Bluenose Canadian Schooner


September 28, 2016

Day 180.

The instructions and practicum that I have for the Model Shipways Bluenose kit handle the rudder at different times.  The instructions have me building the rudder towards the end of work on the deck structures, just before starting on masts.  The practicum waits to build the rudder until the very end of the build…after all the rigging.

I’m going to do the rudder way earlier.

Mounting the rudder requires some work with the hull.  I’ll need to do some carving to make the rudder’s post fit into the hole at the stern, and I’ll need to fiddle a bit to get the pintles and gudgeons (hinges) mounted.  I’d prefer to do this before I’ve got delicate stuff all over the top of the ship.

On my Phantom build, I had to build the rudder twice.  I accidentally glued the first one to my hand.  I also cheated, and faked the pintles and gudgeons.  I wasn’t skilled enough to build them properly, so I basically glued the rudder in place and simulated the hinges with copper tape.

This time I want to do it properly.  I’m breaking the process into parts.  First, I need to build the physical rudder.  Second I need to build proper, working pintles and gudgeons.

Building the Rudder

The rudder on the Bluenose is pretty typical.  It is shaped like a…well…rudder.  It has a round ‘post’ at the top that goes into the hole in the hull.

Three sets of pintles and gudgeons form the hinges, and these are set into notches along the back edge.  This back edge is angled in forming a point.

The whole rudder is tapered so it is thicker at the back than the front.


The kit provides a laser cut piece for the rudder.  Like all laser cut pieces, this needed to be sanded down to remove laser char.


The raw rudder, provided as a laser-cut piece.

Additionally, the rudder needs to be tapered.  It is thicker along the straight back edge than the front.  The thickness of the back also needs to be matched to the thickness of the rear of the ship.  Finally, the very back edge needs to be tapered into a point.  All of this was done with a sanding block and finished off with some 800 grit sandpaper.


The rudder after tapering and sanding.

The next step was to build the post at the top.  A small piece of dowel rod was cut, then tapered according to the plans.


The post was cut from a 5/32″ diameter dowel rod, then tapered by hand.

This post needs to be set into the back edge of the rudder slightly, so that the centerline of the post is in line with the centerline of the pintles and gudgeons.  I used some files and an X-Acto knife to slowly carve a notch in the back of the rudder.  It was trial-and-error until I got a good fit.  Then the post was glued in place using normal wood glue.


A notch was cut in the rudder to fit the post, which was then glued in.

With the rudder’s basic structure complete, I wanted to see if it fit properly on the ship.  To do that, I need to modify the hull slightly to ‘accept’ the rudder’s post.  When the hull was planked, a small opening was left at the stern for the rudder’s post.  To finish this off, I need to make two small changes.

First, I needed to open up the hole just a little bit.  The hole wasn’t quite large enough to fit the post in.  This was easily done with small metal file.  (It was only off by about 1/32″ of an inch.)

Second, a notch needs to be carved out of the sternpost to make room for the rudder’s post.  Just like the post is set into the rudder a little bit, it also needs to be set into the sternpost a little bit.

I held the rudder up to the hull, marked the area that will be occupied by the post, and started carving.  This will get touched up later, before the rudder gets installed.


The sternpost has to be cut away slightly to provide clearance for the rudder’s post.

With the hull modifications complete, it is time to test-fit the rudder.


The rudder passes a quick test-fit on the hull.

Looks like a perfect fit!  I’m always concerned with stuff like this, because if it doesn’t fit just right, you’ve got to make a custom part.  After all the trouble with the main rail and monkey rail, I’m tired of making custom parts.  It is a relief to have the rudder fit perfectly.

The rudder then goes in for painting.  A coat of primer, a bunch of sanding, and a few passes with the airbrush gives us a nice red finish on the rudder.  During painting, I used a binder clip to hold the rudder by the top tip of the post, so the top little bit of the post isn’t painted.  I’m not going to bother touching that up since it won’t be visible – that part of the post will be inside the hull.


The finished rudder after painting.

I can now set the rudder aside for a while and work on the complicated part – the pintles and gudgeons.  Those are pretty detailed, and I’m gong to try to do them properly.  In researching how to make them, I saw a lot of people asking how they’re done so I’m going to break them out into their own article.