Master model shipwright Harold M Hahn

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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the material in this article comes from the archives of Harold Hahn. Now you may wonder what archives?
The story is after Harold's wife Nancy passed away the family decided to clean out the house and sell it. One problem they had was a life time collection of books, and research material Harold had. I got a call from Martha and she asked if I would come over and look it all over and suggest what to do with it. Because I was a student of Harold they figured I could sort through it all and figure out if any of it was worth doing something with.

My idea was to take everything of any research value and create a digital archive and library for future model builders. everything was packed in these carry all bags. They filled the bed of a pickup truck twice. no the cat is mine she did not come with the bags. If you ever had a cat as a friend you may of noticed when you bring something new into the house they are right there looking at it, touching it, wondering why it is there, what are you going to do with it and they watch it. even when I work on a model Mu will sit and watch for hours.

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then the task of sorting througt it which took 3 month

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what took so long was Harold kept every letter ever sent to him, every sketch he did, original manuscripts first hand written then typed

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as a side note Harold was big in astrology he had his astrology done on a regular bases. Believe it or not I found where the astrology forcast actually did come to pass. Articles were publishes according to the best time suggested by his astrology etc.

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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the reason I took on the task to catalog Harold Hahn's work was because I saw a massive amount of material collected by Bob Bruckshaw vanish. He has twice the amount Harold had and parts of the collection were taken by a group never to be seen again, some was just tossed in a dumpster and some was given to the Inland Seas Maritime Museum and are now stored away. Little good this does the ship modeling community, I hope future generations will see the value in these masters work, their research and their collections. Charley Mcdonald and Merrit Edson what happened to their work? sad to say gone.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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little known facts after sorting through 1,000s of letters a big majority were from other countries, few were from here in the states. His work was far more respected out side the US here he found himself having to defend his research and the critics nit picked at him to a point he published statements concerning his work, his modeling ideas and why he did what he did.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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ok where was I?

oh yes the evolution of an idea

The one claim to fame of Harold Hahn was the innovative idea of building framed models in a jig. This became known as "the upside down method" a term Harold began to resent, he viewed it as mocking the idea because it went against the then belief that model ship should be built like a real ship right side up starting with laying the keel.

all new ideas begin as heresy

On more than one occasion Harold found his opinions profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted.

that did not stop him at all he stood his ground and went forward regardless if the established ship modeling community agreed or not. In all the years I knew Harold I will say he saw the end product and it is just a matter of engineering it to make it happen. Once he saw it there is nothing going to change his mind it became a quest.

Using some sort of jig was not an idea Harold plucked out of thin air, it was taught to him by Bob Bruckshaw. what Harold did was to refine the concept. As we see here Bob was already experimenting with using jigs.

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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Why build an admiralty model? for years, I have had a model of the HMS victory of 1776, sitting on the mantel, and then on a shelf. The most dominating feature of that model is the tallow colored bottom of the hull. Eons ago when i modeled the USS Preston and the USS Texas the red bottoms of their hulls, except for the brass screws and rudder tended to block out any view of the superstructure. On an admiralty model the absence of the planking on the bottom half of the hull diminishes its bulky appearance and the open bottom is broken up by the spacing of the frames. The upper portion of the hull is separated from these frames by black wales. The open decks lead into the airy appearance of the rigging, giving the whole model a delicate balanced influence. You can focus on the topgallant or a truck without a white hull blinding you. An admiralty model is more pleasing to the eye.
"quoted from Bob Bruckshaw"

if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck. If it looks like a duck but clucks like a chicken then it must be a chicken in a duck disguise. Same applies to Bruckshaw's admiralty models they look like an admiralty model and built like an admiralty model thus they are an admiralty model. Hahn's models look like an admiralty model but not built like an admiralty model thus they are not an admiralty model they just look like one.

We can expand the definition of Admiralty model to include any model with the lower hull left open exposing any system of framing. What if one side of the hull is fully planked and one side left open is this a half admiralty model? Rather than try and squeeze different configurations of a model into the admiralty style lets keep it simple and stick to the rules bob set down.

Keep in mind Bob was building one off, one of a kind models for museum display they were never meant to be reproduced. On the other hand Harold was thinking modeling plans and a building system if followed correctly most anyone can reproduce the model.

Just to build an admiralty model is very difficult let alone trying to fit it into a fool proof building system.

Bob set all the floors on the keel making sure all the drafting, fabrication of the floors and setting of the floors resulted in that nice fair sweeping curve of the overlap and the solid belt of timber. The skill in building a hull this way is difficult and this is why we see few model built in this style.

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The idea came from Bruckshaw as you can see he was using a basic jig system very close to what Hahn came up with. It was Harold who looked at it and thought humm this might work if I make some sort of solid stable jig to hold the frames. The jig idea will work but the admiralty framing won't.

In order for Hahn's plans to work for model builders he needed a system of framing where a builder could build a complete frame and hold it in a jig. The double frame or sister framing was the answer, you could build a frame independent of the hull and hold it in a jig. Problem is the ships would no longer be built like admiralty models.
Harold was not that concerned about maintaining the traditional building methods of the admiralty model his concern was more from an artists point of view as Bob stated
"On an admiralty model the absence of the planking on the bottom half of the hull diminishes its bulky appearance and the open bottom is broken up by the spacing of the frames. An admiralty model is more pleasing to the eye."

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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The first issue with the Hahn method the critics pointed out the huge amount of wasted wood.


Harold first used the jig method for the ships in the diorama. The jig proved itself useful in holding the framing of the small scale hulls in place while work was done on the models. These ships were only about seven inches long so the amount of wood wasted was of little concern and the usefulness of the jig far out weighed the amount of extra wood used. In larger ships at larger scale is when the amount of wasted wood became a issue with some model builders. Spending months building frames and assembling the hull the amount of extra wood is well worth it to insure the hull will not end up distorted. Keep in mind this jig system was designed for the first time plank on frame builder and to increase the odds of success in building the hull. Building a hull right side up with no jig is like a high wire act performed without a safety net, If you have experience you can do it. Personally for myself i would rather have the jig, i see no point in taking the risk of building right side up free form. Those concerned about the extra cost of wood may have a valid point if your using expensive wood and paying from 20 to 30 dollars a board foot. For first time builders of plank on frame hulls using wood in the cost range of 5 dollars a board foot the added cost is not a big deal. Amount of extra wood also depends on the hull some take less wood than others.

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Dave in todays world of thecnology, I will never ever buil a POF( admiraly style) with out a jig, tried that did not work will not do it again, I can not do the jigs myself AS TO AGE(81) and EYESITE ALONG WITH HAND< EYE BRAIN COORDINATION NOT BEING WHAT IT ONCE WAS, I have 2 uncompleted models with all frames cut out, the ONEDIDA and the GEnl. Washington with out a jig they lean in every direction possible HAD TO STOP WORK ON THOSE WITCH BOTHERED ME GREATLY ESPECIALLY THE ONEDIA, PLANS AND OTHER PARTS ARE EXCELLENT, WOULD LOVE TO GET A JIG FOR THIS ONE EITHER THE HAHN TYPE OR THE ONE DAVE STEVENS DID FOR THE CAUSTIC, anyone help would love to complete it. Don
 

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Dave in todays world of thecnology, I will never ever buil a POF( admiraly style) with out a jig, tried that did not work will not do it again, I can not do the jigs myself AS TO AGE(81) and EYESITE ALONG WITH HAND< EYE BRAIN COORDINATION NOT BEING WHAT IT ONCE WAS, I have 2 uncompleted models with all frames cut out, the ONEDIDA and the GEnl. Washington with out a jig they lean in every direction possible HAD TO STOP WORK ON THOSE WITCH BOTHERED ME GREATLY ESPECIALLY THE ONEDIA, PLANS AND OTHER PARTS ARE EXCELLENT, WOULD LOVE TO GET A JIG FOR THIS ONE EITHER THE HAHN TYPE OR THE ONE DAVE STEVENS DID FOR THE CAUSTIC, anyone help would love to complete it. Don


I have given it consideration to redo the Oneida with a jig the Oneida was created without a jig because there was a big poo poo about using jigs in the anti-Hahn movement years ago. At that time there was a big push ships models should be built upright and NOT in a jig. At one point Harold Hahn fell from grace or should I say pushed. My moment of doubt and I questioned my teaches methods, that was my bad in so many ways.
 
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Hi Dave,
Very nice to get insights in Mr Hahn's ideas, thinking and battles.
Lumber "waste" would mostly be in all the templates used for the frame's timbers including the extension to fit all the way down to the jig. One could likely built 3 or 4 frames with what it takes to build one with his method.
This said, in regards to the jig, most use one, whether it is "up-side down - keel up" or "right side-up - keel down", they ease the process: heck, one can use 1 or 2 levels in a keel down jig depending of the hull. One of the positive aspect with Mr Hahn's jig is that the hull is held secure far longer: the the point where the outside of the hull can be almost completed before being separated.
It would be neat to put a hull together without one! That would take the construction to a whole new level: having to use ribbands to hold everything in place.
G.K.
 
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Dave it would be FANTATIC if you could do the jig, as I have the rest of the kit from you which is excellent as well as GREAT PLANS, also you practorium on your web site is really great, THINK ABOUT IT, I am not worried about the wood quantity, but to hold everything straight is whaI want, HAVEING DONE YOUR SEMI-SCRATCH BUILDS OF BOTH THE HALIFAX AND THE CAUSTIC, JUST MY OPION I LIKE THE JIG FOR THE CAUSTIC not so much as saveing some materials, but the ease of construction, THINK ABOUT IT. Don
 

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Hi Dave,
Very nice to get insights in Mr Hahn's ideas, thinking and battles.
Harold was reinventing the hobby of model ship building, in doing so some thought he was also "degrading" the process. a model shipwright is suppose to go through a long training process of learning how a ship was built.
Lumber "waste" would mostly be in all the templates used for the frame's timbers including the extension to fit all the way down to the jig. One could likely built 3 or 4 frames with what it takes to build one with his method.
keep in mind when Harold was developing his methods laser cutting was a new idea so building a frame blank was a sure fire way to actually build and insure the shape of the frames. There was no one who was drawing a frame in CAD, break it down and create a layout on a sheet of wood. Oh wait i was doing it but in a crude form based on my teachers work, it took a few years to refine the idea. This was all new and really not a standard method employed by POF builders and at the time there were no POF kits. This was a development based on what Harold was doing at the time. So Harold set the ground work back in the early 70s what is being done today is a result of that ground breaking idea.
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This said, in regards to the jig, most use one, whether it is "up-side down - keel up" or "right side-up - keel down", they ease the process: heck, one can use 1 or 2 levels in a keel down jig depending of the hull. One of the positive aspect with Mr Hahn's jig is that the hull is held secure far longer: the the point where the outside of the hull can be almost completed before being separated.
other builders like bob Hunt reinvented and expanded on the jig idea and rather build upside down with extensions on the frame why not put the frame on the outside of the hull? that worked but had it's own limitations as we will see later on.

It would be neat to put a hull together without one! That would take the construction to a whole new level: having to use ribbands to hold everything in place.
That concept of build it like a real ship was built, is what fueled the anti-hahn jig system, some builders in the community felt model ship building was an art form where short cuts were frowned on. It is an entire new level of building and required a higher skill set. Kind of hey it is built in a jig, it's fool proof anyone can now do it. So where is the skill?
I say HA! try it, it is not fool proof and does require skill. a reproduction of a Hahn model commands quite a high price if done right.
The system introduced by Hahn was not for the highly skilled builder it was for the hobby level and for those wanting to build their first plank on frame model.
do you think a collector really cares if the finished model was built in a jig or built from the keel up freehand?
 
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Dave Brother what a fantastic thing you are doing. And what way to pay tribute to one of the best ship modelers of our time. having the information in digital will be a great thing for the hobby and what better way to memorialize someone's work. You have a lot of work ahead of you Brother.
 
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Joe A lot of what Dave is talking about is already on the NAVEY BOARD MODEL SITE, NOT DUE TO DAVE BUT IT WAS NEVER COMPLETED I ASKED WHY TO WHOEVER AND NEVER RECEIVED AN ANSWER, and yes it is almost impossible for one person to do the whole thing, maybe Dave can explain it, I am not qualified to do that, I just turn my computer on if there is a problem phone call to my DAUGHTER ONE OTHER THING Dave I and others had a very good debate on the status of ship molding, the hobby needs the NOVICE AND INTERMEDIATE BUILDERS, to have a vibrant hobby that grows, there are MANY, MANY GREAT BUILDERS ON THIS SITE TRUE CRAFTSMAN, I will never be able to do what is shown on this site, I CAN ONLY DO MY BEST, the BACKBONE OF THIS HOBBY IS THE NOVICE AND INTERMEDIATE MODEL BUILDERS, as for me I will accept anything ie 3-D modeling, 3-D instructions a MILLING MACHINE, anything to make my builds better and for me at my age faster, this hobby to me is more then a HOBBY according to my Drs (have many) it is what keeps me ALIVE along with my faith in CHRIST, JUST ME BEING ME, LET US KEEP THIS DISCUSSION GOING. THANKS FOR HEREING MY OPIONS Don
 

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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Like Ramon is doing it on his actual built:

the masters make it look easy I have come across builders who take a set of ship plans and WHAM! BAM! build the model for the first time. what you may not know is the builder has been building model planes for 20 years or has a model railroad layout that would blow you away, They are master carvers, trained engineers or machinists, master woodworkers. In other words they already have a boat load of skill and training backing them up.
What Harold was doing is building a bridge over the gap between buying a kit in a hobby shop and the master work of the admiralty models. In his day there were no plank on frame kits or even information on how to do it. A plank on frame ship model was in the domain of the master builder.

a debate raged on and Hahn was in the center of it. In the "trades" such as carpenters, masons, smiths etc you were first sized up to see if you were worthy of a master time to teach you. If you got in the door it was years of training as an apprentice before you earned a title of journeyman. Hahn was already a nationally recognized award winning artist and held degree in engineering, same with Bruckshaw he had models in museums he was a professional draftsman, master craftsman and design engineer. These guys were heavy weights and their work commanded high prices because very few had their back round, knowledge of the subject of ship modeling and skill level. In other words they were indeed a rare duck.
Then comes Harols Hahn and he flung open the doors of the guild and said hey guys anyone can do this and here is how it is done. Good for the masses not so good for the master builders. now with a little skill someone could build a plank on frame model in the same amount of time and in many cases just as good as the masters. What happens is the value of the work is reduced so a model built by Harold Hahn worth $45.000.00 can be had for a fraction of the cost built by anyone with some skills.
The debate is the knowledge of this art should be guarded by the guilds as esoteric knowledge practiced by those considered worthy. By setting standards so high very few could reach such lofty works and some standards set so they could never be reached. It is the nature of the guilds through out history to set the bench marks, to train those to very high standards and to keep the art form pure.
Harold Hahn was a bullheaded guy he was a stubborn as they come.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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the Hahn system begins with building the frames as blanks then glue on the frame pattern. The blanks were 1 inch wide so a lot of frames would fit the same blank. you can cut back on the wood by using 1/2 wide material but you would need a lot more frame blank shapes almost making a blank for every 3rd frame.

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Harolds engineering approach to building was meticulous every cut every fit had to be perfect. so he made a jig to cut the correct angle for the blank pieces. Kind of a curse and blessing being so perfect in every step, but you got to admit the models showed it.

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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my approach was according to Harold "sloppy" I liked to call it "freehand" good thing he did not have a yard stick or he just might of wacked my hands and made me do it over and over. a compromise was reached between teacher and student because the end results were acceptable. reminded me of being left handed in a Catholic school the Nuns just did not like it and tried to force me to use my "right" hand

“When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne …. He will put the righteous people at his right and the others at his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, Come you are blessed by my Father …. Then he will say to those on his left “away from me, you that are under God’s curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels.”

thanks to the nuns in my early education I am now Ambidextrous mostly left handed

anyhow

you build all your frames and set up the first and last whole frames square to the building surface.

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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I served a 4 year apprenticeship + art school before I could call myself a journeyman and make the big money. so all that time one thing I learned is to sit and observe listen to the teachers and don't try to change the system and do not ever question the methods. Once your out and a journeyman then you can invent anything you want. Never question Harold EVER! know your place "a student"

Harold was so on the mark so perfect and deliberate in everything. Good for him it worked but I am thinking to perfect. many builders were having a problem setting up the framing in the jig and the hulls were not coming out like Harold's.

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why was that?
because notice the frames are set up independent of the keel assembly

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when all the frames are in place the keel just dropped on the frames perfect. How this was done is each and every frame was also built in a jig. See that little yellow square sticking up at the bottom of the frame, that's the keel, and the yellow stop at the top that is the jig base line. the distance between these 2 points had to be exactly the same for every frame.

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it is not the system it is in the making of all the parts.
 
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