Dearborn in Dossin

My big model of the little tugboat “Dearborn” (seen in the header here), has been donated to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. Since the museum rotates their model ship exhibits, I have no idea how long she will be on display… but she just went into the exhibit in June 2015.


Better here than hiding in my basement!

It’s a little bit sad to give up the model, but it takes up a lot of space at home, where it’s usually just hiding in the basement… I just don’t take the big R/C models out as often as I’d like!

Dossin is a great home for her, as the museum on Belle Isle in the Detroit River is just a few miles from the site of the Great Lakes Engineering Works, the yard which built her and other famous ships, such as the Edmund Fitzgerald.


Dossin Great Lakes Museum

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New Research Project: Towboats from Hillman Barge


I admit that my attention is easily diverted, when it comes to marine modeling. I’ll dive into whatever subject grabs me, whether it’s a battleship, a PT boat, a tug, a schooner, or even a DUKW. For a long time, I’ve been vaguely interested in the diesel towboats of our inland waterways, but I’ve never had a particular attachment to any one of them… just not enough for me to take on a research and modeling endeavor. Until now.

Recently, the early towboats of Hillman Barge and Construction have come to my attention. Hillman Barge was mainly …(you guessed it)… a barge builder, near Brownsville PA, on the Monongahela. But in 1945, Hillman hired on a promising marine engineer, Elmer W. Easter, to design for them a unique line of diesel towboats. Ten of these boats, in two sizes, would be built from 1947 to 1959. Variously described as” the most modern”, “yacht like”, “true streamline”, and “like a luxury liner”, they were also capable and efficient work horses on the rivers of the Upper Ohio region.

Three of these boats still operate today on the Kanawha in West Virginia. One is nearly original in appearance, while two have had their pilot houses raised… but in way that complements their original streamlined design.

So I’m well into my research of both the Hillman boats and their designer, Elmer Easter. I have hundreds of news clippings, a score or more of great photos, and the lines for one of the original 115 foot boats. From this, I’ve created a 3D CAD model… hopefully, I’ll get enough information to do the same for the larger 145 foot boats as well.

3-4a 12h167_1952_HLH2

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PT-61: Elco 77 Footer with 3D Printing

PT-61, Summer of '42

PT-61, Summer of ’42

My latest completion, PT-61 in 1:24 scale. At almost 39 inches length, the model is large enough for R/C, and is designed as a potential kit for such. However, this build is for display only.

The hull is dual-diagonal planked in 1/32″ basswood over laser-cut bulkheads, but virtually all other parts are 3D printed in acrylic plastics: the cabin shell, turrets, weapons, deck details– all 3D printed. A complete build log can be found on RC Groups:

Design references include the original Elco drawings, several excellent books on PT boats, and numerous photos found only online at websites of dedicated PT fans. PT-61 is famous for surviving a direct hit in the bow from a Japanese destroyer’s 5 inch gun while operating near Guadalcanal in late 1942.

The model sits on a replica of Elco’s A-Frame shipping cradle, constructed primarily of wood. The paint scheme, overall 5D dark gray, depicts the boat as-built and as shipped to theater.

Please click on the photos to see larger versions!




Artist's fairly accurate rendition of the damage to PT-61. It's not clear if she carried this camouflage though.

Artist’s fairly accurate rendition of the damage to PT-61. It’s not clear if she carried this camouflage though.

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Model Ship Repair


The repaired model in its new case.

Pat repairs model ships, too!

A customer of a well known barge firm received a 1:48 towboat display model with shipping damage. I was contacted about repairing the damaged model, and was able to respond with a quote and offer to work to a P.O.

The model was unlabeled and undocumented at this point in time, but was likely built at the same time as the original vessel in the 1980’s. It sustained relatively minor crushing damage to masts and railings, and the mounts were fractured.

All was put to right, and a new acrylic display cover was fabricated to replace the damaged one.


Damaged wheelhouse top




Damaged brass railings


Brass railing straightened and resoldered.

Feel free to drop me a line with your repair questions!

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New Business Cards

To highlight my focus on technology in model ship building, and 3D Printing in particular, I “printed” some business cards. Moveable anchor chain and a cable-laid hawser for a border (no mean feat in CAD, I can tell you)… but some nice nautical themes, it was worth it!



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Model Ship Stud Link Anchor Chain


Matthews Model Marine’s model stud link chain is 3D printed.

I continue to work on a feasible 3D printed stud link anchor chain suitable for models as small as the new 1:200 scale battleships– I’ve been successfully making and supplying larger sizes for some time. I have more to do to perfect it, but I now have a small quantity on sale at ebay ( ; link will die before long, but just search for “Model Ship Stud Link Anchor Chain”– if I have any available, it will show up).

The 1:200 battleship chain is 13.5 links per inch (LPI), and is fully articulated. But it is tiny– the “wire diameter” is 1/2 mm, or 500 microns– about the size of a sewing pin’s shaft!


Various sizes of MMM stud link chain. The new 13.5 LPI chain is in the foreground.

One successful development is the use of a dry tumble deburr process to knock off the 3D printing’s rough layering effect, and which also removes the last traces of processing wax from the parts. The chain can now be painted without further cleaning, yay!


Raw chain, as delivered from the printer.



After an early tumble deburr trial– much smoother surface, and almost wax free. Finer tumbling media take care of the rest.




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Pan American Seaplane Tender PANAIR XX-P


PANAIR XX-P, a 1940 build from Julius Petersen for Pan American Airways.

Just completed, another 3D Printing exercise. This is one of a fleet of 36 foot seaplane tenders ordered by Pan American Airways in 1939. The boats were sent to PAA stations around the world, and tended to the big Martin and Boeing seaplanes– the Pan American Clippers. The boats were equipped search lights, towing and rescue gear, but rarely left the harbor except to “sweep” the landing areas for any floating debris.

This boat though, PANAIR XX-P, was stationed at Honolulu, and became a war veteran on December 7, 1941. Her fire fighting gear was put into use in several locations around Pearl Harbor; the photo below shows her (along with the famous tug HOGA) assisting at the West Virginia.

The model is 27 inches long in 1:16 scale, and is almost entirely 3D printed. Even many metal fittings were investment cast from 3D printed wax patterns. Read all about my discovery of these boats, and the construction of the model, at my RC Groups build log:



Hull and cabin were each printed in two parts to fit in the printer.


Assisting at the West Virginia


PANAIR XX-P was stationed at Honolulu

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