HMS Bounty Launch – Build #1

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Model Shipways was offering a deal on their plank-on-frame ‘Bounty Launch’ kit and so I actually purchased two with a view to doing separate, but slightly different builds.

The wooden kit parts are laser cut, and very easy to remove from the surrounding material. There are also a number of different ‘accessory’ parts like water casks and a chest, amongst other things, as well as material for making sails should you choose to include them in your finished model. The manual is a little sketchy, and not terribly clear or well-written, but there are six large sheets of plans that include lots of supplementary information.

Part 1 – The Basic Construction Jig

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The main structure of the framing jig consists of 15 bulkhead-style frame molds that are slotted to fit a central longtudinal section referred to as a ‘false keel’.

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Before fitting the frame molds to the false keel, scrap sections must be glued to each of them to act as ‘sheer tabs’. The length of these is not critical but they must be aligned to the marked lines on the mold. Eventually, these will provide a ‘rest’ for the sheer strake, and also a guide for cutting away the excess portion of each frame after the planking is complete. Note that the tabs are fitted to the aft surface of molds 1 through 8 and the forward surface of the remainder.

Bounty 004

The manual states that ‘it is not necessary to glue the building jig to the building board’ but I decided to just exactly that. Not only will that provide extra stability, to my mind, but I am hoping that, should this decision cause me any problems later, I can re-use the same jig for the build of my second kit.

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I ensured the right-angle alignment of the molds using machinist’s squares and glued some spare stock pieces to a few select locations on the building board to help with the stability of the jig.

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As per the manual, I used braces to stabilize the frame molds but, rather than using the wood supplied, I used some thicker stock of my own. This was not only because it provided greater support but because I happened to have quite a bit of this size on hand.

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Before beginning any construction of the vessel hull itself, you need to ‘fair’ the molds. As you can see, a strip of stock laid across the molds to simulate a plank doesn’t lie flat against all of the edges due to the hull curvature. Accordingly, we need to bevel the outer faces so that, when the frames are placed over them, they will provide maximum surface area for the planks to attach.

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To accomplish the beveling, I made a sanding ‘wand’ using a flat piece of wood and some medium grain sandpaper.

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The advantage of using the wand is that it can lie across multiple molds at one time. You need to occasionally check the fairing by laying a thin strip of stock along the mold surfaces as though it were a plank but using the length of the wand can help give some idea of how the process is going as one does the actual sanding.

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The last step before beginning construction of the keel assembly is to wax those portions of the jig that contact the hull so as to avoid any adhesions due to over-enthusiastic applications of glue. The manual says that paste furniture wax was used in the prototype model but I couldn’t locate any and settled for a lip balm containing beeswax instead. I tested it on some scrap wood using super glue and it seemed to work just fine. Naturally, the proof of this will come when I try to remove the hull from the jig later on.


Part 2 – The Keel and Transom Assembly

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The sternpost and keel come in three separate sections. The sternpost section is a single piece of stock but the remaining three each come in two halves which must be glued together first.

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The separate sections can be joined using the sheet plans as a guide. I have cut my copies of the various sheets into smaller pieces for ease of use.

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The lowermost hull plank fits into a groove in the hull and sternpost known as the ‘rabbet’. This must be cut into the wood but, fortunately, the guiding lines are marked on the keel section and are partly incised by laser. This is not true for the sternpost, however and you must mark the lines, and make the full cuts, yourself. The rabbet must be cut into both sides of the assembly and special care must be taken on the second side as the thickness of the stock is diminished by the first groove, making the structure a little weaker. I actually cut away two sections of the keel above the groove accidentally but, luckily, they were glued back in place fairly easily.

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Before the keel assembly is put in position, the manual reccomends that you glue 4 pair of tabs to the false keel to act as stabilising guides. These are only temporary fixtures and will need to be removed before planking.

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The keel assembly can now be slid into position between the guides. To hold it firmly in place for the time being, holes need to be drilled through the tabs and the keel and pins thurust all the way through them.

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The stem is stabilised by two blocks each with a hole corresponding to one in the stem itself. The blocks are glued to the foremost frame mold (and the building board in my case) and then a section of brass rod pushed through to hold everything firmly in place.

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Before adding the transom to the sternpost, two transom horses are fixed to the jig assembly to give it stability for planking.The manual says that material may need to be added to, or shaved from the horses to ensure the transom lies on the same plane as the aft-surface sternpost but I didn’t find this to be the case.

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The edges of the transom need to be beveled prior to being affixed and their are lines marked to accomplish this. Here you can see that the right side has already been beveled by sanding. Later, the transom edges may require additional fairing to take the planks.

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The transom is now glued in place and pinned to the horses. The third pin was added before the glue dried to hold the upper end in place while I adjusted the horizontal level.

Part 3 – Forming the Main Frames

The kit comes with cherry stock for forming the frames of the vessel as this wood is supposed to be better for bending and shaping than the boxwood stock which makes up most of the rest of the model. There are twelve main frames per side and each needs to be bent to shape over the outside of a mold. Note that neither the transom nor molds 1 to 3 take frames as they are lofted to the inside of the planking.


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There is a variety of equipment available to assist in bending frames and planks but the most basic method involves simply soaking the wood to make it more flexible and then bending it by hand. Supposedly, adding a little ammonia to the soaking water helps the process but I had none and just used near boiling water from the kettle. I found that soaking for at least 4 hours was neccessary, but that longer is better. It is inevitable that some ribs will get broken even when really well soaked but, fortunately, plenty of stock is supplied to take this into account.

The manual suggests cutting all the pieces for the ribs to a standard 4.5 inch length. This is longer than required for sevreal of them but it is easier to trim the ends of these as you are fitting rather than going to the unnecessary effort of measuring each to length beforehand.


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The basic process for bending the frames is to insert the end of each cut piece into the notch on the keel where it meets a given mold, clamp it in place, and then carefully bend the length downward along the mold contour. This is not a a very easy process and all I can really say by way of advice is to go as slowly as possible as rushing will only increase the rate of breakage.

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Once the frames section has been bent to the mold, the terminal end can be clamped in place to allow the wood to dry.

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It is probably not very clear in this photograph but, on some of the molds that have been beveled during the fairing process, it is neccesary to twist as well as bend when forming the ribs. In other accounts I have read, this can be quite tricky but I must have been lucky as I found that the neccessary twisting seemed to follow naturally as I achieved the bending.

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In order to bend the ribs for the first side of the hull, I ended up with six broken ones, which worked to one failure for every two succeses. This actually didn’t seem that bad and I figured I would do better with the remainder. As it was though, the other side ended up with a greater breakage rate and I actually snapped 4 or 5 on one particularly tricky mold alone. Having finally finished, though, I will be allowing the wood to dry for a full day before moving on to the next step.

Main Frame Installation

…. To be continued in due course…

6 thoughts on “HMS Bounty Launch – Build #1”

  1. Nice to see how this works. I can imagine buying one of these kits and having it left in a box, but seeing these nice step by step instructions is a helpful motivator to one day take a kit like this on.

      1. Hi … sadly, not soon. Unfortunately, the one you see pictured was irretrievably damaged not much later. I have second kit but it presently is in in Nova Scotia (along with all my tools) awaiting my arrival which may be some time yet 😦

  2. Thank you for sharing this post on setting up the false keel and bending the cherry wood for the frames. Nice clear pictures and information. I’m very sorry to hear of the demise of this kit before completion. Hope you will stay with it. Cheers

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