racing fisherman and they could slip out of memory altogether.

 

Fortunately, the half hull used for the design of both schooners was donated to the Smithsonian by William Pattee and Howard I Chapelle took off her lines and published them in The National Watercraft Collection.  Sometime in the 1970s Model Shipways created a kit reconstructing her rig and adding many details.  Tom Matterfis of Clearwater, Florida, kindly sent me a set of these plans along with others, and that got me started.  It was clearly a good vessel for the one liter bottles I was using for classes and it was an excellent project for an intermediate ship in bottler looking for a little more challenge in a second model.  This little ship has good features with a square sail and the variety of deck details adding interest, while neither rig or hull work is overwhelming.  I have used it twice for classes with students who have successfully finished a ship in bottle and hope those reading this now may find something of value in the project.

 

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This is the Model Shipways plan, appearing here courtesy of Model Expo. The sketch accompanying the plan was drawn by marine artist John Leavitt, who wrote and illustrated Wake of the Coasters.  The plan was reduced for a model about 4 3/8”  overall and 3 1/8” high, about 29’ = 1”.  

 

 

I made my first model of her in 1990, not long after Tom sent me her plans.  I was still using plumber’s putty at the time, so now the sails are thoroughly “oiled”.  While they were changing color it wasn’t very pleasant, but now I do have to admit the soft translucence is nice to look at.  I made one or two more over the years but took her up again for a class in 2012.

 

Please bear in mind what follows was not pictures and notes accumulated for this kind of format, so there are gaps.  If anything is not clear, I will be glad to try to better explain.

 

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The hulls are made up from rough blanks cut out in halves and glued together along the centerline.  Rob Napier’s half models inspired this.  This way the sheer can be cut a little more accurately on my extremely capricious Dremel jig saw and you never lose the centerline.  Starting out with 10 hulls, 5 went to the guys in the class and another was a replacement for one of the guys who wanted to make a fresh start.   I wound up working on 4, primarily to show the various stages in the progress for each model.  In this picture the hull furthest from the camera is the most basic, still a rough hull blank with only the quarterdeck bulkhead and main deck center planks glued in.  Next to it is the one with the deck planked and some general hull shaping begun.  The next has the general hull outline, plan view, done and the waterways and first “plank” of the main deck bulwark are in.  The closest shows main deck bulwarks complete with timberheads and cavils attached.  The cap rails become the waterway for the quarter deck.

 

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The next shot is much the same stage but some waterways are started on the second hull, first bulwark plank for the third hull’s main deck are done and the last hull has a short rail around the quarter deck, a splash rail on the bow rails and the outline of the stem and head are attached.  In the background is a form used for bending bulwark “planks” and a couple of bent “planks” waiting to be glued in.

 

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Here the hull is getting wales attached, made up of two strips of thin stock, each about 0.020” thick and 1/32” wide.  All of the hulls, the initial blanks, decking, bulwarks, rails, timberheads, etc, are pine, probably most cut from the same piece of wood.  The clips used to hold stock in place are from the advice of Ralph Preston.  He bought a package of these, from Radio Shack I think, and we added the extra extensions on the handles from flattened brass tubing.  This makes them a little easier to handle, adds a little more weight when one is used to keep tension on a line, but they were mostly added on so Ralph could give me a lesson on using epoxy.  These were made up almost 30 years ago and I doubt any project since hasn’t made some use out of these little clips.  Here they hold the wales to the stem and a section of the rail over the transom.  The little notch is the splash rail is for the cat head.

 

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Another shot of the clamps at work.

 

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Here the second hull has timberheads in place and is getting the upper “plank” of her bulwarks.  A clip is holding a section of the rail alongside the billet on the stem.  Another shot of the same step shows the trail boards of the bow rails and a jig on the left for bending the thin stock to make the tight curve necessary for this detail.  A similar shot shows getting the bulwark “plank” curve around the form.

 

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Alex,

 

I am anxious to see the rest of this build log.  This looks to be a great project.  I have a couple of questions about the hull planking.    I see you bend the planks around a form.(Great Idea)   What is your process to get the planks bent?  Do you soak them in water or other softening agent?  Also, what kind of wood are you using for the planking?

 

I can also see where those clamps would come in handy, and like you said, probably usable in almost any project you could think of too.

 

Gwyl

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We all have favorite moments in the process and this is one of mine.  All the basic woodwork is done and something of the full potential of the model can be seen.  Masts and spars are turned hatches and deck cabin are made, and for the hull, channels and the transom have been added and the tricky head rails are done.  This will all be stained, sealed with gesso, and then the miserable business of painting begins.  As can be seen, the other hulls are lagging behind.

 

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This is a good example of when building in multiples can be an advantage.  Here are all the masts, spars and hatches for two schooners.  As usual, masts and spars are bamboo.   Mast and bowsprit caps are made up of a thin strip of paper wrapped around the mast and topmast, or bowsprit and jibboom, where they are joined.   The hatches are thin pieces of pine scribed to represent the hatch sections and then surrounded by thin stock to represent the coamings.  All this material is stained a darker stain than that used for the decks.

 

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This is a hull now stained and fitted with the stained masts and hatches.  The windlass has been added as well as the quarterdeck rail.  The railing is thin stock taped to the quarterdeck rail and marked with a pencil where the railing posts will be placed.  Holes are drilled with a #80 drill through the taped railing into the rail and the posts, made of copper wire unbraided from an extension cord.  The tape is carefully removed and the railing is gently raised over the rail to the correct height.  Then all is given a good coat of fresh superglue, allowing the glue to soak into the railing completely.  When dry the excess lengths of the posts can be cut off with nail clippers and the railing carefully sanded and filed to as light a weight as possible.  Often a fine model’s appearance is spoiled by railings that look too heavy.

 

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When the stains are dry all the surfaces to be painted get a few thin coats of gesso.   The quarterdeck railing is not given a coat yet because it will still need further sanding and filing.   As this model progress her sisters fall further and further behind.

 

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As often happens, I lose interest in photography between completing a hull and finishing the rigging.  Here the standing and running rigging are done, awaiting the sails and just a few details before bottling.  Unfortunately, this is when a number of features likely to create interest in the vessel are added.  These would include the quarterdeck steps, the wheel, pump, water barrel and stove chimneys forward near the bow and aft on the cabin roof.  I hope these all will be visible enough in a later picture.  The copper sheathing is made up of strips of painted paper the right height for each plate, which had been made up of strips the right length of each plate, glued together.  The paper was pained with Iridescent Copper and Green Oxide acrylics, only slightly mixed to allow for plenty of variation in color and tone.  On old paper cutter is very helpful with this job.  Please note the mast hoops, made of slightly flattened copper wire, on the lower masts of each mast.

 

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Here the mast hoops are getting straightened out and set in position.  By tipping the model back each hoop can be slid into position and glued with epoxy.  I wish I could say my desk is not often this messy, but that wouldn’t be true.  This rigging stand was from a design by Jack Hinkley.  Bill Howatt was taking one of my classes at the Custom House Museum and brought in a rigging stand he’d made from Jack’s design.  Sol Bobroff was also in the class and kindly made me a copy of Bill’s, which is the stand here.  In the past 25 years I have launched something like 65 models off this stand. 

 

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Sail material is ordinary light weight printer paper colored with warm gray magic marker and scribed to represent the seams or “clothes” making up the sails.  Since it is some trouble to make up this stuff, I used scrap paper to make up templates for each sail before cutting out the prepared materials.  Cutting three mainsails too small could make serious inroads into the supply.

 

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This is the finished model ready to make the trip through the neck.  Three weights of thread are used for the standing rigging.  Ordinary sewing thread, J & P Coates, is used for the lower shrouds and forestay.  A light weight, or fine sewing thread, again J & P Coates, makes up all the remaining standing rigging, backstays, main and fore top stays, bobstays and sheet, brace and vang pendants.  J & P Coats used to call this stuff embroidery or lingerie thread.  I got over my intimidation about asking for the stuff years ago.  Men is sewing shops are always viewed with suspicion.  The ratlines are fly tying silk.  All the running rigging is the same fine Coats thread, stained with Miniwax stain.  All threads are drawn through beeswax, but this is unnecessary for fly tying silk.

 

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It always seems remarkable when people ask how a traditional ship in bottle gets in there, because to us doing this for a while the story is so well known.  I hope the following will not be too much of a repeat of the familiar tale to those reading this.

 

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This is the beginning of the usual collapse. 

 

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Next it must come off the stand.  I usually attach the hull to the stand by gluing it to strips of brown paper, as from a grocery store bag, to the stand.  It will hold it firmly enough while working on it and gives it up without too much trouble when the time comes.

 

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As ever, this is when plenty can go wrong and usually something does.  Then it is a matter of what and how bad.  The crucial question is whether it’s bad enough to require a return journey through the neck, never a good idea, or whether all can be set right inside. 

 

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This a good trip and the masts are starting to come back up. 

 

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Finally all is up and done and this completed lady joins an older completed job. 

 

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Here is also a close up of the deck with features mentioned above, but rather briefly.

 

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For a sense of size, this is a shot of this 1 liter schooner with a 10 liter model of Constitution at the same scale.  They may be the same scale but here are years apart.  Eagle was launched in 1847 and this is how Constitution would have looked in 1812.  However, the fact both are in bottles on my dining room table further challenges any possible relevance in seeing them together.

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USS Constitution went into ordinary at the end of the Quasi-War with France in July 1802, then was recommissioned in May 1803, surveyed and re-fit for action in the First Barbary War and left for Tripoli in August.

 

At the end of the War of 1812, Constitution went to New York then to Boston where she underwent a complete survey for re-fitting before being placed in ordinary in January 1816.

 

             Table of yard dimensions taken in two surveys of Constitution.

 

            YARDS                                   1803 survey                1815 survey

    

               Fore                                        84’                               81’

            “  topsail                                     60’                               62’ – 6”

            “  topgallant                                40’ – 6”                       45’

            “  royal                                        29’                              28’

 

               Main                                        92’                              95’

            “  topsail                                     64’                              70’ – 6”

            “  topgallant                                44’                              46’

            “  royal                                        31’                              30’

 

               Mizzen                                     64’                              75’                              

            ”  topsail                                     46’                               49’

            “  topgallant                                30’                               32’

            “  royal                                        20’ – 6”                       20’

 

Note that there is no mention of skysail yards.

 

 

USS President was commissioned in 1800 and served in uneventful patrols during the last days of the Quasi-War with France. In 1801 a survey was done prior to assignment as flagship of a squadron of US warships going to Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis to convince the pirates controlling those cities to change their ransom demands for the release of US citizens and vessels being held.

 

There is a notebook that belonged to Joshua Humphrey, a principal designer of the six frigates contracted by the US Navy in 1794. The notebook has spar dimensions listed for President which were used to generate a sail plan that wasn’t used but is one of the oldest existing drafts of any part of those six historic frigates. It seems to be a preliminary draft distributed to sailmakers for estimates, quotes or bids for supplying those sails well before the actual sparring had been determined.

 

                Table of yard dimensions of President.

 

            YARDS                                 1801 survey             Humphrey’s notes 

     

              Fore                                         81’                               80’

           “  topsail                                      60’                               60’

           “  topgallant                                41’                               44’ – 6”

           “  royal                                        30’                               30’

           “  skysail                                     ----                               18’

 

              Main                                        90’ – 6”                        92’

           “  topsail                                     66’                               69’

           “  topgallant                                44’                               45’

           “  royal                                        32’                               30’

           “  skysail                                     ----                               20’

 

              Mizzen                                     66’                               72’                              

           ”  topsail                                     45’                               45’

           “  topgallant                                32’                               40’

           “  royal                                        24’                               26’ – 6”

           “  skysail                                     ----                               13’ – 4”

 

[Tables excerpted from spar tables in “The History of the American Sailing Navy: The Ships and Their Development” by Howard I. Chapelle, 1949, Appendix pp 484, 497-8]

 

 

The USS President was captured in January 1815 and immediately entered Royal Navy service as HMS President until broken up in 1818. A direct copy was immediately ordered, launched in 1829 and commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1832. No RN records or images indicate that the original or copy had skysails while in British service or when the original was captured.

 

The reason I mentioned the President is that the draft of her sail plan - which was not followed - was found in the 1830’s, re-titled as being of the Constitution (and of the United States for good measure) as part of the first public campaign to restore her at the news of the possible breakup of the beloved “Old Ironsides”. That draft, and its two re-titled versions, have inspired numerous erroneous paintings of all three of the large frigates of the early US Navy with skysails. 

 

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The sail plan for President that was re-titled as Constitution.

There are also numerous redrafts of this drawing for rigging and

sail plans of all six of the first US Navy frigates, all with skysails.

 

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Recent photo of Constitution which the US Navy claims correctly depicts

her as she appeared in the War of 1812, as far as can be determined.

Note, no skysails. In May, Constitution left Boston for a major rebuild. 

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Thank you for your kind words.  What follows here is, I promise, the end of this log as I prepared.  Dave raised a very good question I will answer separately below.

 

There are, of course, other methods, and I decided to use one of them for the second model.  Here she is rigged, with sails, but please note her foretop stay leads through a hole in the mast head, not the bowsprit. 

 

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The collapse and removal from the stand are essentially the same. 

 

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David Kolaga, a fine ship in bottler, once told me vertically mounted ships in bottles must always go in bow first.  Any rule demands an exception, but this one has always made sense to me.  Here the schooner is making her way down the neck of a 1 liter Florence boiling flask.  This is one of a bag of these given to me by the late Jim Moore, an excellent ship modeler who made fine models of the modern cargo ships he spent his life working in.  Unlike some such gestures, this one was greatly appreciated.

 

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Settled in her new home but a long way from getting sorted out, this Eagle takes a while to get into proper shape.  At last she cooperates and rigging resumes its job keeping all in place. 

 

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One of the great benefits of Jim’s fine lab flasks is not only the high quality of the glass, but the many views we don’t get with a traditional bottle. 

 

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  Here she is rigged, with sails, but please note her foretop stay leads through a hole in the mast head, not the bowsprit. 

 

 

 

Alex,  

 

For some reason I have never thought of this possibility, to leave the loose line at the top of the mast instead of the bowsprit.  Some times I seem to be thinking to hard about a problem and forget to think outside the box so to speak.  I can see how this technique is so much better for this application of the vertical bottle neck vs the horizontal neck.

 

Gwyl

 

 

BTW,  another beautiful ship!   :D

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Magnificent work.  I like the idea of putting the lines through the top of the masts.  I've done it a few times with only one line but never all of them.  For vertical bottles I have always built the ship normally with the lines going out the bowsprit.  After I raised the masts and glued down and cut the lines I would rotate the ship into place which isn't always easy and is impossible when the ship is a tighter fit.  I'll have to try out this method.  

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Dave,

 

I attempted to reply directly to your post but got a message saying the "image wasn't authorized for this community" or something like that.

 

You raise a good question on USS Constitution’s skysails and I admit not having done all I might have to confirm whether they are plausible or not.  It’s good not to get complacent about things long taken for granted.  My primary authority is Chapelle’s sail plan for USS President, which carries the caption, “Drawn from the spar dimensions and a sail plan of the Constitution shortly after the War of 1812”.  There are other sources and I was certainly influenced by models by craftsmen I admire, but perhaps we’d all been taken in by an inaccurate idea of the ship.  It would not be the first time a couple of generations of model makers and marine artists fell in love with a feature that did not have sufficient justification.

 

Huinphreys’ lists shows the sail plans of these large ships were changing.  Instead of considering the absence of mention of skysail yards proof they weren’t there on one of the sisters, might not the mention of them on one ship, the President, make it more likely they might have been carried on her sister at times?  There are other instances when contemporary accounts contradict.  Duncan MacLean lists no fore or mizzen skysail yards in his Boston Atlas account of McKay’s clipper Lightning yet they are clearly there in a sail plan published by John Griffiths in the US Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal.  Ironically Griffiths published a sail plan of the brigantine Newsboy with a very specific form of double topsail, but both contemporary ship portraits of Newsboy show her with a single topsail. 

 

I admit I have never seen the actual ship carrying skysails, nor am I ever likely to.  As light weather sails, they are likely to only be up in very specific conditions, and only with a highly skilled, active crew to manage them.  It is unlikely the Navy will ever take the risk with this national treasure.  But their absence would not be conclusive.   Similarly, the ship today has no stuns’l booms or irons on the yards to support them.  I doubt anyone would conclude from this she never set stuns’ls.

 

But to be sure, I wrote to Marhgherita Desy, former curator at the Constitution Museum and current historian for the Navy at Boston Navy Yard, and here is my note and her reply:

 

From: alex_chris@comcast.net [mailto:alex_chris@comcast.net]
Sent: Monday, June 01, 2015 11:38 AM
To: Desy, Margherita M CIV NAVHISTCEN Det Boston
Subject: Constitution skysails?

 

Good Morning Margherita,

 

 
Based on Chapelle's well known sail plan of President, I have built models of Constitution with skysails.  Chapelle notes the President sail plan was "from spar dimensions and a sail plan of the Constitution made shortly after the War of 1812".  A friend just wrote questioning my choice, citing two notes made by Humphreys in 1803 and 1815, listing her spars without any mention of skysail yards.  I always assumed these were light weather sails set as circumstances, such as escaping the British squadron, required and were probably set on skysail poles.  Now I realize all my sources are 20th Century and may have more to do happy imagination.   Can you let us know if there is any contemporary information to justify this decision?
 
Thanking you in advance for your trouble,
 
Sincerely,
 
Alex Bellinger

 

 

 

Hi, Alex:

Thanks for your query.

Yes, USSC did carry skysails, at least close to the W/1812 & afterwards - she may not have carried them in her very early years.  Here's what we know - a lot of this info comes from research conducted by CDR Tyrone G. Martin:
1.  First attachment is a very poor copy of a sketch of USSC in a notebook kept by Commodore John Rogers, dated c.1809 (sadly the original of the image is possibly lost, after it was photographed for TGM's A MOST FORTUNATE SHIP) - note the triangular skysails

2.  Charles Ware's 1817 USSC sail plan is held by the National Archives/DC - you can access a high-quality image that can be downloaded at this link:
http://preservearchives.tumblr.com/post/12788994116/the-uss-constitution-sails-again
It is this image that was re-drawn many times in the 20th century and likely what Chapelle was using for President - note the sky sails

3.  TGM notes the first log book mention of sky sails 18 July 1812; the 4th Auditor's Settled Accounts, 24 Sept. 1812 notes masts and spars repairs which included: "Three Skysail masts 39 - 36 - & 30/ $11.25" - translated this means 3 sky sail masts, at 39', 36', & 30' - so one for each of the 3 masts on the ship.

On 12 March 1821, the log notes: "...fitted skysail stays..."
6 May 1822, the log notes: "Carpenters scaffing [scarfing] skysail mast on the royal mast..."
2 October 1823, the log notes that the main skysail mast was blown away in a heavy squall; it was replaced on 5 October with the note of sending up new "skypoles".

4.  The 2nd attachment is the list that I put together of all the sails for USSC as we know them at this point - between 46 and 48 sails, depending upon one set of studding sails - for a total sail area of over 44,000 square feet of canvas - more than 1 acre in total.

I hope this information helps.  
Take care!

Ciao,
Margherita

 

 

I will be happy to send you the attachments she included if you’d like to see them. 

 

Again thank you for your attention to detail and for spurring me on to doing more careful research.  As above, things should really not be taken for granted.

 

Have you tackled a Constitution or are you considering it?  I certainly hope so.  Now she is in drydock it is an excellent time to see her and really appreciate her lines.  I’ve made 4 models of her and this refit is making me consider starting a 5th. .   What if we were to start such a project at the same time?  Now that would be an interesting Building Log!

 

Sincerely,

 

Alex Bellinger

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Alex,

 

I am anxious to see the rest of this build log.  This looks to be a great project.  I have a couple of questions about the hull planking.    I see you bend the planks around a form.(Great Idea)   What is your process to get the planks bent?  Do you soak them in water or other softening agent?  Also, what kind of wood are you using for the planking?

 

I can also see where those clamps would come in handy, and like you said, probably usable in almost any project you could think of too.

 

Gwyl

Gwyl,

 

The plank bending is very basic.  The wood is pine and I just hold it under a hot water tap for a couple minutes before bending and clamping it to the form.  Bass wood has also worked pretty well for this, and holly is supposed to be the best.  It does hold the shape well.  Marks left by the clamps usually swell back out in a while.

 

Alex

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Magnificent work.  I like the idea of putting the lines through the top of the masts.  I've done it a few times with only one line but never all of them.  For vertical bottles I have always built the ship normally with the lines going out the bowsprit.  After I raised the masts and glued down and cut the lines I would rotate the ship into place which isn't always easy and is impossible when the ship is a tighter fit.  I'll have to try out this method.  

Thank you Dave.  I think the lines out the top of the masts is a variation of the "Japanese technique".  I once tried to raise the jigger mast of a yawl by a forestay leading down to the deck ahead and NOTHING would induce this little stick to rise.  Ever since I always make sure the highest line leading to the mast on a vertical model raises that mast as well.

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Thanks, Alex, for sharing with us. I admire your work and am sure we can all learn from it.

 

I wasn't questioning your research on USSC - I knew beforehand that much of the information is conflicting - but it seemed a good place to start a brief discussion on research in general and to learn about the decisions you made when you built your model. I readily admit that I didn't look any further than the data in Chapelle's book and timelines for Constitution and President to verify that those surveys coincided with known opportunities for those surveys to have been taken. Thanks for taking my post in the spirit it was meant.

 

I lean towards a view of her with skysails, more so in light of the supplemental information you just provided. I admit that I like the appearance better, but know I can't allow such personal inclinations to influence my decisions when the information isn't conclusive.

 

When I excerpted from the 1803 and 1815 surveys of USSC I omitted the lengths of all spars but the yards. The 1803 survey lists the vertical spars as "fore, fore top, fore topgalt, fore pole", etc, while the 1815 survey lists "fore royal, fore skysail pole" (substituted for "fore pole") but doesn't list a length of a skysail yard. The 1815 survey confirms the skysail poles at the lengths you mentioned above. This survey also lists all the spar diameters and the lengths of the doublings ("heads" in the tables). If I decided that the time was right for me to build another USSC, this 1815 table would be my place to start for the sparring.

 

BTW, Chapelle's "History of the American Sailing Navy" also has sparring tables for the United States in 1807 and 1815 that I overlooked. The tables follow the same pattern as those for USSC with the exception that the lengths of skysail yards are listed in the 1815 table for USSUS. There are sparring tables for Congress, Constellation and Chesapeake with no mention of "skysail poles" suggesting that they did not carry skysails, but the tables are dated soon after the ships' completions and, in view of the tables for their larger sisters, are not necessarily definitive. There is also a spar take-off of Chesapeake by the Royal Navy after her capture by Shannon that doesn't list royal yards suggesting that the royals may have been sent down when Chesapeake cleared for action. Some paintings and wood-cut prints of USSC in her actions against Guerriere, Java, and Cyane and Levant (and of United States v Macedonian) don't show royals (or skysails) - presumably for the same reason - while other depictions do. 

 

 

I've been following a discussion that has been going on for more than two years on Model Ship World regarding the number of stern gallery windows across the stern of the Constitution, when they changed and why, whether or not the underlying structure fits, comparisons between various artistic depictions, etc. It's been fun and educational following this discussion although much of the information is not conclusive, merely suggestive, and I doubt that a definitive timeline of the changes can ever be proved. However, the discussion seems a pretty good place to look for new primary and secondary sources of information on Constitution, and I found it useful for gaining an insight into how to better evaluate sources.

 

I've started three Constitutions and finished two: a plastic Revell kit when I was 12, the large Revell kit when I was 26 (which was destroyed during a move when it was about 75% complete, my last attempt at a conventional static ship model before switching to SiBs) and an SiB that I realized had been too ambitious for my skills and techniques when finished and I wasn't very pleased with. USSC has long been on my list of possibles waiting for my confidence and skills to build it the way it deserves to catch up to my ambition. I think not yet but perhaps soon if a couple learning projects go well.

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Some good points and discussion here. I too have had some issues with so called experts who have written journals or have illustrated books with inaccurate information or poor research. Another dilemma here at play is during an initial fit or refit of a vessel the senior shipwright may make a change with regards to rigging or sparring due to availability or lack of equipment, material, dumb luck, or goods.

The best source of information usually will be the old B&W stills taken by naval enthusiasts at the time however one must remember the picture is a snap shot in time. Due to damage from weather, war, or mutiny a shipwright will rig his ship with whatever he can get his hands on. I can honestly say Constitution had stunsils ( Old Ironsides An Illustrated History of USS Constitution by Thomas P. Horgan), but I have never seen a photograph of her with sky sails. Having said that it doesn't mean the captain never tried it out. It would have been a rigging/furling nightmare at those heights. From my research on clippers that preceded Constitutions era many of the clipper ships also carried Sky-sail masts above the royals so who knows?

BTW Charle Wares plan drawing is identical to the back two pages of Horgan's book! Drawing is dated 1817.

Jeff

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Thanks, Alex, for sharing with us. I admire your work and am sure we can all learn from it.

 

I wasn't questioning your research on USSC - I knew beforehand that much of the information is conflicting - but it seemed a good place to start a brief discussion on research in general and to learn about the decisions you made when you built your model. I readily admit that I didn't look any further than the data in Chapelle's book and timelines for Constitution and President to verify that those surveys coincided with known opportunities for those surveys to have been taken. Thanks for taking my post in the spirit it was meant.

 

I lean towards a view of her with skysails, more so in light of the supplemental information you just provided. I admit that I like the appearance better, but know I can't allow such personal inclinations to influence my decisions when the information isn't conclusive.

 

When I excerpted from the 1803 and 1815 surveys of USSC I omitted the lengths of all spars but the yards. The 1803 survey lists the vertical spars as "fore, fore top, fore topgalt, fore pole", etc, while the 1815 survey lists "fore royal, fore skysail pole" (substituted for "fore pole") but doesn't list a length of a skysail yard. The 1815 survey confirms the skysail poles at the lengths you mentioned above. This survey also lists all the spar diameters and the lengths of the doublings ("heads" in the tables). If I decided that the time was right for me to build another USSC, this 1815 table would be my place to start for the sparring.

 

BTW, Chapelle's "History of the American Sailing Navy" also has sparring tables for the United States in 1807 and 1815 that I overlooked. The tables follow the same pattern as those for USSC with the exception that the lengths of skysail yards are listed in the 1815 table for USSUS. There are sparring tables for Congress, Constellation and Chesapeake with no mention of "skysail poles" suggesting that they did not carry skysails, but the tables are dated soon after the ships' completions and, in view of the tables for their larger sisters, are not necessarily definitive. There is also a spar take-off of Chesapeake by the Royal Navy after her capture by Shannon that doesn't list royal yards suggesting that the royals may have been sent down when Chesapeake cleared for action. Some paintings and wood-cut prints of USSC in her actions against Guerriere, Java, and Cyane and Levant (and of United States v Macedonian) don't show royals (or skysails) - presumably for the same reason - while other depictions do. 

 

 

I've been following a discussion that has been going on for more than two years on Model Ship World regarding the number of stern gallery windows across the stern of the Constitution, when they changed and why, whether or not the underlying structure fits, comparisons between various artistic depictions, etc. It's been fun and educational following this discussion although much of the information is not conclusive, merely suggestive, and I doubt that a definitive timeline of the changes can ever be proved. However, the discussion seems a pretty good place to look for new primary and secondary sources of information on Constitution, and I found it useful for gaining an insight into how to better evaluate sources.

 

I've started three Constitutions and finished two: a plastic Revell kit when I was 12, the large Revell kit when I was 26 (which was destroyed during a move when it was about 75% complete, my last attempt at a conventional static ship model before switching to SiBs) and an SiB that I realized had been too ambitious for my skills and techniques when finished and I wasn't very pleased with. USSC has long been on my list of possibles waiting for my confidence and skills to build it the way it deserves to catch up to my ambition. I think not yet but perhaps soon if a couple learning projects go well.

David,

 

This touches on an area of confusion that has always made me a little uneasy.  Frequently listing of spar dimensions, usually for clippers,  have separate dimensions for royal and skysail masts when in most cases there is only a single continuous stick, the topgallant.  I have always assumed these dimensions identify where the topgallant stay and shrouds will be attached, therefore the hoist of the topgallant yard. and further up for the royal stay, skysail, etc.  The main advantage of these dimensions for model makers is getting a firmer idea where the yards should be.  Do you know of anything confirming this? 

I only know of a couple of big Webb clippers - Comet and Young America - that had separate royal masts, set up on doublings above the topgallants.  I have never heard of any of the smaller American frigates with skysails but have not been especially looking for them either.  Always wanted to try one of them but still haven't gotten around to it.

 

Alex

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I would like to see this topic continue concerning the build of the Schooner Eagle.

 

I moved the remainder of this discussion to Odds And Ends.  The topic had split into a discussion about books and research.  The discussion can be found here.  

 

http://www.bottledshipbuilder.com/index.php?/topic/112-books-and-research-moved-from-build-log/

 

Gwyl

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