In collaboration with Dave Klaus at Meteor Productions, well known for his resin aftermarket aircraft kits and details, Joel Labow persuaded Dave to introduce a line of nautically oriented kits. The first of these is this model, which represents the quarterdeck of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Diana (38 guns) of 1794. The goals was to meld both resin and wood in a larger scale that would allow extremely high levels of detail. The deck is made of holly stripwood (provided) while the rest of the kit is resin. Attached below are some excerpts from the instructions that describe facets of the model in more detail. Joel is not an employee of Meteor but made all the patterns for the kit except for the helmsman sculpture.
HISTORICAL NOTE 1 - Frigates were the sailing navy equivalent of cruisers. They were fast and agile three-masted ships which carried their main armament on a single deck. They served as scouts for the main battle fleet, convoy escorts and were often used on independent assignments where speed was important. HMS Diana was considered a heavy frigate when she was built at Randall and Brent shipyard on the Thames River in 1794. She mounted 28 18 pound cannon on her gun deck and a mix of 32 pound carronades and 9 pound cannon on her quarterdeck and forecastle for a total of 38 cannon and carronades. She had a long and distinguished career, serving in the Royal navy from 1794 to 1815 and then was sold out of the service to the Dutch navy, where she served for another 24 years until she was accidentally destroyed by fire in dockyard in 1839. The quarterdeck of a sailing warship was the principal command center of the ship both in port and underway. In port the officer of the watch kept a careful eye on the ships position to make sure that the anchor was not dragging, monitored the ship’s boats and in general ensured that all was kept "shipshape and Bristol fashion." Underway the captain and officer of the watch were never far from the quarterdeck, closely supervising the quartermaster at the wheel, performing their celestial navigation and keeping the ship on course. Fighting ships were largely platforms for their cannon and the quarterdeck was no exception: two lightweight but deadly 32 pound carronades formed an important part of the ship’s armament.
HISTORICAL NOTE 2 - The deck planking of preserved sailing warships such as HMS Victory and USS Constitution tends to be a weathered gray color. This is due to modern preservatives and limited cleaning owing to small crew size. In Nelson’s time however the oak or elm decks were scoured daily with holystone (a kind of pumice) and silver sand until they achieved a pure white color. The captain’s reputation was based in large measure on the cleanliness of his ship...spotless white decks were a sine qua non. Holly reproduces the required color very closely. For the same reason don’t go crazy with weathering...the captain and first lieutenant would have insisted that all ironwork and paintwork be fresh and bright, particularly in the quarterdeck area. Ships of the Royal Navy in the last part of the 18th century were often quite colorfully painted, in contrast to the uniformly black hulls with buff bands through the gun ports of the early 19th century. The Diana was an excellent case in point with her alternating hull stripes of black, red, yellow and blue. Interior bulkheads were often painted red, not to cover up blood and gore during battle (most of which wound up on the deck anyway) but rather for decorative purposes and because red ocher pigment was relatively cheap. Officers in those days had a great deal of leeway in touching up a ship’s appearance and well-heeled captains would often buy paint and gold leaf out of their own pockets to ‘dress ship.’
HISTORICAL NOTE 3 - The rigging of a large sailing ship was divided into standing rigging and running rigging. The standing rigging comprised the permanent lines which supported the masts and only was adjusted when it showed signs of wear or loosening. The chain plate assemblies and deadeyes which you will be assembling were part of this system. The running rigging was used to shift the yards and sails to maneuver that ship and ‘ran’ through blocks and sheaves. The mainsail sheet which would have passed through the sheave set in the bulwark and secured to the cleat was part of this system. Other running rigging lines would have been secured to the belaying pins in the pin rail. The belaying pin was a quick release mechanism - when it was pulled out of the rack the line secured to it was immediately released. An experienced seaman would be expected to know the location and purpose of all the hundreds of running rigging lines and be able to lay his hands on them immediately in dark and storm - hence the term "knowing the ropes."
HISTORICAL NOTE 4 - Sailing warships were inherently more top heavy than powered vessels because of the weight of their masts and the leverage of the wind pressure on their sails. One of the ways that naval architects used to counterbalance this was to carry the heaviest guns as low in the hull as possible. Strict controls were placed on topside weight - this meant that only the lightest cannon could be mounted on the upper decks with consequent reduction of a ship’s fighting power. A solution was invented in the 1770s by the Carron Iron Foundry in Scotland in the form of the carronade. A carronade was a short cannon firing a disproportionately heavy ball over a shorter range than a regular cannon. Because of the shorter barrel and smaller powder charge a carronade weighed only about 25% of a standard cannon which fired the same weight of ball. Instead of a wheeled carriage later carronades employed a slide mount which permitted quicker handling with a smaller gun crew. Carronades brought with them several drawbacks, however. Limited range was not a terrific shortcoming since most battles were fought at ‘pistol shot’ (50 feet) or less. The main reason why carronades were somewhat slow in gaining acceptance was concern about damage to the rigging from muzzle blast. Standing rigging has already been mentioned - upper deck guns had to be arranged to fire between the shrouds and backstays, which were treated with tar as a preservative and highly flammable as a consequence. Regular cannon were sufficiently long so that the muzzle protruded far enough not to cause problems in this regard, but carronades were much more of a concern. One solution that was tried was to mount the carronade slide on the ‘outside principle’, i.e with the pivot bolt set into a sill on the outside of the bulkhead. This allowed the carronade to be run out further and obviated some of the problem. However, the issue was never completely laid to rest and most Royal Navy ships had mixed batteries on their upper decks, with carronades confined to areas where they didn’t endanger the rigging. The model demonstrates the ‘outside principle’ mountings.
HISTORICAL NOTE 5 - The binnacle was a wooden cabinet that held a pair of magnetic compasses (so the quartermaster could see them from either side of the wheel) and a lantern for nighttime illumination. A ship would typically carry 2 or 3 of them with the spares stowed below. There were drawers in the top for the rough deck log and other small items and documents needed by the watch. In the US Navy the term ‘binnacle list’ is still used to denote the list of sailors found to be too ill to perform their duties.
HISTORICAL NOTE 6 - Ship’s wheels in the 18th century Royal Navy were one of the earliest example of standardized construction. Regardless of the size of the ship the drum was approximately 21" in diameter and the outside diameter of the rim was 4’ 6". As a result a quartermaster would find little difference between steering a large ship of the line and a small sloop. Warship wheels typically had 10 spokes as opposed to the 8 spoke wheels used in most merchant ships. The double wheel allowed up to 4 quartermasters to man the wheel, allowing optimal control of the ship in rough weather.