A huge thanks to Rabbit for sending us in this very cool story.
A MASTER RECREATES A MASTERPIECE.
Imagine building a boat so beautiful that it inspires a man across the Atlantic, in the South of France, to spend an entire year meticulously building a perfect model of it? For Kevin Fitzke, who built the stunning gentleman’s racer “Bugbite”, that’s exactly what happened when he received an email from French model maker extraordinaire Stéphane Dumont. Imagine Kevin’s reaction when he received these photos. As Matt, would say: “Dang!”
Yes, I must admit, I’m a bit of a Kevin Fitzke groupie, but this is boat art at another level: A master craftsman duplicating the work of another master craftsman at 1/6 scale. I reached out to Stéphane with the questions below, and with the help of Google Translate, here are his answers. Stéphane, take it away.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING MODELS AND WHAT KINDS?
I have been doing modeling for 30 years. Currently, I am in a club in the South of France, the
“Villeveyracois Modeling Club”
In the past, I made a few planes and cars but I prefer to build boats. I have built more than a dozen, tugs, fishing boats… but I particularly like American wooden boats of the “hydroplane” type.
A few years ago, I built a 70 cm Flyer according to the plans of Bruce N. Crandall and I enjoyed it a lot. When building boats for competitions, you have to push realism to the extreme to be the most faithful to the original. You need to know different construction techniques and know how to work with many materials.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE BUGBITE?
The hull of the last boat I made before the Bugbite was made of fiberglass covered with aluminum plates and 6,000 rivets. We use fiberglass so that the hull does not change with years, travel, navigation or the sun and that the boat retains its original shape. With wooden shells, it is more complicated because the wood is “living” and more fragile.
After the construction of this tug, the Saturn, which lasted 3 years, I wanted to make a new hull made entirely of wood and remake a boat in the style of the Flyer I made 20 years ago. I searched on google for several months and one day I came across a photo of Kevin’s Bugbite by chance.
I literally fell in admiration for this boat and Kevin’s artistic work. I started doing more research on the boat. I accumulated all the photos available on the web to reproduce as much detail as possible and I ended up finding
the map on Classic Boat Plans
I bought the plan and started building so that the model was ready for the 2022 French Championship.
When you embark on a project like this, it’s for several hundred hours and that’s why it’s important to love the original enormously. This is the case with the BugBite.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE AND WHAT WAS THE PROCESS?
It took me just a year to make it.
It measures 85 cm on a scale of 1/6. The hull is plywood, built according to the plans. The hull looks like aircraft fuselage typical of 1930s hydroplanes.
The deck of the boat is in 1 mm thick mahogany veneer. The joints between the veneer slats are made of walnut to have a darker color. The screws are actually small nails of 0.9 mm in diameter that I cut off the head.
The bridge has been varnished 5 times with a slight sanding between each layer.
Most of the hardware elements were modeled in 3D and printed with a “resin” printer and painted with Chrome-based paint. It was the hardware that caused the most problem because Chrome is very complicated to reproduce in modeling. The windshield is cut and formed in aluminum plate. The motor access hatch is made of brass plate cut by a chemical engraving process to obtain the right location of all the rivets.
For the boat to sail, you need an electric motor, a battery and electronics for the remote control. I really wanted this boat to be the most realistic and faithful to the original, so I hid all these elements under the bench. The engine is hidden inside a replica of a resin- printed V8 engine visible from the deck hatch. My only regret is that I could not use gold leaf to make the letters as on Kevin’s boat. The size and time stopped me and I put on stickers. I presented the model at the French Championship in May 2022 and it won a bronze medal. The Saturn was also present and won a silver medal. I had a lot of fun making this model and I’m really happy that Kevin finds it realistic. It’s a great reward. I’m ready to start again with his next boat!
A huge shout out to Rabbit and Kevin for sharing this amazing art work.