Models in Bottles

Building ships in bottles from scratch

November 30, 2015

Ship in Bottle 1 (part 1/3)

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So here is the very first build I've done and how I did it. Keep in mind that I really didn't know what I was doing, but I still turned this out:

ship in a bottle finished
So here's what we're building, Do shipbuilders name their ships? I don't know, but Inauguration seemed like a solid name for this one.

Let's get started by buying a bottle and some wood from Michael's: quarter inch thick strips of wood, big popsicle sticks, some random sticks (like small popsicle sticks but with squared off corners)

The wood cost me maybe 6-8 bucks. I stacked the pieces and used a Dremel to drill a pair of holes that would fit toothpicks snugly. This allowed me to hold the whole thing together while still allowing the pieces to be separated later. 

model ship wood construction
From bottom to top, I have two quarter inch pieces, a big popsicle stick, another quarter inch piece, and another popsicle stick. Notice this isn't the bottle I ended up with. More on that later.

model ship wood layout
Top view of the same

Holding this next to the bottle, I drew a rough outline of the hull from the top and the side. At this point I had zero confidence what I was doing was correct. Just go with it.

Now it's time to sand the shit out of it. I used a drum sander attachment for my Dremel to get close to the shape I wanted and then I hand sanded the rest using two different grades of sand paper. What grades did I use? Doesn't matter: rough and not-as-rough.

sanded wooden model ship hull
That kind of looks like a ship. Maybe this won't be a disaster.

At this point I'd like to share a very important tip with you. Make sure the ship can fit in the bottle! Don't be a moron like me. When you're making sure it fits, split the hull in two: a top half and a bottom half. If each half can fit, you're in good shape. If not, keep sanding. It's really hard to find a bottle to fit an existing ship. It's way easier to build a ship to an existing bottle. I don't expect to ever make that mistake again.

wooden model ship hull keel rudder
Add a keel and rudder. Notice at the very bottom rear of the hull, I had to remove more material so I could fit the rudder.

The keel was made from the random wood I mentioned earlier, they were like popsicle sticks with squared off corners. I just kind of sanded one of them down lengthwise until it was pretty damn thin and then I glued it to the bottom. The rudder was basically the same but I used an actual popsicle stick there. At this point, the keel and rudder are the only things with glue on them. I'm just using something labeled "wood glue" from a craft store (Michael's or WalMart's craft aisle, I don't remember. You don't want the hardcore stuff from a hardware store though). It looks like Elmer's and dries clear. I bet you could use Elmer's.

Now is the time when I realized I didn't have a railing and I didn't want my imaginary sailors to fall off and drown. I've since learned the railing is really called a bulwark. You'll probably learn some terms through this process too unless you already know them. You'll probably find I don't know all the terms because I'm a total amateur and have only done this once. I'll post a glossary at some point too.

model ship bulwark hull
Threw another popsicle stick on there, sanded it to shape, and used the cutting wheel on my Dremel to take out the rectangle in the center. This leaves me with a railing, or bulwark if you want to be fancy about it. I did glue this piece to the one below it because the toothpicks can't hold it in place.

Painting seems like a logical next step. For future builds I might try some stain instead, but this is fine for now. These are acrylic paints that were like 50 cents a piece on sale at Michael's. I bought two different browns, a black, and a white.

wooden model ship paint

That pretty much takes care of the hull so that's good for now. In part 2 we'll fart around with masts and basic rigging.

November 29, 2015

Launching a New Hobby

I have no idea why, but I've had it in my head for a few years that building a ship in a bottle would be pretty cool.  Realizing I had no idea what I was doing, I started scouring the internet and was pretty surprised with the general lack of information.  There was only one tutorial I could find out there (an post by user goaly) and while it was good, it left me with a lot of guessing.

My hope is to save anyone the headaches I've run through while chronicling my journey through this hobby.  After building one ship so far, I've definitely got the bug.

So stay tuned for a detailed guide on my first project (including all the dumb ass mistakes I made along the way).