The Inspiration & Challenge that is "La Salamandre"

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When I was a youngster in the '50's, the old "James Bliss" catalog contained a kit to build a naval mortar. At the time I couldn't afford anything in that catalog, but that mortar, and the sailing ships that used it, absolutely intrigued me. So it seems odd that it has taken this long for me to finally build one. Certainly, the emergence of Boudriot and Berti's monograph and plan set had a lot to do with my decision to take on this project. I started building "Salamandre" in January of 2017. The scale is 1:48.

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Before I even knew what ship I was going to build next, I had to cut down a pear tree in the corner of my yard where it was threatening my neighbor's fence. All I knew was that I wanted to build an admiralty board style ship (which I'd never done before), and that this pear wood should be be ideal for such a project. The logs were left to season for 2 years while I searched for a project to build. After initial seasoning, these photos show the first step of cutting up the logs into pieces. These pieces were then left to season for a few more months during which they underwent their final warping and twisting and became stable. Then I can just square them up and began slicing off finished model building timber as needed. I do my final processing of miniature lumber with a Proxxon table saw and a Jim Byrnes thickness sander.


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This is 6 months into the build and all frames and the bow structure are built and have undergone initial fairing. The building jig is visible to the left. Somehow I did not retain any photos of the keel assembly and the associated stem and stern post. The little dowel pins in each frame where it meets the keel were my idea. obviously no one will ever see them in the model. However they provided absolute accuracy in the thwartship direction as I was constantly inserting and removing them during the initial assembly and construction work.

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So here is a good look at the stern post and at least part of the keel. The carving of the rabbet is complete here.

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One can finally see the shape of Salamander's bow at this point. I certainly wasted more than an hour or two admiring the shape of it. Oops! there is another ship in the background shadows here. I promise a full build log on that one in the near future.

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The first piece of ebony wood was a thrill. Inboard, the gun deck clamps are in as well so the structure is becoming quite stable now. The little spacers that you see at the turn of the bilge are temporary.

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Gun ports and stern timbers. Oh yeah !

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This brings us up to the present day. There will be much more coming if the force is willing.
 
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Joined
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Thanks all of you for such encouraging replies to my post. I'm really moved ! And good questions, too.

Thanks Y.T. for asking about the lizard. Miniature carving is not a skill that I've had much experience with, so I'm learning a lot from this project. This salamander figurehead seems to have gotten interpreted a little differently by different builders and draftsmen over the years. So one of the things that you might be noticing is that my lizard (or is he an amphibian?) actually looks comfortable up there on his perch. In the drawings his back feet seem to be struggling to grip the stem piece. So I asked myself, "If I was that salamander, where would I put my back feet?" The forward-most part of the ship's bow cheeks are so close to his feet, and they're shaped nicely for the salamander to stand on. He looks more relaxed that way, don't you think?

Another somewhat irregular addition I made was to make his eyes out of pear wood which contrasts nicely with his boxwood body. Just drilled 2 holes where eyes belong and rounded one end of 2 little pieces of pear doweling and popped them in. I am pretty dogged about following the plan and getting scale as accurate as possible in the ship itself, but do allow myself a little room to interpret when it comes to the carved decorations.

The flames under the salamander's belly were not carved along with his body. They are simply teardrop shaped chips formed from boxwood using a 1/16 inch wide carving gouge. I super-glued them in place. Also couldn't resist painting them with flame colors.
 
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Hi Brian077. Thanks for asking about my tree nailing.

I used 2 different materials to make the trunnels -- pear wood for use in the ebony planking and holly decking, and bamboo for the pear planking. To my eye this keeps them from being too contrasty, yet they are easily visible. I make trunnel stock by pulling small strips of wood (10 to 12 inch lengths) through a Jim Byrnes draw plate. I used to use a draw plate from MicroMark, but the Jim plate is much better quality for about the same price.

I use a carbon pencil and a flexible straightedge (card stock is great) to draw vertical lines on the hull, or athwardship lines on the deck, exactly along the length of the frame or beam where I want my trunnels to go. Note that, in order to end up with 2 staggered trunnels in each plank, you will need 2 parallel pencil lines along each frame or deck beam. All holes are subsequently drilled on the pencil line, but the exact placement along the line is determined by eye. For example, if I'm tree nailing the ship's topside planking, the first vertical pencil line might have holes drilled nearer to the top of each plank. Then the next vertical will have holes drilled nearer to the bottom of each plank, and so on. Small vertical variations will be virtually unnoticeable. I hope I'm not screwing up this explanation, but please let me know if it's not clear. I promise I won't be insulted.

Once I have drilled 50 to 100 holes, I will stop drilling and insert trunnels. There may be much better ways of doing this, but this is what I do. First the holes need to be an easy fit. Snug holes have a way stopping trunnels from seating sufficiently once there is glue on the trunnel. I keep a piece of 200 grit sand paper on the bench where I can drag the end of my trunnel strip over the paper to remove any burrs and give the trunnel a slight bevel on the tip. I also have a bit of card stock on which I put a pea-sized drop of glue (I used Elmer's Carpenter's Glue and one pea-size drop is enough for 15-20 trunnels). So I dip the tip of my trunnel strip in the glue and shove it in a hole in the planking. Then I immediately use a pair of side-cutting nippers to bite it off close to the planking. Then back to the sandpaper to clean up the tip of my trunnel strip before dipping in the glue again and so forth. When the trunnel strip gets too short for easy handling, I use a forcep to hold it until it's used up. And that's it. Just sand off the protruding ends after the glue dries.
 
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Joined
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After all of these positive comments from you fellows, I think my hat size is increasing. Ha Ha!

So I just posted a question on Construction Details of Ships regarding the operation of the type of bilge pumps that were used on the original "Salamandre." That topic category doesn't seem to have been used much lately, so if you're reading this, would you please drop over there and see if you can help me out? Thanks!
 
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Uwek

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After all of these positive comments from you fellows, I think my hat size is increasing. Ha Ha!

So I just posted a question on Construction Details of Ships regarding the operation of the type of bilge pumps that were used on the original "Salamandre." That topic category doesn't seem to have been used much lately, so if you're reading this, would you please drop over there and see if you can help me out? Thanks!
Yes - it would be very interesting to see your progress on this interesting model ....
 
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