Gilyak (1906)

Completed in June 2010.
Primarily wood and plastic.
1/110th scale.

Fast on the heels of my scratch build of the Canopus, my next project will be of the Gilyak, the lead-ship of a class of four Imperial Russian Navy gunboats, built in 1906. These were designed for operations in deepwater but ended up spending their entire careers in the littorals of the Baltic Sea. Two of the four were sunk by the Germans in WWI and the other two were scrapped by the 1920s.

As such, there are very, very few period photographs to work with, maybe only a dozen in total, and of those nearly half are so fuzzy as to be almost worthless (even less than with the Canopus!). I did find three grainy photos of various deck scenes, which will be an enormous help in placing various items aboard, and was able to obtain a crude set of simple line drawings from the Russian State Navy Museum after a few emails. Unfortunately, the notations on the plan are in Russian, but think I can figure it out with some thought. It's the challenge of it that appeals to me. What's the fun of modeling something that is very well known?

A few technical notes. The Gilyak was ironclad and coal powered, and armed with a suite of guns comparable to the largest destroyers of the era. In fact, while today we think of a "gunboat" as something small and weak, the designation in the Russian Navy referred more to vessels just below the light cruisers of the day. The Gilyak measured in at nearly 1,200 tons full load (comparable destroyers seldom surpassed 600 tons) and was 218 feet long (or roughly half the length of the Canopus pre-dreadnought). My model was supposed to be 1/96 scale, but due to some measuring errors on my part, it's more like 1/110 scale, which is still pretty big!

As before, I have enlisted the able woodworking skills of my dad to produce the rough hull form out of pine. Unlike the 38 inch long Canopus, the Gilyak will be less than 23 inches long and considerably narrower (I realized early in the Canopus that I had too big a hull on my hands). My plan is to use a mix of woods and plastics, but since this is still new to me, we'll have to see how well that works.

Gilyak Build Day One:

Ok, the hull came in the mail today. Yay! Thanks, Dad. As soon as I unwrapped it, however, it occurred to me that I totally blew my measurements and the overall height is too short. Looking back over my scratch notes, I see that I goofed in converting metric to English numbers (I tend to switch back and forth between the two, something which has tripped me up before). So I need to raise the decks about a half-inch (to 33 millimeters at the stern and 52 mm at the bow, natch) to make the scale right (sorta, I'm fudging the dimensions a tad).

The hull has been sniff-approved by one of the deckhands.

Since I will be covering up all the joints between layers with plating anyway, it really doesn't matter how I raise the decks, so I just got some pieces of scrap foam board from an old sign from work, cut them to shape, and glued them on the bottom of the hull and held it down with a chair leg. It raised the hull height almost a half-inch (maybe a smidge less).

Cutting up the foam board with my dull scissors.

Should give it until the morning to dry firmly before I trim it up...

Gilyak Build Day Two:

Next up will be laying the wooden plank decks. With the Canopus I was able to cut popsicle sticks up into 6mm strips, which won't work with the Gilyak as the scale is vastly different. A lucky photo of the Gilyak's deck (with two fabulously mustachioed Rooskies mugging for the camera) shows nicely that the deck planks were about 8 inches wide or so. They'd been fir (I think) and required constant sanding and sealing (which would have given the crew something menial to do while on boring patrols or in port).

That's awesome hair!

That plank size scales down to 2mm for my model. As it would have it, for two bucks I found a huge bag of 2mm craft sticks at Hobby Lobby the other day and these will work wonderfully. They are square, but I'll just plate up that additional distance to cover the edges anyway. So, using wood glue and patience, I started to lay the deck down, starting with a margin strip along the edge of the deck. Then, starting in the middle, I worked my way to the outsides laying one little stick of wood down at a time. After a while I hit upon using an old paint brush to smear a layer of wood glue in an area and then set down the planks, went much quicker. While I probably should have margin-planked around the as-yet-unbuilt deckhouses, I don't think I'll have a problem setting them on the planked deck (once I sand it down nicely).

Starting, a penny for scale.

Planking decks is a most tedious and time consuming process, especially in this scale, but it's actually kinda fun. I've done a bit of research and other modelers use everything from grooved plastic sheet to taped-off paint and graphite pencils to simulate decking, but for my tastes there is no substitute for real wood, no matter the scale. It's just almost impossible to find something that looks like wood without being wood...

Almost done, just need to trim off the ends.

Alright, so I planked up to the line where the foredeck will set, and I have a new problem. When I sent off the cutting measurements to dad for the foredeck, I was pretty much fudging it because I couldn't find any useable photos or plans to show what that section of the ship really looked like. It's always covered in shadow or obscured by the lifeboats, and I have to look at other ships of the same era for clues. The area in question is marked in this plan...

I still don't have any better photos but after several hours of looking at the ones I have from every different conceivable angle, I see now that I messed up again with the measurements. Instead of a solid foredeck stretching back 23cm to amidships, it seems like it only goes back as far as the mast, 17cm, and then a planked platform extends the rest of the way back, held up by pillars. This gives room "under" this foredeck platform for the gun crews for the beam guns and all the associated gear (plus two down-staircases and other stuff).

Even the monkey knows I screwed up...

So, before I do too much more on the bow, I need to cut down the foredeck to the proper size, using a combination of my Exacto knife, a screwdriver and hammer, curse words, and barely concealed rage. Cutting an inch-thick piece of hard wood that's firmly glued down back over two inches with inadequate tools is a frustrating experience and I don't recommend it to anyone. Still, after sanding and band-aids, it's the proper size now (with a notch cut out for the mast).


All done! It's ragged in the middle, but that area won't be visible when finished.

This foredeck area, by the way, contained the staterooms and quarters of the ship's officers (these were days when officers were still landed gentry types). The regular crew all slept in shared bunks down in the engine room spaces under deplorable conditions (this sort of separation of the classes helped contribute to the Russian Navy mutinies in the early days of Communism). I suspect that the crews hated their officers.

Especially this guy...

I then planked up the main deck into the area that I mangled cutting up the foredeck (my hammered in screwdriver often gouged the wood beneath). I'm not sure yet how much of this area will be visible once the model is complete, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. And that's about all I'm going to do today.

The planks cover up much of the mess now.

Gilyak Build Day Three:

Ok, back at it today! I needed to build the extended platform aft off the foredeck, but for now I'm going to plank the foredeck bow section (has to be done anyway). This is done the same way as the aft decks, but with the added challenge of the pointed bow (this is where my Exacto knife proves its worth). Unlike many bigger ships of this era (like the Canopus), the Gilyak's complicated forward main anchor gear (chains and windlass) were below decks, which means I don't have to model them much (yay!). As a bonus, the boatswain herself jumped in to help finish off the foredeck planking!

The Boatswain is pretty cute...

She also helped build the foredeck platform (which will be fitted much later once I have much, much more done). It's built from 1/16 plywood and more wood planks. I also sanded down the decks to make them a smooth, uniform surface. It looks pretty good now!

Eventually held up by pillars an inch off the deck.

Ok, with the wood planking mostly done, I need to start working on the hull plating. I thought about using everything from litho plates to copper sheeting, to cardboard strips to just scratching lines with a needle, but in the end I decided to use very thin and very flexible plastic sheeting. I used an old sign from work that was in the trash (so much of what we toss at work is gold for me!). So I cut it into rough strips and laid them out to get the general size. Taping the sheets to the side of the hull, I cut and trimmed them down to the right size.

Thin plastic, maybe half a millimeter thick, but sturdy.

As I've said before, it's the portholes that make or break a model ship from this era. Gilyak had two rows of portholes, about 50 altogether. Here is a photo showing their size relative to the crewmen above...

To simulate these, I marked the locations of the portholes and hawsers, and cut them out with, of all things, a simple one-hole puncher (it had the perfect size hole). While the sheeting is thin, even that amount gives the illusion of an inset porthole. I might dab a bit of different color paint in the portholes in the end, to make a contrast.

Simple tools are often the best.

I then got out my ruler and a pencil and drew in the hull plates. In real life these were welded seams that were quite pronounced, so I want to be able to show them. Many ships of this era had riveted hull plates, but the Gilyak was "modern" enough (for 1906 standards) to have welded plates.

Will look much better once painted!

Taking a leap of faith, I scissor-cut out the hull plates (making sure to keep them numbered and organized so I didn't get them out of order). When I glue them all to the hull I'll butt them up against each other, leaving a visible (but not too obvious) line which I hope, once painted, will look like the seams between hull plates. The problem is that, once I tested a patch, it looked like total 110% crap. So I had to peel them off and go back to the thinking board. I think now that I'll have to wait until I paint the hull and hope that I can come up with a method to represent the weld lines that way...

Gilyak next to the Canopus, showing the relative scale.

Gilyak Build Day Four:

Time now to start working on the superstructure parts. The Gilyak has three separate deckhouses, each a different size and purpose. The biggest is the "funnel house", a large building amidships that the two smokestacks stick out of. Building it was pretty simple (if time consuming), with the walls and ceilings cut out of 0.5mm plastic card and super-glued into place. I put balsa blocks in the corners to give it more stability, and used my Exacto knife to cut out doors and windows. In real life this structure would be over the ship's boilers and the engineering spaces below would be a Hell's Kitchen of steam and sweat.

Materials and tools.

The Lego guy approves.

I then put two 1 inch wooden blocks inside to act as the future funnel bases and built up ceilings around them. I left an open area in the middle to be covered with a grate (working on a method). The blocks are about 2mm too tall to be accurate, but they are fine here as I can fudge them a bit. Where with the Canopus I fudged A LOT, with this ship I am really, really trying to be as accurate as I can be (what's the point otherwise?).

The superglue stains will be painted over (I hope).

Next I built the small aft deckhouse out of sheet plastic and wood blocks. This little shack will sit behind the aft deck gun and seems to be a place where whatever Officer on Duty in charge of the aft part of the ship would hang out when the weather was bad or he just needed a place to drink vodka and take a nap. It had a bed and a sink in there, and not much else, and I can't imagine that "ordinary seamen" would be allowed anywhere near it.

I'll make doors later, maybe even model them partially open?

I then took a break from that and started working on the ship's two engine room ventilator/skylight banks. These were standard on most ships of the era, allowing both light and fresh air into the stuffy and blazing hot engine rooms below. They usually could be lifted open to allow entrance. I couldn't find a good picture of them on Gilyak, but here is a shot of a similar bank on another Russian ship of the same era.

Note size relative to the dudes back there.

While small, each no bigger than a Lego block, they proved to be a challenge to build. I used a wood chunk as a base, and build up a pyramid-shaped top and sides out of plastic. I then glued the punch-outs from when I used my hole-puncher to make the portholes to the slanted surfaces to pose as skylights (reduce, reuse, recycle, I always say!). Learned pretty quick that superglue sets way, way too fast for me (may have to invest in some simple model airplane glue). Once painted, they should look pretty good.

First steps.

Final product, sans paint.

Done for today as the family will be home soon, but happy with my progress. Here is a shot of what I've made, placed on the deck where they will eventually go (unglued as I need to paint still before I set them). The Lego guy is not to scale ;).

Gilyak Build Day Five:

More topside work today. After some searching, I found an old mess sink strainer that I cut into a 1x1 inch square to act as the metal grate covering the top of the funnel house, between the funnels. Realizing that you can now see down inside this "room" if you look from above, I put some things in there to represent shadowy engine-sorta stuff (actually a wood chunk and some plastic Lego parts).

You can't even see that there's Lego pieces in there :).

Next I constructed the "side walls", for lack of a better term, the low walls that protect the amidships deck. When I was first drawing up the plans for this ship based on the available photos, I thought that the ship had a three-tiered step deck, and it wasn't until much later that I realized that it only had one step up, at the foredeck juncture, and this side wall was just an extension of the hull plating. In the photo below, the port side wall is circled in red.

Since they are sorta thick, and will later need to support the weight of the lifeboat davits, I made them by carving out basswood walls and covering them with plastic sheet. I was rushed in this process and they turned out badly, so I had to redo them, proving once again that the faster you go, they more you screw up.

Basswood cuts with the grain like butter, great stuff.

I assume they have at least some armor plate on them, splinter shielding if nothing else, but I don't have much clue what they look like on the "inside", facing the decks. I do have this one photo (below) which seems to show lockers (on the right side), but I'm not sure if they run the length of the side wall or not. As to what would be in those lockers, I can only assume such things as ropes and foul weather gear for the crew and whatnot.

Messy, they need a maid.

So, I sorta guessed and put a few squarish pieces along the inside walls, to act as lockers. Maybe I'll work out a way to put handles on them later. Now it's on to the other bits that seem to crowd the deck. On the stern, just forward of the aft gun, are two identical storage boxes. I am guessing, but I think these would hold the "ready rounds" for the aft gun, casing and powder and that, but I might be wrong. I built the two of them the same way as the skylights, using a wood base with plastic parts arranged around it. As always, look better when painted. All for today!

Eek, too much flash, but you get the idea.

Gilyak Build Day Six:

Back to work on the funnel house today, hoping to have it finished up by close of business. Need smokestacks, and as luck would have it, I discovered that empty Wal-mart register receipt tape rolls are almost the exact size I need. I glued some strips of plastic around them to spruce them up and ate some pizza while waiting for the glue to dry.

Found a bunch of them in the trash at the service desk at work last night.

I then sacrificed some old ballpoint pens, cutting up both the outside tube and the skinny ink tube on the inside (on a few I had to superglue the ends to keep any remaining ink from leaking out). In all I destroyed five pens, but they were of the cheap dollar-for-a-dozen variety, so I don't feel that bad.

The big tubes I cut at an angle to make the four small ventilation funnels, and the skinny tubes I used for the steam pipes running up the sides of the big smokestacks. The one on the bow side of the front stack I cut lower and glued the trimmed up arm off a Lego guy onto it to pose as the ship's steam whistle (which worked by bleeding steam off the steam pipe).

Super glue is my friend.

Then I glued them all down on the roof of the funnel house. The four small vent funnels gave me fits, as they are supposed to be more rounded, but I couldn't think of a way to do that (if I do later, I'll think about replacing them). I also added little open doors to the two side hatches on the funnel house sides.

A trip to the store produced a little $1.49 bottle of Flat Gray enamel paint (like what you paint model cars with). As a side note, I haven't build a model since, like 1979, so I hadn't smelled that old standby the Testors enamel paint in that long. That smell is unlike anything else on earth and can't help but bring back some long dormant, and fond, childhood memories of putting together model cars.

Painting supervised by the Painter's Union steward...

Anyway, so I painted the funnel house, and all the other plastic deck bits that I've built so far. Surprisingly, only had to put two coats on most parts, as the gray covered up all the imperfections quite nicely. I forgot, however, that I needed paint thinner to clean my brush, as I got so used to the water-based acrylics for the wood, so I had to toss the brush. All for today!

Gilyak Build Day Seven:

Been a busy week, but I finally had some free time to pull out the boat again. Took a leap of faith and glued down all the assorted structures I have to the deck. I needed to visualize where everything would go, I work better that way, and it does give me encouragement to see how far I've come. Might have glued the funnel house too far forward, hard to tell now.

Next I added the four broadside gun shields, a difficult operation as it involved bending plastic sheet pieces and holding them in place long enough for the glue to dry (messed up several times). Cut out notches for the guns to travel and then added continuations of the side walls up to the forward shields, with a swooping bit for style. I'll build the actual guns later on.

Then added to the aft deck some assorted doo-dads that make up all the stuff that sailors tend to need and use. Some drain outlets, ammunition pulley access hatches, a few sculpers, and some other things that I have no idea what they are but they show up on photographs. Still need to add the bollards and tie-downs, but need to think some more about how to make them. Also added a platform for the aft 4.7inch cannon to eventually sit on, and a couple of crude rectangles to represent the two down ladders. I didn't look at the plan closely enough (but it was confusing, and in Russian, in my defense) so I didn't realize that there were two sets of stair leading down to the next deck below. Ideally, before I planked the deck, I should have carved out a notch of sorts, for a ladder, but it seems too late for that now. I'll just have to try and trick the viewer's eye with some fancy paintwork :) .

All that didn't take too long, so I had some time to work on the flying deck platform that sits upon the small aft deckhouse. This was a metal platform about a foot thick that the lookouts and officers stood on. When built in 1906, the Gilyak's aft flying deck was pretty small and bare, but as WWI wore on and the danger of the newfangled airplanes became more apparent, the flying deck's sides were elongated and a pair of anti-aircraft machineguns were mounted. I've chosen to model the ship as she was built, however, before these alterations. I cut the flying deck out of plastic sheet and glued it down on top of the deckhouse. Then tried to make pylons out of toothpicks and glue them around the edges (the toothpicks were perfectly to scale). Problems arose quickly and I realized that I should have put the pylons on before I glued the deck down as my fingers are too big to fit under the deck now (and the deckhands are no help...). But with a pair of tweezers and about ten times more time than I was planning on, I managed to get them aligned and glued down (looks ok). Will eventually have railings and whatnot, but that's for later.

On top of this flying deck is a round searchlight platform (this was before radar, of course, so ships had to illuminate targets the old fashioned way for nighttime combat). Built its base by poking toothpicks into a soft chunk of balsa and then gluing this to a plastic disc cut out with the help of a penny (perfect size!). Then glued that down on the flying bridge with some difficulty in leveling it. This will also eventually have railings and an access ladder, plus a big searchlight.

I need to find some plastic rods somewhere...

Next I went back to the stern and added in a few more doo-dads. My line plans are maddeningly vague and the photos I have are worthless, but there's apparently some sort of windlass back there. This may have some association with the stern anchor, or it may be for mine laying. The literature (such as it is online) on this ship says it was capable of laying mines, though nothing I can see would support that. You'd think there would be some sort of tracks or rails or something such as you see on dedicated minelayers, but perhaps I'm missing something (or the literature is wrong). Anyway, this windlass or whatever I fudged-up with the cap off a tube of antibiotic creme, cut down and spruced up with some plastic bits. It looks as bad as it sounds.


The last thing I'll do today is paint all the newly added parts the same Flat Gray that I've already used. As I don't want to get any on the wooden deck, I made a flat wedge of plastic on a handle to act as a paint shield. I should note that before the ship is done, all these bits and parts will be weathered and aged (somehow...) to show the rigors of the sea, salt, and sun.

Gilyak Build Day Eight:

Ok, back at it today! First up is constructing the four broadside guns (2 per side). These are 75mm/3inch Model 1892 Canet cannons, a French design originally, and fairly standard as secondary armament on Russian ships of this era.

A typical 75mm mount on a Russian battleship of the same era.

Using an assembly line approach, I whipped up four cannons with a mixture of scrap toothpicks, paper wrappings, and basswood blocks, all based around inch-long plastic tubes from a Lego set. While they still need breach blocks and elevation wheels (not going to happen...), they look pretty good and will pass muster from up close. I am guessing about the mounts as I have no photos or plans showing how the guns were set, but I think I got it close to right.

Glued the guns down behind their shields and instantly realized that I cut the openings in the shields too big (about a third too big). There are fold-down panels (made of what looks like a metal frame covered with canvas) that cover up the openings anyway, so maybe it won't look that bad once I'm done. I suspect that I'll model the panels up.

Also had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how they would get ammunition to these guns as they seem to be sitting there in the open. Eventually, with no thanks to my rotten plans or worthless photos, I determined that under the aft flying deck is a pulley system that would bring shells up from the magazine below decks. From there, they would be lugged by hand to the gun breach. In combat, everyone "praised the lord and passed the ammunition" so to speak, from the cooks to the lookouts.

But not this guy, he isn't about to get his hands greasy...

Anyway, next built a couple of staircases to link the aft flying deck to the bridge, and the searchlight platform to the flying deck. I bashed them up with strips of plastic sheet and lots of superglue. I don't know what I'd do without tweezers...

The smaller searchlight deck staircase turned out pretty good, if a bit too large for scale, but the main deck staircase was just way too big and I had to replace it with a smaller one. On the second try, I made a pretty awesome staircase, and I'm thinking now about replacing the searchlight deck one (or not). As I still have another five staircases on the foredeck to eventually build, I'm glad I figured out an easy way.

Now for the lifeboat davits. The Gilyak carried four boats, two smaller ones and two larger steam launches. The big boats were carried forward on scaffolds of a sort, and lowered/raised by the big boom-arm crane on the main mast.

Best photo of the lifeboats I have, and it's not much.

My first task was to make the scaffolds out of toothpicks and spare deck planks. This was pretty easy, if time consuming, and I used enough glue (tons!) to make it secure under the weight of the boats. I think that the boats were held fast to the scaffolds with ropes or straps of some material, which I will deal with when I get the boats done later.

The aft lifeboats will be on traditional swinging arm davits, but I'm not sure how to make those yet. Instead I did some more detail work on the deck, adding some coaling hatches and what I assume are hand-cranked rope drums. Also gave some serious thought to what to use for the railing stanchions, and came up with nothing. I really need to find some 1mm thick plastic rods that I can cut up. Failing that (and I can't imagine where I'd find those) I might have to look for smaller toothpicks than what I have now, or maybe get creative and shave down coffee stir sticks or something. Maybe brass wire?

Note the railings (not the Gilyak, but some other ship).

Moving towards the bow, I went ahead and placed the foredeck platform that I built last week. Two toothpicks cut down to size serve as the pylons, and I put some random shapes underneath to pose as shadowy thingies in the dark. Also drilled a big hole in the center of it, where the main mast will eventually be mounted. Messed up the deck drilling the hole, had to replace a few planks (my cordless drill is NOT the proper tool for this). Also had to make a somewhat major alteration to the platform as I goofed the measurements (again...). Also worried that I didn't leave enough room for the boom-arm crane on the backside of the mast.

Wow, looks off kilter here, will have to check that.

Anyway, I'll deal with that later, right now I have time to paint what I've done today in spiffy Flat Gray. I've been holding off painting the actual hull as I handle it constantly and don't want to smudge it up. Absolutely despise the color gray, but I understand the reason Navies paint their warships this color.

Gilyak Build Day Nine:

As everyone is either asleep or at work, I have some time to work on the foredeck now. First up is constructing the forward deckhouse, where the ship's officers would hang out when it was raining or when entertaining ladies on shore leave. I built it with plastic sheet and superglue, just like the other structures (though I rushed it and it turned out rough).

One of the deckhands takes a break from his busy day on the job...

Sitting on top of this deckhouse will be a large flying bridge, where the lookouts, Duty Officers and such would survey the scene and sip tea while dreaming about conquering British India. It's just a simple cut-out plastic card with wooden supports glued underneath to give it some strength. In real-life the flying deck (like the aft deck) was iron grate, so I'm hoping to replicate that texture on the tops eventually (still working on it).

I made pylons the usual way, with trimmed toothpicks, including ones canted back for the extended bridge wings. Falling in love with toothpicks, they are so useful for model building. Now if I could only find toothpicks about half the size...

After adding some doo-dads to the foredeck (coaling hatches, ammo hatches, the main gun platform, etc...), I painted it all Flat Gray. I am hoping to get a different color for the cannons, maybe Gunmetal or Steel, and maybe something for the insides of the deckhouses (where visible), but that will have to wait until I make it up to the city again (this one-horse town doesn't sell enamel paint).

The Painters' Union crew is pleased with the results.

Still LOTS to do on the Gilyak. Still need...
*Two 4.7inch main guns (fore and aft).
*Railings (stanchions and cable).
*Masts (fore and aft).
*Staircases on the flying bridge.
*Pilot house on top of flying bridge.
*Anchors and chains.
*Searchlights, binnacles, compass stands, etc.
*Two aft lifeboat davit sets.
*Four lifeboats (including one steam launch).

Plus I have to finish detailing the hull and fill in the seams with some sort of filler. Plus I need to look into ways of weathering the model, showing the effects of sun and sea and all that. So much still to do!

All for now, probably not get back to it until next week (maybe).

Progress so far...

Gilyak Build Day Ten:

Sunday night and I have some free time before work. Next up is the railings around the after decks. I put some serious thought into the materials for these (and by extension for the deck railings as well) and tried out a number of options. Tiny metal nails just didn't look right, nor did "findings" from the bead-and-necklace department (though I'm going to use those thin metal pieces somewhere). Toothpicks were too big and I couldn't find any plastic rods small enough (I know they're out there...). So in the end I decided to cut strips of plastic sheet up.

The end result is pretty crappy, but it got the job done. My fingers are just too big for such little detail work and the superglue is maddeningly frustrating to use. While I got the railings up eventually, it took me two hours and they look like picket fences made by a drunken blind man. I should have either held out until i could find some plastic rods, or at least built the railings and placed them before I glued down the deck structures. Lessons learned!

Looks a lot better painted. And from a distance...

Anyway, so I didn't obsess about the railings too much, I moved on to the after deck lifeboat davits. These I just cut from plastic sheet (two thicknesses glued together for each one) and glued down with the help of a wooden guide block. In real-life they should have had holes drilled in them up their length, but I don't have a hole puncher that small. I'll also whip up some block-and-tackles (I hope) for later.

I need some sharper, more-pointy scissors...

As I was on a roll, I bashed up two staircases for the foredeck flying bridge platform. These I made like the other staircases further aft, but a little larger (per the plans). They went a lot quicker than the last, mostly because I already knew how to build them.

And lastly for tonight, I built the small mast for the after deck. This is just a dowel rod cut and trimmed and some plastic and wood extensions for the wireless boom on the back. When I get around to rigging the lines, there will be more work to be done. All in all a pretty productive day!

The davits, stairs and mast needs to be painted still, but that will have to wait until later.

Gilyak Build Day Eleven:

It's Monday night and the dockyard crew is hard at work. First up were railings around the foredeck flying bridge. Made them basically the same way as on the aft bridge, except that I only made one horizontal railing instead of two (totally ran out of patience). They look about 85% as bad as the ones aft, but there you go. I have determined that my next built will have better railings, and am researching techniques and materials daily. Like portholes on the hull, good railings make a model.

Next built the "conning tower", a heavily armored oval structure on the flying deck, directly above the forward deck house that served as the combat command post. Just a loop of plastic sheet with a cut-out roof, nothing complicated. Ran a strip around the top edge to mask as the row of observation windows, will hopefully paint them a different color. Should have cut them out, but, frankly, I forgot until after I had already glued it down.

Learning my lesson, I put the railings on top of the conning tower before gluing it down, and it worked much, much better. Also whipped up my fifth (and last) staircase. On my next build I will try and use some sort of wire for handrails on the stairs.

On top of the conning tower is the steering platform, where the Captain and his lackeys would sail the boat around the placid waters of the Baltic (in bad weather they'd move into the deckhouse). Up on this platform are a "binnacle" (or a "compass stand") and some assorted speaking pipes and such to relay commands to the engine room (this was before intercoms and radios). I fudged these up with spare Lego parts and sprue.

This is a binnacle.

Also discovered that what I had thought was an elevated searchlight platform on the aft flying deck is in fact an aft steering position, for those times when they were sailing in reverse or when the forward position was either unavailable or reduced to a smoldering pile of twisted fire-blackened rubble by gunfire from the dastardly Germans...). I corrected my previous assumption without thanks to the near-worthless dockyard plans, which don't show any fittings, but by staring at photographs for hours at a time trying to figure out what those grainy, blurry things were...

But the Gilyak did have three large swiveling searchlights in other places, one on the far end of the aft deck and two more abreast the conning tower forward. These I modeled with stolen Lego parts and plastic scrap. Will hopefully find some way to represent glass (maybe just punched-out clear plastic). Also will paint parts of these (and the binnacles) a brass color in the end (as they would have been in real life).

Finally for today I painted everything I built in Flat Gray (god, I'm sick of that color...). As I just had a little bit left in that bottle, I test-painted the starboard side hull above the waterline, just to see how it looks (lots of gray...). All for today!

The Painters' Union settles some labor disputes with management...

Gilyak Build Day Twelve:

Back for a little more today, hoping to finish up the last two big projects, the main mast and the main guns. First up the mast, which was abnormally thick and chunky on this ship (perhaps it was hollow?). Built from two different sizes of dowel rods, sanded and fitted together with bracing straps, pretty easy work. Halfway up is a round crow's nest that will eventually hold a pair of light guns, and further towards the top is a small searchlight platform. Built the crow's nest and platform the standard way, with sheet plastic and superglue. Access to both these platforms was via a metal-rung ladder on the starboard side of the mast, which after giving up trying other methods, I'm just going to replicate with a strip of wood with rungs painted or drawn on with permanent marker.

For what it's worth, the surviving ships of this class were modified after WWI, including the cutting down of the aft mast for some reason, and the removal of the crow's nest on the foremast. Again, I'm modeling this one as-built.

Next I built the main guns. These were quick-firing 4.7 inch/120mm Pattern 1892 breach-loading rifled cannons in open mounts, one each on the bow and stern. These are actually pretty heavy caliber guns for a ship this size, throwing a fairly heavy shell out to respectable ranges. In fact, one of Gilyak's sisterships (the Sivuch) used her 4.7 inchers to good use during the otherwise disastrous Battle of Moon Sound in 1915, when she singlehandedly held off a German destroyer flotilla with accurate gunfire, finally succumbing only when the Germans brought up a couple of battleships to take care of the pesky Russian gunboat that was blocking their fleet's path.

4.7 inch gun example.

The open mounts I bashed up from sheet with wooden braces. Lots of angular pieces (that I did a rotten job of measuring). They look terrible, just terrible, but I haven't the enthusiasm to rebuild them right now. Open mounts take a level of skill that I'm still developing, closed turrets are vastly easier.

The actual guns themselves are bits and pieces of Lego parts and spare plastic. They also look miserable in every way, both too large for scale and unrealistic in design. I said this back on the Canopus build, but I really need to put more thought and work into cannons, but I'm totally stymied by a lack of decent plastic rods and the like (working on it...).

Putting aside all this mess, I got out the Flat Gray and painted everything new, plus finished off the portside hull. Now it's looking like a real warship ;). The gray does look nice against the teak of the wood deck, I will say, though I might have to look into ways of staining or color-washing the deck planks to make them look not-so-new.

Gilyak with the Canopus, nearly same scale.

A while back I found a bottle of Steel enamel paint and I used this today to spruce up the guns and some of the assorted deck parts. It actually helped the guns out immensely. I still need some Brass or Copper paint for some of the other fittings. I also tried the Steel out on the portholes, as I thought it might look like shiny glass. Actually looks pretty good, though I might still put a tough of Brass around the rims (in real life the portholes were ringed with brass to keep them from rusting as much).

A few more details. Built two coaling booms for the amidships decklines, which lay flat against the hull on braces. Used the ends of two cheap plastic paintbrushes for these, with sheet plastic for the braces. These will eventually have pulleys and such, and be attached by rigging to the main mast. They swing out to facilitate loading of coal from dockside to deck. I'll paint it later.

Also stuck a shaved-down toothpick into the forecastle point for a flagpole. And finally for tonight I constructed a small box for the space in front of the conning tower. This box shows up in photos but I have no idea what it's for or even if it's a box or just something square. I'll paint those later. All for today.

It might be just a locker for gear and canvas dodgers.

Gilyak Build Day Thirteen:

A few more details done today. Built the main boat crane out of the handle of an old paint brush. It pivots from a point at the base of the main mast, being able to be lifted back and over the forward funnel to reach the launches on either side. When not in use, it seems to have been lashed to somewhere amidships, though I think I'll model it extended and held aloft with the rigging (I think). Not sure if it was left bare wood, but I suspect it was painted to prevent rotting, so that's what I'll do. As for the pulleys and such that raised and lowered the crane, I lucked out. I was in the sporting good department at Wal-mart the other day and noticed that little "barrel swivels" for fishing lures are the perfect size for scale pulleys. These, when cut up, should also work as eyelets for hanging the rigging on the masts (hopefully).

And they were only 97 cents a bag!

Speaking of that, I tried to fabricate a yardarm out of a piece of plastic tube and two trimmed toothpicks, but it failed. Well, actually the yardarm itself is fine (though I need to rig it with eyelets now), but I am still trying to find a way to affix it to the main mast head so that it's strong enough to hold the weight of the rigging. I really should have drilled a hole/holes through the mast first (next model...). This is about all I have time for today, got lots going on.

Gilyak Build Day Fourteen:


Today, Admiralty Shipyards experienced a disaster on the build of the IRN Gilyak gunboat. When the shipyard owner arrived at the docks this morning, he expected to find the 90% complete hull of the Gilyak where he left it the night before, securely on the kitchen table. Instead, much to his horror, he discovered it lying on its port side on the kitchen floor, in pieces! It was clear that it had fallen (or had been pushed!) off the table at some point during the night and had impacted on the floor some four feet below. Suspicion immediately fell upon the deckhands, who are known to run roughshod through the house in the wee hours of the night, causing all manner of chaos and harm in their endless pursuit of dust bunnies and milk rings. The shipyard owner has opened an official inquest into the matter, and a representative of the Tsar has arrived to begin his own investigation into the wanton damage to the crown's sovereign property. As of this hour, damning evidence (an orange hair stuck in the door of the pilothouse) points to Kelby, a deckhand of ill repute, who has on frequent occasions been reprimanded for lollygagging while on duty, as well as shoddy workmanship. Kelby, it seems, has also been known to cavort with known Bolshevik revolutionary elements, and the crown's representative is sure that the damage to the Gilyak is a blatant case of sabotage by anti-monarchist agents. It might be the firing squad for Kelby if he's convicted.

Kelby. He has shifty, Trotskyist eyes...

Anyway, lemonade from lemons, I always say. Surprisingly, the main harm to the ship was that the entire forward superstructure was detached. As it turned out, the actual physical damage was limited to a couple broken pillars, a dislodged broadside cannon, a smashed searchlight platform, and a chipped hull strip (all easily fixed or replaced). Providentially, it must have landed nearly flat on it's bottom, with most damage coming from the shock of landing. A mess to be sure, but with the superstructure off, however, I am now able to fix a few errors that cropped up during construction.

Note good look at boom crane.

First of all, this will allow me to do a better job of painting, as once it was glued down I had a hard time reaching the nooks and crannies under the flying bridge. Also, and more importantly, I was able to build a support base to go under the extended platform deck, which was beginning to sag under the unanticipated weight of the superstructure.

As the damage was slight, and the positive benefits of getting the support in and a better paint job on, I'm actually kinda sorta thankful for Kelby's (alleged) act of Communist sabotage. This won't keep him from being fast against the wall, of course, but at least I can tell his widow that he wasn't all bad. After fixing the damage, I started rigging today, just the placing of nine tiny 1mm eyelets up on the foredeck for now. Cutting up my fishing lure bits into eyes, I glued them on several places on the mast and the forward main deck, at spots where my fuzzy photos seemed to indicate. I'm sure I missed a few, but that's all I can see for now. Set the glue to dry and then hung a longer segment of eyes below the boat crane's end to act as the start of the pulley. Accidentally broke the crane off its mount doing this, but that's fixable.

Next I placed another 6 eyelets on the shorter aft mast and along the margins of the stern, again where the photos seemed to show they were mounted. As this was a coal-fired ship, the riggings were more for support of the masts, to keep them steady in high winds and storms.

There might also be guy wires off the funnels, as I can see a few indications of them in some photos, so I might have to look into that. Also cut the top four inches off the main mast to lower it more to scale (and as a bonus, now it doesn't keep smacking me in the face every time I lean over the boat). Once the glue set, I rigged the lines. I used waxed linen, because it looks like rope and is easy to tie. Unfortunately, it sags a lot, so for the next project I will have to look into some better line. Maybe even some thin metal wire? Still, though, even with the sagging, the rigging looks pretty passable. Also rigged up the boat crane to the main mast, that turned out ok, even if the lines should be more taught.

Some painting issues to deal with now. I found a reference on Russian WWI Baltic Sea warships that suggested that, while the hulls and tops were the Flat Gray I've been using, the sides of the deckhouses were painted a Light Gray (for the camouflage effect as seen from a distance). So I got a bottle of White to go with my existing Gray and mixed up a pretty nice Light Gray to paint the deckhouse sides. Glad about this as the unbroken field of dull, boring Flat Gray was killing me.

Also found out that Baltic Fleet ships had color-coded bands painted on their funnels to mark what squadrons they were with. Just guessing based on some hints in that article, but I think the gunboats would have red bands. Painted these on the funnels, around the upper support bands, looks nice to have some bright color.

Also note how I made the ladder rungs with a Sharpie marker...

Did some last minute detail work on the decks, including refreshing the paint job and trimming down the tops of the deck railings to make them all relatively even (improved the look of the railings 110%). Also generally went over the boat from stem to stern and cleaned up a lot of mistakes (and noticed a lot more). Accidentally broke off the jack staff on the forecastle, but that was always in the way and I don't want to replace it anyway.

And...I'm done! Or at least as done as I am going to get. I've learned a lot of lessons that I will now hopefully apply to further models, and I've gained experience that I sorely lacked. I've made a long, long list of things that i want to try in the future, and I'm excited to see what I can learn next time :).

Here are some final photos of the build...

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