'San Juan Nepomuceno'

Text from www.sanjuannepomuceno.co.uk. Corresponding photos are available online.

This site documents the construction of the 'San Juan Nepomuceno'. The original ship was a 74-gun Spanish navio ('ship-of-the-line') that fought against Admiral Nelson's fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Sailing as the last of the Franco-Spanish line, she was caught between the Royal Navy ships Dreadnought, Polyphemus and Prince. Severely damaged and with 250 casualties, she surrendered to Dreadnought and so became one of 18 ships captured by the British that day. After the battle she was patched up at Gibraltar, before sailing to the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham, England, to be repaired and adopted by the Royal Navy as the 'San Juan'. The version you see here is somewhat smaller, a 1:90 scale model supplied as a kit by Artesania Latina.

The aim of this site is to help fellow modellers if they are thinking of purchasing this kit, or have got stuck and want to see how someone else did it. It should also be useful to those building other wooden kits, as a lot of the techniques will be the same or similar - especially if their kit is by Artesania. The site is designed with talented beginners and intermediate modellers in mind, and nautical jargon is kept to a working minimum. 

The site is mostly photographic but with comments as appropriate. There's more about the tricky bits and less on the straightforward parts, but that's probably the most useful way. It does not replace the instruction book but accompanies it, and will hopefully answer those minor yet vital snags that arise unexpectedly. The pictures were taken at interesting or satisfying points in the model's construction, and show things exactly as they were - nothing has been altered or tidied up. They are divided into pages of thumbnails, each of which you can click on to see a larger picture and relevant comments. The resulting model is almost as the makers intended, but with some minor embellishments and improvements. 

My first model, the 'Cutty Sark' from Constructo, invariably prompted the question: 'How long did it take?' I had absolutely no idea, so this time I logged each session over the course of the 18-month build time from April 2000 to October 2001. The answer, as near as I can ascertain it, is 305 hours. So for a kit that cost £220, the price is only 72p for each hour of fascination, confusion, satisfaction, exasperation, pleasure and victory that together yield an heirloom.


Pic 0:      This is how it starts - an inspiring view to any ship modeller!

This workbench (an old dressing table) is about 5' long by 18" deep, and the drawers are very useful for keeping plans, tools, sails etc in. It's covered with a sheet of hardboard for protection against knife cuts, paint and glue. The San Juan is pretty big when you get the masts and yards on, so in fact this bench was only just large enough. You'll also find it helpful to have another large flat area, like a dining table, to spread plans on - because you will spend a long time staring at them!  

The list of tools and adhesives you'll need is not finite: it's down to what works best for you. However, I find the following essential:  

        Quality modelling knife with snap-off blades        PVA woodworking adhesive        Weights 

        Comprehensive range of quality abrasive papers from medium sandpaper to finest wet-and-dry        Various pliers

        Numerous crocodile and bulldog clips       Superglue (cyanoacrylate)       Hammer      Two pairs of fine tweezers          

        Modeller's electric drill with good selection of drill bits, abrasive wheels and burrs        Wirecutters   

        Large half-round woodworking file        Set of small general-purpose files          Set of needle files

        Sewing machine (if you're going to put the sails on)       

The kit was supplied by Galaxy Models of Ipswich, Suffolk. Their continuing support was valuable because  the kit was not the finest, either in quality or quantity. On several occasions Galaxy supplied replacement parts for ones that were poorly made (especially the metal castings) and other parts were simply insufficient to complete the model. However, we persevered and the extra effort, as always with these things, proved worthwhile in the long run. The pleasure of seeing the finished product instantly outweighs the struggle that went into building it. The moral is: don't take short cuts. Since you'll probably keep a model like this for the rest of your life, if you skimp something, you’ll regret it for ever. In his book 'Historic Ship Models', Wolfram zu Mondfeld mentions four personal qualities that he feels are essential to anyone who wants to build ship models. These are: (1) manual skill (2) self-criticism (3) consistency (4) patience of a very high order. If you have all of these, carry on!

Caution 1: This model took me 18 months of reasonably constant work. The time spent on it per day varied from 0 to 4 hours, but it averaged out at about 40 minutes. This means it's going to be a part of your house and your life for a while, and it's imperative that you have somewhere safe to build it. You will not be able to work on a dining table that has to be cleared for mealtimes. You will not be able to leave it within reach of toddlers or boisterous pets. 

Caution 2: The San Juan is relatively hard to build, so I would not advise it as a first project - I'm glad I cut my teeth on the Cutty Sark and Swift first. Although some parts in this particular kit were sub-standard, Artesania Latina kits are usually much better and come with a useful book of photographs. So for a first-timer, try a smaller model from their range. It is much better to complete a small model and emerge victorious, than be too ambitious and grind to a halt in despair!

And so to battle...

Pic 1:      This is the easy bit! However, be sure to get the formers at right-angles to the keelson, and at exactly the right height. Little errors now will grow to become big errors later.  

Moral: If you think you can do something a bit better than you just did it, do it again so that it is better.

Pic 2:      A side view of the same stage. Such progress, and all in one session!

Pic 3:      Lower gun deck. This is the trickiest deck to plank and sand, since access is hindered by the overhanging formers. It's worth looking at all the walnut strips provided: in my kit they were extremely variable in colour and thickness. Select some that are the most similar in colour and thickness for each deck and results will be easier (less sanding) and also better-looking (same colour). Don't worry unduly if you can't get a perfectly smooth result under the overhangs - it won't show in the finished model.

See those long thin strips running through the formers in little slots? I thought they were just reinforcers. They are not - they provide the fixing for the 'tenon' cannons (the ones that don't sit on a carriage but are just pushed into holes for effect). I placed some of these strips high in the slots so they would help hold the deck, a mistake. It meant that, far in the future, some of my tenon cannons would 'miss' and it called for outrageous cunning to fix them.

Pic 4:      The lower gun deck is now complete, and I've varnished it already because it will be impossible to do once the other decks are on. It pays to read ahead! In previous models I found Ronseal aerosol varnish to be ideal - a light, satin finish that dried almost immediately. However, that is now discontinued, so for most of this model I used Humbrol aerosol varnish in a satin finish. It was not ideal, going on rather heavily in large droplets, and in places never seemed to set hard. However, it was better than brushing. Next time I might try wax or oil for a mellower, more natural look.

Above the lower gun deck you can see the main gun deck in process of planking. This is as easy as planking gets, and very satisfying. Don't forget to glue the sides of each plank for extra strength. The standard glue I used was Evo-Stik Resin W, generically called 'PVA'. I used the quick-drying version and it sticks like hell, but can be wiped off with a damp cloth if you catch it soon enough.

These decks have some strange curvatures, so you'll need to pin the planks down while the glue dries. Rather than subject the structure to excessive hammering, I put each plank in position, marked where the pins needed to go (over the formers), then put the plank flat on the workbench and 'started' the pins there. I chose to pull the pins out after the glue had set, but in retrospect perhaps I should have cut the heads off and hammered the shaft in flush for that 'nailed' effect. It's up to you.

Pic 5:      The main gun deck almost completed. Keep a close eye on each plank to make sure it's in exactly the right place, butted up tightly to its neighbour and in contact with all the formers underneath.

Enhancement: The concave undersides of the overhanging formers can still be seen, and since exposed plywood looks awful on any model, I later covered these exposed edges with light veneer strips. Simple to do and so much nicer!

Note the little crocodile and bulldog clips - you can't have too many of these guys! Much of the problem-solving with a model like this is figuring out how to hold something while the glue dries. I do use Superglue sometimes but only when nothing else will do. It is unforgiving and mistakes are irreversible.

Pic 6:      The poop deck, a nice easy bit to plank. If you get stuck on this, give the model to a friend now! Note the bulldog clips making sure that the overhangs dry in line. The two supports underneath have been steamed into a curve to match the rest of the deck.

Pic 7:      Now if that's not creative...    this is how to get a short section of 5x5mm walnut stuck in a curve. If I'd cut the piece to length first, the force needed to hold it down at the ends would have been unachievable in safety. So I scouted ahead through the plans to make sure I didn't need a long piece of 5x5mm walnut elsewhere, before using this chair trick. Like I said, figure out how to hold the piece in place before you get the glue out...!

The formers have also had their edges bevelled to shape. I use a large, fairly coarse half-round file for this so that both convex and concave edges can be filed accurately and easily. These edges will be the bearing surfaces for the planks later, so it's worth spending some time getting the profiles right.

You'll also notice the stand for the first time. This is actually supplied in the kit and the shape suits the model rather well. Eventually you will need to plank or veneer it - luckily I had enough suitable wood left over from a previous model, but if you're a first timer this may need a trip back to the shop. Don't go there now - from my experience you'll accumulate quite a shopping list!

Pic 8:   Bulwarks, nice pieces of pre-cut ply that even have the cannon ports cut out. But be very careful exactly how you position them on the hull. They must be exact to the millimetre because they set the height of the cannon ports in relation to the deck. The tolerance at the stern is also very close. They also have to twist slightly if the finished shape of the hull is to be right. Although I followed the instructions exactly, I hit difficulties many months later because the rear ports were too high above the deck to allow the carriage-mounted guns to go through, whilst the front ports were a little low. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth, followed by the unavoidable carriage height adjustments...! Hopefully you will have better luck.

It's not obvious to the novice that the rear part of the keel (where you can see the bottom of the rubber band above) must be thinned considerably, so that the planks can later be sanded flush with the stern post. You can see in Pic 9 that I've taken one ply off each side.

Pic 9:    I like this shot - I call it 'The Shipyard'. We've started the hull planking now - the first stage where people fall by the wayside. See how variable the colour of the walnut is! Again, I scouted ahead, realised that the upper portions of planking would be covered by secondary planking, and so used up the most ghastly strips of walnut there. Hopefully your kit will be better graded than mine was.

How to plank: If you just take a strip of walnut, put glue on the formers and then try to nail the plank into position, you will fail absolutely and catastrophically. The walnut will not bend that much without snapping, and even if it does, no modelling pin will ever hold it. Everyone has their preferred method of planking, but in my opinion there is no substitute for steaming. For some reason I was very reluctant about using steam - then I got to a point on the Cutty Sark where every other bending trick I could think of failed. So as a last resort I got the kettle going, and bingo - 4 x 2mm mahogany into a 7cm diameter semicircle in a few seconds! (If steam can catapult an F-14 off an aircraft carrier, think what it can do for your model!)

I use an ordinary domestic electric jug-type kettle, and the most effective place to hold the wood is just above the spout as it boils hard. Decide exactly where you need to apply a curve or twist, then hold that part of the plank in the 'hot spot' while applying the appropriate turning force from the ends. Keep your fingers well away from the steam - it will scald if you get too close. For shallow curves you can also run the plank back and forth through the steam and so apply the curve over several inches. Then take it away from the steam and hold the tension while blowing on the wood to cool it. I found that the darker the walnut, the more responsive it was. With practice and patience, you can put quite remarkable curves and twists into seemingly brittle wood. Yes, you will snap some, but that's how you find the limits. For sharper curves, don't try to put all the curvature in one go - take two or three bites at it. Many of the planks need a twist too, up to 90° some cases. The secret is to let the steaming do the work. Try to get the plank as well-fitting as you can by steam power - then the stress and strain is less, and nailing and fixing is much easier. Don't forget to glue the edges of each plank too - it makes the structure much stronger and prevents any warping later.

NB: Since writing this the first time, I bought a new kettle and found that the spout doesn't concentrate the steam sufficiently to do the job. If you find this too, make a small conical aluminium funnel to sit in or on the spout and give you a stronger flow.

Pic 10: The Shipyard again. The small gaps at the stern occur naturally - don't try to fight them - and they get filled in later with individually-cut fillets called 'stealers'. The curvature here is pretty fierce, so I filled the shallow gap behind the last former to give the PVA glue extra purchase. There's also the phenomenon that the planks lie flat to the keelson at the bottom, but overlap it towards the top. Exactly where the change happens is up to you, but the slight step that results is, surprisingly, dealt with by judicious sanding and the later fitment of the stern post.

The planking will look pretty rough at this stage, but plenty of sanding later will fix all that.

Pic 11:        Suddenly you sit back and see you have quite an impressive structure. The diabolical timber grading shows clearly here: what were Artesania thinking of when they let this kit through?

Keep planking steadily - I found I could do 4-6 planks per session. It's a bit of a slog but worth it, and don't let your standards drop. In fact, you'll find that you get much better as you proceed. Apply planks on alternate sides to avoid any distortion of the structure, and remember to steam in as many of the curves and twists as possible before fixing.

Pic 12:       When the bottom planking reaches the top planking, you feel progress! See the clips in action again, holding the edges of the planks in line. Now, as each plank goes on, the remaining gaps get visibly smaller, which is satisfying. 

Pic 13:       Eventually you get to this stage! The small gap filled with glue is deliberate: it ensures that the final plank, seen here lying on the hull, is nearly full width (a plank only 2mm wide would have looked wrong and been very fiddly to shape). The gap will be covered by secondary planking later. However, your own model may well come out differently, so make your own judgement. Say goodbye to the inside...for now.   

Pic 14:       The hull has now had a preliminary sanding. This photo shows clearly how the planks fit towards the stern, while the large bulldog clips are holding the stealers in place. 

It's worth pointing out that 'sanding' means sanding the planks not just smooth, but also flush with each other. This can require a considerable amount of effort, not only because walnut is hard, but because the planks will probably be far from even. I found that the best way to get a good level finish was to use a 1/3 sheet orbital sander with quite a coarse grade paper. The front of this machine is ideal for getting into concave areas such as those pictured above. It's best to do this outside, as it makes a lot of dust! If you notice tiny circular scratches afterwards, remove them by finer hand sanding until you get a silky smooth finish. Don't skimp on the sanding - it may seem hard work but it will impact directly on the quality of the finished model.

Note: For any serious scratch-builders out there, it's important to remember that this model is being made from a kit, and is therefore not a faithful plank-for-plank copy of the original ship, but a compromise. You'll see above that some planks taper to nothing: this is not technically accurate, but they serve to do the job, are easier to do and are covered by secondary planking. 

Pic 15:       I call this one 'The Timberyard'. The filler will be hidden by secondary planking later. The main thing here is preparing the front to take the prow. Some parts of a model are hidden but some will show for ever, and the way the prow joins to the hull now will show for ever. Take great care to file carefully both the planking and the inner curve of the prow. If you get it wrong, you'll be stuck with it. To make it harder, remember that the prow must also point straight forward when viewed from above and in front, and be in line with the keel. So take it steady and check the alignment constantly as you go.  

Pic 16:       Noah's Ark. This shows the secondary planking, which is very thin, flexible and easy to fit. These planks can be held in place with sellotape while the glue dries, but watch the height at the front, as it affects later stages. In this photo there's just one more plank to go, and then all the stripy walnut, filler etc will be safely covered up.

Pic 17:       I couldn't resist cutting out the cannon ports early. Note how the secondary planking curves up under the transom - take time to get this symmetrical, because it will show.

You can see how some of the cannon ports coincide with the formers inside. This may seem odd, but it's an unwelcome feature of this model. It will prevent you fitting the cannons later, so you must chop, chip or drill your way through to the cannon support within. I used a dental burr for this.

Pic 18:       More secondary (tertiary?) planking. These mahogany strips must be placed exactly right, because they control the placement of the cannon ports. In places, to achieve this they needed to be curved in the flat plane, which meant cutting that section into several parallel strips. I delayed fitting the prow because I thought it would be easier to fit the planks without it. I then carefully cut a parallel channel down the front to take the prow later.   

Note: Be careful when sanding light and dark woods in close proximity. The sandpaper can pick up dust from the dark wood and impregnate it into the grain of the light wood.

Pic 19:       This is not a funnel, as a humorous friend quipped. It is in fact two old tin cans filled with lead, weights made by my late father in his woodworking adventures. As they served him, so they now serve me; simple and effective. The whole set-up is all to make sure the keel stays in place while the glue dries - note the little slip of wood underneath just to make sure that all the weight is going where it's needed. 

Pic 20:       The hull has had a thorough sanding, the prow and keel are fitted, and I'm making the holes for the cannons. The kit calls them 'loopholes'.

The position for each hole is transferred one by one from the plans. Just one thing to catch the unwary - unlike every other drawing supplied, the pretty side view is NOT actual size. I reckoned that every dimension has to be multiplied by 1.15, but check it yourself. Also note that the six loopholes on each side level with the main gundeck have to avoid the formers inside, since gun carriages will be fitted there later. 

The holes are made with a modeller's drill fitted with a dental burr - useful as they cut sideways too. See Pic 22 for more details.

Pic 21:       Same again but a side view. Note the modeller's drill in foreground right, and the calculator for multiplying everything by 1.15! 

Pic 22:       This shows how I made the cannon ports ('loopholes'). After locating where each hole was to go, a cardboard template with a square cut in it was used to mark each hole. Eight holes were drilled just inside the line, then the remainder removed with the burr. Finally, a small file was used to make the hole square. It is tempting to put each metal port exactly between the mahogany wales, but this is incorrect. And since you cannot put a cannon port nicely onto a stepped surface, you have to cut away a tiny portion of mahogany at the top so the port can sit properly. 

Pic 23:       More cannon holes, this time on the port side. And the offending 'not actual size' plan beneath!

Pic 24:       This is where I decided to give the hull a 'nailed' effect. So I tapped all the pins back into the holes from which they had so carefully been removed earlier, cut the heads off, ground the tops flat and pushed them flush. In retrospect, it looks much better. 

Pic 25:       The front rail. This has the same curvature as the deck, but can be held as shown.

Enhancement: The kit leaves the insides of the gunwales as plywood, which didn't match the other woods, so I planked these surfaces with the light veneer. I also covered the ply edges at the forward ends of the front bulwarks.

Pic 26:    The top rails are now on, giving the hull a much more finished look. Rather than simply stick them on straight, I steamed them to match the curvature of the hull. It's not possible to get much of a curve when steaming in the flat plane but at least it gets the artificial straightness off. The front grating is hanging out to dry, the metal casting having been painted black.

Enhancement: As for the gunwales in Pic 25, I also planked the inside of the transom to cover up the plywood, but only the central part, stopping where the quarter galleries will fit later.

Pic 27:       The hole for the fore mast. A hole that big calls for extreme caution – a (full size) electric drill has an awful lot of energy and is asking for trouble near planking. I chanced it and got away with it - that time.  The risk of damage is reduced a little if you put sellotape over the site first.

You can see that small pieces of the mahogany wales have been removed to ensure that the metal gun port castings fit neatly against the hull. Where the hull is particularly convex or concave, some of the lighter wood will need to be removed too.

Pic 28:       Preparing the quarter-galleries. These comprise a single white metal casting on each side, and in my opinion are the biggest weak point in the detail of the model. I found that the two castings, supposedly mirror images, were not so - one fitted the hull remarkably well but the 'curly tail' on the other was different and did not. Galaxy Models kindly shipped in another kit to help, but the castings in that were no better either. If you fancy a go at scratch-building, this is the place to see what you can do...!

Pic 29:       Another handy gadget from the dental world. I think it was used to measure dentures, but it also makes a handy lightweight cramp to hold this strake on!

See how the mahogany planks have been cut away around the cannon ports to allow the metal frames to sit properly. It was fiddly but worth it, a little detail they don't tell you about. To stop the exposed lighter part from showing through the cannon hinge later, touch it in with brown paint.

Pic 30:       I reckoned it was time to spray varnish the hull, before too many metal fittings went on. Aerosol varnishing in England in October is not recommended. Accordingly I warmed up a spare bedroom with this handy 2000W lamp to help the stuff dry. (If you're wondering why I have a 2000W lamp, all is explained at www.autograph.uk.com)

Any wooden parts fixed after this stage were either aerosol-varnished off-ship (eg pinrails), or attached then varnished by brush (eg rubbing strakes).

Pic 31:       General view of workbench showing hull after varnishing. The metal transom, quarter galleries and the rudder have been fixed in place. I made a recess for the top of the rudder post so that it makes more mechanical sense and looks better (see Pic 106 and Pic 119).

Pic 32:       Now it's staring to get fragile. The cannon ports are all fitted and hanging free. Some of these castings were diabolical and needed much reworking. The equivalent items from Galaxy's spare kit were - bigger. Terrific; thanks, Artesania!  

The two little turrets were assembled off-ship and are now attached. If you want them to look vertical, you will need to angle their bases carefully so they match the slope of the deck. I hate exposed plywood, so I replaced the semi-circular ply tops with some of the wood supplied for the channels (after careful measurement to make sure there was enough!)

Also in place are some irritating bits called - umm - 'bitts'. It was some time before I realised they were upside down... however it cheered me up to see another finished kit on the internet in exactly the same condition! I eventually pulled them off and turned them the right way up.

Pic 33:    I rather like this shot. The ship has six small shelves called 'channels', three on each side, which will hold the deadeyes. The pile of items you see here, scavenged from the bench, just happened to be the perfect height to support this one while the glue dried.

Motto: It's not how you get there, it's the result that counts...

Pic 34:       The figurehead was another example of poor casting. It did not have the same proportions as the one shown in the plan (or the photo on the box), being 'squashed' from front to back. I sourced two other figureheads, and both were equally incorrect. Furthermore, the gap between the legs was too wide to sit neatly on the prow, so I inserted the wooden strips shown here. These were then trimmed to shape and painted gold. You can see the final result in Pic 66.

Pic 35:       Headrails. These were utter pigs, in fact one of the hardest, most demanding parts of the whole model. In short lengths like these, brass is incredibly stiff, and my thumbs haven't been quite the same since. In all there are 14 piece of brass, 7 per side, and they have to be fashioned accurately and symmetrically in three dimensions so that they look perfect from all angles. Not easy.

Experiments with 'padded' pliers, to stop the brass from marking, were useless. Eventually I simply used two opposing pairs of pliers, including some ex-dental ones with one convex jaw and one concave jaw. Cut ends were filed to shape and the plier marks were removed with wet-and-dry paper. The completed rails were fixed in place with Superglue.

Pic 36:       Rubbing strakes. These are eight of these, deceptively intricate as they have to fit over the raised mahogany planking. Each one was steamed to the correct curve (sharper than you think), and then recesses cut out carefully so they could sit neatly over the planking. Even so, I had to resort to Superglue to fasten them. There are seven good ones and one that's slightly out. Like I said, Superglue is unforgiving and you only get one shot.

Note: When steaming pieces of wood, you can't curve the very ends because (a) you get poached fingers, (b) you can't get the leverage. So for short pieces like this, steam the middle part as required and then cut the ends off.

Pic 37:       And here's one I made earlier! (English joke). Now we've got to a satisfying part, the deck fittings. I like making these because they're all different and interesting - repetition is one of the killers, I think.

The pieces on the cardboard are pinrails which have just been spray varnished. These are best fixed with Superglue, because if they break off when you're doing the rigging, you will be sorely displeased!

Pic 38:       These are the pinrails which fix to the deck, together with their supports. Again, make sure they are well stuck down - if you've varnished the deck, then Superglue is best - PVA doesn't stick well to varnish.

Pic 39:       Deck gratings. The pre-cut parts supplied were good quality but the spacing of the intersections was rather large. Here, the grating is laid on the plan to get the best approximate size that fits the grid.

Pic 40:       The gratings all have a walnut frame, which varies in style with each one. This shot shows my technique for applying pressure to all four sides at once. All done with spare wood and weights - but plan this out before you put the glue on.

Pic 41:       These long gratings fit above the lower gun deck. Even a 0.5mm gap sticks out like a sore thumb, so I used a small file to make adjustments. This was better than sandpaper as it left a flatter surface and cleaner edges.

Pic 42:       The anchors needed a bit of work. First, I thought the cross-pieces supplied were too thin, so I thickened them up with another strip of walnut across the top. Secondly, I found it impossible to bend the brass strip 100% accurately around the wood, so I made each brass 'hoop' in two pieces, needing only two bends and some tidying up with a needle file. And Superglue.  

Pic 43:      Don't forget the stand - you will need one not just for final display but also to hold the ship properly while you work on it. The instructions make no mention of a stand, but I found the three parts die cut in the ply box reinforcements. I planked mine with spare veneer strips, but an easier option would be to paint it matt black. The thing underneath it, in case you were wondering, is a small mitre box (not because it cuts mitres, but because it happened to be the right size).

Pic 44:      This is about the last chance you'll have to fit the stand - the boat will soon get too complicated to turn over safely. Even now, I've had to support it on blocks to avoid damage.

Pic 45:      The stand must be fixed firmly to the hull: I used two long thin screws straight into the keelson. This means you can remove the stand if you ever want to, and avoids the risk of glue smears. I've also added narrow strips of red plush Fablon between the stand and the hull - not essential but it seemed right.

Pic 46:       You don't see many models like this! A rare shot of the underside. 

Pic 47:       This temporary case, in my humble opinion, is vital and never mentioned in the instructions. Once you start getting deck fittings on, and later the masts etc, it will be increasingly hard to keep the model free from dust. I also have a cat, and I like to keep the model free from that too. Not that she would deliberately damage it, but a friendly rub could do untold damage.

I didn't make the final display case for this task, since it would be far too heavy and cumbersome to keep lifting on and off, not to mention the risk of serious damage if it slipped. Instead, this temporary case is made from old strips of wood, lashed together with gaffer (duct) tape, and braced with string for rigidity. The Wright Brothers would have been proud of it. It's then covered with cling film, sellotaped on, for easy, cheap, see-through protection from dust and friendly cats. And the clever part is that it's open at the back, so you don't even have to lift it over the model. In fact, when the masts are up, the ceiling would make this impossible. 

Pic 48:       The deck fittings start to go on. It's nice to be able to see through gratings by cutting matching holes in the deck, but for these deck gratings the number of formers underneath made this impracticable. I compromised by marking out the areas exactly and filling them in with a black marker pen.

Note: Some deck fittings, like pinrails, will need to take a bit of strain later on. For this reason it's best to glue them with Superglue, especially as the deck is varnished.

Pic 49:       A rare chance to use the trusty lead weights, this time to hold a deck grating down while the glue dries.

In the foreground an interesting collection of fitments is starting to build up. There was no wire the right size for the gun carriage axles, so it was back to Galaxy to buy some. All the wooden assemblies are spray varnished before fixing to the ship - if they are small, be careful not to blow them off the bench! If the fittings take no strain, PVA is adequate for fixing, bearing in mind that the deck is varnished. If however they need to hold rigging or anything else that imparts a force, use superglue. Pinrails, especially those fixed by their edges inside the bulwarks, must be very firmly fixed.

Pic 50:       The lower deadeyes in place. I think most kits fall short here - you can fit a brass ring round the deadeye, fine, but as soon as you thread the first link of the chain on to it, the ring no longer fits into the groove at that point and the assembly goes lopsided. So I used a tiny burr to drill out a tiny piece of the deadeye to make room for the top link of the chain. If you do this, remember that the notch mustn't show at the front, and that each deadeye is specifically orientated, so the notch must be in the right place. But you do get much nicer-looking deadeyes. 

Pic 51:       The chains are fixed to the hull. Don't hammer the pins in - drill tiny holes first, then push the pins in with pliers. However, if you simply pull each chain taut and fix it, the chainplates will end up at various heights, not in a nice neat line as shown here. Any unevenness would be particularly noticeable in this case as they cross a mahogany plank. So cut each chain to the correct link, erring on the slack side if you need to (when the shrouds go on later, any slackness will be taken up). 

Important note: The chains should be in line with the shrouds, ie slightly angled depending on position. Unfortunately the shrouds do not exist yet, and neither do the tops they run to, so you have to line the chain angles up with... empty air. For some guidance, fix the plan on the wall directly behind the model (Pic 62), bend down and squint a lot!

Pic 52:       The tenon cannons have now been fitted. If you were careful drilling the mounting holes, the cannons should all be in the centre of their ports and pointing in the same direction. I positioned mine pointing up slightly as it seemed to look better. Spend some time sighting along the ship's side to make sure they're all at the same angle and projection. Remember to align the gunport lids too, as small discrepancies really show.     

All the deck fittings are now on, and I'd suddenly realised that some of the deck cannons don't fit through the ports. Doh! The front four ports were too low, whilst the rear six were too high. If this happens to you, there's nothing for it but to butcher the carriages you have just lovingly made and adjust them up or down. To lower the carriage, slice off the top step and cut replacement steps into the remainder so there's still the same number of steps, but shallower. To raise carriages, pull off the axle/wheel assemblies, fit a piece of walnut plank underneath and re-glue the axles under that. If it's still too low, as some of mine were (the slope of the deck doesn't help) raise the top steps with walnut strips.

12 carriage-mounted guns, six per side, sit on the main gun deck and have to be positioned to aim squarely through their ports. In some cases the formers were right next to the sides of the ports, and thus obstructed the carriages because their wheels project. The only fix was to remove the front axles and wheels so the affected carriages could fit against the formers. This lowers the front of the carriage, but the gun can be tilted to correct this, and from outside no-one would know.

Pic 53:       That denture-measurer thingy is back, this time holding the gratings in place over the main gun deck. Suddenly your model is starting to come alive.

Pic 54:       OK, so I've got a Vivitar macro-focusing teleconverter (not sold here, only available from the US) and I'm showing off. With a 50mm standard lens it gives a true 1:1 magnification, which means you can fill the screen with an area the same size as the negative.

This was my attempt to make a pin/block/loop arrangement without leaving any cut ends showing. I used it for the two blocks alongside the poop deck, but abandoned the idea later in favour of an easier method. Depending on location the blocks are mounted in several different ways, so look very carefully at the rigging plans and make sure you've got all the wire loops and ends correct.

Pic 55:       Oh no, the boat. The casting supplied with the kit was truly atrocious - not only badly cast but distorted - and effectively unusable. Galaxy supplied two replacements, the second of which had all the interior mounting points and was even boat-shaped!

There's quite a lot of work to do inside the boat, so to keep it upright I made a rough little stand out of spare wood. The clamp is holding the central plank down while the glue dries. In all, this boat was to take 14 hours.  

Pic 56:       The inside is finished. Now I have to decide whether to simply paint the outside brown, as the kit suggests, or do it properly and plank it...

Pic 57:       In fact I not only planked it (impact adhesive) but filed off the metal prow and keel and fitted a wooden one, seen drying here. Well worth the extra effort I think. The visible section of keel at the rear and the rudder were painted matching brown, with hinges picked out in gold paint to represent brass.

Pic 58:       The rowing-boat is not quite finished but I just had to try it in place!  

Anchors: The photograph on the box shows the anchors hanging free, but this not does agree with the sails, which are fully set for sailing. Accordingly I stowed them safely away by tucking a prong into the gap between the deadeyes on the front channel. The anchors are held in place by a loop of thread placed just under the crosspiece and tied around a convenient bitt.

Pic 59:       This A-shaped piece is called the 'dolphin striker', and given its position under the bowsprit it could well strike a few dolphins in heavy seas.

Pic 60:       The bowsprit - a splendid structure and satisfying to make - has been completed and fitted. It fits into the angle between the two turrets, but I wasn't prepared to risk using a large electric drill in such an angle. Instead, I cut the base of the bowsprit at the correct angles and superglued it in place. Suddenly the ship gets very long!

The other masts, fore, main and mizzen, are being assembled and tried in position. I started with the foremast and worked back like a production line, as the parts for each are very similar though of varying sizes. I used a disc sander to taper each mast section, but care is needed if you do it this way. The platforms are a delight to make, but the walnut blocks that join the mast sections together have to be adjusted very carefully to keep the sections in line. The platform for the main mast is being kept flat under those weights. The die-cut 'cheeks' supplied to support the platforms were much smaller than those shown in the plans, so I made larger ones from walnut strip.

There will inevitably be small gaps around the bases at deck level, but they are conveniently covered by the boxwood rings. In fact, gluing the rings to the mast first can act as a depth-stop to stop the mast sliding down too far before the glue has dried.

Pic 61:       The completed masts are in position but not yet glued. Fit as many eyebolts and associated blocks as possible now, because access will be much harder later. Make sure you put the right sort of block on each though. These are: small single blocks, small double blocks, large single blocks and large double blocks. If you get one wrong, the rigging won't work later and the offending block will have to be changed.

To avoid confusion, the yards are tapered, labelled and bundled for each mast.

Pic 62:       Getting ready to fix the masts. Fixing the plan to the wall is a great help in getting the angles of the masts correct. You can clearly see that this plan is smaller than the ship!

Pic 63:       The first standing rigging. This is the structural rigging that supports the masts and bowsprit and was not moved during a voyage. The threads must not sag, but if they are pulled too tight - and it's easy to do - the masts will be pulled out of position. This particular thread is quite complex so it's being fixed in stages, with a tiny dab of glue where it passes through the dolphin striker. The clips are keeping just enough tension on the line.  

Note: Rigging can seem intimidating, and the San Juan has a fair amount, especially shrouds and ratlines. But just as a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, take the rigging one line at a time and eventually you'll finish it. The usual rule is to start from the inside and work upwards and outwards - that way you don't obstruct yourself later. The order is usually: stays - shrouds - ratlines - backstays - yards - running rigging.

Pic 64:       An aerial view of the shipyard. Some of the standing rigging carries sails, and thinking it was easier to thread the sail mounting rings onto a free end, I made some of the 'fore and aft' sails with the help of this handy sewing machine. Practice on some spare material first though, because you will get neater and more accurate with time. Check, too, that the sail templates provided are actually the right size to fit on the yards. In this kit they were mostly OK, but a couple of sails needed to be reduced. If a sail ends up bigger than its yard, it looks silly.

Note the little bulldog clips temporarily keeping stays in place. All this rigging interacts with itself. Tighten one rope too much, and another rope goes slack. Get them all looking nice, and suddenly a mast is out of alignment. My advice is - never fix it until you have to. Between every trial fixing of a new line, scrutinise the ship from every angle to make sure the masts are still in perfect alignment. Most of the standing rigging is secured by a 'whipped' effect, ie narrow thread wound round two pieces of rope to complete a loop. If you fix them with PVA glue and subsequently have to adjust them, you can undo them by dampening them - after a few moments they will unwind quite easily.

Pic 65:                   Just room for ship and sewing machine.

The main step here is completion of the lower shrouds, which are explained in Pic 69. Unlike the stays and running rigging, shrouds can be rigged quite taut as long as you keep the forces symmetrical to avoid pulling the masts askew. In fact, good taut shrouds will make the ratlines easier to do - but more on that later.

Pic 66:       The figurehead. Up until now the figurehead had only been in place temporarily, in the vain hope I could find a better cast one. To get it sitting at the correct height (the bowsprit just clears its head) it needed to be raised off the prow by about 5mm. That left a gap underneath which I filled, textured and painted gold to match. You can just see this in the photo, but no-one would ever know. The rather squashed stature of this lion also meant that the prow was left jutting out too far, so the surplus had to be fretsawed off in situ. I later painted the eyes black, which helped the appearance.

Pic 67:       This sail is being fitted to it stay by opening up the little brass mounting rings and closing them over the stay. The thin grey lines attached to the corners are part of the 'running rigging'. In a real ship this would be used to hoist sails up and down and partly furl them. In short, it must make mechanical sense. The line that pulls a sail up is a 'halliard', and the line that pulls a sail down is a 'downhaul'. Don't make the easy mistake of fixing the downhaul to the bottom corner - if you think about it, both lines must be fixed to the top to work!

Caution: Don't glue the running rigging in place. By all means run it through the correct hole in the pinrail to keep it tidy, but don't waste time making it perfect because it will probably have to be moved or adjusted later.

Pic 68:       A close-up of the finished deadeyes. You can see how the brass rings fit snugly round the lower blocks despite the chain being fitted (see Pic 50 on how to achieve this). From the upper blocks, the shrouds run up to the platform, or 'top'. Shrouds are made in pairs (see Pic 69), so the first block of each pair can be fixed 'off-ship' using the 'whipping' method mentioned earlier. The grey thread that connects the first upper and lower block is then added, adjusted to give the correct visual gap between the blocks, and tied off above the top block. The other end of the shroud is looped around the mast, adjusted for length and secured to its deadeye 'on-ship'. That's the stage where you need to put some (symmetrical) tension on the shrouds. With a bit of fiddling, you will learn how to juggle shroud length and tension to keep the gap between the blocks fairly constant.

It is here that even the slimmest fingers start to look like marrows, so buy two pairs of fine tweezers/forceps if you haven't already got them. They are vital for this kind of rigging, and there's plenty more to come.

If the grey thread won't go cleanly through the holes, add a smear of PVA to the end and smooth the thread into a point. In less than a minute you can use it like a needle!

Pic 69:       This picture is priceless. It shows what I have never quite found anywhere: namely, how the shrouds are fitted around the mast and how the stay loops over them. It is my personal equivalent of the discovery of the DNA double helix! By thoroughly reading an excellent book, 'The Period Ship Handbook 2' by Keith Julier (Nexus, 1995), and squinting at the black and white photos in the instruction book, the answer suddenly snapped into place. Just like DNA, it was simple, obvious, overcame all the problems and perfectly explained every picture. The shrouds are fixed in pairs, looping around the mast and tied together under the platform with more whipping. Alternate from side to side, so as not to pull the mast over, and loop the stay over when all the shrouds are fixed. Genius. 

Pic 70:       With the lower shrouds complete, it's time to move up to the next set of shrouds. These however do not have a solid fixing - they are tied to the lower shrouds, which are of course flexible. To keep tensions constant, and also to stop the deadeyes rotating, I glued each lower deadeye, with attached thread, in its place on the platform. When dry, you can secure the threads to the lower shrouds. This means that when you later apply tension from above, you don't pull the deadeyes up and distort the lower shrouds.

Pic 71:       Ratlines are the horizontal threads that run across the shrouds to make rope ladders, used by the crew to get to the sails and lookouts. You haven't seen the lower shrouds yet because I was probably concentrating too much to worry about photos at the time.

Some jobs in model making are hard but interesting. Some jobs are dull but quick. Ratlines are very difficult, very dull and very slow. They took me a month.

Tips for ratlines: You won't do them quickly, so prepare for a long haul. They are tied on to every shroud as they pass across with a simple crossover knot (half a granny or reef knot). The photo shows the first ratline on the mizzen mast upper shrouds. The first ratline of each set also controls the twist of the shroud and hence also the angle of the upper block in the deadeye. Here, the clip is holding the deadeye in line as the first ratline is knotted. The lower block is glued to the platform so you can work upwards from a fixed point that doesn't swivel. There is only one blessing - the thread supplied is slightly 'hairy' and this means the knots won't loosen when you let go.

The key now is TENSION between the shrouds. If you apply any tension at all on the ratline, the shrouds will get pulled together and look horrible. It can happen imperceptibly as successive ratlines are added, so watch out. Conversely, if you leave it too slack, you get a U-shape which looks bad too. In short, each knot must be placed within about 0.5mm horizontally. I found I could do this by leaving the knot loose, putting tweezers into the loop and gently pulling it sideways along the ratline as required. As the knot tightens, the scope for adjustment decreases until, with practice, the knot tightens in just the right place. If one does go wrong, you can loosen it a little with the tweezers and move it a bit.

Don't forget that all these knots take up thread. You need to allow 50% more than the width of the shrouds, plus at least another inch for tying the end. On several occasions I ran out just at the end and had to replace the entire ratline...

Finally, the knots at each end can be glued and the excess thread cut off with sharp, fine scissors.

As you proceed laboriously up each set of shrouds, keep checking for 'in-pulling' - it sneaks up on you. A little in-pulling can be corrected using two pairs of tweezers to stretch the ratline between each knot, but this is a very slight adjustment. Also check that each ratline is level and parallel, and correctly spaced above its predecessor - at least they are easy to slide up and down the shrouds for vertical adjustment. After 2,254 perfectly spaced knots you will be finished (literally!) but your model will look great!

Pic 72:       Shrouds for the upper foremast.  They have just been tied centrally around the mast, and will be fastened down on each side. 

Pic 73:       The next stage, but shown on the mainmast: the upper shrouds are led through holes in the crosspieces. The clip is holding the correct tension while the thread is fastened to the lower shrouds below. 

Pic 74:       I had to take this. It is the LAST of the 2,254 ratline knots, the modelling equivalent of scaling Mount Everest! 

Pic 75:      Once the ratlines are finished, the ship seems to come alive - you can almost hear it creaking in the wind. The final triangular sail is about to be fitted. 

Pic 76:       The gaff sail sewn to its yard and ready for mounting. 

Pic 77:       The first yard, destined to be fixed under the bowsprit. The yards on the San Juan are complex, with lots of varied attachments and fittings. Most have eyebolts for footropes, and all of them have a planked section in the centre. This requires some thought, and I made a simple jig which gave good results - see Pic 81 for more details.

Pic 78:      The first sail is sewn on to the first yard. It's sewn on with a simple running thread, but to get the loops upright you need to lead each loop back through the base of the last. Sounds harder than it is - after a few attempts you will figure it out.

The holes, as I understand it, were to let water drain away if the sail dipped underwater in heavy seas. Otherwise, the pressure of the water could have broken the bowsprit.

Pic 79:       The first sail in position. This sail is particularly difficult to align accurately because eight different ropes affect it, and I got to the bizarre stage of pulling on one side and watching the yard move in the opposite direction!   

I later decided to furl this sail (like the lower sails on the fore and main masts) because it obscured the front view of the model, which was too impressive to leave covered up.

Pic 80:       A general view showing all 'fore and aft' sails in position and the first 'square' sail mounted.

Pic 81:       This is the jig I made to fix the planking onto the yards. The problem is how to hold the plank lengthways along the yard but curved around it. Although the plank is soft wood, considerable force is needed to hold it in place while the glue dries. The jig is a chunk of 6mm walnut left over from the prow, with a groove cut into it with a round file. Place the assembly upside down in the groove and hold it with strong clips. When you get more than halfway round, the clips will damage the soft wood, so add a packing piece as well. 

Pic 82:       A nice shot showing a busy part of the bowsprit! Despite the complexity, most of the yards are held to their masts by a just a double loop of thread. 

Pic 83:       One of the largest sails, the lower sail on the foremast. The four biggest yards have extensions, held on with accurately curved brass strip. They are very fiddly to make, especially if you want the extensions to finish nicely parallel to the yards, and only round-nosed pliers and superglue made this job possible.

Pic 84:    The foremast is now fully rigged. The lower sail is furled - it makes the model look more interesting and exposes the deck fittings for better viewing. I eventually furled the larger sail under the bowsprit, so that you can see the front of the hull and figurehead from head on.

As you proceed with the square sails, you can start to get their running rigging finalised. Run the threads through the correct holes in the pinrails and push the pins in until they bind gently. See Pic 95 for more details on this.

The route from top of mast to pinrail can be pretty torturous and there's no guidance on which route to take through  the maze of superstructure. I generally try to take the route which offers the straightest line, so that in real life there would be minimum chafing on the lines. However, in some instances that would make the running rigging cross through the lower shrouds. To avoid this I pass the relevant threads through the appropriate holes in the platforms. This keeps the threads running parallel down most of the mast so the running rigging stays neatly inside the shrouds.

Pic 85:       The main yard is getting the planking treatment. And yes, that is a test-tube holder. I knew chemistry would be useful one day... 

Pic 86:       Another general view. 

Pic 87:       The middle yard for the mainmast is prepared. The three masts and their yards look very similar on the plans, so to avoid confusion I labelled them all. 

Pic 88:       Mainsail ready to go. This gives the ship its maximum width. 

Pic 89:       This shows the mainsail hanging in place but not tied back to the mast. There's a lot of running rigging under the platform to hold these big yards in place, and tensions have to be balanced or some threads will go slack as you tighten others. The running rigging that you so happily adjusted perfectly for the in-line sails will now have to be slackened to make way... 

Pic 90:       This strange contraption is made from parrel blocks (shown as walnut in the kit, but mine were cast metal and needed filing and drilling). They are used on the middle sail of each mast, and in reality would act as a roller bearing, allowing the yard to be raised and lowered. Here they are shown in a straight line, separated by glass beads, before the assembly is curved round the mast and secured. 

Pic 91:        The final batch of yards and sails. I used the pennant for a splash of colour but decided the main flag was too gaudy and stiff to look nice. Maybe one day they will print them on silk, then they might hang right instead of looking like a piece of board! 

Pic 92:       The final yard, for the top of the mizzen mast. From my scribbles on the bench, I'm reminded that the instructions refer to six different types of block but only four were provided, the two tiniest ones (3mm) obviously being out of stock when they packed the kit... 

Pic 93:       Only the mizzen yards to go! 

The large square sails, if allowed to hang straight down under gravity, obscure the detail around the tops and crosstrees. I therefore opted for a semi-furled effect by tying two loops of fine white cotton around the yard and sail, and tightening it carefully until the required amount of detail was revealed. This also took off some of the sail's flatness and gives the model a better side profile.

Pic 94:       I then realised that there's no sail for the lowest mizzen yard! Not in the kit, not in the plans, not in the photo on the box... odd. 

Pic 95:       This is the base of the mizzen mast, and shows how the running rigging is fixed at the pinrails. Technically these are called belaying points. In real life the line would run over and under the top and bottom of the pin in a figure-8 pattern, but this is often impossible to do on a model due to scale or physical access. On this model I found that the pins were too short to do the figure-8 effectively, and in many cases they were simply too unreachable for the operation. Instead I use the technique seen above, feeding the thread through the relevant hole and wedging it in place with a pin. This is easy to do with tweezers, and allows easy adjustments later if needed. (Sometimes the pin can drag the thread through by an extra 2mm or so which can add too much tension, so keep your eyes open). When you add the coils (Pic 98) the trick is effectively covered.

I had drilled the holes rather tight, so had to cut a small flat onto the pins to get them in together with the thread. It's odd but the ship has a vast surplus of belaying points at the front, and a large deficit at the back, especially around the mizzen mast. Some holes have three lines, which seems excessive, so for the final lines I improvised and belayed them at the deck cleats.

Leave the surplus thread for now - if you cut it off, it's virtually impossible to make any alterations later.

Pic 96:       The base of the mizzen mast again, showing the mass of running rigging coming in from all directions.

According to the plans, the ship's wheel should be behind the mizzen mast, about 2" inside the recess and therefore completely invisible. So I stuck it between the ladders instead.

Pic 97:       Here's a wider view. When all the running rigging is in position, check all the yards carefully from all angles to make sure they are correct in every plane. When you are 100% satisfied, cut off the ends with a sharp knife or fine-pointed scissors.

Caution:    To trim these lines you have to get your hands into the depths of the model. It is all too easy to catch the end of a yard or cannon port with a hand or sleeve. A moment's unguarded movement can wreak major damage, so approach the model carefully and disengage very carefully - from my experience most accidents happen on the way out!

You could call this finished - but for perfectionists there is one more thing to do...

Pic 98:       The final touch. In real life the running rigging would be belayed around the pin in an under-and-over pattern, and the surplus line hung in a loop over the pin's head. That is quite impossible to do in a model, as you simply cannot reach the pins well enough to do it and the thread does not bend to scale. So to give the visual effect, I made this jig from thick cardboard with pins hammered through it. It replicates a pinrail: the distance from pin to edge is the same. Take a few inches of thread, loop it back and forth as shown, then tie it off and glue the knot. Then dampen along the edge of the board, so that the threads will retain the curved shape when you remove them. When dry, pull the pins out and remove the loops... 

Pic 99:       ... and they should look like these. Now just cut off the excess thread and hang the loops carefully over every pin that has a line through it. The curvature means that the bottom end should tuck under the pinrail in a pretty convincing imitation of a properly belayed line.

Congratulations, your San Juan Nepomuceno is officially finished!  

Pic 100:    Bowsprit mounting and headrails.

Pic 101:    Front port side.

Pic 102:    Main deck.  The four crosspieces under the boat were steamed to match the curvature of the deck. 

Pic 103:   Mainmast shrouds.

Pic 104:   Port rear.

Pic 105:    Quarter-gallery casting with highlights painted gold. I had to trim away some of the underside of the top rail to make it fit.  

Pic 106:    Rudder hinges and chains.

Pic 107:    Front pinrail.

Pic 108:    Fore deck.

Pic 109:    Main deck.

Pic 110:    Main deck.

Pic 111:    Poop deck. The instructions for the position of the grating are ambiguous, so I put it halfway between mizzen mast and cleat because it looked better balanced.

Pic 112:    Fore mast base.

Pic 113:    Fore mast crosstree.

Pic 114:    Main mast and platform.

Pic 115:    Fore mast and platform.

Pic 116:    Mizzen mast platform (rear view).

Pic 117:    Mizzen mast platform and crosstree (rear view).

Pic 118:    Front view, showing the beneficial effect of furling the sail which otherwise covers the other details.

Pic 119:    Stern view. The handrail was steamed to match the curvature of the transom.

Pic 120:    The completed 'San Juan Nepomuceno' on display. 

The display case: It's well worth putting some effort into the case. For kit-makers like me, used to having instructions and materials supplied, suddenly you have to scratch build! With reference to this sectional plan, this is how I made mine:

1) I chose UV-stable polycarbonate sheet instead of glass because it's much lighter and far less hazardous. I used 4mm sheet to save weight, but you could use thicker for more rigidity if you prefer. Calculate the dimensions of each panel carefully, allowing for the joints, and if you're lucky your supplier might cut the sheets (5 off) to size for you. The polycarbonate should have protective film on both sides - leave this on for as long as possible, trimming back just enough round the edges as you start to assemble the case. Glue the panels together using an epoxy resin like 'Araldite' for strength. 

2) Cut the baseboard (I used 18mm chipboard) to the outside dimensions of the case, plus 1mm all round for clearance. Rebate it all round to accept the polycarbonate case later, and cover it with something attractive - I used crushed suede-effect fabric. 

3) Lower the case onto the baseboard to make sure it fits neatly into the rebates. Now you need to find appropriate wooden mouldings for the baseboard and case edges. To get the external proportions looking right, I found that the base moulding needed to be deeper than the baseboard. To accommodate this difference I combined the mouldings with reinforcing battens first, making a large L-shaped moulding before fixing. With the case still in place, fix this moulding to the baseboard with PVA - this creates a channel for the polycarbonate edges to sit in later.  I also added a couple of battens across underneath to take wall brackets. 

4) Using epoxy, fix suitable wooden mouldings to all the outside edges of the polycarbonate, using 3-D mitres at the top corners. I used 'birdsmouth' moulding, which has just enough profile to be interesting. Use masking tape to keep the glue off the base section. You can also fix small quadrant mouldings inside the corners with more epoxy for added strength and appearance.

5)  I thought the ends of the ship's stand were too thin to take screws safely, so I made a small block to fit between the baseboard and the centre part of the stand, covered its sides with the same fabric as the baseboard, and firmly secured it to the underside of the stand with more epoxy.

6) Now remove the case and support the base so you can get to the centre of it underneath, eg between two chairs. Position the ship accurately on the base, then drill and place a single screw up into the block from underneath. Now's your last chance to check the ship over - in particular yard alignment and cannon port lids - and remove any dust, shavings and hairs.

7)  Place the baseboard with mounted ship gently on the floor. With the help of a trusted and carefully chosen friend, very carefully lift the top of the case up and over the ship and slowly lower it into position on the base, being extra-vigilant not to catch it on the bowsprit, boom or yards. Breathe out! 

8) You can now attach the final, and easiest, part of the whole kit - number 500: Nameplate.

Home ]