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Bottled Ship Builder

Experiments in Card/Paper Ship Modeling


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I've been intrigued lately when viewing build logs on the NRG web site, among other places. Decided I would give it a try and see how it all works. I started by viewing the vast number of CAD ship plans I've developed over 40 years of modeling sailing vessels.

 

I was interested in something fairly simply, but one I had enough information already drawn up in plans. I ended up settling on the clipper Flying Cloud. I drew up the plans 27 years ago for a ship in bottle model at 1:750 scale. For a card/paper model I decided on a scale of 1:350, making the hull slightly over 8" long.

 

I spent a little time taking the original plans and adapting to a bulkhead type of model. My original was a carved solid hull. The following images show my drawings for a card/paper model. The .jpeg images were exported from QCAD, as exports the line weights are too heavy. I have the same images as PDF images if anyone is interested.

 

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The solid lines are cut lines, the dotted lines are where parts get glued on. The "X"'s are areas that have added thickness, to make a solid area for the masts. The waterline is not a cut line.

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The rectangles outside the hull lines designate where spacer pieces would lay.

The following drawings show the spacer pieces. These were drawn before I actually thought it all out. In the end, though designed to be single pieces that slide into the gaps between the bulkheads on the horizontal dotted lines, that would make it too difficult to glue and cutting it off later. I ended up simply cutting individual pieces and gluing them in place.

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The material I chose to work with as the cardboard from cereal and facial tissue boxes, i.e. Special K and Kleenex. I cut large pieces from the boxes, then cut my plan prints to fit the cardboard pieces. I used Elmer's Craft & Art spray adhesive to attach the prints to the board. I sprayed the adhesive on the back side of the plan prints and the non-colored side of the cardboard. At first I sprayed the adhesive until I saw it clearly on both print and board, then attached them. Found out after the first one that I put way too much adhesive, and it was globby and stickier than heck. From then on I just did a quick spray about 4" from both, once left to right and once right to left, and that worked out well.

 

I then cut out all the individual pieces and doubled them with the print side out and slid them together to see how it would fit together. The fit was tight on places, but it did go together. I found that the cardboard used was not a really as solid as it appeared. In the tight fitting areas the board collapsed inward, which resulted in places like the outer edges of the bulkheads spreading apart a small amount.

 

The hull shape looked fairly good, but the collapse area of the keel piece caused it to curve slightly. Fixing the problem for me was to take an extra print of the page 2 plans and glue it to a much heavier piece of cardboard. Then gluing the square areas on the top of the bulkheads over the dotted lines of the print. That aligned things nicely, but found that the heavier board base went into a slight curve. So, used a few small screws to fasten the heavier board piece to a solid piece of maple.

 

Since this was my first foray into card/paper ship modeling, I did not take photos of the individual parts before assembling them together. I was not at all sure that this first attempt would turn out well enough to bother continuing with the build.

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The photos above show the hull after the first layer of spacer pieces were glued in. You can see a few places on the first photo where the doubled bulkheads spread apart slightly due to being squeezed where they fit onto the keel piece.

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The photo above shows the hull with the second spacer pieces glued in place. I made to cut these so that the bulkheads were pushed together. I then applied CA glue to all the joints between pieces and covered all the edges.      

 


 

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Very cool, I look forward to your progress on this. I was ironically just reading some of "The Bottled Shipwright " here on the site and was surprised to find a fair amount of construction here and there out of paper or cardboard. It seems like it would be so much easier to work than wood in certain circumstances. Looks great so far!

 

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I have also made these paper and card hulls for many years using similar items as John but download ship plans/drawings from the internet and then resize them through Photoshop to a scale that I need for a particular bottle. I don't do this for every model as it is very time consuming and rather tedious but its just to give an idea of what the shape of a hull should look like. In the photo l-r Mayflower,PT109,Black Pearl.

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On 11/4/2020 at 5:54 PM, Donald said:

Very cool, I look forward to your progress on this. I was ironically just reading some of "The Bottled Shipwright " here on the site and was surprised to find a fair amount of construction here and there out of paper or cardboard. It seems like it would be so much easier to work than wood in certain circumstances. Looks great so far!

 

Thanks Donald! It is easier than wood for some things, but more difficult for others. At least working with untreated card stock so far I find it lacks stiffness where one would like/need it, but it is easier to cut. Having no grain it certainly makes cutting curved surfaces much easier, and the pieces don't split as often happens with miniature wood parts.

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Continuing on with my card/paper Flying Cloud model build.

The next step was to fill in between bulkheads and keel at the bow and stern with layers of board cut to fit as I added them. Photos below shows the results after cutting and shaping them a bit, and applying CA glue to harden them. I also started sanding the bulkheads edges to fair in the hull shape. What I found was that in many places the weaker inner parts of the board would splay the outer harder parts outward as I sanded.411394487_cardpapermodel004.thumb.jpg.3e36f0bdd097cba4bfd10bda8e92ff50.jpg324748003_cardpapermodel005.thumb.jpg.385e4644614b77bebc2267d16cb12052.jpg

 

I continued sanding and fairing the hull, had to apply CA glue between each sanding session. It took quite a few sessions to get the hull as fair as I could. I then cut 1/16" wide strips from the board stock to use as planks. I found that as carefully as I could, using an X-acto knife and #11 blade, the cut edges were not perfectly vertical. I used this slight angle to close gaps while planking. To do this I alternated using the printed and non-printed sides of the strips on the outside.

 

At the bow and stern I used larger pieces of board to make it easier to plank above the deck line. The following photos show the first side planked.

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I did not use a traditional planking style, I started at the keel, the waterline and the top of the bulwarks and worked my way with as long a strips as I could. Then filled in with individually cut pieces to fit.

 

One thing I learned was that this cardboard was not very stiff, had to be careful when holding the plank to a bulkhead edge, as it tended to push the board inward slightly between bulkheads. I used CA glued applied with a needle to attach each plank. I then coated the entire outside of the planking with CA glue to harden it. For the second side I decided to use a different cardboard stock, one without the colored/printed side at all. I planked it in exactly the same way as the first side. Not sure why I did this, except the stripped first side sort of looked odd to me. Following photos show progress to this point.

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Hi John.

A couple of years ago, one of the members of the European Association of Ships in Bottles (EASIB) had an article published in Bottleship, EASIB's 1/4ly magazine on making SIB hulls from card and paper. This was to introduce young children to the art safely by only having to use scissors and not sharp blades. The technique was to make a card laminate hull, the 'layers' being cut to shape using reducing sizes of deck outline or hull lines and using PVA glue to stick and harden. This block when dry could be sanded to final shape and drilled as required for masts, etc.  Photographic printing paper was used to cover the sanded hull and give a nice smooth finish. The results the children produced were quite credible. 

Nice work

Stay safe all

Alan

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On 11/11/2020 at 9:30 AM, Bernard Kelly said:

Hi John

Nice work. Very precise work, but I bet it was darned fiddly. Looking forward to seeing your progress.

Best of luck.

Bernard

 

Greetings Bernard,

Thanks! And, yes, it is fiddly for sure. Because this was an experiment, I did not photograph the really fiddly parts, like cutting all the bulkheads and such. I am already working on an improved plan, and have photographed all the bulkheads and other pieces, but that is all for future posts.

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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That looks great!! 

Paper is an interesting method. I did one similar a long time ago and at a much smaller scale. Had a guy in our club show us how to make long boats with a wood mold. He put a bit of wax on the mold and placed paper over the top brushing it with water downed white glue. After it dried it could be removed from the mold and you'd have a hollowed out hull.  I took the idea and made a version of the Queen Annes Revenge. The rigging wasn't great but the hull looked good. Having done a few minis since I should try it again. 

The part I found interesting was you need to be a bit more exact. I'm used to cutting a bit big and sanding to size but paper doesnt really sand. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Greetings All,

The work on the hull progressed by sanding down all the planking, to get as smooth and fair a surface as I could. I sanded, then applied poly varnish thinned 50/50 with paint thinner until it no longer soaked in. Waited for the varnish to dry, then sanded again. I repeated this process many times. While sanding I could see areas where the planks pushed inwards slightly, and small gaps in the finish. I used Bondo glazing and spot putty, applied with a stiff piece of styrene plastic, to cover the gaps and low spots. Again, after Bondo dried the hull was sealed and sanded. I did this perhaps 3 or 4 times before I had a smooth surface over the entire outer hull shape.

 

Once I had a decent hull shape I used a razor saw to cut through the bulkhead extensions that held the hull to the cardboard mounted on the maple board. The following photos show the hull to this point.

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Work on this first hull progressed with carving the insides of the bulkheads down to the deck levels. I used a chisel type blade in my knife to do this work. The raised forecastle and quarter decks were reasonably easy to work, while the lower mid deck was difficult. I did add some extra pieces of cardboard to the center keel piece in the locations that would later have holes drilled to accept the mast extensions. All the deck areas were then sanded down to the deck lines on the bulkheads, a small amount of Bondo was added as the extra pieces did not quite come flush with the deck level. The following photos show the work thus far.

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I next worked on making templates of all the deck areas. I used thin paper cut to approximately the right size and shape at first, then pressed them into locations and creased it sharply at each of the bulkhead extension inside the bulwarks. The paper was removed and cut to follow the crease curves. I traced these templates onto thinner card stock and tested the fit on each deck location to finalize the exact shape for each deck area.

 

A piece of thinner cardboard was then soaked in a bath of maple stain, to saturate it completely and evenly with color. I had tried just brushing stain on the board first, but the colorization was too uneven. Lines were then drawn on the board, spaced 1/32" apart, and the thin board templates used to trace the shape of the decks onto the stained board. These were cut out and tested to fit in their places, but not glued down yet. I also traced the outside edges of the main, lower, deck onto a non-lined area of the stained board and cut waterways for the hull. Following photos show some of this work.

 

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More to follow as I work along.

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

Edited by John Fox III
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  • 2 weeks later...

Greetings All,

            The work on the card and paper clipper model continued with quite a few more sealing and sanding, with small amounts of Bondo. Once I had a decent hull I made up the keel, stem and stern posts out of multiple layers of board.

            After reading more online about card models I learned to saturate the card stock with thinned down poly varnish, in order to make it stiffer and less prone to fraying when sanding. It also made cutting a wee bit harder, but worth the effort as it shapes up nicer when saturated. I did this by using a large art paint brush and applying the thinned varnish, then letting the card stock dry, and repeating the process until no more varnish would soak into the stock.

            The keel and stern/stem posts were made from this saturated card stock. I then used epoxy glue to install these parts. Unfortunately, I had to use painters tape to hold the parts in place while the epoxy cured, this resulted in removing the sealed surface of the hull where the tape was attached. It left fuzzy areas, so more sealing and light sanding was necessary to seal the entire surface of the hull again.

            At this point I used extra prints of four of the bulkheads and the spacer used to glue the bulkhead tops to the board to design and cut out card stock pieces to make up a couple of stands for the hull. The following photos show the results of this work.

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More to follow as the work progresses.

Anchor's a Weigh!

John Fox III

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On 12/9/2020 at 3:00 PM, Moab said:

John; what type of material did you use for the scribed decking and where did you get it or did you make it?.......Thanx...Moab

A piece of thinner cardboard was then soaked in a bath of maple stain, to saturate it completely and evenly with color. I had tried just brushing stain on the board first, but the colorization was too uneven. Lines were then drawn on the board, spaced 1/32" apart, and the thin board templates used to trace the shape of the decks onto the stained board. These were cut out and tested to fit in their places, but not glued down yet. I also traced the outside edges of the main, lower, deck onto a non-lined area of the stained board and cut waterways for the hull. Following photos show some of this work.

The actual cardboard was white, it came in a package of greetings cards.

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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Greetings All,

            Before continuing with this build article I would like to review some of what I've learned, and how it affects the work as it progresses. First of all I have learned that I need to soak/saturate the card stock from packaging much better. Originally I only used multiple painted coats of thinned poly varnish to do this work. I was only saturating the uncolored side, which is in effect sealed off by the printing. I have since learned to sand the colored side of the card stock, using 320 grit sandpaper and a small wood block, to roughen up the surface and remove as much of the sealed surface as possible. The second thing I've learned is to use a small plastic tray, in my case the base of a plastic container used locally to hold bakery goods, to literally soak the stock for at least five minutes. This worked much better at hardening and saturating the card stock. It makes it slightly more difficult to cut out parts, but keeps the fraying from unsaturated inner parts of the stock down to a minimum.

            Although not evident from the photos shown thus far, the hull does have some places where the top of the bulwarks are not symmetrical side-to-side. One side has a slight bulge and the other a bit too much tumblehome inwards. I believe this is due to the fact that I did not cut the slots for the individual pieces well enough, in some places the bulkheads were not perfectly 90 degrees from the keel piece. I didn't realize the problems this would cause later. I figured that although the center keel piece was forced out of alignment at the deck level, once the tops of the bulkhead pieces were glued to the spacer piece it would straighten out. I was wrong, the top of the center keel piece was pushed sideways slightly in places, but I could not see this until the hull was planked and cut from the spacer piece so I could view that area.

            As a lot of the work involved soaking or gluing, and then waiting for up to 24 hours to continue work, I decided to see if I could improve on the hull by starting over completely. Remember, this whole things is an experiment to see what is possible and what can go wrong and how to improve things with card/paper modeling. I am still working with the original hull,  as experimenting with it will help improve things overall.

            I redesigned the bulkheads and added some additional pieces to make what I believe will be a stronger and better hull. The following images show this new design.

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            Like the previous plan drawings my CAD program exports rather poor images, I have all these drawings as PDF drawings if anyone is interested. The major changes to these plans are the additional longitudinal stiffeners and the open areas on most bulkheads at deck level. I am hoping that it makes cutting down to deck level much easier and more accurate. I also extended the bulkheads on each side right at the top of the bulwarks line, to make planking in that area much more accurate.

            I did make up the parts for the new hull, using the above mentioned soaking technique to the card stock this time. While the results were much better overall, it was a bit more difficult to cut the thoroughly saturated stock not to mention a lot more slot cuts were needed. The following images show some of the work on cutting out and gluing together that different parts. Each was made twice, and then each pair glued together to make up the final pieces.

 

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            After the pieces were glued together to make up the hull parts, I dry fit each piece to all the pieces it would interact with in the final hull form. I made sure each piece fit easily and the pieces remained square to each other. It took a lot of time, and if a piece fit tight enough but slightly off square I would slightly enlarge the slot so that it would be square. Slightly over sized slots turned out not to be a problem, as there are so many pieces that fit together it did straighten it all out.

            The installation of the longitudinal pieces did require them to be installed on all the bulkheads that they interacted with at one time. And, due to the limited open areas above the deck level, they had to be put in place at 90 degrees to their final position. They were then slid into place and rotated to fit into their respective slots. A bit fiddly to do, but it worked out quite well due to the dry fitting and trimming of all the slots.

            The hull parts were put together in sub-assemblies, which were then added to the center keel piece. The larger center section had to be added first, then the stern and bow areas added. The following photos show this work.

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            All the joints were then glued with white glue. This hull form was very stable. This time I glued the spacer print directly to a 3/8" maple board, and glued the tops of the bulkheads to that. Unlike the first hull, this time all the bulkheads lined up perfectly on the spacer print, with no adjustments needed. The following photo shows the final results of this process.

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More to follow.

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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I've seen some of the modelers who scratch build from styrene use right angled metal blocks and magnets to hold the styrene sheet in place while the glue sets. It would probably work with card as well. Similarly, when I used to build balsa wood planes and boats years ago, pins hammered into the building board were used to keep things aligned until the glue set.

Merry Christmas to all and wishing you a better New Year than the one we've had.

Alan 

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On 12/23/2020 at 12:28 PM, Onni said:

I always had trouble with the keel twisting out of shape after the bulkheads were glued in place so probably I should of made a jig out of wood or metal for the keel to sit in and keep it straight. Great work by the way, you need a lot of patience with card/paper models.

Greetings Omni,

Yes, twisting of the keel is a problem with any bulkhead type of model. I had previously made one in styrene plastic, but there I made the bottom of the keel, center piece, deeper than needed, and used a wooden board with a slot to keep it all straight. Patience, as I often tell people who comment on my models in person, is something you need when you are doing something you don't like, I LOVE what I do so time doesn't matter.

Anchor's A Weigh!

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

Greetings All,

            Work on the second hull continued with the start of a first layer of planking. This time I used well saturated cardboard that was thinner than that used on the first hull. These planks were stiffer, but also much more brittle. I also changed things up a little by using a white card stock, also saturated with thinned poly varnish, to delineate the waterline. The following photos show this work in progress. One thing to note is that this time I did not fill in the bow and stern areas with solid card stock, not sure if it was a good idea or not, it make planking much more difficult.

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            One thing I am trying to accomplish with these experiments in card modeling is to see how far one can go with only cardboard and paper. I expect at some point I won't be able to take it all the way, but the only way to really find out is to experiment.

            While working on the planking for the second hull I would take breaks from that work to try out a method to make spars for the models. I used a variety of different sized aluminum and brass tubing, as well as a long miniature drill bit in my efforts. I wrapped very thin paper around the largest tube in my selection, carefully rolling the paper between my thumbs and forefingers on both hands around until the paper was tightly wrapped. I then let up slightly, removed the larger tube and inserted the next smaller tube and continued. I repeated this process until I had a tube that was slightly larger on the outside than the desired finished mast. While holding the paper tightly to the last tube/bit I applied CA glue to the point where paper ended, working from one end of the tube. I then slid the paper tube nearly off the tube, and saturated the entire outside of the tube with the CA glue.

            I then removed the paper tube from the brass/aluminum tube or drill bit, and used a thin sliver of bamboo to seal and harden the inside of the entire tube by dipping the sliver of bamboo into the thinned varnish and letting it drip from the tip of the sliver into the open end of the paper tube. I repeated this three of four times on each end, then pushed the bamboo sliver in and out to clear any excess varnish. I wanted the inside of the paper tube completely sealed, but also completely cleared so that the metal tube/bit could be reinserted. At this point I put the metal tube/bit back into the paper tube and sanded the outside of the tube to attempt to get the desired taper. After sanding a bit I would reach a point where the CA glue had not saturated and the paper would start to fray a bit. I would then add more CA glue to the outside of the paper tube, and continue again with the sanding. I repeated this process until I had the desired spar shape.

            Though the photos included below only show the finished mast parts for one model, I made many more tubes. I had to make up tubes that would be thick enough to be stiff at whatever desired size I needed, but that meant cutting many pieces of paper and gluing them up to determine the length of paper that worked best, i.e. not too much paper to make the tube walls too thick, but enough to make the tube as stiff as possible.

            The next portion of the work was making up layered solid pieces of card stock, to add to the tops of the mast tubes. These layered pieces were made to be as thick as the tops of the paper tubes, masts in these cases. These pieces are designed to make up the mast doubling areas. The layered pieces were then measured so that they were about twice as long as the mast top area, then one portion was cut and sanded into a solid, round stem. This stem portion would be inserted into the paper tube top end. Then they were sanded and cut into the proper side and shape for the mast tops.

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            Work on the masts continued with making and adding the cheeks. I first made a template by gluing a cutout from the plans onto a single layer of card stock. I used that to trace the shapes onto a thicker layer of card stock, and cut them out. I glued them to the masts, then sanded a taper into the cheeks, thinner at the bottom to full thickness at the top.

            While doing this work I also glued the card decks onto the hull. I did glue a card stock beam to the underside of the stern edge of the forecastle deck. The holes for the masts were then cut out of the decks.  I also glued pieces of thinner white card stock to the insides of the bulwarks. I used thin paper pushed tightly to the deck and bulwarks to get the curved shape needed, then transferred that to the final card stock. The following photos show the work on mast cheeks and first hull with decks.

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Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

Edited by John Fox III
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Hi John.

That is fascinating. I imagine that rolling the paper around the tube was quite difficult as the paper would have a tendency to slacken off at one end whilst being tight at the other. Sometimes when I roll paper it tends to skew because keeping it taut all round the centre is difficult.

Looking great though John. Keep posting the pics, I love seeing them.

Best wishes 

Bernard

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Greetings Bernard,

I use both hand when rolling the paper around the tube, one near each end, but also move them into the middle occasionally. When it start going ascrew, I loosen it up just a wee bit and correct it as I reroll the paper. Thanks for the comment, I do try! <Grin>

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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