The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Andrew Green

Updated: 2/24/03

Scale Radio Controlled Ship Models

Andrew Green is seen at work in his shop applying the planking to his latest ship model hull. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Andrew Green of Halifax, NS, Canada used to work as a draftsman for real ships. He worked on plans for the QE2 while living in Scotland. He then moved to Halifax and worked on oil rigs until he retired. He built and sailed ship models as a child, and now that he has retired he can spend more time on his hobby of ship model building. Though these ships appear to be virtually museum quality in the level of detail they contain, keep in mind they are made to be put in the water and sailed, not just displayed. They are ballasted, powered by electric motors and filled with tiny light bulbs that must make them a joy to see on the water at night. Here is a little about Mr. Green and his model ships in his own words:

Building ships runs in the family

My father worked all his life in the shipyard at the time Cunard liners were being built. These included ships such as the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and many other ships ending with the QE2. Like most people living in Clydebank, we lived with the noise of the shipyard, and perhaps were not even conscious of the noise until work stopped and the noise with it. I grew up in this town on the river Clyde and watched ships sail up and down from Glasgow to all parts of the world. That was where I developed my interest in ships. I remember having a wind-up motor boat and once made a tug (bread and butter style) and put a "Mamod" steam engine in it. I am sure I made many simple model ships but never kept any. I am inclined to get rid of things which are not right, or if I am not happy with what I have made.

When I left school at age 17, my father did not want me working in a shipyard, so I started work in Thermotank Ltd., a company of marine air conditioning engineers, as an apprentice draughtsman. I think that was as close to shipyards as he wanted me to get. I had a good training there, designing systems for many ships which included works experience in manufacture of fans, vents, ducting and installations on board ship. After my five years apprenticeship, I remained with the company a further three years and then decided to find work closer to our new house. As it happened, the shipyard was only a short drive from home, and that was where I chose to work. At that time the liner QE2 keel had been laid a few months and very soon after drawing steelwork for a car ferry, I was put to work on the QE2 machinery spaces ventilation and more steelwork. There are few trades which cannot be found in a yard building ocean liners, and I spend most lunch hours exploring the various machine shops and seeing all work and trades required to build a ship.

My first attempt at ship modeling

I thought I knew enough about ships to build a model. I had the plans I needed to start and I decided on a "bread and butter" method to build the Centaur. This is done with a series of planks, each plank being the scale length and width of the ship and the thickness being a waterline height. The hull lines are then drawn on each plank for that waterline height for the top and bottom of each plank and then cut round the widest shape of the lines. When the cut out planks are placed on top of each other and screwed together, it forms a rough hull shape which will be correct for the top of each plank. the hull now has to be carved down to remove the surplus material at the bottom of each plank. This is a slow and exacting task, and care must be taken not to cut or carve into the bottom plank line as this will change the shape of the plank below. When the hull has been properly shaped and sanded, the planks are unscrewed and the inside is cut until a safe wall thickness is obtained. Then the hull is reassembled and the planks are glued together and clamped. I used this method and was quite happy with the result, so I carried on with the superstructure. It was then I realized the model scale was too small to show fine but essential details, or at least too small for me, but I continued working on the model off and on and even painted it.

Work on the QE2 was drawing to a close as the vessel neared completion, and there was no other order in sight. For better of worse, we decided to try Canada. There was a firm job offer at Halifax Shipyards so we moved. The shipyard was building oil rigs, not things of beauty like ocean liners, but it was something new and a complete change in job, country and way of life. Work at the shipyard lasted five years, and the last rig to leave the yard had no drilling engagement. It was time to find another job. Shipbuilding in Canada was at an all-time low. Even my model wasn't doing well. It was top heavy with too much brass and lead solder. I put it away...out of sight and out of mind.

I was fortunate to find a position with a company of consulting engineers doing air conditioning, heating, boiler plants, etc. I retired there after fifteen years. It was during those years that I heard of the Maritime ship Modelers Guild and became a member. My ship modeling was going to make a turn for the better.

Building a better version of the Centaur

I still had the plans for my bread and butter model of the Centaur, and having seen models in the club, I found they were nearly all were built "plank on frame." I decided this was the way to do it; the way a real ship was built. No more carving. I had plenty of tools including an electric drill, palm sander, bench saw, drill press and all the hand tools I had used on house renovations, but you need a band saw to cut ship frames and a bench sander to sand the outside curve of the frame. A drum sander is used on the drill press to sand the inside curve of a frame. This time the scale would be increased to 1/8" to a foot (1:96) which would make the model approximately five feet long, or about twice the size of my first attempt. This scale gives you a chance of getting some good detail for deck machinery, boat davits, etc.

The keel was made from 1/4" x 5/8" birch screwed to 1" thick wood composite board, and the frames recessed onto the keel which was notched out for each frame. This allows the frames to slip down to the base of the keel and gives a good joint for gluing. I used carpenter's white outdoor glue for setting the frames and also for planking the hull. This type of glue sets in about an hour so there is time to check and adjust the frames. Before the glue has set I keep the frames in place by clamping a strip of wood to each frame P (port) and S (starboard) and then check the frames again. I leave this to set up overnight to let the glue cure.

Before planking, the frames are faired off by sanding or filing so that the planks make full area contact with the frame. This can be checked by placing a plank over the frames and seeing where the plank is not flat on the frame. Some hulls can be planked from bow to stern, but the Centaur had a modern bow and rounded stern which could not be planked, so those parts were made solid using the "bread and butter" method

When first planking there is a danger of developing a twist in the fragile frame setup if planks are forced too much into the curves. To counteract this stress, a plank fitted on the starboard side of the hull must be followed by a similar plank fitted on the port side. This is the time when you find out you need plenty of clamps. I have about 40 little clamps I use for clamping planks to frames plus a number of clothes pegs, alligator clips and other homemade clamps. I fit as many planks as possible with the keel screwed to the base to make the hull strong and rigid before it is unscrewed from the base. The little hollows and seams in the planking are then filled with auto body filler and sanded and painted until the hull is perfectly smooth and blemish free. A lot of time was spend doing this, but it is time well spent.

I kept track of the frame spaces and ship centerline and marked them on each deck. All deck houses, masts, deck fittings and so on were then easily located from the frame number and distance off centerline. Before I went too far with decks I ran the wiring inside the hull and installed the 6-volt electric motors. It was at this time I invested in a small lathe, as I could see I would get good use out of it making winches, the anchor windlass, davit wheels and other small parts. I finish paint deck houses and all parts before installing to avoid brush work which is never as uniform as spray paint.

The Centaur took me about 18 months working almost every night as my wife will confirm. ("Are you coming to bed tonight?") I sold the first bread and butter Centaur to a mat at our garden yard sale for two dollars. When we moved from our house to an apartment I lost my basement workshop and now have a 48" work table next to the washing machine. My next project is now under way and there is a 48" model on the table almost all planked.

—Andrew Green

Here are several examples of Andrew Green's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

CENTAUR

The Centaur out of Liverpool is a twin screw diesel cargo passenger liner that did service between Australia and Singapore. It was owned by the Blue Funnel Line and built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1964. It could carry 190 passengers and 4500 sheep and travel at a service speed of 20 knots. The 481' ship was sold to the Chinese in 1985.

The model is 1/8" = 1' scale, which makes it about 5' long. It is plank-on-frame construction with 3/8" x 1/8" cedar planks over 1/4" plywood frames. The superstructure is 1/16" birch plywood. The deck fittings are brass and were machined on a Sherline lathe. It is powered by 6-volt electric motors and has a lighted  interior.

Here's a picture of the Centaur under way.

HELENUS

 

The Helenus is another Blue Funnel Liner but powered by three steam turbines with 15,000 shaft horsepower. It carried 30 first-class passengers and freight between the U.K. and Australia. It was built in 1949 in Belfast and was 498' long.

The model is 1/8" = 1' scale and is 5'-6" long. It is very heavy to handle because of all the ballast needed to bring it down to the waterline when under way. It is constructed similarly to the Centaur but with 1/32" thick birch planks on the hull. It is powered by a 6-volt motor and is awaiting the installation of radio controls. It features many interior electrical lights and brass deck fittings made on a Sherline lathe.

ST. NINIAN

The St. Ninian was built in Dundee, Scotland for service as a passenger and general cargo ferry between Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands. It is 282' long, and is powered by twin screws. All cargo handling and docking is on the starboard side only.

The model is 3/16" = 1' scale and 4'-5" long. Like the others above it is made with plank-on-frame construction. It is powered by two electric motors with belt drive to the shafts. The cowl vents are commercially made, but the other deck fittings are custom machined from brass and aluminum. 

Andrew Green at work on his next model. The 48" length of the hull was in part determined by the workspace available in his small basement shop. A row of clamps lines the back of the workbench.

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