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Julie Mo

How Realistic Can One Make Sails?

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I've seen a lot of models in museums that are just amazing.  But almost have sails that can't compete with the realism like the rest of the model.  They look dead.

 

When I'm sailing, I'm all about sail shape.  I have to have those sails trimmed just right and you will find me tweaking them constantly.  It's one of the things I love about sailing.  There's a pureness and beauty in seeing a properly trimmed sail.

 

My first build will be a J-Class model and I would either want the sails to look like when the boat is sailing (I would also mount it heeling) or flake the sails on the deck and make a dock to mount it to if I can't achieve the look of a properly trimmed sail.

 

Can a model sail ever look like the real thing?  If so, what methods do you use?

 

Thanks,

Julie

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I've always resisted making full sails because I don't think I have ever seen them look like sails do in full scale, full of wind. Not saying it's impossible but it would take a ridiculous amount of effort to make it look good. Model material can't possibly mimic the stiffness or flexibility and the way gravity acts on full-sized fabric and rope.

 

I do like the look of partly furled sails if made from silkspan or similar material though. They can look very realistic.

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Hi Julie,

   Me thinks this is what you are talking about.

 

 

post-1053-0-00913000-1446749600_thumb.jpg

 

If so, you can get all the info you need here.

 

http://www.shipmodeling.ca/aaplandusite.html

 

It is Model Ship Building for Dummies. I am not calling you a Dummy. That is the name of the site. The gentleman passed away, But his family still runs it. For a small fee you are a member for life. The gentleman has some great stuff. very talented.

 

Mario

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Starch or paint over a form or shaped by hand comes to mind.  Milliners use a wire edging they bend to shape and the fabric holds the shape.

 

Here's the wire, note it is wrapped with thread.

 

post-17589-0-76785500-1446760917.jpg

 

Here is a hat.  I suspect the petal shapes have wire in their edges as the fabric is too sheer for starch and not stiff enough to hold on its own.

 

post-17589-0-53638900-1446760879.jpg

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I joined the Dummies website.  I'm probably at the bottom of the class.  As I try to piece the ideas together, it seems this may be a lot of work.  Not that I have a problem with that.  I just wonder how long it will last. 

 

And then there's dust.  If the model is not sealed from dust, once you clean the dust off the sails, it looks like those sails will have to be trimmed again.

 

I really don't know where this will lead.  Right now I envision the J-Class model I am about to tackle to take the place of the model that the seller of the property has already sold.  She had a schooner, that was close to the same size as the 1:35 J-Class Endeavour, sitting in her dining room.  Replacing it with Endeavour just seemed like the right thing to do.

 

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Hi Julie,

 

I think you might be putting the "cart before the horse" a bit.

 

Nevertheless, at the NRG conference a couple of weeks ago I attended a fabulous sail making workshop run by Nic Damuck from BlueJacket Ship Crafters. He showed a very simple and effective way to create sails. Using Silkspan (a specialty fabric used by radio controlled airplane builders) he created very realistic sails.

 

Silkspan is very light and somewhat translucent. It also has a barely noticeable weave. Nic drew a sail pattern on one sheet using pencil, then using watered down white glue, he sandwiched that between two more sheets with the weave at a 90 degree angles. Then, very carefully worked out any air bubbles. He then trimmed it to shape with scissors, placed it over a frame (of coat hanger wire) contoured in such a way that when the sail dried it mantained its shape.

 

The pencil lines in between the layers gave a very realistic and subtle impression of the panels comprising a sail. To me the most important aspect was that the sails appeared to scale.

 

Best,

John

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A long time back I remember reading an article about a model of an arab dhow.  The builder carved sails from a very fine grained wood that looked amazingly real in the photos. 

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Silkspan or Modelspan as it seems to be called now is an excellent medium for making sails certainly at smaller scales.
 
I used it on my French Seventy-four build, and the effect of wind behind the sail is simply achieved using a hair dryer.

 

028.JPG

 

There is a technique to forming the sails but all the various strengthening patches along with seams and cringles can be incorporated, and it is both strong and translucent.

 

B.E.

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I furled the sails on my Sherbourne, but I found the lightest canvas curtain lining with the closest stitching I could find. The materials was already a creamy-white colour, but after 3 hours of soaking in a tray of "builders" tea (minus the milk), I left them to dry naturally. The sails were then built up in similar fashion to original sails, although I used a single panel for the sails and added the panels of cloth to double-up the material.

 

As for getting shape to them, I looked in to this, and found that ordinary fabric glue does not stick to Clingfilm. So I tried shaping a block of Balsa wrapped in Clingfilm to act as a mould for the sail. The fabricated sail was then pinned to the balsa block and impregnated with a 50/50 mix of water and fabric glue. This seems to have worked to create a shaped sail, but does require a mould per sail.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Jonny

Edited by jonny.amy

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Re: barely noticeable weave of Silk span :rolleyes:. It 's weave is non existent as it is a felted product :o. I made a full ship set of sails for my Rattlesnake with Silk span. :) I have a small minipractium on how I make sails which I could send to anyone by email if you send me a PM request. :D

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Re: barely noticeable weave of Silk span :rolleyes:. It 's weave is non existent as it is a felted product :o. I made a full ship set of sails for my Rattlesnake with Silk span. :) I have a small minipractium on how I make sails which I could send to anyone by email if you send me a PM request. :D

 

Why not post it and share with everyone?

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My HMS Victory build log is really just a very long description of how I made the sails. I used bed sheet material then I stained it and drew all the sail details on with a pen with white ink. To get the shape I used a commercial product intended for stiffening fabric for crafts and I formed the sails into the full bellied shape by draping the wet material over holes cut in  cardboard in the shape of the sails. Check it out in the build log link below.

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Excellent job B.E. very realistic look.   It seems to me though that virtually every painting I see of square riggers the sails have a blueish tinge and show multiple patches. and in some photos as well.

Stark white sails just hanging on a model do not look good IMHO, and detract from the overall look of the model.  So far I have avoided putting on sails for that reason. When I find the right technique maybe I'll try them then.

Tom

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Another method for sails is to use plastic-backed cotton lawn. This is a fine weave cotton that comes in sheets for use with an inkjet printer, it is mostly used by quilters to print photographs onto material. I drew the sails on my pc and then printed them out after getting all the seam lines etc in the right places.

The sails on my Sherbourne are a mix of furled and loose, but they show the cutter as being static since I think it is difficult to portray motion in a model.

 

Full details for square sails are in a pdf in another part of MSW. (I am having problems copying and pasting the link, but it is about 'superdetailing the cutter Sherbourne')

 

George Bandurek

 

 

Sails MB.pdf

post-8366-0-93694600-1447021665_thumb.jpg

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Re: barely noticeable weave of Silk span :rolleyes:. It 's weave is non existent as it is a felted product :o. I made a full ship set of sails for my Rattlesnake with Silk span. :) I have a small minipractium on how I make sails which I could send to anyone by email if you send me a PM request. :D

Hi Diwang,

 

I'm just a novice.

 

However, I know that Nic is a master builder with a special expertise in rigging. He also runs one of, if not the best, manufacturers of extremely high quality model ship kits in the world. Felted or not, there were about 14 people in the round table with me, and he definitely showed that there was some kind of orientation to the fibers he was using and it was a "best practice" to sandwich the sheets 90 degrees to each other.

 

I also agree with Brian, if you have a "practicum" on sail making, why not share it with all of us?

 

John

Edited by Landlocked123
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There is a small monograph on making realistic Silkspan sails on the SeaWatchBooks site. As Blue Ensign shows, the effect is very convincing.

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Greetings, 

 

Please forgive me if i create a stir on this thread but how can you have billowing sails with no sailors? I really don't want to take anything away from the work being done with the sails but I really think any boat with billowing sails should also be manned. I know this adds another level of complexity but I wouldn't set sails without at least a few sailors on board.  :)

 

Regards, 

 

Rick 

and presumably to be set in water, or at least a waterline setting ;)

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I have a question about sail making that I can't find the answer to anywhere. When the original two foot wide canvas panels were stitched together, just how were they laid out? Did each panel progressively overlap along the edge, or did they alternate over and underlapping? If the former, did it matter on which side the overlapping happened? I can find lots of info on how to mimic seams on a sail made in one piece, but no clear depiction of how those panels were actually laid out. Anyone?

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Hi.

Very nice find B.E.

Not seen that info before.

Another 4 hours of reading. I like reading this sort of thing that were written in original script.

 

Regards Antony.

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I've used it for years Antony, do all my rigging by reference to it. Steel is the basis of most modern writers on ship rigging.

 

I do have a hard copy of Steel's Elements of Mastmaking, sailmaking, and Rigging, printed in elephant folio format by DN Goodchild. USA. It's a nice thing to have, but I use the online version constantly.

 

Cheers,

 

B.E.

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The best book on the subject, from the perspective of sewing actual sails is The Sailmakers Aprentice, 495 lavishly illustrated pages concerned solely with traditional sail construction and written by an actual traditional sailmaker. There is no other book that comes close. There was a question above about how sailcloth seams were made and it's very well covered in this book. Modern sewers know it as the Flat Felled Seam and it's the one used on the double row of stitching on the legs of most blue jeans. The actual Seam on a real sail is about 3 or 4" wide. It's not the only type of Seam utilized in sail construction but it is the one used to make the dozens of parallel seams seen in most canvas sails. I have many strong opinions about sails and how they are depicted and much of it is included in my HMS Victory log, click on the link in my signature. Also here is a link with lots of details about one traditional sail being hand sewn with lots of photos: http://www.thebigrow.com/?page_id=451

post-3035-0-46818600-1483453892_thumb.jpg

post-3035-0-48203800-1483454040.jpg

post-3035-0-72773700-1483454055_thumb.jpg

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These are fascinating resources, thank you! However, so far, I still cannot quite determine the answer to my core question: did the sail panels progressively overlap in one direction, or alternate back and forth? In other words, when the panels were laid out for stitching, did they do:

 

a. __---__--- so that the panels alternate upper/lower when laid flat,

 

or

 

b. __---  so that the panels progressively overlap, technically getting higher and higher as the sail progresses to the right,

 

or

 

c. ---__ like b except that the panels progress up to the left.

 

None of the illustrations or photos I've seen make this clear enough to me, and every written description just says something like "the panels were stitched together" with lots of detail on the type of stitching, but not on the layout of the seam itself from panel to panel.

 

Any ideas? I realize that at a model scale this is a really pedantic detail, but I'm considering making sails panel by panel and want to know how it was really done.

 

JCF, the book you reference looks fascinating, but I'm not sure I can justify buying it on my budget, and a small Midwestern library sure doesn't stock it.

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Posted (edited)

Cathead, 

 

Check your local library for an interlibrary loan.  When I lived in a small town in Missouri, the local library (and all the ones arouind us) were able to use it.  

Edited by mtaylor
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Oddly enough, I may have found part of my answer right under my nose. I went back to look at the Dr. John Tilley drawing of the USRC Louisiana (which you can find on Wikipedia), and found that his drawing shows the orientation of the sails' seams. If you click on the image and fully zoom in, you can clearly see that he orients the seams continuously in one direction: with the fold facing the center of the square sails, and facing aft on the fore-and-aft sails. The only thing I can't see is what happens right at the middle of the square sails: how are those two panels joined, since the seam shown in JCF's central image above has to face one way or another? It seems odd to have the center of the sail lopsided with the seam facing only one way, but how else would it be done?

 

Mark, I should have thought before I typed, of course that's an option. And I'm the son of a librarian! *smack on head*

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