Sloop of War Constellation c.1856 in 1/36 RC

This project started way back at the beginning of 1999. Some home remodeling, a couple of moves, a really long commute to work, a small horse farm, more moves, and a big bundle of the stuff life tosses at you had the project shelved for a long time. It’s on the bench again, and moving along.

This model is of the Fisrt Class Sloop-of-War Constellation which exists today as a museum ship in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

The model is based on a copy of 1/36th scale plans drawn by John Lenthall in 1854 and acquired from the National Archives and the builder’s half model at the US Naval Academy, also in 1/36 scale. This makes the model about 62 inches on her spar deck.

The hull is 3/16th luan forms covered in wite pine ribbands or battens. This is covered in wet and stick brown packing tape (BPT). BPT shrinks when it dries and after 10+ years, the hull is still tight as a drum head.

The plan was that this hull was a sacrificial plug. A glass mold would be made from it and it would basically be destroyed in removing it from the mold. That plan’s changed; now it’s going to be the finished hull. It will be glassed, inside and out, encasing keel, BTP, and battens in the final hull.

Obviously the point here is a working, sailing model; albeit one that will be over 10 feet long from the tip of her bowsprit to the end of her spanker boom.

She will be radio controlled; rudder, foremast sails, main & mizzen sails, and fore-and-aft sails on separate channels.


I’ll post updates on her construction in this thread. For more details and larger photos, click the signature below.

A lot of little things in getting the hull ready to be glassed; cleaning up edges, shaping the head and cutwater; lots of sanding.

Picked up 50 pounds of lead shot for her ballast.

And before I take off to buy some fiberglass cloth, a shot of me and the hull for scale.

Got some 4oz cloth and some polyester resin from the Home Despot and went to work…

Did the port side and when it was set up, trimmed and sanded it. Then I did the starboard side. The resin has an orange tint to it, but is otherwise clear, as is the glass cloth when it’s wet. You can see the battens and where the brown paper tape overlaps (diagonal lines) through the glass. You really have to look close to see the glass. The resin will run and in one place on the starboard side it ran out enough to feel the weave of the cloth - since the idea is to fill the weave, that’s not good. After sanding I’ll paint on a thin coat of resin over the whole hull.

Laying the glass over this structure worked fine, I wasn’t expecting problems here as the hull was originally intended to be a sacrificial plug. Inside the hull will be more interesting.

Inside will be cleared of obstacles and made as smooth as I can get it. That includes removing the forms. I’ll paint resin in to make sure everything is coated, then a layer or two of matting, and a layer of woven-roving.

This isn’t “laminating resin” which remains tacky after setting up so you can come back a add layers without sanding. This resin contains wax which comes to the surface as it sets to make a hard finish. To add layers without having to sand will require laying up each layer inside before the previous layer has set up so each layer will bond to the one before.

Well, it’s back to the shop. :slight_smile:

After sanding the hull, a second coat of resin was rolled on with a yellow foam roller. This went on really nicely. Now it’s back to sanding to take off the wax. This is the hardest part of all of it - sanding the finished surface.

Great work so far, I can’t wait to see more

All the forms were removed from the hull and the inside cleaned up a bit getting ready to lay up fiberglass matting.

Went and got some mat Thursday after work. Laid in the port side Thursday night, and the starboard side today. Boy am I glad that’s done, mat’s nasty stuff to work with!

Hello Jerry,

Your boat is certainly going to be BIG !!.
You reckon she will need 50 lbs of ballast, will you be able to get the weight low enough in the Hull?, or have you considered an external Keel.
Real good work, done real fast !!.

John. :slight_smile:

At this scale, I can see things :wink:

She’ll have a removable ballast keel - basically a lead bar attached to the bottom of her keel. That will keep the majority of the ballast as low as it can be gotten. There’ll be a little in the hull for trim.

Being removable will also make handling, transport, and displaying her easier as she’ll probably weigh 40-50 pounds without the ballast keel.

The mats all set up and I’ve been sanding all afternoon - inside and out. It’s time to start fitting out inside for the mast steps, winch deck, and deck beams.

With the mat in, and more sanding done, it’s time to start putting things in it.

The deck clamps, (built up of several layers of strips to catch the edge of the deck all around the hull) started going in, and the plywood sub-deck was fitted.

The finished deck will be pine strips laid on this sub-deck.


At the moment I am making the Cabins, for on the deck of the J Class Endeavour.
The Main Cabin is rather involved, having a sliding Hatch on the roof, Doors with windows in and metal bars on all the windows !.
The metal bars were to prevent the windows being broken, NO toughened glass in 1934!.
There is one other sliding hatch on a smaller Cabin and other even smaller ones with Instruments on them.
Endeavour was very advanced for its time, with dials for Strain Gauges and Wind direction, all very new at the time.
All coming together, but very slowly, too slowly, the weather is getting nicer by the Day.

Sailing Calls !!!.


The J’s were real impressive boats. There was a restored one here on the Chesapeake back in the 70’s that I did a day sail on. I forget which boat it was. You could get inside the boom! It was to most immense rig I ever saw.

Speaking of big…

Some stats on the Constellation model:

Beam: 14-1/4"
Length over the rig: 96"
Width over the rig: 36"
Length on deck: 61"
Length between perpendiculars: 59-1/8"
Draft (without ballast keel): 7-1/2"
Height (floor to main truck without ballast keel): 65"

I’m guessing the ballast keel will be about 4" deep and 1/2" to 3/4" thick. That’ll make the depth about 11-1/2"

Being out of town one weekend cut into production.

Measurements and markings were made for placement of beams to hold the equipment tray and the mast steps. The mast steps will be made of live oak from the original vessel. There’s a pair of bits forward of each mast, and these will also be made from Constellation live oak.

A new set of quarter galleries was started. The old set, meant to be a form for the glass mold were not meant to be permanent. It so happens they were too deep, measured abeam that is.

The new ones are meant to be permanent. they’re framed in pine planed down to 1/8" and partially sheathed so far, in 1/16" basswood. They’re also accurately dimensioned this time. :slight_smile:

The three badges on the quarter galleries and stern in the pics are print outs of the medallions the ship has had since 1854 (see my avatar).

The last pic is me playing with one of the pics in MS Paint.

Some finish carpentry
Utility knife blade Dremeled to scrape the molding’s shape
and the new quarter galleries with moldings almost complete.

Deck beams started going in around May 5th. Only those that partnered the masts, or delineated hatches for now.

The hole was drilled for the rudder head, and a 17/32" (13.5mm) brass tube epoxied in place. The 1/2" (12.7mm) rudder head will fit nicely inside the tube.

The beams that hold the servo decks and mast steps were epoxied in and the decks made from 5/16" (7.9mm) CDX (C side, D side, Xterior) plywood. Temporary mast steps helped check alignments.

The mast steps are made of live oak from the original ship. This wood was cut as early as 1816 from 100-200 year old trees in coastal Georgia, and sat in stockpiles at Gosport Virginia until it was pulled to make frames for the Constellation in 1854. This is some OLD wood! :slight_smile:

A box was made to hold the battery. It will be mounted on the keel abaft the main mast and anchored to the tube for the ballast keel rod aft. A hook-n-loop strap will prevent the battery from hopping out.

The rudder was scaled up from 1/60 plans to 1/36 and laid up on some card stock where the model’s larger rudder profile was determined. This was cut from 1/4" (6.35mm) acrylic. Basswood veneers in the size of the scale rudder will be glued to either side for appearance sake.

The veneers for the rudder has been canned and the scale part of the rudder will simply be painted on.

The ballast keel will basically be a lead bar 52" long, 5/8" thick, and 4" tall, netting about 50 pounds. It will be attached under the models keel by two 5/16" stainless steel threaded rods. They will thread into stainless coupling nuts set into the top of the lead ballast keel. Stainless cap screws will thread in from the bottom of the keel.
If the rods were attached to the ballast, I’d have to lower a 40-50 pound fully rigged model onto two 14" posts. This way, the rods stay in the hull. Sit the model on the ballast, thread down and tighten the rods into the ballast and that’s it. If need be, the ballast can be removed by removing the 3.5" hex socket cap screws from the bottom of the ballast keel.

To prevent leakage, the rods will be contained in PVC tubes that start flush with the bottom of the keel and run up flush with the spardeck. The tubes are 1/2" o.d. The forward rod will be at the galley hatch and will be hidden by a removable galley stack. The aft rod will be inside a skylight that’s part of the aft hatch just forward of the ship’s wheel.

more pics

Now is the time to consider how you will/may transport your completed model. If you ever expect to have it transported by commercial air or ground you need to construct everything (especially the lead keel and its bolts and tubes) with the expectation that the model will be dropped 3 or 4 or more feet. Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson Ltd shipped one of their brigs to me (complete) and it arrived with the forward (clear plastic tube that made the forward keel bolt water tight) pretty smashed by the force of the internal battery being ripped off of its velcroed platform. After repairs in California it was again shipped to me and this time a daughter witnessed the express truck driver up end the box and drop it off the back of the truck. This time the force “only” twisted the head rails.

When you get the chance it would be helpful if you would supply stability information such as the location of the centers of gravity and buoyancy (and an estimate of the righting moment) when the ship is heeled 90 degrees. Similarly, the center of the sail plan (all plain sail) fore and aft and above the upright waterline when the ship is upright.
Until you provide further information we will assume that the ballast weighs 50 lbs and the rest of the ship also weighs 50 pounds.

I have estimated the righting moment as designed at 100 Lbs X 4 inches for a resultant of 400 inch pounds.
Now if you lowered the ballast keel and turned it on its side and added one or two struts to lower it a foot you would get lots more righting moment. Or you could reduce the weight of the ballast keel and get about the same righting moment as you will get from your present plan and reduce the total weight of the ship ready to sail.
Which is better depends on how much weight you want to lift when launching and recovering the model and the depth of your sailing area at the edges.