Thursday, 20 April 2017

Billings Boats Oseberg Viking Ship


This is another one of those model builds that I never thought that I would do! A colleague of mine approached me with a "challenge". He had bought a wooden viking ship model many years ago and made a start on it. A few house moves later and having lost some of the parts he placed what he had left of the model back into the box and left it there. He asked if I would have a go at building it. I said yes without even looking at the kit and brought it home. I had a few other models to complete and a busy schedule so a year later I am finally getting around to building it. Fortunately I had been given a limitless timescale to complete this as he knows that model building is a hobby for me and that on occasion I have to stop completely while work/life gets in the way.

The Kit

First impressions of the kit were very good, however this was short lived! The quality of the wood was not very good at all. I cannot say that the company is a fault as the boat may have been stored in less than ideal conditions and the kit is of indeterminable age. Whatever the case, the wood was extremely brittle to say the least! I could have treated the wood with some linseed oil of something along those lines, however I ran the risk of the wood treatment adversely affecting the effectiveness of the glue that would be using. I decided to soldier on with what I had and be very careful when cutting and filing the pieces. I will also mention that the build instructions are next to useless! there are a few reference shots that don't really provide any reference, a bill of materials sheet that is fine to check that you have everything provided with the kit and a large 1:1 drawing. Most of the work was fortunately referenced from the internet from other model makers who had suffered through the build and were kind enough to share their experiences.

The Skeleton of the boat

I'm sure that the correct terminology is not the skeleton however not being a nautical builder I will describe things the best way that I can. The first thing that I was faced with when studying the plans was that the parts that were missing were the bow, stern and keel beam. Probably the most important parts required for an accurate model !!!! A great many swear words and several cups of coffee later I had formulated a plan. I had some lite ply left over from a previous project that when an additional layer of balsa wood was laminated to it would be an accurate thickness for the bow and keel parts. I also has some bass wood strips left over from another project that I could laminate and then cut down to form the keel beam. I then used some of the wife's grease proof paper to trace from the drawing for the keel and bow parts and proceeded to manufacture the missing parts. The initial build of the skeleton is shown in the photos below:-

Satisfied with how the parts fitted together I then started to measure out the positions for the hull bulkheads along the length of the keel beam. To ensure  that they were as square as possible an engineers square and mini level were used at all times. Again Some problems were encountered with some warping on some of the beams. I decided that these could be alleviated as I progressed with the build when attaching other parts that could pull the affected beams back into alignment.

Some additional deck beams were then glued into place and the skeleton was essentially complete. I am happy so far with how this is coming together however I think I am about to lose the will to live with the next stage: the hull planking!

Planking the hull

The wood pieces which have to be individually cut are bloody awful. The wood has dried to the point that they are unbelievably brittle and snap at the slightest pressure across the grain. To make matters worse they cannot be sawn using my scroll saw as this has proved to be too vicious and splinters the wood almost immediately. This essentially means that each piece must be cut by hand using a hobby knife! Many, many, many hours later with several repairs to the planks I was left with a bundle of numbered strips to start attaching to the hull beams.

The hull of the boat is now complete (thank god). There were no real issues her save for the time it took to set and layer each plank to the next one. If you do decide to take on a model like this I would advise you invest in a lot of clamps! I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the poor quality photos. This is purely because the model is larger than my model desk as shown in the photo below. This makes it extremely difficult to photograph the build progress in the night time when most of the work is being done.

I've decided to sand, fill and stain the hull before moving on to cutting and planking the deck of the boat. I took this decision as while the deck is off I will have access to both sides of the hull and it will hopefully make my life a little easier. I also have enough wood off cuts to laminate the keel beam with the same wood as the rest of the hull. This should then disguise the fact that it was home-made as it is currently a lot lighter in colour than the rest of the wood. The first job for the finishing the hull is ensuring that the bow and stern decorative plates fit as snugly as possible. Unfortunately Billings supplied these parts in plastic and I am at the moment scratching my head trying to figure out the best way to incorporate these onto the model. The main problem is that any plastic part painted to look like wood will always look terrible when held against real wood. Being as this part is supposed to be glued to the wood structure; leaves a big problem in making it look authentic. (more on this later). I am pleased with the initial fitment of the decorative plates against the hull. I am confident that with a small amount of fettling they will provide a seamless fit to the structure:

Happy with the fitment I then took on the task of sanding, cleaning, filling and generally cleaning the entire hull. I think the most accurate way of describing this process is "beautification". Its not really a word you would normally associate with Vikings however this boat will be used as a display piece once completed and although I have ensured that there are no true straight lines on the hull; it still needs to look pleasing to the eye. I used a combination of watch makers files, a small dental bur, a Dremmel with a sanding wheel and hand sanding to get the hull prepared for staining and finishing:

The kit also provides a rather nice stand. I decided that this would be an appropriate time to build and finish the stand as it would prove very useful in supporting the hull once stained and finished. The stand is simplistic in its design and construction and I will let the pictures below detail the build process:

To finish the stand I opted to leave it in a natural colour and applied some Dutch Oil to seal, nourish and protect the wood. The completed stand looks really nice and once dried I am sure will look even better. In addition it holds the hull really well and should provide a stable build platform for when I begin to plank the hull.

Finishing the hull 

There was fortunately enough waste material to laminate the new keel beam in the same wood as the hull. This was done in sections and held firmly in place with a liberal amount of clamps to dry. I decided that I would finish the hull before continuing on with the build as this would make it easier to complete in the long run. To get the desired colour I used some burnt umber acrylic paint in a 25:75 ration with water. This light mix allowed the colour to soak into the wood and I could also control the depth of colour by the application of several coats. Each coat was allowed to fully dry before the next was applied as I didn't want the water to warp or twist the hull. I then lightly sanded the hull once more and applied a coat of Danish Oil to finish. I expect to give the hull at least one more coat of the Danish Oil before moving on to constructing the rest of the boat.

While the hull dried I began the laborious construction of the oars; all 30 of them!I will continue to piece together and build them in between the other jobs that I have on the boat build. This will hopefully break up the monotony of making them.

The Deck 

The deck boards are deceiving in the fact they at first glance look an easy thing to do. When you consult the instructions they are not clear at all in how they should be attached to the structure. Fortunately after "consulting" the internet I found that for each run of deck boards; they require additional support beams to be fixed to the bulkheads of the boat. These are just strips of wood but they have to be fixed at just the right depth to ensure that when the deck boards are fitted, they are flush with the top edge of the bulk heads. To achieve this I simply cut a small section of deck board and glued a scrap piece of wooden stock to it. This allowed me to gauge the correct depth that the support beams had to clamped and then glued. This entire process was repeated for the entire deck:

I'm glad that I chose to start in the centre of the deck and get all the straight cuts out of the way first. As I got ever closer to the bow and stern, the cuts became ever more difficult in the way that they had to be matched to the angle of the boat's hull. What I will say at this point is that I am glad I have experience in laying wooden floors as the principles are almost identical!

More updates soon

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