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10th-11th century Byzantine dromon by Louie da fly - 1:50 - FINISHED!

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Well as I mentioned before, I've re-jigged the blocks at the bottom of the shrouds. Naturally enough, since I was shortening the block assembly, the shrouds needed to be longer so I had to replace them. I was lucky enough that one shroud in each set could be re-used, and that I seemed to have enough dyed cord to make the rest. Until the last moment, when I discovered I was one shroud short!


The existing shrouds are darkened to look like tarred cordage. I dyed another lot of cord, having to re-insert it into the dye bath three times to get the colour to match . Of course as soon as I'd finished, I discovered I actually had just enough of the old cord to do all the shrouds after all. Ah, well, at least I've got some nice dark cord that I can use for other things. Here is the ship with shrouds undone and incidentally the yards lowered to allow new shrouds to be installed. The bosun is going to be in big trouble from the captain for that horrible raffle on deck.




 Here is the new, shorter, block arrangement. (Sorry about the vagueness of the photos - I don't know what went wrong the day I took them). I'd originally put cleats inside the hull walls to belay the downhauls - I'd used modern cleats because none have been found in archaeology but I really wasn't happy with them. Then when it came to it I found it was much easier and probably more sensible to belay them to the oarbenches. At least as strongly fixed as a cleat and much more convenient to use. You'll note small clothes-pegs hanging from the sides of the ship - they're holding the downhauls in tension while the glue dries. After that I removed the pegs and tied off the downhauls. That raffle of unsecured ropes is getting gradually less. The bosun will be happy.




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After I'd replaced the shrouds my lovely (and observant) wife, all unsuspecting, pointed out that the after yard was hoisted inside the shrouds (instead of outside where it should have been). Oops. So I had to loosen off the tacks which I'd temporarily tied up, undo the toggle that held the yard to the halyard, and take the halyard off and re-set it outside the shrouds. I'm very glad she noticed it. It would have been murder to fix it later in the build.  


And here is the after yard in its correct place - you can see the toggle which joins the halyard to the yard itself, as well as the trozza (truss) that holds the yard to the mast.













The guy lying on the deck isn't dead. He's "in storage" - when the four guys are put in place hauling up the yard he'll be holding the tack to keep the yard under control.


To provide belaying points for the ropes of the after lateen sail (tacks and vangs) I need to install the xylokastra (wooden castles). But first I have to add the shields to the pavesade - the castles would make it impossible to reach in and tie off the ropes holding the shields on.


In an earlier post I showed the ochanos (straps) at the back of the shield. To hold each shield in place I tied a piece of cotton sewing thread (to resemble rope, same as I've been using for the rigging) through the ochanos and around the railing and each upright of the pavesade, then added a dab of glue to make it permanent. That holds it fairly securely, though I may also glue the bottoms of the shields in place to stop them from flapping around.


Here are the shields about half-way installed on the starboard side:






And here's the starboard side complete.







It's nice after having painted all these shields some months ago and having had them in storage all this time, to finally be able to put them in place. I'm pretty happy with the way they look. Certainly makes the ship look more colourful.


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PhilB that's a whole subject in itself, which others know a lot more about than I do. Apparently there were tables for how thick a rope should be for a particular job - obviously the mainstay had to be thicker than the mizzen stay because the load was greater.


You might try a search for rope thickness or size, or something of the sort in the Search function at the top of the MSW page. Or else look through the "Masting Rigging and Sails" section. Or if all else fails, put an info request up in the same section. Then you'd need to convert rope size (which is measured as the circumference, not the diameter) to thread weight at the scale you're working in.


But that was for the Great Days of sail - the 18th and 19th centuries. There are naturally no tables from the Middle Ages. For my build I got quite a few thicknesses of thread and just chose a thickness that looked "right" for the job it had to do, and I suggest you do the same.


1 hour ago, BANYAN said:

Whaaat? the shields are not colour matched to the rowers tunic - I am aghast


Aaah, you're thinking of Western Europe, where the so-called "coat of arms" was on the shield, on the clothes, on the horse-trapper, sometimes even on the helmet, such as in these renditions of Diepold von Schweinspeunt (Note the wild boar emblem as a pune or play on words on the name Schweinspeunt)


image.png.52ff7c3b5681c9684ca548d580bfb9ef.png  Diepold Schweinspeunt.jpg


from the Liber ad Honorem Augusti (Italy under Emperor Frederick II) c. 1195


The Byzantines didn't get involved with all that sissy stuff . . . 

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This is magnificent. Your carvings and research are exemplary.  I'll be stealing your carving techniques but I'm not sure I have the endurance to carve this number of figures. Obviously a labor of love.  


By the way, aren't the shields for the Sixteenth and seventeenth port side rowers reversed?. 🤗😉

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Thanks everybody for the likes.

On 10/1/2020 at 10:38 AM, BANYAN said:

I was only being a 'smarta....'


Me too  :D. (Plus a chance to show off my heraldic knowledge . . .)


13 hours ago, Boxbuilds said:

Obviously a labor of love.  


More a labour of having painted myself into a corner . . . once I'd carved the figures to go on the poop I was committed to having oarsmen. Then when I discovered I couldn't cast them in resin within any sort of reasonable budget - and knowing I had a lot of free pear wood - I was committed. There were certainly times when I regretted ever starting on them . . . :default_wallbash:


However, I actually do enjoy carving - I just wasn't expecting to have to do so much of it . . .


13 hours ago, Boxbuilds said:

By the way, aren't the shields for the Sixteenth and seventeenth port side rowers reversed?


Ha, ha. Funny man . . . Should I mention that there are no port side shields in the photo, or would that spoil the joke? :P

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If the zylocastra had a means of communicating with the captain would that be a xylophone?


very sorry, Steven.  Failed to resist.


Wonderful model and backstory.  Getting better as you enter the finishing straight as well.


I hope the little man lying down is feeling better in time to carry out his duties 

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I've been having a few problems with the rigging - particularly with belaying points, but I'm making slow but steady progress. My original idea for the foretacks was to run each one to a turn around a "bollard" on the forecastle which acted as a fairlead, to a point aft of the mast so the yard could be pulled back behind the mast when tacking.






Only problem was - it wouldn't have worked (which I realised when I was in bed, where all one's best ideas arrive - usually at some ungodly hour of the morning). I had run the tack under the benches would have made it impossible to pull the yard back.


So I re-ran the tacks, still with a turn around the "bollard", but then outside the shrouds. (The clothes-peg is just holding the rope in place while the glue dries on the bollard.)









Fixed the "bitter end" around an upright of the pavesade aft of the mast, and tied off the free end to the pavesade rail nearby.


Then the vangs. One end of the port vang is fixed around an oarbench, the other to the rail of the pavesade. The starboard vang is still loose:




And both fore-vangs tied off:


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Now for the after yard. I added the crewmen hauling up the yard:


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Unfortunately the rope they're all holding just couldn't be a straight line due to the one of the guys standing on the hatch cover. In the real world they would have adjusted their grip to allow for that. Not so easy with carved figures . . . However, it's a small issue and I'm not going to bother about it. I know about it, and now you do as well - but I doubt anyone else will ever notice . . .


Here all the ropes for the yard are loose - bosun very unhappy.




So I put the fellow in yellow to work, holding the port tack so the yard doesn't swing around as it's raised. Sorry about the picture quality.




The other tack will be loose, as will the vangs, as the yard is in the process of being raised. 


Now I'm trying to work out how to produce a natural catenary curve in the loose ropes. Cotton thread is "springy" and doesn't naturally fall into such a curve. I'm experimenting with wetting the thread and with soaking it with a weak solution of PVA (white) glue. But if anyone can make suggestions or has been in the same position I'd be grateful for advice.




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6 hours ago, Louie da fly said:

I'm experimenting with wetting the thread and with soaking it with a weak solution of PVA (white) glue

 That's what I would have tried first. Another, possibly crazy idea, might be to make a pattern of the curve you want (like by bending a piece of wire in-place on the model) and then using that as a guide to shape a glue-soaked line that dries off the model and then is installed when stiff?

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I've been looking at what happens to the free end of the ropes for the blocks etc I've been working on so far. Normally there'd be a coil to take up the surplus rope at the end. I've tried making a coil copying a technique used by others on MSW but it's pretty difficult if I'm making it out of the surplus rope at the free end. I think it's probably better to just make separate coils and attach them to make it look like they're part of the main rope.


Wrapping the free end around the end of a pen and gluing the coils together (later I had to remove the grey hair that had somehow got itself mixed up with the coil).


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Then I added an extra bit of cord to simulate the bit that winds around the coil to keep it in shape. And a clothes-peg to hold it all together till the glue dried.


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And the coil in place next to the oarsman in green. Note also the free end of the vang being held by the standing crewman. My understanding is that it would just lie there on the deck until the operation was over, then be coiled up properly.




And another bit of housework - the free ends of the robands and gaskets were sticking out at all angles - a combination of the springiness of the cotton thread and the presence of random dabs of the glue I used to hold them to the yard. They should be hanging down under gravity. So I've started glueing them in a "natural" position. The left-hand photo is "before", the right-hand isn't so much "after" as "during". The 5th and 7th ties from the end of the yard show the difference. A lot to do here - it'll take a while.


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Exceptionally good work - your model is looking really good Steven.


Another idea to try for the centenary of the ropes is wax (preferably conservators type).  Using a minimal amount well worked into the thread usually results in the rope laying in a much more natural centenary.  Pull the thread through the wax  two or three times, then work it in using a lint free cloth or paper so that it doesn't sit on the thread but is worked into it.  Don't put too much friction on the rope when pulling it through the cloth/paper or you may burn your fingers.


The downside; well I have heard of two things.  First the wax sitting on the surface of the thread may collect dust over time if the model is not in a case, and second there is some talk, that over a long time, the wax might give off fumes which, rather than preserving the thread, might make the thread deteriorate faster.  The more learned here may offer better advice on this (ding ding - Druxey are you out there :))  but it certainly makes the thread lay better in a centenary and cuts down a lot on any fuzz the thread may have.





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I'll rise to the bait -again. My limited understanding is that conservators' wax (Renaissance) is pH neutral so should not deteriorate line like beeswax (acidic) will do in time.

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Hmm, I'll have to do some thinking about that. I've already (unfortunately, as it now turns out) used beeswax on the shrouds. We'll just have to see how they last.


In the meantime,  I've made a flagpole,






cut a hole in the deck for it and installed it. Note that the flagpole had to go one side of the ship's "tail".



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The flag is cotton fabric which I painted with acrylic, so thickly that it's been integrated into the fabric itself. That gave it the stiffness that allowed me to introduce some "flutter" into it. 






and some more work on the rigging. Coils of rope for the "free ends" of the shroud tackle (left) and the halyard tackle (right - hanging on the mast crutch)






Blocks for the halyard trusses (which hold the yard to the mast):




and I added an eyebolt to secure the tackle for it on the foremast.




But when I tried to make a hole for an eyebolt for the after mast . . . . !!!




I cut a new piece to fill the gap - allowing for a hole for the second eyebolt. I'm letting it dry then I'll put in the eyebolt.


In the meantime, here's the tackle for the fore halyard truss - the fixed end tied to the eyebolt and the free end attached to the cleat on the mast. Just waiting for the glue to dry.




And here's the upper end of the tackle, showing the block in place.






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Looks great Steven. Such an awesome built and the figures make it feel so alive!


On 10/6/2020 at 11:59 AM, Louie da fly said:

Hmm, I'll have to do some thinking about that. I've already (unfortunately, as it now turns out) used beeswax on the shrouds. We'll just have to see how they last.



Beeswax is indeed slightly acidic, containing mainly fatty acids and it will slowly eat away at your threads. But keep in mind this process is veeeeeeery slow. I would bet that cotton or nylon, anything other than natural fiber (linen or hemp) would slacken due to its natural properties far before the acids take their toll. I used beeswax on hemp in some very old models, they are close to 15 years old now, and there is no serious deterioration to the threads yet.


The safe solution is indeed conservator's wax, also called micro-crystalline wax. Beware though, it has a strong smell to it, like petrol and you need to warm it up a bit so it penetrates the rope, like running the rope over a lightbulb, and then clean out any excess. The crystals in this wax are very small and it will leave a kind of white fluff on the thread if you make excessive use of it.

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  • ccoyle changed the title to 10th-11th century Byzantine dromon by Louie da fly - 1:50 - FINISHED!

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