Vasa Build Log - Billing Boats - Scale 1/75

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I only recently discovered SOS and so wasn't entering a build log as I went for the last few months of a build of the Swedish Vasa from the Billing Boat kit. My name is Peter, and I live in the snow country of south-east Australia. About 12 months ago, following a cruise in the Baltic Sea my wife and I visited the amazing Vasamuseet in Stockholm, I commenced building the Vasa. This is the second large Billing Boat I have constructed, the first being the Cutty Sark, almost 40 years ago. This model is proudly displayed in a glass case in our home and has been a talking point and feature most of my life. Hopefully, while I now have more time, the Vasa will be the same.

I have read many of the build logs regarding the Vasa and of these, there are builds from kits of Corel, Sergal/Mantua, Billing and more recently the De Agostini release from Italy. Prior the DeAgostini model (by ModelSpace), a number of writers commented that they felt the Billing Boat's Vasa was the most accurate. It was available before the DeAgostini model release, and so my choice was the Billing Boats kit when I made the purchase. Having now progressed through this build, overall I am very happy with the content of materials (although I have substituted some timbers), and scratched a number of items (eg below decks cannon mounts etc). The instructions are limited and short on detail, but the build logs have subsequently helped and filled in some of the 'gaps'.

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The kit packaging and delivered product was complete with no obvious broken parts or missing items. One thing that I did notice was that hull planking used timber referred to as 'Obechi'. While this was included, I did not like its scaled width or thickness, and so I did some maths to scale the planking of the actual ship pictures I had, and then purchased some 5 x 1 mm mahogany in precut strips. This to me, was a much better planking material, and better for the scaling appearance of the ship. A similar argument held for the deck planking and so I milled some of the mahogany to use for this as well. Different stain/treatments were also used to maintain reasonable appearance and weathering effects.

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Bulkhead layout was straightforward but the bulkhead extensions above deck (which were instructed to be 'thinned') were weak and fragile. Some of these broke in the process of the build, especially with the deck plywood fitting and so I trimmed these and added extensions later when the planking was built up above the deck level. The decking base needed some trimming but this was minimal and fitted satisfactorily.

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Before any comments are made about the Smirnoff bottles in the background, these are holding raw alcohol which I intend to use in assisting the bending of planks. This is to be an experiment, but I have read where it is more effective than water and/or steam bending. More on this later!!

Thanks - more soon

Peter G.
 
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Nice start of your log on Vasa, can you show some pictures of the fittings that came with the kit, keep up the good work,
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
Many thanks gentlemen. Knut, I provide some pictures of the fittings in the Billing kit below. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the build is a good way along and so I have used most of the fittings already. The Build Log is a catch-up as the hull and many fittings have already been completed at this time.

billing-boats-wasa-fittings_2.jpg

billing-boats-wasa-fittings_1.jpg

billing-boats-wasa-fittings.jpg

Regards,
Peter G
 
Joined
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Messages
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103

Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
My 'model ship' workshop for building the Vasa (much to my wife's amusement) is reasonably well set up with a small power bench saw, lathe and various vices. I find a good stereo music system also a must as background. In the pictures posted here, you will also notice a flat piece of timber on which the framework sits. This 'dockyard' I have designed with two things in mind:

1. The support for the growing ship can be rotated along a horizontal axis, even supported upside down, using soft plastic rubber (as used by swimming pool flotation). This will enable me to place the hull into the best position to plank, add fixtures, scupltures etc. Along the keel a three parallel pieces of wood which hold the keel and ship in place.

2. Another innovation is that the base board is mounted on a large circular, metal ring with ball bearings (online they are referred to as 'lazy susans platter' or 'lazy susans bearings'). These are cheap and easily fitted to a base. This allows complete 360 degree rotation simply and effectively. I have found this to be a wonderful means of accessing the ship all around, quickly and with care. A note of caution with this however. Sometimes the rotation is so free, that a part of the ship may extend over the work bench. When this is the case (as for example the bow extension), it can easily be caught by a moving arm or clothing. After one disaster where I caught the bow, I soon became aware of this shortcoming. The ease of access to the overall ship however makes this innovation well worth it. I have a marking on the base board beneath the stern and bow to indicate where they should be located so the ship does not extend too far and hit surrounding tools etc when rotating.

Following the bulkhead placement and the plywood veneer deck base, I commenced with the decking. For this and after some research, I noted that there was no geometric or logical layout to the placement of deck planks on the actual ship. They were seemingly random, and so I adopted this for my model. The planking I used was of mahogany but of a size scaled to be between 10 and 12 inches width (254 to 305 mm). I laid these using caulking simulated by PVA gluing one side of each deck plank with black crepe paper. When dry, I trimmed the paper and sanded the plank flat before laying it down on the deck base. I commenced from the centre and worked outwards to the hull flanks.

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Allowances had to be made for the hatches and surrounds were added first. Stained timber edging was also added to get the dimensions correct. The hatches themselves, with the Billing kit came as a series of laser cut plywood cutouts. These with some work to weather and scribe the individual vertical/horizontal hatch timbers looked and fitted quite satisfactorily.

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Final treatment of the decking was by using a 'burnishing' organic oil. This finish is quite hard and durable when dry and leaves a lovely patina on the mahogany. The caulking with the black crepe paper stands out well and looks about in scale. In the picture above too, I have shaped the outside edges of the bulkheads to the required angles to maximise contact with the hull planking around the curves of the hull. This Billing model requires a SINGLE planking only and so the glued and fixed contact must be strong and capable of maintaining the timber curves required with minimal splitting or gaps between planks.

The doors fitted above the beak area for seamen's access I have simply scribed the laser cut plywood and run black ink into the lines using a Rotring drafting pen. My Rotring pen set got a working out on this model as I discuss later.

Regards,
Peter G
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
With the decking completed, I commenced the upper deck side panels. On the inside of these, I lined with mahogany and then began the 'false' rib extensions. I did these in obechi timber (as per the instructions). This timber is relatively soft and easy to work/shape but it is also a lighter colour to provide contrast with the darker decking timbers. I started on the port side for no good reason. As I progressed along the length of the hull, from the plans, I also cut out and shaped the weather deck cannon ports. These I drilled with a small drill bit to outline the hole, then cut with a sharp blade and filed smooth to circular.

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In hindsight, this was probably a mistake as the positions of the cannon ports is critical when the external channels are mounted and the outer deadeyes and chainplates are mounted. These can easily block the cannon ports which would be incorrect and so drilling and cutting them in for positioning later would have been a better idea. As it happens, I have positioned them according to the plans, but will then have to slightly adjust the chainplate and deadeye positions to clear the firing locations of the cannon ports. The picture below shows the internal ribbing added for both port and starboard sides above decks.

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In some builds I have read about, LED lighting is used in the hull for effect. I was tempted to do this also and so, at this stage, while the ship and hull were open, I cut some holes through the bulkheads in the rear (where there was no forward access). The picture below shows the hole in the rear bulkhead (No. 1) as well as the ribbing now completed on both sides of the inner deck area. This hole allowed me access to pass LED lighting into the hull and because of the lowered shape of the forward bulkheads, I could pass the lighting strip all the way to the bow. The voltage used was 12V DC and so required an external transformer and rectifier. I have routed the wiring through a channel in the stern which will then come out through planking near the keel at the back of the ship.

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The outer deck linings where now completed to take the upper, overlapping (clinker) style lapped planks on the upper decks of the ship. I also noted the trimming of the shape of the bottom of this base, lining plywood does not align with the shape of the deck. As the shape of the bottom of this lining deviates significantly from the shape of the deck, the consequence is that the bend and shape of the outer planking will not conform with the upper deck shape for the outboard planks. So, some trimming and shaping of the base of this plywood was required to match the deck shape. This means that then, the planks of the upper to lower portions of the hull are correctly placed. I think Billings have shaped the plywood as they have done for strength rather than accuracy, but I this approach was better as it was likely to reduce the need for spoilers and filler planks along the outer hull. Where there was some movement of the upper lining in the central part of the deck/hull length, I added extensions to the bulkhead ribbing and drilled this into the bulkheads below. With gluing (PVA), this appeared to provide sufficient strength and removed any hull movement.

Regards,
Peter G.
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
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103

Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
Having completed the ribbing along the upper decks and added the cannon ports to the weather decks, I then turned to the stern.

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The picture above shows the rear Captain's Cabin windows (with internal lead-light hatching), plus the completed but untrimmed rear planking. By leaving the edges of the stern planking extending beyond the outer shape of the hull, it meant I could plank right up to this point and form a good, tight 'butt' join along the hull/stern line.

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Using the dockyard base, I inverted the hull and laid out the planking for each bulkhead. This laying out follows the procedure outlined by a number of videos and documents where the hull bulkhead lengths are measured, divided by the number of required planks, and then each bulkhead is measured and marked for the individual plank width. The planks are then shaped with the appropriate widths and fitted accordingly. A really good description of this technique is available from a search of 'lining off your hull for planking'. On the Vasa, the picture below shows how I lined it off. In the end I had no stealers and the planking went well, which I attribute to the marking and preparation.

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Note in the lining off above, the distances measured are between a top and bottom, keel planks already mounted and fixed. In the picture below, you can see I shaped and bevelled the edges of the bulkheads to accept the maximum surface area of the planking. I also needed to add to the bow of the ship, a shaped and glued balsa filler block on each side. The purpose of these again was to maximise the contact surface area of the forward planks which will wrap around the bow. The plank bending will be quite tight here and so maximum gluable area will be necessary. The ship shape and hull designed by Billing's appears quite good.

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I used modified paper clamps to hold my planking onto the bulkheads during gluing. These worked well with the only problem with these coming later in the planking when the space available for them against the bulkhead becomes reduced.

Regards,
Peter G.
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
73
Points
103

Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
The planking (my fears are always with this stage!!!) has now commenced in earnest!!!

I started the planking from the topsides towards the keel. The upper most section was not too bad as the curvature shape at the bow and stern were relatively mild and so the mahogany strip timber with soaking in hot water for a few minutes, seemed to bend without too much trouble. Shaping of each plank was done initially, according to the width marks on the hull, and after a few planks were added, it started to progress quite well.

It then became time to allow for the gun ports. On the Vasa, beneath the weather deck guns, are two additional levels. How to position these? On the Billing Boat kit, is supplied a series (86 I think), plastic 'inserts' for the gunports and within these are the 'half' cannons supplied in brass. These cannon barrels are a stub, false cannon designed to push fit into timber within the cannon locations behind the ports. No information is provided in the instructions as to how to fit these. Well, I was not happy about the plastic cannon port surrounds, and I realised I would have to construct some internal mounting and simulated gun carriages for the brass below-deck cannon barrels.

The picture below indicates how I located the positions of the various cannon ports. From the instruction plans of the hull, I created an overlay of some clear plastic and used some fixed points (such as the weather deck upper cannon ports and breaks in the deck line to locate the overlay on the outside of the partially planked hull. I used masking tape to fix the overlay to the upper parts of the ship so I could roll it on and off the hull planking for marking the port positions for cutting out. At this stage the planking was down to about the first level of below-deck cannon ports (6 planks in the picture below..

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With the cannon ports drawn on the hull planking, I then used a piece of bent steel (actually roofing material called Colourbond in Australia), which I had punched out the precise size for the cannon ports. I then drilled around the perimeter of the ports and cut out with a sharp knife and then filed square. These came out quite well and in the correct locations.

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Where a bulkhead was encountered as I removed the port plank section, I also had to cut some bulkhead timber to allow for the cannon support timber to be positioned. These timbers involved making a 'floor' for the deck, gluing between the adjacent bulkheads and then inserting a false gun carriage to support the false cannon barrel. Each gun carriage was painted and inserted and glued into position. From the outside it looks OK and provides the support for the guns well.

As the planking progressed, the gunports were eventually completed and it formed a good solid hull. I had to be careful with the planking as there is only a single planking used by Billings. while this is alright, it leaves little room for error if a mistake is made. Below is a picture of the planking on the starboard side with most of the gunports cut out.
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Similarly on the port side. You will note that there is quite a lot of variation in the mahogany planking colour along the hull. I tried to position planking and plank selection randomly but it has occurred that the lighter coloured sections appear where the gunports are. This was not by design as the gunport locations do not follow the line of the plank edges anyway. Nevertheless the finish I think will look OK when painted. I am not intending to use a stain, as I quite like the look of the mahogany anyway. The side gunwales still to be added will also be in black and these will add contrast that should look good. If necessary, I can also stain later when I see the overall hull's finished planking.

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For all planking I am using PVA white glue and then after each plank is attached I, go over the bulkhead-plank joints on the inside (where and while I can still access them), and add additional glue. At this stage I have used no nails, only glue and pressure for bending, plus I am pleased that as the planking proceeds, no stealers to fill gaps have been required.

More soon...

Regards,

Peter G.
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
73
Points
103

Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
Thanks Uwe on your comment about the drilling jig.

This worked especially well as I have discovered that the size of the upper and lower cannon ports below decks are slightly different. Hence, I have two drill guides in the one piece of metal and this has given me the scaled correct port sizes for the two deck levels. The two cannon port sizes for the different decks was indicated to me in the 'Vasa I: The Archaeology of a Swedish Royal Ship of 1628' book by Fred Hocker of the Vasamuseet Museum. I am waiting on the publication of the Vasa II book by Mr Hocker which will have even more detail of many of the finer points of this amazing ship.

Regards,

Peter G.
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
73
Points
103

Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
Continuing on with the planking. Planking, planking and more planking....

The bow of Vasa is quite rounded and bluff and so some severe bending and shaping is required. The picture below shows the slow progress beneath the first decking level of cannon ports towards the keel.

IMG_3135.JPG

For the bending and plank shaping I have found the following procedure most effective using mahogany 1.0mm planking timber.

1. I pre-form the plank to the right width and chamfer where required. If a join is used (which is on most planks, the diagonal offset is cut and shaped for the next plank along.
2. When happy with the shape and fit, to the 'lining' width defined for each bulkhead, the plank is inserted into a long tube and boiling water added so the entire plank is immersed. I leave this for 3-4 minutes.
3. I take out the plank and then I have a jig made out of 2 x 4' (50 x 100mm) timber that has on its thin edge, a semi-circle of reducing radius cut. This shape allows me to bend the plank into the timber until the correct curvature is obtained. Actually, I usually over-bend the plank so any 'spring-back' approximates what I require.
4. For parts of the plank that require excessive bend (such as the bow, I also use a heated round electric soldering iron to push the plank down into the spce of my timber shape. With the water in the plank, there is no burning, but a little steam is created which helps the bend.
5. The plank is then quickly migrated to the hull where pre-gluing has been added (using white PVA glue), and the plank placed into position. The plank is held by preferred paper clips (as shown in picture of previous post #11), or by push pins into the bulkhead.

IMG_3136.JPG

In the picture above, planking has progressed to be just below the second decking of cannon ports, which have been positioned and cut. Note in the first deck level below the topsides, you can just see the 'false' cannon carriages and individual decks to mount the below top deck cannon barrels. This was tedious work but so long as it is done as planking progresses down the hull, it is not a time consuming task. Above the planking is the topsides plywood. Billing Boats use this as a base material which on the real Vasa, has a series of clinker planked, thinner timbers to be mounted. This will be done after hull planking is completed.

AT LAST, I am coming to the final plank. Below is the last plank to be fitted and the glue is in place. Additional plank support is required at the bow of the hull with pins placed to ensure there is no movement as the glue dries.

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The planking is tight and has only a few gaps where filler will have to be used to remove the hull openings. The shape of the hull is good and Billings have done a good job of the bulkhead shapes and positions to replicate the ships scaled shape. The finished bow below shows the curvature of the planks here. There is some opening and gaps between the planks but it is reasonably minimal and will take filler satisfactorily. I have used a minimal number of stealers and overall the planking has gone well despite being only a single planking designed by Billing's.

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In the image above, the bow looks slightly skewed, but the photo has not been taken directly head-on. When you look at it with the eye, both sides of the hull and symmetrical and it looks fine. some mahogany timber imperfections that are apparent can be seen, but these will sand flat and with painting/varnishing, the finish should be good. At the stern end of the hull, the planking does not require such tight bending and so the planks are tighter and fewer gaps are present.

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Planking is now complete!!!

Finishing will involve some minor filling of evident gaps. The filler I am using is a dark mahogany commercial wood filler and it appears too dark with some of the lighter coloured mahogany planks, so in the cases, I have sanded some light coloured planks to create a pile of mahogany sand/dust. I then added PVA white glue which dries clear and then used this as a filler. It works well and when varnished should almost not be visible.

Next post will have the progress on the finishing of the planking.

Oh, yeah - I have been trying to assess the times taken in the build to give an estimate of our build times. My estimates to date are:

60 hours Kit, background, planning etc
50 hours Bulkhead placement, shaping and keel
80 hours Decking, shape and ribbing
250 hours Planking, shaping, fitting and gun ports

Total to date, about 440 hours. Its really hard to do these estimates, as we all get to be distracted by other tasks on the ship, have other commitments (eg family, work, etc. etc. and so a few hours hear and there mount up very quickly. These figures are a guide only and are NOT accurate, but probably not far off. It comes as a bit of a shock as to how much time these models can take!!! However, to do a good job, it does take time - but, isn't that the point of the modelling exercise!!

More soon.

Regards,
Peter G.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Points
528

Good progress Peter, I replied to your post there on my thread (planking), hope it helps, you can also ask questions
on the thread (general topics help with models) under Forums.
Eletrical woodbender is sold by many different hobby dealers, good luck.
Greeting-
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
73
Points
103

Location
Crackenback, NSW, Australia
Thanks Le Capitaine and Knut. My use of an iron for bending is fortunately over now, but I looked at buying a bending iron/woodbender, but the temperature controlled soldering iron seemed to do a similar job. It worked well for the Vasa here in any case. The immersion in hot water also helped I think. I tried immersing in raw methanol (alcohol supplied by a friend), but the fumes, possibility of fire and hot water seemed to work just as well, so I opted for this in stead.

Finishing of the hull is now completed. I added filler where required (see previous post) and did some sanding with moderate and then finer sandpaper. I only hand sanded and this seemed to be adequate to give a relatively smooth finish. I used an oil-based varnish with low sheen and this seemed to provide a really good even appearance to the hull. It brings out the natural colour of the mahogany nicely. The lighter colours of some planking is probably not too realistic, but when the wales are fitted, it will not be too obvious as these are black and there are a few of them.

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The rear galleries required timbers which are positioned around and across the stern. I prepainted these yellow and fitted them where indicated in the instructions and plans. These form the starting points and alignment of the wales and are also the supports for the gallery domes which will have to be made and shaped.

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The top yellow deck gunwale has been added and this follows the curvature of the deck. In the image above you can see the wales (black) lying on the base which are to be positioned and attached soon. I have also added some extra enclosing timbers to the stern including the upper cabin portholes/windows. These, like the Captain's Cabin also have the flyscreen glued inside some shaped acetate sheet to give the impression of leadlighting with the LED lights on internally. This gives a good effect at night.

The wales had to be positioned along the sides of the hull at specific offsets from the deck and topsides, so I made up a paper 'ruler' that I used to locate these, as shown below.

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Joints in the wales, just like the hull planks are angled to form correct butting of the timbers as on the real Vasa. I have used copper hand-made nails for securing the wales. These nails too I have made for use in the hull timbers, but these will be added later. More on this then. In the image above you can see the internal gun carriages inside the gun ports. You can also seen that for each port, I have added a thin 2mm timber surround for each gun port. Billings supply plastic gun port surrounds which match their plastic gun port doors, but I don't much like these because:

1. The sizes don't match the two different gun port sizes from the upper gun and lower gun decks and
2. I don't think that they look as good as natural wood.

The final wales added to the hull are shown below. I pre-painted them (for obvious reasons) before attaching. Actually, it was not paint, but a black stain called 'Japan Black'. Two coats of this seemed to do a great jot and gave a good natural grain texture left without a smooth finish from paint. Some touch-up will be required when all wales are attached, but that should be a simple job.

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The wales as they are added along the hull in the picture above. The nailheads I have used are exposed and will need painting. Three more wales to go below those there already and down to the waterline. Below the extra wales are in place. Some touch-up of stain is required.

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In the above photo of the hull to the stern, you can see how the wales align with the galley timbers. The galleries take the majority of the figures and sculptures and this is a major job ahead, so they need to line up accurately. Yo can also see at the base of the hull, near the stern, the wiring that leads to a plug for powering the LED internal lights.

Another shot of the wales below and the wrapping around the bow which required some extra support for the glue (pins and push pins unfortunately). Also, at the bow of the ship, there is a second layer of planking on the real Vasa (probably to make her a bit smoother in the bow cut as she moved through the water). These timbers were also probably to protect the bow as the anchor is lowered and raised - Clever thinking seamen in those days. These extend from bowsprit extension to just below the anchor line.

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On the real Vasa, you can just see these timbers in the Museum in Stockholm (see below).

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In the real ship, you can also see the position of the deck extension that is used to lower/support the anchor. This lines up with these timbers of extra planking. The real ship does not have the coloured wales (eg stained black), but research by the museum staff indicates many of the colours used on the ship back in the 1620's. This especially applies to the over 200 figures and sculptures that adorn this ship. This will be a major exercise to paint etc, but I am looking forward to it.

Time elapsed - 490 hours.

More soon.

Regards,

Peter G.
 

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