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HMS Ramillies, 74

JerseyCity Frankie

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I haven’t done a SIB in a year or more so it’s time. But what to build? Visiting my sister in Mystic Connecticut we stoped in the adjacent town of Stonington. It just so happened to be the anniversary of a naval bombardment the town had suffered under the British in 1814. When I read on an historic plaque in town that the English commander was Captain Hardy, THE captain Hardy of Trafalgar and Victory and Nelson, “Kiss me, Hardy, THAT Hardy, I knew I wanted to build HMS Ramillies, Hardy’s command. Here’s background on the battle:  https://www.stoningtonhistory.org/exhibits/battle-of-stonington/  Looking at my ship books I was pleased to discover I already had a very good drawing of HMS Theseus, a sister ship, in the book Nelson’s Ships by Peter Goodwin. 

At a farmers market in Manhattan a guy was selling his Maple Syrup in these jugs that looked PERFECT. Smaller than a gallon but big enough for a more detailed model. When I explained why I was holding his bottles sideways and knitting my brows, the guy GAVE ME a free empty bottle.  So I’m Putting in a plug for  http://deepmountainmaple.com/ on their website they list the fancy restaurants in New York that use their syrup and it’s a long list! So it must be good.

I usually look at building SIBs by starting with the bottle and THEN laying plans for the ship, rather than imagine a ship then search for the appropriate bottle. It’s easier that way. But in this case I think the bottle I had is just right. 



Edited by JerseyCity Frankie
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The base is plywood and covered crudely in fake gold leaf. I got the fake leaf on eBay, very inexpensive. I’ve never used the real stuff but seen it done on YouTube videos. Like the real stuff, the fake stuff is the most fragile insubstantial material you can imagine, a puff of air rips up the tiny 2” square sheets. In this casrpe I painted cheap white glue over the brown painted plywood and just washed pieces of leaf over the glue, not trying to keep the sheets intact. The mottled speckled gold flecks look great. The blue sea is plasticine. I mixed up a “sea” color and melted it in a double boiler then poured it into the bottle, a first for me. In the past I inserted ropes of room temperature clay in then mashed them down with a crooked stick. Melted, I was able to get perfect adhesion. I used a bent piece of cardboard as a trough for the pour. Let it cool. 

Then, to get the sea to look more convincing, I tossed into the bottle some small bits of lighter greener blue clay, and a bit of grey, these I smeared into the iriginal sea to give the surface a choppy look. The some pure white clay in very small bits were also mashed and smeared. The result is much better than a single monotonous color. 





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The hull I’ve carved from some species of wood that smells a LOT like cedar. Maybe it IS cedar? I had a block lying around. Nice tight grain. Smells good. 

Masts. I’ve grown impatient with wood for masts in SIBs. To get the wood to scale you wind up with some VERY fragile spars. I got sick of snapping them and now use brass rod and piano wire. This necessitates soldering the components and I’m the WORST at soldering. But the metal masts NEVER break and I can drill through them.  You’ll notice a second bottle prepped. I’m building two SIBs at once but this build lib focuses only on the 74. 



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  • 2 weeks later...

Carved the hull, reasonably happy with it? It’s 4 1/4” or 11cm long.my usual method is to use a wood hull then glue bulwarks on made of colored paper. In fact all the details, all the deck furniture is laminated colored paper.

my new wrinkle on this project was to make stairs from paper laminated to form each step. I alternated two similar colors to make each step visually distinct from the next but I’m not sure it was necessary. 

My plan for the quarter galleries is to use two-part transparent epoxy, in a technique I once used many years ago. I cut deep grooves at the stern to represent the upper and middle decks and painted their interiors black. In the next step I will mix the epoxy, allow it to almost set then apply it in lumps on either side of the stern and deep into the cut grooves. Being almost stiff the globs will stand out from the hull when they harden. Being transparent the epoxy can then have window framing painted over it. Voila: glazed windows.











Edited by JerseyCity Frankie
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Bulwarks. I laminate a red and a mustard (mustard?) colored pieces of colored paper to represent the inner and outer colors of the bulwarks. Then I cut a rabbit or notch or shelf-whatever- for it to fit snub against the hull. The gap is filled with modeling paste.

for the 74, the upper profile of the bulwark is odd, it takes a weird downward slope from the Hances to the Gangways, with fancy curves. And also I had to cut out a bunch of gunports. But, once I got them glued on with Tightbond white glue, I felt happy. Suddenly it looks like a going concern. 




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Paint. I’m using Vallejo acrylics and I’m happy with this product. You will notice I paint then paint again, then I add more physical elements  and then paint the same surface again, rather than just paint everything once at the end. In my view the paint should be open and ready whenever you’re at work on the model so you can add paint as you go. Acrylic paints make this easier since there’s no solvents or long drying time.

current reasearch on actual paint from HMS Victory has recently given us a more true picture of the “yellow” color of the Nelson Checker: it’s actually pink. It shocked everyone at the time and purist people were freaking out. But actually the color is more akin to Terracotta. So I tried to reflect that in my “yellow” color. But mine still looks mostly yellow. 

The “black” stripes are dark grey, not black. This way when I paint on the gunports in actual black, the illusion of an open port is achieved. Eight of the gunports, those at the waist, really ARE open, the rest are painted squares. 

These photos show my use of epoxy on the quarter galleries to fake glass windows. I give the effort a six out of ten. But a lot esier than trying to build the galleries from scratch out of wood plastic or putty. They are gloppy but I’m reasonably happy with them. 










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I’m the worst at measuring, very seldomly can I fit the model into the neck of the bottle on the first attempt. I always discover my initial hull is too wide or deep and I’ve got to go back and shave off a centimeter here and a millimeter there. And it’s not as if I wasn’t measuring and cutting the wood based on the bottle size, I am! I just suck at it! This happened with Ramillies just now and I had to grind down the waterline and then repaint the edge of the hull. But now she fits. More importantly the masts fit inside the bottle too. Many is the time I’ve had to nip off the tops of the masts too, over the years. 

Its great to see her inside the bottle now and it renews my excitmfor this project. 


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Bowsprit and Jibboom rigging. Visible are the silver wire eyes for the stays to later run through. Bowsprit gammoning is actually two scraps of colored paper. 

a silly oddity: for the Flying Jibboom I just grabbed a tiny bit of piano wire lying to the side of my workbench. It was already the right diameter and length so I thought it was a happy accident. After it was on the model I realized it’s the broken off end of a very fine fretsaw blade, lol. You can just make out the very fine teeth in the red circle.





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Templates for sails. I’m scaling down a sail shaping technique I use on bigger not-bottle models. Every other ship in bottle I’ve made has had simple paper sails, sails which I curl slightly to give the appearance of wind bellying the sails out. 


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This mix-it-yourself water based putty-like product is, I think, the least expensive item for sale at the huge American hardware chain Home Depot. Under $4! What else can you buy today for less than $4.? And it’s a terrific product. Its a beige powder you mix with water that dries to a very hard consistency. After which it can be sawn filed or sanded. It’s hardness is the only drawback, I wish it was slightly less hard when cured. 

Anyway, you can see what I’m doing with it: 3-D forms for the sails. 




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After rough sanding I paint on a second coat of a thinner mixture of the Water Putty, to try to smooth the surface further. When dry I sealed all the sail-forms with nail polish.

my technique is to impregnate woven fabric with transparent Five Minute Two Part Epoxy, then stretch the wet fabric over the forms, pin it in place, and allow to harden. I put a piece of Seran-Wrap over each form as a resist. On a sheet of glass I squeegee the transparent epoxy into lengths of the fabric. I flip the fabric over and repeat the process as I want to get the epoxy deep into the fibers of the fabric.

the fabric I chose is NOT white but actually a cream color, as can be seen in one of the photos a blank white 3x5 card shows the fabric is a darker and more off-white color. Actual woven fabric sails are never pure bright white and in fact get darker as they age. 

The epoxy will harden in five minutes but I I’ll leave the sails stretched over the forms overnight to be sure they are fully cured and hardened. 

Until now all my ships in bottles have had much simpler paper sails, this is my first time using actual woven fabric in a bottle. Paper wouldn’t stretch over the forms properly. Years ago I used this technique with tissue paper, in multiple layers as with water based glue, and this gave good enough results but I like the strength of a woven fabric. I chose the thinnest fabric I could find. With the epoxy and then some subsequent painting, I doubt the weave of the fabric will be noticeable, and I don’t want it to be visible. 

As I said before, this technique of forming the sails over 3-D forms is one I use on larger non-bottle models. It’s a LOT of work and adds a great deal more time to the build. But I love the look of sails that are bellied out realistically in three dimensions and other easier techniques I have tried don’t work as well. 

I do worry that these thicker stiffer sails are not going to easily pass through the bottle neck though! 





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After curing overnight the epoxy is fully set. I trace the outline of the sail onto the fabric and pop the sails off the forms. The fabric is stiff but has a slight elasticity and flexibility to it, it’s not a brittle shell. But it is now frozen into this 3-D shape and no amount of effort will flatten the fabric again. 

The side of the fabric facing the form is as shiny as glass and must be roughed up with sandpaper to remove the gloss. 




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Cut out and taped to a card, now you can see the curved shape. I realize there’s a mistake visible in my photos above: the topsails are mislabeled Courses. I intend to have the courses furled and I won’t use the fabric/epoxy methods for that, probably tissue paper.


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Thread/ Running Rigging. It’s khaki thread stained  with a little thin acrylic Raw Ocher. Nearly every thread visible here is a Sheet. In each case I glue the thread along one entire edge of a sail, so it’s as well anchored to the sail as possible, then I fold a tiny piece of tissue paper over the thread at the point where it emerges from the sail. Then I paint the sail at that point to disguise it all and further cement it together. I leave an inch of thread protruding above the heads of the sails too. This portion will be folded over the yard the sail will be glued to, then glued back onto the sail again to assure the sail is firmly anchored to the yard.


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Yards are painted piano wire with wire loop eyes at their arms to take the sheets of the square sails. My intention is to make the Sheets then double as Braces and in this way I hope to uprig inside the bottle. Each yard has a thread parel which I will use to tie each spar to its place on the Mast. I’m debating adding Lifts but feel they just multiply the complexity. 


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Finally bending on sail. The furled courses are tissue paper painted a color close to the other sails. The Spanker  is attached only at the point of the gaff jaws to the Mast, the bottom of the sail can flop away from the deck and be drawn in tight later inside the bottle via the sheet and tack. It feels great to be bending the sails on, I’m excited again.





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