Lady Beale

JOHN ELLIOTT reviews the Deans Marine slipper launch

I first saw this kit on the Deans Marine stand at the late May 2010 Mayhem weekend at Wicksteed Pleasure Park. It was a model that instantly appealed to me - polished wood and the thought of a leisurely cruise with a picnic on the Thames! Ron Dean was kind enough to give me a demonstration and offered our Editor a kit for review. The model is based on the Thames launches that were constructed in the 1920’s (the roaring twenties). The slipper hull was designed to reduce the wash and help eradicate bank erosion. Apart from the kit you will need a motor, coupling and propeller, best purchased at the same time as buying the kit as well as r/c, battery, glues and paints etc.

The kit

The two main components are the hull and deck which are well made GRP mouldings. The planking is supplied cut to width in mahogany and obechi with balsa and ramin sections for the deck supports. A tray of fittings contains white metal and resin castings together with a propshaft and tube plus miscellaneous items such as cord. The seats, canopy, motor mount and battery trays are vac-formed mouldings. A pack of printed vinyl is supplied for the cockpit floor and sides, along with dashboard and nameplate items. Printed plastic sheets complete the kit hardware. A full size colour plan accompanies a detailed instruction book which contains step by step construction details with pictures, recommended running gear information, a painting and glue guide, plus useful hints and tips. For an additional purchase of £2 (plus supplying a blank sealed CD), there is a Photo CD available containing 400 pictures taken during the construction of the prototype. The kit I received was from the first manufactured batch. Deans Marine normally sells these at a reduced price with the anticipation of getting feedback on any areas that might need modification to the kit or improvements to the documentation. In fact whilst I was with Ron Dean he received a phone call from a purchaser who was having a problem with water ingress through the rear hatch when the model was driven hard astern. This was not surprising as the stern is only just above the water, but Ron has taken this on board(!) and now has a recommended solution.

A stand

This is the first and most essential item to be made. Material for this is not included in the kit, but there is a template. I made the stand from 6mm MDF and two short lengths of dowel. It is worth making this first as it helps so much during the model construction. The instructions then take us on into the basic hull construction.

The hull

There is a section on cleaning and preparation of GRP which Deans Marine stress is very important. The top edge of the hull is clearly marked and needs to be smoothly sanded to that line. It is best not to file it, because it is thin and currently unsupported, so you could easily crack the outer resin coat. Marking out the position of the propshaft hull outlet and its support is easy using the full size plan. Two holes were drilled at each end of the proposed slot for the propshaft tube followed with ‘chain drilling’ between them to remove the majority of the material and then finishing with a fine file and sandpaper. The vac-formed motor mount is easily cut from the carrier sheet and its base sanded level over a sheet of medium coarse oxide paper laid on a hard flat surface (glass or an old worktop will do fine). The propshaft tube was positioned in the slot and with the motor mount, motor, coupling and skeg all held temporarily in place with tape, they were all adjusted (fiddled around with!) until the final positions were correct. It is very important to spend some time getting the drive train perfectly in line on any model as failure to do so can result in vibration, plus loss of power and running time. The motor to propshaft coupling will take up some small amount of mis-alignment, but it is best avoided if at all possible.
Starting with the propshaft tube, the drive train was now permanently glued in place. Tape on the outside of the hull over the tube exit hole prevents the glue running out. It is an easy matter then to fill the inside with slow-setting epoxy. With a bit of luck, the outside of the hull will be left with a nice smooth joint around the tube, requiring little filling.

Worth bearing in mind is an oiler pipe soldered at right angles to the propshaft tube. If the propshaft tube is installed with this pipe pointing vertically upwards, it will foul the underside of the cockpit which drops into the hull through the deck opening. So, it may be better to angle it to one side (or even horizontally) and connect a piece of silicone tube to it. A small bolt inserted into the end of that tube will prevent any oil escaping.


It is important to get this in line with the propshaft with space in front so the propeller does not foul the rudder. I write this because I purchased a Raboesch propeller that has a nice pointed end. Being slightly longer than that supplied, a little more clearance space was required. Drilling a hole for the rudder tube and inserting it into the hull is easy, but do make sure the rudder itself then sits nice and square to the waterline both fore and aft and across the beam.

Masking tape helped retain its position whilst a couple of spots of superglue served to temporarily hold it all in place. A short length of plastic tube secured to inside the hull bottom around the rudder tube created a coffer dam into which slow setting epoxy was poured to make a nice neat and robust installation.

Rudder servo

Whilst we have a nice open space and before the deck is glued on, it is best to make the mount for the rudder servo. Note the position of the access hatch and check clearance between the tiller, servo arm and deck moulding. A mini-servo is all that is needed which was installed in a small box laminated from plastic card with a removable lid retained by two screws. This box was glued to the hull bottom and the servo can easily be removed for maintenance. The tiller arm supplied is a metal casting, but for personal convenience this was replaced with a plastic version with a central brass bush for a grub screw permanent location.


Supports were glued to the hull to underpin the GRP deck. It is very important to get the hatches and deck exactly in line and centred to the hull before being glued. If you don’t, then the deck planks will not be symmetrical, which will become quite obvious at the deck and hull edge joint. Gluing the deck to its supports and the hull edge was done once again with slow setting epoxy.

A coaming was made for the two hatches followed by construction of the removable cockpit section.


What you need to aim for is a really snug fit of the cockpit through the deck access opening which will reduce the chance of water entering the hull around the edges of the cockpit. The individual parts for this were cut from the supplied printed sheet, each a little bit oversize. These parts were each offered in turn to the deck opening, checked for exact size and marked. They were then trimmed to size, double checking throughout this process. Once completed, the individual pieces were taped together with masking tape and tested for a good fit into the hull through the deck. Everything was then glued together, except the outside plastic retaining panels as I intended to replace these with mahogany as a personal choice.

Basic painting

The next construction step would be to plank the deck, but there would a good chance of ruining it when painting the hull, so this came next.

The hull was checked once again for any blemishes which were filled and sanded as needed. It then had a good wash in warm soapy water, rinsed and left to dry naturally. The chosen colour scheme was to be green above a thin red waterline with white for the hull bottom.
The first coat was an overall white primer from the Halfords car aerosol range. This immediately showed up the previously unseen defects which were duly filled and sanded followed by another coat of primer! This was gently sanded with wet and dry paper and another coat then applied. It is essential to ensure a good primer base coat, then the colour coats should then be perfect.
The waterline will need to be marked with a soft pencil. The best way is to get the waterline position at the stern and bows both equidistant from a smooth work surface and lightly mark the line on the hull with the pencil fixed to a block of wood or an adjustable height mounting. It is probably a good idea to check this as well by loading the model with its motor, r/c, batteries and any large fittings, then float it to see roughly where the waterline should ideally be.

Once satisfied with your drawn waterline, a 3mm wide strip of low tack masking tape was applied which would represent where the red painted waterline would eventually be. This narrow 3mm tape was purchased at a military modelling show. The lower section of the hull then was masked with Tamiya tape and clean white paper, and the hull upper section then sprayed with several coats of Humbrol No. 195 Satin Green using a Badger 175 airbrush. It is best to remove masking tape as soon as possible to hopefully avoid a paint edge ‘ridge’.

Both sides of the 3mm wide waterline tape were now be used as a reference and masked up to each of its edges with tape. Then the original 3mm tape was removed exposing the narrow waterline to be painted red. As it is quite narrow, brush painting is okay for this task. Once the paint was dry, all the tape was removed and the final coats of satin varnish could be applied by airbrush. Ronseal satin polyurethane varnish diluted 50:50 with white spirit thinners was my choice. It is best to stress that all paints should periodically be tested for compatibility and finish on pieces of card before actually applying to the model.

Deck planking

Now I could start the task that I was really looking forward to, namely planking the deck. Deans Marine state in the instructions that this type of craft was built to an owner’s specification and therefore no two craft were totally alike. With this in mind I wanted to personalise this model, which in my view is a big attraction of the kit.
Supplied are 5mm x 1.5mm mahogany and obechi planks plus two lengths of 10mm x 1.5mm mahogany. The wider strips are for the king plank, i.e. centre of the deck. Rather than use the supplied widths I wanted to use 5mm mahogany alternated with 1.5mm square obechi which I had in stock from a previous project. The instructions tell you to leave a 10mm gap with no planking on the outside edge of the deck which is called a ‘waterway’. However, on the prototype, the 10mm mahogany had been cut into sections and glued in place here. I did not want a blank area and cutting the planks into sections did not appeal either as I wanted a smooth curve of wood on the outside edge of the decking. Thus, it would have to bend to match the deck edge curvature or be cut from a wider sheet. The solution was to use 2 x 1.5mm square mahogany and 1 x 1.5 mm square obechi strips which would easily be bent.
The first mahogany strip was glued in place with superglue. It is best to work with small sections, one at a time depending on the curve, let it set and then glue the next piece until one deck side is complete and then repeat on the other side. This was followed by a strip of obechi and then another of mahogany. The outer waterway was now completed, ending up being about 5mm in width. The stern piece was cut from a 10mm strip of mahogany shaped to fit and glued in place after the waterways were neatly trimmed.
Now for filling the gap between the king plank and waterway. Some planks were temporarily positioned to see how they would look. Ideally, one does not want to end up with a tiny slither of wood filling the last space.

The king plank position was marked out onto the deck, cut to fit and glued in position followed by alternate strips of wood until the deck was totally covered. On the more difficult pieces that are curved at both ends, it is easiest to get one end fitting perfectly and then carefully mark the other end before cutting.

Hatch covers and painting

The hatch covers were made from plastic to create formers and covered in wood planks superglued in place that matched the style of the deck planking . The deck and hatch covers were lightly sanded until level and smooth. To varnish these, a cloth pad soaked in satin polyurethane varnish diluted 50:50 with white spirit was used for applying each of the first six coats. Each coat had a light sanding before another was applied, the thinned varnish soaking into the wooden deck very nicely. The final finish you obtain will depend on the number of coats and effort applied.

Back to the cockpit

Another length of mahogany sheet 100mm wide x 1.5 mm thick was obtained from a doll’s house shop along with the figures.
Using this wood, the outside panelling of the cockpit was now completed. The cockpit floor and its sides were planked with alternate 5mm x 1.5 mm mahogany planks. The supplied vinyl printed sheet would have been okay, but real wood does actually look like real wood and the area covered is quite small.
The edge of the cockpit now consisted of plastic covered both sides with wood and therefore needed a capping, which was a strip of mahogany glued and trimmed to fit. The dashboard top was also trimmed with mahogany sheet and the same was used to make the dashboard. The instrument dial surrounds were made using eyelets for leather belts. The complete set of these had a cutter and press along with a selection of them, so the tool was used to cut the holes in the wood and press the eyelets into position. The cutter was also used to cut discs of plastic which were then glued into the eyelets representing dial faces.
Unfortunately I damaged the steering wheel so had to make a replacement, or await a new part from Deans Marine. This turned out to be a good thing in the end as when the doll’s house figure was placed in the driving seat, the steering wheel would have been too far from his hands and it looked very small. Making a new one from a brass O ring (curtain ring), tube and wire, a better matching one was produced.
Having mentioned the two individual seats (which are really chairs) the construction of these is quite straightforward with a few holes drilled into the vac-formed units and the legs inserted. One point to bear in mind though is the distance between the engine cover and the cockpit sides. If you want the chairs to slot into this space make sure their legs are spaced accordingly.
The next item to assemble was the windscreen. The centre support was made from mahogany sheet and a template is provided in the instructions for the glass, but I found this did not fit this model as I had made the one or two personal changes mentioned earlier. So, it is probably best to make your own template, before cutting the clear plastic which is framed with thin strips of mahogany. Make sure the glue you use does not ‘fog’ the clear plastic.
The last items for the cockpit are the rear seat and the hood. This rear seat is made from two vac-formed mouldings and it was prepared by sanding in the same way as had been the motor mount. A small piece of plastic card was needed to fill a gap on the back of it. Care is needed with the hood to ensure a good fit around and over the rear of the cockpit. Three holes both sides, each one slightly above and out from the first were drilled to take the support bars. With these in place a small screw was used to secure the seat to the cockpit sides.

All these individual parts were now removed, painted and then permanently fixed in place so the cockpit was now finished. Fortunately the model is 1:10 scale so 1:12 doll’s house figures seemed to fit the bill. The two that I was able to obtain were made from resin and well detailed, costing around £5 each and the only concern was that they might be too heavy, so some lightening holes were cut in their bottoms! All that was left now were the deck fittings.

Deck fittings

The metal ‘chrome’ ones were painted with Humbrol Polished Aluminium Metalcote which can be polished when dry. There are quite a few extra ‘choice’ fittings and these were not all fitted, the horns and cowl vents in particular being omitted. It is best to insert a locating pin in the base of fittings wherever possible.

Radio control

The receiver and esc are located under the forward deck with the on/off switch fixed underneath the forward hatch on a removable platform. A six volt drive battery is suggested but as a couple of 7.2 volt sub-C buggy packs were in stock I thought I would try to fit one of these into the model. It could be fitted as a single unit – just, but to ensure a better balanced model, the pack was split into two sticks of three laid either side of the motor and secured with Velcro. Suppliers The Component Shop can supply bespoke packs if required.

On the water

The Deans Marine prototype had performed well at Wicksteed Park and so did mine now, six months later! It responded well going from a steady realistic cruising speed up to one where a large bow wave was generated. It was a little deep against the waterline, probably due to the weight of the battery and figures. Going astern is okay, but caution is needed to keep the speed low as too much and the stern will submerge. Turning to port and starboard was fine and it has the makings of a good steering regatta boat.

Improvement and conclusion

Six 2600mAh tagged AA size NiMH cells were purchased to replace the sub-C cells, thus saving approx 50% of the battery pack weight. Current consumption is so low on this model that the sailing duration should not suffer markedly. At the time of writing, apart from a bath test which has shown the model to be now sitting higher out of the water, they have not been tested, but I have no reason not to suppose that performance will be better because of the weight reduction. Also, being AA size cells, means that they can be fitted anywhere in the hull without fouling the cockpit or deck.

This is an excellent kit of a nice subject with scope for personalisation. It will fit into any car easily, is light in weight and therefore easy to manage. Building is relatively straightforward so it is recommended for beginner and expert alike. The price of the kit is very competitive and it is excellent value for money. The instructions are comprehensive and to those new to the hobby and thinking of buying this kit you always have reassurance of direct help from Deans Marine. Price is £120 at time of writing.

Major additional items used in this model

Motor: Deans Marine Black 5.
Coupling: Nycrome EX/L 2.3mm/M4 from Deans Marine.
Propeller: Raboesch 162-11 from Deans Marine
Battery:  6 off 2600mAh tagged AA NiMH cells from Component Shop
ESC: Mtroniks Viper 15 Amp from Howes Models
R/C: Spektrum Dz6i form Howes Models
Plus glues and paints of your choice.