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Top sail schooner by Piet - shipyard diorama - scale 1:2000 - Finished

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Hello all,


A few months ago I got the urge to try something I have been thinking about of doing for a long time.  I have always been very intrigued with dioramas.  It adds to the realism of our models but making a diorama with large models is not an option for me, space wise.  

So, what size should my diorama be and how to protect the diorama from dust and possible mishaps while on display.  What subject should I choose?  

In my frequent visits to the Dutch website "Maritiem Digitaal" I found a few paintings of ships in a shipyard.  Being also an artist I love to accumulate copies of art, just to look at.  So, the idea is basically making a diorama of a small shipyard like they used to have in the cities around the former Zuider Zee, now Ijsel Meer.  In one of my many books about the Netherlands I came across a photo of just one of those real small shipyards.  Ah, Pieter thought, that would look great.


Well, as time went by and I felt a strong urge to start with this project the subject was changed from a Dutch fishing boat to an American build topsail schooner.  Oh, the Dutch fishing boat is still in the back of my mind but I'll reserve that for later and hope to actually make a diorama in a bottle.


After I saw JesseLee's ship in a Christmas ornament globe I thought that would really be a challenge making something that small as a diorama.  But alas, that idea was promptly rejected because of the difficulties involved, i.e. improbabilities.


Then I read about small dioramas under a wine glass.  So, did a Google search and they looked very nice with real probabilities.  Problem was that Gwen would not part with one pf her crystal glassware, her wedding gift.  A good thing though because in retrospect the stem would be too distracting.

A further search for ideas got me to those "snow globes."  Eureka! Pieter shouted.  That would work and also look nice.


These snow globes are rather small and can be held in the palm of your hand, just what I had in mind.  Okay, what do I use for a globe?  Christmas tree ornaments are too delicate for this purpose.  So my dear wive Gwen why not use a lamp?  I rejected that idea already at the beginning because I did not see any way doing all this through that small opening after you remove the filament.  But then the light went on - - - I'll just cut the lamp to fit on my diorama.


I now had the subject, the diorama globe and the material to use (wood).  Next was to determine how big that schooner should be to fit nicely inside a 75 Watt lamp that's cut down to have a 5 inch opening.  The schooner is supposed to be 90 to 95 feet long or 27,432 mm or 28, 956 mm.  My diorama can only have a model of about 14 to 15 mm length on deck.  Well, that works out to a scale of 1:2000.


This is the reason for me wanting to try it first to see if I can actually make a 90 foot two masted ship at 14 or 15 mm.  The masts and spars should close to scale rather than clunky.  The rest would follow easier, me thought :rolleyes:  


Okay then, here are a few pics of everything that preceded the actual build process. 



Old ship's warf of Dirk Pauw at Durgerfam



Original idea for shipyard diorama



Bird's eye view of original idea



Cordial glass that came closest to the size I wanted, 5 inches







A 75 watt lamp that will eventually be cut to the 5 inch diameter point.






Edited by Piet
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Fire up the Opti-visor, desk magnifier and a couple of spot lights. I just did some Z scale (1/220) houses. And they were mostly precut laser kits. I can't imagine working that small for more than about 10 minutes at a time. This will be interesting. :)B)


I'll pull up a seat and bring some fresh carrots along to enhance my seeing ability. :o Anyone for a carrot?

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You thought you could start without us??

No way, we'll track you down.


I would have loved the shipyard at Durgerdam, ofcourse, but as you have a Rotterdam connection, I can understand you don't want to build a wharf from the region of Amsterdam :)


Knowing your love for detail, and working parts, I would have tried a more 'workable scale'.

But we'll see how you tackle hinges at 1:2000 :) :)



Edited by amateur
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Perhaps you should delete the other one. Is a bit confusing for some of us :)

And when you are working on it: perhaps check on the little typo's in your title (unless they are there to illustrate how thick you fingers are, and how much admiration whe should have for you, still taking on a large project like this one :P )



Edited by amateur
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Thanks everyone for joining in on the fun with this very trying little project. 


Yeah, Jan, it's a topsail schooner that's not for sale ;)  Dyslexia of the finger and I'm going to stick with that excuse.  I'll try to fix it - - whenever.  True, that Durgerdam diorama is very attractive and as my signature shows, there is a ship in a lamp listed.  I put "Staten Jacht" there but I  chnaged my mind and do a Botter or Kotter or some other Zuiderzee fishing boat.

Actually I have more affiliation with Amsterdam then Rotterdam though. Just because I lived for one year in Vlaardingen but my whole family is from Amsterdam.


I would love to delete the other post if I only knew how.  Anyone can give me some help? A moderator perhaps?


You know Texxn5 John, this diorama will fit on the O19 display board with room to spare.


Good to have you join the crowd here.


I did spend some time on this little project this morning.  Tried to shave some wood off the - - ummm, sorry can't say it yet.  That's a part further down into the build.   Why?


As I was progressing and kit looked like it was doable I made some changes and additions to the layout.  I like to show this project from the start and walk through it as it was developing with the tries and failures.    Hope yuns don't mind.


I mentioned to Remco in a PM that most of us "older" folks tend to gravitate to large® scales and here I am at 82 going the opposite direction.  Yes, I do use an optivisor but I do that also for the Surabaya model and the O19 model.  This may sound strange but it's also a physiological challenge, to force the eyes and muscles to do what the brain commands.  So far it seems to work.  Oh yeah, there are times when I miss the heart rhythm and my hand with the scalpel makes an unauthorized move.  We then you'll hear an expletive such as "oh shoot."  And I cant spell either, as Jan already noticed ;)  and have to make the part again.      


Did some shopping at the art and craft store this pm and found some stuff that could work for grass and shrubs or trees.  Hmmmmk, I need reeds at the water's edge - - - - -  B)  :rolleyes: 


See y'all on the rebound and cheers,





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Hi Piet!

Be cautious when using the bulb from the lamp - this glass is very fragile and often break down at the most inopportune moment.

What type of wood you are going to be used to make boats? I like to use the planks from hard wood such as pear and hornbeam.

I really like to do a small size boats.


Best Regards!


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Thanks to everyone for joining in on the fun and your likes.


Yes Igor I know about the glass  of these light bulbs.  I'll be extra careful.

The wood for the topsail schooner hull will be from cherry, solid.  No frames and planking, not at this scale.  The base is poplar and I thought of making the round works (masts, spars and bowsprit) from maple but as the work progressed things didn't work out that way.  You'll see as this log gets underway. 

That's the problem with doing a build log after the fact, when part of the work is already done.


Captain Bob, yes, that was also my thinking at first to take the easy way out as a last resort.  However, I  first wanted to try and make everything myself as a true scratch build, including cutting a lamp bulb to fit the base.  This project was meant to be my challenge and to improve my physiology.


The next post we'll go into the nitty gritty and show the trials and errors I encountered.  The first thing I wanted to see if I could carve a good enough looking hull at 14 mm length to look like a schooner.  That first attempt I'll share with yuns next time.



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Yes Igor I know about the glass  of these light bulbs.  I'll be extra careful.

The wood for the topsail schooner hull will be from cherry, solid.  No frames and planking, not at this scale.  The base is poplar and I thought of making the round works (masts, spars and bowsprit) from maple but as the work progressed things didn't work out that way.  You'll see as this log gets underway. 

That's the problem with doing a build log after the fact, when part of the work is already done.

Hi Piet!

It seems to me that the wood of cherry is similar to the wood of pear.

Perhaps the bamboo will be more suitable for the manufacture of masts, spars and bowsprit in this scale.

I'm looking forward to see the photos in the process.


Best Regards!


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Hello all,


I tried to add an update today but stuff got in the way.  Maybe tomorrow.


Yeah John, everything is tiny but rather fun to do. 


Yes, Igor, I picked the cherry because I had a few small pieces left over from the Surabaya hull planking.  I don't need much at this scale.

In the end I did wind up using bamboo for the masts and spars.



To reiterate, the actual build is much further ahead then I am showing here.  I wanted to first make sure it was doable before i start a build log.  There were quite a few trials and do-overs till i found a satisfactory solution.  And yes, I'll tell all y'all about the things that didn't work.  I'll be adding updates whenever I have the time and all will be work already done months ago.  When I get caught up I'll tell all yuns.



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Oooooh, all yuns are just too impatient ;):rolleyes:  But thanks for the admonitions, I try.

Just too many things get in the way of having fun.  Like yesterday I spend most of the day repairing my neighbor's aluminum stepladder.  Had to run to the store to but material and hardware.  Besides, i had to do it outside in the sun at 90 degrees F or around 32 C.  The garage aka shipyard was 102 F or 38 C.  Not that keeps me out but after a shower I was not going back into the garage.

Day before yesterday I attempted to upgrade my old iMac to the latest Mac OS, ElCapitan.  That took most of the day.  When I wanted to drag a few pics of the Topsail schooner to the desktop I couldn't find the entire file of all my photos.  ElCapitan did not transfer all my folders over to the new photo thingy.  Now I was really afraid of having lost hundreds of pics, many irreplaceable.  Even my external hard drive , which I disconnected prior to, updated itself as soon as I plugged that hummer in.  After a lot of clicking here and there I found it and managed to drag it to the desktop pffffffffffhhhh - a sigh of relief  :)


Okay, so now for an update with pictures!!


The first order of business was to find an example of a topsail schooner I can use, with rigging.  No, I was not going to put sails on it because the idea was to show her on the slipway ready for launch.

I found a drawing that has no copyright on it and in public domain.

I rummaged through my small wood scrap wood pile and found a small block of cherry of about 5 mm square and 50 mm long.  This seemed to be enough to get at least one schooner out of it.  With a LOD of 90 feet I needed 14 mm and a width of 3 mm.


Carving the hull proceeded quite nicely and got a rather good looking hull shape.  I purposely left it a little wider and not quite finished till after I had mounted the bowsprit.  I could then shape the "clipper bow."  As it turned out I lost some through drilling the bowsprit hole but figured to cement a small piece of wood to the bow under the bowsprit.


All went rather quickly and I figured, well, why not making the deck housing.  One for the stern and one for the main deck and the forecastle.  At this stage of the project I only managed to make and cement the stern house and main deck house.  


I also marked and drilled the holes into the top for the two masts and the bowsprit.  That one I made and cemented into a hole I drilled for it, ruining the clipper bow in the process.  


As mentioned in my previous posts I tried making them from boxwood, the bowsprit worked fine, at least for now. :huh:  Yeah, there is more to the story to come later.


So far things started to look okay and was encouraging enough to proceed with the next step(s).


Here are a few pics yuns have been clamoring for  ;)



This is the drawing I found to work with.  It includes the sail plan and a good enough profile shape the hull.  Yes, I also looked a few photos of topsail schooners but didn't find it necessary adding them to this post.  Besides, they might just be copyrighted.



This is the top view with the model well on the way even with the bowsprit cemented on.  I have crudely indicated where the stern cabin and the forecastle are to be located.  The mast holes have also been drilled with the proper rake for the masts.  The length from the stern to where the bowsprit enters the hull is 14 mm. 



This shows the profile with the stern cabin already cemented on.  In this attempt I had to cement an extra piece to the bow to make the clipper bow look.  The width the hull is here 4 mm



Here I have cemented the main cabin to the center deck area.





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Thanks to all for visiting my micro shipyard and to all who clicked the like button - thanks.


Yup, it's tiny alright and pretty close to my limits of tiny ;)  or not :rolleyes: .  Hmmmm, who knows what lurks in the Flying Dutchman's grey matter.


The next step was making the masts, installing them and see how the shape of the hull would look. I left the hull intentionally a little wide in the beam for handling.  Everything is still in the trial stage here and I have full intentions of shaping the hull a little more.  Not happy how the bow came out.  It may look a little bulky but she'll be sitting on the slipway, thus out of the water.


Just to be stubborn, no surprise here - being a Dutchman ;) - I wanted to try by making all the round work from boxwood. This was about the thinnest I could make them.  I did try shaping them thinner but had no strength in them.  As you can see they are much too thick for the 1:2000 scale.  Yeah, yeah, I know, use bamboo dummy.  But I had to try it.


I made and cemented the topmasts to the lower masts, all with CA.  Now I began to notice that no matter how little CA I used it showed up much too gloppy.  I figured I could carefully remove it with my #11 blade. after the CA had set up.  No such luck  :(  The masts were just not strong enough to handle the stress. Fortunately I only ruined the aft mast and had to make a new one.


Next I made the booms and gaffs with the jaws cemented to the ends.  Yes, they are still way out of scale but I again figured to shave them down after the CA had set up. It kinda worked but still looked too bulky for this scale.


That's what I first wanted to see if this project could be done. Trying different approaches and materials.  As we progress you'll see the things I encountered and how I managed them. 


Here are a few pics that explain what i have mentioned above. 



This shows both lower masts cemented into the hull.  I have also cemented the cross trees to the fore lower mast.



Both top masts are cemented on



I made the booms and gaffs also from boxwood as well as the jaws.  In my zeal to make things as close to reality does not work out well at this scale.  I did manage to shave the jaws much thinner but everything was way too bulky.



I stubbornly continued with cementing the booms and gaffs to the masts.  I also made and cemented both yards to the fore topmast.  If you stand back 10 feet feet it doesn't look too bad, actually you can't even see the ship ;)



Here is what I mean, a few feet away and if you don't click on the pic it looks kinda okay.



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