Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Modeling the Skipjack "Virgil G. Dean"

Skipjack model by Garry Cerrone
Garry Cerrone loves the patina of use. Tools whose handles are worn to reflect the users hand. Banjo heads with a pattern of how the player strummed the strings. Door sills and stair treads worn to reflect the thousands of footfalls that have crossed them. To Garry these are visual poetry. In his models, he tries to capture that same essence. Boats that are respected and cared for but well used. Boats that show the patina of use, the effects of the weather and time but still convey to you that they are loved by their users. Garry's models all reflect this poesy of use. With stains of rust, peeling paint, graying sun bleached wood. They are loaded with detail, most created in his studio by scratch building, casting or other techniques. All model boats are fabricated from scale lumber also made in his studio.

The modeling of  the Skipjack "Virgil G. Dean" is now a work in progress in Garry Cerrone's Maryland studio.  Preview with us the techniques used by Garry in constructing the handcrafted model of the "Virgil G. Dean" from beginning to end in three separate blogs. Section one: the hull, decking, rudder and rails.

ABOUT THIS MODEL: Garry's model of the Virgil G. Dean is being constructed from measurements taken originally by H.I.Chapelle in 1942. The Skipjack was built in Cambridge Maryland in 1897.

This vessel carried the bugeye rig of three sails on the dead-rise skipjack type hull. Originally the Dean had her cabin trunk forward and a sunken platform aft. The cabin trunk was moved aft when she had her freeboard raised by 6".

According to Chapelle many early oyster boats had unstayed masts until the advent of the powered dredge winders.

This boat in 1942 only had stay on her foremast. This model is made in the true style of the original deadrise boats. The style is called box construction and being hard chined with cross planked bottom does not require the framing of a round bilged vessel such as the Pungy. This made dead rise boats much more economical to build and maintain.

Planking...A view of the hull receiving her deck planking of scale lumber made in my studio of Basswood. Photo by G. Cerrone

In making Garry's art models, he starts with larger pieces of wood which are planed and sawn to the scale dimensions. When using a conifer such as sugar pine or spruce, he looks for tight grained slow growth stock. A few years ago,  Garry found several pieces of just such sugar pine that had aged in his father’s garage for years. This is perfect for planking. His favorite wood, however, is Bass wood. Garry often starts with 5/4 rough dressed bass wood then milled to size. In some models he has used both pine and bass.

In the Virgil G. Dean bass wood is used extensively. One advantage of bass is that it can be made to look like rough weathered wood or a very smooth newly finished surface. If staining is required it takes color well because it does not contain a pitchy sap. The consistency of the wood also makes bass good for the lay up. In assembling his models, Garry often uses wood glue but this requires holding the pieces in place while the glue dries and cures. With such small pieces clamping is often the least efficient holding method so he uses small model railroad spikes to pin lumber in place while the glue works. When the glue has set the spike are removed. The grain consistency of bass makes spiking the mini-timbers less difficult.

Wood being a natural material is subject to changes in humidity. It swells when damp and shrinks when dry. To help keep this atmospheric variation from causing the planking to move a lot, Garry coats the inside of the hull with a marine epoxy which acts as a moisture stabilizer helping to keep checking to a minimum.

The keel from the stern/upside down.

The two pictures above show the planking and the keel installed. Garry uses model railroad spikes for temporary holding until the glue dries. These models average about 300-400 pieces of scale framing and planking just in the basic hull. In the shot of the keel, the deck and all other planking has been sanded to a uniform surface.

Here's a shot of the bow starting to take shape.

Forward log rail being set in place. To attach the rail three types of glue are necessary. I use wood glue, epoxy and Acc depending on the requirements.

View of the unshipped rudder.
Shown above is a view of the unshipped rudder. Counting all of the nut, bolt washer castings , planks and gudgeons etc. There are over thirty pieces making up this detail.

First shot of the Dean without most of the coming details.
The aft rail and rudder in place.
Shot of the Dean bow without most of the coming details.
The pictures above show the Dean without most of the coming details. In these photos her planking is on, sealed with epoxy (inside) and primed. Her masts are set temporarily just to see the proportions. Her jib boom and rudder are on. As on a 1 X 1 version, Garry has worked his way up from the keel.

 In section two, Garry will focus on the application of the scale hardware such as windless, deadeyes,anchor, chain plates, dredging gear and the over a dozen blocks needed to complete the model of the Skipjack "Virgil C. Dean".

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