In-Box Review
Enterprise 1799
Constructo Enterprise 1799 1/51
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by: Dariush [ DR_WHO2 ]


It is of no matter, you are interested into the US age of sails, WW II, the current US Navy, the NASA Space Program or the fictional history of Star Trek.
You will sooner or later stumble for each period over one ship with the name "Enterprise".

A coincidence? Maybe!
Fate? Maybe!
Deliberate? Who knows!

Historical Background…

The US Navy itself was founded as successor of the "Continental Navy", latter one starting 13th October 1775. With the end of the successful American Revolutionary War (1775-1781) a constitutional convention was organized in 1781. The United States Constitution was ratified 1788 and empowered the Congress to maintain and support an own Navy. The administration of the brand new US Navy was residing with the Department of War until 30th April 1789, when the Congress initiated a self governed Navy Department.

The Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791.

Upon decision of the Congress on 27th March 1794 orders were given to build and obtain six frigates. Three of them being the famous USS United States, USS Constellation and the USS Constitution, all of them being commissioned 1797.

With this crude summary said, the famous little schooner Enterprise was built 1799 as a so called Baltimore schooner carrying square topsail.
This was eventually the first Enterprise in the newly founded US Navy and at the same time the third American vessel commissioned with that name.
Of course there were, prior to this event, other vessels named Enterprise/Enterprize by other countries as well, which are of no interest for my review hence are left out.

Ship Class…

Baltimore clipper/schooner is peculiar as they were built by Swedish settlers to fit the specific shallow waters of the Delaware and Chesapeake waters. The Baltimore clipper supposedly originated at St. Michaels in Talbot County.
Analyzing these ships reveals they were build for speed in the first.
Among all, they were used in China for smuggling Opium, in Africa as slave trade transport from/to Cuba and at the same time by the American Navy to hunt down those slavery transports.

The Ship…

The pure data as commissioned 1799 reads as follows:

* Built: 1799 by Henry Spencer, Baltimore MD
* Length: 84" 7"
* Beam: 22" 6"
* Draught: 10'
* Propulsion: (1799-1811) Schooner rigged (2 masts), (1812-1823) bark rigged
* Compliment: 70
* Armament: Twelve 6 pounders
* Displacement: 135 tons

From the year 1800 on the dates are given as:

* Length along the deck: 83 ft. 6 in. (25.45 m)
* Length of the keel: 60 ft. (18.29 m)
* Beam: 22 ft. 6 in. (6.86 m)
* Draught: 11 ft. 6 in. (3.5 m)
* Propulsion: (1812-1823) bark rigged
* Compliment: 70
* Armament: Fourtewen 6 pounders
* Tonnage: 165 tons
Known as "Lucky little Enterprise".


Regarding the history of the original ship let me quote from:


Boldness, energy, and invention in practical affairs.

The third Enterprise, a schooner, was built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Md., in 1799, and placed under the command of Lieutenant John Shaw.

On 17 December 1799, Enterprise departed the Delaware Capes for the Caribbean to protect United States merchantmen from the depredations of French privateers during the Quasi-War with France. Within the following year, Enterprise captured 8 privateers and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity, achievements which assured her inclusion in the 14 ships retained in the Navy after the Quasi-War.

Enterprise next sailed to the Mediterranean, raising Gibraltar on 26 June 1801, where she was to join other U.S. warships in writing a bright and enduring page in American naval history. Enterprise's first action came on 1 August 1801 when, just west of Malta, she defeated the 14-gun Tripolitan corsair Tripoli, after a fierce but one-sided battle. Unscathed, Enterprise sent the battered pirate into port since the schooner's orders prohibited taking prizes. Her next victories came in 1803 after months of carrying dispatches, convoying merchantmen, and patrolling the Mediterranean. On 17 January, she captured Paulina, a Tunisian ship under charter to the Bashaw of Tripoli, and on 22 May, she ran a 30-ton craft ashore on the coast of Tripoli. For the next month, Enterprise and other ships of the squadron cruised inshore bombarding the coast and sending landing parties to destroy enemy small craft.

On 23 December 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising Enterprise joined with the frigate Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico. Refitted and renamed Intrepid, the ketch was given to Enterprise's commanding officer, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., for use in a daring expedition to burn frigate Philadelphia, captured by the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli. Decatur and his volunteer crew carried out their mission perfectly, destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship. Enterprise continued to patrol the Barbary Coast until July 1804 when she joined the other ships of the squadron in general attacks on the city of Tripoli over a period of several weeks.

Enterprise passed the winter in Venice, where she was practically rebuilt by May 1805. She rejoined her squadron in July, and resumed patrol and convoy duty until August of 1807. During that period she fought (15 August 1806) a brief engagement off Gibraltar with a group of Spanish gunboats who attacked her but were driven off. Enterprise returned to the United States in late 1807, and cruised coastal waters until June 1809. After a brief tour of the Mediterranean, she sailed to New York, where she was laid up for nearly a year.

Repaired at the Washington Navy Yard, Enterprise was recommissioned there in April 1811, and then sailed for operations out of Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. She returned to Washington for extensive repairs and modifications; when she sailed on 20 May 1812, she had been refitted as a brig. At sea when war was declared on Great Britain, she cruised along the east coast during the first year of hostilities. On 5 September 1813, Enterprise sighted and chased HBM Brig Boxer. The brigs opened fire on each other, and in a closely fought, fierce and gallant action which took the lives of both commanding officers, Enterprise captured Boxer and took her into nearby Portland, Maine. Here, a common funeral was held for Lieutenant William Burrows, Enterprise, and Captain Samuel Blyth, Boxer, both well known and highly respected in their services.

After repairing at Portland, Enterprise sailed in company with the brig Rattlesnake, for the Caribbean. The two ships took three prizes before bing forced to separate by a heavily armed ship on 25 February 1814. Enterprise was compelled to jettison most of her guns in order to outsail her superior antagonist. The brig reached Wilmington, N.C., on 9 March 1814, and then passed the remainder of the war as a guardship off Charleston, S.C.

Enterprise served one more short tour in the Mediterranean (July-November 1815) and then cruised the northeastern seaboard until November 1817. From that time on, she sailed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slaves; in this duty she took 13 prizes. Her long career ended on 9 July 1823, when, without injury to her crew, she stranded and broke up on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies.

[Transcribed by David R. Wells found at:]

Over all, there is this one sentence I found as a summery so very typical for the ships name:
"At the end of the 18th century the U.S. Navy had only the schooner ENTERPRISE as the only war vessel to protect the merchant fleet from the pirates in the Mediterranean Sea."

The provided information so far and forthcoming, is heavily based on the book: American Sailing Ships - Their Plans and History by Charles G. Davis (ISBN: 978-0486246581) which I highly recommend. Some extensive online research at various sites filled in additional information.

True and reliable information is hard to obtain about this vessel. I could not find any trustworthy builders plan for the original ship.
Also, there are of course no photos at avail but only some few paintings showing the Enterprise in action. You may want to look at these:

Chromolithograph by Armstrong & Company, after an 1893 watercolor by Fred S. Cozzens, published in "Our Navy -- Its Growth and Achievements", 1897.
Ships depicted are from different eras, and are identified by the artist as (from left to right):
U.S. Brig Enterprise (1799-1823), firing a salute;...

Defeat of Tripoli:

The Packaging…

The Spanish Company Constructo, which is selling wood models since 1946, is offering an all wood kit of the Enterprise in the scale of 1/51 along with all additional enhancement parts (but without tools) like brass hardware and hand sewn sails to name some of the details, in one package.

The kit comes in a very sturdy cardboard box. The front and sides of the package show an areal view of an actually built model as well as close up photos giving the model builder a true understanding what can be done with the kit. In other words, one can trust what one gets by just looking at the packaging. No surprise hidden here and nothing added to confuse a buyer.

Inside, all parts are orderly laid into a sectioned cabinet and most of the kit parts are thoroughly packaged in numbered clear plastic bags.

The size of the finished model is given as follows:
Length: 770mm
Height: 700mm
Width: 240mm

From the manufacturer description this kit is intermediate level.

Regarding the depicted time frame this is the ship in post 1800 configuration since 14 cannons are provided.

See pictures 1- 11.

The Hull…

Well, this is no plastic/styrene kit with a pre-molded hull. Neither is it a precast hull made out of wood, resin, and the like. This kit is "old school" if you want or sort of the origin of model ship building.

If you have never ever done something like this, you are well advised to look first for a wood kit with lesser parts to learn some basics about the needed technique. It will be well worth the effort.

As a suggestion, I may point to the model "Karl and Marie" by Caldercraft, which uses the same technique, comes with lesser amount of parts hence is less labor intensive and turns out to be a gem of a wood model kit at medium size. I will provide a review about this kit any soon.

Back to the Enterprise kit:

What you get to build the hull are the bare precut materials to engineer the hull the "old fashioned" way. This is what was done over centuries of sail ship building in the according ship yards all over the world.

For this, you are provided laser cut keel and ribs to start your work. The hull is supposed to be double planked.

This means roughly, that you first assemble the ribs and keel so you get the needed framework. You then use some of the kit provided strips of wood to attach a first hull layer. When done, you will use those strips made of wood with higher quality to attach the final outer hull. The double planking is going to allow erasing the possible errors of the first planking. This is a nice technique so even inexperienced model builders have a chance to achieve a superb visual result.

It is no must however to double plank the hull, as much depends on your experience as well as how the hull is going to be painted.

The Deck…

The Deck consists of several parts. The biggest one being the deck base which is provided as one big laser cut piece with the correct shape and size.
Later in the construction process the modeler will have to plank the deck with the provided thin strips of wood to bear resemblance compared to the original deck.

The Sails…

The manufacturer includes sails made out of cloth. Color wise they are slightly off white and show the according sew lines. The edges are doubled providing a clean and crisp edge.

See pictures 13 and 14

The Flag…

Also the US flag is provided for the corresponding time frame of the Enterprise.
It comes in form of a sticker with a rough surface. The model builder is asked to fold and glue the halves to receive a full flag. The print quality is fine and the 15 stars on the flag correct for that time period (1795-1818).
However, the result might not be what one is looking for. Making the flag out of cloth will sure give a much more realistic result.

See picture 15

The Rig…

Rigging a sailing ship is not easy for itself and one of the major reasons many model builders restrain themselves to even start a sailing ship.

Constructo helps the model builder by providing 4 different rolls of thread in different thickness and color to accomplish the task.
As we will see later on, the big builder’s plans for the model will leave the modeler in the dark if it comes to rigging the sails.

Please let me point out, that rig is not rig if not differentiated. At least one should be aware that there is standing rig and running rig, the latter one dealing with the handling of sails.

Since I found no rigging plan for the Enterprise one is well advised to have a look at similar ships of that time frame.

As a starter, let me quote "John" (Waister) from ship forum where he answered an according question as follows:

I follow three basic guidelines when rigging a ship. Always err on the smaller size. Proportion is everything. Lines get smaller as you move upward.

To do this on the cheap, may I suggest you visit the Model Expo web site at:

Access the pages advertising the Model Shipways' "Fair American" and "Dapper Tom". These are two ships about the same relative size and era of the Enterprise. On those two pages there are links allowing you to download the instruction manuals in .pdf format. Rigging guides with dimensions are in the back of the manuals. The instructions on how to go about rigging the vessels are general in nature and very good. Keep in mind that the Dapper Tom is 3/16" scale or 1:64, and Fair American is 1/4" scale or 1:48, so take that into consideration. Work out about 3 - 4 thread sizes for standing and 4 - 5 sizes for running rigging, and then label your rigging plans with what sizes and color of thread each line should be. When doing so, keep in mind my three guidelines. The smallest size I use when building models in this scale is .005 or .008 inch, and work upward in size from there. Don't forget to dye any white thread; liquid shoe polish works well. Those manuals (and others on the web site) are great references for building scale ship models, and I appreciate it very much for Model Expo to make them available on line.

This will require you to do some calculating work with lots of approximations and guesses, but it will pay off when you see what the ship looks like finished! This "technique" to work out line sizes on a ship model has worked out for me. It would make a purist or a pro shudder, but it avoids building an out-of-proportion model.

Regarding this statement, Constructo is half way there and sadly missing the rest.

Fitting out…

Explaining the many parts provided in all detail would just blow the concept of this in box review.
For this, I provide pictures of every part that comes within the kit for the audience to get a first hand impression.
Therefore I will cut my writing down to some major parts of interest.

The 14lb cannons are provided as a mixture of wood and brass sub assemblies. The barrels are provided out of brass with hollowed out muzzles and show a nice but not very detailed representation of the original parts.

Obviously the mechanism to fire such a canon is missing totally.

The wooden stand/trolley -that keeps the barrels (please be forgiving about the correct naming convention as I am unsure what it is called in naval terms)- comes with 4 wood parts per cannon providing the structure and for each side 2 wheels bonded to a corresponding support frame in white metal. The wheels naturally do not turn as it is only a resemblance of what it should be.

See picture 32.


Whenever you have to do rigging for a sailing ship you will be confronted with so called blocks in different sizes and shapes. Constructo provides blocks in various sizes. However, all come in an odd square shape.
One is well advised to replace those blocks with AM parts which are e.g. readily available at in the Ships Fitting - Historical Ships section. You will sure not regret this small and budget priced enhancement over the kit parts.

See pictures 29-31

Side Gallery
The side gallery at the sterns sides comes as a precast white metal part.
The kit part eases the construction considerably.

If you like, and that is what I will do whenever I start the kit, replace those with a scratch built wood construction. This will give the option to include real windows instead of painted on windows. The later one never looks convincing to me. One can use the white metal parts as a pattern.

See picture 23.

The Plans…

Constructo provides - and this is a really nice as well as smart move- three big and folded builder plans for the kit. The print is top notch and can be clearly read. Corresponding kit parts are included by according numbers within.

The second plan deals with the rigging of the ship.
From all information you can get you are limited to the rigging diagram without sails.
As already pointed out, this is the oddest move I observed with this kit. What is the use providing the sails if there is no true information on how to correctly rig them?

Other than that, these builder plans will turn out indispensable.

The Instructions…

Now this is one kind of an instruction booklet Constructo provides.
It is a thick booklet with quality high gloss printing coming in various languages including English and German.

The booklet starts with general instructions regarding wood model building e.g. how to bend planks and many more informative stuff.

Beside that, every step needed to accomplish the kit is described in words as well as with corresponding photographs of the unfinished model itself.
The layout and the many steps are pure pleasure to look through. I included not all but some pictures showing what I am talking about.

Plastic model builders generally can only dream of such a nice and comprehendible instruction booklet to accompany their kits.


Constructo did not indicate a painting scheme for this vessel. Well, this is not uncommon in wood model kits. If you really want to have her in the war livery, I guess you will have to paint the hull below CWL white. Above that with 2 black and one off white stripes to achieve the correct colors.

Please have a look at the mentioned paintings to get an impression.
Other vessels of that time period or even paintings about them may give further valuable hints.


This is an important vessel if we talk American Sailing Ships.
Sure, the bigger ones like the USS Constitution received more attention but looking at the history of this ship reminds us, that history was not written by those big guns alone.

The first Enterprise in the US Navy was a heroic ship of her time and Constructo provides a fairly well made model. There is still room to improve the kit as you can easily tell by my own enhancement hints.

Never the less, a lot will depend upon your aim.

If you seek a nice representation of the ship, just stick to a build OOB and you will sure be rewarded with a stunning result.
If you are like me and always find something less satisfactory than is provided, there is enough room to detail the ship here and there to receive an accurate replica of the original ship. That is, as close as you can get without original plans and photographs.

Picking up a phrase out of the introduction the Enterprise CV-6 was for a period of time the only carrier in the Pacific to fight against the Japanese invasion forces.
Seems CV-6 was following its ancestor since this Enterprise was the only sailing ship to protect the merchant fleet from the pirates in the Mediterranean Sea.
Highs: Material as with the original ship. OOB everything included. Over all superb instructions.
Lows: The cannons are well done but missing some details. The rigging diagram is incomplete. The Flag.
Verdict: Quality wise a very well done kit with significant and extensive material provided. If we talk Enterprise, this is a highly recommended kit and should be built.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 80837
  PUBLISHED: Sep 17, 2010

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About Dariush (Dr_Who2)

... being father of two lovely children brought me back what was a hobby of mine in my own childhood. I guess everyone with at least one child in the household can figure what I am talking about. Despite what I have built in my younger years (most of them blew up or sank in a pond) I learned to lov...

Copyright ©2021 text by Dariush [ DR_WHO2 ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.


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