COURBET

I had never built a card model before but I found a paper model online of the French cruiser COURBET, which was the ship that my Father served on during WW2.

The COURBET was built in 1910, served in WW1 and was recommisioned for WW2.


My Dad said that he served on the PARIS first, attaining his gunnery certificate and he then transferred to the COURBET on which he sailed to Portsmouth with the Free French and joined the British navy.

This is the reason why I am building this model.
His birthday was coming up in a few months time so I ordered it by post.

The Courbet was a first generation Dreadnought of the French navy, lead ship of her class. She was named in honour of Admiral Amédée Courbet.
During the First World War, she took part in the Otranto blockade, and later cruised the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

In 1921, she became a school ship for artillery training in Toulon. She suffered a series of accidental engine fires, before being refitted between 1927 and 1929. From 1930 to 1937, she was used as a school ship for navigation. In 1939 she was again used as an artillery school.

In 1940, she was recommissioned for active duty, with extra anti-air artillery (seven new 75 mm AA twin mounts).
She took part in the fights at Cherbourg and helped evacuate 30,630 Allied soldiers to Portsmouth.
On 18 and 19 June, she shelled a German motorised infantry unit near Carentan, before retreating to Portsmouth.

In the wake of the Armistice, she was docked at Portsmouth; on 3 July 1940, as part of "Operation Catapult", she was boarded by British forces, along with the destroyers Le Triomphant and the Léopard, her sister-ship Paris, eight torpedo boats, five submarines and a number of other ships of lesser importance. She was surrendered to the Free French Forces seven days later.
She was used as hulk barracks and fixed anti-air artillery spot. She was credited to have shot down five German planes.

In the night of the 5 and 6 June 1944, she was towed to Normandy by the British Rescue tugs HMRT Growler and HMRT Samsonia to be scuttled as a "Gooseberry" breakwater at Sword Beach.
Flying the French colours and the cross of Lorraine, she attracted fire from the German shore batteries before being scuttled, according to plan, around 13h30. The Germans claimed to have sunk her.

The wreck lies 2 nautical miles (4 km) North-West from Ouistreham, in a dozen metres of water.



Framework elements.

Here are some of the hull frame outlines mounted on card prior to cutting out. Due to the method of construction of the hull elements, I decided that it was unnecessary to fix a longitudinal wooden stringer to the keel section to keep it straight down its length.

Laminating frames

Let me start by saying that an Optivisor is a godsend for accurate cutting of the card frames.
Because of the exorbitant cost of spray adhesive, I decided to use a gluestick to stick the scanned copies of the frames to the card.  I then roughly cut out the frames (A) and then trimmed them about 5mm oversize all round (B). This enabled the card to be cut much easier as there was less sideways pressure against the craft knife.
I used the craft knife to cut the straight sides (C) using an aluminium straight edge as a guide and the curved sides of the frames (D) were cut freehand, all with the assistance of the optivisor.
  
  
After cutting out the frames, the slots were cut in them (1). Then, the dotted lines were slightly scored and the strip of paper removed (2). The card was then coloured with a highlighter to show the frame position (3) and then the rest of the paper template was removed, not forgetting to transfer the part No’s onto the card (4).


Lower hull

Tip:- a piece of glass is great when a flat surface is required for gluing the hull elements.

To make it easier to glue the lower hull elements, I cut some tongue depressors into 2mm strips for rib guides.
  

I then cut them to size and glued them onto the lower hull template card.
  


This will make it easier and simpler to assemble the framework.
  


Here is the completed lower hull.



Upper hull framework

The upper hull framework will be completed using the same method but instead of assembling the framework on the supplied paper template, I will transfer the frame positions of the upper hull paper template to the upper side of the card of the lower hull and glue 2mm alignment strips as before.
  



The frames were lightly glued in place so that they would dry quickly. When it was dry, I then ran a fillet of glue all around the frames and left them to dry fully.

The next day I glued the side strips onto the hull framework. Here is the completed hull with the side strips in place.
  


Cladding the bottom of the hull

Now comes the exciting part!
To start with, never having done a card model before, I am going to scan each part that I am not sure of and print out a draft copy. I am going to practice the assembly with these copies to get the hang of it and when I am familiar with the construction methods, I will assemble the real parts.

TIP:-  A piece of upholstery foam is perfect for resting the model on when gluing on parts. It gives, without bending the hull.

Made my first mistake!

I glued the top tabs of the stern cladding pieces to the vertical centre keel. Later, I realised that these tabs stand off the keel and are glued to the inside of the keel covering piece shown resting on the clips. This was corrected and they were separated with the judicious use of a scalpel.


The bow section was straightforward.


Here is the centre cladding ready to be glued.

It was not shown what the shape of the propshaft mounting pillars looked like. At first, I assembled them flat but they didn’t look nice. I managed to get card of the exact colour in a craft shop and made duplicates which were glued with an oval profile. This looked much better. The prop shafts were made using the same card (which had the colour going right through it). I cut strips and rolled them up tightly, gluing lengthwise as I rolled them. When dry, they were sanded down to the correct diameter and I wet my fingers and rubbed a coating of PVA over them and left them to dry. As you can see, they kept their colour.




Sides and decks.

Before commencing with the sides and decks, the twenty two 138mm gun positions had to be made.
My first attempts were terrible, the gun mounts were too fragile. After some trial and error, I finally decided to clad the gun mountings with 0,5mm edging veneer (the kind you use to edge chipboard). Pay attention to the grain direction for trimming when dry. This allowed me to make the gun barrels elevate using 1mm brass rod as the pivot.



The barrels were also difficult to form. I eventually solved this by folding them flat, smearing PVA glue along the tab, gluing the overlap, wait about a minute for the glue to grab and then inserting a thick sewing needle and rolling the barrel around it to form the shape of the barrel. This came out well. When the barrel was dry, I shaved a thin sliver of wood from a toothpick, coated it with PVA and “screwed” it into the barrel from the rear, stopping short of the outer end so it looked hollow. The barrel was then “rolled” between a sanding block and sanding stick to give it it’s finished shape.



The breechblocks of the barrels were filled with PVA and the barrels inserted. When dry, these were drilled with 1mm holes to accept the brass rod pivots.



I also wanted the 138mm gun turrets to swivel.
The instructions say to put pins in the centres of the top and bottom of the turrets to enable them to swivel but this would have been a mission to align the deck when gluing it over the turrets. A far easier and simpler solution was to make a “cage” from thick card around the rear of the turret. This worked great and the turrets swivel perfectly.



I am also beginning to find that some parts need “tuning” to fit. The bands around the turrets nearest to the centre of the ship on both sides were not long enough and I had to make new ones from one of the spare pieces of coloured card supplied. Also, the frames under the rear deck came flush to the edge of the deck but the frames under the forward deck were not wide enough so the deck overhung the frames along each side. The hull sides were supposed to glue to the frame edges and the deck edge and finish level with the top surface of the deck. This was solved by gluing small squares of card against the frame edges to bring them flush with the edge of the deck. The hull sides were then glued to these packing pieces and the deck edge.

Here is the completed hull with first deck in place forward.



Normally, I assume the deck should go on first and then the sides are glued to it and the supporting frames. On this model however, because of the 138mm gun turrets recessed under the decks, the side pieces have to go on first and then the deck fitted afterwards.

Lower deck 138mm gun turret positions.


Upper deck 138mm gun turret positions.


Upper deck gun cages.



The decks were such a tight fit that they had to be “sprung” into position. This was done by bending the card decks along the centre axis to give a serious camber to the decks. This meant that the deck width was then less than the distance between the sides. PVA was then applied to the deck supporting frames and hull side edges and the deck sprung into place. The deck was then weighted with food tins to flatten it so that it fitted against the sides and was in contact with the supporting frames underneath.



Here is the fore deck fitted.




And finally, the completed hull.



I have come to the conclusion that card modellers are masochists!

I am beginning to enjoy the build now. The hull was my baptism by fire. I made many mistakes but I also learnt a helluva lot! Compared to the hull, the superstructure looks as though it will be plain sailing (excuse the pun!).

So far, I have found a few errors in the part sizes but was able to rectify them without it showing. A few of the sub-assemblies have to be figured out as the instructions are not very explicit and the occasional part is not shown on the line drawings.

I have learnt to curb a tendency of mine to overglue!  Paper just needs the slightest coating of glue to form an effective bond.

Here is the superstructure taking shape.



Here are the masts completed except for the rigging which will be done in the final stages.



I have designed the stand to fit onto the internal hull ribs. I will show details when I start to build them.

Here is a picture of the searchlights and cranes.
The crane jibs were reinforced with some pieces of balsa inserted into the ends and superglue dripped onto the ends to make them rigid. when dry, the ends were sanded to shape.



Here is a picture of the cranes mounted. I just have to paint the copper stay wires grey.



I thought that the turrets would be easy because of their size: think again.
First, the barrels. After trial and error, I came up with a satisfactory way of forming the barrels.




Picture1 shows the barrel as cut from the card. Then, the barrel was rolled loosely around a 2mm skewer or dowel (2 & 3). It was then rolled by hand like a cigarette until the grey overlapped the glue edge and then opened slightly until you can see the glue edge (4). The first stage of the barrel was glued by tacking the end with a drop of PVA (see below). The rest of this portion of barrel was glued (5).



The next section of barrel was glued in the same way, tacking it where shown in red.



The rest of this portion of barrel was glued, as shown in red.



Finally, the last stage of the barrel was glued as shown.


The barrel was rolled and the excess glue squeezed out and caught on the index finger.


Barrel mounts.

The barrel mount was reinforced with some balsa as shown, to provide a more rigid mounting for the barrel locating pin which goes through it.


The barrels were reinforced with toothpicks. PVA was squeezed in each end of the barrel and a toothpick “screwed” in from the rear. Some toilet paper was twisted up and used to caulk the base.
This was coated with PVA and, when dry, a 2mm hole was drilled in the barrel mounting block and the barrel glued in and the excess toothpick cut off at the rear of the block.



The stand

I had to make the stand now as the hull had to be inverted and supported on the bow and stern parts of the deck and this had to be done before I could carry on mounting the rest of the deck structures.
Here is a diagragm of the proposed mountings.


The rib mountings were made first. After the glue was dry, the mountings were sanded and the card portions were soaked with thin CA to stop them delaminating. The ends of the mountings were chamfered like pegs to enable them to fit over the card ribs easily.


The basic stands were then roughly built up using balsa between the mountings and on each end.
When dry, the balsa was sanded down flush with the thickness of the “pegs”. Strips of edging veneer were then glued vertically on both sides of this “sandwich”.


These were then sanded and then the stand trimmed to shape. A second layer of veneer was then glued horizontally along both sides. This was effectively a 1mm plywood coating on both sides. The ends were then covered with a single layer of veneer.


When dry, the assemblies were sanded and then 5mm holes were drilled for the dowels which would fix the stand to the baseboard.


After gluing in the dowels, the stands were given a couple of coats of sanding sealer and then mounted on the hull. This was done by squeezing PVA through the holes in the hull on both sides of the rib and then the rib mountings were pushed over the rib until flush with the hull.


I am actually very pleased with the finished stands. They are small yet functional.

Now for the railings.

These are the thinnest railings that I have made so far.
I measured from the railing template drawing supplied and the stanchions came out at 0.6mm and the rails 0.2mm, all copper electrical wire. There will be twelve sets of deck edge railings, six on each side of the boat covering the two deck levels.
There will be four small sets of superstructure railings, one each side of funnel No. 3 and one each side of the 47mm gun deck.

Here is the first set of railings.


They will be sprayed grey.
I marked the holes with a dressmakers pin fitted into a pin punch.





After spraying, I fitted the rails and then put a drop of medium CA at the base of each stanchion with a toothpick.

Rigging & Railings.

Here is the rigging. It was done with DMC embroidery cotton. This came six stranded. I separated the strands and used single strands. I first put some PVA on my finger and then ran the cotton between my finger and thumb a couple of times to seal it. I then super glued the cotton in place at the various points on the masts. The various views shown on the assembly diagragms conflicted with each other as far as the rigging was concerned so I ended up doing my own thing with the drawings as a guide.




I have done the anchor chains and started making and fitting the railings.




And the finished model. All that is left is a fine tune and touch-up.



And here is the birthday boy!





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