Bluenose Canadian Schooner

The Wheel Box

November 6, 2016

Day 226.

It is time to begin tackling the deck structures.  Based on my plan, I’m going to build the major structures for the aft and fore deck first.  Once these are complete, I’ll install them, then seal the deck.  The smaller pieces will then be installed.

To start, I’m going to build the wheel box.  This is the enclosure near the rear of the ship that holds the steering wheel.  I’m starting with this one because it is relatively simple and can be easily re-built  if doesn’t work out.  It also uses a roof and coaming design that will be typical of other major structures.


The wheel box is angled, and it has inset sections on the sides that are a different color.  (The plans note that these are not separate ‘panels’, but rather just a grooved off section of the side.

Looking at other modeler’s builds, I’ve seen deck structures tacked a number of different ways.  According to the Model Shipways Bluenose kit plans, deck structures are painted white, with ‘burnt umber’ painted roofs and coamings.  I’ve seen a number of models done this way.  I’ve also seen models where everything was left as unpainted wood and stained.  Finally, I’ve seen models that paint the white parts, but leave the roofs and coamings raw and stained.

Of these, I like the white+stained look best, so that’s what I’ll be doing for all the deck structures.

Some modelers use individual planks for the ‘walls’ of the structures, while some use sheet wood.  I’ll be using sheet wood just because it is simpler (and since I’ll be painting, you won’t notice the ‘planks’ anyway).

I mentioned above that this was chosen as the first structure because it could be easily rebuilt.  I ended up rebuilding it.  In total, I’ve built the wheel box four times.  The first attempt was sized wrong.  The second attempt looked good, but I realized after some research the plans aren’t quite right on the design.  The third was scrapped before being completed.  The fourth version worked out.


The four different builds of the wheel box.  The first (top) was too big.  The second just wasn’t right.  The third wasn’t assembled right and was scrapped.  The fourth (bottom) finally worked.

So, here’s how I made the fourth version…

To get started on the wheel box, I transferred the shape of the side walls to some sheet wood.  I used a sheet of 1/16″ thick basswood.

These were cut out, then clamped together and sanded to ensure they matched exactly.  Using these as a guide, I then cut the front and back pieces to the correct size, also from the 1/16″ sheet.



The shapes of the wheel box’s panels are transferred to 1/16″ thick basswood.

These were cut out using a scroll saw (attempts to cut these with a knife always resulted in angled edges).  They were then sanded down together to ensure they were identical.


The pieces of the structure after being cut.

This is where I started doing things a little differently.  Normally, you’d just glue these together so the top was nice and flat, ready for the roof.  However, in looking at some photos of the original Bluenose, the roof was actually rounded on the sides.  In looking at that photo, you can see that the roof curves down on the sides.  There is a slight overhang on the front (and I assume on the back), while the sides are relatively flush.

So, to account for this, I’m going to build the roof a little differently.  The roof was built out of 3/16″ x 1/16″ wood strip.  Three pieces were glued together to form the roof, similar to how we planked the deck.  Then two thinner strips were glued onto the outside edges of the bottom.


The roof, made of three planks with two additional strips glued on the bottom to form the curve.

These two additional pieces on the bottom will help form the rounded sides of the roof.

Since the roof curves down into the sides, the side panels of the structure were trimmed to match the thickness of these two pieces on the roof.  The structure was then glued together.  I used a couple small sections of 1/8″ square stock to make everything a little more rigid.


The assembled structure.  A couple 1/8″ square strip pieces were glued inside to keep things stable.

Now we can test the roof out to see if it fits.


Test fit of the roof.

After quite a bit of sanding, the structure is cleaned up and the roof is sanded to fit.  This not only cleans everything up, but shapes the roof to get the desired curve.


The roof after being sanded down and rounded.

I still need to do the coamings (base boards), but I’m going to wait to do those until the last step.  First we need to get things painted.

To get started painting, I need to deal with the inset area on the sides.  The sides of the box have a grooved area that is painted burnt umber (stained on my model).  To do this, I put some thin yellow Tamiya masking tape onto a sheet of wax paper, and laid that over the plans.  I traced the shape of the inset area, then cut the tape along those lines.  This gave me a set of masks for the inset portion of each side.  The tape was then placed on the sides of the box.


The shape of the inset panels on the sides are transferred onto tape and cut out.

The structure was then primered and painted white.  Once the paint was dry, I used a #11 blade to score along the edges of the taped mask.  This helps to give a clean edge when the tape is removed, and also creates the groove that should be around the inset panel.


The structure is primered and painted.  Once dry, the masked area for the inset panel is scored and unmasked.

Once the tape is removed, the bare wood of the inset panel is exposed.  I masked off the painted area on both sides, and stained the inset panel.


The bare wood for the inset panels is stained.

The roof was also stained a matching color and was glued in place.

The last step is the coamings.

On my first couple of attempts at the wheel box, I used 1/32″ x 1/32″ strips for the coamings.  In looking at photos of the original Bluenose, it seems like the coamings were a little wider.  They also had a definite curve on the outside edge.  I decided to use a larger strip this time, and made the coamings out of 3/32″ x 1/16″.

I cut a length of the strip a few inches long and sanded it down.  While sanding, I rounded off one of the edges.  The strip was then stained, then the pieces were cut to length and glued in place.



The assembled wheel box.



And there it is – my first completed deck structure.



The wheel box on the ship.