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Galleon Ship - First SIB Plan and Build Notes


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I'm attempting my first SIB! I'm basing it off Alan's (exwafoo) Black Pearl plans. But more with a USS Constitution colour scheme. It is to go into a fittingly named, Captain Morgan - Black Spiced Rum bottle, 77mm internal diameter with an 18mm neck ID. I've taken inspiration in terms of aesthetics and build techniques from many of the build logs on here. I really want the ship to fill the bottle, as you say, so I have slightly stretched the plans to make the ship longer. I'm too scared of splitting a hull down the middle into left and right, so I will split it at the waterline, and add a small section for the rear high section, see sketch. It will be too tight to have fold down masts this way, so I will assemble them in the bottle and rigging and shrouds will pass through the hull, in a similar fashion to David's W. H. Dimond (DavidB773). I like the idea of the full ship hull being displayed, so I won't be doing a sea. Thus, the lines that need tensioning can't come out under the waterline... I'm thinking I will pull them up through the deck, glue, trim, and cover with deck items, like life boats, grating, etc.

I'm trying to familiarise myself with all the terminology, and methods of rigging. Please feel free to pick apart my sketched plans below and let me know of any improvements or things to watch out for.

Also, even though I will most likely be painting the hull, should I buy some Basswood to make it out of? Does it make thing a heap easier? I'm currently planning on using some Tasmanian Oak I have left over. It's a commonly available hardwood timber down here in Australia.

Kind Regards, Caleb.



Some methods of how I intend to do the masts and yards. Are loops required for the top of the square sails all the way along the length of the yard? Or were they only ever held at the corners/ end of the yards?




How I plan to split the hull in three to make it fit through the neck.



Showing how the rigging can tensioned through the deck.




Is this mostly accurate? Showing Yard rigging.


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Looks like you've got a nice project going. I'll be watching your progress along the way. I like the idea of passing the lines under and then up thru the deck. It's a technique I've never tried before but I know it can be done successfully.

My biggest advice would be that you have to be patient with yourself and not let any hick-ups deter you from continuing forward. There is always a plan B. The first one is always an exciting adventure.

Good luck Bruce

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Your off to a great start.  The rigging plans look great.  As far as wood bass wood is a great carving wood because it has a very light grain and pretty soft.  It's available in most hobby shops here in the States so it becomes a go to wood.  I have done one ship out of oak before.  It was a constitution built out of a piece of oak from the actual ship.  It was harder than bass wood and had a bit more grain but I didn't have any problems with it.  Give it a shot.  Worse comes to worse you can always choose something else.  I saw a video of another Australian sib builder who used red cedar.  I've seen a lot of great ships come from red cedar and wouldn't mind trying it myself.    

Your rigging notes are very detailed.  I think you'll catch on the terms very quickly.  One thing to note as you research there's two terms used some what simultaneously for ratlines even though they are different things.  The ratlines are the horizontal lines used to make the rope ladder to access the tops.  The more vertical lines that hold the deadeyes and attach to the mast are called shrouds.  Most very technical builders will call them shrouds though I've seen them include the ratlines in that description as well.  I find knowing keywords helps in finding information so knowing both is helpful. 

As far as the loops.  Loops is fine.  The real technical word is sail gaskets.  I really had to dig to find that though since I would have just called them sail loops.  Sail ties is also used. 

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Hi Caleb,

I think it could be very difficult to take the shroud lines up through the deck especially on a split hull model. That would be a lot of threads to cover over. For myself, I find it much simpler to fix them to the mast beforehand and then glue to the hull sides later.


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Caleb, I admire your enthusiasm.

Please don't take this as an insult. I am not familiar with your skill level in miniature scale and patience.

A galleon might be too ambitious as a first build for someone who has never built a ship in a bottle. 

A fore and aft 2 masted schooner is a good starter. 3 to 9 sails. No square sail yards to confuse you, less rigging. 

They were popular during the " age of sail." You can even research them and find records and give yours s proper name.,

Best regards, Jeff 



Edited by Jeff B
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Jeff, generally I would agree you.  That's why I made the beginners build log for the Bermuda Sloop which is a single masted single deck vessel.  However, looking at the amount of detail and planning that's gone into this build so far, I think Calebs got this.  

I also consider another principle of first builds I learned from some old salts.  If you build a ship you really like you are more likely to finish it.  Keep it up Caleb you got this.    

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Thank you everyone for the advice and warnings.

I've found some nicer timber to use, but I have no idea what it is, any ideas? It came out of the frame of an old worn out LazyBoy recliner chair we threw away. The photo below shows it has a really fine grain structure. It sands, cuts and chisels nicely. You can see I chiseled of the corner of the bottom piece, and you can hardly see the grain.



I really don't want the split lines to be visible and because I won't be planking the hull, the mating surfaces must be perfectly flat to each other. So my new bit of timber needs to be sanded dead flat. I find sanding such small widths by hand often creates a rocking motion, resulting in a slightly curved sanding surface. So I placed a sacrificial block each sight to stabilise my sanding. See photo.




I can't just drill through the hull stack to make the dowel holes because I can't have them seen (not planking), so I drilled one side, inserted a little dowel peg tool into the shallow drilled hole and pressed the two sides back together. The sharp little point of the dowel tool (sharpened, cut down nail) made an indentation on the adjacent hull section. I could then drill out the matching dowel hole. The below photo shows a bamboo dowel on the left, and the little dowel marker tool on the right, leaving an indent. 



So I now have my hull stack doweled and ready for shaping!


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My next challenge to consider is Bulwarks. On a scrap piece I tried chiseling/ dremel sanding down a deck, and leaving a thin blulwark, like Alan did on his Pearl. I did not get much success. I was not satisfied with the deck not being perfectly flat, and the inside edge of the deck to the bulwark not being "crisp" or sharp. I'll have one more attempt before moving on. I'll try and follow Alan's guide to deck recessing:

I'm not sure if my timber is too hard, most likely my skills are too barbaric. So I'm thinking I will go for glued on bulwarks made out of veneer or something similar. I'm tossing up weather to attach them straight on top of the deck, flush with the outside of the hull, or to notch the hull/deck edge and recess the bulwarks in a little. Gwyl Blaser posted a link to an image of how he recessed the bulwarks in.

Again, I would like it all to look "seamless". I see DSiemens glued a thin strip over the join of the bulwarks to the hull in his "beginner Sloop". Without planking the hull, are there other methods to seamlessly add bulwarks? Thanks everyone again for all advice and help.

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I was going to guess pine but you figured it out. 

As fas as bulwarks theres two methods I've used.  One is using channels to hide the bulwark seem and the other is carving ship out to the deck. I don't recomend carving the deck out.  Its not easy to do and theres a lot of room for error. 

Channels are a great way to hide bulwark lines and they very often run right under the bulwarks along the gun ports.  The plans your using include a channel right under the bulwarks though they aren't always touching like my sloop was. 

Might be tedious but you might draw in the planking and let the seems blend in.  You can do this either by pencil or scribing. I've scribed deck planking before by coating the deck with a clear nail polish and then cutting the plank lines with an exacto knife.  I then went over it with a dark wood stain and immediatly wiped it off.  The stain seeps into the cut lines but doesn't adhere to the polish.  I've never done this for the side planking though. 



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Hi All,

There is a link to Shipbuilder's free plans for his deck scoring device in the thread 'Width of Deck Planking' in the General Ships in Bottles discussion. Looking at some of his work, this works very well.

Back to bulwarks: to finish off bulwarks when digging out the deck well, I made a scrapper from bits of brass tube and an old UK mains plug (a good source for bits of brass that are already threaded for a screw). The bit is ground from a masonry nail, which is very hard carbon steel so it holds an edge. The screw to the left of the bit with the black insulation goes through a hole in the vertical tube to allow the bit to be locked at the required depth setting, the square tube with the screw on the left side (can be moved to the right side) of the horizontal tube acts as a guide against the outside of the hull. The tool is held so the bit is vertical to the wood. It takes a bit of time, but scrapping down to the final thickness and depth gives a good result. I've also seen this done with two nails, one blunt, the other ground to a chisel shape and  pushed through two holes drilled as required in a small length of rectangular wood.




Edited by exwafoo
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Alan, an impressive gadget you have there. In my research I have previously read and bookmarked the "width of deck planking" topic. A lot of good info in there. If I decide adding deck lines will really help the model, I think I will experiment with the most basic method first - colour printed paper. Then I'll try the other methods mentioned. I'm just mindful that good decking looks excellent, but poor decking often looks worse than no decking at all.

DSiemens, I like your idea of running the bulwarks down and using the channel below to cover the join line. To do this, I need some very thin strips of the same timber. So, I had a crack at making some.

To save my fingers from being sanded off, I placed two staples into a straight piece of timber. In between the staples I put a thin piece I cut off (first photo). I could then sand the thin piece down using some sandpaper held on a flat work surface. The staples held the piece in place, and spared my fingers (second photo). Doing it this way allowed me to get a fairly consistent thickness. I followed up with some hand sanding using a block in one hand and holding one end of the thin strip down to the table with my other hand. I got them to 0.8mm, the staples do not sit very high off the sanding block so they do not contact the sandpaper. I can go thinner if I need (third photo).





I tested the "channel bulwark" method on a piece of scrap. Using an exacto knife I cut the channel. I think it will be achievable. More suited to my level than Alan's deck carving. The photo below shows the new veneers up against the channel.



This next stage of course brings new questions. Plank bending? The bulwarks need to curve rather sharply around the front deck, what's the best way to curve thin strips without cracking them? I've previously steamed balsa to get it to achieve sharp curves. I've read on here of the "soaking and grain break" technique. Any others come highly recommended?

Thanks again folks, Caleb.


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Wooden coffee stirring sticks make good bulwarks. May have to slice them down. But it's easy since they are thin. Bending is easier if dipped in water for a few hours. I start with hot, boiling water. 

I have chiseled a few decks with gunnels. It's not bad with basswood (I know this isn't basswood) and a perfect width chisel. The "v" in the bow never gets cleaned out right. I've ruined a couple hulls by busting out as well.

Possibly a waterline cut hull would get you more wiggle room in the bottle. You won't have enough to press into the , sea so mount your ship on Popsicle sticks that are layered to the right height having been glued to the floor of the bottle. Then put sea around it. 

Best regards. 


Edited by Jeff B
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One way that is used to get thin strips of wood for SIBing is to use a carpenters plane, nice and sharp, to remove several shavings from a block of wood. These curly shavings are soaked in water and then let dry between weights and this results in keeping them flat. Set the plane iron to give the required thickness. I've tried making the strips, nice and flexible, but have not used them anywhere yet.

I've seen strips of wood bent to shape by running them over a hot soldering iron with a clean bit on some You Tube modelling videos, but never tried this myself. If you search ebay for 'model ship plank bending tool' you'll see a selection of commercially available benders of different design for large scale ship modelling.

Hull is shaping up nicely. It looks nice wood you are using.



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Fantastic work.  The ship is shaping up nicely.  Soaking and grain breaking have always worked for me. I typically use bass wood strips you can buy at hobby stores.  I'm not sure how your wood will react but it's always worth a try. Then at least you know.  Speaking of materials.  Styrene works well for bulwarks too.  Jeff just posted a good source for styrene.  I'll post a link to the thread.  I haven't used it yet but from what I've seen it looks great and bends well. 

If your sticking to wood another method I've seen from the larger scale ship builders is soaking wood in ammonia.  I knew a guy that had a PVC pipe set up where he could unscrew the top and the planks would float up to the top.  He'd grab one push the others down with the lid and screw it up again.  It became his mobile plank soaking jig. He could bring it to club meetings with out stinking up the place.  I'd test it first.  Ammonia fumes typically darken some types of wood.  I know it does for oak and cherry.  If you want to make a darker ship without staining and with the color going clear through the wood look up ammonia fuming. I did it on one of mine and it's still one of my all time favorite sibs.        



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  • 1 month later...


It's been a very busy month but I finally managed to squeeze in a few hours this weekend.

I masked the channel line and cut grooves down to take the bulwarks.IMG_20191029_214653.thumb.jpg.e6d33cdcf7d0305a9b9fde5745bb4d1d.jpg



I glued the bulwarks on too thick on purpose. This allowed me to sand them down thinner to shape and allowed me to try and make the join between the bulwark and the hull flush. I will be running a channel along the join to hide it better anyway.




I spent a fair bit of time making some little cannons. The cannon barrels are from bamboo skewers turned down and blacked with a felt tip pen. The wheels are bristles from a dust brush. The bases are from bamboo skewers cut/sanded flat and cut to size. Glued together with PVA. I still need to trim the barrel lengths down, right now they are easier to handle. I store them on the sticky side of some tape. Saves them getting blown away. I also experimented making some hand railing for the forecastle deck, again using brush bristles and bamboo flats.



I'm experimenting with hatching. Using blacked bristles here. I laid them up, spread PVA all over, then wiped off the excess and allowed to dry. I'm still not sure if I'll use this method, or try another. I also started glueing the bulwark handrails on. I will cap with a thin strip of bamboo flat on top of the black bristle shown below.



I'm thinking of buying some fly tying silk to start experimenting with shrouds and ratlines. How do you folks deal with fly tying silk having a flat profile? Not round? I read somewhere that someone tried splitting the threads. Or is that not required and the flat profile is that that noticeable?


Thanks all, I hope to post again soon.

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Nice work!

Flyting tying thread: As for me, I like 3/0 black for rat lines, shrouds and all lines for and aft. For sail control lines, I use tan quilting thread. 

The "flat" part really isn't a problem. The concern is for fly tying. It is good for attaching sails. 

Most importantly, it is very necessary to wax all lines with beeswax to prevent fraying. 

Best regards, fair winds, 


Edited by Jeff B
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