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Royal Caroline 1749

January 7, 2014 in Ships

This is Mantua Models’ Royal Caroline (kit no.750), the original being launched from Deptford in 1749 as a Royal Yacht.

The scale is 1:47. The length, excluding sticky-out-bits fore and aft, is 65cm (just over two feet). It’s really a work-in-progess, and arguably should have been posted here under a different tab. Briefly, this is a wooden ship kit. A few pieces (transom, cross members, etc), are laser-cut sections that are removed from ply sheets. Everything else is measured, cut, filed or sanded from individual sections/length/ planks of either walnut or larch. Brass decorations (‘gingerbread’) are cut and filed from frets (with difficulty). Other lengths of brass are measured, cut, and filed to shape; I hand-painted all the brass with a thin coat of gold lacquer.

I started the kit in December 2012 and worked on it for six weeks, taking it to the point seen here in two of the last photos, where the hull, parapets, and decking are completed. In November 2013, I returned to the ship for a further six weeks, taking it to the stage where external hull decorations and many of the fittings to the decks are complete.

The hull, by the way, is formed as with a real ship. Sectional supports sit at right angles to the transom, and .5x 3mm larch strips are soaked in water, bent, and fixed lengthwise to create the ‘first’ hull. This is sanded and filled to achieve a smooth, balanced surface. Walnut strips are then treated and fixed over the first hull. These form the final exterior hull and have to be fitted closely and without gaps or fillers. I’ve added a photo here of the first hull fixing over the framework for the lifeboat, to give an idea of the beginnning of the process.

Many ship modellers leave the timbers in a natural finish, but I chose to use acrylic varnish stains for variety and interest across the build, with the underhull in white and the gunwales in French blue. The Mantua colour callout for the red parapets is ‘Pompeii Red’, which I never found, and instead used the Vallejo Games colour, Gory Red.

I still have to complete several complex frame sections to the main- and fore-decks, the lifeboat, and all the masts and of course the extensive blocks-and-tackle rigging.

I estimate I will need another two sessions of six to eight weeks to complete the ship, but as I tend to save it for mid-winter work it will probably be 2016 before it’s completed, unless I find myself ‘in the zone’ at some point and decide to push forward.

I should add that this is my first (and likely only) wooden ship build, and that any model shipright would probably guffaw at my efforts here, but for me it’s decorative and looks like a ship.

14 additional images. Click to enlarge

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22 responses to Royal Caroline 1749

  1. Quite a first effort Rob. Hope it is not your last. Do you have somewhere to display it & keep the dust off.

    • At the moment because it doesn’t have extended spars and masts I can slip it into a shelf area out of the way, and covered with plastic kitchen film against dust. Eventually I think I’ll have to have a display case, both to protect from dust and to keep anyone looking too closely at all my build errors.

  2. I think it’s ‘decorative and looks like a ship’ as well, Rob. And I applaud you for even beginning such an undertaking..(I would not). I concur with the idea of encasing it when finished. Household dust and poking fingers would wreak havoc over time. Beautiful-looking build, btw.

  3. Great job there Rob, boats don`t usually ring my bell that your one has.
    Looking forward to see it completed and posted.
    Well done sir .

  4. Unless you plan to house this in a nice glass case, don’t bother finishing it!
    I speak from experience, I’ve been tasked with “fixing” a few wood ship models in my time. With all the work a modeler (such as your self) puts into this build, it’s a crime to neglect the protective cover to keep fingers and dirt from slowly destroying it. In one case I told an owner that it would be easier to build a new Cutty Sark than to attempt to fix the mess she had on her mantle (thick dust on all the rigging, broken mast and spars, missing detail). As appealing as your model is, a well made glass case trimmed in cherry wood or oak will ENHANCE the beauty of your work 100 fold. Most ship builders aren’t cabinet makers but there are a number of folk out there who excel at this type of work, look them up. You have a real work of art, I urge you to keep this ship model looking good for years to come, make the investment now. PS: this model is coming out so nice, you should think about building another, you have the “knack”.

    • Thanks Mike.

      I had already decided to buy a case, pending completion.
      They’re quite expensive though – I’ll have to start saving now to afford it by 2016! I agree it would look impressive – about two and a half feet of rigged-out ship in a hardwood case would certainly dominate a room.

  5. Rob,
    That is incredible! I am totally blown away by your efforts. I wouldn’t attempt such a thing in a million years. I never graduated beyond plastic kits. Many ages ago I built the Airfix Royal Sovereign, and even made a glass case for it. Then we moved to the country, and one of our introductions to our new home was a flood! The Royal Sovereign was in a shed in the back yard, and everything in there had been turned topsy turvy. That was its final voyage. By the way, I am not real knowledgeable about nautical affairs, but is the ship steered by the brass colored arm that looks like it is attached to the rudder, and is there no wheel? Probably a dumb question. I sure look forward to seeing further progress, and completion of your beautiful model of the Royal Caroline. Many thanks for posting.

    • It’s the tiller. It does indeed control the rudder; a man would stand to it on the rear deck, looking ahead and marking the course by pulling it port or starboard (that too is the extent of my knowledge).

      • Rob, thanks for jogging my memory. Tiller, the very word I was searching for. And is that attached to the rudder post? I’m not as completely ignorant about sailing as I seem. As a matter of fact, somewhere in some old stack of photos, is one of me, a young boy of 6 or 7, sitting in the stern of a small sailboat in Balboa harbor (southern California), with my hand on the tiller! I just didn’t know that a tiller might be used on as large a ship as the Caroline (although that one has a pretty good moment arm). Once again, what a model, and good luck with your progress.

  6. Rob, no worries about posting work in progress at the Headlines tab, especially when it comes with a compelling story such as this. Thanks for sharing! I hope to see her completed one day. Best of luck /M.

  7. Nice work Rob. I have a LA San Francisco II section view kit I’m getting ready to start. I figure I’ll get my feet wet with that before a tackle a full ship. Your progress so far is impressive.

  8. It takes serious cojones to attempt one of these babies, so credit yourself with a major helping of courage sir!

  9. Very nice, Rob. Is the paint scheme historical or are you creating? It certainly adds more than the plain wood or clear varnish. I have always imagined myself building a wooden model of HMS Victory to display, but perhaps am seeing it as more reasonable to buy a built model of Victory to display! Seeing how you are doing it in stages does make it more realistic for me though. Hopefully, I could show the skills you have in your first attempt. Impressive. Keep going and looking forward to the finished product.

    • Hi Alan,

      The red, blue and white colours are recommended, although I’ve seen other Caroline builds with a natural finish to the lower hull. There are model shiprights who cast their own intricate brass mouldings, replace ship’s cannon with higher grade units, etc. (not unlike our usual aftermarket industry in injection modelling), but as it’s a completely different form of modelling, and I’m literally piecing my way forward, I’m relying on kit materials only.

      re HMS Victory (and Jeff’s comment above), you can get a timber sectional cutaway model of this, making up only about 1/4 of the whole ship’s length, which shows a through-view of three decks, hull, and similar, which is intricate, less space-hungry, and I would think cheaper (The Caroline was £240 – what’s that – pushing $300?).

      There’s a strangeness to modelling in this medium, and because of that I find it difficult to relax into the build, but the longer you’re into it the more natural it seems. A test of (extended) modelling skills and patience

      • I have seen those cutaway kits online and that would be one way to do it. Nice way to show what conditions were like on the inside of those ships. Tight and crowded. Also, I think you are being generous toward the strength of the Canadian economy. Last check showed that 1.00 GB pound = @ 1.80 CDN$, so that would make the Caroline kit @ CDN$430.00. The colours work well, especially for its role as a royal yacht. Really like what you have done.

  10. Absolutely stunning Rob. My only ship model was a Thermopylae clipper ship (Revell) many years ago & that was a plastic kit; not a fraction of the work you have put in here, but it did gather dust: big time, so start saving for that display case. Do please show us progress pictures. I look forward to seeing her finished & fully rigged.. .

  11. Keep at it, Rob, it’s going to be great to see it finished; but, beware the dreaded dust……….

  12. Rob,
    Absolutely gorgeous. I can’t wait to see it finished. Will that be in another week or so? HA
    I really admire someone that starts one of these wood ship kits. Let alone progress to where you are now. You are doing a masterfull job on this.
    Years ago a person wanted me to build a ship model for him with the wood kit he had. It took me a couple moments to look through it and I said NO.

  13. this really kicks rob…as tom said serious cajones with the gold guild and all that rigging…please keep us posted

  14. Rob, great first effort!

    I also strongly recommend a case to protect it. When I managed a model ship store, one of our patrons was building HMS Prince in his den. He was 90% done with hand made sails and all. One night the sounds of a crazed animal came to his ears . He discovered his wife had closed their cat in the den and it was discovered completely entwined in the nearly completed rigging — suspended between mast top and the deck!

    Moral of the story: If you have a cat, you need a case. oh, and with your skills you can make one inexpensively.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve set it aside for a bit while I complete a large aircraft dio, but plan on taking it forward again in April, or so, to get it to the point where, when I return to it during its allocated build slot of Nov-Jan, I’ll be at the point of starting the masts and rigging. It’s been quite a modelling experience, and definately out of the comfort zone.

      I’ve already bookmarked a couple of cases online, so that will certainly follow the build.

      Cheers again.

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