Jump to content

USS Constitution Tribute Build


Recommended Posts

I posted a week ago that my father passed away earlier this month.  In that thread a mentioned that dad was an avid modeller of sailing ships, as was his father.  They built mostly wooden ships and their craftsmanship was very high indeed.  When I was 10 I spent several months next to my dad building the 1/96 scale USS Constitution.  I have many fond memories of that time and I consider it the real beginning of my own modelling.  Shortly before dad passed I bought the same kit from a member of this forum and now it seems right to honor my father by building the same kit that we spent so much time together on many years ago. 


I plan to show the ship as she looked during the War of 1812; or as close as I can get at least.  I also plan to build the ship "At Quarters" and under "Fighting Sail".  That way I will be able to show both the cannons run out and most of the running rigging will have a purpose.  As you will see, I have already purchased a lot of aftermarket items - and I will be buying several more in the near future.   I'll be starting the build in a day or two.  So without further ado below are a few photos of the kit and some of the aftermarket items I plan to use building it.  


The kit dates from 1987 and is basically an updated box from the 1976 version.  This is the exact same kit my dad and I built together 35 years ago.



Most of the contents of the box.  The sails, cannon and carriages will be replaced with AM items.  I will also be using the excellent Amati rigging line.  I will also 

be replacing the belaying pins and eyebolts with more robust parts.



I purchased a wooden deck to overlay the kit parts for the gun deck and the spar deck.  One of the issues with the kits is the deck being several parts which 

make it really tough to turn out a seamless presentation.  The wooden decks come with a couple of their own challenges that I am confident I can master.  At

any rate they are a nice upgrade.



The AM gun carriages and cannons.  The kit parts do not show the ships armament as it looked during the War of 1812, or to be more precise, at certain periods during the War of 1812 as different captains modified the Constitution's armament - and a few other things as well during the war.  The AM carriages for the carronades are more accurate representations of those the ship carried during the early part of the 19th Century. 





Below is a complete set of wooded rigging blocks, the Amati rigging set and a few other small items that I will use to rig the kit; in addition to a few more items

that will be coming in a couple of weeks.  The things in the photo will allow me to do both the standing and the running rigging.  I am waiting on the owner of the 

online store that I bought this AM from to let me know if he is going to be able to make up a special sail set for me that has both sails that I can rig as deployed

and ones that I can rig "Brailed Up".  



This is going to be a many month project, and it is one I am looking forward to.  I look forward to conversing with those of you who stop by and I am always open 

to suggestions or recommendations if you have any. 


By the way, the research I have done getting ready for this build has shown that there is a lot of difference of opinion about what the Constitution looked like at any one time period - especially during the ship's first 18 or so years of life.  Some of the debating on the various ship forums makes us look like we are all singing in harmony while discussing Luftwaffe colors! 



Edited by Greif8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

HI Ernest,

     I'm glad to see you starting this build.  I know you will make a fine rendition of the ship.  I don't know much about the vessel itself.  I only remember a little bit that I read about her when I was much younger.  Apparently a lot of the interior hull parts were made of 'live' (freshly cut) oak from certain parts of the tree, to prevent the ship from hogging. 


In my confused and intermittent childhood memories, I remember this model in my home.  It wasn't my kit, though.  I can only think that it belonged to one of my mother's boyfriends, and it ended up staying at the house when the relationship ended.  I do remember opening the box and being awed by the plethora of sprues and small parts.  But it was far too much for me to assemble at that age.


So, since I don't have much useful information, I look forward to learning from your progress.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry about your loss, Ernest. I lost my Dad 14 years ago and I still think about him. This kit you have is memorable and I've toyed with the idea of tackling it myself lately. I have a "Dad" kit in the works doing Academy's 1/350 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Guided Missile Frigate from the 70's. My Dad was in charge of reporting the testing the shipyard did back to the Navy as an engineer liaison. I went to its commissioning as a 11 year old. It was exciting! I have other "family" projects I could do too. It's endless. 


Always  a great way to stay connected! Enjoy! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/27/2023 at 10:15 PM, LSP_K2 said:

This Anatomy of the ship book is pretty cool, and I have no doubt that the USS Constitution restoration folks can also help out.




Hi Kev, this is one of the reference works I have and I will be referring to it often.  Especially when the time comes to make the Royal masts, Bowsprit tip and a few of the yards to replace the very thin kit parts.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/27/2023 at 10:50 PM, LSP_Kevin said:

Nice to see this one started, Ernest. I had no idea there was any aftermarket available for this kit, let alone that much! I'll have to check out that wooden decking, too.




The wooden deck looks quite nice Kev.  I'll be seeing how it fits in the near future.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

And we're off!  I spent a fair amount of time cleaning up the hull sides today.  Nothing exciting or even photo worthy with the exception of what I have posted below.  The model is a bit of a compromise showing the ship as she looks based on her 1927 rebuilding.  That is fairly close (IMHO) to how she looked during her active service life, but there are a few things different from the 1812-1815 glory years of the ship.  For example, the model's gun deck has the ship with a total of thirty two 24 pounder cannon.  Most sources agree that she carried thirty 24 pounders on the gun deck.  The two extra gun ports forward were cut out on the orders of her captain William Bainbridge to be used to help with towing or anchoring or perhaps to be used as chaser positions with one or two of the 24 pounders already on the gun deck being moved to those positions.  Bainbridge also ordered the removal of the 18 pounder cannon that was positioned on the  spar deck, where the 32 pounder caronnades were/are positioned.  This cannon was supposed to be used as a "bow chaser" but in fact was rarely, if ever, used for that task as the structure of the upper works of the bow made it nearly impossible to use. 


So for example, if one wants to show the Constitution as she looked when she fought the HMS Guerriere you would have to close up the two forward gun ports.  On the other hand, the hull as it is molded is a good representation of how the ship looked when she engaged the HMS Java.  That is the time frame I am going to base the build on.  I will do away with the bow chaser and there will only be thirty 24 pounders on the gun deck.  Ok, enough history, below is where the build stands.


The only issue that came up during the cleaning up of the hull halves were some pin ejector marks that I am in the process of dealing with.  Some were very shallow and easily sanded away.  A few needed a 3mm disk punched out to fill the pin mark.  Nothing hard to do; however, I will have to work on replacing the wood grain once everything is sanded flat.



The photo below shows a couple of the shallow pin marks sanded flat.  As you can see I am going to have a bit of work to do to replace the wood grain.



I also installed a couple of nut which will be used when the time comes to fasten the ship down for later work and for the brass pedestals for display.



Not much to shout about, but it is a start!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Progress continues on the ship.  As there looks to be some interest in the background of the Constitution I will post some snippets of information about the ship in my updates.  


The USS Constitution was one of the first 6 frigates funded by congress and as such was one of the first ships of the United States Navy.  She and four of the other five frigates were designed by master shipwright Joshua Humphreys and she was one of three "super frigates" being designed and built to much larger dimensions than most other frigates being rated for 44 cannon (She actually carried circa 52 cannon in minor variences throughout her active service).  How much larger she was than the average sized frigate is highlighted by the difference in size/tonnage between her and her first victory of the War of 1812 the HMS Guerriere.  She was 304 feet in length vs the Guerriere's 154 feet and she weighed 1576 tons to the Guerriere's 1092 tons.  She carried thirty 24 pounders on her gun deck and twenty-two 32 pound carronades on her spar deck, as well as an 18 pounder bow chaser.  The HMS Guerriere was armed with thirty 18 pounders on the gun deck, sixteen 32 pounder carronades, an 18 pounder carronade and two 12 pounders on her spar deck; this being a very standard armament for 38 gun rated Royal Navy frigates.


As you can see, the Constitution was quite large and very heavily armed for her rate.  Her hull was also built out of of a combination of very stout white, and even stouter live oak.  She was considered a lucky ship and was captained by a succession of very able captains or commodores during her fighting career, and she had very skilled and highly motivated crews as well.  I will relate more of her combat career in subsequent posts.  If any of you are insterested in finding out more about the USS Constitution and the other five frigates that were her sister ship I cannot recommend the bokk "Six Frigates" by author Ian Toll highly enough.  The book is a fascinating journey through ship design, ship building, early American politics, the fighting careers of the ships and much more.  It is one of the most informative and enjoyable books that I have read in the past 10 years.


On to the build!  I decided to paint the inner hull sides of the gun and spar decks, as well as the stripe running along the outer gun deck before joining the hull sides. The size of the hull makes it a bit unwieldy and I thought painting those area now would be somewhat easier.  Most sources agree that the inner hull on the gun deck was painted white and the inner bulwarks dark green during at least part of the War of 1812.  The color of stripe along the gun ports is more controversial.  It is generally accepted that the stripe was painted yellow ochre when Isacc Hull was her captain, but after he left command there is not a consensus whether the color remained yellow ochre or reverted to white under her next captain William Bainbridge. I chose to paint the stripe yellow ochretas shown in the photo below.


The hull is only dry fit at this point.  I will paint the copper and black areas once I have glued the hull together and cleaned up the seam.  



A closer view.  I mixed the yellow ochre color using Tamiya flat yellow, red and blue at a ratio of 20:2:1.  I like how the tone and hue turned out.




Before painting the bulwarks I redid the wood grain be lightly scribing lines running along the "wood" grain and then roughed up the surface with 320 grade

sand paper.



Here you can see the dark green bulwarks and the white hull side for the gun deck.  I primed both areas white, leaving the gun deck primed and overspraying 

the bulwarks with Tamiya XF-26.  




Macro of a section of the bulwark; the left side is one of the areas I removed an ejector pin mark and rescribed.  As the macro shows I did not get the job 

perfect, but at normal viewing range it looks ok.  To be honest I think the kit wood grain is overscale and I considered sanding it all smooth and than 

using thin wood veneer strips to cover the areas.  I finally decided not to do that, as there are several parts that will later be glued to various spots on

the bulwarks and those need to have a really good bond as various rigging lines will be tied off on them and I did not want to chance one of those breaking

free while rigging.  Though looking at photo makes the voice in my head go "Dude you REALLY need to veneer those areas!"  So I may re-visit this. 



FInally, I painted the captain's day room and cabin area white.  I still need to paint the detail colors.  One could really do some nice super-detailing here but

none of that would be seen unless the area was lighted - hmmmmm.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have me drooling for a visit to her. It’s just 90 minutes away. I’ve not gone for a long time, but remember it fondly. Very large wooden ships were built in the harbor not a mile down the road  here as well as the Dash, a privateer that captured a number of British vessels in the War of 1812q7MsYN.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...