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Bottled Ship Builder

Ship in vertical light bulb

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Found this lovely ship in a light bulb at estate sale yesterday. First Baltimore clipper, Ann McKim. Beautiful. 

About 9" tall, 4" across.

But I can't find info on how it was made, since it's vertical with hole (with screw end removed) on BOTTOM, not side. How was this done?!

Also, I didn't see any other vertical examples online, only bulbs on sides. Are these rare? Circa what year? Estate sale house had lots of deep sea fishing gear, I think it was built by fisherperson whilst idling away, waiting for a bite....

This seems super rare - is it worth much? The one flaw is the lighthouse fell over in a storm and is loose on the sea, rolling in the surf...

Thanks in advance for any info on construction and value.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi, thanks for responding!

It looks like it's blue...putty or acrylic all the way down. My brother is an engineer and we discussed just yesterday and concluded together that likely the completed lovely ship and cool island were each attached to the end of sticks pointing up from bottom, then liquid was pumped up from below to level.

I don't know much about SIAB building but this explanation makes sense to me.

See additional pics of base i took for brother. Also of fallen lighthouse - suggestions for repair are welcomed.

Haha! I've just made up the story there was a storm, see, and...  : )

Cool piece, I love it, but if you know anyone who wants to buy it, let me know! I'd bet $100 is a good price, it's a fine piece!






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Happy new year. I wish I was as lucky to find something like that an estate sale. I think I know the answer to this one. Everything was assembled and fastened with the bulb laying flat on a thin layer, maybe 1/8 inch thick of “sea“ and then the bulb was rotated to the vertical and glued in place And the underneath was either painted or puttied to blend. I think I can make out the thin anomaly of the original thin base. Too bad about the lighthouse but still a beautiful piece. You get extra credit if you figure out how to reattach that.

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It’s fantastic that she survived her voyage so far. That’s not your average bulb either. It might help date when the model was built. The way I might guess it was done is for three or four tongue depressors or equivalent, laid side-by-side and cut into a circle, then taped on the back in such a way as to let them hinge and fold, allowing the insertion through the bulb neck. Then unfolded and glued together flat when inside the bulb on its side. Taking care not to glue the base to the side of the bulb yet. Paint the base blue, add some sea texture camoflauge and color to base as needed, add waves, structures, and the ship itself, etc.  Make sure the base and all its details are free to move and rotate the bulb to vertical and glue or putty base in place from the bottom over the neck access. Easier said than done. I’m intrigued and I am adding this to my build idea list. 

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I've seen this old bulb type before, and if I recall correctly it was originally a 3-way bulb used in the tall brass floor lamps.

Those lamps had 3 satellite smaller bulbs situated around a white glass shade.  The lamp shade then rested on top of it.

Those long bulbs were still available in the 60's and 70's.  The one you have seems to have a brass base - which were rarely yet available in the 60's.



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Duh, Can't believe I didn't think of this because I used that exact method to do one in a Christmas tree ornament (clear bulb) but with the narrow part on top instead of the bottom. Age is playing hide and seek with my memory!

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Hi, JesseLee -

Which method did you use on the bulb:

the one suggested by Isa Da Bye, with an unfolding platform of tongue depressors, hinged, on which ship and island are built, or the method of placing the two things on sticks mounted to a base, like my illustration?

Also, if bulb part was on bottom it would be easier because you could maneuver things from the hole on top, even after the "sea" was poured into the bulb part below?


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The unfolding platform with the inside of the glass under the sea platform painted to give the illusion of it being filled with something. Yes, could control how things ended up sitting from the top. It is on here somewhere. The Rouse Simmons, nicknamed the Christmas Tree Ship in a Christmas ornament globe.

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