Saturday, 30 May 2020

Building Xebecs

After whinging in my last post (on the main blog) about the inclusion of Xebecs in the excellent scenario packs from Wordtwister Publishing, I had decided to build some of my own. As an Engineer I am used to  working on projects where there are a host of constraints, whether it is just time, or more often time, money, available materials, knowhow and customer expectation! In this project I would be faced with much the same and luckily I don't mind that at all. 

I was at least starting with a solid foundation with my donor vessel the freebie Black Seas Brig from Warlord.

This quite a short tubby vessel. Just 52mm/2" long and 16mm wide. In 1/450 scale that give me a 77 ft long vessel before I modify it which seems about right. The plastic components are very nicely modelled and the casting as good as some resin models. The only part that doesn't fit snugly is the prow but that is going to be covered by the bowsprit if built as intended.

As I can either fill that or cover it over as part of the adjustment of the pointy end of my Xebec that isn't a problem. Some depictions of Xebecs do show them with a bowsprit as well as the elongated  prow, in which case the bits from the sprue can be used.

I was trying to keep in mind my target for this project which was to end up with a usable gaming piece, not a beautiful accurate model, and this fed into my constraints (some self-imposed.) Chief amongst them was always going top be talent! I know I am not a gifted modeller, so I am going to have to keep the techniques simple and number of steps as few as possible. Materials is also a serious consideration, especially during these times of limited availability of shops. Luckily I am a bit of a hoarder for bits and pieces that might come in useful... (Another bit of luck was that I moved house less than 12 months ago, so I  know where most of my stocks are!)

Where practical I decided to use plastic bits for my conversion, mainly as I could be confident that they would glue nicely to the Warlord model. The boxes of various plastic 28mm figures  infesting my loft do come into their own here as a source of materials. Also I had plenty of scraps of plastic card, although my backup for this is raiding the recycling bag. (You do have to be slightly aware of the materials of plastic packaging, as some are quite resistant to gluing. You will quickly find out if you are using one of those.)

After a time grabbing some images off the Interwebs for reference. I started cutting out pieces of plastic card to try to get the long pointy prow and the overhanging stern piece.

 These are what I ended up with. The black prow extension is 17mm long (2/3") but a part of this length is behind the original prow to mesh with the front of the boat.  There is a choice here of whether to keep the original prow or replace it. I have seen both styles illustrated. Keeping the original means that you need to cut a slot underneath it.

The other two pieces (white and grey) are for the overhanging stern. These are shown in a huge variety of shapes and contours so I just chose one that 1. I liked the look of and 2. I could cut out of plastic with my knife. A real ship modeller would, I am sure, find plans and make clever templates to cut around accurately. My patience was not going to stand for that so I went for the "cut a piece, try it against the model, scrape or cut it a bit, try it again" method. When I have something that is close to  what I was aiming for I stop and move on.

The white piece is a slightly thicker piece of card to give some added depth to the overhang. Not absolutely necessary, as many of them look very shallow and the model will mainly be seen from above... This is also a perfectly sensible place to wrap up the hull remodelling. With these two parts glued into position, a coat of paint and the rigging will conceal the simplicity of the conversion and you will still have the impression of the Xebec shape, which is what we are aiming for. I decided that I would add a few splodges of epoxy putty to fill some gaps and help round out the shape. This was mainly as I wanted to fill in the original mast holes so I would need to have some putty on the go in any case. Re-using the same mast locations will not be the end of the world but the Xebec rigging is quite distinctive so I think it is worth the effort to move them.

I did try to get a bit of an upwards curve on the stern overhang, with limited success. Something to experiment with if I do a Mark 2. My next step was to add some epoxy putty as discussed, to fill in the mast holes, smooth out the prow gap and fill the gaps around the new stern. My new masts were made from chopped up Victrix hoplite spears. These were glued into the newly drilled holes.

The old bowsprit hole works fine for the foremast and that forward rake is apparently how they looked.

The masts are not very high. The main height was from the lateen yards(?) which support the big lateen sails. I would be attaching these after painting the main ship model so they are not in my way. I had some bits in my stocks that came in useful for these but cocktail sticks and paper for sails will give much of the same impression.

Next I will give these bits a  coat of paint, see what needs a bit more work and assemble the completed model. 

(And just when I am getting into this I have a call-out for Essex Search and Rescue - maybe not doing any more until tomorrow then...)

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