Jump to content

MV Fulani by Conway55 (Fred Scott) - 1:166 - wood and used materials

Recommended Posts

Earlier this year I decided to build a model of the first ship I sailed in at the start of my sea career. “Fulani” was an ocean going general cargo vessel built at Cammel Laird’s, Birkenhead, England in 1929, so she was an old timer when I joined her at Tilbury Docks in 1957, first trip cadet.  She was a five hatch vessel with number three hatch separating the bridge accommodation from the engineers’ and boat deck. Her funnel was tall and straight, she had a counter stern and her stem was only slightly raked.











I had no drawings of the ship and all my efforts to track down info about her failed.  All I had for reference was a faded photograph (above) taken by me from a taxiboat and a photo (below, sent me by an internet source) of the ship as she had been before she was sold and renamed “Fulani”. She had been built and launched as “Thurland Castle”.












It’s a better picture than mine but there are differences. In 1950 there had been a fire in nos two and three holds that destroyed the bridge structure above, so the bridge house is different in each picture.  In addition to the new bridge structure two extra derricks with winches were installed at the aft end of number 2 hatch.  So using these two pictures and my somewhat hazy memory of her, I made a profile drawing and a deck plan.






To get the size of structures and the distances between them as accurate as I reasonably could I made an enlarged copy of Thurland Castle on two sheets of A4 paper taped end to end and, stretching a string tightly across my work table I pegged the picture to it.  Then, using a set square as a plumb, I dropped the perpendiculars from selected points along the main deck down to a white sheet laid flat on the table and beneath the picture.  I used red marks for centreline points such as stembar, masts and funnel, and black for closest points such as corners of bridge house, boat deck and selected rail stanchions. Next I laid a metre long piece of one inch square offcut across the marks and, as near as I could judge, at the same angle as the ship had been to the camera lens.  Lastly and as faithfully as I possibly could I transferred the marks to the wood. I believe that the measurements I got from those marks are as true as I could get to “Fulani’s” measurements when scaled up.






This is to be a waterline model 85cms long and made from whatever I can find that is thought to be useless.  Driftwood, old electric cable, bits of a garden fence, scraps of veneer from a badly scarred skateboard park, a wire coat hanger and a Vitamin C capsule tube. This last will become the funnel.



My use of scrap materials and my rule of thumb measurements will make many of our members cringe, I know, because I can see what care and attention to detail and finish is brought to the making of so many breathtakingly beautiful models in the Gallery.  But I see myself as a modeller in the tradition of the sailing ship men who put ships in bottles, producing something fine from things that were finished with.  I hope that what I finish with will be thought fine as well.






I have started on the hull using two planks from a garden fence, now replaced by a wall, and a piece of wood that was coloured pink and mint green and must surely have come from an ice cream parlour.  They’re the right length and width and, planed and roughly shaped their combined thicknesses will, when glued flat-on-flat, give me the block from which Fulani’s hull will emerge.












Since my last log entry I have followed Oystein’s tip and found several pictures of Fulani including one taken from a position directly abeam as she sailed past
This, enlarged, has enabled me to take more accurate measurements than my frugal “stick at an angle” method gave me and showed that I had the funnel a little further aft than it should be, I had made the foredeck sheer too steep and. I had too much rake on the stem. But most welcome was the clear view of the undercut counter stern. It’s in deep shadow in the other pictures and I was hopelessly out in my drawing of that. I now have a new profile drawing to work from. The changes have meant that my sandwich of three boards has had to be altered somewhat.  I am still shaping the hull on the port side, the plan being to get that side right first and then make profiles at regular stations along the hull.  These I will use to match the starboard side accurately to the port side.  
Meanwhile I have made two of the four lifeboats. I’m quite pleased with them (and with myself) because I didn’t find it easy to make a 4cm long copy of a 28 foot boat and make it look convincing.  
I found the wood lying in the rocks on the shore. It had been in the sea for some time, and so seemed the right piece of my scrap collection to use for lifeboats.  I found the best way to shape the hull was to clamp the wood in a vice, edge up, and cut downwards to the 6mm depth that the miniature should be, a cut at each end of the boat with a fine saw blade.  Then it was easy enough to cut away the curved shape of the hull and sand it smooth. (Fulani’s boats were clinker construction but these boats will have to be carvel as my skills are limited.)  Once I was satisfied with the hull shape I sliced it off the piece of flotsam and made the downward arcs of the gunnels at each side while keeping the centreline between stem and sternposts intact and parallel to the keel, this so that the boat’s cover would assume the right shape.  Next I cut from thick card the keel and end posts, all in one piece so that the whole could be glued to the hull.  Finally I made from artist’s grey coloured pastel paper a boat cover to fit.  With the boat painted white and the cover glued on, I am pleased with the result and feel confident now that I will manage to tackle other tricky miniatures such as ventilator cowls, DB tank air pipes, anchors, a ship’s bell.
I've done two lifeboats and have made davits.  For these I used a wire coat hanger. The wire is thick enough to seem right for Fulani's boat davits and shaped and painted are, I believe, convincingly to scale.
The wood the davits are arranged on is the piece that spawned  the two lifeboats.
My next step, while continuing to shape the hull, is to build the structure that is the engineer's and PO's accommodation with the boat deck over.  This is when the skate board roller rink scraps come into use.
Nothing but the worst on this build.


Edited by Conway55
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to Oystein, Bob, Michael and Bill for your encouraging appreciation.  Nice to know I've got an audience;  it makes it specially important to get it right. If you haven't already looked up Yacht Jolie Brise by IgorSky, I recommend it.  His work is in much the same spirit as my Fulani project, using found objects. Best regards, Fred. 

Edited by Conway55
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Oystein. Been away for a while and wife had accident so............   I hope to get on with the build now.

Next entry is about the boat deck and the use of scraps from a skate board rink.  Watch this space !


I found that if you tried to drill holes anywhere near to the edge of the veneer, it very readily split.  By drawing the shape I wanted nearer to the centre of the piece I could drill the required number and sequence of portholes and not start a split. I have now done this with three of the facings that are the visible sides and ends of the accommodation supporting the boatdeck.  Painted white they are glued onto a wood block which, when faced all round, will be the correct size and shape. Before gluing the strips onto the edges of the block, I coloured the edges of the block where it would show through the portholes, with grey pastel chalk using differing shades of grey and then covered this with a narrow strip cut from a transparent plastic bag ( ex supermarket potatoes) Next, making sure the plastic didn't move out of position I glued the facings over. The result is that the portholes, tiny though they are, seem to be made of glass as they catch the light when viewed from different angles.




Nothing is attached yet as there is still a lot of sanding to do on the hull, but I thought it was about time to show that there really is a model ship being made. I had to shorten the focstle, reduce the foredeck sheer and undercut the stern quite a bit.  The focstle deck had to be raised as well and I'm pleased to say that the profile I now have matches the profile in the photo.


I have made the boats and the davits.  I am now wrestling with the technique for making the wooden blocks that make the davit falls. They are very miniature and have to be rove off with something that looks like fibre rope.  For the blocks I am going to experiment by making a thin layer of icing sugar, making holes the right size and shape in it while it is still stiff and then dripping epoxy resin or glue into the holes.  Dissolving the icing sugar when everything has set hard I will be left (born optimist) with an acceptable set of davit blocks.    For the ropes I'm planning to use single strands of wire from a remnant of cable, once used to light a table lamp.

Since the main stipulation in building this model is that everything used should be scrap, I'm wondering where to get some used icing sugar. A jilted bride, perhaps? 


Any suggestions welcome.

Edited by Conway55
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

After a lengthy period of caring for the sick, lame and walking wounded - happily she's on the mend now - I am back at my work bench.  I've used some of the time sanding, designing and scheming how to make the miniature bits and pieces for this model. I want it to be as detailed and as accurate as I can manage to make it. Now I have finished sanding the hull and applied a couple of coats of thinned down water based glue to smooth out the wood grain.  It was still showing through trial paint strokes, even after the finest sanding.  Two coats of glue have smoothed the surfaces nicely and now, painted, I'm satisfied with the surface finish.




The funnel was  made from a Vitamin tablet container, cut down and keyed by sanding, then painted




The next picture is of number one hatch, not quite finished.  The coaming is 5mm high, the stiffeners are 3,5 mm high and the there's to be a coaming shelf about a millimetre wide all round.  The tarpaulin is to be cut from a redundant hammock shade as the colour and fabric are just right.  Each hatch will have locking bars across.  I should have no 1 finished in the next day or two and then there will be a picture of it and the foremast. 


Edited by Conway55
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to all of the above.  I think you probably missed my log, Patrick, because I went AWOL for a while and sank to page 6.  I'm back in business now and glad to know you're a fan.

I've re-painted the ship's overside with matt black.  It was unrealistic being so glossy.  It is after all a well used ship made from well used materials. 

More photos in the next few days.  I do have difficulty taking the photos, not just posting them.  Think I may trade in that pin hole camera for something better. 


Regards to all.  Fred.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a first attempt ship model maker there is little that I can teach the great majority of members about technique and procedure, but there will be others who, like me, are starting along the fascinating and even exciting road of miniature ship building and who would be helped by knowing of some of the mistakes that I have made and the corrective measures I have taken to put them right.   Several of the items I have declared myself satisfied with have subsequently seemed to me to be open to improvement.  The lifeboat for instance.  The more I looked at it the less convincing it seemed.  It was the .grey paper boat cover.  It didn't look as "right" as it had when I first made it and the reason is, I decided, that it looks like what it is:  a paper boat cover. It should look like canvas, but canvas is too thick and coarse for a lifeboat cover that is to be only 4 cms long. A cotton handkerchief would have filled the bill but it would have to a grey one. Most of mine are, of course, but luckilly I had some remnants of a worn and torn shade from a garden swing seat.  It was green outside and grey under and very weathered and so was ideal for hatch tarps, the green side, and boat covers the grey side. 

But I also found that it was better not to make the whole thing in one piece as I had with the paper cover.  Instead I cut the miniature triangles that project down from the cover (these are leverage aids which allow the cover to be hardened down tight over the boat) and glued them in place.  Then I glued the main cover over, fitting the lower edge over the triangles.  This makes an authentic shadow at the top of each triangle, which is how it would look "in real life".

Another useful dodge I have found is this:  when gluing tiny bits to other bits, large or small, a smear of glue on the tiny bit is like a deluge.  It spreads all around and has to cleaned away and usually results in the tiny bit falling off, moving out of position or sticking to the cleaning tool.  Instead, I now drop a blob of glue onto a scrap of waste wood and carefully dip the tiny bit into it.  This way I get the right covering of glue and in the right position.  I've saved a lot of time that way.  It's probably what everyone else has always done but ............. Well, it might be helpful to somebody.


Here is a picture of me gluing stiffeners onto the number 2 hatch coaming. Lots of them.




The hatch is made from a wooden presentation wine box and the stiffeners from a narrow length of balsa that was part of a kit which, if it had been completed would have been the Swedish 16th century warship "Wasa".  The original owner was a friend who died about ten years ago.  His widow gave me the remains of his model when she heard of my project.  It was damaged and the plans and many of the parts were missing so I decided to use what materials I could.  When I dismantled it I found inside the hull a piece of bulwark on which he had written his name and the year that he started the build: 1961, three years after I sailed in "Fulani" so I think I'll incorporate that piece into my build somewhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apologies for another long absence from work. As a roving model maker I have to concentrate on small details that can be planned and even made in hotel rooms, and that's not a bad thing.  At least progress is being made.

I have made the two masthouses and the foremast. Also numbers 1,2 and 3 hatches using the green side of the old hammock sunshade as tarpaulin covers.  I have painted all of these and have switched to using matt paints as the result using gloss was a too shiny finish, making everything look like pristine new plastic.  The matt finish makes for a more realistic effect, I think.

I am this very morning, working on the anchors, in a hotel room.  The scale is such that these have to be contained in a rectangle measuring 8mm by 7mm.  Even drawing them on paper was difficult and I imagine that shaping them from my scraps, in one piece, would be difficult as well.  So I am gong to make each anchor in three small parts, two flukes and a stock, and fit them into place bit by bit.  I can use wood or play dough for this and I rather think that play dough will get the job.  I got a packet of the stuff in a Jumble Sale, possibly an unwanted gift, so I believe I am sticking to my role as rescuer of the unwanted, something that was going to be thrown out.

No photos available today but I expect to be able to post some in the coming week.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I decided to use the modelling clay for the anchors. I made them in three parts, the flukes separately and the lower section as a single item, then glued the flukes to the base section.  It was fiddly work, the pieces being so small. I found that the working time was not as long as the package had suggested but this was probably because the stuff was old before it ever arrived at the jumble sale where I found it. It was hardening after a quite short time.  I also found that the best way to trim the parts was to use slim pieces of wood to move the bits around, like a couple of chopsticks, because the tiny pieces stick to skin like magnets. After they had dried there were cracks in the surface but I sealed these with glue and got a good finish, I think.




With the parts glued together they look quite good and are ready to paint and then to attach to the hawse pipes. 


I have made, painted and tarpaulin covered numbers 1 and 2 hatches.  Also the forward masthouse is shaped and painted although it still has to have a couple of doors attached on the aft side and a pair of vents on the top.  My next task is to make the heavy derrick tabernacle and the derrick itself, and set it all up against the mast.  Fulani had a crow's nest on the foremast as well and I've made that but it needs finishing before appearing in public. Some other details are still required, the locking bars across the hatches, for one, and the mast stays, the yardarm and the foremast light.  But here is how the old girl is looking just now:




I have re-sanded the already painted maindeck.  The painting showed up a few faults in the surface and I was not happy with the amount of camber. And as can be seen the boat deck has been the subject of a re-think as well.  The original card I used was too easily damaged with handling and so I stripped it off and am relaying it with thin metal sheet cut from a tea tray (she hasn't missed it yet.)  


Here is a close up of the foredeck hatches.




After the chore of shaping and sanding (endlessly) the hull it's a huge change to be making these miniature parts, but it's a challenge and at least I can do much of this work indoors where it's warmer. The snow in the picture above is real and the outside temperature is minus 6 C.  Makes sawing and sanding another kind of challenge.






Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I have puzzled about how to make a realistic lug and shackle coupling for the topping lift blocks at the cross trees and decided to use chain, just a couple of links from a very thin necklace chain. The plan was to make a small nick in the card that formed the triangular fore and aft plates of the crosss tree and glue a link into the cut so that half a link showed as a lug, the other link representing a shackle.  To this link would be glued the block.

The idea was OK but trying to secure the links to the four corners, two forward at no 1 hatch and two aft at number 2 hatch, caused a lot of wear and especially tear in the card. So I removed it and started again with wood veneer, the scraps salvaged from the redundant skate board park.  Knowing that these split very easily, I drew the triangles away from the edge of the piece and drilled the holes for the links before cutting out the shapes.  The photo shows the chain threaded.




This has worked well and I now have a foremast with the lugs and shackles ready to be fitted and cut. Must paint first.


I have also started work on the bridge house.  I have had to guesstimate the athwartship dimensions as I don't have any pictures taken from aloft or from a forward facing position. So the width of the wheelhouse, for example is a fair guess, I believe, and the width of the outside deck space below, on the level where the master and mate had their accommodation, are again guessed at.

I have cut wood shapes to represent the first two levels and a card cut to plan to represent the visible surface all round.  I wanted to make the windows look real and so coloured the wood block with grey pastel crayon where the windows would be, laid transparent plastic sheet from a supermarket vegetable bag over to simulate glass, and then glued the pre-shaped card into place.


58b32beca3ae2_Bridgebits.jpg.ccc303c061926f6494a5c6b57cbc390c.jpg      58b32c01e0842_Bridge3.jpg.3d2090bd6db7188664ef11f8b5a8d38f.jpg 58b32de060306_Bridgehouse.jpg.ad924cca34755fbd7525ea530d20ca3f.jpg


The pic is not as pleasing to see as the actual thing.  It's grainy and should be white, but I have confessed to poor photo work earlier and can only plead incompetence again.  I hope that later photos will be better.

The card curves around the forward corners of the accommodation block and will be joined by a separate length of card covering the currently exposed area.  The seams will be hidden behind the derrick posts that will be situated close up against the curved corners.  The deck, outside the mate's and master's cabins will be sheathed with wood, again taken form the skate board park veneers.  That's next, and then comes the wheelhouse and monkey island.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is embarrassing.  I've made a careless mistake, not the first but certainly the worst. Fortunately I discovered it before too many detailed pieces had to e scrapped as a result of it.

It was an error of scale. As mentioned earlier I have no plans and am working from an enlarged photograph printed on two sheets of A4 taped end to end. All my measurements are taken from this pic and scaled up.  The length of the model is 850 mm overall while the photo image is 508 mm.  My mistake was in jotting 528 mm on the picture and using that as a factor when scaling up.  No idea why I wrote 528 instead of 508.  Just one of those careless moments, but the small differences it made added up and when I marked out along the maindeck the positions of the largest parts - the hatches and deckhouses and the masts - I found that there was a large area abaft number 5 hatch that would accommodate the small deckhouse with docking bridge over that should be there, with space enough for an extra block of flats with parking space around.  So something was seriously wrong.

I doubted everything except the two lengths I was using to scale up from the photo to the model and wasted a lot of time re-measuring everything from forward to aft and then back the other way.  I found that when I measured from the stem to the foreside of the funnel and from the taffrail to its after side, I finished up with a funnel so wide that you could fit number 2 hold into it.  And it would be a loose fit.

Once I had found my mistake and used the right numbers to scale up I found that everything fits where it should and the crew need not worry about late night parking or rowdy neighbours.

The small errors in length measured along the maindeck are mostly inconsequential, and in fact only relate to the hatches and the mast sites.  The hatch discrepancy, if any, I will accept because it is so slight and could be applied either way.  This is because I am measuring from an un-sharp image and could be in plus or minus error with each measurement. After scaling up, I could even, accidentally, be right-on. So they will be used.  But the bridge house is a different matter. Using the same incorrect height for each deck makes the accumulated error with height, significant, and I found that the wheelhouse windows were going to be almost on a level with the foremast crosstree. That isn't right and so the block that I started to make and had shown in my last log entry has had to be scrapped.

I'm happy to say that I am now back on course and keeping a sharp lookout for careless mistakes, checking and double checking everything that I do. A new bridge structure is under construction and hopefully will show up in my log very soon and, incidentally, in a better photo than the one that is there now.

Many thanks for the appreciative comments above and for the interest shown in my build.  I still intend to have this model ready for my August deadline and so it's...................  "Full ahead both (she was a twin screw vessel) and steady as she goes." 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...