Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Chain Plates

April 9, 2017

Day 373.

When referring to chain plates, we’re typically referring to two parts – the actual chain plates and the deadeyes attached to them.

The chain plates themselves are metal strips that are firmly attached to the side of the hull.  They distribute the force from rigging they are attached to.  At the top of each chain plate is a deadeye, a round wooden piece where the rigging actually attaches.

As mentioned in my last post, I took a three month break about halfway through the chain plates.  However, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to pretend that never happened.

The first step in making the chain plates is to make the metal strips.  These are fairly easy,  but since the Model Shipways Bluenose requires 20 of them, it can take a while and get fairly repetative.

First, all the pieces were cut to length from some 1/64″ x 1/16″ thick brass strip.  The lengths were taken from the plans, and I made each one about 1/2″ longer than needed.


The brass strips that will be made into chain plates.  Cut from 1/64″ thick, 1/16″ wide brass.

I didn’t worry about getting all the pieces cut to a uniform length.  I’ll be trimming them down later right before they get installed.

The next step is to make one end pointed.  I found this easiest to do with a pair of metal cutters.  I simply cut the angles, then used a metal file to clean things up.  Only one end of  each piece gets a point.


One end of each strip is cut to form a point.

The next step is one of the most annoying.  The chain plates are bolted to the hull, and we want to simulate the bolts.  To do this, we need to drill holes in each of the chain plates.  After these are installed on the hull, we’ll stick some brass rod in here to simulate the bolts, similar to what we did on the rudder’s pintles and gudgeons.

You can certainly drill all these holes by hand.  However, there are 20 chain plates.  16 of them need 3 holes per plate, and the remaining 4 need two holes per plate.  That’s 56 holes.  I don’t really want to drill 56 holes by hand.  My hands will get tired, and I doubt I can get those holes even close to straight since I’m drilling into something 1/16″ wide.

So, I decided to use my Proxxon mini drill press.  To make things easier, I built a jig to help.  I marked off some lines to help keep thing straight, then I drew lines where I wanted the holes to be drilled.  I lined up each strip and glued it down to the jig.  I only applied glue at the top (remember that extra 1/2″ I left on each strip?).


Holes are drilled in each chain plate, using a jig to keep them straight.

Having all the strips glued down allowed me to mount the jig in my drill press one time, then use the drill’s X/Y table to move around and drill all the holes.    Once everything was drilled, I just popped the strips off the jig.


Most of the chain plates get 3 holes, but a few are made with only 2 holes and will be used with smaller deadeyes.

For the tops of the chain plates, we need to some deadeyes.  The kit provides these in different sizes.  Looking at the plans, we’ll need 16 of the larger size and 4 of the smaller size.

The deadeyes are fine right out of the kit, but I like to stain mine to match the rest of the wood on my ship.  Since these things are very, very small, I strung them on a piece of string.  Then I just dipped them all into the stain at once.


Deadeyes are strung together and stained to match the rest of the ship.

The last thing I needed to do was paint the chain plate strips.  This was done by taping them down using some double-sided tape, then airbrushing them with matte black paint.

Here’s the materials for the chain plates on the fore deck (10 of the total 20 used on the ship).


The painted chain plates and stained deadeyes for the fore deck.  This half of the pieces necessary for the whole ship.

With the parts built, now I need to assemble them.  I find it easier to assemble them all at once, rather than assembling each chain plate as I install it.

There are many different ways to attach the deadeye to the top of the chain plate.  The instructions provide a couple options, but I found those didn’t work well for me.  Trying to actually replicate any real detail here is difficult due to the scale.  After looking at it for a bit, I realized the only detail I really cared about was that the deadeyes had the brass wire visible around their edges.

So, here’s how I attached the deadeyes…

I used the thin brass wire provided by the kit and wrapped each deadeye.  I tightened the twisted wire down using a pair of pliers, then trimmed the twisted ‘stem’ to be fairly short.


To attach the deadeye to the chain plate, I first wrapped it in thin brass wire.

Next I drilled a hole near the top of each chain plate for the deadeye’s ‘stem’ to go through.  I determined the position for this hole from the plans – the hole goes right at the top of the chain plate on the plans.


A hole is drilled in what will become the top of the chain plate.

I bent the chain plate at the hole, which sets the length of the chain plate.  I trimmed off some of the excess from the length.  I only need about 1/8″ of length after the hole.


The chain plate is bent at the hole, and the excess is trimmed off, leaving just a short bit on the other side of the hole.

The deadeye is then dropped through the hole.  You’ll notice the deadeye’s ‘stem’ and the short end of the chain plate are about the same length.


The deadeye is seated into the hole.

I apply a tiny bit of CA glue to the stem, then use a pair of pliers to crimp the whole thing together.  This folds the chain plate back on itself with the deadeye’s stem pinned between.


The chain plate is crimped down over the deadeye’s stem.

Now it is time to get these things installed.  This part is really frustrating because it requires cutting very tiny slots into the rail of the ship.  The slots have to be just the right size, and in just the right position.

The general locations are taken from the plans.  There are 4 sets of chain plates…two on the fore deck and two on the quarter deck, with one on either side of each deck.  In each set, there are 5 chain plates.  One of the shorter ones goes in the center, with two larger ones on either side.  Spaced out a little further are another two larger ones.

The trick with the chain plates is that they have to go through the main rail and end up on the outside of the hull.  This means they have to be positioned just right.  Too far inboard and they will go through the bulwarks.  Too far outboard and there won’t be enough main rail to hold them in.


The position for each chain plate is marked according to the plans.

The slots were cut using a pin vise with a small drill bit.  I started by drilling a hole through the main rail, then used the drill bit as a kind of ‘saw’ to slowly widen the hole.

Since my chain plates are folded over a the top, I had to make the holes a little bigger to accommodate them.  I made a piece to test with by folding over some scrap brass strip, and used that to make sure I had each hole the right size.


Holes are carefully made for the chain plates.  The holes must go through the rail, outboard of the bulwarks.

Cutting the holes on the quarter deck is a little more tricky, as the chain plates must pass through both the monkey rail and the main rail.  That means cutting through two rails, without breaking either rail or going through the bulwarks.

Once all the holes were cut, the chain plates were placed through each hole.  They typically slide in pretty easily, but to get the last bit seated I had to pull on them a bit with pliers.  I want the fit to be snug so it helps hold them in place.

Of course, pulling them through messes up the paint a bit, but that can be touched up later.


Chain plates are placed into the holes.

The plans show the chain plates going a slightly different angles to match the rigging lines they will attach to.  I didn’t focus on this too much.  I just ‘eyeballed’ it.

I brushed some CA glue onto the back of each chain plate, and pressed it onto the hull.  I held each one in place for a few seconds so the glue could set.

Next I used my pen vise to drill through the holes in the chain plates into the hull.  I cut some short lengths of brass rod and glued them into the holes in the chain plates.  Once the glue was set, I used a pair of flush-cut metal cutters to trim off the exceess.


After the plates are glued down, brass rod is used to simulate the bolts in the chain plate holes.

Once all 20 chain plates were installed a little bit of touch-up paint was applied, then they were finally done.


Completed chain plates on the the starboard side.


Completed chain plates, viewed from the deck.