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Creating An Accurate And Beautiful Model Ship

Dec 27, 2007
Successful model shipbuilding is not all mechanics. Modelers should possess a background knowledge of essential nautical practices that serve them well in the process of modeling. Good workmanship is very important, because when flagrant errors and nautical boners occur, the finished product looks ridiculous and amateurish.

Ship identification, rigging standards, correct flags and figureheads that provide the professional touch to the complete model, are all important and will furnish confidence to the modeler in every phase of modeling.

Standardization of Model Rigging

Lacking any overall authority to regulate and specify proper rigging, modelers often become confused concerning the best pattern to follow.

Now that the horrendous creature the ship out of water with all sails set- has gone out of fashion, the time is opportune for senior modelers to set up standards that exhibit the beauty and dignity of sailing ships. No other man-made object has portrayed such a panorama of beauty down through the centuries as sailing ships, and the onus is on us to preserve this beauty for future generations.

Art and craftsmanship since time began have striven to portray objects of beauty in their natural surrounding; not to create hermaphrodite monstrosities like ships with all sails set, showing their keels and bottoms at the same time. Even if hobbiests and old seamen continue to produce these perverted deformities, modelers and craftsmen should be faithful to their art. My visualization of suitable rigs that bring out the natural beauty and retain the ship's normal surroundings is as follows:

Symbolic Rigged Models

The importance of symbolic rigged model yachts is becoming more and more manifest because they can be exhibited in offices and homes where space is limited. The elimination of tall spars and rigging which are common to all yachts of a given class, provides greater emphasis on essential features of the hull and deck layout.

Variations in sail and rigging plans of yawls of a ship like Cotton Blossom IV are quite unimportant. What is necessary is the unrestricted view of the hull lines, sheer and overhangs. People want to see what makes the ship go. The clean sweep of Cotton Blossom's hull lines from pulpit to aspit are shown in bolder relief because there is no distraction by non-essentials.

This model was shown for the first time at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club during the Ocean Race of 1960, and was acclaimed by all the senior yachtsmen, because the method allows a larger scale to be used on deck fittings and hull, with half the space that the older types required.

Many owners of private yachts make alterations in deck layout and gadgets to suit their own purposes. Half models cannot exhibit these changes which are precious to the owner. The larger scale permitted on symbolic rigged models provides room for every item.

There is a firm in England that can supply working models of all the deck fittings winches, anchor cranes, windlasses, binnacles, etc. These items add to the appearance of the finished product, enhance the scope of the craftsman and increases the value of the model.

Cotton Blossom IV nee Halloween was built by Will Fyfe in 1932. She is 72' long and 14' beam. Nothing that has been built since reaches or surpasses the beauty of Fyfe's masterpiece.

The model was built for her owner and skipper Walter Wheeler Jr., Stamford, Conn.

Full Rigged Models

To get the best results in full rigged models, canvas may be included, providing the sails are furled on the yards, and the hull is the waterline type. In this case the yards are lowered and all the sails' control lines are in position. The waterline hull enhances the sheer lines of the model and depicts its true stance and trim of a ship at anchor. Sails furled or stowed on the yards do not hide the graceful rigging lines or require a glass case to protect them.

More could be said about authenticity in model ship building, but this will get you off on the right foot.
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