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L'Ambitieux, Le Trois-Ponts du Chevalier de Tourville
November 10, 2002
For this update I am showing how I plan to fit the false lower and middle gun decks and some stern planking.
The first thing I had to do was to decide how much of the lower and middle gun decks would show up on the finished model. From the plans, these two gun decks are completely hidden by the upper gun deck and only a little of the middle gun deck would be visible through the holes of the gratings of the upper deck. Other than that, the only portions of these decks that would be visible would be through the open gun ports, and even then, the barrels of the cannons would block most of the view.
As such, I felt all I needed to do was fit some false decks made out of thin (1mm) plywood, left unplanked, and there was no need to work any camber into these decks. Other than that, the insides of the hull at these two deck levels would need a coat of paint and that is all.
I began by sealing the insides of the hull halves at this level with a couple coats of shellac. Once dry, they were sanded down and a couple of coats of light grey paint were brushed on. Why grey?
I looked through the Boudriot monographs and it seems that the predominant colour below decks on French ships were grey. I reasoned that although the other monographs feature ships of a later period, paint technology and colours had not changed so grey it was.
Once the paint had dried, deck clamps of 2mm by 2mm basswood were glued along the inside of the hull. The plugs I added to the hull to act as depth stops were at the location of each deck beam, so it was a very easy to locate these strips of wood. In this set of pictures the deck clams for the lower, middle and upper gun decks have been added.
The false decks for the three gun decks were next cut out of 1mm plywood. I used a contour gauge to get the right contours. Each deck is made in two pieces to facilitate getting them into the hull when the time comes.
The hull halves were glued together and when dry, a slot cut into the bow and the stem post and knee of the head assembly glued into place. A rabbet has been cut into this part before fitting but using the hull as a guide to accept the ends of the planks. A sternpost was cut out, a rabbet cut into it and his fitted to the transom of the ship. Before fitting the sternpost, the hole for the rudder was cut out.
The next step was to start planking the stern. Before I did this, I cut out the two stern chaser ports but didn't bother with the stern gallery windows, as these will be faked later on with black paper squares covered with window mullions. The planks in this scale are about .5mm thick. A number of planks were cut from baulks of scrap pearwood.
The pictures show the stern planking in progress. I planked over the stern chaser ports, leaving just a little hole to get my knife in later to open them up to proper size in due course. I used Lee Valley wood glue to attach the planks and to simulate caulking, rubbed the edges of the planks with a 2H pencil. I deliberately chose planks of different colours. The only other thing of note is that the diagonal planking on the bottom transom is quite irregular. The Boudriot plans show them all different sizes, some straight, some tapered at the bottom, and of different widths. I replicated this feature by actually drawing the planks on the transom and used this to guide my planking. It looks odd, but I guess in the 1680's, they used whatever planks they had and the variation in sizes and shapes is likely due to working the wood with the most basic hand tools. Indeed, the plans show many different widths of planks used on the stern planking.
I have a copy of L'Album de Colbert, which is a reproduction of a set of period folio prints showing the building of an 80-gun ship of the period. It is the obvious inspiration for the Boudriot monograph on L'Ambitieux. The drawings show all manner of timber in a dizzying array of sizes and shapes to fit onto each part of the ship. Boudriot's plans replicate some of this variation quite nicely.
To end this update, below are two photos of the model so far to give an idea how big the ship is. The first photo shows L'Ambitieux on top of the hull of the Japanese battleship Yamato (1:200 scale). The biggest ship of 1680 is only as big as the forecastle deck of the biggest ship of 1942! The next photo is the L'Ambitieux hull beside the hull of Diana, from the Caldercraft kit to 1:64. This will give an idea of how big the model is in relationship to some popularly sized kits.
My next step is to start some of hull planking.