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gil middleton

DRAGON CLASS SAILBOAT by gil middleton - Billing Boats - 1:12 scale

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Four months since my last post. Some cruising on our boat, but neck surgery put everything on hold. However, all is well and I'll get on with the build log.


I left off with planking about half done.  The following is rather routine planking and fairing.



There was no need for steaming since gentle curves defined the hull.  A wallpaper soaking tray did the trick.



Planking completed and keel added.



Keel required fairing to match false keel.  Rudder post in place.



First stage in fairing using wood filler.





Second stage fairing and adding keel.



Forming rudder.










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The waterline was determined from photos, design specs, etc. and marked with equal length wood strips, then moving the strips along the hull to form the waterline.



Masking for the water line.






Attaching the mahogany pattern on deck.




Deck planking within mahogany framework.



Masking for water based flat polyurethane.



Thin mahogany trim added to cover the exposed sub-deck.




Completed deck planking.  The next stage will be adding details to the hull.

Cheers,  Gil59b32230cc59d_IMG_2408R.jpg.a4bb74920df204e6a77fe1d85e24b63b.jpg






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Per, Thanks for checking in.  I don't know how you manage to work on multiple projects at a time.  My hat's off to you.  If I exceed one, I'm likely to be banned from our den.  I particularly liked your Bluenose.  My interest was tweaked when I was stationed in Halifax (Midshipman) in the Canadian Navy in 1953 and then again on a recent meeting in Halifax where I talked with Wilson Fitt, the project manager for the recent construction  of the Bluenose II.  And then there was Dave Borgens lovely work in our Seattle group.  Your log will be a great guide if I ever get started.


Kevin,  Many thanks, but remember, mine is just a fun little project.  Your HMS Fife would probably not fit in our den.


Grant,  Da Vinci Flying Machine???  What fun.

Cheers, Gil

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To be fair, my billings kit is old, given to me many years ago.  However, it is a generic kit with little detail.  None of the deck or cockpit details were included.  Fittings were grossly out of scale and plans oversimplified.  The result is a number of models on websites where the main sheet is attached alongside the tiller, rendering the tiller inoperable.  Newer plans on Billings' web site appear improved but I have not seen a newer kit.  I think one should be prepared to scratch build everything beyond the planking.  But then again I never planned to follow the instructions.


Preparing the cabin, cockpit rails,deck and seat supports.59b5a82d2e514_IMG_2411R.jpg.47456e57743aa16259488dc1316df3e9.jpg


Deck and interior lining under cabin.



Gluing cabin and combing.


Fitting Starboard side (not glued)  Floor and seats to be installed before gluing. 

Cockpit deck and seat supports plus central pedestal for main sheet traveler.




Completing gluing.



From this point on, almost no reference was made to the kit.



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Details:  Main traveler,base for winch, leads for control lines and digital repeater for GPS, wind speed and direction, etc.



Base for traveler.  Winch made from styrene tube and sheet.



Running control lines.



Rigging traveler.



Control lines with jam cleats.



Self tailing winch.



Spinnaker sheet cheek blocks



Wire (rod) rigging.  Adjustment below deck.  Used 24 G soft wire requiring practicing my soldering technique.  Also, I threw out the mast and boom supplied with the kit (square with the slot off center) replacing them with dowels, tapered and using styrene 1/4 round for the sail slot.





Spinnaker sheets and launching chute.  Also, base for self furling jib with roller control below deck.



Tiller with hiking extension arm.

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you sure hit the ground runn'in!    you've made quite a bit of progress with her ;)    I notice that the port side order of lines for the jib is not the same as the starboard side order of lines....does this matter?  since they're color coded,  perhaps not?  super nice finish!

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Per,  The Dragon has been around for almost 90 years, but I still think of it as a "modern" classic. Does that mean that I'm getting old? 

Popeye,  Why did I think that you would pick up on the random coloring of the lines?  A good observer.  Actually, the control lines are not port and starboard and not mainly for the jib.  I didn't list them for fear of offering  more information than the reader wanted. BUT SINCE YOU PICKED UP ON IT...................


The control lines would be:

1.   Main halyard

2.   Main outhaul

3.   Main downhaul

4.   Boom vang

5.   Jib halyard

6.   Roller furling jib stay

7.   Spinnaker halyard

8.   Spinnaker chute open

9.   Spinnaker chute close

10.  Spinnaker cage to douse the spinnaker


The main sheet goes to the traveler.  Jib sheets go to the block on the jib track and then to the winch. Spinnaker sheets go to the aft cheek blocks and then to the cockpit.


I may be a bit too detail oriented, but it's still fun.

Cheers, Gil


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thanks for the added explanation,  but what I was asking was,  is color coding used on actual vessels?   that would be a great idea if it were a training vessel,  there would be a better understanding of the lines and what they do.   I've also never really seen this in modeling,  so it makes it kind of unique.......the model could be used as a training tool as well {as well being a colorful finished model}.   I noticed that the sequence of lines on the port side is not the same as on the starboard side...is there some significance in that?


yes......this model was probably one of Billing's first offerings,  so it has been around for quite a long time.   I've seen a couple built over the years,  and I think they are quite beautiful.  truth be told......when I came up with the concept for the M&M boat,  the admiral wanted me to base it on the Dragen.....I wanted to base it on the Slo Mo Shun IV.   she didn't want a race boat,  and I had cloned a hull from the Mary Ann,  so I used that one instead :)    as for the added information and text detail......please do........I enjoy reading the thoughts you may have as you build your model......everyone's for that matter.  I found the color coordination of lines very interesting,  and wondered if this was something found on the actual vessel.  listing all of the lines by name will make this log indispensable for anyone building this model in the future.   your progress so far is fantastic........she's a beautiful vessel,  as with your Victory ;)  

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Per,  You are more of a Dragon (Drakbat) expert than I. I've sailed in several racing dinghies, 27' keel boat, Soling, and Cal 40 but only admired Dragons.  Like you, life got in the way.  When I started my practice, I couldn't afford anything larger than a dinghy, and when I could, it had to handle several kids.


Popeye.  I think that colored lines have perhaps become rather standard in small sail boats. When you go to a boat chandlery, one sees dacron lines and newer high tech lines such as Spectra and Dyneema in red, green blue, purple, white black and gray. When I raced our Lightning and Cal 40, our lines were color coded.  Not for training, but for instant recognition.  Of course my oldest son was red/green color blind. "Nice brown lines Dad."

The following photos are from Etchells 22 boats, a 30' boat very similar to Dragons. Not only do they show colored lines, but also how different and customized the rigging can be.  Cheers,  Gil








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Hi Gil


I've been enjoying riding along and watching your Dragon come to life.   I built a Billings Dragon probably 40 years ago when my wife gave it to me for Xmas.   It was only in the last 5 or 6 years that I decided to tart it up a bit and showed it here.    It's wonderful to see someone else disregard the plans and apply their own imagination to the project.   You're taking yours much further than I ever did and I love it!!


Keep up the good work.



Edited by albergman

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Floyd and Per,  It was an exceptional meeting.  How many model clubs have a launching party with a concert violinist as the main attraction?  Shelley was amazing and greatly appreciated.

The current mini-project is down to the final details. It is hoped that the reader will be tolerant of the rough finish. A neck injury has rendered the left arm (left handed) as nearly useless.  In time I may be able to upgrade the details.


Frank, I enjoyed looking at your build and was amazed at the metal finish you achieved using aluminum scraps, 1000 grit sandpaper (or emory paper) and polish. Who knew an old hard drive could have a second life as a cleat or fairlead?  It was a teaching moment for me and raised the bar.


A few more details:



Rigging the jib sheets.



Making blocks. Very rough because of the difficulty holding the pieces with a bum arm.




Rod rigging



Cheek block aft deck



Back stay (center)  Adjustable back stays port and starboard.



Shrouds,  adjustment below deck.



Self tailing winch.



Jib sheet track and block








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Thanks Kevin and Popeye.

Kevin,  I'm not sure what is on the horizon. I may wait a bit to see what recovery occurs. Glad I hadn't started another "Victory" size project, which you would understand better than most.


Popeye,  I am no expert on rod rigging, but apparently there is slightly less wind drag compared to multi-strand wire.  The rod is held by a "rod head" (a cap on the rod to prevent it from pulling out of a fitting) or a dimple from the fitting into the rod. The top end is fixed to the mast while to bottom end passes through the deck to a turnbuckle below deck for adjustment.  Above the spreaders, a turnbuckle is exposed.  Needless to say, rod rigging requires significant specialized equipment including a press. A bit different than when we used to splice our own wire rigging. 

On the model, I used 24g "German" wire, a soft flexible wire. Below deck, the wire was simply attached to a beam, while at the mast I tried soldering. The soldering didn't hold so I drilled through the mast and twisted the wire to create a button, adding C/A glue, or took a turn around a fitting.  On the aft deck where there was no access, I rigged the wire to pass through the hole and then flair out to prevent it from pulling back.  Again, more than one wants to know.  Overall I think it was worth the bother since other models of Dragons I've seen were either hull only or rigged with thread which didn't look authentic. Details, details.


Cheers, Gil

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Just a few more photos of the details.  The base for the jam cleat on the main traveler.



Main sheet traveler.



Jam c;eats.



Jam cleats close up.



Boom vang (to hold the boom down and shape the main sail when on a reach or down wind)



Main outhaul



Jib sheets and halyard.



Self tailing winch with jib sheet and close up




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Thus ends a fun little project.  Just as enjoyable as a much larger build and good therapy during recovery. As in real boating, there is as much satisfaction in harbor hopping in a small boat as an ocean passage. It keeps the dreams alive anticipating the next voyage or the next model.  In my mind, the Dragon is still one of the most beautiful boats ever designed, and now I've had the pleasure of working on one.  Cheers, Gil














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Darn!  I go away to visit the mother-in-law and miss the entire build! :angry:


Never mind; I was able to read through your log to see what happened along the way.


I have to agree with you Gil, that Dragons are one of the most beautiful sailing boats ever built - I remember watching them race on Sydney harbour when I was a kid.



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I won't lie........I giggled a bit when I saw you stood up in a chair for the overhead shot  :D  .......and you still didn't get a full shot of the mast.   she's a tall one  :) 

     wonderfully done Gil.......the fittings and detail in the cockpit is really nice.   paint work and sheer design is to die for.   recover well my friend........and I'll keep my eyes open for another project.   do you have one in mind?

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John and Per,  Thanks for your comments.  I think we all agree that Dragons are a special breed.

Popeye,  Thanks, and my apologies for not photographing from above the mast. At my age, one isn't supposed to climb ladders. The next project?  One that doesn't require ladders.

Kevin,  I looked at your Bismark and ended up reading the entire log. Beautiful work. To take on a project that large, we'd have to remodel  our condo, which would make for a very expensive model.


Cheers, Gil


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