Essex Collection

Project 1 - Fighting Top -   Project 2 - 12 pound cannons with deck section.
Both projects are now complete.  The photos are below. 
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger photo.

At the bottom of this page, newest additons - 36 new photos of the
two 12 pound cannons with deck section.  Added Dec. 12, 2007

Project #1 of the Essex Collection - Fighting Top

     I have started a new project.  Even though I have not yet completed my wooden ship model of the USS Essex in 1/64 scale, I am taking a break from that build to begin the Essex Collection.  This collection will be a scratch built selection of items of the USS Essex, most being made in 1/35 scale.  The items I am thinking of building in this collection include the following; the fighting top (main mast), a 12 pound cannon and section of the deck and bulwark, the ship's wheel, the capstan, the galley stove, the armourer's forge, a ship's boat (18 foot yawl) and perhaps one of the anchors.  First one up to build is the fighting top.  Down below you will see where I got the idea.  Cutting Edge/Waveform has come up with a diorama of the USS Constitution main top.  They have had figures made to give action/life to the diorama.  I have purchased the marine set and sailor set of figures and will make the 1/35 scale fighting top of the USS Essex out of wood.  I am using Portia Takakjian's book on the Essex (Anatomy of the Ship series) for the plans for the build .                      Click on the photos below to get a larger photo.


     Down below are photos of my building of the main top of the Essex.  The black wood is ebony.  The base is pine, outlined with walnut.  To make the fence posts, I took square pieces of brass and used an end mill on my Proxxon milling machine to cut out slots for the wood railing.  The brass would later be blackened.  There are two chests, I guess for weapons that I made that fit on the top.  I may be using only one of them.


     In the photos below you can see that the fence/railing is now in place.  I cut a piece of boxwood and fitted it in the slots in the brass posts.  I then took a piece of Indian Laurel wood and cut a slot in it with my Byrnes saw and had that fit over the boxwood piece.  The result is now a strong fence/railing.  Netting will be added later.  I have drilled holes in the base for where the shrouds holding the top secure will go.  The black ebony will look even darker when I put a natural wood stain on it later.  The photos below show twenty-nine and a half hours of work.


     It was time for me to work on the hoops and battens.  I made these out of ebony.  On the wood for the ebony battens I cut slots into it and then sliced off the battens.  In order to keep this structure aligned on all four sides, I made a jig for glueing them equal distance from the top.  I took my model outside and took photos in the sunlight


     I recently bought a seizing and serving machine/device from Ship Ahoys.  I decided to make it longer.  I cut the base (made out of plastic) in half and then cut the solid aluminum rod in half.  I lengthened the rod by epoxing a brass tube to it and used epoxy to glue wood segments to the base.  I added more wood to the base bottom to give it more weight.  It now does not have to be clamped to the work table when in use.  It works very smoothly and makes me wonder why I waited so long to start serving ropes on my models.


     For this large scale wooden model, I needed to make my own large blocks.  I made the triple and double blocks out of cherry.  The sheaves are made of wood.  The second photo shows the beginning of tying the ratlines on the shrouds.  At the time of this writing, that is now complete.  I made the sling, which has been served, and after a friend of mine suggested I use a coin to show size, I took some new photos to give the viewers a perspective to the size of this build.


     Here are last photos of the construction of the fighting top, before I show the group of photos of the completed top.  Down below two photos show the placement of the mouse on the stay.  It was super glued and then I served the stay going over the mouse.  The next two photos show the making of the block for the crow's feet.  I used an X-Y table to space evenly the seven holes.  The last row of photos show the netting for the rails, which came from a fabric shop.  I then clamped the netting in between wood segments, which I then glued on to the railing fence on the top.  The last two shows the plexiglass "H" structure I made to hold the upper shrouds.  The ropes were glued into some brass tubing to keep the deadeyes even.

     After 86 hours and 4 minutes, my fighting top was just about complete.  I will still be adding a small name plate to the base.  It will go where the quarter is.  I still have to paint the figures and add them to bring some action to the top.  This group of photos were taken in my workshop.

     This group of photos were taken outdoors.  This scale, 1/35 was a pleasure to work with.  I now have 8 figures to paint and then pose them on the fighting top.

     After 127 hours and 15 minutes of "fun" work, I completed my Essex Fighting Top.  The top took 86 hours and 4 minutes to complete.  The 8 figures took an additional 38 hours and 11 minutes to paint.  I have had to learn a great deal about highlighting figures and adding shadows.  I still have a ways to go, but I am making progress.  This first group of photos was taken in my workshop.

     This group of photos of my wooden ship top of the Essex of 1812 were taken outside on a cloudy day.  Soon I will add some photos taken on a sunny day.

     Here are the last 5 photos of my completed fighting top diorama.  I will be adding an additional Chamber repeating weapon next to the sailor (second from front on port side).  This weapon, with it seven barrels took all day to load, so they would have more than one in a battle.

Project #2 of the Essex Collection
Two 12 pound cannons on section of the ship
     I am now going to build a wooden ship model section of the deck (port side) with two of the 12 pound cannons that the USS Essex carried.  The drawings come from Portia Takakjian's book on the Essex from the Anatomy of The Ship series.  The scale was changed to 1/35.  I made the frames from pine and planked the hull with boxwood.  The bulwarks were planked in bloodwood.  The waterway was also made from bloodwood.  I made the gratings from boxwood.  The two cannons were turned from solid brass rods.  I used my milling machine to drill the trunnions.  Note that the cannon barrels are not marred since I encase them with balsa and rubber during the drilling.     Clicking  on a thumbnail will get you a larger photo of all down below.

     I have found more use for my lathe and milling machine as I gain in experience.  I turned the axles for the cannons on the lathe and I cut the grooves for the ledges on the lodging knees on my milling machine.  I used my Byrnes saw to score grooves in what will be the pillars.  The scores tell me where to begin and end the taper of the pillars on the lathe.  I usually make more of what I need, in order to select the best for the actual build.

     In the photos down below, I have for a temporary moment placed the gangway timbers in place.  I am checking the fit and to where the hanging knees should go.  I have placed three photos of the finished 12 pound cannons.  The cannon carriages were made from bloodwood.  The trucks (wheels) were turned from walnut.  Cannons were blackened with Black Brass and then sprayed with a matte finish.

     Here are some more construction photos before I get to the photos showing completion.  In the first two below, I have angled the cross slide to get a conical cut to the brass.  I am making the top part of the lantern in those first two photos.  I then took photos of the cannons all rigged before the gangway structure is glued in place.  The metal buckets in between the cannons are made of brass sheet wrapped and glued around a wood base.  The last two photos show the top structure.  In these one can see the hanging knees made out of bloodwood.  All the "red" wood you see below is bloodwood.

     Here are photos of the of the completed model.  This second project in my Essex Collection was built in 23 actual working days in 83 hours and 55 minutes.  It was another fun project.  On my wooden ship model/diorama, the hull planking is boxwood, the black is ebony and maple was used for the deck planking.  Treenails were made of walnut.

     This will be the last ten photos of two of the 12 pounders on a port side section of the deck of the USS Essex.   My hope is this wood ship model will help illustrate a portion of what a real wooden ship looked like back in history.  Now on to my next project.