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Restoration of Full Rigged Sailing Ship Model by ikkypaul - FINISHED

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At long last - having been much diverted over the past 6 months, I will attempt to write a coherent story of this project.  In introducing myself I outlined the history of this model which you can read in my earlier postings.  Briefly, the model was built by my Uncle Jules (Julius, born 14 Feb 1888) just before 1900, he is photographed with it sailing past him in 1899,so I know it does sail!  It has no name.  At age 14 Jules went off to sea for six or seven years, serving in several square riggers including the large "Down Easter" Edward Sewall.  A few surviving letters home showed that it was at times a very tough life.  Among his relics is his sailmaker's palm, and sketch books with some stunningly beautiful miniature drawings of a variety of  sailing ships, plus his army issue copper pannikin (bowl) and mug from his first World War service.  Sadly he died in Cologne Germany (occupational force) of the influenza epidemic.  So this project is my memorial for Jules.


My Dad inherited the model in the 1940s and it lived in its cradle on the wall of my parents bedroom until 1968 it was passed on to me.  Having had a very quiet life the model was in a pretty sad state.  The fore and mizzen masts were infested with woodworm as were several other masts and yards including the jibboom.  There were no sails, these having presumably fallen apart over the years, butut the rigging was still recognisable.  I was intrigued to discover that the ship had been altered after the sailing photos - in place of a large cargo hatch there is now a smaller hatch, and a deckhouse has been added. You can still see the outline of the big hatch in the decking.  The hull is made from a solid piece of timber (lumber)


On taking possession I began the restoration by cleaning out the accumulated dust of 60 years or so and fitting new mast sections, and jibboom, plus renewing bulwarks. Then did nothing from 1969 to 2010, except to get a glass case made for it.  So for this posting I close now with a few photos of as it was.  The fresh paint indicates where timbers have been replaced.

2010-03-26 5.JPG

2010-03-26 1.JPG

2010-03-26 2.JPG

2010-03-26 3.JPG

2010-06-01 6.JPG

2010-06-01 1.JPG

2010-06-01 3.JPG

2010-06-01 5.JPG



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  • 2 weeks later...

mathewp - Thank you for responding - the ship does not have a name - but I can say that it is a good practical representation of a late 19th Century square rigger - my main reference book is Harold A Underhill's "Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier" first published 1946, and comparing rigging details - as far as I could in the 'bird's nest' I inherited - Julius (who was actually my uncle) was very accurate in details.  Seems to me that even as a very small boy he was completely taken up with sailing ships.  Indeed at age 14 he went off to sea and served in several square riggers.

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Build Log

Posting #2

The model: representing a 3 Mast full-rigged ship - square sails on each  mast.

Note: scale and all dimensions are estimated


Scale:                          1:55

Full size hull length:   55m (190 feet)

Beam:                         10.8m (35ft) Mainmast truck to deck: 43m (141ft)

Truck to waterline:     46.75m (153ft)

Truck to Keel             50.6m (167ft)

Main course yard:      21m (68ft)

Sail area:                    1,800 sq.m (19,500sq.ft.)

Displacement:           760 tonnes (750 tons)


In the photo below the first thing to note is that the hull is fashioned from a single piece of wood. Reburbishing it involved cutting out most of the original bulwarks, which being made of quite soft wood – probably our native (NZ) white pine – which woodworm (borer) loves!  Replacements were made using our NZ Rimu (red pine which was NZ’s main building timber in days gone by) by copying the originals.  Of course new pin rails were needed too and rimu was my choice for these. The original belaying pins were simply made from copper wire of the diameter that fitted cosily into the holes.                                                   



In this careening position can be seen the remains of the original livery colours. The light grey above the waterline has given the only clue I have as to perhaps the inspiration for this model.  Only recently – early 2017 - an acquaintance on seeing my model, exclaimed that the livery was that of the “J.J. Craig Line” of Auckland which operated in the first decade of the 20th Century.   So it seems a little more than a possibility that a ship of this line may inspired that young lad, my uncle Julius.  Note the keel running the full bilge length – it is solid lead. 

Photos below shows readiness for stepping main and mizzen masts, and for that 96 deadeyes were needed.




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Build Log

Posting #3

Preparations for Standing Rigging.

As already mentioned 96 deadeyes (blocks) were needed in order to set up shrouds and backstays.  The photos below show the development.  From strips of hardwood the basic shape of the deadeyes was formed; then grooves were cut using a parting disc on the (Dremel) drill press – this was the starting point for the circumferential grooves that were completed later.

After scribing the lines for the various holes in the blocks the drill press was used to drill all the holes.  You sharp-eyed folk will notice the “fairing” of each hole – my method for doing that was simply to run some nylon monofilament (fishing line) backwards and forwards through each hole to produce the fairing in the correct direction.



Having then cut the strips into blocks it was a matter of using very small files (pattern files?) to cut the circumferential grooves.

Next was coating them with polyurethane as you can see below.


Finally the “chain plates”, made from wire, as Julius had done originally, were fitted to the blocks as shown.  As many scratch modellers find, you are often making up a new jig for making parts, such as chain plates.  I have now quite a collection of such jigs


Reflection.  Some of you probably wonder why I have made the various fittings instead of commercially manufactured fittings obtained from model makers’ stores. My main purpose in attacking this project is to turn this model into a memorial for my uncle.  So I felt it worthwhile to set to and do it as much as possible by hand.  I wanted to experience something of his life and the challenges he probably met in the building process.  I learned very early in this project is the requirement to be patient!  If you do something in a hurry you can quickly end up damaging your earlier work, so patience becomes progressively more important as the model becomes more complex, especially in the rigging.

Note:  This is a retrospective build log, the project having seriously recommenced in 2010.  In 1968 I had replaced: some of the bulwarks, the broken bowsprit, the deck over the focs’le, the foremast, fore topmast and foretopgallant mast, the mizzen mast, then set up foremast shrouds and stays, and had rigged the halliards for the foremast yards.  Then a glass case was made which has helped keep the model free from dust. 

Please therefore understand that I write now with the benefit of some hindsight!


Now to the business of stepping some masts.

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Build Log

Posting #4

Stepping of Masts and Rigging Shrouds

With the foremast having already been stepped the original shrouds were stripped off, and the original channels refurbished and fitted.  The original main and mizzen masts were stepped and a complete new set of shrouds were rigged.  The shrouds are copper wire, as are all the mast stays that came a little later.





Next came the “tops” for each mast all newly fashioned from rimu and shaped and drilled as per the originals which had suffered over the years.  New topmasts and topgallant masts were made of New Zealand kauri a very straight-grained timber that was extensively used for masts and spars on the windjammers in the 1800s and 1900s.  The fids are short bits of copper wire – the originals.  These mast sections were swayed up, as they say, and shrouds rigged for topmasts and topgallant masts.  Wire for these is smaller in diameter to keep a semblanceof scale.  Ratlines were all done using rigging thread.    


Then came the fore and backstays.  Following on came the job of refurbishing the sound yards and making up just a few to replace those infested with woodworm.  You very quickly learn that spars have a great many holes needed for the various fittings.  The little drill press again was invaluable.  Julius has simply made up copper wire eyebolts which he stuck into the holes where needed and for opposing fittings used a single piece of wire with an eye on each end. The photos indicate the “before” state, as well as the typical home-made fittings.



Thus, having now fitted the standing rigging, and the preparation of the yards, it was time to sling the yards into place along with their associated lifts and halliards.  It was quite an eye opener to learn how much cordage was needed to reeve the halliards in their triple block configuration.



As can be seen in 2 photos above, the transformation to having the running rigging for the yards - the braces - in place is significant.  I can tell you that quite a few hours was taken up in achieving this milestone.  To this point in the project, I still had enough of the original rigging blocks for this phase of rigging.  My apologies for the imperfect lighting for the photos. Please ask if you would like further detail on any aspect of the project.


2013-02-09 9 640x480.jpg

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Build Log

Posting #5

Looking back on the previous instalments I feel I glossed over the many and varied

tasks, some very small yet necessary, involved in advancing the project.  These are not necessarily in chronological order.

-          shaping wood for replacement bulwarks and fitting them to the hull;

-          preparing hull for painting, and painting it;

-          making new main pin rails, including marking and drilling the pin holes;

-          repairing bitts and fiferails;

-          making new belaying pins from copper wire. (Note: copper or brass wire has been used instead of steel as would have been on an actual ship);

-          making triple “sheave” blocks needed for upper top, upper topgallant and royal yard halliards;

-          fitting halliard tyes;

-          rigging halliards for the hoisting yards i.e. upper top, upper topgallant and royal;

-          adding fittings (“spider bands”) to each mast;

-          attaching chain plates to hull for each mast;

-     making and installing main shrouds;

-     fitting capstays to each mast;

-     installing trestle trees, main and mizzen masts;

-      making and installing mizzen shrouds;

-     making new tops for each mast

-     rigging fore-topmast back-stay;

-     fitting ringbolts for anchoring main & mizzen stays;

-     rigging mainstay and mizzenstay;

-     fitting spreaders for backstays;

-     rigging topmast, topgallant and royal stays plus the associated backstays;

-     rigging ratlines on each of the 9 sets of shrouds;

-     incidental painting of mast sections, tops and trestle trees;

-     refurbishing existing running rigging blocks, and making some new ones;

-     making and fitting sheer poles;

-     resetting of shrouds;

-     refitting bowsprit guys;

-     refurbishing existing yards, and making necessary replacements;

-     preparing each yard by fitting the necessary fittings (e.g. jackstays, eye bolts, 

foot-ropes, rigging blocks) for the running rigging;

-          fitting yard lifts;

-          fitting buntline and clew line blocks on all 18 yards (small beads);

-          preparing and fitting wire brace pendants for each yard;

-          making a pair of bumkins that take rigging for the mainmast braces;

-          fitting braces, all of which involve purchases;

-          refurbishing and fitting the deckhouse;

-          repairing and fitting the skylight over the main cabin;

-          calculating dimensions of the spanker gaff and boom.


And as you seasoned modellers well know the task list keeps on growing. Pictures below are just a few from 2013 (4 years ago) to show a little of the progress.

1.      My improvised bumkin to accommodate the main lower braces.


2.      A more general view of the standing rigging – halliards for the 3 hoisting yards, lifts for the yards and braces for the yards.


3.      Some detail of the mainmast trestle trees.


4.      Detail of mizzen top.


Edited by ikkypaul
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There is something fascinating about restoration of a model. I have done 2 for an individual in our city that were termed "sailors models" and as such were a bit rudimentary in comparison. Your uncle was accomplished and your work on this gem is outstanding. Those who sailed aboard these ships were indeed remarkable people and your work honors them!

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Thistle17 - thank you.  looking at some of others blogsI realise that our community of modellers has some very fine craftsmen turning out superb finished models.  They inspire me to keep going.  My uncle was only 11 when he finished my model in 1899 - and as i keep going I feel as though I am experiencing some of his challenges.  He did it with his bare hands and a few hand tools.  I have the benefit of electriciity, light and some modern tools!  I am often in awe of that young boy.  

I really appreciate your comments, thanks again. Paul 

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  • 2 months later...

Build Log. Restoration of Full Rigged Sailing Ship Model

Posting #6

Then some light relief was the restoration of the ship’s boats, deckhouse and rudder.  See photos below.

There are four ship’s boats all of which, if full scale, would be about 17 feet long.  Two are what I’d call lifeboats like a small whaler, that is, with a sharp sterns.  These are stowed upside down on the deckhouse roof.  The other two could be termed as jolly boats, and they are on the tiers beneath the davits.

Julius carved them from blocks of wood and hollowed them as can be seen in the photo.  They are covered with sail cloth which is stretched over a fore and aft ridge pole then painted.

Deckhouse. Again made from a solid block of lightweight wood.

Rudder.  The original didn’t survive the ravages of time!  I made the new one from a piece of our lovely straight-grained NZ Kauri.  This timber (lumber) was highly sought after by the explorer/navigator Captain James Cook on his late 18th Century voyages, for spars in particular.  The tiller is original.



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