Building ships in bottles from scratch

December 1, 2015

Ship in Bottle 1 (part 2/3)

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For all of part 2, we only use the top half of the ship here, just forget about the bottom half of the hull for now.

So the first thing I did is create the bowsprit (the stick pointing out of the front of the ship). Take a look here and try not to notice the quantum leap in progress since the last picture.

model ship bowsprit
The bowsprit (left) is made from two toothpicks and is drilled securely into the hull

I took two toothpicks and held them together, wrapped thread around them in two places, then painted glue over the thread and waited for it to dry. Then I drilled four holes through them which was pretty easy with the Dremel and a set of bits I bought. In the picture, it is the bottom toothpick that is inserted into a hole I drilled into the hull and prepped with glue. The top toothpick is simply cut flush with the deck. 

Let's make the masts now. Each mast (the vertical piece) is made from two toothpicks. I fixed the two toothpicks together the same way I did the bowsprit, basically just wrapped thread and glue around them to make them taller.

Here's a layout of the masts and some holes you're going to need to drill:

model ship mast layout
You're going to have four pieces and you'll need to drill four holes as indicated.

Here's an artist's rendition of how the horizontal and angled pieces are affixed to the masts:

model ship mast construction
Uncanny reconstruction of mast connection

There's a hole drilled in the horizontal toothpick and then it is threaded around the mast. This piece needs to be able to hinge upward freely so it can be folded parallel to the mast. This is important because it allows the masts to collapse later on. I did the angled pieces towards to top of the masts the same way.

At this point you should have two masts completed, but they shouldn't be mounted on the hull yet, just cool it.

In order to mount the masts, we're going to make hinges so the masts can fold down later, so we need to drill some small holes, six to be exact, clean through the deck:

model ship drilling plan
The black circles are where the masts are going to be (aerial view). Drill 6 holes where the red indicators are.

Remember when you were sanding and you had toothpicks holding the whole thing together? My masts are going to go where those toothpicks are, not that it's required though.

The next step is to create the hinge for the masts. I used the wire from a bread tie, worked great. Fish it through the bottom of the deck, that's any hole 1 through 4 in the above image for those of you keeping score, through the mast, and into the other hole.
attach model ship mast to deck
I went up through hole #1, through the mast, and back down through hole #2. The thick red line is the path I took with my wire. Then tie the wire together on the bottom side of the deck (not pictured). Repeat for other mast. 

Verify that your masts can collapse down onto the deck so that you'll be able to fit this into the bottle.
Now we get to create shroud lines. As you complete this part, you'll look back and have that "holy shit, this is turning out great" feeling. You need to drill five holes through the side of the hull, straight through to the other side--per mast. That is, one group of five holes under the foremast and one group of five holes under the main mast.

This part is pretty easy, I just tied some thread into the hole in the mast (it's the only hole in the mast system that you haven't used yet) and then threaded it into the first shroud hole in the side of the hull, coming out the other side of the ship, back up through the mast, into the next shroud hole, through the ship, etc.

model ship shroud lines
The holes are difficult to drill. I don't know what to tell you...try hard I guess. We can cover them up later when we add details though, so don't panic.

At this point you're going to want to build a stand. Mine took me about 5 minutes to make. It's a piece of wood with a screw coming up through it that I'm able to twist the ship onto. Then I've got some screws on the left to tie threads off onto.

model ship basic rigging
High tech stuff

The basic rigging is actually pretty easy. I went through the main mast first by tying thread through the hole where the shroud lines passed through. The other end just gets threaded through the bowsprit. Easy peasy.

Next, tie a huge knot in the end of another piece of thread. Going up from the bottom of the deck through the hole at the back of the ship (hole #6), thread it through until the knot stops you. Then you can wrap once around the end of the boom, once around the end of the angled boom, once around the main mast, and then thread it through the bowsprit. I found it helpful to spread a little glue at each of these wrapping points. Wrap these lines around the screws on your stand to keep them secure.

The foremast is completed the same way, but use hole #5. You might have to remove the ship from your stand in order to thread through hole #5.

You should be impressed at this point, it's starting to look pretty awesome. See more in part 3.

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