Jump to content
Bottled Ship Builder

Miniature Clipper Ship


Recommended Posts

Hi All,

Father Christmas very kindly left me a selection of Rum Miniatures. The bottles were of 4 cl volume and a flat design of approx size 4.5 cm w x 2.3 cm d x 12 cm h. Besides enjoying the contents, I thought that a first attempt at a miniature might be fun. The internal size allowed for a SIB of approx 5 cm l x 3.5 cm h.

I decided on using the plans for a 3 mast clipper in Making Ships in Bottles by Leon Labistour.


I scanned and shrunk the plan until I got a size to fit the bottle.

Using the scan, I overlaid the sails with stitching lines and printed planking lines on the hull outline, then printed out on lightweight white airmail paper. I used a selection of different weights of line and colour coupled with some different colours of water paints to colour the sails and planking, then chose what I thought looked best.


The hull was carved from a piece of Ramin square stock (its a tropical hardwood, comes in 2 metre lengths at the local DIY store) in the time honoured way of sticking the printed outline to the wood and cutting it to shape. I cut out the deck well and used 0.5 mm styrene for the bulwarks.

Masking and painting with acrylics was a bit of a fiddle, but got there in the end. I’ve got some nice thin masking tape, but the adhesive was drying out so got a bit of edge creep that really shows up in the photos. Time for a shopping trip. 😁 I then cut out the printed planking and glued it in place.


I’ve been following other Sibbers who do miniatures, and reading various articles in books, etc. It seems that its best to cut out the sails in one piece by the mast, then apply the yards which should be made from brush bristles to allow them to flex during launch. Cutting out with a sharp blade was no issue, but sticking the bristles down proved a bit of a problem. I used bristles off of an unused wallpaper paste brush and I think they must have a Teflon coating or similar. Superglue didn’t work well, so I tried PVA. They still popped off. I used the acrylic B72, but the acetone in this melted the plastic. In the end several coats of PVA encapsulating the yard seemed to work. Next time I’ll use natural bristles. You can see one missing in the photo (later replaced). I trimmed them to length after sticking them on.


For the staysails, I realised that attaching them to the rigging on the SIB was going to be fiddly to say the least, so I threaded a length of thread (I used fly tying thread) through the printed paper. There was enough friction to hold it tight, then I glued it on to the length of the sail. Once dry, I carefully cut out the sail and added more glue. This worked, I only had to reglue a couple of sail ends.


I made the masts from slivers of bamboo kebab sticks, sanded down to a reasonable thickness. Just one piece each, no attempt at any tops. Then stuck them to the back of the sails. No problems with this at all.

I used plasticine for the sea and suddenly found the need for some new, thinner tools to put it in the bottle. A length of thin stainless steel rod, origin unknown, found in my garage was pressed into service. The height of the sea, hull and a fake mast were then checked for clearance with the top of the bottle as shown below. I had also by this stage drilled the appropriate holes for the rigging in the hull. I used a styrene template to get the spacing even. The masts are hinged using a length of thread from the bottom of the mast through a hole in the hull – the hinge-less method described in the book. It allows the masts to fold easily and be pulled back into place during bottling.


I then started to rig the SIB. It became rapidly obvious that working at desk height was no use, so I made a small working top about 6 inches square that fitted on my vice. This allowed me to rest my hands about chin level.


It also became obvious that holding the SIB by hand was inviting damage to the sails and yards so I made a small rigging jig from some plastic circuit board stand-offs. These are about £2 for a box full of different lengths of hexagonal plastic ‘bits’ that screw together as required. I fixed it to the small worktop as shown. There is enough friction in the plastic fittings to allow swivel and rotation with ease.


Check fold before launch, below.


Ready for launch below, only the two deck houses to be glued in place.


Launched, below.


A bit of plasticine turned out not to be enough to hold the bottle during glue up, so a bottle clamp had to made. Plywood cut as shown below, hinged and lined with a bit of old leather. Held under tension by a rubber band, and screwed to the small vice top. Works well.


Bottle in the new clamp below..


I made the stand from a piece of MDF covered with a photocopy of an old map illustration, and then sprayed with acrylic varnish. The supports are thin plywood stained with a wood scratch repair felt tip pen. Self adhesive felt pads underneath.


There was one other thing that I tried that doesn’t really show on the photos. The external finish on the bottle was  ‘lumpy’, not really unexpected considering their source. Before I retired I used to work with a couple of guys who were into model aircraft kit builds. They produced some really nice work. I remembered them bemoaning the fact that a certain brand of acrylic floor polish was no longer obtainable as they used it to dip the cockpit canopies in before assembly which apparently improved the clarity wonderfully. So I put the bottle on a stick and sprayed it with a couple of coats of acrylic varnish. It improved the finish and clarity quite well. Worth doing. 

The finished SIB below. Still thinking about a Turks Head.




Link to comment
Share on other sites


Wonderful job. Looks great. I like the idea of using an old map to cover a piece of wood for the stand. What kind of glue did you use to glue it down with?

I never heard of spray painting a bottle to improve it's clarity but it does look good. Wonder if that coating will hold up over time? Any idea on that?

Regards Bruce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Onni, Bruce,

Thanks for the comments.

I used a 50/50 mix of PVA and water on the MDF, sanded between coats to seal it, then used PVA to glue the paper down. I'm hoping the acrylic varnish will hold up. Its not as if its going to be subject to wear other than an occasional dusting. If it yellows, then I'll strip it off and do it again.



Link to comment
Share on other sites


I think your inventiveness is a great asset for you and actually any of us doing this hobby/art. Gluing a map to a display board is a Sweet idea. Thanks for the info on that. Going to steal that for sure.

I forgot to mention in my comments to you how much I appreciate your showing us the bottle holder you made. Quite clever actually. Probably going to steal that idea too and make one myself. I'm just a thief. LOL.🤣

I'll never forget my Dad years ago told me to never through a pair of shoes out without first cutting the tongues out and saving that leather for some future use. Like hinges and such.LOL. So I've now accumulated over the years a five gallon bucket of shoe tongues. LOL. My wife thinks I'm nuts!  Go figure.😂  But I use them all the time. For example one of our bird feeders recently lost it's hinged roof. No problem , I just stapled some leather hinges I cut out with scissors onto it and it's as good as new. Lol.  A side to that, is that my Dad always saved his bent nails he pulled off of something in a bucket. When he needed a couple of nails for something he was working on and he didn't have enough of them, he would through the bucket of nails down on the garage floor and pick out the ones he needed. Then he would straighten them out on his vice with a hammer and used them right then and there. Saved him a trip to the hardware store. Guess what? I have a five gallon bucket of bent nails myself. My wife thinks I'm nuts! Sure comes in handy in a pinch though. We're a crazy lot us sailors. Lol.

Regards Bruce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...