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Bottled Ship Builder



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Real ratlines were tied to the shrouds with clove hitches except at the ends which had eye splices that were seized to the shrouds. They were spaced at about 15 inches / 38 cm and were aligned parallel to the ship's waterline. Clearly too complicated and fiddly to duplicate the tying - especially the eye splices and seizing - so I just glue them as you suspect. I use lightly diluted artist's acrylic matte varnish, about 2 to 3 parts with 1 part water, to glue them. Being acrylic it remains somewhat flexible, unlike ca, and diluting the varnish allows it to wick into the fibers. I always use my finest fly tie thread no matter what scale the ship is because the ratlines will be over scale unless the model is larger than about 1/300 scale.



This is a frame I make to pre-space the ratlines and pin it into place to align the ratlines parallel to the waterline.

Then I use a small pointed brush to varnish all the intersections and repeat on the opposite side making sure

both sides match. I then cut the frames loose and do the same to the other mast(s). I do the same with the

topmast and topgallant mast ratlines. I trim the ends with nail clippers all at the same time so I can clean

up the cuttings just once instead of two or three times.



Completed ratlines.


Hope this helps.

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The frame method is one of the best methods I've tried.  I highly suggest it.  The only thing I can add is pick up a pair of these style clippers.  They run about $8 at the grocery store.  I like them better because you can see what your clipping from a comfortable angle.  Last thing you want to do is accidentally cut a stay line.  Regular nail clippers are more curved which makes it harder to see.    



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I've also used fly tying silk, and the finest I've found is UNI Thread 8/0.  I've heard of finer ones, but the 12/0 sold by Orvis was actually no finer than the 8/0.  I still use super glue, and with practice and by using only fresh glue I have been able to keep the stiffness down.  I will certainly try Dave suggestion with acrylic varnish.   Here are the ratlines on the shrouds of an unidentified merchant ship in a 5 liter bottle. The main thing that has helped is the practice of trying it to get a better feel for the job.



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  • 4 weeks later...

You can get wire so fine that you can hardly see it, but I don't know how it would behave if it had to be folded down!     I built this about 20 years ago, just for fun.   Looks pretty awful really, but the hull is only 2 1/2 inches long, and it only took a couple of days to build!   It is the Persian Empire, rigged in fine copper wire!   

The black & white images are Flower of the Fal, built about 30 years ago, also rigged in wire!






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I have found that sizes are not standardized for fly tie thread, they are relative only for the thread from individual manufacturers. I've been using Veevus which has the widest range of sizes I've seen from 6/0 through 16/0 (finest) by even numbers.


Measuring the diameter of fine thread is difficult because it flattens under pressure. I hold the thread lengthwise to the caliper jaws and close them until I feel the slightest resistance and measure several times until I get a consistent reading. This only works with my best calipers, I can't feel the beginning of the "crush" with my cheap one. I come up with .002 in./ 0.05 mm (finer than my blonde hair) for Veevus 16/0. Others will likely get a different result because of differences in how individuals will detect this "crush." Micrometers are useless for measuring thread because the anvils twist relative to each other as the mike closes. 


I don't see wire as an option on SiBs except possibly as foot ropes on yards and a few other locations were they won't get bent during the launch down the bottle neck. I'm sure wire would be disastrous for lower shrouds, but might work for topmast and topgallant mast shrouds. I don't see myself experimenting with wire except as foot ropes. Straightening bent wires inside a bottle seems to me an exercise in futility.


I have some copper wire as fine as 45 gauge (.002 in./ 0.05 mm). Copper wire finer than that is measured by its electrical resistance and not by a number related to its diameter.

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Tool for Measuring the Diameter of Line

An old idea, but it works.


This is a tool that will give measurements directly in either metric or imperial units.

It works by winding a number of turns round a defined space on the tool, counting the turns, and then performing a simple division to give the diameter.

Carefully measure and mark two segments on a dowel about 6 inches long, 1 inch at one end, and 2 centimetres at the other end. Don’t use the ends of the dowel as the ends of the measured segments - start about ½ an inch in from end of the dowel as illustrated below.





Line Diameter Measuring Tool

Decide whether you want to know line diameter in inches or millimetres. Wrap line around the appropriate area until it’s filled. Keep the line snug on the dowel and against itself as you wind it.

Count the number of passes of line between the marks defining the segment.

For line diameter in INCHES

Divide 1 by the number of turns counted on the 1 inch segment marked the dowel; e.g. if you count 31 turns, divide 1 by 31 to get 0.03225 - the diameter of the line is 0.03225 inches.

For line diameter in MILLIMETERS

Divide 20 (the number of millimetres in 2 centimetres) by the number of turns counted on the 2 centimetre segment; e.g. if you count 40 turns, divide 20 by 40 to get 0.5 - the diameter of the line is 0.5 millimetres.

For best results, repeat two or three times and use the average.

If the line is treated with beeswax, stain, or other substances, then measure the line AFTER it has been treated.

Edited by exwafoo
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