Scratch Building a Battleship
HMS Vanguard
(What were we thinking??!!)
TRACING THE PATTERN
We started this project  with a scale set of plans that Clark obtained from George Goff (plans visible beneath the pieces at left)

Ribs:
We decided would make the frame out of 1/4" aircraft plywood (like in the hobby store).  These plans already showed how many ribs to make (to still leave enough open space for bb's to pass through) and where each rib should be placed. It also had a cross-section pattern to trace and cut out for each rib.

Keels:
We also used the side-view on the plans to trace the shape of the keels (we made a double-keel for strength) and to mark along their lengths where each rib would cross (for later notching)

Deck Rim:
The top-view in the plans we received were slightly too narrow to be scale (fortunately the cross-section view was the right width so our ribs were all correct). However, it was a simple matter to hold each rib upside down at the correct point to get the correct width and free-hand the space in-between (connect-the-dots) to trace the pattern for the deck.
Note: The cross-section patterns for each rib were only 1/2 the rib (keel to side), so we had to trace each half on a sheet of paper and then fold it through the middle. This way when we cut the rib along the pattern we were also cutting out the symmetrical shape on the other half of the paper.
[PICTURE from plans]

CUTTING THE FRAME
After tracing the pattern onto our plywood, we then used an old hobby jigsaw to cut out each piece (We actually worked pretty quickly... One of us cut while the other traced the next piece). The picture at left is Clark cutting out the deck rim to one of our Vanguards.
We decided to notch all our pieces where they meet and overlap so that they would all lock together. While this was our slowest step (carefully aligning and marking each piece, then notching and testing for fit), using the router like shown below saved us a LOT of time.


We clamped the router upside down onto the bench and installed a 1/4" cutting tip (the same width as the plywood we used). We marked on each piece everywhere a rib or keel or deck rim would overlap. We then carefully slid each piece into the router to cut a notch 1/2 the way through (the other 1/2 would be notched into the corresponding piece where IT overlaps so that each piece would interlock like Lincoln logs).
The notches were such nice, tight fits that we were actually able to assemble the pieces and have them hold together (before gluing!) We loosely-assembled all the pieces to make sure they would fit before we made the final assembly with epoxy.

(This is where it started to look like a ship and we got a little 'giddy'!)
ASSEMBLING THE PARTS
Because this ship has a bow that slopes up in the front, the deck rim would be forced upward along the tops of the ribs. We knew that the rim would flex back down and try to force the keel at the bottom of the bow to bend down. So, we glued it together with the keel pressed flat on the work bench (on wax paper) and the deck rim pressed down with heavy lead batteries until the epoxy set and locked this shape in place.

You can also see, near the green forceps, that in several places we did not cut-out the sub-deck so that it bridged from port to starboard (this was for strength... These ships will fill with a lot of water when they sink and we did not want the ribs alone to have to keep the ship from bowing-out).
After the frame was glued together, we flipped it over onto 1/8" plywood so that we could trace the deck that would lie on top of the sub-deck.

Notice how the boat is aligned so that the deck underneath ends exactly across the middle of one of the sub-deck braces that spans the width of the ship (look carefully at the edge of the counter). We wanted the top deck to be open-able in sections, and ending on the cross-brace of the sub-deck allowed the edges of the deck sections to have a solid surface to lay on (makes a good place to screw down and a better water-seal).
Before we glued the top-deck down, we cut-out the deck panels (you can see one laying across the frame at right). We then clamped and glued the remaining outer-edge of the top deck.
[Edit Note: After using the Vanguard in several battles it seems some of the glued joints seem 'soft'. Don't know if it was the cold winter when we originally glued them, or the generic Lowe's epoxy, but for all repairs/refits since we have switched to true marine epoxy (West System or MAS) and highly recommend such truly water-proof epoxies to anyone else building a wooden ship like this]
After they were all glued together, we strung them up from the rafters and gave them a heavy coat of marine varnish so the wood would not rot from constant exposure to the water (not that we planned to sink or anything.. just being prepared ;-)
 
On To
Filling-Out the Hull
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