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Part 4: Rigged Sailing Ships

In 2004 I bought the 1:1200 scale Revell Germany kit of the Titanic. I thought it was a nice little kit and noticed that it was about the right scale to go with my Pre-Dreadnought era naval wargaming miniatures, which were officially listed as 1:1200 or 1:1000 scale but measured out closer to 1:953. Since the Titanic was built only a few years after the end of the Pre-Dreadnought period, I thought the ship model might make a good (if large) generic transport to use in my games.

As so often happens with my projects, one thing led to another. At about the same time I bought several small sailing ship kits, and soon I had plans for creating some sort of naval game using some 1:1200 passenger liner kits on one side and some small sailing ship kits on the other side.

These are the sailing ship models I've built for the project since then.

This was the first sailing ship I finished for the project. It's the Heller kit of the Santa Maria in 1:270 scale. I used florist wire for the rigging after experimenting with various other methods.

All of these ships (except for the Black Falcon pirate ship below) were cut off at the waterline and mounted for game use. I never got around to designing the game, but I did have fun building and painting and rigging the ship models.

Maria Conchita Alonso was an actress in some 80's action flicks. Don't ask why I named this ship after her. I can't remember. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

This was the second ship I finished. It's the Heller 1:750 scale kit of the Pamir, one of the last big commercial sailing ships.

Voltoon is, of course, one of the major characters in my fiction writing projects.

Those of you who are familiar with my Generic Legions series will know where I was going with this game design. With sailing ships from various periods and cultures on one side, and passenger liners on the other side, it was obvious that the ships would need "special" names.

Despite the name tag, this is the Heller kit of the Cutty Sark in 1:500 scale. I built this and the two earlier kits in 2004, but put them aside and rigging them with the later kits in 2010.

By the time I'd finished rigging this one it was pretty obvious that I was making these ships way too fragile for game use. Even mounted on the large wooden bases, there's no way these would be able to survive the rough handling in a typical game without suffering extensive, difficult to repair, and emotionally scarring damage. That was okay though, by that point I was enjoying the construction of the kits, so I continued on and finished them as shelf display models.

I picked up the project again in 2007, this time with the Heller kit of the Drakkar Viking longship in 1:180 scale. Despite the wide variation in scale, the models themselves are fairly close to each other in size, and since my original intention was to use them as playing pieces in what was to be a rather silly game, the discrepancies in scale didn't matter.

Much simpler rigging for this kit. Bjarndjor was a character in what I had planned to be my second novel, which I never got around to writing. He might turn up in a different story.

The Airfix kit of the Mayflower in 1:459 scale. The decorations on the stern and around the poopdeck are paper markings that come with the kit, cut out and glued to the model.

I used various reference sources to get a good idea of what the rigging should look like for each ship, but in the end I decided to not be too fussy about the accuracy of the rigging.

This is the most recent sailing ship I've built for the project, the Glencoe kit of the Constitution in 1:600 scale.

This kit is a re-release, or "repop" as the serious modellers say, of an old kit from the 1950's or 1960's. I think the original was made by a long-gone company called ITC and re-released several times over the years by other model manufacturers, also long-gone. Keeping track of old, out-of-production and re-released model kits is a hobby in itself.

On this kit I experimented with making the ratlines by hand, out of the same florist wire I use for the rigging. It was a slow and frustrating task, but I was happy with the end result. After I finished the ratlines and posted a photo of my efforts on Facebook, a friend pointed me towards an old online article (which I'd read and forgotten about) on how to make easy ratlines by cutting them out of plastic screen material. D'oh! [forehead slap]

In case you're wondering if I can build and rig the larger sailing ship models, in 2007 I built this kit from Smer. It's the Black Falcon in 1:120 scale, a repop of the old Aurora Pirate Ship model. The rigging is regular black thread coated with wax to help reduce "frizzies".

The only modifications I did to this kit were to add the anchor chain, from the jewelry/beading section of the local arts and crafts store, and make the furled sails out of tissue and thinned white glue. The kit did not come with any sails and I thought the bare masts and yardarms looked too sparse.

Working on the smaller ship models pictured above put me in the mood to try building one of the bigger, fancier, more expensive rigged sailing ship kits. I bought several of those (the Revell 1:146 scale HMS Victory, the Revell 1:150 USS United States, the less-fancy Minicraft 1:350 Cutty Sark and Gorch Flock) which are still sitting on the "unbuilt" shelf. I built this Black Falcon kit as practice before I tried to tackle those bigger, more complicated, spiffier ships.

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The content on this page was written: April 2013
Last updated: June 11, 2016