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Bottled Ship Builder

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Hi Scott,

You can use the old tried and true technique of window putty mixed with oil paints. The latter has been used for at least 70-80 years. The putty however takes a really long time to dry. If you look at my Preussen build here on this site I use a different technique by carving individual pieces of wood, then using modelling paste and gel, then painting it with acrylics.

If you Google a few of the model railroader sites they have some awesome water techniques however our dilemma is getting the water into the bottle.

Edited by Chasseur

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There is a ton of different techniques.  My personal favorite is plastaline clay.  Its oil base so it stays maliable and melts at 150 fahrenheit.  I roll it out and cut a piece to go into the bottle then carfully roll it so it doesnt stick together and get it in.  From there I separate it and use long wires to flatten it in the bottom of the bottle and shape waves.  Once its in place I'll hold the bottle a burner on the stove for about ten to twenty seconds.  Just enough so the plastaline at the bottom next to the glass melts.  Then let it set and cool for a little while.  Once cool the sea stays in place. You can add wakes by either painting or using white plataline clay and pushing it into place.  

What I like about it is its less messy than putty with paint in it.  

Plumbers putty is also good.  

I've seen great things done with resin but I've never tried it.  

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Hi Scott,

I don’t think there is any best way to do sea. I’ve spent a fair bit of time out on blue water and I don’t think there are two places the same ever. At best it is a representation of the sea. If you look through the forum you will see a variety of ways, bare wood, painted wood, putty, Plasticine, resin, etc. Some have no sea, but put the SIB on a stand. Bob (shipbuilder) has excellent sea, but in a case, not a bottle. They all look good as a piece of art.

I think the best thing to do is try a couple, experiment, and use the one best suited to yourself.

I use Plasticine. Reasonably priced, non-toxic in a variety of colours that can be mixed to give the shade required. I tend to use blue, green, grey, black with white for foam. The ‘new’ formulation tends to colour hands, when softening it for use. I haven’t tried Daniel’s trick of melting it into place – might give it a go sometime. I use a variety of home made tools, left to right;

·         A bent nail in a garden cane with the head sanded smooth.

·         Bent Aluminium  Rod in a garden cane with the head sanded smooth

·         Bent Aluminium  Wire in a garden cane with the head sanded smooth

·         A length of wire coat hanger

·         An old stainless steel desert spoon with the edges cut away in a garden cane

·         A brass olive from a compression pipe joint with a piece of dowel tightly fitted in it, drilled through and mounted on a length of wire coat hanger – used as a roller

         Swab for cleaning the inside using acetone.



After the ‘sea’ is in, I shape the surface. Think about where you want the wind from – this will be the direction of the waves (usually). Also the height of the wave, if you want full sail, then don’t have Force 8 size waves, the masts would not take it in real life.

I shape the hull recess around the hull blank before any painting as the Plasticene will stick to it. With the blank hull in place, I put in the wake, dogbone, etc, caused by the hull, foam on the wave crests etc. Little bits of white Plasticene do for this. They can be smeared onto the wavetops and it doesn’t have to be even, there is no such thing at sea. In the example below, I have the wind coming from the port quarter. As I said, not totally realistic, but it sets the scene.


Then I take the hull out and finish the build. If there is any assembling to be done in the bottle I cover the sea with gauze, to keep things clean, assemble, remove the gauze and put the hull in the recess. A bit of final adjusting of the Plasticene to hold the SIB and that’s it.

Have fun experimenting



Edited by exwafoo

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Good Day

I am new to the forum and pleased to have found it.

For models in and out of bottles l have covered my 'sea' with 4 or 5 coats of PVA white wood glue, allowing it to dry clear, between coats. This gives a realistic wet look, with depth to it.

Like commenters below I fiddled with oil paints but realised 30 odd years ago, life was not long enough and acrylic's the way to go. In bottles, I use plasticine for the sea, molten/softened by corking the bottle and immersing in hot water. Out of bottles, I carve the sea in jelutong. I use a router before carving, to accommodate the hull.

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