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Model Shipway Ratline tool

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Hi Floyd,  I was reading a buildlog on this site a couple of weeks ago when I ran across a description of the Ratliner (unfortunately I don't recall whose log it was)   I gather from what I read that it was developed and used by the build log owner - so a member of MSW. He mentioned that Model Expo was taking up the product and had experimented with the best materials to mass produce it - settled on MDF I believe. I'm kicking myself for not bookmarking his log!


In any event I looked into the Model Expo site and decided to give it a try since my skill with rigging is nascent at best, and any tool that looks as versatile as the Ratliner looks will be welcomed.  I have it on order but probably won't receive it 'til the new year.  When I do then I'll be hoping to try it out right away on the shrouds for my Bluenose II main mast which has been awaiting my attention for the past couple of months.

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I hope someone more familiar with this type of approach can comment on Gregory's and Jim's comments.  Being new at the game I don't have an informed opinion - more like some hope!


Derek - I'll do my little test and share what I discover.  May not be a detailed review - more like a 1st impression!


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Doug, I am the guilty one that designed, engineered and wrote the instructions for the RATLINER.   :piratebo5: As I was working on my Constitution I thought that there had to be a better way. Having been in Product Development my entire working career the gears went into motion. I also have designed and engineered model for ME so it was an easy proposition to work with them. Also keep in mind that I to am relatively new to ship building; but not modelling. So I devised this tool to be able to do the lines off model; like any other tool there is a learning curve. Some will wish to use it and other will rather rig on the ship. We went through a few materials until we got the correct combination for the best product to bring to market. I have tested it and it works great, but I also have the benefit of designing it. I also suggest reading and understanding the instructions before starting.


Here is a link to the instructions on how to use them. Enjoy! :cheers:



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Thank you for posting Ken,  I've been going through build logs again trying to find where the invention was described - I would have got there eventually.


Iread the model expo instructions before ordering but thanks for the link. I will enjoy trying it out to see if it's a go for me - I truly hope so.


Happy modelling and Season's best to you!


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1 hour ago, Gregory said:

It doesn't appear to allow for setting up the shrouds properly on the mast.

Gregory, if I understand correctly "for setting up properly on the mast" it does but you have to index the port and starboard mast loops in the proper sequence as you slip them on the mast when setting them in place. I hope this makes sense, that is one of the reasons I suggest in the instructions to tie the mast loops with a string before removing from the RATLINER once tied to keep them in sequence for later installing. :cheers:

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Not having used the tool/product in question, I am not in a position to comment on its utility. However, I would prefer to work 'in situ', that is having the shrouds set up properly before starting 'rattling out'. I would find it difficult and too nerve-wrecking to transfer the net, that is effectively constructed, onto the model without some distortions occurring.

In practice, I drew the layout of the shrouds and ratlines on a piece of card that is inserted behind the shrouds. It's then like working on a drawing and you will see any pulling-in of the shrouds and uneven spacing of the ralines immediately. Don't fix the knots until you are finished completely so that you can adjust things if still needed.

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Might have come in handy when my ratlines on Victory didn't look good and I cut every one out from all 3 masts top to bottom. Did them twice discouraging to say the least.

I'd drop the $ 14.00 to try it out just to see if there was an advantage. Don't poo poo something until you try it does look interesting.

Doug let us know post pics.

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19 hours ago, xken said:

Gregory, if I understand correctly "for setting up properly on the mast" it does but you have to index the port and starboard mast loops in the proper sequence as you slip them on the mast when setting them in place. I hope this makes sense, that is one of the reasons I suggest in the instructions to tie the mast loops with a string before removing from the RATLINER once tied to keep them in sequence for later installing. :cheers:

  I apologize for my rush to judgement, without taking a closer look.


Now that I have seen your instructions, it clearly addresses any shortcomings that I wrongly assumed.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Today was the day that my Ratliner arrived.


It comes in a padded envelope with a single laser cut  MDF board and some stapled instruction sheets (also available online at Model Expo).



 2 page assembly sheet



8 page illustrated usage instructions - .



Assembly took under 10 minutes.  Now letting the glue set for a day until 1st use.




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First impressions. This shouldn't be considered an informed "review" since the I have only once actually put shrouds and ratlines on a modelled that was a 1:96 scale Bluenose II and it turned out pretty badly



I spent a couple of hours with the Ratliner yesterday.  This was just a trial run before I try to use it for an actual set of shrouds.  


The line for the shrouds was some extra tan-coloured from my Essex cross-section kit.  Decent line.  The ratlines were black Gutermann polyester thread.  Just for fun I served the loop at the top of the shroud pairs.



I'm trailing the starboard mainmast shrouds.



The tie-off at the bottom of each shroud pair. As you can see I also skipped one hole as shown in the examples in the instructions.  When I get to the Bluenose shrouds I won't be doing this.




A piece of white mounting board fits nicely behind  the front bezel to make visibility of the lines better.  The instructions suggest tying every 5th ratline and infilling afterwards. Very convenient height on the desk to tie each clove-hitch knot.  After the ratline is tied off on the left edge of the frame I clamped a ruler across to check level and adjusted any knots up or down as required.  When Tying each clove-hitch I used tweezers to hold the shroud steady while tightening the knot.  I  was generally able to keep the shrouds straight but a few I had to adjust the position by tugging on the shroud while holding the ratline steady.  It is quite easy to make the adjustments 






My most challenging issue so far was tying the ratlines on the left edge of the frames.  I think this is mainly an operator problem (i.e. me!) but I still haven't figured out a good method.  During the work I found the knots would slip or come undone on occasion.  I liken the problem to the Christmas ribbon problem - you know trying to tie a knot around the parcel and needing one more hand than most of use were issued.  Part of the problem is the "stiffness" of the treads - they like to straight over short distances. Perhaps there is some clever modeller's knot that makes it easier to tie a snug line around a post (I had the same problem trying to belay a line to a cleat at model scale!).


One cheat (when I'd cut a ratline too short to tie a knot at the left edge was to clamp it)



I haven't bothered to do all the ratlines on the test.  Current status - knots are glued and drying - tomorrow I'll remove the (partial) shroud set from the frame and see how it feels to handle it.  Perhaps I'll mount them on a simulated mast and try to attach some deadeyes.  Next post summarizes my 1st impression and questions I still have about the use of the Ratliner.





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First Impression - Summary and Questions



  1. Easy to assemble
  2. Good instructions for assembly and for usage (a few minor typos)
  3. Good ergonomics when using - good height and solid stand compared with on mast ratlining
  4. Helpful design - gets spacing of ratlines appropriate to scale.  Correct spacing of deadeyes (at least for my build!)
  5. Some flexibility is inherent in the design - could do shorter shroud set easily, limited control over shroud spacing by using the "posts" at the bottom of the frame instead of the holes at the sheer pole height, or by skipping spaces.


  1. Tying off the ratlines at the left edge of the frame - may improve significantly with practice.
  2. Need to purchase different frames depending on scale of model (Model Expo has 3 versions for sale)


  1. Is there enough flexibly to accommodate a variety of different ships?
  2. How to deal with an odd number of shrouds (this is a problem I have to deal with for the Bluenose II)?
  3. How to deal with the naughty knot problem?
  4. How easy is it to install the unit on model as opposed to tying it on the model 1st - getting the top row of deadeyes well placed?


So far I like using the Ratliner and I think it should improve the results I can achieve.  The show-stopper I am concerned about is dealing with an odd number of shrouds.  I need a solution to this issue!

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23 minutes ago, wefalck said:

I think the challenge will be to transfer the assembly to the model ...

You may be right although I gather there are (at least) two schools of thought on that procedure.  A great thing about this hobby is that there is lots of scope for personal best practices.  Of course one of the challenging aspects of that freedom is finding your personal best practices!  A work in process for me!


If I find a solution to problem 2 above I will still have trouble implementing the transfer on my Bluenose II as I have already mounted the top mast!  :default_wallbash:

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Doug, looks like you are off to a great start; and practice will help. One thing to do is stretch the line before starting and use 100% cotton for best results. I made all my own lines on ME’s highly modified ropewalk that can be seen in mt Constitution build.


As for your issues when tying the left side, tie a clove hitch which you can tighten and snug up with tweezers then follow up with a half hitch tied back through the rat line and seized on the tab to tighten more. The real key is to have all lines as tight as possible when starting. 


Three sizes are needed to best satisfy the range of model scales. Height difference from 1:35 versus 1:96. Ratline spacing is quite different.


One can also drill a new pattern off indexing holes for a specific application and still tie off on the lower tabs


Question 2: A odd or single shroud can be seized like a double line and then positioned as needed.

Question 3: use clove hitches and with a half hitch if necessary and knot tying practice.

Question 4: May need to make a rigging fixture to hold the deadeyes when tying off the shroud lines to them.


To add your finished assembly to the mast you may have to cut and pin to relocate the mast after installation. That or debond the joints to disassemble. That will be a choice to ponder.


I will enjoy following along and appreciate your feedback, but it looks like you are off to a great start!


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Ken,  Thanks for the rapid response.  I'm sure my knot tying problem will disappear with practice - thanks for the suggestion.  


I understand the the reason for the 3 configurations of the col for different scales - I just wanted the reader to be aware that scale mattered.  I'm lucky since most of the kits on my list are 1:64 (or 1:63 in one case!)


The drilling of the custom space holes makes sense now that you say it.  I just have this reluctance to drill holes in my tools - I have to get over that phobia!


I thought about the singleton shroud  looped back on itself at the mast top level but also trying to follow "normal practice" - as I understand it -

of having the port and starboard singleton's attached at the mast top - like the schematics in Lennarth Peterson's rigging books.  Your way will certainly work.


Cotton eh?  Oh well have to restock  now.  I've been purchasing Syren Ship Model Company rigging line which I believe is poly not cotton ???? (UPDATED:  Syren Ship Company rope is a blend of cotton and linen - not polyester - sorry I got that wrong!).  I thought I might avoid getting my own ropewalk - maybe not.

Edited by Heronguy
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Derek,  The frame itself has a maximum shroud length of 10-1/2" to 11".  Thats plenty for my Bluenose II from mast top to deadeyes.  Are there 1:64 scale kits with longer shrouds???  That really is my question #1 above - I don't know because I don't have much exposure - although I do have some plans I can look at to see for a small sample of ships.


There is a different version of the Ratline for larger scale models - I don't know their maximum though.


Your question asks about top of mast to deadeyes - if you mean very top of mast then I'm sure the answer is no - Do you need to go to the very top of the mast???

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19 hours ago, Worldway said:

Doug, I'm curious and am probably asking a silly question but does it make a long enough ratline to run from the top of the mast to the dead eyes?  Can you adjust the length of them?


After measuring on 4 sets on plans for 1:64 scale ships I find the Ratliner will handle Bluenose II, Syren, and Stefano.  However, even using the extra inch that Ken mentions then it appears that the Prince de Neufchatel main mast can't be handled without some sort of extension.  I measure 11+ inches on the plans and when we give Pythagorus his hypotenuse tax the lenthg of shrouds to the sheer pole line is beyond Ratliner.  


As you can see in this image of the PdN the main mast is quite long compared with main topmast.  



I'm glad that the Ratliner will handle 3 out of 4 of my kits.


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Knot having made ratlines for a model looking at the jig leads me to my first question which relates to the sequence of placing the shrouds on the mast. I am given to understand that these are placed over the mast working alternately from port to starboard (maybe the other way round) which this jig doesn't seem to account for, unless I am not understanding something.



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