Bonhomme Richard

Bonhomme Richard 


Soon, I plan to build a 1:48 scale waterline diorama of the Bonhomme Richard, the ship that made John Paul Jones famous.  When finished, the model will measure about 5 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, and 4 feet high.  Each week, I will chart my progress on this web site, from reading the very intricate and beautiful plans (created by Jean Boudriot) to the opening of its first showing.

My goal is to display my Bonhomme Richard in a large public space, like a corporate lobby, museum, government building, or library. The Bonhomme Richard will be a scratch-built, plank-on-frame model.  As I am building the Bonhomme Richard, I will work on other models and demonstrate the building of  solid hull and bulwark-on-frame models.

As you read the posts, remember that the last entry is listed first.  To read the posts in chronological order, you must scroll to the end and work your way backwards.


January 19, 2014

In September, I delayed working on the Bonhomme Richard to build a model of Sultana for a friend. Now, I am scheduled to do a lecture (Ships of Long Island’s War of Independence) and a model-building practicum at the Quogue Library in March. This will involve building a model of the Lake Champlain gunboat, Philadelphia, in about two months. With another commission pending, work on ‘the great American ship model’ must again be delayed.


September 15, 2013

Somebody who is very special to me has told me that he wants to give his daughter and son-in-law a ship model for their new house.  The Bonhomme Richard will just have to wait.  Still, go ahead and read my September 3 post, it explains why and how I am building the Bonhomme Richard.


September 3, 2013

How do you build a ship model?  Research, research, research!


Surprisingly, in spite of the fact that it is one of the most celebrated ships in American history, no one knows what the Bonhomme Richard really looked like.  For this reason alone, Howard Chapelle lists it as one of the ships that model-makers should never build.

I don’t agree. To capture a sense of what it must have been like to watch John Paul Jones’ ship sail into battle, I’m willing to go with a well researched and “plausible” design. Twenty-five years ago, Jean Boudriot came up with just such a highly researched and plausible reconstruction of how Bonhomme Richard might have appeared, with beautiful 1:48 scale plans to match.


William Gilkerson, whom I always admired for his scrimshaw, worked with Boudriot to create excitingly vivid pictures of the Bonhomme Richard and the Battle of Flamborough Head.


And then we have those wonderful descriptions of the battle itself, the first and best written by John Paul Jones himself, followed by many retellings, most recently by Evan Thomas. Given my love of American naval history and the Revolutionary War, how could I not want to build this model?

And so I began planning what I know will be a very long commitment. Following the plans, it would have to be a scratch-built plank-on-frame model.  But would I build it admiralty style?  The frames would be there, why not show them off?  But all the decks, down to the hold, would also be there, so why not expose them, too?

Then, I read John Camarata’s Waterline Dioramas, and I realized that I want to build a waterline model of the Bonhomme Richard as she may have looked on the night of September 23, 1779, riding on an eerily calm sea, just moments before she engaged the H.M.S. Serapis …