Wednesday, May 30, 2018

More Monitor

Having a few minutes to spare these last couple of days I worked on the Ozark-style Monitor model. Joppy's idea of running a bolt through the turret to mount it on the hull is good, and I like the idea of using the bolt-head for a director cupola on top of the turret. Trouble is, I don't currently have a drill bit capable of boring through the metal plate serving as the turret trunk. An experiment on a spare lid aimed at piercing a hole using a hammer and nail was hurriedly abandoned when the plate began to buckle with no appreciable sign of a hole forming.

So, back to Plan A: a magnet.

This turned out to be easy enough to make. A couple of wooden pieces glued either side to support the cross truss, a small bar magnet, and Bob's your uncle. I positioned the truss so the magnet is almost touching the base plate. That way it reduces friction and so avoids the magnet becoming detached from the truss. It's easy to turn the turret yet it has still got plenty of magnetic adhesion to hold it in place.

Moving on, I painted the deck with the first undercoat, aiming at the kind of bleached wood effect seen on old sailing ships. I'm going to mix a little Spackle/Tetrion filler into the next coat to fill the gaps in the planking which are a bit too obvious for this scale.

Now a trial run to see how everything fits together.

I'm not 100% happy with the decking on top of the deck house, and may yet cover the lot with thin card scored to resemble planking. For convenience I'll fit a single smokestack abaft the conning tower instead of the prototype Ozark's twin stacks as it'll take up a bit less space. I'm thinking of putting a skylight in the centre of the upper deck just for looks. The philosophy behind the model is that it's a gunboat, pure and simple, here to carry big guns to a place where they can do a lot of damage and not act as a personnel carrier. It won't carry more than six or so figures, tops. 

So, next steps will be to apply the final coat of paint to the main deck, and work out what to do with the upper deck. More to follow.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Ram in the making

It's baking hot outside so no fun and frolics gardening today. Instead I made progress on the Mighty Monitor, featuring the installation of that curiousity of Victorian naval architecture - the ram.

Back in the 1870's naval architects read accounts of the historical sea battles of Salamis and Lepanto, and came over all unnecessary at the thought of what a good, solid ram - especially one backed up by steam power - could do to enemy ships. As a belt-and-braces weapon it came cheap, didn't require ammunition, didn't do that much to affect handling at sea, and would always provide an option for the more aggressive captains to use in battle. Since my hypothetical Ozark-class Monitor would see service slap in the middle of this period, I thought my equally-hypothetical Stanley would see to it she had a ram fitted.

In this case I fitted a wedge-shaped Hirst Arts component to the bows, reinforcing it with coffee stirrer decking on top and bottom. These coffee stirrers are some of the nastiest bits of wood I've come across, inclined to warp, split and splinter. I wouldn't want them anywhere near my beverage, but they work just fine for cheap decking installed over armour plating in some colonial shipyard.

With the ram in place I worked on the sides around the after half of the hull. The taller pieces amidships will carry part of the upper deck.
A bit of wood filler spread around the turret mounting filled gaps and smoothed everything off. The turret sits on the mounting to check it rotates freely.

Time to work on the turret itself. First, I used a sophisticated method of ensuring the turret breeches are lined up parallel to each other...

One final check on the exterior appearance of the mighty cannon.

The Dahlgren gun was an important piece of naval artillery during the Civil War, but advances in gun design made it obsolete within a few years. One type of upgrade came from the US Navy fitting a rifled sleeve within the barrel of 11-inch guns to convert the pieces to 8-inch calibre muzzle-loaders. I've decided Stanley followed a similar route and had the Dahlgrens converted to 9.2-inch rifled breechloaders, as these were coming into use on battleships at that time.

Whilst the glue holding the guns dried, I continued work on the deck house/conning tower combination. Tongue depressors make up the deck which will shade and shelter the walkways on the main deck beneath. I sanded the edges for neatness, but will probably need to work on the surface since it's a bit uneven. I do need to add a narrow bit of decking to the conning tower end. Once that's done I'll score the wood to represent planking.

A stage further, and it's time for the first coat of paint. My initial choice was for light grey, but the spray can refused to work. The fallback was battleship-grey Rustoleum - appropriate, I thought.

At this stage the hull and turret are essentially complete, although I have an idea in mind for giving the turret a better hold on the hull mounting. It might prove frightfully clever, or just frightful. We'll see.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Shipyard - The Monitor Begins

Having a spot of spare time at the moment I made a start on the USS Ozark project. As there's a lot of interest in it I'll post photos as the build progresses.

First up, I have a couple of these...

Snuff. It fits the general Victorian theme of the build, I suppose. I don't use the stuff, but I got hold of two empty containers from somewhere back when we lived in Missouri. Just goes to show, never throw anything out - you never know when it'll come in handy. This pot will make the classic Erikson-type turret. The label was stuck on with an exceptionally sticky glue, but I managed to scrape it off and remove most of the glue residue using a drop of vinegar mixed with dish detergent. Some still remains, but since the whole thing is going to be clad in card it's not a problem.

Next up, the hull. A piece of half-inch thick foamcore, cut to ship-shape using a card template. The overall length is 9 1/2 inches by three inches wide. Any longer than this and it becomes problematic to maneuver the model around the table. The turret to be is shown below, with the metal base it'll rotate on. This base is the bottom of a frozen orange juice container, and is the perfect size for the snuff can to fit into.

A test run to see where the turret will work best. The original Ozark's turret was sited further back along her hull, but the constraints of scale modelling means this one will have to sit here.

Ozark had a distinctive armoured conning tower situated on top of her turret. Quite how it worked in action I don't know. The location combined with the concussion of two massive Dahlgren guns going off under their feet must have made it difficult for the captain and officers to do their work and communicate with the rest of the ship. I'm going to say for the sake of the narrative the rebuild saw the tower relocated almost in the centre of the hull. A length of thick-walled cardboard tube makes the basis for the tower. More on this later. The white tube below the hull is a plastic candy/lollipop stick, one of a batch from the hoard of stuff left behind by the previous occupant of our house. It'll make up the mighty guns for the turret. Waste not, want not...

Ozark's deck house offered better accommodation than the conventional Monitor class. Of course, it went to the officers, but it must have offered more comfort in the sweaty climes of the Mississippi and Red Rivers. I've made a basic deck house out of 3/16th inch foamcore.

Next to be done is the planking. I found a packet of coffee stirrers in a Goodwill store a while back, and now they're getting used to plank the deck. All together now, Deck the hull with coffee stirrers, fala lala laaa...

The circle shows where the turret mounting will go. I'm cutting the stirrers to make a rough opening for it. That long spell in storage turned my Aileen's glue into a kind of thick paste, but it actually works better that way when it comes to sticking down the deck planking.

The black rectangle aft is a small bar magnet on which a gun will be mounted. The magnet allows the gun model to point in any direction, and it can be swapped out for another type of weapon if needed. Once the deck planking is thoroughly stuck in place, I'll Dremel the bejasus out of the circle so the mounting plate will fit.

That's it for now - more to come.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Monitor Oddity

Way back in the day I scratch-built a model of an American Civil War oddity - USS Ozark. A hybrid between the turreted Monitor-class ironclad and a conventional Mississippi steamboat, this odd duck was commissioned in 1864 and served in campaigns and actions along the Mississippi and Red Rivers.

Rather under-powered, Ozark often had to be taken in tow by other vessels when the river currents were stronger than her own engines could cope with. Even so, she packed a heck of a wallop. Her turret mounted two 11-inch Dahlgren guns, with a 10-inch Dahlgren aft chaser and three 9-inch Dahlgrens covering her beams. The turret itself sported six inches of armour plating, and more armour covered the first forty feet of her hull and the deck.

Ozark was sold after the end of the war, but she was still in service and based in New Orleans as late as 1874 when she took part in a police action against white supremacists. Her subsequent fate isn't known - which is where my alternate history idea comes in...

A European power wishing to expand operations in the Hidden Continent (my version of Darkest Africa) purchased the Ozark and refitted her for operations on the mighty rivers and lakes of that world. Such a 'ship of force' would be something to contend with, and would make even the mighty Royal Navy squint thoughtfully.

My original model is back in the UK, along with a lot of other gaming stuff I hope to retrieve some day. In the meantime I have the materials at hand to build a new version. When I have a bit of time I'll break out the hot glue gun and commence building it. Photos to follow when I do.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Putting the Table back in A J's Wargames table

So, with the exception of one more piece of hardware, the table's finished. I need another hook and eye combo to ensure the folding legs don't collapse while it's in use. It's one of those cases where I could've sworn I had two of the things but no...

The casters work a treat, but now I've got everything back together after our move, I can see how stained the surface is in places. It's a souvenir of water spilling from the plants we had over-wintering on the table at our previous house. I also miscalculated where the screws holding the leg mountings would go, which required a few touches of plastic wood to fill in the holes I drilled. The result's not pretty, so I'm thinking of applying a good coat of blue paint to the surface to hide the marks and make the table suitable for naval gaming, but I'm unsure how the paint would affect the particle board. Will it or won't it warp, in spite of the battening below? Inquiring minds would like to know...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Table upgrade

It never rains but it pours. Drenching rain this weekend made any prospect of gardening a literal washout, so today I decided to make a start on fitting my gaming table with a set of folding legs. Being able to work in the dry comfort of the garage certainly helped.

I didn't manage to complete the project today - I discovered I don't have enough of the right particle board screws - but I made good progress. A couple of photos below show the general idea and how far I got. The pencilled rectangle in the top right corner of the board is a guide for where the screws will go to secure the blocks under the tabletop which will take the hinges. These are the type of screws I ran out of. Whoops...

The legs and the top of the table.
The legs are cut from a length of 8 feet by 2x4 wood. I sawed the wood into four lengths then drilled holes in the ends to take the casters, fitting standard door hinges to the other ends. To keep the legs square I braced them with cross bars. I intend to fit hooks to the upper bars to prevent the legs from folding when the table is in use, but I may add a removable strut to run between the bottom bars on both sets of legs to be sure they stay put.

I'll get the right screws sometime this coming week so I can finish the job. Photos of the finished table in all its glory will follow - then, with luck and a following wind, I might actually get some gaming in!


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