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Bottled Ship Builder

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Fifty years ago this month (July) SS Great Britain returned to Bristol from the Falkland islands where she had been used as a storage hulk for many years and then abandoned. Built by Brunel in 1843 she was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic. She is now fully restored . I am going to try to build her as she first looked after her launch. On a trip to England last year picked up a Large 'Bell's' Whisky bottle so I was thinking that would be suitable enough for this large ship. I must of looked quite funny or a bit suspicious walking through customs with a huge bottle sticking out of my rucksack!

Started by reducing some plans/drawings down to 1:250 scale for my model and then cutting out the basic shape with a band saw and power sanding and hand sanding into the rough shape. Used birch wood which is a fairly hard wood to shape.

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As before in some of my other models I have drilled through the ships hull with 2mm diameter holes so that I can peg it together later with cocktail sticks after i cut it up.It should then go back together and line up perfectly.

I then cut up strips of white styrene (0,3 thickness) to try to mirror the plating on the real ship. It also makes it a lot easier to bend around the bow and stern. It looks a bit opaque but once its painted, it should be solid looking. Looks a bit of a mess so I have to use a bit of filler and sand it down. Gt Britain's hull is a bit difficult to replicate as she has a waterline bulge with a bit of tumblehome (ships beam is wider than its uppermost.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I knew that old broken meat thermometer would come in handy some day;it's exactly the right diameter for the Britain's funnel! Using the scale drawings I mark out where the masts should be.They are named as days of the week,Monday through to Saturday. The GB went through many mast changes and rigging throughout her career but this is going to portray her as in 1845.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Added the fake gunports which I think make the hull more attractive. Next the funnel gets more work and the bridge/viewing platform is added. Doesn't look that much but it amounts to several hours work. Just hope it all goes as planned as this is one of my builds that is a build log under construction;most of my other build logs were already completed before I posted them so I am a little bit nervous about the end result of GB. A long way to go before completion though....

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7 hours ago, DSiemens said:

It does seem like that sometimes. A lot of work done and not much to show for it.  Steady as she goes she'll get there. I'm very impressed with the stairs. They look excellent and very to scale. 

I have to admit that the stairs are actually photo etched.They are just cut out;bent into shape and then painted. In the past I have attempted to make them myself but the results have been rather under whelming.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Time for some bling.I actually hate that word but it's probably a good description for all the golden stuff that adorns GB. The trailboards illustrate the artisans work on the ship but is very difficult to reproduce on such a small scale. I cut shards of plastic and then painted them gold to try to imitate the scroll work. The Lion and Unicorn support the royal shield under the bowsprit;they didn't work so well for me as I coudn't detach them from the grease proof paper without cutting them out with scissors.Fashioned a couple of catsheads,they will be fixed later. The stern is made out of three pieces of thin plastic ,painted black and then;with wood glue, I fashioned the decorations so that when it was completely dry I could paint the raised areas gold. I'm happy with the result.

The last photo shows the hull cut vertically. It is cut horizontally as well (altogether four pieces) but I forgot to take a picture. I'll try to include a shot of that later. Everything lined up pretty well after the dissecting and thats because all the pegging holes were drilled before cutting up the hull and not after.

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Edited by Onni
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Completed all deck furnishings (the small skylights took ages)and moved forward to the masts and rigging. I am going to rig her with half sails up but no top sails as per the drawing at the begining of this build. As you may of noticed I made a new engine room skylight and cut out the space in the hull so that you should be able to get a glimpse of the engine room machinery through the skylight.Shrouds and ratlines I make on my little jig which are bonded with super glue and white wood glue to simulate the block and tackle.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For some idiotic reasons after I had glued the main sail, it went into an inverted curve (looking like the wind was blowing from the front)The solution;I scrapped off the sail and re glued it the other way round so it now has a nice curve without even me trying anything high tech to get it looking like that!Constructed the lifeboats and all six are fixed (three each side)to a thin plastic strip which will then have to be fixed to the side of the hull of GB when she is inside the bottle.Made the 'red duster' flag from an old hankerchief of which I have inserted and glued very thin wire inside of it so it looks like it would be fluttering in the wind.

Last picture is all the pieces wating for the big day!

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All the hull parts fitted through the bottle neck relativity easily but I had tremendous trouble to lift the front end of the starboard top piece over the front lug to secure it (Second photo). It actually took me about an hour before it snuggly slipped in place (Third photo).Luckily I had already designed these pieces to fit together without being glued otherwise it would of been a disaster had they had glue on them. As you can probably see some of the fragile photo etched railings received some damage in my struggles but they are pretty easy to repair. I then put in the engine room and then squeezed in the deck after making it pallible by pouring boiling water over it and quickly drying it with a towel before insertion, so the deck is in one complete piece.

Mizzen mast and spanker were difficult to reach.From the front of the bottle to the mizzen point is about 17 inches/43cm so I used a long grabber which worked just fine. The other deck items go in easy and are glued in place. Lifeboats were a bit tricky but stayed in place after fixing. I'm happy with how the engine room skylight turned out; with which you can actually look through it, down into the engine room.

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Funnel goes in and then the main mast. Decided to leave off 'Daisy' and the cow shed as I thought the deck could look a bit too cluttered.( It's possible that I can add them later if I want to.) Main mast in place with no problems and then set in the foremast. The bowsprit gave me a few problems as the glue didn't set on the first attempt because the mounting hole inside is made up of a plastic and wood wafer construction, so in the end I used an epoxy glue to fix it firmly. Finally completed GB after several months work but unfortunately I didn't notice that the top flying jig rigging had tangled at the top of the foremast until it was too late (everthing glued!) so there it sits; slightly down from the top of the mast.Slightly disappointing but these things happen in our hobby.

The stand is a tribute to Brunel which incorporates a bridge,a tunnel,the Great Britain and of course Mr Brunel himself!

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  • 1 month later...
1 hour ago, Moab said:

I'm new to this site and am overwhelmed with the incredible craftsmanship. Your ship is incredible!!! 

Please escuse me if these questions aren very basic. What did you use for sails? What do you use for crearting the ocean?...Moab

Hi Moab, The sails are made from a man's white handkerchief stained slightly with tea/coffee then when dried I wrap it around a clean paint roller wrapped in grease proof paper before I brush it over with a diluted wood glue which when dry gives a slight curve to form the sail.

The sea/ocean is simply plasticine painted with acrylic paints and modelled to resemble the sea( at least that's the idea!)

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