Week 1

Greetings.  I’m Mike Bass and this is the first update of many as I produce the scale model of HMS Beagle.

Traditionally the model would be made the same way as the original vessel -using a ‘wood on frame’ technique where the outer wooden skin would be attached to a framework of inner supports.  Because of time restraints I will be carving the hull from a solid material called chemi-wood. This material is resin based and used in the pattern makers’ industry.  I like it because it can be cut and sanded and is very stable over a period of time.

I started with an old line drawing of the Beagle scaled to 1:48th.

Plans of the Beagle

Scale drawing of the HMS Beagle used to work out the shape of the hull.

I marked and cut the chemi-wood into the shape of the hull. The chemi-wood comes in a plank 50mm wide so these become my frame spacing.

The hull of the Beagle

Sections of the hull cut out of chemi-wood.

Once stuck together I then sand down each section to make a smooth hull shape. Great care must be taken at this stage not to sand too much and constant use of the drawing is essential.

From Mike Bass, the model maker.

About Mike

Me, Mike Bass, at work.

Mike Bass, at work.

I’m Mike Bass and I run a well established model making company with over 25 years professional experience in the defence, museum, maritime, advertising, architectural and film industries.

I initially trained and worked in the United Kingdom where I was senior model maker on various projects such as; The “Chicken Run”, motion picture animated by Aardman Animations; Formula 1 racing cars commissioned by the Williams Team; Production of numerous models for the Dutch Maritime Industry.

In 1999, my family and I emigrated to Australia. Since then, my client base has grown to include; the Australian National Maritime Museum; Australian War Memorial in Canberra; Thales Australia; ASC Ltd and Fox Studios etc

Our models are built to the highest quality standards to suit the needs of individual clients. We use a wide range of traditional and modern materials as well as up todate technologies. Equally important to us is the technical and artistic flair that we incorporate in all our creations.

Every project is undertaken in close collaboration with our clients to ensure the meeting of deadlines and a smooth completion of the models.

Our latest contribution to the Australian War Memorial has been given National Collection Item status.
The passion I have for model making combined with the expertise I have acquired over the years are reflected in the finished models.

You can take a look at my work on my website.

About the project

Talking over the plans with curator Nigel Erskine

Talking over the plans of the Beagle with curator Nigel Erskine

2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s ground breaking book ‘On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection’ and the bicentenary of his birth.  The ANMM is going to celebrate by staging a Charles Darwin exhibition.

As part of the exhibition the museum asked me to build a model of the HMS Beagle, the ship that took Darwin on his voyage of discovery back in 1831.

When I take on a project like this, for me it’s not just another build. Museum work is definitely special as you are creating a bit of history and hopefully portray it in 3D to the public something interesting.

My initial impression when viewing the drawing for the Beagle was “the real thing was so small, how did they work and live on board”.  The other problem I discovered was the limited sources of information for the Beagle. Written descriptions and line drawings are all that I have to go on as well as help from allot of experts in the fields of Maritime Archeology and weaponry of the time.

What I do not want to produce is a nice shinny model with clean glossy wood finishes.
At the initial meeting to get a feel for the model I described wanting to give the model a finish “as if it has been at sea for a few weeks”. I will use subtle weathering and shading techniques to create not only a model but hopefully a snap shot of the past.

There are areas of the ship that are ‘grey areas’ such as would the Beagle continue to have the cannonade at the front of the ship, etc. I will be opening problems I encounter to the forum here hopefully for some educated answers.

I have 4 ½ Months to complete the model.

I aim to have the following done:
The hull and deck – Mid October
All components and Masts – End November.
Rigging, Base and Travel Case – End December.

I have been looking forward to this journey and as you watch me make the Beagle, I hope you enjoy it as well.

Mike Bass