Julie Mo

How Realistic Can One Make Sails?

58 posts in this topic

Julie,

 

Your J Boat at 1:35 is a large model and unlike a square rigged craft you will only have four sails; a main and three headsails. You will also have relatively little rigging Compared to a square rigger. Your mainsail will be huge. Therefore, no matter how skillfully you model the sails you risk having your model looking like a pond yacht.

 

I have seen the models in the Herreshoff Museum and the New York Yacht Club's model room as well as a stunning J Boat model that was offered for sale in the Mystic Seaport's model gallery. In all cases, the models were without sails. In these cases, a lack of sails accentuated the rigging and spars. Much of this detail would have been hidden by sails.

 

Roger

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Cathead,

 

Here's a simple diagram that might answer your question.  I'm not saying this is right, just trying to demonstrate various ways the seams and panels could aligned.   

post-206-0-19116300-1483497662_thumb.jpg

 

I don't know if the seams were flat felled or a French seam.  A French seam is stronger, more consistent in size and used by Levi Strauss.  Which ever seam was used, the seam was formed by folding in and interlapping the edges of two plies of material so that the edges of the material are concealed and sewn with one or more rows of stitches.

 

Here's a sampling of four sort of flat felled seams.  French seams are stronger, faster and easier to sew.            

post-206-0-74109300-1483497693.jpg

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Thanks, Dee Dee. That first image is indeed what I was asking: does the upper seam go back and forth, or always on the same side? The illustration I linked to suggests that, at least for this prototype, it was the lower of those two colored examples.

 

At 1:64, I'll only be able to simulate these seams, as any actual folding over of the sail material will end up way too thick. But it's still useful to try and understand what I'm trying to simulate. I just spent part of this evening mocking up an example, and will share it when the photography conditions are better.

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Julie,

 

Both of these books address scale sail making.  Both authors are committed to using techniques that make sails look realistic and correctly scaled.

 

https://www.seawatchbooks.com/ItemDisplay.php?sku=115003This supplement is part of this revised masting and rigging book: https://www.seawatchbooks.com/ItemDisplay.php?sku=115002

 

https://www.seawatchbooks.com/ItemDisplay.php?sku=107002

 

Erik

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Just to clarify, I'm not Julie. She started this thread in 2015, I just added to it since the topic seemed a pretty good fit for my own question rather than starting a whole new thread. Thanks for the references!

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Here's a mockup of a sail made panel-by-panel. I liked how my bond-paper sails came out on my longboat build, so decided to use that method again. This mockup is just cheap printer paper, cut into scale 24" strips and glued together along the seams in the pattern shown by the USGS drawing I linked above. The upper one is just a cutout with the seams drawn on; the lower one is the paneled sail. I really like the three-dimensional appearance. The real thing will need to be colored and detailed, but I proved to myself that I could assemble a paper paneled sail here the seams are partially real and not just simulated. Anyone else have thoughts? This took a couple hours to make, not too bad.

 

post-17244-0-59462800-1483807135.jpg

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Eric, I like that look also.

The scale of the model will partially determine what is best.  Smaller scales will only need the pencil lines, medium scales could use the glued panels (had you thought of drawing in some of the detail with pencil here also?) while large scales could have more or less sewn construction.

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This is in 1:64; the mockup shows the main topsail of a topsail schooner. I will definitely also be drawing in the stitching, adding ropes, etc. That mockup was solely to test whether I could make the panels look decent and in a reasonable amount of time.

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Is it worth trying to replicate some of the bagginess that was built into the sails?  Has anyone tried this to advantage?  What I mean by bagginess is that the length and width of the sails was actually larger than the bolt ropes.  When the bolt ropes are sewn in the sail material was gathered (for lack of a better term) by a certain amount.  Not only did this allow the bolt rope to take most of the strain , but it produced some of that billowing or bagginess to the sail when it filled.

 

I was just wondering if this would improve the look of the sails on a model.

 

Regards,

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Henry,

I've seen some in the past where the sails were billowed but I don't recall that the sail was gathered.   The late Hubert did some tutorials on his site "Model Ship Building For Dummies" that looked pretty good.   And somewhere I've seen someone using silkspan that "stretched" the sail such that it billowed and appeared as you suggest.  Hmm.... time to do digging through my links, methinks.

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Perhaps gathered is too strong a term.  I think what I read was a reference to about an inch of slack canvas per yard when sewing on the foot rope and about three inches per yard on the leech rope.  I know that probably doesn't make a bit of difference at scale, but I was wondering if anyone had ever tried it out.

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Perhaps gathered is too strong a term.  I think what I read was a reference to about an inch of slack canvas per yard when sewing on the foot rope and about three inches per yard on the leech rope.  I know that probably doesn't make a bit of difference at scale, but I was wondering if anyone had ever tried it out.

Henry - I can visualize what you are describing here - now I have yet one more thing to consider!  That should put me in analysis paralysis for the foreseeable future :)

 

I like what you are suggesting, and think it could solve some of the problems getting scale sails to look right.

 

Bob

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There's a few ways to add some billowing to the sail, one is 'drawn fabric'.   

A 'puffed sleeve' is an exaggerated example, but good for a short explanation.  Instead of 'gathering', draw the fabric to 'compress the fibers.  I can't remember how much I would draw a sleeve cap on blouses or jackets, maybe an 1/8" over 12", any more, the fabric would pucker.  After the hem is fixed / set, add rope with blind hand stitching. 

 

The info below is an 'overview' of how to draw fabric.  There are numerous variables, such as the fabric itself, if drawing the fabric on the weft, warp or bias and more.  

 

post-206-0-67022700-1484079896.jpg

 

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Here is my finished topsail, made from bond paper with individual panels. I think it came out quite nicely.

 

post-17244-0-56771000-1484406986.jpg

 

Before some of you recoil in horror, I'm quite aware that the boltrope stitching is wildly out of scale. I did a lot of research on attaching boltropes, finding a number of approaches. Essentially there's no way to simulate boltrope stitching at scale, so if you don't want oversize stitching, you have to glue the ropes on. That might work for cloth sails, but I was sure that gluing ropes onto paper sails wouldn't end well and my tests proved this. And I wanted my clews to be really strong, meaning I couldn't just try to attach an isolated loop to the corners. So after some experimentation with different stitching methods, I decided to go with this one. It's hand-stitched with white thread, colored with pastels like the rest of the sail. Given that the model this sail is going on is essentially a representative "artistic" model rather than a strictly prototypical one, I like the idea of showing that boltropes were a part of the real sail even if they shouldn't be seen at this scale. And I just like the pattern and visual interest they provide to the sail. Also, one reference I found said that the boltrope should be slightly to the aft side of a square sail, so mine follow that practice as it's pretty hard to get them precisely on the edge of a paper sail anyway.

 

I also researched different methods for bending the sail to the yard, and for attaching reef points. I chose to bend the sail with a single wrapping line, as various references show, because it was so much easier than tying lots of individual loops with oversize knots. I tried knotting the reefing points on both sides of the sail, but couldn't get the knots tight enough against the sail to look right. So I cut them to length and glued them loosely down in slightly curved configurations so they look like they're hanging down naturally. I also chose the one-point-at-the-seam pattern, as opposed to two points per sail cloth, based on the Tilley drawing of USRC Louisiana that I've used as a reference several times. The kit also calls for one vs. two reef points, though it puts the points in the middle of the sail. I like the points in the seam, an extra-strong place to anchor them.

 

In any case, the final sail is strong and stiff, easily shaped into a nice curve to simulate some wind. I really like how the individual paneling creates a 3D effect in real life (it's hard to see in a photo), and the overlapping seams show up well when light is shining through the sail. I decided not to try and draw stitching on, because in all my tests I couldn't get a stitch small and regular enough to look right. I know that's in opposition to my logic for the bolt ropes, but I just didn't like the look of large stitching.

 

I'm interested in what others think, good and bad.

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I think it looks quite nice. For stitching perhaps printing the stitching lines on the paper, before gluing the panels? Obveously not on this finished sail, but on your next one.

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Looks good.

I was suggesting pencil for the seams, but at the next smallest scale, where you couldn't do panels.

If there were more rows of reef points, there might (would) be a panel/strip on the after side, just to give more support along the reef line.  You could add a panel right on top of the large panels you have now.  There are other panels added for reinforcement, as well as many books showing where they go.

Yah, the bolt ropes are a problem, as well as having to make too large stitches, scale stitches would disappear except in really large scales.

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Bolt-ropes are sewn on in a paticular way.  They do not attach to the edge of the cloth, but actually lie ON the cloth.  On square sails the lie on the forward face of the sail so they are less apt to rub on shrouds, etc behind the sail.

 

post-961-0-50987900-1484425462_thumb.jpg

 

post-961-0-76635200-1484424724_thumb.jpg

 

The stitching that holds them to the sail comes out of the sail, goes over the edge and into the bolt-rope, through the sail, and goes around again and through the next strand over.  In reality the thread goes between strands and through the third, then into the sail.  Going through one strand isn't critical on a model.  The stitches advance along the sail with the lay of the bolt-rope so it buries itself in the lay of the line.  I skip 3 or 4 rope strands, where-as the real thing is stitched in every strand of the bolt-rope.  That's totally up to you.  The real thread is waxed flax, heavy and doubled.  On a model, one strand of light thread should be scale enough.  Pull it snug in the direction you're sewing towards, not back where you've already sewn or the sail will draw up and kink.  The sail will pucker a little into the lay of the rope - that's fine and as it should be, it wraps the sail around the bolt-rope.   Every so often, a few turns are made, a whipping, typically every yard or so, on either side of grommets, eyes,  and the like.  These serve as pull-stops.  If the stitching should break somewhere, being a whip-stitch it'll easily pull out, the whippings try to keep it from pulling out too far.  This obviously isn't critical on a static model, but it can be seen if you look at real sails and besides adding a touch of realism, is a good place to start a new thread because the whole thing doesn't have to be done with one length of thread.

 

I make cringles and eyes for my RC model's sails by taking a turn around a rod of the right diameter, like toothpicks, and whip it at the overlap.  The real things were usually spliced in.  That can usually be represented by just whipping a join of two ends of the bolt-rope with enough overlap for the eye and whipped at either end of the eye.  In the pics, note how the stitching disappears into the lay of the bolt rope on the front of the sail.  

 

post-961-0-71611600-1484426221_thumb.jpg

 

post-961-0-37801500-1484426221.jpg

 

You need to hold out the sail and the bolt-rope as you sew it, don't stretch them, just keep some tension on both.

 

post-961-0-40514300-1484428424_thumb.jpg

 

My sails tend to be a much larger scale (1:36) than most models here, but with some good magnification, it's not difficult to do.  I find it easier to insert the needle between strands on the front side, through the third (or not, it's your call), into the sail, snug it up, move 3 or 4 strands over, and do it again.  I reinforce my bolt-ropes with fabric glue as they are working sails

 

post-961-0-04929700-1484426221_thumb.jpg

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Jerry, that's really useful, although I think at my 1:64 scale I can't replicate that; the boltrope is just too small and the edges of the sail too delicate. I tried, and felt that it was too likely to tear putting each stitch right at the sail, so moved the stitches inward a bit where they're more visible but also sturdier at that scale. As my sails are paper, they behave somewhat differently from cloth. Great info, though, thanks for sharing.

 

Also, I'm curious, you say that boltropes should be on the forward side of a square sail, but I was going on this reference from The Rigging of Ships by R.C. Anderson, which says "the boltrop goes on the after side of square sails". Did practices change at some point in time, or between different countries?

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Cat..fantastic job.  I will be making paper sails for my Great Republic Clipper.  That will be roughly 25 sails for a model 1/128 scale.

 

I've made paper sails before..in various stages of decay...from new to heavily warn/stained and patched.

 

Have you ever died your paper sails after you made them?  I mist mine with a brown India ink Alcohol solution...they look used and weathered...pretty niffy trick.

 

Anyway...loved your post.

 

Rob

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Thanks, Rob! I've been thinking about writing up a separate topic on step-by-step making these sails my way, maybe I should get in gear on that. I haven't seen much else about paper sails on MSW.

 

I haven't dyed paper sails; I'd be worried about the dye dissolving the glue I use to assemble them. Was that not an issue for you, or did you only use one-piece sails?

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Julie,

 

Your J Boat at 1:35 is a large model and unlike a square rigged craft you will only have four sails; a main and three headsails. You will also have relatively little rigging Compared to a square rigger. Your mainsail will be huge. Therefore, no matter how skillfully you model the sails you risk having your model looking like a pond yacht.

 

I have seen the models in the Herreshoff Museum and the New York Yacht Club's model room as well as a stunning J Boat model that was offered for sale in the Mystic Seaport's model gallery. In all cases, the models were without sails. In these cases, a lack of sails accentuated the rigging and spars. Much of this detail would have been hidden by sails.

 

Roger

I agree with you, Roger.  I haven't checked in on this thread for a while because I resigned myself to displaying the sails furled.  I arrived at this after seeing many renditions of the same model with sails either hoisted or furled and I just liked the look of the furled sails better.

 

On another note, I have learned much from the more recent posts and I want to thank those who have contributed and opened my eyes to what can actually be done to make model sails more realistic.     

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Thanks, Rob! I've been thinking about writing up a separate topic on step-by-step making these sails my way, maybe I should get in gear on that. I haven't seen much else about paper sails on MSW.

 

I haven't dyed paper sails; I'd be worried about the dye dissolving the glue I use to assemble them. Was that not an issue for you, or did you only use one-piece sails?

Cat......I did another experiment for the Great Republic sails.

 

This is simply an experiment and there will be far more detail added...but the general idea of billow and reef edge stressing in the fabric is achieved.

I'll add reef point and bunt/leach lines when the sails are rigged.

 

My example is not weathered....I decided to keep the sails as clean and sharp since the ship is clean and sharp.

 

Rob

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post-2739-0-33126700-1487553096_thumb.jpg

post-2739-0-38342300-1487553120_thumb.jpg

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Just to add another method.   A member of my club developed a method where he  printed the sails with an iron transfer technique for his Diana.  It was a very good result.

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8 hours ago, roach101761 said:

Just to add another method.   A member of my club developed a method where he  printed the sails with an iron transfer technique for his Diana.  It was a very good result.

Details, please, Phil.  You are just teasing us with this one :)

 

For instance, what is the sail being printed on?  What kind of cloth is being used?, What is the scale of the build?  Anything else we all need to know?  And of course, photos of the result, and if possible, the process.

 

Just hungry for detail on a fascinating (to me) topic.

 

Thanks,

Bob

 

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Bob,

This technique is done by using ink jet iron on transfer paper, available at craft stores, some office supply stores and on-line.  It costs $10 - $20 for a pack of 18 sheets.  (Link below).  One issue is you're limited to 8.5" x 11".  To get the fabric to hang properly, the printed lines will need to align with the fabric grain, which may further limit the (max) size of sails.

 

http://www.quill.com/personal-creations-inkjet-light-t-shirt-iron-on-transfers-white-18-sheets-pack/cbs/uni09756552.html?cm_mmc=SEM_GGL_OS_DSA2&mcode=SEM_GGL_OS_DSA2&gclid=CJGsr-r4zNICFQMaaQodzSIHLg&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

 

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