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Construction Area

Welcome to the Construction Area! Here's where you can find out a bit more about how ship models are built. Most of the following information concerns ship in bottle and ship in light bulb models, but also applies to some of the solid hull static display models John builds as well.

First, a few words about model construction in general. The most important thing to keep in mind for model construction is that there is no "right way" that is absolute. There are many ways to make miniature representations of real sailing ships, which is basically what any model is. There are some basic distinctions between several model types such as ship in bottle models or static display models. There are further distinctions regarding techniques for building the hull of a model, such as whether a ship's hull is carved from a single block of wood or from a block of thinner pieces (laminates) that have been glued together. There is also plank on frame or plank on bulkhead, in which planking is attached to a framework to achieve the shape of the hull. Neither one or the other of these basic techniques is wrong or right. It depends on the size/scale of the model and the builder's knowledge, skill level and personal preferences.

One of the things you may have noticed about John's ship in bottle and light bulb models is that unlike the more "traditional" models of these types, there is no resin, clay or putty to represent the sea. John prefers to model his ships on small stands  becuase he believes that the lower hull of a ship is as important as the parts above water in making that ship what it was. With the more traditional methods of ship in bottle models the lower hull of the ship is never modeled as it would be hidden
below the material that is used to represent the sea.. He also believes that putting all of his efforts into building absolutely the best model is more important than any window dressings like imitation water, seabirds, rocks, etc.. Please understand that this in no way implies that the techniques or results of any other model builder are in any way inferior because they prefer to add such features to their models. This example is only mentioned to explain that there are other ways to build models, and that the following information is only a guide to anyone interested in building for themselves or learning more about how John builds his models.

John is hoping that by sharing information on model building he can perhaps encourage new builders into taking up the hobby, be of some help to more experienced  modelers who are open to some different ideas and explain to potential clients the basics of his type of model building.

Please feel free to email John if you have any questions or comments about his building techniques.

The Big One

Probably "the" most often asked question of anyone who builds ship in bottle, or ship in light bulb, models is, "How do you get that model in the bottle?" The easy answer is "Very carefully!"

The actual process is dependent on the builder's own particular techniques and how the model is designed and built. However, basically one either has to build the model so that it can be taken apart into separate pieces that are small enough to insert through the neck of the bottle, or one has to design and buiild the models so that the masts, spars and sails can be collapsed or folded down to make the model small enough to fit through the neck of the bottle. In actual practice, it takes a combination of these two methods for most sailing ship in bottle type models.

Using either one, or a combination of both, techniques for inserting the model into the bottle requires that at least some reconstruction or raising of the collapsed masts, spars and sails be done inside the bottle itself, after the model parts are inserted. Sailing ships also require rigging of course, which is either made of separate, stiff materials that are glued in place after the model is assembled, or actually used like the rigging on the real ship to maneuver or raise the masts, spars and sails into proper position inside the bottle.

Using the rigging lines to maneuver the parts into position requires that the lines be made much longer than what is necessary to portray the model itself, in order to have sufficient length to pull the lines from outside the bottle. It also requires that holes be drilled in spars and the hull for the extensions of these lines to pass through. The lines are glued at the points that they exit or enter spar and hull openings once the model is completed, and the excess line is then cut off and removed from the bottle.

John much prefers to do as little actual work on the model inside the bottle as possible, and therefore uses the collapsing technique and the "working" rigging lines to accomplish this. Not all rigging lines need to be working, or what John refers to as "control" lines. Some of the lines, such as the backstays, can be permanently mounted or attached as in a real ship. The reason for this in the case of the backstays is that the lines simply collapse when the masts are folded backward to insert the model into the bottle.

John has made an animated .GIF file that shows in brief what happens when a fully rigged, completely finished model is "knocked down", the term for collapsing the masts, spars and sails, and then inserted into a bottle and finished. Click on the icon below to see the animation. The animation is designed to operate only a single time. Use the hotlink just below the animation, on it's page, to return to this page, and then click again on the icon below if you want to see the animation again.


Ship In Bottle Animation Icon



Model Building


Use the hotlinks below to download  FREE web articles by John, detailing the building of a ship in bottle model of the Canadian Fishing Schooner Bluenose, the Schooner Yacht America or the clipper ship Flying Clouod. The first two articles are designed primarily for the beginning ship in bottle modeler, and do include plans as well as detailed construction information. The Flying Cloud article is designed for those with some ship in bottle modeling experience, and also includes plans and detail drawings.

These web articles are a re-edit of  previously published articles John wrote for Model Ship Builder Magazine. The files are just slightly under one megabyte, so should take only five to seven minutes to download with a 28.8 modem. Please let John know what you think of the article after viewing it. If you have trouble downloading the web article from the first site, please try the second or third hotlink listed below.

To use/read the web articles, download the zipped files first. Unzip the files into separate sub-directories, or folders, of your hard drive, or onto a floppy diskette. Use your web browser software, i.e. Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer, to view the entire article by "opening" the .htm file. The photos and plans are separate files that will be shown by viewing the .htm file, but can also be accessed separately using any graphic program capable of opening a .jpg type of file. Using such software the plans can be printed to just about any scale one would need to fit a model into a given bottle.

Please be advised that both articles were written before John worked the "bugs" out of his techniques of building ship in bottle models. Both articles mention tracing and cutting the hull block sandwich to the plan view first. This has turned out to be incorrect, as explained in the "Hull Construction" area. The profile view template is too short to cover the longer dimension of the curved surface of the block if the plan view shape is cut first. Please review the Hull Construction page before starting to build a model of your ownn from the Bluenose or America articles.

John has recently re-edited all of his previously published articles into "web" format, and has them availabe for sale on DVD. Please visit the Awards & Articles page to get more information on this DVD.



 

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