Fair American

Hull Painting

January 21, 2019

Day 259.

After getting the hull planking finished, the process of sanding it down and preparing it for painting went slowly, taking almost two months.

This process isn’t hard, but it is messy and each time you add filler to the hull, it needs a day or longer to cure.

The first round of wood filler.

The first round of wood filler, which was added right after painting, was sanded off using 60 grit sandpaper. The hull was then sanded with 100, 150, and 220 paper.

After that, some obvious issues remained, mostly gaps between planks or uneven areas. A second round of wood filler was applied. This round was more limited and strategic than the first round.

The hull receives another round of wood putty.

After sanding the second round off, things are looking much better. This round of sanding also included passes with 400 grit paper.

At this point, the hull feels smooth to the touch and there are no obvious defects. However, there are likely many small problems with the hull that won’t be visible until we get some paint on there. Paint has a way of highlighting problems.

After two rounds of wood putty, things are smoother.

To help highlight the problems, let’s paint. The first coat will be a primer.

To get things started, the black strake and wales were taped off. Even though those black areas will need to be repainted, there’s no need to get them covered primer or other paint.

The black strake and wales are taped off.

The entire lower hull was then painted with primer. I use Tamiya Liquid Surface Primer. Since this primer is lacquer based, it requires lacquer thinner to clean up.

Primer and cleaner.

The primer is brushed on and allowed to dry. The primer really shows that there are many places that still need work.

In some places, the wood grain is too visible. In others, the seams between planks have just enough space that the seam is visible. Some spots have visible scratches from sanding.

The entire hull is coated in primer.

To address these flaws exposed by the primer, I used some more filler. For this round I switched from wood filler to Tamiya Putty. This kind of filler comes in a tube, and is almost more of a liquid or paste, which makes it easier to get it into small scratches on the hull.

Once the filler putty had fully cured, everything was sanded again.

Flaws in the hull were filled with Tamiya filler, and everything was sanded again.

At this point, the hull is ready for the first coat of paint. There will be several coats, and several more passes with sanding and filling. The process will be:

  1. Apply a coat of white paint using an airbrush.
  2. Allow to dry.
  3. Sand with 400 and 800 grit sandpaper.
  4. Inspect for visible flaws (scratches, uneven areas, etc.), apply filler as needed, sand.
  5. Repeat until finished.

For this hull, it took about 4 passes. Almost all the remaining flaws in the hull were finished in the first two passes, and the last two coats were just to ensure we had a nice even final coat of paint.

I did leave a few minor flaws in the hull. Instead of going for a perfect, smooth, glass-like hull as I did on the Bluenose, I opted to leave this one slightly rougher.

After getting the lower hull painted, I wanted to touch up the black paint on the black strake, wales, and counter. As I was masking off the hull in preparation, I realized that I also needed to paint the bow black. Then I realized that I had never properly shaped the bow to fit the figurehead.

Many ships from this era had a figurehead – a sculpture of a person or animal that sits on the front of the ship. The Fair American has one, and the Model Shipways kit includes a cast metal piece for this.

The piece is small, about 1 inch in length. It will get installed much later in the build, but for now I need to shape the bow of the ship to make a space for the figurehead.

The tiny metal figurehead that comes with the kit.

Using the plans as a guide, the shape of the bow was drawn in. A notch will be cut into the bow and the figurehead will sit in the notch.

The bow was marked to indicate what needed to be cut.

After cutting the notch, I found that the bow is wider than the ‘slot’ on the back of the figurehead. So I added some grooves to the notch that allow the figurehead to slide in.

In addition to the notch, the bow was trimmed to fit the slot on the back of the figurehead.
The figurehead temporarily in place.
The back of the figurehead shows the notch slotting into the back.

With the bow cut to fit the figurehead, I can now paint the black areas of the hull. The entire lower hull (everything we just painted white) was masked off, along with the entire deck and up, leaving just a band across the middle of the ship.

This was airbrushed with a flat black paint.

The painted hull.
We’re ready to move above the deck.

With that, the lower hull is finished. Now work begins at and above the deck.