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Seizing Help Needed

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  • Member since
    April 2006
  • From: USA
Seizing Help Needed
Posted by Cbax1234 on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 5:59 PM

Hello,

I'm building Revell's 1/96 Cutty Sark and would like to sieze the lower main forestays for more authenticity,   but I'm not sure how to do it correctly?  Any suggestions?  THank you everyone.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 11:41 PM

First, in order to be sure we're all on the same page, it might be a good idea to straighten out a little vocabulary.  The heavy line leading from the top of the fore lower mast to the deck ahead of it is the forestay.  The one leading from the top of the main lower mast is the mainstay.  The mizzenstay leads from the top of the mizzen lower mast to a fitting on the aft side of the main lower mast, near the deck.

It's been a long time since I've built the Revell kit, and I don't have one in front of me, so I'm relying on the George Campbell plans of the real ship.  They indicate that the forestay "runs in two parts" - i.e., it is in effect doubled throughout its length.  It's set up to two pairs of hearts and lanyards, which are secured to eyebolts in the aft sides of the knightheads - the big, near-vertical posts on either side of the base of the bowsprit.  If I remember correctly (which is highly questionable), Revell represents each pair of hearts and lanyards as a single plastic part, which the instructions tell you to tie to the appropriate eyebolt.  (You might want to consider replacing that part with genuine, individual hearts, from the aftermarket.  If you do that, you'll probably also want to replace the molded plastic deadeyes and lanyards.  I frankly don't recommend that approach unless you have some practice with such things, and/or want to spend a great deal of time modifying all sorts of rigging fittings in the kit.  The molded hearts and lanyards don't actually look too bad.)

Seizing a line to one of those heart-and-lanyard assemblies isn't really difficult.  Start by passing the stay around one of the hearts.  (The real stay is made of wire, and it's thinner than one might expect:  5" in circumference.  That works out to 0.016" in diameter on 1/96 scale.)  Use some sort of gadget - an alligator clip, or maybe a small wood clothespin - to hold the bitter end against the standing part.  (Those are fancy terms for the long part and the short part.)  Take a generous length of the finest black thread you've got,  and take a turn of it around the standing (long) part.  Arrange the loop in such a way that the long part of the fine thread passes below the bitter end (i.e., closer to the heart).  Then take the fine thread a dozen or so times around both parts of the stay.  Finish up by taking one last turn around the standing part alone, and pass the bitter end of the fine thread under the previous turn.  Pull the fine thread tight and, using a pair of tweezers, shove the turns together as firmly as you can.  If you handled the first and last turns right, they'll be locked into place and the seizing won't tend to come loose.

Mr. Campbell's drawing shows three seizings on each part of the lower end of the forestay - about a foot apart.  The first one may take you ten minutes.  I'll bet the third one takes you about three minutes.  Human fingers get trained surprisingly fast.

Now tie the other heart in that pair to the eyebolt, and glue the eyebolt into its hole in one of the knightheads.  (Let's say the starboard one.)  While you're at it, tie the other heart assembly to its eyebolt and glue that eyebolt into the hole in the port knighthead.  Let the glue dry.  Really dry.

Next, take the long end of the stay and pass it up through the "lubber hole" in the starboard side of the foretop.  (That should be clear from the kit's rigging instructions.)  Pass it behind the lower masthead and down through the port lubber hole.  Pass it around the upper heart in the pair you mounted to the port knightead.  Use the aforementioned alligator clip or clothespin to hold the remaining length of the stay against the standing part - but try to arrange the setup in such a way that the clip doesn't make the stay droop.  You want the stay as tight as you can get it.  Now rig the three seizings to the port part of the stay, just like you did the starboard ones.

While you're doing that, keep a close eye on the tension of the stay.  A tiny bit of slack won't hurt; you've got one more trick up your sleeve to take it out.  But if the stay isn't pretty taut at this point you'll have big problems later.

WIth the ends of the stay seized to the hearts,  you still need one more seizing:  the port and starboard legs of the stay get seized to each other, a few feet below the foretop.  (If you've done the job right, putting that seizing on will take out any slack in the stay.)

Now put a drop of white glue (Elmer's or similar) on each of the seizings and let the glue dry.  Then snip off the ends of the seizings, and the ends of the stay itself.  For a neat, authentic touch, brush a bit of white paint on each of the seizings on the ends of the stay.  (That's an interesting decorative feature of the real ship.) 

The mainstay is a little simpler.  Like the forestay, it runs in two parts; the lower ends pass on either side of the foremast, and are set up to iron fittings in the deck, under the fiferails just ahead, and on either side, of the foremast.  If I remember correctly (highly doubtful), Revell represents those fittings as simple eyebolts.  The real things are a little more complicated, but not much.  For most observers those eyebolts will be plenty good enough.  The upper end of the mainstay is rigged to the maintop, just like the forestay is rigged to the foretop.  The legs of the stay are seized (with three seizings each) directly to those fittings, and the port and starboard legs are seized together just below the maintop.

The mizzenstay runs in one part.  The upper end has a big eyesplice worked into it, the eye passing around the mizzen lower masthead.  On a model I'd suggest passing the upper end of the stay through the lubber holes of the mizzen top and around the back of the masthead, as you did with fore- and mainstays.  The lower end of the mizzenstay is seized (with two seizings) to an eye in the aft side of the mainmast, a few feet above the deck.  (If I remember right, Revell represents that fitting pretty accurately.

The modeler can spend just about as much time modifying and improving that kit as he/she wants.  One improvement I recommend highly is to replace the plastic eyebolts and belaying pins with metal ones.  It's pretty easy to make your own eyebolts out of brass or copper wire.  The aftermarket companies offer turned brass belaying pins; they aren't cheap, but they'll save lots of headaches.  (Styrene plastic is a wonderful, versatile material, but it just isn't appropriate for some fittings on a ship model.  I suspect some - maybe a lot - of the belaying pins in your kit were broken before you opened the box - and more will get busted when you start belaying lines around them.)

Describing stuff like this verbally is notoriously hard; it looks a lot more complicated in written form than it really is.  (I could have rigged several stays in the time it's taken me to type this post.)  I'll finish up with a suggestion I've made many times in this forum:  if you want a really good source of advice on modeling the Cutty Sark, get hold of a copy of Mr. Campbell's plans.  They're available, for a surprisingly reasonable price, from the ship's gift shop:  http://www.cuttysark.org.uk/index.cfm?fa=contentShop.productDetails&productId=14853&startrow=1&directoryId=345 .  I ordered a set a couple of years ago; the warning about the 28-day delivery time notwithstanding, mine arrived in North Carolina in about a week and a half.  They would have been worth a month's wait - and then some.  They're absolutely fascinating documents, and contain almost everything a modeler could want to know about the ship.  One of the biggest bargains in model building.

Hope all that helps a little.  Good luck.

  

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    May 2008
  • From: UK
Posted by Billyboy on Thursday, February 25, 2010 5:21 AM

Thanks Jtilley for such an informative post. It must have taken you an age to type all that!

Cbax, If you find yourself really 'getting in to' rigging your model, Harold Underhill's Masting & Rigging of Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier  will show you pretty much all one could ever need to know about rigging these ships. The diagrams are useful for modellers.

Will

  • Member since
    July 2005
Posted by caramonraistlin on Thursday, February 25, 2010 6:31 AM

Greetings:

I highly recommend the Underhill book. It has a wealth of information and really helped out in doing the studding sails on my Revell Constitution and Thermopylae. You can probably get a copy of it fron ebay or a used book seller. It helped me immensely in those areas where a kits instructions are simplified. I remember I'd look at the Revells instructions for the Constitution wondering what a line was supposed do and then pull out this book and lo and behold there'd be a diagram clearly showing it with a detailed explanation. I sure learned a lot about the intricacies of rigging a full rigged ship. I must admit the Revell rigging instructions are fairly comprehensive/useful. It's no wonder I always gave up on these big kits when I was I kid. I bought the Kearsarge when I was about 12 and got no further than the hull and gluing the deck in place. They were way beyond my ability!!

Michael Lacey

  • Member since
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Thursday, February 25, 2010 8:28 AM

The Underhill book is a classic - a real tour de force in terms of its text and the author's superb drawings.  And it's certainly applicable to the Cutty Sark.  It is, however, considerably more expensive than the Campbell plans; even used copies usually are pretty high priced these days.  (A few minutes ago I found one on the web for $30.00:   http://search.barnesandnoble.com/used/results.aspx?CNT=Harold+Underhill&PRC=ALL&USRI=1&usedpagetype=usedlisting&wid=4987396 .  That's the cheapest copy I can recall seeing recently.  That compares to something in the neighborhood of $20.00 for the Campbell plans - including shipping to the U.S.)

I'd have reservations about recommending the Underhill book to modelers of the Constitution.  Underhill was writing about sailing merchantmen of the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The basic principles of rigging hadn't changed much since the Constitution's heyday, and the Underhill text and drawings, combined with the Revell rigging diagrams, probably would produce a good result.  But there are several good books on rigging that refer more directly to late-eighteenth-/early-nineteenth-century warships.  The standards include two contemporary handbooks,  David Steel's Elements of Mastmaking, Sailmaking, and Rigging and Darcy Lever's Young Officer's Sheet Anchor; and a fine, comprehensive modern work, The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War, 1625-1860, by James Lees.  The latter really does for sailing warships what Underhill did for latter-day sailing merchantmen.

Cutty Sark modelers, though, really owe it to themselves to get hold of the Campbell drawings.  They're cheap, they're beautifully drawn (though the copies sold nowadays are printed on rather cheap paper), and they contain just about everything a modeler needs to reproduce every feature of the ship (not just the rigging).  The three sheets are covered with detailed notations that specify everything down to the sizes of the running rigging lines; I've been known to use them for bedside reading.  The drawings themselves show such things as the clutch mechanisms on the cargo winches, the furniture inside the cabins and deckhouses, and the pattern of the linoleum in the galley.  A bonus:  some of the money you spend on them will go toward the restoration of the ship - which needs all the financial help she can get at the moment.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Thursday, February 25, 2010 8:56 AM

Some of the folks I know sieze the ends of a stay before installing it.  Some even have a motorized jig to spin the stay to speed up the effort.

I have been too lazy to make such a thing, and also too lazy to accurately figure and make the proper length- one needs to be spot on if you do it first. I just tie a piece of fine thread around the line close to the deadeye or heart, and then wind it around.  Forestays are easy, not so much in the way.  Backstays are harder, except for first one, you have to keep ducking through gap beside already prepared and mounted ones.  I always paint with black paint after finishing, to represent heavy coat of tar.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Friday, February 26, 2010 8:47 AM

From Master Tilley's description of setting up the lower mast stays, would it be better to set up the masts one adt a time, ie., the lower masts, then the top masts, then the top gallant masts, then the royal masts, etc.?

Next is it necessary to glue the masts in place, or use the rigging to hold them in place and align them so that they do not set up at differrent angles? 

 

And would it make sense to use white thread to do the seizing rather than black thread that needs to be painted?

On the Bench:

Kinetic MQ-9 Drone

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Friday, February 26, 2010 8:57 AM

Shipwreck

 

Next is it necessary to glue the masts in place, or use the rigging to hold them in place and align them so that they do not set up at differrent angles? 

 

And would it make sense to use white thread to do the seizing rather than black thread that needs to be painted?

I generally do not bother to glue masts in place. I find rigging generally holds it in place and the mounting holes usually limit the allowable angles well enough.

From observations of sailing ship replicas I have visited, seizing of standing rigging is tarred and though brown when first applied, turns black after a few days in sunlight.

 

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, February 26, 2010 11:21 AM

Personally, I find it most convenient to install the masts by sections:  first the bowsprit, then the fore lower mast, then the main lower mast, then the mizzen lower mast, then the fore topmast, etc.  Among other benefits, that sequence discourages me from mistakenly getting a line involved with a lower mast involved with anything in the upper masts.  (Each upper section is supposed to be able to be removed without significantly affecting the rigging of any spar below it.)

There's probably no need to cement the lower masts into position IF they're made in such a way that they can't turn.  But you don't want them to rotate on their axes - and the rigging may let them do that a little.

Standing rigging (VERY generally speaking; there were plenty of variations from place to place and from time to time) seems to have been coated with a concoction containing tar and lampblack, which, if it wasn't pure black, must have been pretty close.  The Cutty Sark was one of quite a few well-maintained, crack ships that painted their seizings, and some other rigging details white.  I suppose you could use white thread for the seizings instead of painting them; neither approach is particularly difficult.

Later edit:  I should add a caveat about the color of the seizings on the major standing rigging lines of the Cutty Sark.  They're quite conspicuously white in the photos on the ship's website (http://www.cuttysark.org.uk/ ), and that's how I remember them from the few times I've been lucky enough to see her in person.  But such things change over the life of a ship.  In a number of photos taken during her wool-carrying days it certainly looks like the seizings are the same color as the rigging lines themselves - i.e., black or close to it.

This is one of the few points of detail on which Mr. Campbell's plans aren't of much help.  The following is what he has to say about the coloration of the spars and rigging:  "Lower masts up to the cap, Bowsprit, Jibboom where doubled over the Bowsprit, doubling of all masts, including caps, Tops and Trestle Trees etc., Spanker Boom and Gaff, Spencer Gaff, masts in way of hounds amd extremities, Jibboom in way of sheaves, bands and at tip, and Dolphin Striker - all painted WHITE.

"Upper Masts and Jibboom except for portions as above, Stun's'l Booms and their yards of varnished or oiled bare wood.

" All yards painted entirely BLACK.  Blocks painted WHITE.  Chains painted BLACK.  Standing rigging, wire pendants, blackened with Stockholm Tar."

No reference to the seizings.  It probably should be noted that all the photos on the ship's website were taken before the current major restoration project (and the tragic fire).  It will be interesting to see whether the seizings are painted white when the restoration is completed - as it's now scheduled to be in 2012. 

Looks to me like this is one of the many details in which the modeler can feel free to exercise his/her own judgment and personal taste.  I don't think anybody's likely to pronounce either black or white seizings definitively "wrong."

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    April 2006
  • From: USA
Posted by Cbax1234 on Sunday, February 28, 2010 8:21 PM

Thank you all for your help, especially you jtilley!

  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Monday, March 1, 2010 8:11 AM

I have been trying to pin point a time or a period of time for my Cutty Sark build. It is certainly a slippery slope! I am looking at a photo of Francis Smitherman's Cutty Sark as she leaves Shanghai on June 27, 1872. The seizing are white. Then I am looking at a Frederik Tudgay Cutty Sark after her refit in November-December 1872. The seizing seem to be the same color as the rigging. Then I look at two of John Spurling's Cutty Sarks. They represent the Cutty Sark within the time frame of 1872 to 1878. One painting seems to have white seizing; and the other does not. Unless you build off of a particullar painting; it seems, as Dr. Tilley says, it is up to the modeler!

On the Bench:

Kinetic MQ-9 Drone

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, March 1, 2010 11:53 AM

In using a painting as a source of information for model building it's vital to consider the date when it was painted. 

The Tudgay painting dates from 1872, and was once owned by John Willis, the ship's owner.  (I don't know whether he actually commissioned the painting or not, but he certainly was a demanding critic.)  It's a good example of the formal "ship portrait" genre, and probably quite reliable.  It's been used on several occasions by the people responsible for maintaining and restoring the ship herself, to resolve questions of detail (e.g., the painting - or non-painting - of the panels on the deckhouses.) 

Spurling was a highly prolific artist who did hundreds of ship paintings, largely as magazine illustrations, in the early to mid-twentieth century.  In a few minutes of web surfing I haven't been able to find out when his first paintings were published, but I'm pretty sure it was in the twentieth century.  His paintings are beautiful, but they can't be considered primary sources.

I found a copy of the Francis Smitherman painting on the web, but it doesn't have a date on it.  The web version accompanies a poem by Cicely Fox Smith that was published in 1926; I don't know whether the picture dates from the same period or not.  It has the look of a twentieth-century painting, but that sort of thing can of course be deceptive.

Another problem:  this sort of thing can be affected considerably by the size of the painting.  If the picture is the size of a wall, the artist has no problem with such things as the color of seizings.  If it's, say, 12" x 24", he may well decide to render all the rigging details in one color, just as a matter of practicality.

My inclination is to believe that Tudgay was right in showing the seizings as natural-colored (i.e., black or close to it) early in the ship's career.  And photos establish that they looked like that during at least part of her wool-hauling career.  And they were white as of the time when the rigging was removed prior to the current restoration project.  Beyond that, I'd be reluctant to guess.

But the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to think that if (heaven forbid) I were building a model of the ship, I'd make the seizings black - subject to whatever information the restorers publish when they're finished.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
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  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Monday, March 1, 2010 2:30 PM

 

I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Tilley's conclusions, but contemporary artists like Smitherman and Spurling probably had access to more primary sources than we do. And even if they took some artistic liberties in order to present their ships the way they may have looked; I suppose a modeler may also take such liberties. Like I said, pin pointing a Cutty Sark at a certain point in time is a slippery slope.

For example, I have a copy of the original Profile and Plan drawn by John Rennie. It has a sigle forward deckhouse between the fore and main masts. But most sources seem to agree that the Cutty Sark was launched with a single dechhouse between the main and mizzen masts. The Cutty Sark that we are most familiar with has both deckhouses (Conservation Plan Vol. 1, History of Fabric, section 2.7 Deckhouses).

The Tudgay Cutty Sark clearly shows two deckhouses.  If you look carefully at the contemporary painting by Francis Smitherman of the Cutty Sark in June of 1872; the forward deckhouse is not visible. It might be the angle, but I think we would be able to see it if it were there. According to the current Cutty Sark Trust Curator, the forward deckhouse was "in all probability" added just before Cutty Sark's 4th voyage in November 1872. My point is that the only reliable primary source would be a time machine.

 

When, and if, we see the Cutty Sark again; the promise is for two deckhouses!

On the Bench:

Kinetic MQ-9 Drone

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, March 1, 2010 11:04 PM

I was a little careless with terminology earlier.  To clarify:  when I used the word "contemporary" I was referring to paintings (and other sources - including models, documents, etc.) that are contemporary with the subjects they depict or refer to.  The Tudgay painting is a contemporary (and primary) source.  The Spurling paintings aren't.  I'm not sure about Smitherman; I haven't encountered any biographical information about him.

The George Campbell plans (which I heartily recommend to all modelers) say about what Shipwreck does about the after deckhouse.  It's not shown on the original inboard profile and deck plan (which are reproduced in Frank G.G. Carr's very interesting article, "The Restoration of the Cutty Sark," which I've referred to several times in other forum posts.  But it does appear quite clearly in the Tudgay painting - and in every photo of the ship that I've ever seen.  Mr. Campbell includes this notation on one of his drawings, alongside his deck plan for the crew accommodation space on the lower deck, forward of the forward hatch:

"The original design was for 22 men as shown but with no after deckhouse.  The latter existed in 1871, if not when launched and it is likely that the Forecastle accommodation was only partly used, with spare bunks."

The current restoration project has led to a great deal of in-depth research by extremely competent people; I imagine they found some snippet of information suggesting that the after deckhouse was added in 1872 rather than a year earlier, as Mr. Campbell said.  I can't find a specific date on his drawings, but I have the impression that they were first published in the early 1960s.  (I bought my first copy of them from Model Shipways sometime in the mid-seventies; I spent so much time pawing over them that they fell apart.  Great stuff - and, as I've said several times before in the Forum, one of the biggest bargains in ship modeling.)

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
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  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 8:31 AM

For sure, you, Dr. Tilley,  were using contemporary as to the 19th century Cutty Sark; and I meant it to refer to 20th century artists of the 19th century Cutty Sark. From my discussions with the current curator, Jessica Beverly, I get the feeling that Campbell's plans (which I rely on) are hardly a primary source, but the source for the 1954 restoration. That was an attempt to reproduce a 1872 vintage Cutty Sark!

Both Ms. Beverly and the "Cutty Sark Conservation Plan" indicate that the deckhouse was added in 1872. It is interesting that it was the forward deckhouse that was installed. Rennie's original plans called for a forward deckhouse and no aft deckhouse; but apparently, it was the aft deckhouse that was on the ship when she left the shipyard.

Talking to Ms. Beverly I did not get the impression that much new information was to be coming down. Nothing like what Frank Carr presented in his paper "The Restoration of the Cutty Sark". From other sources, what I am hearing is that we will see the same old Cutty Sark with horrible things done to it. It seems that it is all about money. Certain people have donated to a specific restoration plan; and that plan cannot be changed (no matter how bad it is for the ship).

 

 

On the Bench:

Kinetic MQ-9 Drone

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 11:10 AM

The standard definition of a "primary source," among historians, reads something like this:  "a source written (or otherwise generated) by a witness to the event in question."  The George Campbell plans, by definition, are a secondary source - the product of research by an historian (and I think Mr. Campbell certainly deserves that label).  That doesn't imply that there's anything wrong with them.  But we do need to remember that they represent work done in the 1950s.  Since then some new information obviously has come to light - such as the fact that the after deckhouse wasn't built before 1872.  (The rule of thumb among historians in evaluating secondary sources is that - assuming the people responsible for them knew what they were doing - the more recent one is to be taken the most seriously.  There are, of course, plenty of exceptions.)

I'm extremely uncomfortable about the various evaluations of the current restoration project that I've seen on several ship modeling web forums recently.  I think it would be premature to form any conclusions at this point.

That article by Mr. Carr, published originally in 1965, is a most interesting one.  I read it for the first time in 1978, when I visited the ship for the first time (and bought a reprint of the article in the gift shop on board her).  I was in grad school at the time (I was in England to do research for my dissertation), and didn't have any formal or professional background in the issues of preservation.  I confess I emitted a loud groan when I saw the big door that had been cut in her port side, and the rows of airports in the 'tweendecks.  Then I read Mr. Carr's article, and learned about some of the logic that had gone into the restoration process in the 1950s.  The door was cut because the alternative would have been some sort of big stairway or platform that would bring visitors on board over the bulwarks.  That would have devastated the ship's sheer, which is one of her most distinctive aesthetic features.  And, to quote Mr. Carr, "greatly to be regretted was the necessity to retain, for ventilation purposes, the row of ports on both sides of the 'tween deck, inserted when she was being used as a training ship.  The alternative, to provide an artificial ventilation system with trunking and the noise of fans would, however, have been even more objectionable."  At least one additional hole was cut in the hull (I think there may in fact be two), to provide emergency exits for the public in case of fire.  I imagine that arrangement was mandated by the fire department.  I honestly didn't know those additional holes were there until recently.  I spent some time wandering around in the bottom of the drydock contemplating the ship's exquisite lines; those openings must have been pretty effectively camouflaged.

I remember reading Mr. Carr's article in my Kensington rooming house that night and concluding, "well, by golly, those people had to worry about some things that I'd never thought of - and it looks like they knew what they were doing."  I stilll think they did. 

The preservation field has evolved in the past fifty years, and some of the things that were done during that project don't fit the ethical and professional standards of today.  (I don't know anything about whatever standards have been promulgated by the British, but I suspect they're similar to the ones that American ship preservationists routinely refer to.  Those standards are published by the U.S. National Park Service:  http://www.hnsa.org/standa.htm .)

The current Cutty Sark project quite obviously was started with the intention of maintaining the highest professional standards of the field as it currently exists.  One of the first steps was to undertake a thorough (and I do mean thorough) study of the ship, in an effort to establish just how much of her fabric was still original and how much had been replaced during the previous 100+ years.  The results of that study have recently been put back on the web (from which they were absent for a while):  http://www.cuttysark.org.uk/resources/14/assets/files/Project/Conservation%20Plan%201%20History%20of%20Fabric.pdf .

I strongly recommend that every Cutty Sark enthusiast print out a copy of that document - all 80 pages of it.  In addition to providing a great deal of solid information (and lots of good pictures), it ought to lay to rest for once and for all any questions about whether the people involved in that project know what they're doing.  They do.

Any ship restoration project (any restoration project of any sort, for that matter) inevitably involves compromises, and just as inevitably involves money - lots of it.    We might as well accept that the process of preserving an old ship (or an old building, or an old teapot, or an old uniform, or whatever) entails changing it in various ways.  Some of the character of the artifact inevitably gets sacrificed in the name of keeping the rest intact.  Throw in the necessity of accommodating the general public, and such undertakings as the restoration of the Cutty Sark become quite complex. 

One thing I've noticed about all the criticisms and huffing and puffing that have come up on the various ship model websites in this context:  none of them has come from anybody who's actually been involved in preserving an old ship.  (To be clear about it - I haven't either.  I worked for a few years in a conventional, dry-land maritime museum, but I've never taken an active part in a ship preservation project.)  People who have to make decisions about such things know that those decisions are never simple.  They involve professional standards that frequently clash with each other.  (One standard:  "minimize the degree of intervention."  Another:  if the ship/building is to be open to the public, it has to conform to certain standards of safety and accessibility.  It's frequently impossible to meet both those standards at the same time.)  It's easy to criticize when you aren't the one responsible for making the decisions.

Until quite recently I was confident that the Cutty Sark project was being carried out in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.  That's not to say that I agreed with every decision that had been made.  (I'm trying hard not to form an opinion about that big glass "bubble" over the drydock until I see photos of the finished product, but the artists' renderings sure don't look like the sort of thing that matches my curmudgeonly taste.)  I don't entirely trust the news reports that have been coming out of Greenwich during the past few weeks, but the fact that the engineer supervising the project has resigned certainly implies that something may be going seriously wrong.  I can only hope that the conscientious professionals who so clearly have done a superlative job on the earlier phases of the project will prevail.  And I'll try to avoid forming a firm opinion until I see some better, more reliable information than I've seen so far.

In any case, it's pretty clear that, as preserved ship projects go, the Cutty Sark (assuming some idiots don't break her in half in the process of trying to lift her off her keel blocks) will be among the very best in the world.  That document detailing the state of her fabric establishes that there's far more of the original ship left than is the case in most other famous old ships.  (H.M.S. Victory's hull planking bears little resemblance to the original.  The carved ornamentation on her bow and stern has been replaced several times.  Her masts are made out of steel; the lower masts are supported by steel rods that go through the bottom of the hull and are embedded in the drydock, so they don't put any strain on the keel.  Some small percentage of the framework of the U.S.S. Constitution is original, but a great deal of it - and virtually all the planking, and all the spars and rigging - dates from the twentieth century.  Her gun barrels are made of fiberglass.  The Charles W. Morgan has had all her hull planking removed at least three times during the forty-odd years I've been visiting her.  She's currently undergoing a major restoration that will entail removing and replacing a number of her frames.  And so it goes.)  About the only exception I can think of off the top of my head is the Wasa - which, for a variety of reasons (starting with the fact that she's preserved indoors) is a special, unique case.

We've all heard the story of Granpa's ax - the one that's had three new heads and five new handles, but is the very same one he carried at the defense of the Alamo.  To a large extent, old ship preservation projects work like that - and there's not a lot anybody can do to change that fact.  But before we criticize them too harshly, let's take into consideration the enormous theoretical, practical, and financial problems that the people responsible for them confront.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 9:33 PM

jtilley
For a neat, authentic touch, brush a bit of white paint on each of the seizings on the ends of the stay.  (That's an interesting decorative feature of the real ship.) 

I've found that you can use the ultra fine white fly-tying thread well-meaning people will give a person and skip the painting step.

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