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I've seen magnificent models of historic ships with black painted hulls.

 

The 'Dos Amigos' is on the bench and I'm starting the 2nd planking, looking to painting the hull black.

 

The search function turned up threads about 3 years old, so here's a new one.

 

How and what wood and paint combination did you use? 

 

Did you thicken the paint to let it appear more "tar" looking, as in the old days?

 

Any "Constitution" builders here that painted the hull black?

 

I feel personally, painting a beautiful wood planked ship takes some nerve.  I've taken a threshold or two before, and I'd like a black hulled wooden ship in my fleet.

 

I'd be grateful for any ideas or links or pics of model ships, or to read of any experiences.

 

Thanks, Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Michael, you have to decide if you are going for historical accuracy (black hull)  or showing off the beautiful woods you used. Some  folks like to "paint" their ships with appropriately hued woods.   If you go the black painted hull route, practice on some similar spare wood that matches your ship's hull wood with your paint of choice. Others will have to chime in on brands. I used Floquil for years on wood. Since they are out of business I have to experiment with other brands. Will you airbrush or use a paint brush? Practice before you go daubing some paint onto your Connie or Vic. ;)

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    Do not thicken the paint.  At the scale you are working it will just look lie a crappy paint job.

 

    If you plan to "paint in wood", you are limited to the dark woods...mostly ebony.  Good luck working with that!!!!  Other options would be to stain another hardwood such as boxwood or cherry.  Coloring medium could include wood dye, black India ink and wood stain (such as ebony).  Experiment.  See what works for you.

 

    ...and paint, if done right, ain't so bad.  Check out the painting section.  Also check out Chuck P.'s CONFEDERACY and/or WINCHELSEA.  He talks about hand-brushing, using artist acrylics but with a technique that rivals airbrushing.  It takes time, but the result is fantastic.  I have used it on small areas, such as wales and transoms, to great effect.

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Posted (edited)

To me leaving what would be a historically correct black hull a natural wood color is the same as an owner of a brass HO steam locomotive leaving said locomotive a varnished bare brass.  Maybe prettier but not accurate.

Edited by modlerbob
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Thanks guys, I appreciate the feedback. 

 

@Chuck, yes ebony is very difficult.  I was looking for something exotic and not from the Occre kit, man did I get exotic material.  What a pita.  I planked the wales with the wood, the other 85% of my order can only be used for smaller units, not good.  I got my money back as the ordered goods had nothing to do with the website specs.

 

@Bob,  I had to read a couple of times, but I understand your thinking.  I have 2 wooden ships, one light, one darker, neither is a Rogers' museum piece (but I love them anyway).  My favorite ship, a Baltimore Clipper, needs a black hull.  Period. 

 

I've doused the usual "mahogany" strips in black wood stain, and am just before getting to it.  if needed, I can airbrush the hull later on, just have to find the right paint.  I'm not worried about it now. I realize the grain should be still visible and not clogged up with thicker paints.

 

Thanks fellas.

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My last Constitution was plastic. I painted the hull "almost black". I never use Black paint in my models. There are very few things that are actually "pure" black. I like to use those non-blacks like Floquil's "weathered black" that were more like a very dark gray. Same with whites. Not even car or airplanes tires look ok when painted pure black.

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I have to admit, I like the look of the black hulls of the 19th century.

 

There are a lot of different thoughts as to "off-black" coloring, and I've experimented some with off-black tones.

 

But, on one model I built recently, I used alcohol based leather dye on some pearwood and it came out really sweet. The wood came out with a very natural sheen that just looked really nice, and it doesn't fill hide the wood grain. The only thing is that you would want to prepare to use the method, so that the wood that you dye really ought to be the same species, and with nothing to block the dye from penetrating, like old glue errors.

 

In most cases, I like to use simple artist's acrylics applied by brush. Something I got turned onto after reading Rob Napier's article in an old Nautical Research Journal article on paint colors. You just want to make sure to apply it thin, in multiple coats, to get a nice egg-shell finish. I've done 3 of the last 4 painted wooden hulls that way, and I've always been happy with the results.

 

 

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I agree with Ulises Victoria, real black just doesn't work, and looks terrible on a model.

 

@Clare Hess, that's wonderful information.  I recently built a Peterbilt truck in 1:25 scale, using a So.Cal. flat bed theme.  1st time with pear wood, what a beautiful look!  Love it.  Here a look;

 

-IMG_0919.jpg.85d64934e44cbf0ff6f14a31697a4da9.jpg

 

Granted, not a ship, just a model that could use some TLC.  It's scratch built, and entirely metal, except cab and tires.  No black here.

 

Also, my wife is loves to make her various (!!!!!) shoes different colors.  Amazing, the girl knows her stuff, and knows about leather dyes.  Love it!

 

Thanks much for the insight.

 

 

 

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Thanks Bruce for the link, love it.

I got a lump in my throat when the dry dock was flooded and the ship was afloat!

True, the hull is shiny, looks great.  I'll bet cash the boys didn't use the old-fashioned paint method this time around....:D

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For more black hulls, the frigates HMS Trincomalee and HMS Unicorn (sister-ships) are also still afloat.  Very similar to Constitution.  Lots of pictures on line.

 

I'm guessing the paint is a marine enamel or polyurethane at $100/gal.  

 

I getting back to a model of the Constitution I started many years ago.  I've read many times that shiny/gloss finishes don't scale down too well.   I bought the Model Shipways paint kit for the Conny, but I haven't tested the black yet.  I'm hoping it is not a deep black.   As said above, I think thin coats will be the main trick.  I was also thinking of a final finish of a thinned poly varnish, mainly for UV protection for the colors, but may also allow me to control the sheen.  

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In Warerline Dioramas by Justin Camarata (Seawatch Books), the author says:

 

"... color intensity should be consistent with scale of the model....the further a viewer is from an object, the lighter will be the perception of its color."  Hence, the smaller the scale, the lighter the paint should be. 

 

The author includes a color lightening table with a curve that correlates scale to % white to be added to a base color. For example, a 1/8"/ft scale ought to have about 45% white in the color. 

 

If the photos in the book depict the application of this scheme, it is hard to argue with his statement. 

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Very interesting Steve, thanks for the info. Black paint on a model is difficult, it looks often too harsh and unnatural. 'Flat black' is even worse.  Nothing looks flat black in real life....:D

 

Look here, this is mahogany wood from the Occre, stained black on the 'Dos Amigos' that I'm building now.  First off, it doesn't get really black, just kind of an anthracite looking dark shade;

 

30020176tx.jpg

 

Here a comparison to the bulwark done in ebony wood, untreated as yet;

 

30020177jj.jpg

 

So, after manipulation, and a damp cloth to clean off the rest of the wood lime after application, the wood is no longer a grey tone, but a dark brown, darker than the ebony wood.  The ebony wood will get very dark when sealed.  Very dark, I've done some probes already.

 

Just, the wood is not black.  To get a real black, I'll have to get paint on the hull.  Meantime, I'm not sure anymore if I want to go this route.  I'm liking the dark, the very dark brownish tone of the wood at this time;

 

30020174wv.jpg

 

Even though the wood on the hull has not been sanded smooth and sealed, I'm liking it better than a solid through and through pure black.

 

Michael

 

 

 

 

 

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Hey Michael,

 

For me personally, I think paint tends to hide the character of the wood used.  No matter how thin you get the paint, it still hides the grain, the definition between planks, etc.  To me, that tends to give models a more plastic look than I prefer.

 

I've been experimenting with dyes and stains instead.  If you look at my Pegasus log, I've been using stains from General Finishes.  They seem to be a cross between stains and paints, providing better and more even coverage than stains, yet less clunky than paints.  On my Pegasus, I've stained the hull and wales (which were done in swiss pear) using one of the General Finishes products (don't recall offhand whether it was "Black" or "Ebony", but I think it was the former).

 

For my Charles Morgan, which is a black-hulled ship, I'm using ebony.  It's not as easy to work as pear or boxwood, and it's not inexpensive, but it's been a very nice wood to work with.  I know that some people abhor it, but that hasn't been my experience at all.  If you double plank, using very thin (veneer like) planks of ebony is no problem (I'm using 0.7mm thickness for my Morgan's hull).  It was also very easy to create the stem with all it's curves.  It's very even in grain and color, so it looks very much like a painted black.  I also looked into African Blackwood, but couldn't find it in sheets thin enough for planking.  Blackwood is a little less even in grain, with some brown hues to it, so it gives you a different effect.

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Mike,

 

I elected to paint my Niagara hull black. I actually had to.  The plans called for it, and the hull is planked with the kit supplied basswood, so I did not have much choice. I used a simple flat black testor spray can for the first coat. I sanded it down with 600 grit and put the final finish down with my airbrush. It left some of the wood grain, not much, and I put down a smooth surface.

 

I wholly agree with Chuck. I would seriously refrain from trying to put down a thick tar like coat of paint. There is no faster way to ruin a great model than to apply a poor paint job.

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Hi Mike, excellent build reporting on the Pegasus, I had a look.  Wonderful. 

 

Hi Darrell, thanks for the info about painting.  The thick, let's call it tar look is what two famous Italian modelers recommend for a period correct look to the hulls, at and below the waterline.  I can't bring myself to do it though.  Blackening the hull is radical enough! 

 

Guys, I've some excellent news!

 

Only three runs left, then the  planking is complete.  I couldn't wait any longer, I had to know for sure. 

 

Did I clean off the leim properly?  After sanding the planks smooth, will the original wood take another staining and become blackish again?  Will the overall re-staining be an even layer?  Or will I have to airbrush the hull to make it a uniform black?

 

So, I sanded an area relatively smooth, the natural wood came through of course.  I re-stained....and all is black again!

 

No painting necessary!

 

Love it.

 

Soon updated pics of the finished hull.

 

Michael

 

 

 

 

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Hey Michael, just looking again at your pictures above, what kind of ebony are you using?  The ebony I am using on my Morgan is pure black, no brown at all (probably Gabon Ebony).  I do like the look of your ebony though - gives an aged look to the hull.

 

Srodbro raises a good point made in the Camarata book.  Weathering black is tough, and people that paint war gaming miniatures I've read have a hard time with blacks.  It sounds like they tend to use grays, browns, whites, etc. 

 

I think it it all depends on the look you're going for.  If a clean, uniform look, then paints and woods with no grain work.  If a more weathered look, then woods with more grain and texture, washes and weathering powders get you there.

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Hi Mike, the ebony wood used had no specific name, just sold as ebony.  The strips were terrible too, very long, and they were tied off as a circle.  So, the splintery wood strips were for the most part just ripped apart, what a shame and a waste.  I ordered enough to do the whole hull, but not even 30% could be used.  I tried different treatments, staining different sealers, basically, it can be made to appear very dark, the lighter areas darken also.  I'll use the ebony for some roofing on the deck houses.

 

Here an update on the hull.  Except the stern, the planking is complete.  Sanded with 240 grit paper, then re-stained with black, once.  I'm liking the dark brown shade and am convinced that a pure black would not have a positive effect on the overall look.  So, I'll apply different clear sealers on trial pieces of wood to see which method will look best, just not too 'wet' looking.

 

I like the comparison of the real ebony, and the black-stained 'mahogany' from the Occre kit.  Here a peek at the hull things in present trim;

 

30081286bq.jpg

 

30081287wz.jpg

 

30081288ns.jpg

 

30081290ly.jpg

 

Soon the trial surface finishes are complete and I can see which way looks the best.

 

I do kind of like the dirty dark brown as compared to a black paint job.

 

More later,  Michael

 

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Hi Mike, I went to the basement again and viewed the rests of the ebony wood strips, I was hoping for a changed opinion after 5 years.  Still, the charge that was sent to me is just junk.  Back then I complained and got my money back.  The wood is difficult, fact.   Now I can say a black stained reddish wood will turn out quite similar.

 

I made a test sealing procedure, now I know what to use.  The black stained strips, as well as the ebony get a much darker and deeper shade, but both woods keep their wood structure and grain.  Just the wood get quite a bit deeper and darker, without becoming a real black.  I imagine the outcome to be an almost black....a very dark, dark brown.  Sunlight, should show some lighter enhancement here and there, exactly as the wood is. 

 

I like this look and will go with it.  Also, this is a real heavy duty paint supply material and not environmental friendly.  The stuff stinks to high heavens and can only be applied in an air vented cabin.  I have this possibility at hand.  Not an acrylic based sealer for sure.

 

OK.  Pics soon.

 

Michael

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