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A class yacht - Serica II

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Gareth Jones12/12/2016 20:35:13
791 forum posts
1067 photos

There seems to be some interest in big model yachts at the moment so I thought I would start a new thread to cover the build of our A class hull, Serica II. It has not yet been completed and sailed, but it has connections with some of the most famous names in UK model yachting so I will start with its history. Over the next few months I will add some more photos as the build progresses and hopefully we will have it on the water next year, about 60 years after it was originally designed.

My wife Elizabeth is an enthusiastic restorer of vintage model yachts and sailing vessels. We saw Serica II advertised in the Turning Pole, the journal of the Vintage Model Yacht Group about a year ago. Elizabeth has about 20 models ranging from a 78 inch long 10 rater down to toy Star yachts so an A class would fill the hole in her collection at the large end of the class size range. With the help of the Vintage Model Yacht Group, of which we are both members, and in particular David Bell, we have now managed to trace the history of this particular hull.

Serica was designed in 1956 by Bill Daniels for Norman Hatfield, for the princely sum of 3 guineas. Bill Daniels was one of the most influential figures in British model yachting, being an active designer, builder and competitor from around the start of the twentieth century until his death in 1959. Here is a picture, courtesy of David Bell, showing Serica (registered K750) some time in the 1950's

serica 4.jpg

Serica was build by Arthur Levison, another of the great names in British model yachting, The hull would have been built on the bread and butter principle then carved to shape, inside and out. Arthur Levison built many similar hulls in the 1950's, often modifying and developing designs to improve their performance. One of Arthur's other claims to fame is that he carved the figurehead of the Cutty Sark, now preserved in Greenwich.

Serica was not a success as it is thought that Daniels got his calculations wrong and the keel came out significantly too heavy. Under the A class rating formula this meant that it would not be able to carry the optimum amount of sail area and would be uncompetitive.

Arthur Levison built a second hull to the same or slightly modified design but this was never completed and abandoned in its roughly carved state. The reason for this is not clear but it is alleged that it was for an American customer who never took delivery of it. This hull was given to one of Arthur's neighbours and languished there, untouched, until after his death. His widow advertised the hull for sale and the advert was seen by David Bell, who lived nearby and suspected that this might be an Arthur Levison original.

David bought the hull but decided that there was too much work involved for him to complete the build so he passed it on to John Gale. John was also renowned for the quality of his wooden hull construction and had built many classic racing yachts up until his death in 2015. He completed the bare hull of Serica II, including a modified keel to address the over weight issue of the original design. After his death the hull of Serica II was offered for sale by his daughter, but in the confusion, the keel was separated from the hull and lost. In January of this year Elizabeth and I traveled down to London to collect the bare hull and start to plan its completion, 60 years after the original design was done.

More to follow, probably tomorrow.


Edited By Gareth Jones on 12/12/2016 20:38:05

Edited By Gareth Jones on 12/12/2016 20:43:00

Banjoman13/12/2016 21:45:20
1142 forum posts
2414 photos

Thank you very much indeed, Gareth, for starting a thread on this fascinating model yacht – I look forward very much to follow its completion in your hands!


Gareth Jones14/12/2016 20:32:04
791 forum posts
1067 photos

So to continue the story, we had a beautifully finished 84 inch mahogany hull, with no keel or deck fittings.

serica 1.jpg

Making a keel was going to be a challenge, if the original Serica designer and builder could not get it right, there would not be much chance for us.

Fortunately David Bell had the original Bill Daniels drawing of Serica's lines and calculations plus a second drawing by a man named Jim Belton of a revised, lighter weight keel. Apparently Jim Belton built a plank on frame version of Serica using the modified keel. However what happened to it is not known.

Using the Jim Belton drawing I have started to make a new keel, laminated from 1 inch thick pine planks. When finally carved to shape, the lower front section will be cut off and used as the pattern for the lead casting, which should weigh in at around 17 kg/38 lb. Serica II should come out as a typical A class model of that era, around 55 inches waterline length, 60 lb in weight and 1570 square inches of sail area.

Here is the start of the laminating process for the keel with some of the pieces clamped up while the glue dries.

serica 2.jpg

The next one shows the roughly carved block after a few nights work with a small plane. The piece of green card at the top is one of the patterns cut to get the profile correctly shaped. No 7 is at the joint between the bottom two pieces of wood. The diagonal line marks boundary between the lead and the timber in the final assembly.

serica 3.jpg


Ray Wood 215/12/2016 08:14:53
1992 forum posts
709 photos

Hi Gareth

That's going to be a lot of lead ! have you considered a cast iron keel ? I've had locomotive wheel castings produced from my wooden patterns in the past. You would need a local foundry of course, maybe hard to find these days.

Also CI is much easier to drill an tap a thread for some stainless steel studding, than lead is in my experience.

As I say only a thought as an alternative ??

Regards Ray

Bob Abell15/12/2016 09:27:13
8905 forum posts
2783 photos

Gareth and Elizabeth........This could be your lucky day!

Why is that, I hear you ask?

I was just about to post you a message about the surplus lead I have in the garage, that would do for your your latest yacht renovation........When I realised, you two classic yacht stalwarts would be the ideal guardians of two nice yachts I have........Gathering dust upstairs

William Daniels Marplehead.......Pocahontas

Sandy Cousins yacht........Britannia........Complete with motor drive

Both are in perfect working order and nicely made

Next time you are in the Manchester area, please call in for a chat and take the boats into safe keeping?

FOC of course

If you would like them, that is

I am down sizing at the moment


The Britannia photo is actually my Pocatannia hybrid





Gareth Jones15/12/2016 20:24:16
791 forum posts
1067 photos


That is a very kind offer. I will send you a pm later this evening.


I had not thought of using cast iron. I have found a small company in West Yorkshire who specialise in lead castings so we are planning to use them at the moment. I don't intend to tap the lead section of the keel, the studs will go all the way through and locate in a couple of stainless steel nuts bonded into the bottom of the lead and then filled afterwards. I am going to need to invest in a long 8 mm drill bit though. It will need a very careful lining up to make sure the holes come out of the bottom of the keel in the right place on the centreline.

I have done a bit more planing and whittling tonight. The keel is now looking something like, but still needs some material taking off as it's a bit fat in places. I have deliberately left it a bit long so that I can adjust the position longitudinally to get the cg in the right place.

I am also trying to think of some way of checking it will come out at the right weight before I saw the pattern off the rest of the keel. At the moment my thoughts are around the idea of submerging the lead section and measuring the volume of water displaced - somehow.

The other option is to cut it off and weigh it at that stage. I know the wood I have used has a specific gravity of 0.65 grm/cc and lead is 11.36 grm/cc. I could, at that stage temporarily reattach the front section and do some reshaping to get nearer the right weight if I am a long way off.

serica 5.jpg


Gareth Jones28/12/2016 18:50:58
791 forum posts
1067 photos

I have made a bit more progress over the last couple of days and finished the lower section of the keel that will form the pattern for the lead ballast

Here is a picture of the lead pattern about to be cut away from the rest of the lower part. I tried various way of dunking the piece in buckets and boxes of water to try and estimate the volume and hence weight of the final lead casting. Unfortunately the results were too variable to be usable, but I reckoned I was somewhere in the right parish and the shape matched the templates on the lines drawing that I have. I therefore decided there was no option but to cut it off and weigh it afterwards.

serica 6.jpg

The picture also shows two of my Christmas presets, a new saw and a new top for my Black and Decker workmate. I have had this workmate for about 40 years and it has given sterling service despite being abused on many occasions. It was becoming slightly less usable as I had managed to cut a couple of corners off the top section when jigsawing a few years ago. I was planning to ask for a new one for Christmas but on reading the reviews on a well known website, most of them said the latest workmates are nowhere near as robustly made as they were in the past. However I found a company on Ebay who supply new birch ply tops to fit virtually any model of workmate so I ordered a set as a present to myself. They arrived just before Christmas and I fitted them yesterday. Its nearly as good as new now.

serica 7.jpg

Here is the pattern which weighs about 1050 grams on the kitchen scales. Based on the relative density of the wood I used and that of lead, the keel should come out at about 17.5 kg, which is about half a kg over my target. I am going to go with the shape as it now and if the final casting is too heavy I will drill a few strategic holes and fill them to get the weight down. Hopefully the pattern will be off to the foundry in Bradford at the end of next week.

Over the next few weeks I am going to start making the rudder and some of the deck fittings, which will take me on to learning another new skill I have never tried before - silver soldering

Regards and best wishes to everyone for the New Year


Gareth Jones01/01/2017 16:33:25
791 forum posts
1067 photos

Serica now has a rudder, made from 4 laminations of 2 mm thick mahogany sheet, glued together with epoxy. The rudder post is made from 3/16 brass rod and a pair of 3/32 pieces of brass rod are soldered into cross drilled holes to tie the whole thing together. Here are the component parts before being fully assembled.

serica 8.jpg

The rudder bearing tube in the hull is 1/4 inch bore so a pair of brass tube bushes were fitted to locate the rudder post at the top and bottom of the hull, allowing the rudder to pivot with minimal friction. In a conventional servo driven rudder I would have used 1/4 rod for the rudder post but on a vane steered yacht, it is important that there is minimal friction in the rudder to allow the vane to drive it accurately.

The bottom bearing is made from a piece of brass strip screwed on to the bottom of the rudder skeg. A small hole in this strip is used to locate a triangular sectioned end of the rudder post, i.e. it primarily provides a pivot point to support the weight of the rudder assembly.

serica 9.jpg

Here is the final assembly glued and shaped, ready for varnishing.

serica 10.jpg


Gareth Jones02/01/2017 18:11:03
791 forum posts
1067 photos

While Elizabeth was varnishing the deck of her Marblehead China Boy, she decided she would have some spare time and varnish to do the rudder for Serica and also the deck edge strips and hatch coamings. Both these items had only an initial sealing coat by John Gale when he finished the hull.

Serica is now sitting in the middle of the workshop, taking up most of the room, waiting for the varnish to dry before a further one or two coats is added.

serica 11.jpg

serica 12.jpg

Gareth Jones13/01/2017 20:40:37
791 forum posts
1067 photos

Serica's keel weight pattern has been taken to Monkmans Brass Foundry in Bradford and been cast in lead. We would have gone to collect it today but in view of the snow and ice this morning decided to put it off till next week.

In the meantime I have fitted the mast, the bottom section of which is a 2 metre length of 3/4 inch aluminium tube. The mast step is an unusual design, not one I have seen before, but infinitely adjustable over its range. This was the only metal fitting in the hull when we acquired it.

serica 13.jpg

I did not want to sit the mast directly on this as I thought the relatively soft aluminium could be subject to some fairly big loads on its earth point. After hunting around various scrap boxes of stuff not to be thrown away because it might come in useful, I came across a brass hose end fitting that was a snug fit in the end of the mast. I filed a slot in it so that it locates in the step as shown in the two pictures below.

serica 14.jpg

serica 15.jpg

The flange on the end was then filed down until it was flush with the outside wall of the mast tube and the whole fitting glued into the bottom of the mast with epoxy. I then made up a slide to fit on the deck from sheet and strip brass and Serica now has a mast, or at least part of one, for the first time in her life.

serica 16.jpg

serica 17.jpg

I have got some dowel suitable for making the booms so I will make a start on that job prior to collecting the keel weight, hopefully next Friday. As you can see from the picture above our older sons bedroom has been partially taken over as a yacht and sail rig storage area



Edited By Gareth Jones on 13/01/2017 20:42:18

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