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Ground Tackle, part I

While I was cleaning up the foredeck around B-barbette I noticed a bit of damage at the anchors; the link connecting the anchor to the chain was broken and this was difficult to repair.  Just for the fun of it I wanted to find out if soldering studded anchor chain was doable. The studded chain previously installed was a bit over scale, otherwise fine, but why not try. In the end I decided to overhaul the entire ground tackle section of the model. As usual, this took a bit more effort than I anticipated.

You can find quite some information on anchors & cables in the Manual of Seamanship (1937, volume I) and I’d certainly recommend you find yourself a copy. Here you can see the ground tackle area of HMS Rodney. The anchors themselves are hove into the hawse pipes (A). The main anchor cable (B) runs around a cable holder (C) into the cable locker via a navel pipe (D). Inside this locker the cable is secured (see IWM image A 20535 to get an idea). There are two smaller chains on deck. Blake’s screw stopper is used (E) for heaving in and securing the anchor during sailing using a large bottle screw to apply tension; the main cable no longer carries the weight of the anchor. Blake’s stopper (F) is used only temporarily when the cable is parted at a joining shackle for mooring and other operations.  Note that both the main cable and Blake’s stopper are not taut in this photograph and that several smaller lashings are present to prevent lateral movement. Additional securing lashings can be seen (G) joined to the various eyelets scattered in this area (H). When the ship is moored to a buoy, the cable is parted and the anchor is temporarily ‘catted’ at the clump cathead (I). A large capstan (J) is used by the crew to move the cables around, with the aid of a pair of support rollers (K).

Here we have a good view of HMS Hood showing the cable holders (A), the capstan (B), support rollers (C). In addition, you can see that there is a small (portable) roller next to the hatch coaming (D) and a small hydrant manifold (E). The lower half shows the crew of Rodney hosing the deck after having hoisted the anchor (F) and a crew member about to place a lashing to secure the cable (G).

The Manual of Seamanship lists that chain is supplied in shackles and half shackles; one shackle is 12.5 fathoms (75 ft). Hood carrier 35 shackles and 12 half-shackles with a single cable link diameter of 3 3/8 in. Only a very short length of the cable will be visible on deck with most of the cable stored in its locker. All the parts of the cable including all the stoppers are given in great detail in the manual, except the single cable link and its dimensions. Using the link diameter of 3 3/8 in I estimated the link length at about 18″ to 18+3/8″ inch; I must have missed that the official Hood site states 20” but that is within tolerance.

The shackles are joined by a joining shackle, a large U-shaped link with two ‘rings’ at the end—called lugs—and a pin. Note that the joining shackles must run around the capstans vertically so that the cable does not jump; this is best shown bottom left (HMS Repulse) . With the joining shackle always laying in the vertical the number of links is therefore always odd per either whole or half shackle. The top two images are HMS Hood while she is not at anchor; the position of the joining shackle on deck indicates the first run of cable from the anchor must be a half shackle (slightly more in fact). According to the AOTS Hood there is no stud in all links adjacent to the joining link and I later found a page from a Harland & Wolff ledger showing studless end links for each shackle. I could not find any photograph to confirm this but added them to the list. These studless links are slightly thicker than the common link. For all ships after WWI a lugless joining shackle was used that you can see on the bottom-right corner (HMS Rodney). This is a slightly larger version of the normal link that can be disassembled into several parts and would be less likely to damage the ground tackle or itself during operations (no studless link here adjacent to the joining shackle). The manual of seamanship states that cables must be landed every four years for testing and there must have been an opportunity to replace the joining shackles to the lugless version if this change were critical, but this did not happen.

At the anchor’s side there is a swivel piece that allows the anchor to turn relative to the cable. Joining shackles are at either end, a swivelling link is in the centre, plus a few studded and open links. These images are of HMS Rodney and one aboard a KGV-class battleship (IWM image A11507 showing a filming crew preparing a training film called “Anchor Work”).

In many cases the ship is moored, that is, using both bow anchors simultaneously, so that the ship requires less room than using a single anchor. To avoid that the cables will become foul (i.e., twist) as the ship drifts around its anchorage a mooring swivel is used. The starboard cable is connected to the single links; the port side cable to the double links.  Adding this mooring swivel is a complicated manoeuvrer explained in great detail in the manual.  The image above right shows such a mooring swivel in place while laying the cables; this part is usually far submerged or even on the ocean floor. Next to a swivel piece two additional triangular links are present with a series of studless and studded links.

The drawing top-left from the manual does not show joining shackles and images of HMS King George V, with a more modern version of the mooring swivel, do not show joining shackles either. Perhaps they are simply not visible or stored nearby. The mooring swivel is really hard to recognize aboard HMS Hood, but the bottom images indicate its location.

With all ingredients of the cable system identified (and a few more below) I made a small rendering in Rhino of the various components of the cable that may help as a visual reference as the final parts are so very small.

A) 3 x Swivel piece (4 parts)
B) 6 x Joining shackle, main cable
C) 2 x Joining shackle, stoppers
D) 2 x Joining shackle, stoppers
E) 18 x End cable link, no stud
F) 100+ x Common cable link, studded
G) 12 x Stopper link
H) 4 x Blake Slip (3 parts)
I) 2 x Bottle screw base (3 parts)
J) 4 x Bottle screw eyes (2 parts)
K) 2 x Three-eyed plate for the mooring swivel, 6 pieces.

The parts were made from Albion Alloy’s tubes (brilliant material) and copper wire from the Scientific Wire Company. The latter is not coated like winding wire and can be soldered more easily. I used a diameter of 0.15mm (studs), 0.20 (stopper chain links and smaller joining shackle), 0.25mm (common  links, joining shackles, slip) and 0.28mm (end links and bottle screw eyelets).

Although a single real link is a heavy piece of metal, the actual links are tiny on 350 scale at about 1.3mm long. Naturally I gave the procedure a bit of thought, first trying out small pieces before going on to making the entire chain. I stared with pliers, bending around wire (drills) and such, even cutting a folded link with two knifes glued together to remove just that one slice to accommodate the centre stud. I also experimented with a series folding jigs whereby a length of brass wire cut to size would be transformed in just the right link, but the results were inconsistent.

The last attempt was much easier; wrapping a wire around a folding template consisting of two 0.4mm brass rods soldered together. The links were cut using a template, flattened, and sorted into good and bad cuts. Usually if the cut isn’t centred the entire batch is lost, but otherwise this method had a good production rate. For cutting I (gently!) tapped the back of the razor and repeatedly with a small hammer; the two brass rods only last a few batches. Then the fun part starts: soldering. The procedure is as follows: open a link sufficiently so that you can add it to the chain, close it slightly, fit the receive the stud. Clamp the link in the PE bending tool, add the centre stud wire (0.15mm) and solder away.

Normally for soldering you heat up the object with the iron and add some solder to it (with some flux), but I use the non-recommended method of adding flux to the objects and then briefly touch them with the (overheated) iron with a tiny (so tiny) bead of solder on the tip.  This may lead to increased tip degradation and it’s difficult to avoid burned flux (and other debris) collecting on the tip. At first I thought that my new best friend Stannol Tippy for tip cleaning would help (and it really does) but now I blame the wetted sponge for causing most of the tip burn. I now use brass shavings to clean the tip and so far the tip remains clean.

The bending tool is a huge heat sink, so after trimming the wire another pass with the soldering iron of the link released from its clamp was required. If the wire is still there (so funny when it sticks to the iron) and the link is fine then continue to the next one. Otherwise, cut it from the chain and start over. If two links are soldered to each other there is no way to save them. The excess wire and solder can now be sanded down. With this recipe it took about 7 to 8 minutes to create a new link, so I moved at a pace of about 8 mm per hour. I actually took my soldering equipment on vacation to Normandy, postponed reading David Hobb’s latest book, put up a parasol, and progressed ever so slowly, thankful that the third anchor chain of HMS Hood was landed and deciding that my next project is better off without anchors altogether.

The joining shackles were the most difficult parts to make and I tried several recipes, with the bottom left one working well enough. The lugs are made from Albion Alloys rod. Here the failure rate was really high as it was so very tricky to have the lugs well aligned against the U-shaped wire. The larger shackles were placed on the punch of my punch&die set and soldered without the hold&fold… The swivel piece that consists of four parts was surprisingly easy to make by comparison.

For the mooring swivel I really, really, should have had the three-eyed plate in photo-etch because this was an exercise in impatience and frustration, were it not for a sunny breeze, the sound of the ocean flowing over the dunes and an ample supply of rosé. I made two plates from tube that continuously desoldered itself, broke in half during sanding or redrilling the rings.

The anchors were also already built but shattered upon removal from the model so I made a new  pair. I started from plate, added some rod. A small channel was carved filled with a bit of strip.

With a bit of rod in the shank and flukes the anchor remain moveable, though they do not move together as I simply cannot get the glue to stick to both flukes at the same time. A bit of magic sculpt was used to make the pattern on the bottom of the flukes.

The screw stoppers were the hardest. The bottle screws were made from tube and “milled” using my drill press for which it is not suited. Two smaller tubes were soldered into the ends using a drill as a guide and the chamfered edges were added using superglue. Now, the tricky part was actually making sure that the stoppers were taut and suspended above the deck (1) while the anchor appears snugly fitted against the hull (2) while the clamp holds the main cable properly against a common link (3). The bottle screws could be used to correct for a bit of distance, but I thought that would be too difficult with so many parts to align. So the clamp was glued to the deck first, I hoped for the best and then I cheated by moving one the bolt forward by about 0.5mm and trimming the deck plate  to size. The last part of the slip will be added once the main cable is in place. The mooring swivel is also visible bottom right lashed to six small photo-etched eyelets (many more will be added).

This small pic I took today shows the assembled cable and the anchors. The arrows indicate the position of the joining shackles (black), studless links (red) and the swivel pieces (blue).

Adding the aft breakwater

So last Christmas was going to be a week of modeling that should have ended with the forecastle deck painted, but I spent a bit too much time adding all the deck details, the aft breakwater and remodeling all the vents around B-barbette: they just didn’t look quite right. This work was completed a few months ago (I’m currently finalizing the section in front of the breakwaters).

Copying from an earlier post: the breakwaters were first drawn in Rhino in 3D; much easier to get part sizes rather than doing my own math.

There are a few interesting details on the aft breakwater. A portable plate can be taken out of the breakwater and stored against the breakwater itself (A). Making a single piece breakwater is much easier, but I like this detail. Also, images of HMS Hood at sea show that these plates were not always fitted. A small cleat is visible at (B). Not so well visible is a small vent that starts in front of the breakwater, but ends up behind it (C); Ian Johnston’s Clydebank’s Battlecruisers shows this particular vent more clearly. And at (D) a small footplate for an awning stanchion is present.

I made the small vent piping a bit over-scale so that I could add a nicely detailed mushroom vent. The barbette was fully stripped of detail, puttied and repopulated with vents. The location in the deck for the steam winches was nearly forgotten…

The deck edge details are a combination of awning stanchion foot plates, gutters, tie-downs and railing stanchions; this required a lot of pre-drilling with a 0.25mm drill along the entire length of the hull. Working with small drills is possible if you have a steady hand, but when you drill through the flare of the hull you (or: I) typically loose a drill… if it breaks and you cannot reach it you have to carve it from the model. Fortunately I found a good address to buy large quantities of small drills at a good price, going to as small as 0.1mm (edit: they since moved the drills to a new website and increased prices… a lot).

The cleats and awning foot plates (PE detail) are a plate with a rectangular hole (for aligning the parts automatically) plus a detail part with a small pin fitted into the deck. The small hole in the awning footplate didn’t have enough margin in the design and the parts didn’t fit, so, all the footplates needed to be drilled in and the parts soldered at the correct angle which was took time. In hindsight having the parts re-etched would have been a better decision. The cleat footplate had most of the top half etched away and didn’t have this problem and was easier to make.

Painting the deck

The next step after having added all this great deck detail is adding a bit of color. I previously experimented a bit with various colors and stuck with one combination that got acceptable results. Note that some pics were taken in daylight and a few using LED lights that throw the colour off a bit.

Step 1: The base color is Humbrol H72 Matt Khaki Drill.

Step 2: spots of H72 modulated with H110 Natural Wood and H34 Matt White were blended in. I’m not sure if this step leads to anything you can see once done so I guess this one can be skipped.

Step 3: adding color to the individual planks using a H72/H110 and H72/H34 mixture (roughly 2:1). This is simply a matter of taking a very fine brush (Winsor & Newton Series 7 #0 ), turn off your sense of time and add one line after another. I had a correction brush standing by to remove painting out of bounds.

Step 4: the last pass is H187 Sand. The tins I have are a slightly yellower and lighter sandy color compared to H72 Khaki Drill and they combine wonderfully; it’s nothing like the tone that Humbrol has on its website though. Actually, what is in the tin, what is on the lid and what is on the website seems to be largely unrelated lately and so unreliable I’m about to give up on Humbrol altogether. I read Humbrol had a brief adventure in China and now produces in the UK again, and that the Chinese tins are to be avoided. The H187 tin I bought are from the pre-Chinese era that my local hobby store was selling at half price as they dropped the Humbrol line. For my next model I’ll probably go for another brand and ready-to-airbrush paints… we’ll see. Anyway, this final round of color didn’t dry up matt so one layer of varnish is probably required too.

Step 5: the deck details are given a bit of color. I decided to simply hand-paint them in and not using hours of masking tape. I needed two or three passes.

Step 6: two layers of van Dyk brown oils were added for a wash.

Step… wait? People report their pristine laser-cut decks lifting from the model because that couldn’t possibly happen with these artisinal decks? Well, after the wash the styrene lifted a bit, probably in combination with the very hut summer we had and it sunk my spirits. Note that below this deck there is still a WEM resin hull from which I removed the deck detail and repaired some damage with putty. Not the smartest move, I admit, but then I knew nearly nothing about modeling! You can see two large bulges and two spots where the deck later lifted a bit later.

So after gathering my courage and went in using the Jim Baumann style; that is, appraise the situation and then solve it no matter the stage the model is in and get excellent results regardless (practicing that last point). I simply drilled in the deck, added a lot of glue and put the deck back. The damage was filled with a few styrene discs, puttied over, lines scribed back in and repainted. This I had to do twice because new spots either surfaces or went by unnoticed. The repair job was done… not entirely to my liking. The model was shelved for about half a year…

After the depressing repair action the deck details were given their shadows and highlights using some techniques I picked up from Marijn van Gils’ model of the USS Lexington. Rather than adding a wash + plus drybrush runs, all the shadows and highlights are added by a #000 brush with a #0 brush with pure thinner standing by for corrections. Although this takes a bit more time, it also allows for better contrast and control. But I have to add that at this stage I do notice that sloppy painting require a lot of correction moves adding a bit of a wash of their own; I am far from satisfied with the width of the shadow lines, but some lines were pretty hard to make on a large and stationary model. Although the results is fine, looking at macro pics taken with my phone shows more practice is in order. Now I’m about ready to repeat this exercise for the boat deck and the bow that are nearly done with their details for my next Christmas (deck below the boat deck was included in this phase).

A small improvement to the Proxxon PD230/E

I hadn’t used the lathe for some time so it took a whole afternoon until I could reliably produce parts again, if it weren’t for a small offset on my drill fixed in the tailstock of my Proxxon PD230/E. This offset has always been present and trying other drill chucks didn’t solve my problem. I took a few chucks to work and they measured an offset in the Morse Cone I of about 2 to 3 hundreds of a mm, just enough to be troublesome with thin-walled parts I was trying to make (20″ signalling projector). I ordered a ER-11 collet chuck with a MC1 fitting that is supposed to fit in the tailstock, but it doesn’t; the Proxxon PD230/E tailstock has a much shorter run.

The collet chuck is comparatively pricey but I just had to take a bit off.  Using drills with a 1/8″ shaft and ditto collet worked quite well. Nearly all my drills have a 2.2mm shaft and a 2.5 mm collet didn’t center them properly, so I ordered a new set of drills (only 30€ for 30 drills running from 0.1mm to 3.0mm in steps of 0.1mm) .

Postscript: I didn’t properly ‘snap’ the collet in the collet nut that may have been the reason the 2.2mm drills had an offset. In the nut there is an eccentricity on an internal flange that will cause the drill to be poorly centered if you just tighten the nut after placing the collet in the chuck. If the collet is first gently pushed past this internal flange (click!) and then placed in the chuck, not only is this problem solved (the problem being a poor user of fine tools), this eccentric flange will also pull the collect from the chuck when untightening the nut. Really clever engineering (post to be updated after checking the 2,5mm collet fit).

So it’s good news that the Proxxon tailstock that cannot be adjusted is well centered when it leaves the factory but a decent chuck apparently is not on the Proxxon menu.  So, now the cost of a 20″ signalling projector is €60 each, but who’s counting…. At least on of the two major problems I have the with lathe is solved; the other one is that the top slide for tapering doesn’t have an accurate angle read-out.



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