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Revell Cutty Sark

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  • Member since
    February 2006
Revell Cutty Sark
Posted by Grymm on Monday, April 17, 2006 7:52 AM
Well, I was looking for a secondary project to do while I work on my Soleil Royal.  I did the Ebay thing and got a mid-70's Revell Cutty Sark.  This is the big 36" model.  I've never built this kit before.  Can anyone tell me what it's like, so I know what to expect when it gets here this week?  Looking over the web, it looks to be a very fine kit.
  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, April 17, 2006 9:00 AM

It's an eminently respectable kit - in some ways a better scale model than the Heller Soleil Royal.  What problems it has stem mainly from its age.  It was originally released (according to Thomas Graham's Remembering Revell Model Kits, the bible on the subject) in 1959.  At that time it represented the state of the art.  It was the biggest, grandest product the plastic kit industry had to offer - and, with a retail price of $10.00, the most expensive.

Some of its features stand up quite well even by today's standards.  The crew figures are wonderful, and the figurehead, to my eye at least, is a finer specimen of feminine anatomy than the one on the real ship.  The basic shapes of the ship are quite accurate.  (That's where it scores over the Soleil Royal.)  This kit can provide the basis for an excellent scale model of an beautiful, important ship.

It does have its problems, most of them related to the company's efforts to simplify it - and, to some extent, to technological problems that hadn't been worked out in 1959.  The maindeck is molded in three pieces - fore, midships, and aft - that create a nearly insoluble joint-filling problem.  Some of the detail parts are a little on the crude side; the cargo winches, for example, are kind of blobby, and the paneling on the sides of the deckhouses is represented by raised outlines.  The real ship is composite-built, with wood planking on iron frames.  Her bulwarks - the sides of the hull above the level of the maindeck - are sheet iron, supported on the inside by sloping iron stanchions.  Revell represented those stanchions with integrally-molded triangular gussets.  It wouldn't be hard to shave the gussets off and replace them with more authentic-looking stanchions; on the other hand, the problem isn't too conspicuous on the finished model.

The carvings at the bow and stern are represented by water-slide decals.  They're nice decals, but if you're buying an old kit you'll want to be careful with them.  Sometimes decals hold up well over the years; sometimes they don't. 

The kit's biggest deviations from scale accuracy relate, as usual, to the rigging.  It comes with plastic-coated thread "shrouds and ratlines," which are best consigned to the trash - along with the hideous vac-formed plastic "sails," if it has them.  (The original, 1959 issue of the kit didn't.)  A more serious problem concerns the molded plastic "deadeyes and lanyards."  They look pretty phony; they're good candidates for replacement with aftermarket parts from Bluejacket or Model Expo.  The lower ones also are far too thick, and that inaccuracy has had an odd chain-reaction-type effect.  The Cutty Sark's lower deadeyes are mounted inside her bulwarks, on top of the pinrails. The pinrails in way of the deadeyes are a little wider than the pinrails elsewhere along the length of the ship - but nowhere near as wide as the ones in the Revell kit have to be in order to accommodate those overly-fat deadeyes.  The result is that the pinrails look grossly out of scale.  They also have plastic belaying pins cast integrally with them.  Plastic belaying pins, even if they haven't been busted off before you open the box, are an invitation to disaster.  If I were building that model, one of the biggest improvements I'd make (which actually wouldn't be too difficult) would be to replace the pinrails, deadeyes, and belaying pins.

Some excellent sources of information about this ship are conveniently available.  The very best, in my opinion, is the set of plans drawn by George M. Campbell.  They're among the most fascinating ship drawings I've ever seen - three sheets crammed with every detail one could possibly want to know about.  (And a few one might not want to know about.  In the middle of the stern is a carving representing the family arms of the ship's owner, "Jock" Willis.  Around the edge of the carving is the family motto:  "Where There's a Willis Away."  Fortunately it's far too small to be legible on 1/96 scale.)  The plans are available for an extremely reasonable price (about $15, I think) through the ship's website.  (The address escapes me at the moment, but a google search would find it in a few seconds.  It also contains quite a few good photos of the ship.)  Several web acquaintences have ordered those plans lately; they report fast, courteous mail service.

Mr. Campbell also published a fine book, China Tea Clippers.  It's full of nice drawings, and does a good job of putting the ship in her historical context. 

If you want to read up on the ship herself, the best book is The Log of the Cutty Sark, by Basil Lubbock.  I believe it's still in print, but pretty expensive; it should be possible to find used copies on the web, though.

C. Nepean Longridge, one of the best ship modelers ever, built a fine model of the Cutty Sark back in the 1930s on 1/48 scale and published a book about it:  The Cutty Sark:  The Ship and the Model.  The book is a classic of the field - though obviously dated in terms of materials and techniques.

Hope that helps a little.  Good luck.

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

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • From: Walworth, NY
Posted by Powder Monkey on Monday, April 17, 2006 9:58 AM
You can check out the book China Tea Clippers on line here:

http://www.all-model.com/Clippers/Page1.html

There are some nice detail drawings in it.

  • Member since
    February 2006
Posted by Grymm on Monday, April 17, 2006 10:25 AM

Very good information.  Thanks.  This kit is going to be part of my son's room, which is being turned into his own personal "age of sail" room.

Thanks again.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, April 17, 2006 11:29 AM

Many thanks to Powder Monkey for steering us toward that George Campbell website.  Unfortunately (unless I'm not clicking in the right places - a distinct possibility) it only seems to contain the first page of each chapter from China Tea Clippers.  The book contains well over a hundred pages of text, and many more drawings.  (There are, for instance, several that explain the fundamentals of composite hull construction; I couldn't find them on the website.)

Here's the link to the Campbell plans for the Cutty Sark:  http://www.cuttysark.org.uk/index.cfm?fa=contentShop.productDetails&productId=29&startrow=16&directoryId=1 .  The tiny photo doesn't do them justice.  These are among the most outstanding bargains available to the ship modeler.  Strongly recommended.

That whole Cutty Sark website is well worth a visit.  The ship is experiencing some rough times, but a most interesting conservation program is about to start - if the money can be found.

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

  • Member since
    October 2005
  • From: Maryland
Posted by usmc1371 on Monday, April 17, 2006 12:11 PM
 jtilley wrote:

Many thanks to Powder Monkey for steering us toward that George Campbell website.  Unfortunately (unless I'm not clicking in the right places - a distinct possibility) it only seems to contain the first page of each chapter from China Tea Clippers. 

jtilley - at the top of page, near the center, to the right of the search bar, is a button title "Next Page".  That will advance the screen one page at a time.  Hope this helps.

Jesse

Green side out, brown side out.  Run in circles, scream and shout.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, April 17, 2006 12:31 PM

Duhhh....Thanks, Jesse. 

That site seems to contain all the text of the book, and most (if not all) of the technical drawings.  It doesn't seem to include some of the overall, artsy-type drawings of various ships at sea.  Virtually everything that's directly relevant to the model builder is there, though.

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

  • Member since
    December 2003
  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Monday, April 17, 2006 1:09 PM
Hi Grymm,

This kit would be a good project to do before the Heller kit.  It is pretty strait forward.  A few items that may give you a little trouble is the fit between the decks, and the two part masts are sometimes warped or will warp.  I have learned to put a small diameter steel rod in mine and this worked really well.  Still, it doesn't require much experience to build it as compared to the big Heller kits.

Ships of the Line have all the guns to build, Clippers have a lot of rigging, so if you don't have a copy, get :
Harold Underhill's Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier.

I have built both the Thermopolae and the Cutty Sark and I enjoy this ket every time I build it.  Even for a first timer, it seems to come out looking very elegant and striking as a centerpiece for any collection.

If he has any time from his clean-up down in New Orleans, Big Jake too has built this model a few times and has a lot of advice that he has shared here at FSM on the quirks this kit has.

Scott

  • Member since
    February 2006
Posted by Grymm on Monday, April 17, 2006 2:13 PM

The only part of the Royal that will be an issue for me will be, of course, the rigging.  Hull work, painting, and the tedious task of all the guns are easy.  That's where the Cutty Sark comes in.  I had been told that if I could find it, it was a great kit to work with with regards to rigging.  I'll work the kits in tandem, then take a break from the Royal for the Sark, since my pace with the Sark will be a bit faster.  But I do get your point.  I'm also going to take a hard look at the deck seam everyone talks about.  I believe I can work this out though.

Thanks.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, April 17, 2006 2:36 PM

I think the best way to deal with those deck seams is to cover them up.  The molded "wood grain" detail is actually quite nice (in those days Revell was at least as good at that sort of thing as Heller ever got), but eradicating the two big joints without sacrificing the detail is almost impossible.

Covering up the decks with genuine wood planks is easier - and faster - than lots of people seem to think.  In most ships there would be a problem at the edge of the deck, where the extra thickness of the wood planking would become obvious.  That's not as big a problem with the Cutty Sark, though, because there actually is a rather large step at each side of her decks.  The waterways are sheet iron; the planking overlaps them by several inches, leaving an iron, track-like scupper to take excess water away.  (The scuppers are in fact filled with a thin layer of concrete.  They're visible in several of the "Gallery" shots on the Cutty Sark website.) 

A conveniently-available planking material (at least in the U.S.) is basswood.  (Holly is even better, but harder to find.  Maple and birch are also pretty good.  Just avoid balsa - at all costs.  Forget you ever heard of it.)  Any reasonably decent hobby shop can supply basswood strips, 1/16" x 1/32".  (I think the deck planks of the real ship are about 6" wide; I'd want to check Mr. Campbell's plans to make sure.) 

Once you have the wood in hand, it takes about an evening to plank the deck - a pretty modest investment in time, with a huge reward in terms of how the finished product will look.  Before laying each plank, run a medium-hard pencil around all four edges of it.  Tube-type styrene cement works quite well to hold basswood to styrene.  (It dissolves the surface of the styrene, and soaks into the wood.)  Years ago I used that technique on a Revell Constitution, and the planks were still rock-solid at least ten years later when I moved out of the house and lost track of the model. 

Glue the planks down, let the glue dry, and sand them smooth.  (Be fairly rigorous with the sanding.  If you can reduce that 1/32" thickness to a little more than 1/64", so much the better.)  You can then stain the deck (the Cutty Sark website is a good guide to the color; I'm partial to "Driftwood," from Olympic paints), and give it a thin coat of highly-diluted white shellac (to protect it against paint spill, etc.).  The pencil lead (which goes all the way through the planks, so it won't get sanded off) represents the caulking.

The job is a little more complicated than what I've just described (all the holes and slots in the deck pieces need to be pierced through the wood, and such features as the hatch coamings need to be built up so they project high enough), but it really doesn't amount to much in terms of difficulty or time.  My guess is that planking the deck would actually take less time than camouflaging the joints.  And the improvement to the finished model's appearance is enormous.  People will tell you they can't believe it's a plastic model.  (And you'll be able to say, "well...it sort of isn't.")

I'm not sure I agree with the implication that the Cutty Sark's rigging is simpler than that of the Soleil Royal.  They're really apples and oranges.  The Soleil Royal has more shrouds and ratlines; the Cutty Sark has more yards (sixteen vs. eleven).  Much of the Cutty Sark's standing rigging is made of steel wire or iron chain, so there doesn't need to be as much of it - and it doesn't need to be as heavy.  The rigging of seventeenth-century warships sometimes was, quite literally, more complicated than it needed to be.  (Part of the reason had to do with the size of the crews.  I imagine the Soleil Royal had a crew of between 800 and 1,000 men.  The Cutty Sark's full complement, in her glory days in the tea trade, was 28.)  Rigging either of those models with any thoroughness is a major project.  The best way to break into rigging ship models, as I've said so many times before, is with a smaller, one- or two-masted ship - something like the fishing schooner Gertrude Thebaud, which another member of the Forum is building with outstanding results.  But the Revell Cutty Sark is well designed, and the spar dimensions seem to be accurate.  In terms of rigging, as in virtually everything else, it has the potential to produce a beautiful, accurate model.  Just give some thought to replacing the blocks and - especially - the deadeyes.

I'll second Scott's recommendation of the Underhill book.  (Underhill is to latter-day sailing ships what R.C. Anderson is to seventeenth-century warships.)  It contains a vast amount of information relevant to this ship, along with some of the nicest drawings I've ever seen.  The Cutty Sark, though, offers the modeler a huge advantage over the Soleil Royal:  a decent, reliable set of plans.  I suspect it would be possible to rig a model of the Cutty Sark completely without consulting any reference other than the Campbell plans.  They really are superb - the sort of thing that literally make good bedside reading.  Every major line in the rigging has a verbal description of how it leads, what size rope (or wire) it's made of, etc., etc.  The biggest decision really is what lines to include and which ones to omit.

Hope that helps a little.  Good luck.

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

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