Rigging the Ship

I like to work from inside to outside, finishing as much as possible on the deck. The black standing rigging is next as these lines will stabilize the masts and bowsprits.

rigging the ship, detail of deck

I find it best to not tie off these lines until later. Shrouds, ratlines, and all bowsprit work should be completed. Waxing these lines will make everything easier.

rigging the ship - side view of ship

I use nail clippers, sharpened toothpicks, longer fingernails and a touch of super glue. All combined, they help the task at hand.

rigging the ship, view of deck from bow to stern

How to make the ship’s cradle

ship's cradle in progress with tools

These photos show the ship’s cradle underway using cherry wood. Visible are a few of the tools I used to solve the problems. I also use a band saw, small drill press and a dremel tool.

close up of ship's cradle in progress

I must be sure that the keel is level and so begin the project by creating matt board templates for both the fore and aft pieces. The wire gauge will help with the curves of the hull. It is of utmost importance to keep the cradles level. I encountered lots of mistakes and “timeouts” as I transferred the design and cut the cradles. It is important to mark the keel for each cradle. I’ve made many mistakes working on cradles for models of all shapes and sizes.

Getting the cradles correct and also pleasing to the eye takes some time!

Laying Groundwork for the Rigging

Working on the deck prior to rigging

This photo gives the observer an idea of how to progress from the outside of the hull to solving what needs to be completed inboard before the masts, bowsprits and rigging are started. I prefer doing first all of the small deckside items including the main rail and the positioning of the bowsprit and the stem rails. Catheads need a lot of extra thought and tweaking.

It is very easy to make mistakes, and one may have to start over to solve issues with certain parts. It is very hard to keep in mind that you are working on a scale of 3/16” to a foot.

Hull completed; some tools of the trade

Note also in the photo that I’m showing a few tools that are important – wooden toothpicks, small files and chisels.

I try to solve one small problem at a time and try not to be concerned when I have to start over or remake an item.

My advice is to never look at the clock. Remember – time is not the master of the task on hand!

Deck Beams and Planking

copper planking completed

The copper plating is now complete (top photo) and now the deck beams and planking are in progress. (lower photo.) I have added a beam between each bulkhead. There is more stability for the planks and it allows them to work out to be about 16 feet in scale length. Most ship timbers were never more than 16 or 17 feet in length. I start the decking with a center line.

beginning to lay the decking

Copper Plating

Here I am pressing the copper plates on to the hull. The process of copper plating wooden ships began in the latter part of the 19th century as a measure to keep sea worms from damaging the hulls as commercial efforts carried the ships into warm waters. Copper plating was the solution.

adding copper planking to the hull

I’ve used copper craft tape with adhesive backing, a strip marked before cutting and attaching to the hull. With some experimentation, I decided to simulate the nails by marking each “plate’ with a wooden toothpick. I will eventually tone the plates with a salt water/vinegar solution to dull the finish. This will come later. Patience is the operative word!

copper planking on the hull

Planking the Hull

placing pins to hold planks in place

The photos give some idea about planking the hull. Several years ago I was able to observe some actual on-going hull restoration on the ill-fated Bounty. Shaping and fitting the planks whether on a model or the “real McCoy” is not easy. I have used other more attractive woods on other projects, but I’m planning to paint and cover the hull with scale brass plates, and so bass wood works just fine.

planking the hull of the Enterprise

It seems that everyone who builds a model ship has invented techniques and “tricks” to solve the planking difficulties. I soak the wood in water, then pin and hold the strake in position until it dries. Each strake demands its own shape, so it takes a lot of patience and many “time-out’s!”

detail of planking on the stern

Stern Work

working on the stern

Creating the stern end of wooden ship models is very difficult, regardless of size and scale. One has to be ready to redo things and to “walk away” until you figure it out. Some of the strips of wood will have to be soaked in water and then bent over a wooden form that represents that part of the stern. Patience is the word in dealing with the stern! You may even have to reinvent and start over on parts that aren’t working out.

hull of the Enterprise

This is a view of the Enterprise after three months of work. I have not worked on the interior at this point, and am not sure whether I will paint or stain the hull. I find that it’s important to solve each small problem, one at a time, otherwise one can really become discouraged.

I would like the final model to represent the Enterprise. There are, to my knowledge, no plans or accurate records of the ship. Its story is interesting, so I’m using some creative instincts and personal interpretation to hopefully arrive at a pleasing ship model.

Getting Started

getting started on the Enterprise

This shows the model of the Enterprise after a month of getting the project underway. I built two platforms, one to carry the hull upright; one to carry it upside down. Each model requires its individual set-up depending on the size. After the bulkheads are set, I stretch a rubber band over the ship to secure it to the platform.

I have never used many power tools, but a band saw, a small belt and disc sander are essential. Sharp cutting blades and fingernail files plus fine small pieces of 220 and 400 sand paper are always useful. I rely on Elmer’s wood glue and at times dilute a small amount in a small jar fitted with a tight lid. This helps the joining process in small areas. I also keep a supply of wooden toothpicks nearby. They are handy for spreading glue, mixing paint and solving inevitable small problems. Push pins and small pieces of wax paper and wooden clothes pins are essential.

At the beginning of a ship model project, I focus primarily on the outside of the hull.