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Make Minor Repairs to Your Model Ships

Apr 9, 2008
Hidden in a dusty loft, cupboard or the spare room, one occasionally comes across a genuine old-time ship model, built years ago by craftsmen who had the advantage of knowing and seeing the ships they modeled. Rare indeed is it to find one such model that has not suffered from the devastating hand of time. Yet by their age, their plaintive air of forlorn misery, they awake an irresistible appeal to the craftsman of today, calling for his loving care and longing to regain something of the glory that was theirs.

Reader, if you are fortunate enough to find such a model, cherish it, set it in an honoured place, guard it carefully from accident and disaster!

Carefully remove all loose parts, store them with equal care, remove the dust with a soft brush and generally examine the model for any indication of its age or maker.

This will call for a good deal of research, and may prove an insuperable task, but it should be pursued assiduously with a fixed determination to find out as much as possible about the old ship. Meanwhile, resist all temptations to undertake any serious repairs or other work on the model; or at least until every avenue has been explored.

The reason for this reticence is that, if repairs or renovation are hastily undertaken, it may only prove to be detrimental to the future of the boat, as something may be done to destroy the original conception behind the model. Herein lies the true art of the repairer, to bring back the former glory of the model, to make it as it was; not to convert it to something else. Of course there are a few exceptions, as for example when the hull alone remains and the whole of the masts and rigging must be added.

It is impossible to do more than generalize on the procedure to adopt when sufficient has been ascertained about the model to justify its restoration. Supposing that all the parts are present, but damaged in various ways, for example, the rigging may be broken and displaced, damage done to the hull and so forth.

In such cases the general procedure is to remedy all defects on the hull by carefully opening out the split or other blemish, introducing a little adhesive and forcing the part back into place again and holding it there until the adhesive has set, at the same time wiping off any surplus which may exude.

Chipped parts or those places where a little piece has been broken off and lost can well be remedied by the addition of a little plastic wood, roughly modelled into the desired form while in a plastic state, and subsequently carved to exactly simulate the missing piece. Finish off all such parts by very carefully staining or painting to exactly match original work.

Damaged metal parts can generally be repaired by removing them bodily, straightening them up and reshaping as necessary. Should the metal be brass or copper, it is desirable in most cases to anneal it before attempting to bend it, otherwise a breakage is almost inevitable. Annealing can be accomplished by slowly heating the metal almost to a red heat and allowing it to cool very slowly.

Finally, attend to all the etceteras in the way of a polished mahogany stand, showcase or the like, making good any defects that may have developed, and thus complete the restoration of the model, which should now be enclosed by a suitable glass case to ensure its future preservation.

The number and variety of old half models, scenic models, and some rare examples of mechanically actuated spectacular models prohibit any specific hints on their renovation. The guiding principles with all such work should be to retain the original character of the work, to use every possible bit of the old model, and to adopt ordinary constructional methods to the special circumstances of the job.
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