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Bottled Ship Builder

How do you make ratlines?

Bruce Foxworthy

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Hi guys:

Just starting up again after a 30 plus year absence. I can't tell you how much I love this site and all the things I'm learning from it. I just read a thread about dead eyes and thought for sure there are some neat ways you guys make your ratlines. In the past they have always plagued me. I've tried using metal and plastic window screening material but they don't look that great. So how about spreading your experience with me on your techniques.

Thanks Bruce Foxworthy

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i guess the forum is dead.

I am a noob, going through the old threads trying to get hints and pointers in my newfound hobby.


The people who build ships in bottles seem very secretive people, They hide crucial steps and techniques. And they seem to be sad that their art is about to die...


So i found this info elsewhere and i am using it.

I make the thread hard by coating it with white glue and hanging it with a weight attached at bottom. Then I take a printout of the shrouds, and place the thread parts on it, or measure and arrange it on a diagram i made. Then stick horizontal lines with white glue again.

Edited by aadkitta
additional info.
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Thanks for sharing your method with me.

I'm hoping that because it's a holiday weekend that that is why there hasn't been more response,yet anyway.

I'm guessing that you hang your ratlines after the ship has been erected, cause I'm thinking that your process would end up being pretty stiff when it's done. I mean that it wouldn't lend itself to folding down easily without coming undone when it comes time to slip the ship through the neck of the bottle. Or am I missing something?


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as I said, i am just a beginner.

But it seemed to work.


This I have done in a plastic bottle. And fairly scratched one at that. The sea is another funny story, its made from "Rangoli" mixed in white glue water. i didnt have blue colour at hand so made green. i just wanted to get the ship inside the bottle just to see if it worked.




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The forum is very slow but not dead.  There are a ton of different ratline methods.  I've seen people use lace, or even photo etching.  There's good and bad to all methods.  I agree that lace or screening doesn't look the best and metal being hard is harder to get into the bottle. 

I haven't tried all the methods but I can tell you what works well for me.  There's two parts ratlines and it maybe obvious but I'll point them out just so every one understands my terminology.  The lines connecting the mast to the ship and run more or less vertically are called shrouds.  The lines that work as ladders and run horizontally are called ratlines.  Since I usually use the folding method the tightness of the shrouds is important for setting the rake or angle of the mast.  So while some builders make their shrouds and ratlines separate and add them on to the ship after the two parts are combined, I put the shrouds on first then add the ratlines.  

  I like to make my shrouds with a single line weaving back and forth from the ship to the mast.  This makes tightening easy since I pull the line and move the mast back and forth to tighten the shrouds.  Once the shrouds are tightened I tie down and glue down the last line.  Then I move on to the ratlines.  With the mast pulled forward and shrouds tight I glue on the ratlines.  This can be done one by one or you can use a frame.  Place the frame between the mast on the shrouds and glue the ratlines to the shrouds.  I've used superglue and white glue.  Both work fine.  I will say superglue dries stiff so try not to use to much.  Also if you get to much on the line it may leave a white blob.  These can be painted over if needed. If you use white glue try using the frame to keep the lines in place while the glue dries.  That tends to work well.  Test the lines once the glue is dry to make sure they are secure.  Then cut off the excess with follicle clippers. 

I describe this method in more detail in my Bermuda sloop build log and there is more pictures. 





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Thank you very much for the informative reply, Admin.

I have read the thread you quoted and found it very useful.

I am attaching my attempt of making another ship.


Please let me state that i have never seen a sailship up close. I have been on a motorlaunch once or twice in my life. And i am reading up on the lore of ships and the sea. I find the art fascinating and I am working on it. Slowly. :)



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That looks great.  Your doing an awesome job.  I like that your not afraid to go small with your bulwarks, rails, masts and yard arms.  Gives the ship a more realistic look.  I sometimes think you can tell a good ship in bottle because you could imagine yourself walking around on deck.  I can do that with your model.

   I've never been on a real sailing ship either.  Biggest I've been on is a day sailing dinghy which isn't much.  It is kind of funny being from a land locked state in the US that I'd be so into sailing ships.  There's just a sense of adventure to them that I like. 

  The more you get into this hobby the more you learn.  I happen to be in a ship modeling club as well with people that build the big static models.  1:50 scale or bigger sort of models.  There is a tendency to get particular about historical details and scale in that group and I fall into that sometimes and build in that way but, my way is not THE way, it's just one way.  There is room for all types of building in the art though so I think people should be as technical or not technical as they like. Ultimately it's about having fun.  A great example is an Etsy shop I came across from a builder in Ukraine.  Brenner is the name he has on Etsy and he has some of the most beautiful ships in bottles I have ever seen.  They are artistically amazing.  They are not at all scale, or historically accurate and don't have a lot of detail. None of that matters, they are beautiful.  Here's a link. https://www.etsy.com/shop/Wardroom?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=696912513  Anyway that was a big tangent just to say build how you want, at your own pace, and have fun.          


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D. Siemens:

Wow just went to that site Wardroom you posted a link to. Fabulous art work. And I agree that it's not so much the actual or historical detail that matters as it is the aesthetic of the end product. And thanks for your input on this topic. Every little bit helps

Addkitta, I think your ship is SWEET. Can't wait to see it in the bottle.

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  • 1 month later...

Greetings All,

Here are a few photos taken while adding the ratlines to the shrouds on my James Miller models. The jib was made from 1/16" thick maple veneer, holes drilled to match the distance between ratlines. The line used was 8/0 fly tying thread, rigged as shown in first two photos. 3rd photo shows the jig fastened to the shrouds with an insect mounting pin at the top and a pair of miniature clothes pins and a small piece of bamboo split down on the bottom. CA glue was applied to all points that the ratlines behind touched the shrouds. The shrouds for these models was made from 3 pieces of 8/0 thread made into rope on my miniature rope walk. The final photo shows the finished job, after cutting the ratlines at the outside edges of the shrouds.

Hope that helps!!

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

James Miller Light Bulb 175.jpg

James Miller Light Bulb 176.jpg

James Miller Light Bulb 177.jpg

James Miller Light Bulb 178.jpg

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Bruce,

I apologize for taking so long to respond. Attached are pictures of my jig and an application on a Great Lakes 1812-1815 circa Warship.

IMG_0434.thumb.JPG.e932b3bbf20020a31c7c63e137f17038.JPG Thread goes into the spring at top with spacing required depending on diameter of the mast. Bottom piece where the screw goes into the jig is wood and slots are cut according to the spacing required on the hull. Start at the top with a piece of thread, then slip it into the spring, and then pull down into a location on the bottom piece of the wood both sides. The beauty of the wood is you can pick number of shrouds/lines, spacing etc. Then start glueing your lines in place according to the scale required.

IMG_0435.thumb.JPG.9ff1e70bc25db7cffe8193c42707bef1.JPG Jig is built from brass square tubing. Holes are drilled to allow for different SIB scales. Just remove the brass screw each side and adjust accordingly. Rod is soldered at the bottom so it can fit into my fly tying pin vice.

IMG_0436.thumb.JPG.22d3e06899162433b16d004af028fa76.JPG Here is a picture of the rat lines installed on a British Warship.

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  • 10 months later...

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