U.S.S. ConstitutionJust Published
Reverse-Engineering Has Many Faces
by Olof A. Eriksen
Time and time again they say: “If you can do that, then you can do anything!” “They” are the hundreds of visitors and customers who have graced our company. “That” is a ½”=1 ft. historical scale model of the United States Frigate Constitution (aka “Old Ironsides”) – seven years in the making and 13,000 plus hours after I laid the keel. To better understand the picture shown on this website, the following excerpts are taken from a book I hope to publish someday on this ship and how she was rigged historically.
Growing up in the Fjords of Norway, my father being a fisherman, I have always been fascinated by the seven seas and the ships that sailed them, especially the ships from the past. As an amateur modeler, then and now, I believe I’ve built more ship models than most.
In December 1986 I completed my first model of the U.S.S. Constitution from the 1963 plans executed by George Campbell. Spring 1989 I completed the H.M.S. Victory. Both are ¼” = 1 ft. scale, made and rigged using steel only.
In 1989 I obtained some additional modelers’ plans of the Constitution and discovered many points of disagreement between them and the Campbell plans, particularly in the matter of the rigging. At that juncture, suffering from what I call “detailitis,” I decided to research the ship’s form thoroughly for myself and build a second model of her.
The early days of this project I might characterize as the “bull in the china shop” phase, when I allowed my enthusiasm to lead me in multiple directions, attempting to acquire any information I thought might be available without the basic understanding of the subject. During winter 1989 I was introduced to Commander Tyrone G. Martin, USN (Retired), a former captain of this ship whose research on her goes back more than twenty-five years. His book, “A Most Fortunate Ship,” is a marvel of information on Old Ironsides.
Commander Martin agreed to be my historical guide, making available the results of his extensive and ongoing effort, helping me to establish my own frame of reference for evaluating historical materials. He has been my pilot, allowing me to use his knowledge to guide my efforts through the rock and shoals of the mythology that has grown up around the fabled frigate.
Today, I stand before her, and although this section of our website discusses the art of reverse-engineering, allow me a brief moment to explain the model as a whole. While fighting the British H.M.S. Guerriere on August 19, 1812, cannon balls were seen bouncing off her side and a sailor seeing this hollered, “Huzza, her sides must be made from iron!” At that moment she earned her famous nickname, “Old Ironsides.” It is in honor of this name that I again chose to build her totally from iron but with rigging made from “hemp” and sails from “flax” canvas.
Every “bolt and nut” is in her from the gun deck upward, including four (4) miniature TV cameras and twenty-eight (28) “oil lamps” flickering in the breeze, thanks to fiber optics – 500 feet of fiber strand and electrical wiring, all hidden within the works and impossible to detect.
Because of the myths and hearsay surrounding this frigate, 4,800 hours was devoted to researching how she was rigged during this era. Today I can proclaim with confidence: “The picture shows Old Ironsides as she appeared at 1:00 PM, February 20, 1815.”
The finished model weighs about 1,300 pounds and requires a display case approximately 15 feet long, 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
I trust this addition to our website will have given you a better understanding of our capabilities and that: Reverse-Engineering Does Have Many Faces!
- Olof A. Eriksen, President
This model is prominently on display at the Liberty Science Center.