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Bottled Ship Builder


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Everything posted by Lubber123

  1. Hi Jeff, the Brig Lexington is extensively covered in Charles G Davis "The Built Up Ship Model", which I think can still be found. I built a SIB version back in 1980 for a wedding gift for a cousin which I considered my best best work. I put it in a very unique "Rock n Rye" bottle which has a oversized neck and a nice rectangular shape with a nicely scrolled neck. I've wanted to recreate one for a while and have had a carved up and painted hull sitting on a rigging board for some years. Unfortunately I didn't make a water line hull and the full hull is a bit much for most bottles so I can't decide what to do with my oversized hull. I was thinking of making a miniature in a glass box instead. Maybe. Anyway once in a while I try to transcribe the dimensions from the book plan to a smaller scale so that I can complete the masts and spars, etc. It's on the back burner. The SIB plan for the future and might always will be. Thanks for the inspiration.
  2. As I have been posting, I have been collecting ship in the bottle kits lately. Most of these escaped me in my youth since they came during my hiatus from modeling. At a certain age, one’s interests mature and things of youth are left behind. It takes a certain amount of curiosity to become interested in the less superficial aspects of modeling and requires a certain maturity to appreciate historical significance and fine craftsmanship. I’ve encountered a variety of different compositions of these kits. All the ones I’ve reported on so far are some variation of materials to be placed inside a glass bottle. The tradition of the activity has been building a model from wood and placing it inside a glass bottle with a sea made of putty since these are the materials that a person at sea may have had available to the them. To make the activity more accessible to the common person, lately more modern materials have been incorporated and some techniques have been improved and modified. Our seafaring predecessors may have appreciated some of these materials, such as CA “super glue” and tools such as small spiral drills and pin vises - not to mention accurate plans. And maybe they would have been repulsed by some other ideas. I like to stay as close to a traditional build as possible, but I do appreciate some modern conveniences such as my tiny drill bits and CA. This kit deviates from the tradition in that it is a plastic model of a ship to be placed into a glass bottle. It actually has a very nice glass bottle and a neat little stand for it. The introduction on the instruction sheet states: “In this kit, modern methods and materials have been used to allow you to re-create this fascinating craft and learn age-old skills. None of the original ingenuity has been lost!” But in reality I’m gluing together a pre-fabricated plastic hull and parts to be placed inside a glass bottle. How much ingenuity is that? So here I present the kit made by Airfix (Humbrol limited) “Cutty Sark” # 6003. There were also two other kits in this series: the “Mayflower” and “Charles W. Morgan”. These are all well know historical ships with the “Cutty Sark” and the “C.W.Morgan” still preserved for observation so there should be some expectation of detailed accuracy. The kit is well presented in very nice packaging and a very elaborate instruction sheet with various language interpretations. But it contains no historical information about the ship. My first impression when I received the box was how large the kit is. The box measures 12”x 14.5”. The kit contains a very nice large rectangular flask type bottle that measures 8.5” x 4.5” (from the tip of the neck). The neck opening is so large I can put my thumb into it. Also included is the only wooden part, a nice stand to place the bottle on complete with plastic whale carvings. A long with the plastic parts for the hull, masts and spars and a sheet of plasticized paper sails are a set of paints with small brush, tubes of glue for paper and plastic, rigging thread and cordage for neck decoration, a metal tool for model insertion and a cork for the neck - and of course the completely hardened by now white and blue modeling clay. There is also a plastic rigging stand that doesn’t look like it could be repurposed for use with a wooden model. Also included are little plastic dolphins and a small light house for embellishments to be placed in the putty sea. One of the reasons I bought this kit was for my preparation to build a “Cutty Sark” model which is the final model in the Jack Needham book. I didn’t have a bottle large enough for his dimensions and I wanted a sail plan. So my initial plan is to repurpose the bottle and some materials perhaps to build a wooden model using the dimensions from the plastic one and repurpose the sails. It just seems like a shame to put a plastic ship into such a nice bottle. I haven’t built a plastic model since my pre-teen years and I wasn’t that enthusiastic about it then. I think it does require some sophistication to build a convincing plastic model and that it is a legitimate modeling hobby but it strays a bit far from the tradition of putting a ship in a bottle. But the kit is a nice kit for what it is.
  3. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you, but we all have to start somewhere. I'm glad you kept it; I like looking back on early work and reflecting on how I could improve. Most of these higher quality kits either weren't around yet or were out of reach for me in my youth. It's better to have tried and failed then to never had tried at all - unless you really need the money for something more important!
  4. As I have been posting, I’ve been collecting SIB kits lately. In my last post I reported about a non- traditional build of a paper model placed into a glass bottle. In this post I’m returning to a more traditional model type which is actually my favorite kit I’ve found to date. The kit is for a model of the 1851 Boston Clipper “Flying Cloud”, a historical ship which was well documented. The scale size is 1” = 70’ which produces a ship model of 4 ½” long – 10 ¾” overall with bottle. The kit was made by a company called “Shipyard Crafts” located in San Lorenzo, California, copyright 1976 D.R. La Field, Ship Model Kit #100. The kit contains high quality materials, a clear 4/5 Quart bottle (commonly called a “fifth” which is about 750ml), and well written and complete instructions. The only other kit I’ve seen from this company is for an 1889 Essex built fishing schooner “Fredonia” Ship Model #200 which looks of the same quality. The model seems to be accurately proportioned and not modified to fit a bottle. Instructions for building with or without sails are included. There are also materials and instructions for making a “carved sea” instead of messing with putty. This is something I have not tried to do yet although I have a fondness for putty seas which I believe to be more traditional. The wooden materials are of sugar pine, birch, spruce and mahogany for the stand. A press board rigging stand is included. The materials look generous and provide a duplicate hull in case one blunders the first try. The kit even has a nice spool of ATCO CS-33 “G” size nylon thread. The kit came to me in what looks like completely unused condition. The only thing I don’t see included in the kit is a cork stopper which is easily obtained. The kit also contains a somewhat hokey gold braid facsimile of a “Turk’s Head” knot which I am ambivalent about. This kit looks like a fun build and I’m eager to try my hand at the carved sea. I think this kit will help build my skills and fits all my requirements for a first rate build.
  5. As I last reported, I’ve been collecting ship in the bottle kits. I reviewed a nice kit from Authentic Models that I found to be of high quality and worth building in the traditional sense. In this review I’d like to present a kit that gives opportunity to all, but just not in a traditional building method. At first I wanted to be unkind and snarky about this kit, but I reflected and found some merits to it. I had to realize that I have been blessed with average manual dexterity and my hands are still fairly steady and my eyesight is good for my age. I am also good at problem solving and sequencing tasks. I would assume that most readers of this website are also similarly blessed. However, I am personally acquainted with people who aren’t so blessed and who would find the construction of this kit to be challenging and who would be quite please with this accomplishment. Now a description of what this kit is: This kit is of a ship model of the USS Constitution constructed totally of folded paper, to be glued to a paper sea inside a glass bottle which is mounted on a stand made of paper with a real cork inserted in its neck which is decorated with a paper image of a cord and seal. The only wood included in the kit is a tapered stick provided as an insertion tool (which may as well end up in my gadget box). There is also a small spool of thread provided for the ersatz rigging which consist of one stay for erecting the masts. The glass bottle is a nicely shaped “Dutch Flask” design but isn’t of the highest of quality glass. Even the cork looks cheap. At least it is a real glass bottle and not plastic. However, the kit does include a very nice reference booklet containing the description and history of various tall ships. And I like the packaging which I may reuse for a more authentic build. I was hoping that at least I could use the sail pattern or cut the sails out and reuse them but I doubt their authenticity. They aren’t individual sails; they are actually part of the paper masts. I think this kit might be mildly entertaining for an averagely intelligent eight year old. Of course there are people who are not able to or who should not be using sharp implements like razor blades and woodworking tools and none are required here. I believe scissors are only required to cut the thread for the rigging since the paper pieces are pre-cut and pop out. The rigging is cut outside the bottle after being trapped by the cork so there is no need for a razor blade. So now there is no excuse why anyone should not be able to build a ship in a real glass bottle. We live in an age of inclusivity and now that extends to ship in the bottle building.
  6. Thanks James! Keep us posted on your finds about the Princess Royal since I'll be interested for my build. I even bought a second kit of it that I found for half of what I paid for the first. I too am working on a plank on frame, my first, and I'm almost up to the rigging. However soon the outdoors will beckon with activities and chores and my ship building will slow to the occasional shaping of a mast or spar. Let's see your plank up when your done...L.
  7. Thanks again Jeff! One thing I just noticed about my "Privateer" is that it has no guns or gun ports ( or pseudo gun ports)! I guess they just rappeled into their intended prey, boarded and fought hand to hand like real men (ha!). Gees, even clipper merchant ships had fake gun ports to give the illusion that they were armed. So this thing is a fanciful creation and a good exercise for a build and will look interesting to the uninformed so I'm not going to sweat the details. Just relax and enjoy the ride I guess.
  8. Thanks Jeff! I agree it is Bark like, but I rather not arbitrarily assign non historically correct names. I'm confused by the sails on the missen mast, there are two gaff sails above the spanker which I've never seen before and seem to defy logic - one large one would seem to be sufficient. But then again, I'm not a naval historian (yet) or much of a sailor.
  9. I’ve been collecting SIB kits lately. I’m up to seven different model kits, all of various quality and contents. I was going to post these in some sort of order, like least favorite to most favorite, but one got under my skin right away and I decided to start building it so I wanted to post it before I got too far with its construction. And it is similar to a kit that Jim Rogers posted about so I thought I’d add to it. I became interested in kits because that is where I started, but that was more than forty years ago and I’ve been away from the hobby for a long time so I missed a lot of developments. Kits can vary in complexity and quality and initially I felt that they were for novice with undeveloped skills but I’m beginning to appreciate some of their benefits. The better kits model a named historic ship, have good ship plans and quality materials and a nicely shaped bottle to match the ship. There are some that are even “museum quality” – and expensive. There are cheaper kits for beginners but these may not offer a good learning experience. I started SIB modeling with a kit from the “Ships A Sailin’” line and have experienced all three of their offerings. However I’ve discovered that the ship plans were highly modified to fit the modest quality bottle that was offered with the kit. These kits allowed some learning in miniature woodworking and the basics of a traditional build but didn’t produce the highest of quality experience. So, I’ve been interested in what else has been offered and what kind of quality experience they provide. This kit is one of my favorites so far. It is an offering from the Authentic Models Company: “The Privateer – Pirate Ship in a Bottle SM043”. It wasn’t very expensive, it has high quality components and a nice instruction booklet and I think it could provide a satisfying experience for any skill level. The claim on the packaging is that it is for anyone age 8 to 98 but I think that to be a bit of an exaggeration. I think an eight year old would have to be pretty sophisticated to accomplish this build and I can only hope I have the steady hands and eyesight required when I turn ninety-eight. I like just about everything about this kit. It even comes in a nice wooden storage box that smells like cedar, has high quality materials and a nice instruction booklet. The bottle is a high quality “Dutch Flask” style (Made in France) which is unique to my collection. The hull construction was a three piece arrangement and the wood was so hard that I had difficulty drilling it in order to screw it to my rigging board (the board is not included). The “Made in Germany” plasticine for the sea material is now too hard to be of any use but was probably nice stuff when it was new. It also has a nice bag of wooden dowels and parts, a spool of thread and a kit of cloth sails already marked up along with a nice hardwood cradle for the flask. I’ve seen other kits from Authentic Models and they look top notch. I have another of their offerings and I’ll review that separately but it is the same one that Jim Rogers posted about. I even learned a bit of trivia from the instruction booklet: “The earliest known examples of ships in bottles do not date back earlier than the 1830’s, probably because it was not until then that dark glass began to give way to clear glass and that the shape of the bottle itself began to change to a one better suited to holding a ship.” The booklet goes on and describes more history about ship in bottles. Just about the only fault I can find with the kit is that it isn’t for a researched named historic ship but for a generic “Privateer”. Just about anything that could float and hold a gun or two could have been granted a license to privateer, so a “Privateer” isn’t much of a ship description. I’m also not keen on the sail arrangement on the missen mast, it looks a little clumsy to me but I’ll probably rig it that way. It’s nice sometime to just follow the instructions. I’ve seen various versions of this kit. One is called “Passage through a Bottle’s Neck”. I also saw a kit that stated it was made expressly for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and was a model of the “Flying Cloud” but the picture on the box and in the instruction booklet was the same as the “Privateer” – which isn’t the “Flying Cloud” clipper ship I know. I didn’t bother to buy that one - I found a more reliable model for the “Flying Cloud”. I can’t determine what the vintage of this kit is since there is no dating in the booklet. However it does mention using a CA glue like “Zap” which I didn’t see available until the early 1990’s so this kit could be some twenty five years old or so. So I started the kit and got as far as finishing the hull and adding the bowsprit (what I call the fun part) but got bogged down in the drudgery of shaping mast and spars and now I’m distracted with another project(s). Ok, I’ll come clean, I got sucked into building a plank on frame 18th century longboat since I always wanted to do a full built up ship plank on frame model – so the “Privateer” will have to wait. If you want a nice kit of parts and a good instructional read, buy one of these kits and I’m sure it’ll be a rewarding experience. I go mine for about $20 (excluding shipping).
  10. My recent experiments have caused me to fall back on plumbers putty (window glazing would work also) colored with artist's grade oil paint. I would suggest Water Soluble type oil paints (Holbein and also Winsor and Newton make these) for easier clean up. They absorb into the putty relatively quickly and handles without mess in a day or two. Also one can mix a nice color with Ultramarine Blue and Viridian Green or other colors to match a nice sea. The base color of the putty is an off white which works well for waves. Plus it is a traditional way to produce a sea and I like sticking with traditional methods. I found a plumbers putty with a modern formulation for granite countertops that behaved quite nicely. I tried a modeling clay product but I don't like the color of the blue - it's more a sky blue than a sea blue. I tried to color this with acrylic paint but instead of mixing into the clay, it sort of sits on top of it and it never dried (acrylic paint usually dried in twenty minutes but this stuff made a mess!). I do use the brown modeling clay for backgrounds however. Guy Demarco's book has some good suggestions for making a sea and explains most of the methods that are mentioned in the previous post. Essential is to have a good stout rod of some sort to press the sea down and smooth it. Demarco suggest a bent knitting needle.
  11. That's too bad! My hull isn't anything too special and I'm sure you can make one from the plans. I like the hull I got in the AM Privateer though, it's top notch. The bottle I got with my AM Princess Royal is actually very nice, it was made in Germany, not France, the AM Privateer bottle I have was made in France. So for £3 you got ship plans, a nice set of instructions, a suit of sails, a nice bottle stand and some bamboo skewers. Mine cost six times that but I got a complete package. I really can't justify the cost of these kits but having a ship plan and a bottle to fit the plan is essential.
  12. Hi James, I just bought one of these kits also but not at the bargain you got. The putty will be hardened and useless by now but no big deal since putty availability is not a problem. My bottle was made in France and doesn't have the imprint on it. But these Authentic Model kits are just about the best I've seen at the price ( the Amati models look superb but are almost $100 USD). I also have an AM "Privateer" that I think is a better kit but not modeled on an historic model. The Privateer kit has a nice hardwood hull that I had trouble getting an electric drill to hole. It also comes in a neat little wood box. I couldn't resist starting to build the model but had to shelve it for a while so it's still in "dry dock". The instruction sheet is excellent. I've collected about six different kits now and these are my favorite. I'm sure you will enjoy this build.
  13. Wow John, yours is fantastic! Your ship is very nicely formed and a great shaped bottle with a nice finish on the neck. And I like the "left hand" placement which is a great way to introduce some variety to a collection. My ship looks sloppy compared to yours, you must have a more practiced hand. I get a little carried away with making a whole diorama with the ship just being part of it. I'm still struggling with the miniature sails although I was very pleased with the sails I put on my large scale model, my first time making a true suit of sails. Maybe I'm too easily impressed with myself! Well, I have more practice ahead...thanks for sharing.
  14. Thanks Jeff! Each model is its own challenge...no two seem exactly alike.
  15. I have been working my way through the examples in Jack Needham’s “Modeling Ships in Bottles”. Here I’ve completed his third of four exercises, “The Waterwitch” which is modeled after an actual historical ship although I am having some difficulty confirming his back-story about the ship since there seems to have been many ships named the Waterwitch. The exercise here was to graduate to making yardarms and square sails which are present here only on the foremast. In my youth I had skipped over all the preliminary exercises and went right into square rigged ships but here I felt I wanted to go back and practice my basics. I also wanted to make use of my collection of bar bottles left over from my father’s bar tending days and here I made use of a Dubouchet liqueur bottle which I felt was nicely ornamented. I also practiced my hand at another head-land back ground with some obligatory sea-side buildings and a little greenery in the hill side. I switched over to a sea made from plumber’s putty colored with artist grade water soluble oil paints which seems nicely compatible and I think this will be my future go-to formula. I also went back and tried making paper sails but I think I prefer cloth sails. I just found some nice antiqued sail cloth which I think will make nice sails for my future SIBs. I also have some tan resume paper which might also be worth trying. I made another attempt at a Turk’s Head knot again using my jig but I think I need to start with a bit more length of cord. Anyway, again the photograph doesn’t do the model justice and I’m happy to have this one in my fleet.
  16. Thanks for this Jim. Has some nice tricks that go beyond the basics.
  17. Thanks Bernard! The model sort of came together on its own. Once I built the Lumber Schooner, it looked so lonely in the back of the bottle I just had to give it company. And once I built the accompanying fishing schooner, I found some spare parts for the skipjack that just filled the neck. I never had a plan, it just came together on its own.
  18. Thanks, I'll have to do a few more of these now...triple the fun!
  19. Thanks James, that bottle had been sitting in my basement for quite a long time. I just needed some inspiration to figure out what to do with it. It was all serendipity, very little planning.
  20. Thanks Jeff! Actually, I don't think the photograph does it justice. There's a bit of distortion from the angle and a bit of glare on the top edge. It's a tough bottle to photograph, the model looks more impressive in real life. Step by step, I'm learning new tricks...
  21. I’ve been continuing to follow the examples in Jack Needham’s “Modeling Ships in Bottles”. I had already finished the first example “A Simple Model for Beginners”. Although I am more experienced than a basic beginner, I found making the basic model to be a good refresher. I don’t follow Needham’s method of rigging; I don’t use as many control lines as he suggests and I rig the shrouds in to holes in the gunnels instead of rigging them through the underside of the hull. Here I progressed to his second model, a four masted lumber schooner. I had the dilemma of trying to find an appropriate bottle for it since the model is long but not very tall. I also had a uniquely shaped bottle that my father had saved for me many years ago with the thought that “maybe you could put a ship in it someday”. It’s a long tapered triangle shaped bottle that once contained Sicilian Gold Marsala. So as a tribute to my Sicilian ancestry I wanted to use the bottle. I switched over from the clay-dough modeling clay I had previously used and instead purchased some plumber’s putty that I colored with water-soluble artist grade oil paints mixing Ultramarine Blue with some Viridian Green for the sea, using the base neutral color for the wave tops. I also switched back to cloth sails which I seem to prefer. Once I placed the lumber schooner into the back end of the bottle, I realized it looked a little lonely so I repeated Needham’s “Exercise One” and made a basic two masted fishing schooner to keep it company. Once I added the fishing schooner, I still had some “dead space” in the neck to fill so I added a small headland background with a few buildings and put a small skipjack sailboat in front of that to give the illusion of all three running into port. I finished the neck with a “Turk’s Head” knot that I built a special jig for so I could get it right this time. It’s still tough to make, even with a jig. So here is my diorama “fleet” heading into port. This is the first time I put multiple ships in a bottle and I’m encouraged enough to use this method again on some of my longer bottles.
  22. Thanks CharlieB! Amundsen's story was powerful inspiration to do a good job.
  23. Thanks! Yes, it was a bit of a challenge to work the model in with the long neck and I had to pull it out a few times to get it adjusted the way I wanted. I have a collection of bottles my father saved for me from his bartending days and I seem to be on a mission to find a ship for all of them.
  24. Since I decided to revive my interest in ship in the bottle builds, I revisited my original first kit builds from the “Ships A Sailin’” line from the 1970’s. My first ever build was their “Lively Lady” and my second ever build was another of their kits. I pulled out the instruction sheet that I still have from this series which has no identification for the ship on it. For many years I was under the impression that this build was their “Skeeter” but after finding an old kit for sale I realized that I had actually built their “Goja”. I first started to perfunctorily build this ship accordingly to the dimensions I had on the instruction sheet when I remembered that I was never quite pleased with my first result. I had given this build away as a gift so I no longer had it for reference. I looked at the squat dimensions of the whole ship on the instruction sheet and the cautionary words that the model had been modified to adapt it to the bottle when I wondered if this was actually a historical representation. At the time I had no idea what the “Goja” was, my “Lively Lady” certainly wasn’t a historically accurate ship so I assumed that this was another fanciful creation. After a cursory investigation, I was hooked. The “Goja” is the ship that Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen sailed to make the first successful voyage across the North West Passage in 1906. The ship still exists today in a museum in Fram, Norway and previously had spent many years in a park in San Francisco, Ca so it is well documented and photographed. I managed to find a sail and rigging plan and pulled up a few photos to help me get as historically close to the ship as possible. I even watched a video documentary about the Arctic Explorers and the quest to find the North West Passage. After Amundsen completed the passage, he landed in Alaska and had to Nordic ski 500 miles just to send a telegraph to announce his completion. I was so impressed with this story I decided I had to do this model due diligence and effort. I didn’t want to end up with a “bottle with a ship model in it” I wanted a “ship model that happened to be encased in a glass bottle” instead. I found a nice bottle in my collection that complemented the dimensions of the plan although it was a bit challenging to work in. I tried to match the color scheme of the hull, I made a nice suit of sails from cloth instead of paper (I really prefer the cloth sails to paper now), I took some care with trying to make a flat Arctic sea with ice floes and an Arctic tundra backdrop and I sealed the bottle with a Scandinavian coin (OK, it’s Swedish, not Norwegian and it isn’t from 1906 but it looks cool) and made another “decorative braid” knot for the neck. I even tried my hand at a miniature Norwegian flag to fly from its ensign line. Had I had the presence of mind, I would have made a Norwegian flag of the banner but the flag was an afterthought. Most of these details are not visible in the photograph. After it was completed it struck me how the bottle mounted on its side mimics the silhouette of the ship with the neck being its prow. So here it is, my homage to Roald Amundsen, my eighth ever SIB.
  25. Thanks Jeff, I thought about making one in a bottle but I have one that I bought that looks just like her. I have a backlog of SIB projects that I'm working on first but might use the plans someday.
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