USS Essex Build Details Marine
Life and Death on Fighting Top

This is my first attempt at scratch building a tall ships action scene, so don't proceed like I am an expert. You can, however, learn from my mistakes.

Tall ships have a lot of similarities and either they can become a scene of a diorama, or even more likely, the diorama subject is a scene they don't have in common.

For my first attempt, I sought the help of a very special friend, Raul Guzman, McAllen, TX, whose efforts I have been following for the past five years. He provided the input and photos for an article I did shortly after scale modelers handbook moved from plan to reality. 

He did send m a copy of the plan he used for his USS Essex project and his website contains a 39-picture gallery of this build, but I need a lot of help. When I get it done, I want the 1/35 scale Fighting Top diorama to fit a bookcase shelf that measures 14-inches square in a wall unit that has six of these.

Guzman Is a prolific scratch builder of model ships and has won over 75 awards in Texas area scale modeling contests. 

He did a scratch build of the 34-gun 1814 frigate, USS Essex, built in Salem, MA  and I learned a lot from his 105 picture tutorial of his build of the Essex on his site.        

It is actually a three part presentation that accompanies  two dioramas, one of action on the Essex Fighting Top and the second of a two 12-pound guns and the associated decks.

I started my project by building a 1/35th version of the main mast's top using some stripwood left over from a previous ship kit build.

I did my best to shape the curved front of the top, but wasn't really pleased with the results.

I did have a couple pieces of oak left over from a shelving project. Framing them with walnut stained trim made a pretty good base for the lower mast.

I found the actual color plan for the USS Essex, otherwise I'd have never chosen yellow for the mast with a blood-red base and a black top deck.

Actually, I like the colors.

The next step was stepping the mast. I actually set it at too much of a rake creating a main top slopped towards the stern.

The next step was to string the shrouds to set the stage for building the ratlines.

I used a serving machine to string a casing around the middle of each line.

Actually I cut them too short and the didn't fit, let alone stay tight.

Stepping back and taking a critical look, I'm not happy with it.

How Do You Know When It's Time To Start Over?

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