Building ships in bottles from scratch

December 12, 2015

Ship in Bottle 2 (part 1/4)

square rigged ship in a bottle
Final Product: Here's where we going with this tutorial

I decided on making a brig this time because it's a two masted vessel with square rigged sails. My first ship in a bottle project only had one square sail and I can tell the construction techniques need to be much different for square rigged sails than gaff sails. So, what the hell, might as well practice that, right? I'll be drawing inspiration from an actual ship this time.

USS Niagra
This is the USS Niagra, an example of a brig with its two masts and square rigged sails. (Photo credit: LanceWoodworth)

I found a great bottle for this project at Hobby Lobby for $3 and change. Something I learned from last time is that round bottles are a pain in the ass. I'm excited to work with a flat bottom this time. 

ship in a bottle sketch
I'm glad this bottle has a square shape, a rectangular prism if you want to be a dick about it.

As before, I'm starting off with a rough sketch drawn to scale. I actually traced the bottle on the paper in order to do this. The biggest reason to make a scale sketch is because I want to make sure the proportions of masts to ship length look good and I'm working with limited height. Don't forget to leave room on the sketch for the base that the ship will rest on. I eyeballed about a centimeter, but maybe in the future I'll have a more scientific way to handle this.

ship in a bottle pattern layout
Stacked some wood. Drilled some holes. Toothpick kebab.

I held the wood next to the sketch and marked the length on the wood and then I sanded the shit out of it until I found the hull in there.

model ship hull
Definitely better than my last hull but there's still room to grow.

Before I end this post, I should share that I think my last ship came out a little too, well, brown. (?) So instead of painting the hull, I'm staining it this time. I'll still almost certainly paint some details on it, but I think staining is going to be the way to go from here on out. The color is a little more orange than I'd like, but it's still a good proof of concept and I'm glad I gave it a shot.

staining the hull
Not bad. I stained a picture frame once and it turned out like shit, so this is fine.

Three body pieces, a bowsprit, and there's a rudder in there too that I haven't glued on yet. I cut the rectangle out of the top deck using a fiberglass cutting wheel on the Dremel. On my to do list is to find a better method of constructing the top of the deck. This method doesn't allow for the level of detail I'd like to incorporate.


  1. Hi,

    I really love your work. I would like to do one myself. Got the bottle for it but now I need a plan since drawing ships is not mu cup of tea.

    Can I us your drawings or perhaps you can let me know how to get it ?

    Many thanks

    Isaac -
    New Zealand

    1. Hi Isaac, thanks for posting!

      You can definitely use my drawings. I only use them as a rough guide anyway, just to plan out 1) how tall the masts should be in relation to the length of the ship, and 2) how many masts and sails I'll have.

      You might be able to save and print this picture and you might even be able to print it to the right size so you can lay your bottle on it.

      If there's something else I can do to help please let me know, I'll be happy to help. Glad you're going to give this a try!