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Materials Needed to Build Old-Time Ship Models

Nov 23, 2007
The building of old-time ship models is one of the most fascinating of hobbies, the work is clean and simple, can be carried out practically anywhere by either sex, without fuss, bother or mess; the result is a picturesque reminder of the spacious days of romance and high endeavor. What stirring tales of derring do, what stupendous feats of human endurance are called forth when we recollect the names of Cabot, Columbus, Diaz, Raleigh, Drake, Frobisher, Sir Richard Grenville and the epic fight of the little Revenge against tremendous odds.

Models of such ships should therefore catch something of this spirit of high endeavor, should reproduce the charm, the beauty, the rugged masculinity of those old ships that played so high a part in the development of the world as we know it today.

Nor is it necessary to have a very expensive set of elaborate tools, the chief items being generally found in every home, certainly in every handyman's outfit.

The chief items are a small tenon saw, an ordinary hammer and pliers, a very small hammer for driving pins, a hand vice, small bench vice, hand drill and a few small twist drills, a small plane, a few chisels and gouges, a spokes have, some sandpaper of various grades, tweezers, small pliers, several tubes of Seccotine or Tenasitine, a packet of assorted pins, a box of water color paints and brushes, or for the larger models a supply of "flat" oil colors.

A few drills, files and punches as well as a hack saw for metal work are helpful, while if a simple turning lathe is available it can be used when making gun barrels, and doing other circular work. The whole cost of such an outfit, without the lathe, should not exceed a sovereign.

As regards materials, much can be done with good grade cardboard of different thicknesses; "Bristol board" is highly desirable, it costs a little more than other kinds but is well worth the extra outlay. For masts and spars, the round-sectioned wood ranging from 1 in. diameter upwards and known variously as "dowel rod," "ash sticks," or curtain rod is most useful; it can generally be had from ironmongers and from dealers in fretwork supplies.

For many small pieces a prepared timber sold as "strip wood" is invaluable, being made in various sizes from about 1/8 by 1/4 in. to 1 by 1/4 in. and in square sections up to in. square.

Good yellow pine is the best for laminated hulls and for decks, although some makers prefer white holly or sycamore for decks as the color is rather better. Mahogany is extensively serviceable for deck erections, but is not in such good style as oak which was the material chiefly used on old ships. Oak, ash and cedar are the best materials for a rib and plank hull, that being one which is made up of separate parts in the same way as the original.

Of the metals, brass sheet strip and wire are indispensable for the smaller fittings, while zinc can often be used with good effect as its natural color somewhat resembles that of iron.

Plaster-of-Paris, gesso, and plastic wood are other materials that are very useful on some of the elaborately modeled parts, while for figure-heads ivory or bone is quite a useful material, supplies being derived at small cost from the handles of disused tooth brushes.

Sewing cotton, thread, silk, human hair, horsehair and finely plaited lines of all kinds are necessary for the rigging; white silk, voile and papers are employed for the sails. On small models, little brown beads can often be used in a very effective way to represent the blocks used on real ships. In short, any convenient and homely material can be pressed into service if it is suitable.

With these materials assembled, you are ready to commence building a ship model.
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