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Hannah was the first ship commissioned by George Washington for the Continental Army in 1775. She was originally a merchant schooner that was refitted to carry four 4-pounder cannon and 10 or 12 swivel guns. I'm still deciding whether to build her as a typical unarmed colonial merchant ship or as a war ship (because I don't much enjoy making cannons).
I started this model November 30, 2007. This is my first plank-on-frame model and it's proving to be a real challenge. I expect to be working on this project for many months to come.
I'm building the boat using plans from Harold Hahn and using the methods he outlines in his book, The Colonial Schooner 1763-1775. Although I have some experience building models, this type of modeling is completely different from anything I've done before and demands a level of skill that I don't really have at this point. I hope, by the end of the project, I will have developed some of the needed skills so the model that follows this one may look halfway decent. All I can do is treat this one as a learning experience. Fortunately, my good friend and experienced modeler, John Kowalla, is building this one along with me and seeing me through it. I really don't think I could do this without his guidance.
The stem was the first bit of construction I tackled. I had a VERY difficult time cutting the scarf joints well and getting the curved sections to fit together properly. I remade one piece four times and some of the others at least twice. In the end, I got it pretty close but it was a struggle. I put black construction paper between the joints to simulate tar.
With the stem finished, it was on to the keel, keel- shoe, deadwood, and sternpost. In all, the whole assembly took 25 hours!
With the keel assembly finished, it was time to start making frames. The first step was to make the jigs needed to cut out the frame blanks. Then I had to mill the lumber (beech) for the blanks and finally cut each one. Then, the blanks have to be glued together over patterns and finally, two different sets of blanks glued to each other and the frame pattern glued onto the two. There are 23full frames and 10 half frames for Hannah, which necessitates five different frame blank patterns. It took about two weeks to get all the frame blanks glued up and patterns attached.
Finally, I could start cutting out frames. This has to be the most stressful modeling I've ever done. Each frame takes about three hours to cut out, bevel, treenail, and fit, and one little screw-up can render a frame useless. I have already re-made one frame twice. Hope I don't have to do any more.
I am treenailing the futtocks with two treenails on either side of each joint. This is not historically correct, but then, neither is the way the frames are being made using the Hahn method. I like the look, but it is a bit tedious to drill all those holes - 30 per frame. Let's see - 30 treenails per frame, 33 frames, that's about 1,000 treenails just for the frames! Crazy.
Here's where I stood as of Thursday, Dec. 27, about a month into the project.
The photo below shows my progress as of Jan. 3rd, 2008. I've now got all the full frames cut and treenailed (a few frames still need treenails trimmed). The next step is to glue the frames into the building board.
Jan 10 - Finally got all the full frames glued in. Each needed some final fitting and shaping, so it took a bit longer than I'd anticipated. Next step is the half frames, which I'm thinking aren't going to be easy. Lots of beveling.
Jan 18 - Working on the cant frames at the bow. These suckers are difficult to get right! Getting the angle perfect where the frame lies against the keel is hard to achieve. As well, the beveling is pretty complex. I've had to re-make a few frames in the process and progress is pretty slow at this point.
Three more at the bow and then four more at the stern. I figure another week or so. In the photo at right, the frames are just resting in place. I haven't glued the keel to the frames yet and can't glue the cant frames in until the keel is solid. I just want to get all the cant frames and half frames made before I glue everything up.
Although I've never built a fully-framed model before, I can see that the Hahn method makes putting the cant and half frames on a lot easier than if one was building upright as in real shipbuilding practice. It would require a lot of bracing, and keeping them exactly in place would be pretty hard. In the upside-down method, gravity is your friend! And speaking of friends, my buddy John, who is building along with me is at the same stage. He has built upright before (this is his first time to try the Hahn method) and he confirms that this is a whole lot easier.
Jan 25 - All the cant frames, full frames, half frames, and the keel are glued together now. The cant frames went in very easily once they were all properly shaped. The half frames at the stern took quite a bit longer for some reason, but I finally got them all in. Started fairing the hull this morning and discovered a couple of frames that weren't seated all the way in the building board, which meant the frames were too low to fair properly. So I had to perform a little frame surgery.
I cut the frame off right at the building board, pulled it out to the proper place, then slathered on a ton of epoxy and some scrap wood reinforcement.It worked very well and brought the frames out to their proper position. They are just as solid as before.
I always find fairing to be a bit tedious. It's a critical part of getting the hull ready for planking so it's got to be done right, but it's not a lot of fun to me. I usually take several days to fair a hull. Seems like when I think I've got it pretty close, I find something that isn't quite right. Especially when I come back to it after a day or so and look at it with a critical eye. I'm finding that fairing a fully framed hull is different from doing a POB hull. It's not necessarily any harder and, in some ways, a little easier because having more frames helps get it just right. On the other hand, there's more wood to remove. Beveling the frames while building them helps, but there's still plenty of final shaping to do.
I've started on the lower transoms (below the wing transom) at the stern while waiting for the epoxy to cure on the frame surgery. Hahn doesn't provide patterns for these, so getting the shape right requires a bit of thinking and interpretation of the plans. I think I'm getting them right, but never having done this before, it's a little hard to tell. I'll throw up a picture of them once I'm done in the next couple of days.
January 31 - Finished the transom today. That means all the framing is done now! Hooray!! Took me two months to get to this stage. I still have to fair the hull. I decided to wait to finish that job until I had the transom on. I expect to do the fairing tomorrow, and then I can start on planking at last. I think the wale may be a bit of a problem at the stern. It has a wicked twist to it and getting it pre-shaped may not be so simple. We'll see.
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Last Updated: June 3, 2009