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Bottled Ship Builder


Bruce Foxworthy

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IMG-7028(1).thumb.jpg.12fac815cb01da4e5969bd6be44b0a49.jpgIMG-7112.thumb.jpg.330ac06c202b2865ed088da743e87ba2.jpgIMG-7038(1).thumb.jpg.0a081f5274d29b6ff8380b8f264d7528.jpgFirst off, I'd like to thank you guys of the forum and most of all Daniel Siemens, for all the wonderful knowledge,help and encouragement I've had the pleasure to receive during the undertaking of this build. My hope with this piece meal presentation is that some other novices out there can benefit fro m my particular experience in some way. So here we go.

In almost every way this build incorporates techniques and processes I've never tried before and only became aware of through the pages of this forum and discussions with Daniel. Along the way I had to contrive some methods to get things done, some of which I'll share here. As I was going along I also found myself tearing things down and starting over again and again because I did something that wasn't going to work and had to fix that, ASS-Brigantine.jpg.0c8c9aa590459e1d0446e542a867a51f.jpgtesting my patients all the while. After a two month period of time working most every day on it, I came up with a, I think, pretty decent generic brigantine that I basically modeled after this silhouette.

I had never built a SIB model with more than one square sail on it before so I've been itching for years now to get to that place where I could confidently build square riggers. For the most part, the majority of the dozen or so SIBs I built years ago were schooners or sloops of one kind or another.


I decided earl on after looking at some of the seas in pictures on this forum that I was going to use clay for my sea instead of what I had been using which was blue RTV silicone. Here's a picture of what my seas use to look like.


I read everything I could find on the forum that addressed sea material, which is quite a lot actually. With some further input from you guys, I finally decided to go with a PLASTALINA type clay made by VAN AKEN. After working with the stuff throughout the course of this adventure I've decided that I love it. I made a really nice sea for my ship. I also found out that it melted easily over my stove burner to fuse well to the bottom and sides of the bottle.

An incidental discovery with this material was that if you expose the top surface of this clay once it's in the bottle under the close light of two 100 watt shaded trouble lights, the glass will heat up and after a while the surface of the clay takes on a satin like wet look which I think is SWEET. I can't tell you how long that process took for sure or how hot the glass got. I do know that it became apparent to me that the sea was getting shinny around the time I had been working inside the bottle on the rigging for about a couple of hours.

About the 100 watt trouble lights. I like to work with as much light as close as possible to whatever I'm working on. In this scenario I had a light on the right side and a light on the left side about four inches away from the bottle. I'll certainly be utilizing this characteristic that this clay exhibits when heated from above on my next build, too.


I made a sampling chart of the five different clay colors that I purchased to come up with the color I chose for this ships sea. I've put all the combinations of clay that I mixed on a stick and numbered them 1 through 11. To this I've attached a print out of the picture of their proportions before mixing for future reference. I'm sure I will want to use a range of sea color possibilities in the future. I know that there are far more combinations I could have mixed but for now these 11 will suffice.



I've always liked the Pinch bottle 5th and the way a ship looks in it. It's kinda dreamy looking to me and so I chose it for this build. Besides I had one on hand I've been dragging around for eons. LOL.

I basically scaled up a drawing of the ship from the silhouette I found on line. I made a hull blank and put it inside the bottle, held that drawing up to the glass to get a good idea of how much of the bottle would fill up with ship.



Although I didn't know it at the time that I did my sizing process, Daniel has a much more accurate way to do it in his tutorial on, "How to build a Bermuda sloop (for beginners)", which you can find on this forum under the menu selection called, Build Logs. Check it out! A great deal of what I have come to do on this build of mine is a direct reflection of the things I've learned from his tutorial. Anyway somewhere in the beginning of his tutorial he shows how he makes a paper cutout of the ship and puts that cutout inside the bottle. Wish I knew how to put a link to his tutorial right here but I don't so you'll have to look it up. It's a treasure trove of technique and process for sure.


Yet another first for me is this thing called a thread block. There's a nice video on Daniel's tutorial by a guy named John Fox III, that shows how to make them. I had never known about them before and how useful they are especially in doing the running rigging for square sails. I made some the way John shows in the video and also came up with another way to put them on the end of my yards which was easier for me. I was also introduced to the Cow Hitch that is used on the center of the yard to attach it to the mast allowing the yard to pivot around. Between these two concepts, it dawned on me how I would be able to rotate the sails out of the way to get them through the neck of the bottle and because the running rigging freely passes through both thread block on the ends of the yard I would be able to set the tack of the sails once everything was inside the bottle.Pretty neat.

Basically I made my thread blocks for the yards by holding a piece of wire in my vice. I secured the yard to the wire with a piece of masking tape being mindful of the correct orientation of where the Cow Hitch was and where the blocks needed to be. I made a mark on the wire where I wanted the block located from the end of the yard. That way I could duplicate the same location on the other side. When one thread block was done I slid it off the wire, flipped the yard 180 then put it back on the wire and tied the other one.



Okay for the first time I'm using paper sails too. In the past all my builds had cloth sails because I had always had a problem with kinking paper going down the neck. Fabric was much more compliant for me. Another thing that I gleaned from Daniels, process was that the spanker sail has to come way away from the mast in order to get through the neck and unscathed. In my case I made a yolk crutch to wrap around the mast for the end of the boom out of a piece of brass wire. I drilled a hole through the mast at the spot where the boom would be nesting. Then I made two wire blocks and tied them to the boom.The running rigging for the spanker sail's sheeting goes through them and the hole then forward all the way out of the bottle.This configuration worked out perfectly for me as the gaff was able to move way out of the way along with the boom when the time came. So no kinked spanker.



Incidentally, the travelers you see in my pictures are "Mini Swing Line Stapler", staples. I've used them on almost every ship I've made for that purpose. Sometimes I put a radius on them. On this build I also used four of them to attach my rat lines and back stays onto. Ironically, using the staples this way would later save my ass , as you will shortly come to see.


These pictures show a couple of things. The first thing that is evident, (to you old salts anyway), is that my ratlines and back stays are too far forward of the center line of the mast to ever lay down flat. When the time came to fold down the masts and I discovered that they wouldn't lay down I almost had a heart attack. Disaster! At one time I must have known about the importance of these elements locations relative to the pivot point of the mast because all my builds were successful in the past in this regard. But over the years I just totally forgot about it. Anyway, after a while of total dismay and a whiny conversation with Daniel, it came to me that I could remove the staples that the ratlines and back stays were attached to and relocate them back and up. That solved the problem and is an example of one of the tear downs I was speaking about in the beginning of this discourse. I wasn't able to get those lines as tight as they were and that's a huge disappointment. Another thing that the pictures show is the way I chose to step the masts. In the past I always used the wire hing method but this time I decided to use clock bearings. These bearings are put in old clocks when the original bearings are worn oval over time. It just so happens that I also restore antique clocks for a hobby too and have these bearings on hand.The one side of the bearing has a counter sink on it to hold oil for a gears pinion shaft. that counter sink was mounted up so the mast with a rounded bottom nested in the countersink just fine. In the future I'm just going to drill a divot on my deck to do this . it's a lot less work.



I put a trough in the middle of my sea material and found some of that white 5 minute epoxy at Home depot that Daniel had spoken about somewhere on the forum. Can't remember where but anyway it worked out great. There was a little bit of it that oozed up around the hull but I covered that up with white clay to look like the wake of a ship moving through the water.




I'm sure that there is some way to avoid what I had to do to come to the point of sail I wanted for my ship but as yet I don't know that. Basically I made my sea to reflect a reaching tack which meant that everything had to be adjusted from how it was built outside the bottle for that tack inside the bottle. For the boom and gaff of the spanker sail I used a piece of wood to lean against the top end of the gaff which held it there while the CA glue dried. I pushed the boom out with a wire tool and tightened the sheeting of the sail from outside the bottle. At this point I glued the yolk and sheeting line off with CA. Then I went in with a razor on a wire and cut the sheeting line off at the front of the mast where it came out of the hole.



To pull the yards over for the reach tack I made a slip knot lasso and used that to grab the outside end of the yard arm and pull it forward careful all the while that the running rigging was moving through the thread blocks on either side of the yard arm without hanging up. Worked like a charm. I then went in and touched the Cow Hitch at the mast with some CA glue to set it. I waited a minute before I let go of the tension on the lasso I was using to hold the yards position.To be doubly sure the sail would stay put I removed the lasso and touched the outside thread block where the running rigging touched it with the CA glue. The only problem with this process aside from being tedious is that it is difficult to get all the yards on both masts to have the same degree of angle when it's all said and done. There's got to be a better way to do this, I mean to have the tack of all the sails predetermined before it goes in the bottle? Perhaps some of you guys can pipe in on this issue?

One other thing that I learned about CA glue is it will for sure fog up the inside of your bottle if you use a lot of glue like I did inside. So best, if you can turn the bottle up to let the off gasses from the glue escape better. Even so be prepared to spend hours inside with Windex and a piece of cloth scrubbing the glass clean again. Big Pain In The Ass. Better yet plan the build to use a minimal amount of glue inside.




There are a whole lot of more topics I could have touched on in this discourse but If I go on about it, it's kinda like someone saying , I could write a book. So I'm leaving it here. I sure learned a great deal during this build doing things for the first time was daunting in some respects but I survived the fray.

I'd also like to say that it sure is nice to have a place like this to share our projects with other like minded nut cases because let's face it no average person on the planet has a clue about the work we do creating these little engineering marvels. There is so much to learn in this wonderful medium and I'm excited about the future builds I'm dreaming of already.

Great to have my feet wet again. Thanks for reading mate. Best regards Bruce.




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Thanks Bernard and Daniel.

The rope work around the stand I purchased at Hobby Lobby in the ribbon section.

I can tell you also, I tried several times to make a decent turks head for the front of the bottle to no avail. I even made one of those jigs shown on the video that was posted on the forum. I'm going to keep trying cause I really like the way they look on the bottle if done right.


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Jesse Lee:

Thanks so much.

My hope has been fulfilled. Somebody got something out of my experience that they can utilize in the future. You never know where these things might go and that's why after much hesitance on my part, I decided I should through my hat in the ring and contribute what I could. Glad I did now.

As far as getting back to it, well that's something we all struggle with, I think anyway. Look at me for example 35 plus years absents. I guess there is a point you stop trying to get back to it and it just remains one of those bucket list goals. It doesn't matter how long it takes to get back at it. Because you love it so much it will find it's way back to you. Trust me. I'm old. I know stuff. LOL.

regards B.

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Well done Bruce, I just hope my Hannah turns out 1/2 as good as yours!

Regarding your sea, does the Plastalina ever go solid? I've done some research on it, and they say to bake it in the oven at quite high temperature, I wonder if the bottle would handle it.

And also can it be painted?? whether "soft" or "solid".





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Hi MickyK:

If you have the time, search this forum for Clay or sea material. There's a bunch of threads on the subject here covering types and various processes others have used. The clay I used gets pretty firm when it's cooled off. However there is no baking of this material involved. It would probably just melt into a puddle if it was baked. And I for sure don't know if any bottle wouldn't break if it was cooked at a high heat. Although I'm pretty sure your glasses get real hot in the dishwasher. Maybe you could experiment with a wine bottle or some other bottle that isn't important to you just to find out? If whatever material you wind up getting doesn't specifically say to bake it then I wouldn't go there myself. The only reason I heated the bottom of my clay on the stove top was to fuse it to the bottle. I was using hot pads and lifting the bottle off the stove top frequently to see what was happening. It's something you don't want to walk away from for sure cause it doesn't take to long for it to melt. Keep in mind I'm speaking only to the material I used, others may react be a little different.

The main reason I epoxied my ship to the glass is because I wanted to be sure I could pull my strings tight enough to get things up without having the ship break free from the clay.

I do believe I read here that One of our members wife painted his sea material but I have no idea what that paint was or how it was applied. One thing I've come to realize on my build anyway was that it's real easy to get carried away and make more work for yourself than is necessary. My sea looks pretty real without paint on it. Just sayin.

Good luck with your Hanna, I'm sure you'll do just fine.


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I like this ship. It has great character. 

On 7/7/2019 at 7:45 AM, Bruce Foxworthy said:

... be prepared to spend hours inside with Windex and a piece of cloth scrubbing the glass clean again.

Oh, how true that is! Maybe a little detail to mention to observers of our accomplishments.

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David :

Thank you so much for the complement. Your build is stellar compared to mine and I'm still studying your process as I want to emulate most of your concepts in my next build. I think I've read your build three times by now.

With respect to the glue fog, I can tell you it was a huge pain in the butt for me to clean up. Even so there are areas I couldn't reach without disturbing the ship and so they remain as a blemish on the surface of the glass. Pisser for sure.

You might recall in my build discourse I made a point to say that the most minimal amount of gluing inside the bottle should be part of the overall engineering of any build because the fog factor of CA glue is, basically inescapable. With respect to that point, I believe it was Igor, who made the observation that between all the friction and the sheer weight of the clay on top of the lines coming out of the bottom and then going out of the bottle, gluing is nearly moot for him. That makes a lot of sense to me. 

He also mentioned that your technique was reminiscent of a guy named Bill Lucas's, builds and if you had read his book? I looked that book up on Amazon and if I remember correctly the paperback was like $164 or something like that. There were only two reviews on it and one was quite scathing. Apparently the guy doesn't use proper nomenclature let alone make a fluid sentence. But I'll never know about that as that kind of money for a book on our hobby is not only out of my league, it's flat out ridiculous. That said, Igor, did make a very good observation about the part of this guys process that makes a copy of the ships form and line layout for the master control panel. I mean so all the lines go into it and then you can't possibly be confused about what you are stretching. I like that concept and will probably adopt it for my next build, too.

Anyway, I sure hope as I'm sure others on this forum do, that you don't just walk away from this kind of art. I think it was DS who mentioned one way or the other that you are a natural for it and certainly have an inherent gift for applied techniques. I for one can't wait to study another one of your builds.

One more thing before this long winded old fart goes , can you tell me the source of the bottle you used in the build of Diamond?? I want one for sure.

Best Regards Bruce.

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Bruce, your mentions of my attempt with the Dimond are very kind and appreciated but very much undeserved! The little ship is in a lab bottle from a school that I found at an antique shop. The pinch bottle you've chosen adds to the old school feel of your build.

I see that CA glue is something you're not afraid to employ. For me, I could never gather the nerve to touch anything inside the bottle with CA because whatever I'd use to apply it would become part of the scenery!  Best regards, David.

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I live in Michigan USA, and my local party store has this," Pinch", brand named, Scotch Whisky. But recently I showed a picture of my build to an acquaintance who recognized the bottle although called it by a different name. Apparently there is another whisky maker who uses this same triangle shaped bottle, but I've never seen that here where I live.

A point I should mention about working inside this shaped bottle is that the wiggle room to heal your ship is very little if you place it dead center. I wound up tilting my ship too far when I glued it down which was before the masts were completely erected. That was problematic in that my top sails got flattened out pressing against the glass. So When I use this bottle again I will be sure to glue my hull down off center so I have plenty of room to heal my vessel and set it on a reaching tack.

Regards, Bruce



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