Free Lancer 2 ...a new development on my model boat front !

Having built and sailed Free Lancer all as described on another page, thoughts turned to the next project !

Model boat building promotes various skills such as woodworking and miniature engineering having the added advantage that construction can be broken down into a series of ' Bite size ' pieces. Work can be fitted into spare hours and half-hours. Planning the project and the building process can be carried out anywhere so a boat it had to be.

Having had some success with the workboat ' Free Lancer ' I decided to build a larger version which would provide more space for accessories such as a sound module and a water pump.

This is Freelancer 2 as I designed it. In tests the on the water when completed ,whilst it looked well and performed well, there was a problem with excessive heel on turns. To see how this problem was resolved go to the last few images on this page.

Here is the start of Free Lancer 2, Early set up of the basic frame members

I have cut the bulwark, keel and chine stringers from 1/4" ply (specially purchased this time, not from a skip ) inserted small blocks locally to generate the basic hull form, adding further blocks where the 1/16th ply skin is to be joined. There are no bulkheads to obstruct the inboard space, allowing freedom of layout for radio gear and so on.

The framing at a more advanced stage, plenty of clamps make up for the lack of the desirable second pair of hands !

This illustration was taken just prior to fairing all off using a power planer. The planer running on the bulwarks, keel and chines generates the correct angles for the sheeting providing total contact for glueing purposes.

The foredeck rears its head ! most of the blocks are sawn from odd pieces of timber laying around the workshop

The hull form is different to Free Lancer.............the boat is ' Bigger in the bilges ' one might say. This to improve stability. .................In the case of Free Lancer a considerable amount of lead ( From a skip ) was required along the line of the keel to reduce the heel on tight turns although on test it would recover from 20 degrees or so of heel. This boat will need less ballast and be more stable.

With the frames faired off and the first deck beams installed a start is made on fitting the skin. A damp cloth applied to the ply for the curve at the stern quarters ensured that it could be ' persuaded ' into place.

The skin throughout is of 1/16" ply. PVA adhesive and brass pins are used ( the PVA, bought by the gallon...cheaper that way ! ) has proved waterproof after 24 hours immersion test. It is to be hoped that Free Lancer 2 never suffers immersion for that length of time ! Just a small amount of curvature ensures that the ply doesn't deflect between supports. The 1/4" overlap is for careful trimming.

In the interim, as a break from the joinery, the rudder tubes and posts have been turned up from P/Bronze and S/Steel. At their location in the stern and at the position of the prop shaft break through, blocks have been added to distribute the loads back into the main frame.

The rudder tubes are turned from Hex. P/bronze, bored 7/32" for S/steel posts. Expensive materials but offcuts left from the earlier 'Allchin' traction engine build.
Rudder tubes set temporarily into place,They will be 'Araldited ' into stern block. For the moment they are there to check the propshaft position and inclination.
The propshaft template used to ensure correct inclination, now determines the length of projection to coincide with the centre line of the rudder post and steering nozzle.

Back to boatbuilding, all the pins so far used to fix sheeting have been punched below the ply surface to facilitate later filling. At this stage, with the hull form established it is a simple matter to drill for the propeller shafts, the template perched on the stern sheathing in the above picture is used to get the angle and horizontal location of the shaft correctly placed to fit with the nozzle and rudder post..

Next the sides will be sheeted to level of the main deck and foredeck, allowing sufficient bearing for the bulwarks which are inclined inboard at bow and stern.

The lands for attaching the bulwarks have been cleared and angled to provide the correct 'Tumblehome '

With the sides sheathed and the boat wrapped in polythene, a dip in the pond gives an idea of the probable ballast reqirement in terms of weight and location.

Hidden in the polythene sheet in the picture is a Stanley smoothing plane. Added ballast combined with the weight of the batteries and the upper works will bring the hull to the intended waterline.

First ' Dip ' in the water. it is useful at this stage to actually float the hull and think about ballast, weight of the upper works etc.


As this project is scratchbuilt and freelance there is a lot of pleasure to be gained from searching the web for interesting detail to be included in the upper decks and bridge. The number of sites dedicated to tugs, service vessals and the like is amazing. Towage companies and shipowners sites have endless information, Too much information in fact and the head reels at the scope, facts and illustrations. Martin Davis's site to be found at a great place for helpful links to useful pages.

Before the remainder of the bulwarks can be added the decks must be laid. In order that the decks can be laid, the first level of the superstructure has to be installed so that the decks can butt against them. The first level, the upper part of the engine room is to be fixed and the chartroom and bridge deck will be removable, complete with the exhaust casings to provide adequate access to the motors, speed controller, fuses and whatever other electrics I decide to install.

The engine room sides and fore and aft bulkheads are positioned and glued, To withstand the rigours of handling, the joints will be reinforced with glue blocks later,

The shape and form of the superstructure are taking shape in my head and have to be reproduced in ply, etc. 3/32" ply will be used from here on up to reduce weight and keep the centre of gravity low.

Now for the first of the ' Difficult bits ', more difficult that is than persuading the ply sheathing around the bow of the boat, and the stern quarters ! The upper stringer and the edge of the rear deck panel were planed to the correct inclination for the tumblehome, including a transition to vertical at the sides to meet the eventual main run of bulwark.

After the raw ply had been offered up, clamped into place and the line of the hull side sheathing marked, the bottom edge of the bulwark was trimmed to line. A trial fit allowed holes to be drilled for the first few pins.

The outer veneer of the ply was dampened and the ply progressively pinned into place.
With the port side fixed the ply was cut on the centreline, ready to match that for the starboard. The joint between hull sheathing and bulwark will eventually be masked by a rubbing strip.The temporary 'Leg' on the stern is to prevent the prop shafts from

Time to ' Fall-out and wipe swords ' as the Army saying goes. It took a quite considerable physical effort to bend, hold and pin the ply into the correct location!

With the deck laying process complete the bulwarks can be finished and cut to sixe, the tricky bit is getting the level consistent throughout. Fortunately the 3/32" ply becomes immensely strong when curved to any degree and can be sawn with a tenon saw without damage.

The bulwarks trimmed to the correct height are ready for the supports to be installed, This takes time as very few are similar, specially at the bow and stern

Now the amount of space in the hold can be assesed. There seems to be plenty of room here for the motor, radio, speed controls etc. Hopefully there will be other equipment too, It is intended to add sound and lights to this version of ' Free lancer '

It is apparent that we missed a bit of primer from the main hull members. But the hull sure is roomy.

There is a lot of work now in finishing the bulwarks, supports and capping to be installed so for a change of focus it makes sense to think about the superstructure.

When dreaming up scratchbuilt, freelance models it is helpful, as well as producing sketches of the ideas, to translate them into the solid by way of a simple model. Here Kellogs corn flake packets come to the fore !

With scissors and sellotape it is easy to produce an outline of the proposed ' Work of art' Card and scissors or craft knife have saved me acres of expensive marine ply, although I seem to have been making more visits to the modelshop of late !

This is a preliminary mock up of what the superstructure may look like. Contingencies do however change plans radically but it will look someting like this.

A large part of the fun in frelancing is that favourite details from a variety of boats seen on the water and nowadays on the web can be included, and as long as the scale is appropriate one can shrug-off the ' Rivet and plate counters ' much as their work is to be admired.


The superstructure is taking shape, This is the first deck above the engine room and is removable for access to ' The works '

Using PVA adhesive on simple surfaces the early adhesion is such that clamps and clips, (the latter on a card from the ' Cheapo ' shop, 1 ) are sufficient to ensure a sound joint Critical joints will be further reinforced by, what joiners call 'rubbing-iin ' small glue blocks of scrap material. Next step........................the bridge deck/wheelhouse, and exhaust casings.

The superstructure is taking shape. I have drawn on details from many boats on the web and am adding ideas as they come to mind. The chartroom and the wheelhouse ( the latter being the next part of the build ) will be removable for access to the ' guts 'of the thing. I have had a lot of advice on Model Boats Forum regarding the size of motors to much that it will be difficult to make up my mind when the time comes!

As a ' Bye the way ', having been to the water today I was able to take a picture of my carrier/launcher, made from pipe and plumbing fittings,there are accessories to enable me to cart and launch any of my 5, soon to be six, boats.

Carrier/launcher and attachment for use with Free Lancer. Ply and studding makes a simple stand.

I'm putting of the menial tasks of cutting the openings for portholes, anchors and freeing ports as well as capping the bulwarks to concentrate on the more interesting work on the wheelhouse ! Cutting all the openings in 3/32 ply is hard work. Very different to trimming the plastic moulding that comes out of the boxed kit.

The exhaust casings have been trimed to height, The shape leaves something to be desired....will think about it. Access stairs have to be installed and there are still the bulwark cappings and freeing ports to be dealt with.

The stays to the propshafts have been added and the paintbrush has been out.

With the main parts of the hull completed, bulwarks ( ply )and supports ( from plastic sheet )installed, hull and decks primed and openings for hawse holes cut, attention turns to the superstructure.

The boat being larger, though still at 1/24th scale, an additional deck (chartroom) has been incorporated.

The upperworks take shape, The two decks above the grey primer are removable

The porthole openings and hawse holes were scribed and cut using an 11/32" carpenters drill bit, the thin ply being backed up during this operation by a block of wood to avoid spalling and to assist the screw portion of the bit to draw the tool through the ply. All ply edges to decks are lipped to cover end grain, supports will be added in due course

The stern view at this stage, priming and access stairs are next

Time to see how she floats at this stage !

With the stern tubes plugged and without ballast we hied to the pond, took a deep breath and in she went.The fish took a dim view but I was fairly pleased with the launch......... no champagne ......just a cup of tea. Of course without ballast she floats bow high, this can be simply adjusted.

I stuck to the colour scheme started with ' Free Lancer 1 ' as all the paints are to hand, and anyway it seems appropriate to have a corporate colour scheme. As can be seen, the hull is now finished painted, the underside had three coats of ' Bondaprimer ' and one of varnish (' Bondaprimer ' is great stuff, resin based, dries nice and matt and quite a good colour for the hull )

The upper hull was enamelled ' Japlacced ', I have had the can for 20 years at a conservative guess, it will be treated to a coat of matt varnish in due course. The bulwarks are blue, garage door colour !....that's what the paint was for initially.

The decks were shellacc-ed and sprayed with Halfords best car paint, the engine room wheelhouse etc. have had a coat or two of Dulux, left from the last decorating expense spared !

It floats ! That's a good start, batteries and some lead flashing will bring it down to the Designed waterline.

Hawse holes are to be trimmed and the stern deck hatch has to be fitted. Then comes the interesting part, constructing crane, davit, winches and all the assorted deck fittings.

The length is 850 mm, beam 275 mm and the draught 75 mm I am still open to suggestions regarding suitable motors ( See my question ' Suitable motors for.......' on the Model Boats Magazine, Scratchbuilding forum.)


A simple stand has been constructed from 5/16"studding, 8 nuts and washers and two offcuts of 1/2" ply of the resin bonded variety. RB ply is used because at launching the stand is used as part of the carier/launcher.
The nozzles and rudder plates have been cut and bent from 40 thou brass sheet, riveted and soldered then attached to the rudder posts.

Visitors to this page have found it difficult to visualise the difference in size between this boat and Free Lancer.............................So here they are , side by side both to 1/24th scale

Now it is September, we have had a few trips to the water and a great visit to the Black Park Model Boat Club Regatta, lovely weather, great models and lots of enthusiasts.....Well done all those involved !

I have spent some time on the rails and life rafts. The rails are of 3/32" and 1/16 brass wire and the stanchions are from 1mm brass sheet ( mixture of measure ! ) life rafts are from plastic electric conduit and 2mm plastic card, the stiffenrs are slices of the same conduit spread to fit.

The camera lies!

It foreshortens this view of the wheelhouse, but shows the rails and life rafts

This view gives a better idea of the appearance of the boat. I made the flights and the handrails from the stern decK 3 times before I was satisfied with them !
The large large winch will be sited between these two flights. The vents will have fans ex-scrap computers installed. As can be seen, the paint job needs touching up here and there....all in good time !

The steps to the stern deck are attached to the deck as the 2 upper decks of the superstructure are removable for access to ' The works '

The joy with free lance models is that details from many boats can be incorporated and the whole thing can be as the builder wishes, as long as it is we can add bits on just as we wish !

That is the current stage of much yet to be done and I haven't yet decided whether to go to 6 V or 12 V and what motors to use. 6 Volt with 2 jel batteries in parallel seems to be favourite as the cost of controllers is reasonable and it will provide a degree of interchangability with the gear in my other boats.

Work has been started on the deck gear, mainly from plastic sheet with accessories difficult to produce in this medium turned from brass on the trusty Myford. The anchor winch on the photographs of full size tug, from which I have taken the detail from the web, is electric powered.

The chain is not quite correct but serves to present the picture. Now that there is an anchor winch it will be necessary to butcher the bows of the hull for anchor stowage.

On the web example the main and auxilliary winches are hydraulically controlled, here they are shewn in the raw, awaiting hoses and access plates. The model shop must wonder where their stocks of 2mm plastic sheet have gone ! It is quite remarkable how such minor items like this ' Eat up ' the material. We have at times got quite dizzy from the fumes of liquid poly !

The winches when complete with brackets for fixing to the deck will be sprayed with Halfords auto paints, firstly black then a misting of white sprayed from a distance to achieve the appearance of used steel.

It is intended to install a crane, and what would probably be a luxury on a craft of this size, a davit. Perhaps over the top but a challenge to make, just as the winches have been.

we have cut into our precious hull and inserted anchor wells and anchors. OK, so the wells are on the waterline but as we say there is a prototype for everything and ours is on the ' Antwerp Harbour Tugboat site 'accessed via a link from Martin Davis' site where details of the type 20 Harbour Tug show a similar arrangement.

Sure, the wells are right on the waterline se we have taken great care to ensure that they are watertight...............time will tell !

With the wells completed attention turns once more to the main winches, adding hydraulic piping and arranging their fixings to the removable hatch. The prototypes for the winches were also viewed on the Antwerp site...a haven for modellers seeking details from a landlocked situation !

The winches have taken a long time in production, delayed by three spells in hospital where the planning for future model activities was one of the few things preserving my sanity !

It's great to be back in the workshop and busy with the most important things in life again !

The sterndeck is begining to look something like ! My model boats being ' Standoff models ', the further you standoff the better they look ! Anyway I have aded the main cable guide and have sprayed up the winchesso the atmosphere is there

Plenty of atmosphere on the sterndeck now, Still to add a crane, lots of cables and odd bits of gear...I have been studying details on the various tugs on the web and find it difficult with the wide range of equipment illustrated to establish a correct rig. Hope to present a sensible picture if not absolutely ' Correct '

A kind co- viewer of Martin's site advised me regarding the warps and hawsers for the stern winches which are now a combination of nylon and brass picture frame wire. I dyed the nylon with water colour and touched in the brass with acrylic paint to provide the weathered look exhibited by those on the Antwerp Harbour tug site.

A little colour makes a lot of difference, I am still looking for crew members to confirm the scale of the picture, ideally 1/25th or 1/24th scale................... any advice would be welcomed.

There is still space for a crane, or, such is the nature of freelance construction, as this has developed into an offshore vessel, I might add a davit and a rescue boat. .

We have a mast. In keeping with the established hallmarks of the 'Freelance Towage Company ' the design is similar to that on ' Free Lancer ' but beefed-up. 2mm plastic sheet is used and the geometry established for Freelancer is incorporated. Rungs and safety hoops are from 1/16" brass wire.

Doubts about stability are entering my mind as 'Top hamper ' increaes....a trip to the bath is indicated. There will not be much room for adjustment now that the anchor wells have been inserted imediately above the waterline however!

The mast steps onto a tapered plug bolted to the top deck.....and thus is easily removable for transport in the boot of the car

Installation of the two motors has presented some problems. I bought 2 plastic mounts with the Graupner 600 motors and found it difficult to set them to the correct alignment with the propshafts. a couple of hours with some brass sheet and I had some infinately adjustable ( with application of force ) mounts. Alignment now became a matter of providing bases of the right height on which to sit the mounts. I read all about different mounting solutions involving sealants and even plaster but still prefer substantial metal mounts.

I built-in a problem for myself...access to the outer fixing screws on each mount ! Overcome by setting a drill, and a cross head bitt into the end of a piece of 1/4" diameter rod which could just be ' persuaded ' past the moter shell after alignnment.

The mounts have oversize holes for the fixing screws, when all is correct a spot of hot glue will secure the baseplates.

I contacted Paul Kenningly of Mtronriks via their web site and he advised me that with my two Graupner 600's it would be best to use one of their 40A ESC's..... I will have to save my pocket money for a few weeks and then I will follow his advice. Meanwhile I have to buy 2 of Halfords best auto fuse holders, the RX, main switch etc. and install them. jobs not too demanding even in the absence of training as an electrician.

Sufficient electrics are now installed to run the boat. More will be installed later including a cooling fan for the engine room. There is plenty of room for additions although electrical connections to the removable superstructure from the hull have to be sorted out. I have in mind blade contacts similar to those on automobile fuses ( male and female bayonets )

The engine room is starting to look crowded, power leads on the starboard side, radio and servo leads on the port side, radio stuff is at the stern,

The battery(s) are well below waterline to assist with stability, the ply superstructure presents a small problem here, being quite weighty compared with the styrene topsides featured in many kits.

The ESC and fuses are mounted well up in the engine room to facilitate access, the power cable to each motor has a seperate fuse, hopefully in the event that one motor is fouled up with debris the other will bring the boat back to shore !

Initial set up of the ESC was simple enough though I thought the instructions for setting up the delays could have been clearer. Fortunately I have a son who is of the generation tha expects electronics to work, whereas I have to admit to belonging to the generation that expects them NOT to work, and he sorted me out ! After some instruction I have to admit that the instructions are correct though the illustrations are a little abstruse.

The radio department offers plenty of space for additional gear such as sound generator and a multi switch.

OK, I can see the paintwork that needs touching up!

The antenae took some time to fix. Can't some enterprising person devise and market a base that can be connected to the radio lead PRIOR to insertion of the base into the deck. I worked using a mirror, how on earth do dentists work in a person's mouth when every movement is contrary to what is normally to be expected !

Final ballasting will follow plus accomodation for large or small batteries also a cooling fan The batteries are located by interchangeable jigs, one for small and the other for large batteries. These are sited by pins passing into the hull substructure.

The build is nearly complete. The last few weeks of spare time have been spent in building a knuckle crane for the stern ( I enjoy building using plastic card and poly cement as well as Cyano and accelerator...the latter out of doors for health reasons ! where critical joints are concerned )

The crane is based upon those seen on the web, with variations.....OK this is freelancing and scratchbuilding combined.

A search for figuresindicated that those available commercially might ' break the bank ' so a visit to the local toy shop provided some plastic ' Knights in Armour ' which scaled OK. These had their vital protection removed with a scalpel and now, repainted, man the decks.

The stern deck looks crowded but at least it seems that something is going on !

The boat has been tested in the bath and on the garden pond and revealed a satisfactory amount of power. All that remains is to produce a carrier/launcher for the beast then it will be off to the sailing waters.

I will post on this page one more time when I have sailed the boat for real and can report on the performance. Best wishes for all who go down to the pond with models.

September 2006

Free Lancer 2 ' ' redesigned '

Trials on the local water indicated that whilst Free Lancer 2 motored and responded to the helm well , on a tight turn the heel was more than we liked.

Freelancer 2 has a good turn of speed, excellent manouverability, good wave form but excessive heel on turns, probably due to the wooden superstructure raising the C of G. Most boats heel to a degree and whilst Free Lancer recovered OK., the heel was unrealistic. I decided that action must be taken !

The solution, very drastic was a ' Redesign ' involving taking a a panel saw to the model just below the bridge dack !..........resulting in lowering of the C. of G and losing more than a pound of ' Top hamper '. .At this stage a friend told me that he knew I took great care over building my models and was amazed that I could take a panel saw and ruthlessly ' Decapitate ' one when it was completed ! However having designed the thing I was at liberty to redesign it !

The boat as originally designed
The boat after radical surgery, with a panel plane !

Railings, liferafts and ' etceteras 'were recovered This after using the computer to visualise the outcome of the surgery.

Then I sawed through then removed the superstructure just above the engine room level, that being a permanently attached to the hull.

A few days and many hours later the remaining upper works were tailored to fit the fixed part of the superstructure and the whole thing looks as if it was designed that way.........................a lesson learned and goodbye excessive heel !

Here is the stern view of the revised boatwith the wheelhouse lowered.....after all bits are sometimes added to why shouldn't bits be removed ?

After modification, less heel on the turn.......the boat is far more stable altogether.

The ' designer ' is pleased at last !

That really is the end of the ' Journey '..........Many thanks Martin at for the ongoing support, and congratulations on your forums................a feast for model boat enthusiasts

Thanks for viewing the build.

Revised 11th March 2011

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