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Top Sail Schooner Repair


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Some one sent this little ship to me asking for it to be repaired.  I'd love to get into ship in a bottle repair in general so a simple one like this is good practice.  Its appears to be a mass produced piece that are often sold in gift shops.  Some modelers get picky about that but I don't care. If it has sentimental value to some one its worth restoring.  




This is how she arrived. The two sails fell off in transit but they are easy to fix. My initial thought was this was in a globe style bottle with the opening on the bottom so the ship was completley enclosed.  Getting into it this was not the case. 



There is a clay sea under the ship and the glass was complete enclosed and glued to the base.  Its interesting that the top of the sea was a different material.  It seemed to be a clay or maybe rubber.  It was glued down to the clay base with some sort of rubber cement type glue.  The ship was glued down to this rubber/clay top sea.  The ship was held in pretty well and the rubber/clay piece had to be taken apart in order to get the ship out.  I was hoping to save it but the ship had to come out to fit it into a new bottle.  So I'll redo the sea.  


After night work heres the pieces to be kept. The two masts with sails, the hull and bowsprit, and the wood base.  Once I find a bottle I'll recreate the sea and put it all back together again.  Looking at the glass I think it was in a Christmas ornamate type globe bottle.  The glass was very thin. Figures its a month after December. I'll have to see if Hobby Lobby still has some on clearance. 

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That sea is so flat, and it's going in a Christmas ornament (rubbing chin), a melted liquid sea be ideal? 

IT looks like there are NO wooden yards. The sharp curve in the sails appears to be from going into a Christmas tree ornament sideways. 

At first I was thinking that's a lot square sheets. But it's 4. Right number. 

Looking forward to the final product.

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Jeff - I'm actually thinking a painted sea with a card board base.  Kind of like what I did with my old HMS Bounty build.  You can see a build log on that here.


It was quiet a while ago and not my best work. I should probably redo it. 



Similar concept though the boat would sit on the cardboard see and under it would be painted glass.  Here's an example before the glass was painted. 


This is the technique I thought this bottle had followed before I got into the clay.  It makes the ship in bottle very light weight in comparison to the clay sea method.  The trickiest part will be painting the sea.  I need to paint it right to the line where the cardboard sea will sit and not any further.  I'm debating adding waves.  The original was very flat. Problem is I could go on for days adding details but thats not what I'm after in a restoration.  I need to keep it close to how it was originally built. So I may just leave it flat.  

As far as yards it does have them.  They are glued directly to the paper and don't attach to the mast as the paper sail is glued to the mast.  This is a classic manufacturing design.  Very simplified and made to make a lot of these sibs very quickly.  The hull would be placed in the base and the masts with sails intact would be glued to the hull one at a time inside the bottle.  Then the ends of the forestays holding the jib are glued to the side of the bow sprit.  Those fore stays are the only pieces of rigging on this ship and they only exist to hold sails.  Once I have the sea done the rest of this build will be very fast.      

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Well my initial thought didnt work. I painted in the bottom of the bulb but the paint just wouldnt dry.  I let it sit all night and it dried a little but it probably woukd take two or three days. After discovering that the original bottle had clay I thought I may as well try.  I have quiet a few bulbs so if I lose one its not a big deal. Well the clay worked perfectly. 

I kept it flat like it was and even painted the wave lines in the same way.  The hardest part was that this bottle has a much smaller opening than the original.  The sails would not fit in one piece.  So I ended up cutting off the largest sails and glueing them back on in the bottle.  It was tricky but I got it.  

Heres a photo of the ship now in the bottle. 



I think because the opening is so small the glue fumes werent able to get out and its fogged up the bottle.  I'll have to spend some time cleaning it out. I wanted to use a white glue on this because I know white glue lasts a long time and doesn't fume. Problem is I needed to glue the sails in the right place and couldn't hold them there long enough for white glue t setso I used super glue since it dries fast but has fumes.  You win some you lose some. 


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I know all too well how super glue will cause fogging of the interior glass surface, sometimes months or years after the bottle/bulb is sealed. I finally found a method to keep that from happening. After the model is completed, I run a small aquarium air pump with a small hose down inside the bottle/bulb and keep it running 24 hours a day for seven days. Since I started doing this I have had zero problems with fogging caused by the super glue fumes. BTW epoxy glue can do the same thing, and since I normally use both and white glue at various stages in building almost any model, I do the airing out process on all of my models that go into sealed containers.

Hope that helps someone!

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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Hi All,

A bit more on super glue.

I’ve had problems using superglue in the past, I’ve not had fogging tho’. I know a couple of SIBers that use the air pump method and am bearing that in mind just in case.

The Colvic Watson 28ft motor sailor SIB that I did had stainless steel stays and I used a silver thread to simulate them. The Superglue let go a couple of days after cutting off the excess line after launch. I suspect whatever the silver dye was, it reacted badly. I managed to bodge a repair, but it set me on the hunt for a ‘good’ glue.

I came across the British Museum YouTube site showing conservation of various objects, and took note of what materials they were using. They use an Acrylic Adhesive called Paraloid B72. There is quite a bit of info on the web on its use. Its main benefit is that it is reversible with the correct solvent, that's why conservators like it. It seems to be used to stick just about anything to anything. You can get it in tubes, but reading up on how to use it, the best way is to obtain the granules and mix it. Sounds awful, but actually its not. I got 50 gms for about a £5 off of the interweb, I’ve since discovered it can be cheaper from conservation materials suppliers. Its like a handful of plastic beads. Its mixed with acetone (the pure stuff from the pharmacy, not nail varnish remover that has added lotions and so on), I use this for cleaning out any residual marks in bottles so had some around. Its mixed in a weight/volume ratio, eg 1gm in 10ml acetone gives a 10% mix and is recommended as a varnish. 5gms in 10 ml gives a 50% mix and is used as a glue. I’ve mixed up a 10% batch in a small glass jar (the kind that has the marmalade in it in hotels at breakfast) so it soaks into the thread nicely, and am using it on some rigging at present. I use a needle stuck into a small stick with the eye ground to a ‘U’ shape as an applicator.

So, what's it like to use? It’s nice and fluid at this mix. I can dip an inch or so of thread in it for ease of threading through holes, and it will dry in a couple of minutes and completely harden after leaving it for a bit longer. I suppose I get about 30 to 40 seconds working time before it goes tacky enough to start ‘stringing’. It dries clear, and seems to hold well. If it starts getting a bit thick due to evaporation of the acetone, then add a drop more. This may be the glue to use in any restoration of an old SIB.

A big bonus is that it doesn't stick to me!

I’ve also used a 50% mix for sticking some thread to wood and wood to wood, seems to work fine, just not as instant as CA glue.



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Thanks for the advice Alan.  I'm going to look that stuff up. 

I don't normally have a problem with super glue.  I've used it on a lot of my ships in bottles and typically as long as I don't bottle it seal it for about 15 minutes it's no an issue.  I think what little fog I got on this one had to do with the smaller opening not allowing the fumes out and mostly because I had to use more than I normally would.  Most of my ships are prebuilt and erected in the bottle.  So I'll use three to four tiny dabs of glue on the bowsprit and that's it. Since this one had to be pieced together in the bottle I used quiet a bit more and had a small problem with fogging.  I've cleaned it up and it hasn't come back.  I do wonder to though if I have the dry and sparse Denver air to thank for that.  My house sits over a mile high in elevation so maybe there is not as much air for the fumes to stick to on their way out of the bottle?  Who knows. I am interested in the other type of glue though. 

I hadn't heard of using acetone to clean up the glass.  Can you elaborate on how you do that?      

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Hi Dan,

A mile high? The highest we have in the UK is Ben Nevis at just over 4000 ft. Climbed it once in the days of my youth. 

Right! Bottle cleaning.

I made a tool, one end of which is shown at the top of the photo below. Its a bamboo skewer about 15 inches long, with 2 pieces of brass tube bent and pushed on the ends ( the end not shown has a sharper angle). The inside diameter of the tube is just large enough to take the end of a cotton swab, I crushed the tube a bit to give grip. The different angles allow access to all of  the inside of the bottle. Dip the swab in acetone, insert in bottle and scrub the offending water stain, glue (including super glue), sea, paint etc. Replace the swab when dirty. I've found this works well. I've stopped buying acetone from a pharmacy because its a lot cheaper to get it from a cleaning equipment supplier. Note the wooden swab stick. Besides being bad for the environment, the plastic ones will soften in the acetone.




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Edited by exwafoo
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