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Best Practices for Copper Plating the Hull taking into Consideration Scale and Overall Artistic Presentation of the Ship


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I have spent my morning reviewing the content on Model Ship World that concerns copper plating the hull.  I have reviewed the threads on materials(tape, individual plates etc.) and the information on the processes involved, including the available PDF articles on the topic. Almost all of it concentrates on getting the job done with use of copper tape, ponce wheels, and individual plates.    Very little of it even hints at what may be appropriate for the scale (other than the size of the copper plate) and subject being modeled.  Here are some statements based on some conclusions I have made to demonstrate what I mean.

 

A).    Consistently good results are achieved in very large models.  These models probably require individual plates that are fully scored for the the nail pattern.  Because it is a large model, the scale of the subject is not much of a concern here.  At the scales the majority of the large models are made, an exact and historically accurate nail pattern(I mean the number of nails here) may not be necessary for the model.  In these models the copper nor the nail pattern overwhelm the model.   On December 30, 2016 Chuck posted in thread the "Best copper plates?" what may be the gold standard for copper plating.  The copper on the hull gives it a very textured look.   I could not figure out how to copy it here, so if someone would copy it here I would appreciate it.

 

B    In most models, and at most scales the absolute historically accurate nail pattern will not be necessary and in fact may overwhelm the model presented if attempted.  I think this is especially true in smaller subjects NO MATTER THE SCALE.  Your eye is distracted from the overall model because it is drawn to the shiny and pronounced pimply texture of the hull.  I think manufactured plates on smaller subjects may be the worst offenders here.

 

C)     The bigger the model the better manufactured plates will look.  The smaller the model the appearance degrades the model EVEN IF THE SCALE is correct.

 

D).     Copper Tape may be a better product to copper smaller hulls. You are able to control all aspects of the plate from scaling it properly to deciding on a nail pattern that presents best. This assumes that it is impossible to duplicate historical accuracy in the small subject or is undesirable to do so.

 

E).     At what size subject or scale is it best to copper the hull, show the plates but not put a nail pattern on it?  As an example, the Model Ship Ways Phantom Pilot boat, is a small model but at 1/8th scale may make individual plates possible and desirable.  Is there a consensus when the scale of the subject is small enough that nail patterns or copper plates are no longer required and the model is not deficient for the lack of these details?

 

F).     I have not located an example where the plates are represented but the nail pattern is absent.  Please post any examples you are aware of.

 

G).  Shiny vs. Weathered.  We all now the facts.  The copper was not likely supper shiny when it was put on the ship in the first place and if it was it was copper green in a very short time.  Yet the majority of modeler's present the shiny copper.  Why?  Because is looks nice and presents the subject in the best light.  In clipper ships especially I think it better represents the race horse quality of the subject.  I make this point to demonstrate that we spend a lot of time on individual plates and nail patterns and have already given up historical accuracy with shiny copper.

 

H).     A Practical exercise and example.  I will soon copper the hull of my AL kit of Dallas.  It is at the European scale at 1/50, close enough to 1/48 so as not to have any scaling problems with the making of individual plates or scoring copper tape strips. I must decide if I will put in nail patterns.   I think that at this size model (the hull is more than 17" long)  I must make individual plates and overlap them if I do not put a nail pattern in them.  If I decide that I will use a nail pattern I will use copper tape strips. 

 

I am looking for examples  of a hull with copper plates without a nail pattern and would appreciate a discussion and examples that demonstrate the points I made above.  When do they look good and when do they look bad?

 

Phil Roach

Edited by roach101761
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Just finished the Kate Cory late last year... used copper tape cut into plate-sized strips and applied onto a varnished surface. They do not have the nail or rivet pattern. I have done nothing to maintain their shine, and will enjoy seeing it darken with age.   http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/6842-kate-cory-by-jablackwell-finished-model-shipways-scale-164/?p=211568   At this scale, nail patterns would be just too much, in my opinion. 

 

~john

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Nails on copper and treenails for planking seem to have the same problems.   Too large (or large enough to handle with drill bits, pounce wheels, etc.) and they look way out of scale.  To my eye, on anything 1:64 or smaller, treenails and plating nails look out of place.

 

I would go with what you feel is best, Phil. 

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John

 

Thanks for the link to your Kate Corey Build.  That build log also had pictures of your Eagle.   On Kate Corey no nail pattern.  On Your Eagle it looks like you put nail pattern on the edges only.     Could you remind us of the scale of Kate Cory and Identify the scale and maker of the Eagle model?   Also, when you get a chance could you post more photo's of both hulls and identify what we are looking at.  Thanks again.

 

Phil

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Mark

 

Thanks for your input and perhaps a rule of thumb.   I make the next comments only to continue the academic discussion.  First make sure I have understood your comment. 

 

                             "To my eye, on anything 1:64 or smaller, treenails and plating nails look out of place."

 

I interpret this to be inclusive of 1:64 scale models. The first example to come to mind is the Model Ship Ways Constitution at 1:76 scale.  I consider this kit to be one of the larger size of models.  All examples of the the completed model that I have seen include the nail pattern.    Another example is Caldercraft's Agamemnon at 1:64 scale.  A large model.    If we agree that we can not really put in all the required nail holes, is there a lesser pattern that is acceptable and gives the proper representation of of the nail pattern?  An intentional compromise due to scale.  Are there any photos on MSW with these large models with no nail patterns?    I look forward to the continued discussion. 

 

Phil

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Mark

 

Thanks for your input and perhaps a rule of thumb.   I make the next comments only to continue the academic discussion.  First make sure I have understood your comment. 

 

                             "To my eye, on anything 1:64 or smaller, treenails and plating nails look out of place."

 

I interpret this to be inclusive of 1:64 scale models. The first example to come to mind is the Model Ship Ways Constitution at 1:76 scale.  I consider this kit to be one of the larger size of models.  All examples of the the completed model that I have seen include the nail pattern.    Another example is Caldercraft's Agamemnon at 1:64 scale.  A large model.    If we agree that we can not really put in all the required nail holes, is there a lesser pattern that is acceptable and gives the proper representation of of the nail pattern?  An intentional compromise due to scale.  Are there any photos on MSW with these large models with no nail patterns?    I look forward to the continued discussion. 

 

Phil

 

As I stated.. "to my eye"..  and yes, inclusive of 1:64.   I just don't see how one can go that small for an accurate model.  Yet, there probably is a lesser pattern and might work.  

 

That's tough question about are there builds of larger size without.   I can't say for certain.  I made the decision on my Licorne (1:64) purely based on what I could do within reason and still look right (she's not plated as she never was plated).   At a normal viewing distance on a real ship, I'm not sure these items would even be visible.  The treenailling is often used as the example.  Plating is a different beast.  If one looks at a photo of say, Victory at some viewing distance, there's dimples (not nails) visible on the copper.  Same for Constitution.  Maybe those should be referenced?

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Have a look here, a similar discussion: http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/14942-the-best-copper-plates/

 

 

 

There is no fear to use nails in 1:100 if they are fine enough. Here is a picture of my Vic, the nails can be seen if close and disappear within half a meter distance - just as on the real thing.

 

It is the self adhesive copper foil combined with some imprinted nails.

 

A german friend used the foil for a larger scale with a self made stamp, the kind o that is often described in the literature.

 

Also the color is not that easy :-)

 

For sure the brilliant copper is not to be seen in reality, but the green color is mostly coming through the oxidation with oxygen, the area where "wind and weather meet" is pinkish by the abrasion of the water and the under water areas can have a nice deep brown. So if properly done, one should see, if the model is to represent a ship lying in harbour, being on a short trip or having a long voyage behind - only by the appearance of the copper :-)

 

XXXDAn

 

 

 

Victory-copper_0928.jpg

 

Victory-copper_4346.jpg

 

                                          #1099                         

 

                                          #1114                         

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Hello Phil, All,

 

The Eagle was not my build. Those were images posted by someone else to help me along with my build of the Kate Cory.

 

The Kate Cory is 3/16" = 1 foot (1:64). Hull length is 15.25".  The copper is 1/4" tape. I applied it over the solid hull after I had given the hull a couple of shiny layers of varnish. This makes it stick much better.  Pieces are overlapped just a tiny bit. Here are some images I have from those portions of the build, then a couple of the completed model. I think the copper came out rather well overall. No need for the added complexity of nail patterns at this scale. Each to their own, though. If you want to add that level of detail, go for it! It's your build, after all.    

 

 

post-9749-0-91840300-1484571083.jpgpost-9749-0-60063000-1484571083.jpgpost-9749-0-12490500-1484571083.jpgpost-9749-0-62284100-1484571082.jpgpost-9749-0-79894900-1484571081_thumb.jpgpost-9749-0-12448500-1484571081_thumb.jpg

 

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This issue, like tree nails and sewn on bolt ropes on sails, illustrates where the literal collides with the figurative. I feel that a literal interpretation on a miniature very seldom leads to an accurate scale appearance. What I mean by "literal interpretation " is the slavish duplication and use of materials and practices found on actual ships which are then applied to a scale model with no alteration of material or practice. The resulting effect is usually out of scale to one degree or another. It's why you dont use actual oak to represent oak on the model. The material can't be scaled down. It is nearly always an issue having to do with fasteners though and the degree to which they wind up being visible on the model, or in the case of hull plates the degree to which they distort the material they are fastening. I think it's better to think outside of the box when it comes to selecting methods to represent elements of the model you are building and NOT be literal. For instance a carefully considered and applied coat of paint is more likely to be a convincing scale representation of copper plating on a model, as opposed to an out of scale ACTUAL, literal, series of individual copper plates. I don't think anyone in favor of actual copper plates realy believes they can ever be perfectly in scale. But on the other hand the appearance of even the best coat of paint (even though it is in scale) can never realy be as truly convincing as actual copper is. Copper looks so distinctly different than any other material it's not as easy as switching out actual oak in favor of a tight grained wood to mimic oak to achieve a convincing substitute.

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Gold leaf is certainly very thin, but I have never heard of copper leaf. CAN copper be hammered as thin as gold can be hammered? If it could be made nearly as thin as gold leaf I think THEN you would have a material that was in scale. But you would still have the issue with nail visibility if you were then planning on literal nails in each plate.

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Bare Metal Foil Company (Farmington Michigan) makes copper foil, adhesive backed, for $7.75 a 6"x11.5" sheet and is almost as thin as gold leaf.  I couldn't find any spec. but using my micrometer I measure it at about 0.0004" thick (that's .4 thousandths of an inch).  I'm using it to copper the bottom of the Revell Constitution and it lets all of the detail show through.

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I'm using it to copper the bottom of the Revell Constitution and it lets all of the detail show through.

 

One of my reasons for considering copper plating is that I don't want all the details showing through :).

 

I am concerned about the nailing to scale (I'm looking at pinpricks only at my 1/50 scale). The copper tape I've bought to experiment with is 0.03mm/0.0015in thick (roughly, I wouldn't trust my calipers to be 100% accurate at those sizes). Any thinner and I wouldn't be able to use it. Actually that's probably thinner, 1.5mm full size, than real life.  

 

Although thinking about it, I should probably sand/prime the surface first to make sure there are no surprises (it's 30 years since it was done). So thank you for that!

 

Richard.

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This issue, like tree nails and sewn on bolt ropes on sails, illustrates where the literal collides with the figurative. I feel that a literal interpretation on a miniature very seldom leads to an accurate scale appearance. What I mean by "literal interpretation " is the slavish duplication and use of materials and practices found on actual ships which are then applied to a scale model with no alteration of material or practice. The resulting effect is usually out of scale to one degree or another. It's why you dont use actual oak to represent oak on the model. The material can't be scaled down. It is nearly always an issue having to do with fasteners though and the degree to which they wind up being visible on the model, or in the case of hull plates the degree to which they distort the material they are fastening. I think it's better to think outside of the box when it comes to selecting methods to represent elements of the model you are building and NOT be literal. For instance a carefully considered and applied coat of paint is more likely to be a convincing scale representation of copper plating on a model, as opposed to an out of scale ACTUAL, literal, series of individual copper plates. I don't think anyone in favor of actual copper plates realy believes they can ever be perfectly in scale. But on the other hand the appearance of even the best coat of paint (even though it is in scale) can never realy be as truly convincing as actual copper is. Copper looks so distinctly different than any other material it's not as easy as switching out actual oak in favor of a tight grained wood to mimic oak to achieve a convincing substitute.

 

I was drafting a post saying pretty much the same, until I noticed Frankie had already said it.

 

Just a few questions, however, because I'm curious:

Was there ever a 'standard size' for the actual copper panels used for sheathing a hull?

Or alternatively, for any of the kits that include sheathing, was there any history of the dimensions (including gauge) of the panels that would have been used on the full-size original?

 

Are there any records of the spacing between the copper nails?  Were they usually just around the edges, or was there a lattice of nails all over each panel?  What size were the nail heads?

 

Whenever I've seen a model with copper sheathing, I've not been impressed with the look.  A shiny copper hull seems as authentic to me as flat, brilliant-white sails.  Copper wouldn't ever be shiny on a real ship - the sheets nailed on at the bows would have lost their shine well before the sheets at the stern were nailed on.  And once immersed, wouldn't the seawater have turned them green pretty quickly?

 

The bumps or indentations that are used on models to represent the copper nails are almost inevitably out of scale.  Is there really any point in trying to replicate them?  Seems to me the detail of real, individual copper nails on individual copper sheets would be virtually lost when scaled down by 1:50 or more.  Even on a full-scale ship I can't imagine the detail would be visible once the seawater had started to do its work.

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See my post here http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/14942-the-best-copper-plates/#entry464779 for some information. I'm sure lots of other people will be able to provide more information. 

 

I absolutely agree that the bright copper doesn't look right (to me anyway). Part of my experimentation will be how do "un-brighten" it. Various folks have used chemicals (e.g. vinegar and salt) to do this. The tape seems to haves a coating of some sort, I need to work out how to remove it.

 

Richard 

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Copper Patina.

 

As per the title I'm looking at "Overall Artistic Presentation of the Ship". For me, I don't want a green color but a dark brown. I.e. the background of this picture from the USS Constitution.

 

post-12980-0-48493600-1484616888.png

 

For a more accurate look, I suppose green highlighting could be done.

 

Going to the internet (where else!). Lot's of recipes. Most of the jewelry links seem to tend towards uneven finishes, decorative but not what I'm looking for.

 

These were some links I found interesting:

 

Color: http://www.oldcopper.org/special_topics/patina_finishes.php. No real information but I like #4 (Florentine Bronze) in the examples.

 

I found a recipe for Florentine brown here https://www.sciencecompany.com/patina-formulas-for-brass-bronze-and-copper-W160.aspx and here http://www.artchemicals.com/kb_results.asp?ID=809. The chemicals are not especially expensive (although shipping may be). Of course the quantities would be enough for a lot of models.

 

The recipe for "Antique Green" is "Solution hot (180 to 190°F), metal hot (200°F), cold wash water applied after metal has cooled to around 100°F. Wash solution over metal surface, let dry, then wash piece in cool water. Repeat until color develops.". Definitely not.

 

There's also a book for the really adventurous "The Colouring, Bronzing and Patination of Metals" https://www.abebooks.com/products/isbn/9780500015018/11203772100

 

Before spending any more money, I'm going to try:

  • Making a nailing stamp.
  • Testing to see if I can actually get a patina to work on the copper tape (salt and vinegar for a start).

Richard.

 

 

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I saw this on Dubz's Syren build http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/1070-uss-brig-syren-by-dubz-model-shipways-164-18-gun-brig/page-10#entry55759. I think the vinegar cleans and the salt darkens the copper.

 

 

I did find a recipe which is salt, vinegar, and ammonia http://www.wikihow.com/Age-Copper. I'm not all that keen on ammonia though. 

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Here's my take:

 

Model Expo copper tape with nail pattern made from very small hypodermic tubing, so it is not raised, but rather shows the nail outline. Weathered with the "bodily fluid" method. There's more pictures of the copper and the stamping jig in my build log. 

post-11003-0-18774200-1484625995_thumb.jpg

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Don't forget that ships do not necessarily sail at their designed water lines. Warships may leave port deeply laden but during their cruise they use up provisions, possibly ammunition, and their fresh water supply is constantly changing. Trim also changes as stores and ammunition are moved about and the Captain may decide to shift armament about, to change the rake of the masts or to deliberately change trim by shifting ballast.

 

Merchant vessels may carry cargos of different densities- such as coal outbound and grain home. Whaling ships would change trim as knocked down barrels were assembled and filled with oil.

 

It is therefore reasonable to assume that different areas of the copper sheathing would look quite different, with the belt above water the typical green verdigris and that submerged brown. The action of water at the bow would differ from that at the stern, affecting the finish of the copper differently but I don't know how.

 

I agree with Frankie that a too literal reproduction of details such as nails does not look realistic. A more impressionistic treatment looks better.

 

A number of years ago builder Rob Napier publishedd an article in then NRJ regarding the colors on the yacht Northern Light. He used paint ovrer the copper sheathing at the waterline to give it a weathered look. I believe that it is number 36. Look it up on their web site.

 

Roger

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Brian asked some questions about standards of copper plating.   Did a little research and have the following to offer.

 

Brian Lavery in The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War devotes chapter 11 to copper sheathing.  He provides the history and methods and techniques. He states the plates were 4 feet long and 14 inches wide and that this size became standard very early in the process.  He reports that three thicknesses (gauges) became standard by 1779.  They were 22oz, 28oz and 32oz per square foot.  "They were distributed about the ship according to the wear they were likely to encounter. The thickest were in the bows, the medium ones just behind the bows, and the rest of the ship was covered in the thinnest type."

 

Peter Goodwin in English Man of War devotes Chapter 10 to Hull Protection.  He provides a few diagrams.  He states the nails were spaced about  1 1/4 inches apart. He gives a little larger dimension of the plate at 4 feet long and 1foot 3 inches wide.  He also discusses the weight added to the ship.  In the case of a 74 gun ship, the 3300 plates needed added13 tons, plus the nails.  I believe my copy of the book contains a typo or editing error as he advises than 16 nails were used to secure each plate.  I think it would be closer to 160 nails if they are only 1 1/4 inches apart.

 

Phil

Edited by roach101761
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Joe is the body fluid method literally pee? I'm having visions of hubby being very confused when I ask him to take my Bounty model out in the garden to wee on it.  :o I saw in your log it is referenced elsewhere on the forum, can't find it though.

Yes, it is really pee...  :P

 

All in all it's not a bad experience doing it (differing sources say urine is sterile). It works rather quickly and there is no residual odor. I clear coated mine with Testor's dullcoat. Make sure the copper is very clean before application to avoid an inconsistent finish. 

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Well for one thing, I'm not an artist, I'm a hobbyist and about average at that. I'm no perfectionist so my procedures when it comes to copper plating is the same when it comes to hull planking, which ever is easiest for me to achieve the look that I'm after even if the ends justify the means. You can over think anything, but eventually the rubber will have to meet the road. Now as far as why I prefer shiny copper hulls and pretty ships versus weathered copper hulls and beaten weathered ship is for looks. I have built them both ways and a weather beaten ship model with weathered greenish hulls I couldn't hardly give them away and clients when given the opportunity asked to leave the hulls shiny because they liked them better that way and they sold way easier and for more money. Like I tell everyone who ask and some that don't: I'm not a perfectionist nor a purist and I don't build museum quality models. I build decorator pieces for homes and offices. 

 

This is about all I can contribute to this thread other than I use copper foil tape for copper plating no matter the size of the model and I have built some up to 50 inches long. I use a dress makers pattern wheel to make the rivet marks on the copper tape. I can buy a roll of copper tape which usually has 50 feet of tape for about $7.00 where as copper plates would cost me hundreds of dollars if applying them to a 50" model and they look great and serve the purpose.

 

 

mike   

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Hi all,

 

There is also an interesting paper by Mark Staniforth on the subject at: http://www.academia.edu/358814/The_Introduction_and_Use_of_Copper_Sheathing_-_A_History - you have to signup to download the pdf but it is free; and the article can be read online without signing up. he also has some other interesting topics.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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