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Bottled Ship Builder

First Time Builder


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Hello all, here is my first ever attempt at a ship in a bottle, or a model ship in any form at all for that matter! It began when my father and I finished a bottle of Dos Maderas rum and were admiring the logo of a ship embossed on the bottle. This of course brought up the topic of ships in bottles and I decided quite spontaneously that I needed to build one right away. I was only going to be at my parents house for a couple days so I needed to work fast and all the work pictured below took place over just 2 days wherein I obsessed over this project all day stopping only to eat and sleep. I started by watching a couple instructional YouTube videos by ACutAbove Woodworking and then jumped right in to designing a ship; The Bottle Boat I. I know, very creative name.


With the design phase complete I roughly cut out the hull on the band saw.444DE12C-CE90-4FDE-8C22-57B1B2D68B0C.thumb.jpeg.ab668abee44a84ba0921188cfce45cf4.jpeg

Next was lots of sanding with various grits of sand paper to make it a little more pleasant to look at. I cut out the deck with a linoleum carving tool. Once it was faired I slid it into the bottle to make sure it fit.5868CB66-97EE-4500-B02E-980C1323F70D.thumb.jpeg.63354be69980f797197ed58ab04d61b5.jpegFACA0EE8-968D-4F1B-BC1E-8C219D784C04.thumb.jpeg.85cac340ba8fb55b4cd3c2c8a58d6e7f.jpeg

I decided to add some little hatches made of chopped up popsicle sticks and a lifeboat that I carved from a piece of old pencil.04CD15B1-C1AC-473E-A544-74A4FC6A760E.thumb.jpeg.a3efc3a59ce9e416e3801dc58d782a0b.jpeg

I worked for some time without taking any pictures but the result is here. Initially I tried making the masts from bamboo BBQ skewers but they were a nightmare to work with due to bamboo being very hard to drill through and also its tendency to splinter so I went to the hardware store and got 1/8” dowel for the masts and I think 1/16” or 3/32” dowel for the spars. I also folded up an anchor out of 22 gauge steel wire and painted and stained the hull and masts.


I decided to go for even more detail and made these railings by drilling and bending lots of wires into the deck.
Next I put the masts on the deck using the simple wire hinge method. I don’t know why the image is upside down or why my text is suddenly underlined. Oh well 🤷🏻‍♂️


Next I started work on the rigging lines. This was the part I was most concerned about doing with all the very small strings but it turned out to be not hard at all.9FD60704-1E40-421F-A641-481DD670F2B0.thumb.jpeg.639108c85ee6e08669288455545ebe89.jpeg

here I put in the main lines and tested the lowering/raising of the masts mechanism which seemed to work alright, there was a little interference with the rear mast and the lifeboat but with a little wiggling it would go up okay.


All that remained for the ship itself was to put on the sails! For this purpose I used some thin blank paper which I stained with coffee and this was the final result. (Please excuse upside down images)6A80293D-D939-4253-91A6-E6610B068611.thumb.jpeg.81f16b4f0843da95b999c1ded9d67cd0.jpeg62162FDC-283C-4BD6-8C65-FC0923163F53.thumb.jpeg.12478c1ef780e4b70e5a680ab660a706.jpeg

I then had to drive back home before I got around to putting it in the bottle so it remains at my parents’ house for a few weeks until I can get back there to finish it.


I’d love to hear the thoughts and tips of some more experienced builders so let me know what you think! 

Blue skies and tail winds,


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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the nice comments on the build so far! I finally got the chance to come back and finish this model but it turns out I made a fatal error in its construction. The width of the hull was a tight fit into the bottle initially and when I put the pins into the sides to tie off the rat lines it increased the width just a fraction of a millimetre too much and it wouldn’t fit. I tried using a dremel to slightly widen the neck of the bottle but overheated it and gave it a small crack. The crack is hardly visible so I think I will still use the bottle but gave up on widening it and switched instead to building a near replica of the first ship but about 3 millimetres thinner and with a couple other small design changes that would help it fit in the bottle better. 

as you can see it’s mostly the same but the aft deck is much lower, the hinges have a lower rotation point, the bow sprit points slightly more up, I tied the sails to the spars with thread instead of glueing them directly, I added topsails and, changed the shapes of the triangular sails at the front to better match my reference image. I have tested it and this one fits in the bottle with ease. 

I also started some test batches of the resin that I intend to use for the water in the bottle trying to get the colour right and learn how to work with it as I have never used epoxy resin before. 

I think I’m going to try to match the colour in the bottom test in the image. It will appear a little darker when poured thicker in the bottle. 
I also made a funnel and tube assembly as well as a temporary wooden holder for the bottle to cleanly get the resin inside. 
Unfortunately due to the time it took to build the second ship I once again ran out of time to pour resin and place the ship in its final position so it will have to wait a couple more weeks until I’m in town again. I’m planning to either use mod podge or dab in some clear silicone to make waves once the resin has set. Has anyone else used that method or have any other tips and tricks for making waves? 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a favourable change of schedule this week and was able to get back to the project much sooner than anticipated! I began, with much trepidation, the process of filling the bottle with the resin. I’ve never worked with resin before so I was a bit nervous about messing it up but it went off without a hitch. The funnel and tube assemble worked perfectly and the colour came out just right. 

Next I layered up 3 layers of mod podge inside using a paint brush to give some texture to the wake of the ship. I had trouble getting it to dry when after several hours it was still completely wet but this was solved by pointing a small desk fan into the mouth of the bottle to give it some airflow. 

Once the mod podge was dry and clear and I was happy with the texture reached in with some white paint to highlight the waves. Again, I don’t know why this image is upside down but it doesn’t matter much. 

once the paint had dried it was time to put the ship in at last! I bent up some wire coat hangers to use as my reaching tools and used this to apply some white glue to the middle of the wake. I also fashioned some long forceps/tweezers out of coat hanger with hockey tape wrapped around the ends to give it some grip. I used the makeshift forceps to carefully position the ship in the middle and press it down to dry. Next was to raise the sails but I needed to wait for the glue to fully dry and it was already past midnight so it was time to quit for the day. 

Bright and early the next morning I got to carefully pulling the sails up with a combination of hooking them with my coat hanger tools and gently pulling on the strings that came through the bowsprit. Once they were up I wrapped the loose strings around a screw to hold them steady and glued the strings into the bowsprit with a dab of glue on the end of a coat hanger. Once that glue was dry I was able to cut the loose ends with a regular craft knife, no need to make a special coat hanger knife thing. 

That was the hard part finished, last thing was to make a nice display stand. We had some old walnut laying around that hadn’t been used for anything else so I set to work cutting it up. I even bought a router specifically to make a nice decorative edge on the base of the stand. 


the finishing touch was to apply a coat of tung oil to darken the wood and give it a bit of a satin finish


And at long last, there it is complete! I thoroughly enjoyed this project and I hope you liked following along with this beginner’s first go of things. I’m incredibly happy with how it has turned out and I already have my sights set on the next project in which I will attempt to make a galleon. It won’t be for a little while though as this has consumed my thoughts entirely for the last couple months, especially being away and unable to work on it whenever I wanted to. Until the next one, enjoy these photos of the finished build!





Thanks and see ya next time!



Edited by Ezra
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