Aarrggghh! Avast There! Come aboard me mateys, for a tour of the good ship, Commanders/Iron Shipwright, and we will lay alongside a fat prize or two. You’ll see how the salty crew prepares for action on the Spanish Main.
First, any crew of adventurers needs a well-found ship to cut out what providence has offered. It is a very specialized job to design the ship and not every lubber can fill the billet. Jon Berserker Warneke is chief ship designer for this band of sea dogs. Although other mates chip in designs, such as Ron Hansen with some of the Great White Fleet designs, Gentleman Jon designs about 95% of the ISW fleet. Starting with plans, he crafts the master pattern for the vessel. Using profile, plan and sections he creates from scratch the new vessels for the fleet of these buccaneers. Then he adds superstructure. Guns and fittings are also designed but not added to the hull at this point. It is precision business, as the master must be just right to allow for production of a good mold that will not tear apart after one or two pours of resin. Once all of the parts for the master are designed it is time to produce molds.
For all of the larger designs, the hull pattern is sent north to Capn Ted in his lair near Lake Ontario. Jolly Roger Jon prepares the molds for the smaller parts in his quarters in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A box is designed to hold a number of the small parts and then pour plugs are added that will allow liquid resin to flow through the pour plugs to fill the cavities of the finished mold. Once the mold box is ready, the two components to the mold mix are combined and poured into the mold box. As this mixture hardens, it is put under pressure for final curing. Incisions have to be made that will allow the resin parts to be removed from the mold without destroying it.
Once the molds have hardened, it is time to start casting resin parts. The resin components are a two-part mixture, as was the mold mixture. Both components are liquid until they are mixed. Once mixed the resin will harden, releasing heat as a by-product. This heat has an adverse effect upon the mold. The larger the resin piece, the more heat is generated and the greater the negative effect is on the mold. After a certain number or pours or pulls in a mold, the cumulative effect of the heat generated by the hardening resin will make the mold brittle. It will lose its rubbery nature and break. When this happens, a new mold must be prepared by using the master or pattern. The life expectancy of any mold will vary depending upon the size of the parts. As a general rule, molds for large hulls will be destroyed by the casting process far faster than molds for the smaller parts. For a large hull mold, 25 to 30 pours is about the limit before the mold must be replaced.
After the resin is poured into the mold, the mold is placed into a pressure pot. An air compressor is used to add pressure on the mold. This pressure drives out the air bubbles of the resin mixture before it hardens. After the pressure has been maintained for a certain period of time, the mold is removed from the pressure pot and the now hardened resin parts are removed from the mold. The parts are then allowed to cool for final curing. After about two hours, they can be packaged. Jolly Roger Jon bulk packs the smaller parts in bulk for shipment north to Capn Ted.
It is in Capn Ted’s lair in Rochester, New York, where the decks are swabbed, the hatches are battened and the good ships are prepared for sailing. Ted Pegleg Paris prepares molds for all of the larger hulls using basically the same process as for the smaller molds but the pour plug is far larger. After the molds are ready, the resin poured, the hull molds are placed in special pressure tanks. One pressure tank can hold one battleship mold, two cruiser molds or four to six destroyer molds. As with the small smaller pressure pots, pressure is added to the sealed tank by an air compressor. The hulls are cast upside down with the pressure driving air bubbles out of the resin. A few air bubbles may be driven down into the voids for the deck fittings, which would create a small void in that deck fitting. However, most air bubbles are forced upward. As the final air bubbles reach the top, which is the hull bottom, the bubble bursts, very frequently leaving a pitted surface to the bottom of the hull. Other bubbles could be forced into the cavities for the bilge keels, which are also at the top of the mold in the pressure process. ISW 1:350 scale kits are full hull but Ted can pour a waterline hull if you so desire. This is done by reducing the amount of resin used in the pour. Normally to be safe, a ship cast to waterline will be riding high. A modeler can sand down to the desired level but normally can not build up a casting that would be riding low.
Capn Ted also designs the photo-etch fret to be used in each model. The fret design is sent off to a specialty firm for production of the fret. Capn Ted is also involved in preparation of the instruction, although other swabbies help him in this task as well as decals. Once the Capn has the brass fret back from the etchers, the instructions back from the swabbies, and the bulk package of smaller parts have arrived from Jolly Roger Jon, he packages the kits one at a time. When a modeler runs up his signal flags on the toll free number (1-888-476-6744) for an order, Capn Ted fires it off to the post office. As you can see from the photographs, the Capn maintains a ready supply of ammunition of all calibers. The Capn is sometimes helped by other salts, such as Jose. Jose is originally from Cuba and immigrated to the US. For some reason he is always on watch for Canadians hiding in the stacks of packaged models. From time to time Darren Seaslug Scannel has made a raid from his north shore nest, across Lake Ontario to land on the south shore near Capn Ted’s lair. After riotously pillaging the fair towns and villages of north-western New York from Buffalo to Sackett’s Harbor, he would recross the lake to his haunts in Ontario. Jose always has his eyes peeled for the Seaslug.
Well mateys its time for you to make your way back to the dock, as Capn Ted and Jolly Roger Jon have to cast off with sailors’ work to do and Jose is already up in the crow’s nest, scouring the lake for the Seaslug.