Saturday, 5 December 2020

All at Sea - Conversion Work Part Two, 64-Gun Third Rate

HMS Agamemnon, Nelson's favourite, shows of the pleasing lines of a 64-gun third rate ship pf the line

Following on from part one of this series of posts looking at some simple conversion work on the small 1:700th model, age of sail range of ships from Warlord Games, the next job was to look at the larger generic 74-gun third rate ship of the line to see what scope there was to produce a small 60-64 gun and a larger 80-gun hull by cutting and joining large and small sections of the cut 74-gun basic model.

The pictures below show the effect of doing that with the three different size hulls created together with an overview of the three types from above capturing the difference in hull length quite well.
From top to bottom, my baby-brigs taking shape, covered in the first post and below the 80-gun, 74-gun and 64-gun hulls.

Carefully aligned cut hulls, after a bit of sanding, with liquid polly cement to help weld the joint and a quick bit of model filler when required, which I didn't find often if I cut with the modelling saw nice and straight down 

Three Spanish third rates by size, 80-gun left, 74 gun centre and the diminutive 64-gun to the right

For my project, I wanted to produce four 64-gun hulls and so by taking twelve models or four boxes of three kits, I was able to turn out four of each flavour, without any large sections of hull being thrown away.

When seen side on, a quick recognition method is to simply look at the hammock nettings on the spar deck with the 80-gun and 64-gun quite noticeably longer or shorter 

The 64-gunner closest to camera has noticeably more empty base under the bowsprit than the 74-gun (middle) and 80-gunner at the top, together with a more compact spar deck almost covered by the boat stack amidships.

My four 64 gun ships can be seen below with the three British and one Spaniard all rigged and ready to go.

They really stand out on the table as quite noticeably a smaller third rate and could easily stand in for some of the Dutch and Danish smaller ships of the line with anywhere from 56 to 70-guns.

My four 64-gunners, three British and one Spanish

'Back Found' - Carlos Parilla Penagos
A Spanish 64 shows her guns, passing a British 74 on the opposite tack

The 64-gun ship of the line was very much in decline in terms of numbers built and making up the line of battle for the major naval powers of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period.

A difference of ten long guns, potentially five in each broadside, doesn't seem a huge matter at first examination, until the other factors that differentiate the smaller ship from its larger cousin are accounted for in that the longer hull and broader beam of the 74 facilitated not only more guns but with heavier timbers in its construction, a heavier battery on each deck; and with the larger sized ship having a higher freeboard allowing those extra inches for gun ports to be above the waterline and thus more likely to be useable in a heavy swell in which the smaller ship would often be forced to keep its lower gun ports closed.

However the 64-gun still had a role to play given its cost effectiveness as a cheaper third rate ideal for posting to extended parts of an empire in need of policing, leaving the job of protecting homeland waters to the heavier 74s and thus explaining their presence in the Spanish and British line ups for the period, and less so for the French with a much smaller overseas patrolling requirement and their more mission based approach to deploying their fleets.

My Spanish 64-gunnner was modelled around a fairly generic look for my Spanish ships with more gold decoration that would probably be seen on a similar British type and with the classic Castilian gold lion figurehead and plenty of red on the bulwarks and rails to give it that Iberian look. 

A famous example of this type of third rate in Spanish service would be the San Leandro built in 1787 and launched at Cartagena.

San Leandro would see action at Trafalgar under the command of Captain Don Jose de Quevado y Cheza as the rearmost ship of Vice Admiral Villeneuve's centre division at the start of the battle.

San Leandro was the rearmost ship in Villeneuve's centre division and would turn to support the Santa Anna when the Spanish flagship came under attack by HMS Royal Sovereign.

Opening fire on the British lee column, she turned back to support the Santa Anna which came under direct attack from the Royal Sovereign as the latter cut the Allied line, firing into the bows of the British ship as she closed.

By 1.30pm she and the San Justo were in action with the Belleisle and would later join the remnants of the Combined Fleet that escaped to Cadiz with just thirty casualties, which included eight killed and twenty-two wounded, and with Captain Quevedo reporting tottering main and foremasts due to shot damage, that included all the sails shot through, her rigging cut away and seven shot on the water line together with others in the side of the hull.

On the day of battle her crew numbered 606 men including 347 naval personnel, 202 infantry and 57 marine artillery and she was armed with 26 x 24 pounder long guns on her main deck, 28 x 18-pdrs on her upper deck and 10 x 8-pdrs on her quarterdeck together with 6 x 32-pdr carronades and a howitzer on her poop and forecastle.

San Leandro would go on to see action in June 1808 against the French at the Battle of Cadiz, when the surviving French ships from Trafalgar were forced to surrender to Spanish forces.

For my British 64's I went for a more typical yellow ochre feel to the decoration style and settled on some famous types to choose suitable figurehead and stern gallery fit outs, such as Nelson's favourite ship, HMS Agamemnon seen below. 

So my model is a sober looking British man of war with a suitably Greek looking warrior as the figurehead.

Of course these models are part of a specific build requirement but now the 64-gun cutdown has been mastered my mind is turning to producing several more of this type with possibly a lateen rigged  mizzen mast arrangement to fit out some French and British types for some AWI period squadrons I have in mind - more anon!

At the Battle of Trafalgar the British fielded three 64 gun ships which along with the Agamemnon under Captain Sir Edward Berry, included HMS Africa under Captain Henry Digby and HMS Polyphemus under Captain Robert Redmill.

There were three British 64-gun ships in action at Trafalgar, Agamemnon, Polyphemus and Africa

All three 64s were typically armed with 26 x 24 pounder long guns on the lower deck, 26 x 18-pdrs on the upper deck and 10 x 9-pdrs on the quarterdeck plus 2 x 9pdrs on the forecastle.

HMS Africa had a crew of 498 men including 78 Royal Marines of which 18 were killed and 44 wounded, Agamemnon, 490 men with 70 Royal Marines with 2 killed and 8 wounded and Polyphemus 484 men and 64 Royal Marines with 2 killed and 4 wounded.

So with the 64-gun ship of the line problem rectified I'll next talk about the 80-gun variety in my next post.

Conversion work can be great fun and very gratifying to produce something that fills a gap in a planned project. Since doing these relatively simple builds I am now starting to look at some other models that form part of a second planned project following the completion of this one.

These 3D print resin models have been sat on my table for several months as I considered how best they might be used.

Conversion work underway on four fifty gun fourth rates for a future new collection of models - more anon.

They are 64 gun ships, but I found their dimensions disappointing in comparison to my plastic varieties and so have set about converting them into a fourth rate 50 plus gun ships, requiring the hull to be modified for the rigging and four sets of masts to be constructed to replace the rather clunky and unsatisfying 3D printed versions, to which I will use card sails rather than the thick resin offerings that came with these hulls.

Sources consulted for this post:
The Trafalgar Companion - Mark Adkins

Next up; I have a book review, a Vassal report looking at Steve and my game of Rommel in the Desert this time playing Gazala 1942 and the All at Sea series continues with a look at the 80-gun ship conversions.


  1. Nice to see a nice conversion JJ.

    I always think the 64's were something of an anomaly in the the Napoleonic wars. They feel like ships of an earlier age, but there were plenty of them about and they fought in the line of battle (Trafalgar being the obvious example).

    It must have sent a shiver through the spine to go toe to toe with a 74 or 80 in a 64 though. Not so much the extra guns, more the 32 or 36 pounders v 24's.


    1. Thanks Vince.

      I was really pleased with how simple it was to make these conversions and they really fill a gap, because there were still plenty of them around throughout the greater part of the classic age of sail period.

      I think the heavier guns carried by the larger third rates goes a long way to explain the discretion exercised by all the 64's at Trafalgar and their relatively low casualty rates among all of them, however it it also highlights the courage of Captains Quevedo and Digby for getting into an exchange of fire with Royal Sovereign and Santisima Trinidad, all be it supporting other vessels.


  2. You do absolutely fantastic work and although I am pre occupied by the Dutch Wars, I greatly admire your output, attention to detail and quality. A tremendous advert for the hobby in general, naval wargaming and modelling. Keep inspiring the masses!

    1. Hi Barry or should I say JocknRoll.

      May I return the compliment, or 'back at you' as my son might say, as your work at League of Augsburg is a great inspiration for me and I have regularly featured your great display games at various shows I have visited over the years.

      I love the Anglo-Dutch games you have featured, large and small scale and I have made a note to drop you a line on the blog to pick your brains on the way you prepare your pictures which are a great way to illustrate your battle reports.

      I am still putting this current collection together with the hope of getting together with friends in a post COVID world to play some seriously big games in all senses of the word and it would be good to have a plan for putting together some AAR's similar to your own.

      Thank you for your comment, it's really appreciated.


  3. Marvelous work! Due to my inferior modeling skill I was considering using Meridian 64 and 80 gun hulls with Warlord masts and sails. Do you believe that "cheat" would work as a substitute for lack of modeling skill?

    1. Hi William thank you, I'm glad you like them.

      Well I guess I would respond by saying not to write off your own modelling skills so quickly, as all skills are learned and honed over time and I sincerely believe that if I can do it anyone else with the same faculties and functioning ability can do so as well and I write these posts to rally others to have a go rather than parade my own abilities.

      I too thought about the Meridian route and the models look excellent options all be it somewhat pricey from a wargamers perspective particularly if considering building several models to build a collection.

      I guess the Warlord masts would work with them and that would marginally reduce the cost but you might find as I did with the resin 3D models that the size of the model id slightly off that of Warlords range, so the frigate masts and sails might look more appropriate than the third rate ones and you would only know that by trial and error.

      If instead you invest in a modelling saw off of Ebay and check out the bare hulls I have shown at the top of the post you can see that it is simply a case of cutting down through the made up hull of the 74 gun model at the line of the first hammock net section from the front to create a bow and then saw off the other section at the third net section from the back to create a stern. Then chuck away the two section of netting from the middle and glue your two haves together and that will give you a 64-gunner at a third of the price of a Meridian option.

      Once you have mastered that you can produce as many as you want whenever you need them.


  4. Great looking conversions JJ and I agree with you about the definite gap in ship types for Black Seas. But I am afraid that purchasing multiple squadron packs in order to convert them is a little too expensive for me. And Meridian is also a bit too high. However I have found the 3D ships that Henry Turner and Simon Mann are turning out are just the ticket. Reasonably priced and soooo detailed! Miles beyond what the first 3D hulls were like years ago.

    1. Hi Vol,
      Thank you and I think 3D is the likely way this part of the hobby, perhaps a greater part of it, is likely to go in the future with the models getting better and better at a very affordable price.

      I think the Warlord price point at £30 for three third rates in plastic, at £10 each, overpriced, which is why I buy mine from other retailers offering 15-20% discount so normally get them at about £24 a box which to my mind is a far more reasonable price point for three models and I really don't understand the Warlord Games business model charging the prices they do on their own in-house shopfront.

      I very rarely criticise on this blog and will tend to choose to say nothing if I don't have something positive to say, and I want Warlord to succeed with this range of models as I would like to go on collecting them but I hope the hobby manufacturers like Warlord and Battleground who seek to build a business model like Games Workshop don't follow the latter approach of pricing their core customers away from their key ranges.

      As far as 3D is concerned, I think they are getting better although I have had to work on the ones you see in the postscript as the bulwarks and rails are probably scaled correctly but offer no anchor points for those of us wanting to rig our models and the 3D masts and sail sets that came with these are horrible, and 'clunky' doesn't do justice to how thick the sail profile is side on. In addition I will still end up kitting these resin kits out with Warlord spare anchor sets and boats, so I feel my uptake of these models is likely to be limited for the future whilst keeping an eye on how they develop.

      All the best

    2. I agree with you about the need for rigging tie-off points on these delicate 3D hulls. I am applying techniques I've learned building Navwar 1/1200 ships to add these necessary details. Seems to be working so far. As far as the 3D masts & sails go, I haven't tried them yet. So far I have ordered only the 3D hulls, preferring to build my own masts, spars and sails. I have been using the Warlord sails copied with my printer. When I get to the smaller frigate and sloop classes I will have to do some print reductions.

      I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a prosperous coming year. I look forward to continuing inspiration from your blog. You are solely responsible for my switch to 1/700 scale after all. 😁

  5. Where did you make the cuts? I want to try this but I am not sure where to do the cuts. Did I miss that part?

    1. Hi,
      Ok, so if you use the second reference picture of the unpainted hulls, looking almost top-down, you should see the line still showing from the original cuts.

      So I would cut the first hull along the line of the first hammock netting from the bow, as seen in the bottom of the three hulls to cut the first hull. You will need a modelling saw and make sure you cut straight down and not at an angle.

      Then taking the second hull I would cut at the third hammock netting from the bow in a similar manner.

      Then take the stern halves from each cut hull and marry them with the bow section from the other half using liquid cement to gently weld the cut.

      If you cut straight down at these points you should find that the cut line avoids going through any gun port and will leave a slightly more open gap on the spar deck which is covered up by the boat stack.

      I hope that helps


    2. Thanks if you do anymore taking pictures of the ships as you cut them would be very helpful