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Model Expo 1/24 USN Picket Boat 1

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Piddling along - a few more planks and a start on the boiler. 


The main section of the boiler and steam dome is just wood strips covering a frame - the iron body of the boiler was covered with wood planks to protect the crew from burns in close quarters and so isn't visible except at the ends.  The fun will come in the details - the reinforcing bands, valves, plumbing, stack, burner and hood.  I'll probably end up opening the firebox.  It will add some nice visual interest at the cost of another week or two.


I figure the boiler will take three or four weekends, then I'll start on the steam engine.








And a new plank or two.  The planking will be a bit tedius - it will be ongoing in the background while I work on other assemblies - I'll post planking updates whenever there's something interesting to look at.  ;)



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Quick update on the Boiler - ah, the pitfalls of kit upgrades and "eyeball metrics"


As I mentioned earlier, the main body of the boiler was covered in wood planks to protect the crew from burns.  So the largest section of the boiler assembly is wood slats over an internal frame.  The planks on the original were held in place by riveted iron bands.  In the kit, they specified using heavy paper to represent these.  I decided to go with blackened brass strips instead.


Basic structure:







One of the bands - I added a relief-bend to allow it to lay flat and used double rivets, as was done in-period for these sorts of assemblies:







Steam Dome bands complete.  I used brass pins for the rivets, after filing down the heads to about half their original  depth and diameter:




Main boiler bands in-progress:




Note the accidental "knot" in one of the planks, caused when I slipped with an awl while marking the brass for one of the rivet holes...  :angry:


I also managed to drill one of the rivet holes 1/32" short, so I cut a shallow groove in the bottom of the assembly to shorten the circumference a bit (just visible on the left):




I'm reminded again of the limitation of the eyeball-micrometer...!  Fortunately, after I finish staining and weathering this will be all but invisible underneath and behind the firebox.

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I have a bit of progress to report.  I've been fiddling with the Boiler, working on the plumbing and getting the sub-assemblies for each end to a level that I like.


First, I finished the basic structure and banding:




I used a broken shaft from a #72 drill bit to form the lifter for the boiler safety valve, and used a bit of thin card stock to improve the lever hinge.  There's still the counter-weight and PE fitting for the steam dome to add before this part is done.







The forward end of the boiler and smoke hood is almost ready - the dimensions were a bit off between the wood assembly and the provided PE mounting ring for the stack, so I needed to add card-stock shims to get it all to line up.  This shows the wood and paper, before final sanding, filling and paint-work:







The plumbing took a bit of work, as I didn't like the approach taken in the original design.  A particular challenge was the water-glass for the boiler, as I wanted it to actually look like a glass tube that had held boiler water over time....  I wasn't able to find tubing in the size I needed, so I used a Dremel and x-acto blade as a lathe to cut and shave a bit of acrylic rod to size, then used weathering powders and a dip in future to give it the look I wanted.






Another section, with the piping at least starting to look right.




I've done a bit more since I took these - I'll post another update this weekend with the (hopefully!) completed boiler.  There's the rest of the smoke hood, including a bit of PE and soldering, plus the back side, plumbing and stands still to complete.  


Pulling all the pieces together and getting the weathering right is the last challenge before I get back to planking more of the hull and starting the engine assembly...


Slowly coming together...   :)

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Work on this has been a bit slow, as I found more areas where I wanted to take a different approach than that provided in the kit.


Two specific examples are in the support stands for the boiler and in the smoke stack.


As-designed, the supports for the boiler aren't sufficiently deep - the boiler would have a tendency to roll right off of them, even if strapped down.  I'm making a replacement set from brass sheet.  It will have higher sides and a curve that allows for the iron bands that secure the boiler to the stands to connect with no sharp kinks or bends.  My LHS did not have brass stock in the sizes I needed, so I've been working from a sheet of 3/64" brass and cutting my stock to fit.  The Dremel and needle files have been getting a bit of a workout...


Original kit supports on the left, compared to the depth of curve on the new set, in the vice:




Making bar-stock to order!




Components coming together...




Meanwhile, I was also unhappy with the stack design.  The kit provided a length of 1/2" wood dowel and card-stock cutouts for the stack and reinforcing bands.  It just didn't feel right, so I'm replacing those with 1/2" brass tube and brass bands riveted and soldered to the stack.  I also slightly flared and thinned the tubing to scale thickness at he top lip.






I'm still pulling things together - I realized for instance that I'll need four different solders with different melting points for some of these bits.  I discovered this after a very frustrating afternoon spent repeatedly soldering and (accidentally) de-soldering some of the pieces.  Then the light came on...  DOH!   :wacko:


More to come next week - I may actually get the boiler done next weekend - the end is in sight!


Then I'll start on the engine...  Wheeee!

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Next weekend? Ah, the optimism...!

One of the benefits of scratch-building is that, if you don't like something, you can just do it over... One of the *curses* of scratch-building is that, if you don't like something, you can just do it over...

I'll have pictures on Saturday, but the boiler is finally, essentially, complete. All the components are finished; I just need to mount the firebox/stack to the front, set it on the stands and add the bands that secure the boiler to the stands.

A key mistake I made was in deciding to add rivet detail *after* some of the pieces were painted and assembled. I'll not make that mistake again! I also completely rebuilt the stack and its connection to the firebox.

I'm happy with the results but this took much longer than it should have, as I made too many mid-stream changes. The good news is that I'm not on a deadline!

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Happy Monday!


I didn't get as much done as I wanted over the weekend - the boiler is still in the midst of final assembly, rather than being complete.  That said, here's the current state of the build.


The stack and smoke hood have the most work done, compared to my last updates.  There are no existing photos or even drawings of the original at this level of detail, so both the kit and my build are based on other examples, interpretations, and doing my best to think like an engineer of the period.


So this is the stack and hood assembly - the front-end of the boiler - as it exists at the moment:







The rivet pattern in particular is my own "best guess" based on other period examples.  There is evidence that the engine was produced by the Clute Brothers in New York.  It would make sense for them to have manufactured the boiler as well.  I'm doing some research on their logos, with the intent of adding it to both the boiler and engine - that will come later, and is dependent on my either getting a home PE kit or developing a deft approach with an engraving set.  We'll see!


As for the main body of the boiler, the rivet pattern is also based on period examples and my own best guesses.  The kit had no rivet detail at all, nor any suggestions - so this is all my own (hopefully educated) guesswork.  I used a combination of brass pins and micro-mark O-scale resin rivets for all of this.






I'm working now on mounting the main body of the boiler to the stands I built last month.  You can't see from this angle, but I added the canvas padding/batting between the stands and the boiler (made from dyed fine cotton t-shirt fabric).  The bands are brass strip, with the connection made from brass pins set into holes drilled into the sides of the stands.


This is trickier than I'd anticipated, as the brass is a bit springy and the fit is more than a bit fussy.  I spent almost three hours getting the first band done - the second should go much faster, now that I know how it's going to behave.




After getting the main body secured on the stands, I'll attach the stack/hood to the front and finish detailing and weathering.  Then, the whole thing will go on the shelf and wait for me to finish the hull so I can complete the plumbing.


I'm also working on the steam pressure gauge.  The kit version is a bit rough, and too small when compared to period examples.  I've built up the main body of the gauge in brass; I'm working now to find an old watch from which I can scavenge an appropriately-sized hand.  I'll print the face of the dial on thin transparency sheet, pin the hand through the center, add in the feed from the steam dome and connect it to the back side of the assembly once everything else is done.


Step by slow step, this is coming along...

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As a complete side note...  I purchased a do-it-yourself copper electroplating kit from micro-mark.  Utterly beyond cool - I tested it on the prop, and a light touch produced a perfect bronze finish on the britannia metal casting.  Photos to come

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So here's the prop after a light coat of copper electroplate.  I cleaned up the casting quite a bit, but left the surface a bit rough, since (I'm guessing) the originals weren't perfectly polished.


I noticed in taking these pics that there are some marks left by the alligator clips in the electroplate kit - I'll tough those up with another very light coat.  I don't want to get it too thick as I like the color as it it now - perfect for the look I'm trying to achieve.






I'll use this same process on some of the plumbing in the steam plant

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Hi, I am new to LSM and have just picked up this build. Great work, I love this type of model making. I will watch with great interest'

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How come I've missed this one??

Both super wood working and black-smith technique :)

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Thanks much! I finished up the bands last night (haven't had much bench time this week, dammit)


All that remains for this stage of the boiler is attaching the firebox/hood/stack to the main body and final detailing.


Pics as soon as it's done!


Meanwhile, I found a source for the small watch hand I need for the pressure gauge. Rather than sacrificing a watch, I'll get a small bag of hands - a lifetime supply is only about $10.


With the boiler done, I'll refocus on the hull and planks - I may actually finish this thing in time for the holidays...

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I took a bit of time tonight to finish assembling the boiler. I still need to finish up the details and weathering, along with the pressure gauge, but the fundamentals are done and I'm happy for the moment.








It will be a week or so before I have all the pieces for the gauge ready to pull together; I'll post the results as I go.


In the meantime, I'm taking a minute to enjoy the basics...

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So - the finished boiler, and the work-in-progress view of the brass pressure gauge...  :)






I built the body of the pressure gauge from stacked brass washers, soldered with a copper plug filling the center and wrapped with brass strip.  The pressure line is 1/32" brass rod and the connector is 1/16" aluminum tubing.


I primed the face white, but I may (after doing some more research) strip it back to bare metal, and either engrave the markings directly (assuming I can hold my hands that steady!) or print them on thin transparency film.  I ordered the hand from a watchmaker supply house - a small-second hand should fit just right.


When complete, the gauge will mount to the back of the steam dome.





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Well, my first try at the face of the pressure gauge dial didn't work - engraving isn't my strong suite! ;)


Here's the result - looks ok from a distance, but it's a true mess up-close






I'm going to remove the hand and strip back to bare metal and go with a printed face on transparency film.


I at least had to try! :)


I learned that my hands just aren't steady enough to engrave with the tools that I have at the moment. That made this a valuable exercise regardless of the outcome - I learned something new!

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Here's a quick update...


The pressure gauge is done, except for connecting to the boiler.  I went back to my original plan, after determining that my hands are simply not steady enough to engrave details directly...


So...  I used a free 2D CAD program to draw the face details, and printed it as a reverse-image on thin transparency film.  Printing in reverse allows the printed side to lay directly against the metal face of the dial.  I used a clear cement to attach the face detail, then added a brass hand cut-down from a small-second watch hand.  After another layer of clear cement, here's the result:






Compare this to an 1852 original that I used as inspiration:




The original above is 12" while mine is a scale 7.5".  I've seen examples ranging from 6" - 14", so mine is within the known range.  The 12" reference gauge was originally mounted in a large steamship; my working assumption is that the picket boat would have had smaller components, based on pure practical necessity.


I need to re-connect the brass siphon tube, which I accidentally broke off while handling, and then attach the gauge to the boiler.  I'll do that tonight and post the results tomorrow.


On other news, while I continue the process of planking the hull, I've also started work on the seam engine itself.  This is going to be tricky, as the engine is designed to actually turn over, and have a functioning forward/reverse valve-timing linkage.  The crankshaft, piston rod and valve linkage will all operate as in the original.


Here's a modern full-sized version of the engine (from Bjorklundsteam.com):






I'll use this as a reference as I build the scale version.  They have slightly different mounting hardware and plumbing, but the core components (cylinder, valve box, and linkage, crank and flywheel) are the same.  I'll have to scratch-build the lever and connectors for the forward/reverse linkage, but the linkage itself is included in the kit.


I'm also trying to track down reference paint/color info.  It seems that there are no surviving Clute Steam Engines (either marine or stationary), and the only known catalog is a black-and-white post-civil-war example at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.  The turret of the USS Monitor (yes, *THAT* Monitor!) used a Clute engine to traverse, but the engine hasn't yet been conserved after the Navy brought up the turret several years ago.  So... this will be a challenge.  The good news is that there aren't many color schemes to choose from (surviving engines from the period seem to have all been painted either green, black or red); the challenge will be to determine which components to paint and which to leave as bare metal (and then, whether to use bronze, iron or steel as the reference material...)


So with all that as background, here's the first step in the engine assembly - the cylinder and valve box core:






The holes and guide tubes are for the piston and valve timing rods.


The core above will be covered with sheet brass and assembled with scale hex bolts from the good folk at scale hardware.


The saga continues!

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Quick update on the steam engine.  I finished the piston rod and crankshaft counterweights, and got a good start on the main bearings.  For the structural elements of the engine, I'm using Alclad Exhaust Manifold as the base color, and will use a (yet to be determined) green overcoat.  I'll use salt for chipping and wear effects where needed.


The provided main bearings are single piece, which would have caused some painting and finishing headaches.  To get around this, I cut each bearing into the two pieces that would have actually existed, and I'm using scale brass hex bolts to connect them.


First, the piston rod and crank shaft:












The crankshaft is 1/8" aluminum tube.  For the moment, a 3/32 alignment tube holds everything straight by passing through both sections of the crank - that will be removed and the crankshaft painted before I place it into the main bearings.


Main bearings:




Frame alignment dry-fit:





Main bearing and baseplate ready for their finish coat:




I tracked down a museum that has an old Clute Brothers catalog in their collection - it's from 1873, so it likely won't show the particular engine I'm building, but it should have (hopefully!) some information on finishes/colors/logos/nameplates that I can use.  The museum is sending me a scan of the catalog on CD - should be here in about a week.


I'm holding off on painting the structural elements until I can read the catalog, but there's a ton of work I can do in the meantime.  The cylinder/gearbox and forward/reverse mechanism will be done in brass and cast iron finishes, and I can build and base-coat all the structural pieces while I'm waiting.


My head-scratching issue of the moment is the lever and connections to actually move the valve linkage - this is utterly missing from the kit.  The only provision for it at all is a hole in one of the PE components where a lever or connecting rod would connect, but everything else is left to the imagination.  It will take a bit of research to come up with something period-appropriate.  This will be fun!

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One other thing I'm working on is an enclosure for the driveshaft cams that drive the two feed pumps (condensate return and seawater feed).  The kit has castings of the pumps, but has their drive rods simply rest against the driveshaft to "simulate a driven mechanism".  So...  I'll be delving into more period examples to come up with something that looks right.

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Side note 2... The Adirondack Museum had a copy, and sent me a scan of the 1873 Clute Brothers catalog. I was correct in that it would not show the particular engine that I'm building (10 years of progress...).


However, it does provide some telling details. The Clute Brothers used wood lagging on the cylinders of their engines when there was a possibility of contact, they used steel and iron with little to no brass work, and they seem not to have painted their engines.


What this means for me is that I have to decide if they would have made changes for an engine intended for maritime use.


some surfaces - those not integral to the main castings - may have been of brass or bronze, but I think iron is more likely, so I'll go with that.


Likewise on paint - I believe that the base and frame would likely have been painted, but the "working" parts of the engine would have been bare metal - bright steel and black iron.


So.... I'm going to change my approach accordingly. Watch for updates! :)

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getting ready for color changes... I had to take the main bearings off the baseplate and disassemble the crankshaft, piston rod and counterweights.


Fortunately, I hadn't started painting the frame and cylinder, so no rework is needed there.


I'm happy with the state of the cylinder and gearbox - I'm almost wishing I could leave it in bright brass - it's pretty! Unfortunately, the good people at Clute were much more concerned with functionality than appearance... ;)


Perhaps I could do a future build as more of a lake or inshore cruiser - could be fun!






More after repainting...

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Quick update on this - I managed to damage (read: "thoroughly screw-up") one of the engine parts while test-fitting, and I'm building a replacement.  I also had a loooong stretch of rainy weekends where I couldn't do any painting.  :(


But the engine is coming back together and the bones will be ready for their debut in a couple of weeks.


Still scratching my head on the Stephenson Linkage for the valve timing, but I can't really start on that until the main frame and cylinder are in-place.

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