Building ships in bottles from scratch

December 29, 2015

Ship in Bottle 2 (part 3/4)

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I did indeed choose to paint the ends of each spar white, including the bowsprit.  I also painted the bottom of the masts black. You can see in the picture below that I added spars off the back for a gaff sail. I ended up doing this exactly as I described on a previous post as diagrammed here.

shroud lines closeup
Drilled holes through the masts and through the hull for shroud lines

I like five shroud lines per mast just because I think it looks good. These holes through the hull are significantly more uniform than on my previous ship, but they're still going to need to be covered, which I'll get to in part 4 of this build.

I learned that if I set my Dremel down on the table and place wood under the hull I can bring the hull up to the right height for drilling these holes. Bringing the hull to the Dremel works better than doing it the other way around. I'm not sure I'll ever learn to get these perfect without a drill press, but if you have any ideas, please leave me a comment.

The shroud lines are pretty easy. I use one arm-length piece of thread per mast and tie a fat knot in one end. Then I just thread it through the hull (yes I use a needle), up through the mast, and back through the hull again. Repeat until you run out of holes. There's a few ways to finish, and if you're going to cover your holes like I am, it's easiest to just glue the end of the line where you would be entering the hull for a sixth pass.

Now for the rest of the rigging.

model ship rigging
Clean shot for visibility

model ship rigging color coded
Color coded shot for clarity

Yellow and red threads: I drilled a hole in front of the main mast and at the very back of the ship. Then, using one length of thread per mast, tied a knot at the end and fed it up from the bottom of the ship. I like to loop it around spars, including the tops of masts, as I encounter them and secure with a small drop of glue (four arrows in the picture). It helps me keep the line taut as I go. 

Blue and green threads: I tied these around the masts (two stars in picture) at the height where the shroud lines go through. I also like to cover my knots in glue and then snip off the extra thread when the glue dries.

I should add that the red and green threads just pass alongside the foremast on their way to the bowsprit. They don't connect to the foremast in any way.

At this point I decided to add another detail: little draped lines hanging off the yards. I'm really glad I did this and I'll do it every time I make a square sail in the future. It was, however, a huge pain in the ass because I did it wrong.

First, here's what it looks like:

rigged yards
Drapey threads hanging off the horizontal spars

So all I really did here is cut a small thread, glue it to the end of the spar where the white tip is, drape it to the center, and glue it to the back of the spar in front of the mast. So each line goes from end-to-center, not end-to-end. That means I had to do this twelve times and say a lot of bad words. Next time I'm going to do this before I mount the spars to the mast.

Let's add some sails and call it a day.  I created my sails using leftover coffee-stained paper from my last ship. I didn't really know what I was doing so I cut sort of rectangular shapes where one side is wider than the's a quadrilateral of some sort (after googling, it's a trapezoid. Duh)

square rigged brig
Can you tell my bottom sail is upside down? Oops, I'll fix that at the end of this post.

ship and cat
Cat for scale

rigged ship from rear
Don't those drapey threads look nice with the sails in place?

There's no real trick that I can share here. I just kind of cut some trapezoids on plain paper until I find the size that works for a given sail. Then I curve it around a pen and glue the top edge to a spar. The gaff sail in the back is done the same except isn't curved.

That brings you up to speed mostly. Here's where I am right at this moment. Added two stay sails up front and a couple green flags.

fully rigged model ship
US quarter for scale

We're getting close to bottling time, but I'm going to add some more small details first, maybe an anchor and/or a deck house.

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