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Color of ratlines


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Hi,

 

I’m nearing the finish line on my Bluejacket Smuggler (1877 gaff rigged schooner) and the only remaining task is tying the ratlines.  There only 4 sets of shrouds comprised of two lines each so the job is not particularly daunting.  Where I am completely hung up is on the type of rope for the lines.  I used the Bluejacket supplied black line for the all the standing rigging and Syren’s light brown rope for all the running rigging.  Ratlines on this period ship were not tarred but in almost every model I see the builder uses black line.  I know it’s my build and I can go however I wish, but I’ve tied samples of both and am still completely flummoxed.  I need some help to push me off the fence,

 

Best,

John

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Well, one opinion, for what it's worth: ratlines are part of the standing rigging, therefore are tarred. It's possible that sailors' hands and feet acquired some of this stuff when climbing the rigging, so were referred to as - wait for it! - 'tars'.

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Another opinion, again for what it's worth:  ratlines were high-wear items of rigging requiring repair and replacement frequently.  Expending the additional effort to tar these lines may have seemed a extravagance and not worth the effort.  Additionally the more supple nature of un-tarred line may have provided a somewhat better purchase for what were often bare feet.

 

Either way, I am sure the matter comes down to aesthetics on the part of the builder.

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Another take this for what it's worth item:  All rope was tarred during the laying up process of making it.  It is just a matter of how much tar was then added to prevent the wet from getting into the fibers that determined how dark the line got.  Bottom line. You really can't go wrong with whatever color you choose.  Just don't choose white.

 

Regards,

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Hi John

 

Seamen are a practical bunch, today just as much as in the past, why not google up images of some active original or replica period ships and see what they're doing eg James Craig (Sydney), Enterprize (Melbourne), Duyfken (Fremantle), Endeavour, Bounty. Don't bother with static museum ships like Polly Woodside, Cutty Sark or Victory, on those sometimes low maintenance preservation has to take precedence over historic accuracy.

 

By your location you're not far from Mystic, pop down and have a look at the Morgan, I believe they were making her seaworthy again a few years ago so her current rig should be practical.

 

Mark

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Also for what it is worth, colors do not behave on small models the same way as on full size ships.  Here we are getting into the area of scale colors.  I would observe that a very light colored ratline on a black (maybe) shroud will pop out to the eye on the model.  An even worse mistake that I have committed is to use a line that is too large.  The scale size of the ratline should not be exceeded, but may be lessened if anything.  When I look at photos of full rigged ships, the ratlines are barely visible unless one makes the effort to see them.  I don't think the ratline should call attention to itself.  As always, the usual disclaimer.

 

Wayne

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On 1/20/2018 at 3:28 AM, mgdawson said:

Hi John

 

Seamen are a practical bunch, today just as much as in the past, why not google up images of some active original or replica period ships and see what they're doing eg James Craig (Sydney), Enterprize (Melbourne), Duyfken (Fremantle), Endeavour, Bounty. Don't bother with static museum ships like Polly Woodside, Cutty Sark or Victory, on those sometimes low maintenance preservation has to take precedence over historic accuracy.

 

By your location you're not far from Mystic, pop down and have a look at the Morgan, I believe they were making her seaworthy again a few years ago so her current rig should be practical.

 

Mark

The Morgan may not be the best for checking ratline color. The Morgan had "ratboards" or battens made of wood. An interesting peculiarity of the Morgan.

  Related image

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The truth may be, as so often, somewhere in the middle. I gather ratlines typically would have been made from material heavily soaked with tar during the making - as pointed out above. So they would be of some greyish-brownish colour, given also the weathering and salt deposits. I would try to avoid too stark contrast to the rest of the standing rigging and blend them somewhat in. The same applies to the running rigging, I think the contrast to the standing rigging should not be too stark. The smaller the scale, the less contrast I would go for.

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All good points. I've always used black line for my ratlines. The 'tar' they used was more of an oil that soaked into the rope fibers. It was also a very dark brown in color that usually looked black when viewed from a distance. So very dark brown or black would be my choice.

 

BTW - I'm just starting the standing rigging on my model of Smuggler.

 

Ed.

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You are probably talking of Stockholm Tar, which is obtained from resinous trees and has various shades of brown. Since the middle of the 19th century more and more tar as residue from coking hard coal - to obtain gas for illumination and to make coke for steel-making, became available in large quantities. This tar is black in concentrated form and dark brown in thinnish layers. So one needs to make distinctions for different historic periods. However, this has been discussed repeatedly already on this forum. In general, I think the ratlines might be lighter in colour, as their material may have been treated only during the manufacture, but not after installation.

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In support of Wefalck's comments; I have also read somewhere that new ratlines were natural cordage (not treated with tar).  The blackish appearance was the result of tar transfer from the hands and feet of the sailors as they 'picked up' the tar from grasping the shrouds and standing in the tops.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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  • 1 month later...

This is probably too late to help the OP but it may help others.

 

I took some pictures of the Phoenix in Charlestown, Cornwall ,UK, a couple of years ago.

The Phoenix is a working two masted brig built in Frederikshavn, Denmark in 1929, and regularly appears in tv shows and films.

The following pics clearly show that the ratlines are "tan" and not tarred.

However the last pic shows that the knots on the outer shrouds are tarred, either as a result of the shrouds being freshly tarred or as a way of "securing" the knot.

 

a1.thumb.jpg.2d0e436c4b9ee0294998f9aad931026f.jpg

a2.thumb.jpg.4412d482d5003aa2e98ed99477d24dd1.jpg

a3.thumb.jpg.8dfa88ad0eef6c6cf36f498bb639b18c.jpg

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