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What types of wood do you use in hull making


Gwyl Blaser
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I've used a lot of basswood.  It's cheap and carves easy.  I picked up some cherry for real cheap and I've enjoyed that.  It's a little bit harder to carve than basswood but it holds shape better.  I also like the deep red color I get when I use ammonia fuming with it.  I've thought about trying some other woods.  I've heard cedar is nice.    

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DSiemens,

 

Although I have used all the woods listed so far, I too use basswood for the majority of my hulls.  My first experience was with mahogany, it worked out well but the pores were pretty large and back then I didn't know much about how to fill in the pores etc. 

 

I have never tried to use ammonia fuming.  I know it is done with quarter sawn white oak a lot, but not for cherry.  What are your procedures for fuming?  I know you have to be careful, but that is about all of my knowledge when it comes to fuming wood.

 

Gwyl

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I have used basswood (also called lime wood in Europe) for basic hulls almost exclusively with single experiments with mahogany and pine (specifically southern yellow pine). In many ways basswood suits our purposes very well - soft and easy to carve even against the grain (with caution) and it holds detail fairly well. Drawbacks include a tendency to go fuzzy with sanding and a loss of sharp corner/edge detail. Basswood also has a tendency to raise its grain with the first coat of paint. These drawbacks can be reduced with the use of a sanding sealer or primer followed by finish sanding but this would eliminate the use of natural finishes (stains and varnishes).

 

I moved away from the use of all solid wood hulls, like those shown in the "How To" ship bottling books, long ago. I went to hulls cut to the deck line with bulwarks inletted to keep the thickness of those bulwarks closer to scale. Mostly I have used hobby grade thin plywood (nominally 1/64th inch / 0.5 mm) for these bulwarks but this plywood is very hard and it takes great care to sand the ply to blend in to the softer basswood so as to not leave a step. I want to use apple, pear or holly veneer but they are hard to find except in quantities that would last me several lifetimes so I haven't followed up on this. They are also very plain woods with little noticeable grain or color variation and are not popular for most of the uses veneer is put to, so are subsequently scarce as veneers.

 

Boxwood is the premium carving wood and will hold the finest detail. It is very hard with little discernible grain, so hard that cutting edges on tools can roll over if the tools are ground and honed at too shallow an angle - and it's expensive. Boxwood takes a very nice polish and can look like yellowed antique ivory. Rotary carving tools work well on it. I haven't used it but look forward to trying it for a figure head on a large SiB.

 

Apple, pear and holly are harder than basswood but are better able to hold fine detail. These woods have very similar working properties and I look forward to experimenting with them when I can. Holly is the preferred wood (by many) for deck planking Naval vessels to duplicate the color of holystoned and sun-bleached decking because of its very pale color while others think it is too white. It's also notorious for not taking stain well, but when treated with a black dye will mimic ebony. Pear can be pink or white (heartwood and sapwood) but not as white as holly. Apple is also light colored but can have something of a greenish cast to it. Walnut and cherry are useful in applications where the builder intends to use natural finishes but are more difficult to work. Birch and silver maple are also frequently mentioned as useful. 

 

Two years ago there were two companies (each operated by old guys with long histories and excellent reputations) that supplied cut lumber for the conventional static ship model market. Both of those guys have retired or have stopped taking orders to phase into retirement. Another company has stepped into that vacuum but it is limited to boxwood and pear with holly coming soon. http://www.crowntimberyard.com/  I have no association with this company and no experience with it, but I am acquainted with the man starting it and trust his dedication to quality. I plan a purchase from him in the near future.
 
This is one of those areas of ship modeling that will never be resolved. Each species of wood - and even where it grew - has differences in working properties that all need to be balanced for the intended purpose, the builders tools and his abilities. Our needs as miniaturists are somewhat different from those of other ship modelers because of the scales we usually work in.
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Gwyl - Ammonia fuming is not hard at all especially at the scale we work in.  I just get a small cup of ammonia that's smaller than the block of wood I'm fuming.  Place the cup into a much bigger Tupperware bowl that has a lid.  Place the block of wood on top of the cup and place the lid on the Tupperware.  Leave it in a closet for 24 hours and the wood will be nice and dark.  The deck on my latest cutter in my build log is a result of ammonia fuming cherry.  

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Hi Dave,

 

Great response on the different species of wood and their uses.  I too, moved away from the solid hulls and now use many parts,  and layers for the different effects that I am looking for. 

 

On my first three or four ships, I used the mahogany for the hull and boxwood (buxus) for all the masts and spars.  It was then, that I found out how enjoyable the boxwood was to work with.  I still use it for as much as I can because it is fun to work with.

 

As with you, I seem to use bosswood for the majority of my hull making now.  Readily available and depending on where you obtain it at, it can be quite clear.

 

Gwyl

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  • 6 months later...

For the Longboat I just finished I used some of the huge amount of left-overs of Castello Boxwood (South American) and Swiss Pear that I used on my 1:48 scale fully-framed HMS Vulture. I bought the wood from HobbyMill before they closed, but as Dave mentioned in his post above Crown Timberyard are looking at filling the gap left by Jeff Hayes on his retirement. I've also heard nothing but praise for Crown on Model Ship World, so it looks like a reliable supplier is once again out there.

 

A tip for those who don't know - if you can find some of those old wooden Carpenter's Rules at garage sales or wherever ... grab them. The older ones are made from European Box, which is arguably the best timber for small modelling. I bought a dozen or so from various places and use them for making blocks and tiny fittings.

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  • 2 months later...

Modelsinbottles you might be interested in trying bamboo skewers for masts and spars. They are quite a bit stronger then toothpicks and can be whittled down a lot farther wothan outhe losing integrity. They can be a bit tougher to drill through though. I've started using drill less methods with my masts and spars so for me they work great. Especially with a draw plate to thin them down.

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Hulls:  Carolina Red Cedar.   Collected a bunch of cedar trees blown down when Hurricane Hugo hit Charlotte in 1989. 

                                                Call it Hugo wood.  Have been given Floyd, Alex, & Arthur, wood.

            Woods from the actual ship:  Have beams from the 5-masted schooner Carroll A. Deering.  It's longleaf pine.

                                                         A variety of wood from the Schooner Spirit of South Carolina

                                                         Spruce from the refit of the skipjack Rosie Parks

                                                         Wood & treenails from the Charles W. Morgan during refit (yes, I crossed the yellow "No Enter" tape)

                                                         Deckwood from USS North Caroliana B-55 to be used in the 1820 USS North Carolina-74 guns

                                                         Spruce from the 1587 repo galleon Elizabeth II refit

                                                         Missed out on getting wood from the Bounty while in Savannah 2012

                                                                   

Masts, booms, & spars:          walnut

 

Gunwales:                              depends on the vessel:  either maple, boxwood, or walnut

 

deckhouses:                           usually basswood, yet use walnut, cherry, & mahogany too

 

Hatches:                                 Spanish Cedar (the liners in cigar boxes. Good stuff.  Available at cigar stores) & walnut

 

decks:                                     the glued-up basswood decking from Bluejacket

Edited by Jim Goodwin
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I like pine because there's so much of it and it works so well.  I only recently learned how important the differing varieties are.  I was told pine currently for sale at most lumber outlets was grown very quickly and has much less substance than older, more slowly grown lumber.  About a year ago I got a few scraps from the woodshop that worked very well and remained crisp when cut to fine dimensions.  One of the guys there said it was "Pacific Pine" and thought some of it may come from New Zealand.

Jim mentions long leaf pine, which was used it large quantity for decking and sometimes planking of 19th CenturyNew England wooden ships.  I am impressed by it, but find it hard to carve. 

Cedar has not found its way into my shop, and I hope to try it someday.

Here are a pair of schooners getting started out of pine.

 

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Sadly, I have no idea what wood I'm using at the moment. All I know is that most of it is from the arm rest of a Cafe chair, and the rest is from a wooden disposable knife from the same Cafe.

    In the past I've used a bit of Osage for Hulls.

  The masts are generally toothpicks, but I'm going to try medical swabs for the next ship.

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Modelsinbottles - It was actually not hard or expensive. They've done a lot of restoration on her over the years and they'really smart enough to realise that people want a piece of history so they sell the wood that they've removed. If you contact the museum they will sell you a piece and mail it to you.

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Jim I think building from wood of the actual ship would be really neat. I do have some oak from the Constitution I hope to build a ship in bottle with one of these days.

 

 

Good lord, DSiemens, how'd you manage that?

 

 

Modelsinbottles - It was actually not hard or expensive. They've done a lot of restoration on her over the years and they'really smart enough to realise that people want a piece of history so they sell the wood that they've removed. If you contact the museum they will sell you a piece and mail it to you.

 

I also bought some USS Constitution wood from http://store.ussconstitutionmuseum.org/  It appears to be long leaf yellow pine from deck planking rather than oak from the hull. The man who does the cutting of the wood is an avid ship modeler who contributes to MSW. There he said that he could cut pieces to larger sizes than the approximate 2" x 3" x 3/4"  (50 mm x 75 mm x 18 mm) sold through the Museum Store for a suitable donation to the Museum. He hates cutting oak - especially the live oak from the hull ribs - because oak is very hard on the saw blades and destroys the chain saw chains when he cuts larger pieces down to a size he can get it into his shop.

 

I plan to use my piece of Constitution for the keel on my Constitution build.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In 1982, I obtained some wood (part of a mahogany frame)  from the wreck of the old East Indiaman Jhelum, (Completed in 1850 of mahogany) that had been hulked in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands in 1870, after being damaged off Cape Horn, and condemned at Stanley.       Years later, I made a diorama showing how the ship might have appeared lying beached in Stanley harbour in 1870 with storm damage on the foremast.

I incorporated some original mahogany in the model, including the deckhouse, and upper spars.    Attached is a distant picture of Jhelum, myself in the forepeak sitting on the windlass, that had fallen in when the deck collapsed many years ago, and the resulting model.

Bob

 

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