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Bottled Ship Builder

U.S. Frigate Constitution, 1812

Dave Fellingham

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After much discussion, both public and private on this forum, I've decided to build a model of "Old Ironsides" in a bottle. After a quick study of the available information, I decided to depict her as she appeared just prior to her battle with Guerriere which inspired her nickname. The Constitution is currently in dry-dock for a two year refit including replacement of the copper sheathing and a probable restoration of the stern decorations to the 1812 configuration. My dead line for completion will be around the time of completion of this refit. I photo-shopped a general idea for my model in a bottle using an image of a completed Revell model with the bottle shape drawn in. I've decided to use a spherical boiling flask, neck down, with Constitution displayed as a conventional full hull model. I have not decided on the size of the boiling flask or the scale of the model.



General plan for USS Constitution in a boiling flask, neck down.




I ordered and received the set of drawings on CD from the USS Constitution Museum [ USSC Plans ] and set to work. The three view plans of the hull from the CD are from a draft by William Doughty under Joshua Humphreys' supervision following the original Humphreys plans and suggested revisions by Josiah Fox. On the CD this plan was in two parts and needed to be reassembled. This required cutting up, digitally, these two pages into five pieces - fore and aft profile, fore and aft plan, and the end view - and reassembling them with as much distortion (from reproduction of the original images) as possible removed. I'll call this draft the Doughty plan and it is my primary source for the hull form.



Doughty plan after reassembly with some additional text for scale of this draft, notes and view labels.


I also downloaded Howard I. Chapelle's re-draft of the same 1794 plans because he includes profiles from station lines forward and aft of the last frames built square to the keel which I can use to check my own projections in these areas. [Chapelle plans] Having two re-drafts of the same plans proved useful later. "The History of The American Sailing Navy: The ships and Their Development" by Chapelle has been useful for understanding the history of the draft being used.



Chapelle plan used to double check some details when needed.


Both 1794 plans show 15 guns on the spar deck with a low bulwark at gunport lintel height, or a little higher in places, stanchions each side of the gunports and a cap rail. This was later changed during construction to 12 guns, fully framed and planked bulwarks (mostly) and a waist without guns between the fore and main mast. There are no known plans from 1794 through to the Royal Navy take-offs in 1815 of the captured President.


There are two existing sets of paintings commissioned shortly after Constitution's victory over Guerriere, one set by Michel Fellice Corne, commissioned by Captain Isaac Hull, and another by George Ropes Jr. There are other contemporary paintings and lithographs of this shocking (to the British) victory. The Corne paintings were supervised by Hull's purser to ensure accuracy and timely completion. Ropes was a protege of Corne and his paintings generally conform to Corne's depictions. I'm using these two sets of paintings for colors and some details.



Corne set of paintings of USSC in the Peabody-Essex Museum.



Ropes paintings in the USS Constitution Museum.


There are two contemporary models in existence. The first is a model started by a crew member that was finished with the aid of other crewmen and was presented to Captain Hull after he was assigned to other duties and Captain Bainbridge took command of Constitution. [Hull model] This model will also be a reference for details not shown on the plans or paintings. I found a set of stunning photos of this model [ Hull model photos by Evan Gale ] The second model was made from a section of damaged rail by some crew members for a sailor named Dunn who lost a leg in the battle. This model was hull only but was completed at a later date. This model is rather small, compared to the Hull model, and shows numerous details from the period of the model's completion rather than in 1812. [Dunn model]



Hull model.


The Corne paintings and the Hull model are in the Peabody-Essex Museum. The Ropes paintings are in the USS Constitution Museum and the Dunn model is in the Manchester Historical Museum. This is one of the few times when I wished I didn't live in California.


I'm currently awaiting delivery of two books: “A Most Fortunate Ship: A Narrative History of Old Ironsides” by Tyrone Martin and “The Boats of Men-of-War” by W E May. I am considering buying “Constitution: All Sails Up and Flying” by Olof Eriksen but it doesn't yet fit into my budget (at almost US$100 it's a bit pricey). I considered "The 44-Gun Frigate USS Constitution, 'Old Ironsides' (Anatomy of the Ship)" by Karl Heinz Marquardt but it is not on my list for reasons I'll get into a bit later.


After pasting the Doughty plans back together, I started to redraft them using a vectored graphics program that will allow me to scale them to the scale of the model without having my digital draft "pixelated" when it is scaled down. I started with the keel, stem and stern post components followed by deadwood and keelsons that trap the ribs. Then the ribs were drawn in the profile view according to the 1794 plans. Both of the 1794 plan re-drafts show the ribs as being doubled ribs of 11.5" / 29.2 cm - 23" / 58.4 cm total for each double rib - at 26" / 66 cm centers except for one single rib at the line of maximum beam.


I learned that Marquardt has these ribs as more or less alternating single and double ribs with a much greater than 3" / 7.6 cm gap between. This is one of the few things we know about USSC with certainty because the keel and most of the lower futtocks of the ribs are original to the 1794 to 1797 construction. Since Marquardt didn't get these details right I have serious doubts about the other details in his book, which explains why it's not on my book list. Reviews of the book comment on this and other discrepancies with other sources. I may check on an inter library loan a bit later just to see if the book offers any other insights, but I see little reason to buy it.



Current state of my working drawings.


I'm currently finished with drafting the ribs and cant frames fore and aft in the profile view with the gunports framed and the cant frames and hanging knees/hawser frames drawn in the plan, but the hawser frames remain to be drawn in profile. I'm working on two studies of the transom and counter framing for five windows and six to help me decide which way to go based on usual practice for this framing. The Hull model has six gallery windows but the Corne and Ropes paintings show five. I found an image from Marquardt showing six. One of the lithographs I mentioned above shows seven gallery windows. I'm thinking that I'll resolve these discrepancies by what makes the most sense structurally unless I come across more information. This is probably one of those questions that will never be resolved with any certainty until someone invents a time machine or finds an account from a reliable primary source that says for sure. I suspect those two choices have about an equal probability.



Stern detail on Hull model.



Stern and hull detail in first Corne painting. Note the yellow ocher gun stripe and absence of gun port lids.



Stern detail in first Ropes painting. Also note the gun stripe color and lack of port lids.


Some things learned so far were surprises. The most surprising is the gun deck ports did not have lids except the two most foreward on each side which had single lids unlike the clam shell lids currently on USSC. The plans and Corne and Ropes paintings don't show any and the Hull model shows only the four mentioned. The CD from the museum has a scupper plan for the gun deck that shows more scuppers than seems necessary for a closed-in deck but this conclusion is more conjecture than fact. The other surprise was finding that the Hull model has skysail masts/poles connected to the royal/topgallant masts but aft of the mast instead of foreward like on the rest of the mast.



Close-up of Hull model showing skysails masts/poles. Fore mast is on the right.


I have promised myself that I must finish another project before even one piece for Constitution will be cut, so for a while this log will cover my research and drafting of detailed plans. 

Edited by Dave Fellingham
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Congratulations on getting a start. I look forward to hearing the size flask you choose and the resulting scale, since this effects so many decisions. I hope to start my next Constitution next year, at a large (for me) scale of 24' = 1".

I am in the Constitution Museum fairly regularly and my wife and are soon visiting the Peabody Museum. Let me know if there are any pictures you'd like me to take.

I skimmed the Anatomy of the Ship edition on Constitution and was disappointed. If you can find a copy of Larry Arnot's guide for building Constitution from Bluejacket (without paying the hefty price!) there is interesting reading in it.

I take the liberty of attaching two pictures of my last model of Constitution which I hope may be of interest to this log. It was at 29' = 1", for a 10 liter bottle. The first is of the gundeck with the turned cannon barrels. I was very proud of them at the time but can't say they had much effect on the finished model. The second is of the hull in an early stage with the station lines across the bottom. The hollows are for all the lines that will have to be rigged through the hull.



I hope others will also share their experiences with this wonderful ship.


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Great start to what I know will be an exciting and wonderful build.  I too and looking forward to knowing the size of the boiling flask yo have in mind.  I also want to express my appreciation to the amount of research you incorporate into your projects! I am learning that with better research, comes a better build.



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Thanks, Gwyl. Research was a major chore in the pre-internet days when I started modeling ships,and I hated doing it. Now, with the web, I greatly enjoy it because I can put together in a day what took over a year 40 years ago. I enjoy the detective work needed to find the little details that ensure everything on a project is correct, or at least a best informed guess. Just a few minutes ago I was reading some information about USSC and found the anchor hawser size - 22" circumference. I have a Word document open all the time i'm prowling the web so I can take notes and sources for little bits of information like that. I found I can build better models when I've done my research. Another textual source for USSC from the Library of Congress collections I'm finding very useful is The Captain's Clerk


I'm considering Corning Pyrex boiling flasks of either 22 or 50 liters - 12" / 30 cm or 18" / 46 cm in diameter, respectively. I like larger scales because I can include more and better details and I like the spherical containers because they allow viewing of the model from all directions, even straight down. They are also easier to work in than a bottle since the model can be best positioned in relation to the opening to work on it. I'm leaning towards the larger boiling flask with the model at 20 ft to the inch, 1:240 scale - about 15" sparred length which is gigantic for an SiB and about the same size as the plastic Revell Constitution I built 50 years ago.


Alex, thanks for the offer of photos during your visits to the museums, but I can't think of anything specific at this time. I suspect you checked the link to the Hull model photos and found them as informative as I did. What I'd really like to know is what NHHC has planned for the stern restoration and why. I've bookmarked the photo page for the restoration work and am getting into the habit of checking on the progress.

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Dave,  I like the thought that you are considering the larger flask.




You would. The biggest drawback to the 50 L flask is cost, but experience has shown me that quality has a cost and that quality glass is worth every penny at twice the price.


My photo-shopped concept image reminded me of the three earliest known SiBs by Giovanni Biondo.



Model of Fama built by Giovanni Biondo in 1792. This bottle is clearly not spherical but is close in size to the 50 L flask. 



My mention of the Royal Navy draft of President, dated 1815, reminded me to take another look at it.



The Royal Navy draft of the captured President.


I made a detailed comparison between the three drafts I have and USSC as it is currently. First thing I noticed is that the Gun Deck gun ports on President are located somewhat differently (they look to be generally shifted aft) than on the Doughty and Chapelle drafts and that those gun ports on the current USSC are changed very little, if at all, from the Doughty and Chapelle drafts. The biggest difference is the bridle port added at the fore end of the Gun Deck by Bainbridge after he took command. The President draft has the bridle port. The Chapelle draft includes a pronounced flare of the bow bulwarks, which dates much later, and the Gun Deck bridle port. The draft of President clarified for me the more likely appearance at the bow rail. This draft also includes a partial detail of the transom with six gallery windows. 


I also compared these drafts to the Hull model and found what must be called an error on the model's Gun Deck. The Hull model has 15 ports on the Gun Deck but the most foreward of them is very close to the location of the bridle port cut out later. The spacing is consistent with the Doughty and Chapelle drafts but is one short. The only conclusion is that the model is short by one gun port and an average space between ports amidships. This realization resolved several inconsistencies and allowed further progress on my working draft, particularly the Spar Deck gun port locations and deadeye assemblies' positions on the channels. The channels on the Hull model are shorter than those on the Doughty draft and much shorter than those on the current USSC. I'm inclined to give the Hull model greater weight in this regard because the unnamed men who built it likely knew better than anyone about such details. The channels show two or three extra shrouds rigged with conventional blocks on each channel. Log entries for USSC between the declaration of war and the battle with Guerriere include the mention of rigging "shroud preventers". A preventer is an extra line rigged specifically as backup in case of battle damage and these block rigged shrouds seem to be the preventers mentioned in the log. Details that only crewmen would know.


I have also resolved the issue of the guns carried by USSC just before the Guerriere duel. Armament was 30 - 24 pounder cannons on the Gun Deck with 24 - 32 pound carronades and a single 18 pounder cannon on the Spar Deck. Unfortunately, I have no idea where this "shifting gun" might have been stowed. Some sources say this 18 pounder was rebored for 24 pound shot and is sometimes referred to as a gunade. Log book entries during the Great Chase state the 18 pounder was run out one of the stern chase ports, a 24 pounder was brought up from the Gun Deck and run out the other stern chase port which necessitated cutting the taffrail, and two more 24's were run out gallery windows. Bainbridge eliminated the 18 pounder by the time he fought Java, By 1815, four of the carronades were removed and replaced by two 24 pound gunades when USSC faced Cyan and Levant.



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I looked again at “Constitution: All Sails Up and Flying” by Olof Eriksen, found it on Google, where I could read some of it, and decided I had to have it, ASAP, whether it fits in my budget this month or not.




The portion I was able to read on-line included (among others) his research and conclusions on the Bentick shrouds on the fore and main masts and how they were rigged. He concluded that the Hull model correctly depicts them attached to the channel by a pair of blocks. This accounts for one of what I concluded were "shroud preventers" on each channel. The current USSC has them terminated at the waterway inside the bulwark rather than on the channel outside the bulwark. From what I could read, Eriksen compares, line by line, much of the standing rigging on the current USSC with period books by Lever (which I rely on heavily), Brady and another gentleman (whose name escapes me at the moment - getting old sucks) and the Hull model. I suspect that I will be relying on the Hull model and Eriksen's book for much of the rigging.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Quick update.  Received the three books I purchased on the web.


I received Tyrone G Martin's "A Most Fortunate Ship, A Narrative History of Old Ironsides" revised edition (1997) first and read it straight through that day and the next. A wonderful read covering Constitution's history from design through Commander Martin's tenure in command from 1974 to 1978. He was the first officer to be decorated for his service while in command of Constitution since Hull, Bainbridge and Stewart received Congressional Gold Medals (the forerunner of the Congressional Medal of Honor - Preble received a Congressional Gold Medal in the First Barbary War) during the War of 1812. Constitution received its first unit citation while under Martin's command. He instituted the wearing of War of 1812 uniforms by officers and crew, the daily firing of dawn and sunset salutes and the annual turnaround cruise on the 4th of July and firing of the nation's birthday salute at noon. Most important were his successful efforts to change the policy, at the time, of repairs as needed to one of regularly scheduled preventive maintenance and the step by step restoration of Constitution's configuration to that of her glory years. Commander Martin is considered one of the foremost authorities on Constitution. The book itself was used, at an excellent price, with only some slight edge tears of the dust jacket. I'm currently reading it again in detail. It also gives an excellent insight into life at sea during the early years of the sailing US Navy. Very highly recommended even for someone not interested in modelling the Constitution. I'm considering getting the first edition just to see what was changed in this edition.


"The Boats of Men-of-War" by W E May (1999) arrived next. It is a slightly revised edition of the 1974 edition with corrections by Simon Stephens as a result of new information found in the 25 year interval. The National Maritime Museum (in Greenwich, England) holds the copyright. I bought it for more specific information on the boat types used on Constitution and as a reference book for my library because it is considered by many to be the definitive work on the subject. It is full of photos of models, boat plans and tables of component dimensions and covers wooden boats used on warships from the 17th century through the first half of the 20th century. Very comprehensive but definitely not needed by the average ship modeler. This copy was also purchased used at a bargain price but arrived in almost new condition.



Constitution is known to have carried two launches, four cutters and a gig in the battle with Guerriere.

This photo (ca. 1880) from May's book clearly shows the differences between these three types.

The boat in the foreground is a gig, the one behind it is a cutter and the one behind that is a launch.


The third book was "Constitution, All Sails Up and Flying" by Olof A. Eriksen (2009). This 400 page paperback book (8 1/2" x 11" / 22 cm x 28 cm format) is without a doubt the most comprehensive work on the rigging of a specific ship I've ever seen. Mr. Eriksen received from Tyrone Martin a complete typewritten copy of the detailed notes by Midshipman Edward Clifford Anderson on board Constitution during her re-masting, re-sparring and re-rigging in 1834-35. Eriksen used these notes, comparing them to standard masting and rigging manuals of the period by Steel (the name that had slipped my mind when I made my previous post), Lever and one published by Brady in 1841, and to the Hull model. The book covers these comparisons, spar by spar, line by line and sail by sail from stepping the bowsprit to rigging the mizzen skysail. Every sail is completely detailed, even the stowing of the boats and the rigging of the guns are fully detailed. There are deck plans that show were every line of running and standing rigging was tied off. When Eriksen rigged his model of Constitution he went so far towards historical accuracy as to follow the notes and the manuals to erect the masts exactly as described. He photographed the process and included the photos in the book. He does not cover anything about building the hull for his waterline model, just the masting and rigging.



Olof Eriksen and his model of USS Constitution as it appeared one hour before engaging Cyane and Levant on 20 February 1815


According to Eriksen he had 4000 hours invested in his model of Constitution up to the beginning of the work described in the book and 20,000 hours upon completion. It took 18 years to build and is made of steel in recognition of her nick name. The model is at a scale of 1/2" = 1 foot (1/24 scale). Completed, it is over 13 feet / 4 meters long, 10 feet / 3 meters tall and 8 feet / 2.5 meters wide with studding sails set. It weighs 1,350 pounds / 610 kg. It is currently in a museum that doesn't even mention it on its website. Like almost anything given away, it is clearly not appreciated. The labor alone is likely worth near $1,000,000. The model has four miniature TV cameras concealed inside the hull to give views of the gun deck. There is a brass plaque in the Captain's cabin, visible to one of the cameras, dedicating the model to Commander Tyrone Martin, USN retired. I bought this book new because every copy available used was at the same price as new or higher! The only library I could find that has a copy is the Library of Congress. At US$83.00 it will be worth every penny and save me a lot of research time.


The sparring and rigging manual by William Brady is available as a free e-book. Search:  "The Kedge Anchor" by William Brady


The rigging section of the two volume manual by David Steel is also available as a free e-book. Search:  "The Art of Rigging" by David Steel.


Both volumes of David Steel's "Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship" (1794) are available in pdf format with membership at Scribd (www.scribd.com). They are also available to read at Steel (This link goes to the Historic Naval Ships Association website.)


Darcy Lever's "The Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor" is available in a large format (8 1/2" x 11") paperback for US$14.95 from the usual sources. You may find used copies for much less.


I was going to post here pdf copies of the Brady and Steel manuals but they are all over the 20MB limit (the largest files are just under 40MB). If anyone wants a pdf of any or all of these just PM me with your e-mail and I'll send them to you.



Edited by Dave Fellingham
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Also, you are research master when it comes to your projects!  :D




You give me too much credit, Gwyl, I'm just standing on the shoulders of giants like Tyrone Martin, Olof Eriksen and many, many others. In many cases I picked up a hint or clue from someone else's research being discussed on other ship modeling forums similar to this one and followed up on it or dug a bit further. Mostly my research follows directly in other's footsteps. Google has been a very big help.


Gwyl reminded me that Adobe Acrobat has a file reduction function. I tried it on Steel's "The Art of Rigging" and Brady's "Kedge Anchor" - reducing the files by 35-40%. Here they are:


The_Art_of_Rigging_by David Steel1.pdf


The Kedge Anchor1, William Brady, 1849.pdf


Be aware that Steel's works were published at a time when an 's' looked much like an 'f' without the little cross bar. Similarly with capitols. In words with double esses (e.g. possess) it will look much like pofsefs, but without the little cross bars). Confusing at first but the eye and brain quickly adapt until you hardly notice those peculiar 'efsef'. Spellings may seem a bit bizarre at times as well. Do you remember your English teachers red-lining your homework and commenting on run-on sentences? Steel is a grand master of run-on sentences, but it was the style of the time.


I'm going to try the file reduction on the two volumes of Steel's "Elements..." but I may be forced to turn it into three files.



Edited by Dave Fellingham
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The files for David Steel's "Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship" (1794) could not be reduced further and required dividing each volume into two parts. 


Volume Ia includes the Table of Contents with chapters on Mast Making, Rope Making, Anchor Making and part of Sail Making.

Volume Ib concludes Sail Making and includes Block Making and Rigging.

Volume IIa includes Seamanship and part of Naval Tactics.

Volume IIb concludes Naval Tactics and includes a Miscellaneous chapter and an Appendix of rigging tables.












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Thanks, Gwyl, it was my pleasure to post those pdf files of those old books. I figure the best way to model the various parts of 18th, 19th and early 20th century sailing vessels is to have an understanding, or a least a passing familiarity, with actual practice. These manuals were used by Royal Navy, East India Company and US Navy officers and skilled tradesmen at sea (like sail makers and carpenters) from the late 18th century through the end of the use of sail power on naval vessels. Nearly every English speaking officer and tradesman on sail powered commercial vessels made use of one or the other of these books well into the 20th century. They were an indispensable part of their trade and were likely the only books those men owned other than a Bible. Lever and Steel are still in print more than 200 years after their initial publication which is all the testament to their usefulness I need.


I found the Lever pdf. I prefer Lever simply because it has the best illustrations and only refer to Steel for items not covered by Lever. I have it as hard copy - and consider it my most important and useful reference book - so didn't think to download it as a pdf until a few minutes ago.




There are other books by numerous authors that are derived from these works but I don't have much use for them since I have the originals.



Edited by Dave Fellingham
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The Young Sea Officer is a great find Dave. The knotting and splicing brings back memories when I was up in the Beaufort Sea working for Esso Resources Canada. We had a gentleman from eastern Canada who was the only man certified at the tiime to reave wire rope into eyes for slings etc. One day while I was going to work the man had 4" diameter wire rope in which he was working into an single reverse eye sling. I was amazed as he had these two tools which looked like giant knitting needles and was in the process of weaving the rope. At the time (this was 1982) it was said he was the only person certified in North America to do this type of work.

I wish I could have become friends with him and learned the art he so passionately displayed. He was truly a master rigger to say the least. I had the hunch he was an old salt and probably a sailer to boot!

Thanks for posting this as the knot section will help with my Preussen build.


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Interesting coincidence, Jeff, I may have met the same guy. I was on stand-by as a welder during the placement of the submerged portion of an oil platform for Exxon (formerly Esso) and the subsequent erection and welding of the superstructure to it. I was quartered on the crane barge - the heaviest lift crane barge in the world at the time - during these operations. The barge was fitted with a second crane (15 ton capacity) specifically to handle the slings and shackles for use on the big crane. One of the men on board was in charge of all the rigging and he was pointed out to me as the only man certified in North America to make spliced eyes and service cable slings and such in the field at the sizes needed on this crane barge. This was in '86 or '87, if memory serves.



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That is too cool. It's a small world after all. The dates definitely line up as well.


We did some barge work with this fellow on or about August 11th, 1982 or it might of been 83? Can't remember. Might of been the same barge you were stationed on?  A Tsunami hit the island we were working on and wiped it out totally. We used to dredge the ocean floor out of the water and build an island out of sand. Then we would plunk a drilling rig on it and spud a hole. Then we would move to the next island and repeat the process. We just got off the island and back to our camp on a class 4 icebreaker when it hit us. Next day water was as smooth as glass and no island. All that was left was the casing bowl I had been welding on sticking out of the water. What a sight to behold! Everything was at the bottom of the ocean. 6-8 weeks was doing salvage and recovery working off of a lay barge with the gentleman in question. Esso learned from that scenario and then went to cement caissons. Also it was around the same time the Ocean Ranger sank off of the coast of Newfoundland. They said she was unsinkable! Talk about mocking the Almighty. After living through a Tsunami nothing is unsinkable no matter what!

:D Jeff

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History shows us that saying something is "unsinkable" is nothing but hubris and is just asking for special attention.


Mention of Ocean Ranger reminded me of how I "dodged a bullet." In the fall of '82 the company I worked for installed equipment (tanks and piping) on Glomar Java Sea while it was engaged in exploratory drilling off the California coast. It was either an Arco or Glomar rep who approached me about signing on for work on GJS in the South China Sea (the equipment I installed was in preparation for this next assignment). I declined. In October '83 Glomar Java Sea sank with the loss of all 81 hands during a typhoon in the South China Sea.

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I had a similar experience up north but different. We used to work stupid hours 16, 18, 20 hour days as there was nothing else to do in the ocean environment. A loader operator dropped an 8" heavy wall sea line that I was welding on for the desalination supply line to the camp and rig. I missed the crew change I was supposed to leave on by 5 days. I left earlier as my right leg was so swollen I could barely walk so I had to go on compensation and leave the theater. The men on that fateful day I was supposed to fly out from the rig to TUK Base weren't so blessed, in fact maybe cursed depending how you look at it... The transmission in the chopper sized up and two pilots and 8 oil field workers crashed straight into the ice killing all on board. The good Lord had his hand on me and knew the future before it even happened! I am saved by grace today due to that event.


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  • 1 month later...

I have definitely decided on the 50 L boiling flask by Corning/Pyrex. 18 inches / 46 cm dia., 3 inch / 76 mm neck ID, 5.6 inch / 140 mm neck length. The supplier wants US$300 to shorten the neck so I'll leave it as is. This will work well inverted similar to the Biondo SiB in the photo posted earlier. Scale will be 1:240 (20' to the inch). Length on deck, a bit less than 9 inches / 23 cm; overall length, about 15.5 inches / 39 cm.


In order to resolve the issue of the stern decorations and number of windows I found photos of USSC taken during the 1873-77 reconstruction during which all the planking above the waterline was removed and replaced.



Bow view showing the very closely spaced ribs. Notice the very pronounced flair around the bow above

the spar deck which was most likely added during a re-fit in the early 1820's. The narrow opening at the

shear line was for the cat head; the opening inboard of that was not a gun port, it was for crew access

to the head.



Stern view also showing the closely spaced ribs. The stern openings at spar deck level were not gun

ports, they were windows into a structure added to the aft end of the deck for USSC's tenure as the

sail training ship at the Naval Academy. It's difficult to see the framing of the transom and counter.



I attempted to enhance the contrast in this cropped version in order to see the frame members, without

much success, just enough to see that the frames are almost side by side. The gun deck level openings

are an artifact of an earlier re-fit but documentation does not clearly pin down when these were done.


I came across photos of a model of USSC depicting her as she appeared at her commissioning or shortly after. The model was made by Mark Antczak at 1:48 scale. For more of this model see:  http://www.shipmodel.com/models/constitution-old-ironsid



A port quarter view of the stern. Here can be seen that the arches portion of the detail is built out

significantly from the base transom. The detailing is very consistent with Joshua Humphrey's written

description in his notebooks. The biggest difference between this and the Hull model is the planked

over aft-facing quarter gallery windows in the latter.



Another view of the stern. On the underside of the center of the built out arch can be seen what looks

like may be an eagle with spread wings and six stars viewed almost edge on. Notice the similarities

with the stern details depicted on the Hull model stern photo in one of my earlier posts. Notice also

that the space between the taffrail and the top of the transom is not planked. 


There are log entries mentioning repairs to the stern decorations and quarter galleries by an outside contractor, and bills and payment vouchers in the record for the same, dated at about the end of the First Barbary War. Unfortunately, none of these detail the extent of the repairs, but it's easy to imagine the craftsman discarding elements too weathered or damaged to re-use and repairing and slightly re-arranging the rest. He could have also simplified the repairs by removing entirely the thick arches. We may never know - I'm at a point where all I can do is make my best guess.


I spent hours studying the Hull model stern photo and having a very strong feeling that I had seen it somewhere before. I realized that the detail was very similar to the Revell USSC model I had built 50 years ago.



A Revell USSC transom and counter. Clearly the Revell researcher(s) studied the Hull model.

The colors are the model builder's interpretation for a natural wood coloring. This photo is very

crisp and will help me reproduce the details better than I could from the Hull model alone.


I mentioned earlier that I intended to draw studies of the structure required for five windows and for six to help make my best informed guess for them considering the conflicting information. First was to sketch a profile of one of the major vertical structural members and then project the three angled surfaces at near true size onto a single plane.



Profile of one of the transom and counter frames. The following studies show the

three surfaces of the aft line (at left) as if that line was straightened out vertically.



Six window study. Here I have the likely framing, consistent with the frame spacing shown in the 1873-77

photo and usual practice as illustrated in The Construction and Fitting of the English Man of War 1650-1850

by Peter Goodwin. At the right are an approximation of the starboard quarter gallery and aft facing gallery

window as seen in the photos above of the Antczak model. I left out many of the sub-frames on the port

side as being unnecessary for this study. The pinkish frames are the major structural members. 



Five window study. This shows that after planking over the gallery windows it would be a major reconstruction

job to rearrange the framing for the remaining six windows into five. I could find no mention of such major

work in my research and little opportunity for it. I readily admit my conclusion doesn't mean that it wasn't done.


With these studies and the Hull model I find that it is most likely to me that USSC had six windows across the stern at the beginning of the War of 1812 and not five as depicted in the Corne and Ropes series of paintings. I had wavered back and forth between the Hull model depiction and the paintings and drew the studies to resolve it.



I came across the earliest photo of Constitution taken during the 1857-58 re-fit in preparation for use as the

Naval Academy's sail training vessel. The major work done was to strip the copper and tarred felt, examine

and repair the underlying planking and replace the copper. Notice the completely closed in head and the

gun stripe that continues around the cut-water. Also note the Andrew Jackson figurehead.

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If we stick to the Royal Navy rating system of the period, this is technically a fifth rate build, but I know what you mean. Thank you, I hope so. I chose the scale so I could detail it right down to the belaying pins. I will be pushing my abilities to their limits here and may be as likely to fall flat on my face as successfully completing this project to my satisfaction. We shall see.


There's an interesting little Old Ironsides story that comes to mind. When it was decided to take USSC from Annapolis to dry dock to be refit to participate in the 1876 Centennial celebrations, a steam tug was assigned to tow her to the ship yard contracted for the work. USSC set a sail or two to ease the strain on the tug during the trip. The captain and skeleton crew on board her soon threw off the tow line, set more sail and very quickly left the tug behind. After Constitution arrived at her destination she had to wait for 10 hours for the tug to arrive to move her into the temporary berth for the preparations to dry dock her.

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  • 3 months later...

Getting back to Olaf's Constitution. I live in Jersey City and I have been to Liberty Science Center where the model is housed. I walked right in and asked about the model at the front desk. I was told the model was in the lobby of the Museum's offices and not open to the public. But I made it clear that I really wanted to see the model and they were good enough to let me and my friend into the lobby on an upper flor in an area which is NOT oppen to the public. The model appears well taken care of and is in a huge glass enclosure but it IS out of place there and can not bee seen from any public space. This museum has no real nautical exhibits, its a science museum and mostly aimed at children. Its a shame since this is a fantastic model and should be on view someplace where it will get the place in the spotlight it deserves.

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Also getting back to a much earlier post, you mention the Bentink shrouds terminate on the channels with tackle on them on the Hull model but not on the actual ship. I had seen in photos of the hull model the forewardmost shroud has a pair of large blocks instead of the typical deadeys. Is THIS the Bentick shroud that I was looking at and not a lower shroud at all? With the Constitutions rather high bullwarks I wonder if a frairlead had to be cut in the bullwarks to accomodate the Benticks comming in at the steeper angle than the regular shrouds? It does appeart to make a LOT more sense to have them terminate inboard. And for that matter have them terminate AFT of the foreardmost lower shroud too- if the pair of blocks I saw on the photo were the Benticks, the lead would be kind of forward from the base of the futtocks.

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