Mantua Sergal Soleil Royal - Cutaway

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The last two ships I did were the Mantua Victory and the Panart San Felipe, and the next one in the pipeline was the Mantua Sergal Soleil Royal.

Although the Soleil Royal would present a challenge in terms of complexity, it wasn’t going to be substantively different than the previous two big ships. I wanted to do something a little different. Of all of the ship models I’ve built, the one that seems to interest most people is the cross section of the USS Constitution.

In a true "it seemed like a good idea at the time" moment, I decided to spice things up by building the Soleil Royal with the sides open and with the inner works displayed. I started the project a while ago and haven't done a build log because I didn't want to start a log I couldn't finish. But the good news is that I finally finished the project and I'd like to share the build experience with you.

The bottom line is that I learned a lot and in retrospect would have done some things differently. But I'm happy with the end result.

In planning the project, I had three big challenges. First, I wanted to use all the metal decorations and as much of the kit as possible, so I was limited as to size and scale. Second, I was concerned about structural support and warping, given that there wouldn't be the normal internal structure of an actual ship or model. Third, and most challenging, I had no real idea how the actual ship looked inside. There was a lot of information on ships of that period and the Wasa and Victory are available for study. I was really lucky and found a book in the Auckland Library by the guy who ran the project to restore the Victory after it was damaged by bombs during WWII.

Accompanying the book is a box containing 17 (huge) sheets of plans. There is one for each deck and it was exactly what I needed. The plans had more than enough detail and with my other research I was now able to create a reasonable (but admittedly not 100% certain) picture of how the Soleil Royal may have looked inside.
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My first challenge was to copy the plans which I managed to do by tracing. The Victory plans are about 30% bigger than the model of the Soleil Royal so the next challenge was to draw detailed plans to scale based on the actual dimensions of the model. I needed to keep to the model dimensions because I was going to use the stern and bow decorations provided with the kit and therefore had to use the kit dimensions.

Every time I thought I had solved all my problems, something new and interesting would come up. As I tried to map the dimensions of the Victory deck plans onto the Soleil Royal model plans, things weren’t making sense. I realized that the problem arose because the ship model takes certain liberties with scale in order to make the model look good. These ship models, because of their scale, necessarily have to make tradeoffs between aesthetics and historical accuracy. For one thing, the guns and gun ports are larger than they would have been on a real ship and the rigging is much less complex. Unfortunately, because I was going to use the bow and stern, as well as the quarter deck, forecastle and poop deck as provided in the model, I had to retrofit the revised dimensions to make everything look proportional.
I built up a partial structure using the plywood frames provided in the kit and transferred my deck dimensions to the model:

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Once I got the frames and strings aligned properly I marked the deck positions on the frames. I then drew a plan of each deck looking down from the top. I drew a horizontal line depicting the keel in the center of a sheet. I then marked a vertical line at the location of each of the frames. I then laid the marked up frame centered on the horizontal line and marked the outer edge of the deck at each point. This gave me an exact outline of the area of the deck which would be exposed.
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I don't want to overwhelm one post with all of the history, so I will add more information in future posts.
 

Jimsky

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A very interesting and somewhat unusual project, Thomas! Great you start the build log and many thanks from all of us!!! I am watching ....for sure!
 
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Thomas - Nice interesting concept - will follow along as well.
I'm Just finishing a "traditional" cross section. Yours will be super more complicated. I agree it is a nice learning experience seeing how they looked and worked from the inside.
 
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Thanks for your interest Jim & Michael!

The next task was to draw the details of each deck. I did this using the Victory plans and modifying them for scale and also for features that I knew the Soleil Royal would not have. For example, the Victory had a very modern pumping system and stove that would not have been present on the Soleil Royal.

I knew that there was no way I could build an exact replica and that was never my objective. I did it for the challenge and to create an interesting and attractive model. So from now on, any decisions as to historical accuracy or scale were decided based on aesthetics rather than history as well as what was practically possible given the scale and the structure I was working with.

It was now time to make some difficult decisions about construction. My two big concerns as I made these decisions were (1) warping and (2) support of the decks. In the scale that I was building, the decks could be no more than 5mm thick. They would be well supported fore and aft but would have very little support midships. During construction, because I envisioned building the ship from the bottom up, there would be very little support and when building one of these models you are constantly turning them and pounding and filing and sanding. So I needed to come up with a design that would be strong but also enable me to expose the open decks as much as possible during construction. With two thirds of the hull planks removed and with no interior framework, I was concerned that there may be stresses that would distort the structure either during or after building.

Closely tied to the concern about warping is the question of how to support the decks to prevent them from sagging through the unsupported middle spans.

Initially I thought that I would install the masts and build the decks around the masts and that they would provide support, but there was an even bigger problem.

The open area of the ship would be from the upper deck down to the hold. The walls around the quarter deck, poop decks and foc’sle needed to be intact in order to provide support for the chain wales which hold down the rigging. There is also a lot of interesting decorative work on those walls that I didn’t want to sacrifice. In order to be able to build the outside walls and to maintain the sheer and contours of the ship’s sides I needed to be able to build some sort of support for the decks.

That led me to decide to use the frames supplied with the kit. I decided to cut them to make them look like the ribs that the actual ship would have. They would provide the needed support to build the walls and would also solve the problem of how to support the decks because I could attach the decks to them as I worked up.

I cut the frames from the plywood pieces supplied with the kit, and planked them with walnut to hide the plywood appearance. I also had to cut out a section of the false keel that is provided by the kit because it would block the view through the hold.

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I then attached them to the keel to form the outline of the ship with a cardboard placeholder for the orlop deck:

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Securing the ribs and positioning them properly was a huge challenge and took a few tries. When I finally got them where I wanted them I decided that I had too many and took out the two in the center to open up more of the decks.

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I then made a template of the lowest deck above the hold (the orlop deck) to make sure that I would be able to fit in the decks with the ribs in place and also to gauge how best to support the decks when in place. All of this helped to confirm my measurements and deck layout organization.

The next step was to proceed to build the ship as close to the original plans. As I mentioned, I would be building the bow and stern exactly as planned for the model. I put in the false decks and cannon blocks for the gun ports that would be planked, fitted the bow and stern structures and did the first layer of planking in the areas that would be covered.

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Thomas for deck support you could place these - temporarily or in completed form all long each deck as they support decks above? Starting from the hold working up to the orlop deck, gun decks and so on. Just along the keel line -- The ribs idea would then work in concert helping to support as well - just a thought...
cheers
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Hi Michael--You are correct. When I started the build I was convinced that warping and sagging would be the two biggest problems, so I way overcompensated. The 5mm ply that I used for the decks when planked appears rigid enough that I could have opened up the bow and stern even more and gotten away without the ribs at all. As it turned out, they are essentially decorative, but also give an idea of how a ship was actually built. Thanks for your thought!
 
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Once I'd planked the bow and stern hull sections, the next challenge was to determine how to build the hold.

I planked the bottom of the ship and that would determine the amount of hold floor I would have to work with.
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I needed to figure out where the mast steps would be located and then had to allocate the available space to create a reasonable replica of how the hold in the exposed areas would look. I discovered that the first thing I needed to do was find out how the orlop deck, the first deck above the hold, was laid out. This was important because structures on the orlop deck, especially the hanging magazines, would impact the layout of the hold. There are also steps and ladders between the decks and I needed to know where to put them.

At that point I cut out the orlop deck based on the plans I had drawn earlier. I had had to decide how to do the decking. I could do it the way they did when they built the ship, which is to run beams between the ribs and then lay what were known as carlings at right angles. That would form a framework over which deck beams were laid. That was a great way to do the decks but I was concerned about (1) keeping them even and (2) ensuring that the structure was solid. So I decided to cut each deck out of a sheet of plywood, cut out the openings and plank over the plywood to create the appearance of decking. To prevent warping I did run beams between the frames.

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I then determined where the masts and other structures would be located and cut holes in the ply.

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Once I was happy with the positioning of the deck, I started to put in some of the hold fittings and fixtures. I knew I’d need a lot of barrels and sourced various sizes of barrels and prepared them by painting the hoops and varnishing them.

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I built some walls between the two most fore and aft strakes and used aquarium gravel to simulate ballast.

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I kept a part of the false keel to provide additional structural support and then needed to make a number of decisions about how to use the space. I cut doorways wherever I could to reflect that the crew would have had to move through these various areas. Although technically and historically inaccurate, I thought the layout made for interesting opportunities to put in additional details.

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The next step was to plan and install the orlop deck.
 
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Once the orlop deck was installed, I put in some of the fittings such as the hanging magazines.
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As I thought about building the rooms and structures on the orlop deck, I decided that I would try to finish off each deck as much as possible before moving up. That meant going back to the hold and adding some additional detail.

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It was at that point that I had a realized that it was going to be too dark to see much of the detail I was building. I researched model lighting and found a company that supplies tiny LEDs and lots of good advice on how to install them. I settled on the smallest yellow LEDs they provided thinking that they might simulate lantern light.
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I really liked the look but now I had the challenge of how to retrofit the lighting in the hold and also to wire the rooms on the orlop deck.

I went ahead and planned the layout of the orlop deck and built the rooms and hallways.

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The next challenge was to plan the wiring.
 
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I had decided that I would put the power supply for the lights in the base of the ship and run the wires up through the bottom of the ship. I could attach the wires to the ceiling of the hold. To get the lights to the ceiling of the orlop deck, I hollowed out one of the dowels that represent the pump pipes and ran the wires up through the pipe.
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I could then fit the gun deck (ceiling of the orlop) and get an idea of where to put in the orlop lights.
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Before continuing I added some of the features to the various rooms on the deck.
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I then ran the wiring for the lights to the various rooms.
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I then cut out the gun deck and fitted it in place, making sure that the mast alignment was still correct.

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Then came one of the first major moments of truth—a test of the lights to see how they looked.
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The next step was to plan the gun deck and the guns.
 
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The gun decks would be less challenging from a technical perspective because they have much less detail, but I needed to develop logical access routes between the decks and decide how much detail to include. On a real ship, the guns would have had a lot of complicated tackle to secure them to the sides of the ship. But since this ship has no sides, there was no practical way to do all the work. In the end, I decided to just put in the guns by themselves and not include any tackle, buckets, sponges, rams, garlands, etc. Getting all of those things to the right scale and logically working them into the space available was a huge challenge and I felt that a lot of detail at the deck edge would obstruct the view into the interior.

Because I was building from a kit, the guns provided were intended to be mounted in blocks inside the ship, so all you see is the ends sticking out of the gunports. They have a peg on the end to mount them in holes in the blocks. I decided to paint them to simulate the iron colour and to highlight the decorations.62.JPG
I sourced some gun carriages, cut off the end of the pegs and rounded them to simulate the ball at the end of each gun and mounted them.

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I built all of the guns and figured out where to place them but decided that attaching them in place would be one of the last things I’d do so they wouldn’t get in the way.

I planked the gun deck.

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And then installed railings around the companionways, grates and shot garlands, capstans and the pump.
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It was important to make sure that the pump pipes lined up with the pump.
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I then installed and planked the middle gun deck.
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I also built the bulkheads at each end of the gun deck. These would not have existed on the actual ship—I just used them as a way of concealing the structural framework supporting the bow and stern. In retrospect I learned that the decks provided sufficient structural stability that I probably could have extended the decks fore and aft and added many interesting features, but at the time I had no engineering studies to rely on!

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I then added in the detail on the middle gun deck.
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I could now breathe a sigh of relief because technically, from now on, I would be building the ship as if I hadn’t done the interior. All of the upper works and finishing touches were based on the original kit design.

But this is the Mantua Soleil Royal, 1980s version, which actually meant the challenges were just starting!
 
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Thomas - Nice interesting concept - will follow along as well.
I'm Just finishing a "traditional" cross section. Yours will be super more complicated. I agree it is a nice learning experience seeing how they looked and worked from the inside.
Thanks Michael--Yes I almost want to do another one to incorporate some of the things I learned. Mostly I was too conservative and my worries about warping and sagging meant I didn't expose more of the bow and stern because I thought I needed them planked for structural support. Good luck with your project!
 
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