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how much sanding for hull? also- wood fillers

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See photos attached. I have planked to the top of the wale. I have filled in some gaps with shims and glue and then sanded smooth. The question is : how smooth do you want the hull? I could make this a lot smoother but would a slightly rough hewn quality make it seem more authentic to the building standards of the time? I have seen completed models with extremely smooth hulls and it seems that all the hard hand work at planking disappears and the model's hull seems less 'real'.


of course, this is still an unpainted hull and perhaps paint would interact with a slightly rougher hull in a negative way making it seem more amateurish.  

or maybe paint will enhance it. don't know! feel free to comment


Also, do members recommend minwax wood filler or should one use something specifically made for wood ship models?


This is my 3rd post for the rattlesnake by model shipways






Edited by jazzdc
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thanks for reaching out for a comment, glad to help whenever I can.  Interesting timing of the question.  in the past week I decided I was done with sanding and ready for a stain finish on the bottom of the boat.  I love stained wood, so I went off the reservation and planned to use a dark stain below the whale instead of the tallow that is suggested in the pain plan.  I bring this up as I had been avoiding the use of filler knowing it would not stain true to the wood.   What I didn't realize is how inconsistent the stain took to the basswood.  Even with a pre stain conditioner, some planks were nearly black and others hardly stained.  It looked ridiculous.  So I primed over it and got back on the reservation with the tallow paint.  The paint highlights every imperfection in the hull.  You want to sand it down as much as possible using increasingly fine sandpaper.  If you are painting, fill the holes religiously as I said, everything shows.   I do agree that a ship like this is a working vessel and will have plenty of marks that I don't plan to replicate.  Most of this is pure preference.  I use elmers wood filler and have no issues.  I had it laying around so I didn't really pick it for this. 


Hope this helps, if not, reach out and I will keep an eye on your log going forward.  Always great to have someone else building the same ship.


Bill  (campbewj)


Current Build: Model Shipways 1:96 Flying Fish 



  • Model Shipways - Rattlesnake
  • Model Shipways - Phantom



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What works for me is to "remember the scale" of the model, and imagining how far away I would have to be from the real thing to have an equivalent view of the model. 

Completed Build --- Virginia 1819 - Artesania Latina

Other Models      --- German Armor plus others    Mastermind


Current Build --- Liveship Vivacia

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I posted this in response to a similar question in another thread. It applies here as well:


If somebody is building an "Admiralty Board" style bright finished hull (i.e. unpainted,) the plank seams are often highlighted by coloring the edges before installation. This is somewhat a matter of style and a taste. Otherwise, in a painted hull depicting the vessel as it would appear in real life, at all but very large scales on super-detailed and "distressed" models, which we rarely see, plank seams are not appropriately visible. In full-size construction, the seams are "stopped" (filled with putty) to protect the caulking material and sanded fair. the hull is thereafter painted. A well-built full-size vessel whose planking is properly fastened should not "show her seams." More significantly, the seams of the hull of a real-life ship at "scale viewing distance" wouldn't be visible at that distance even if they were visible close up.


I realize there is a certain reluctance to render the obvious careful work of a good planking job invisible by painting it properly, but out-of-scale plank seams are just wrong. There seems a strong tendency, indeed, even a convention, these days to incorporate out-of-scale detail in an apparent effort to emulate full-size practices. This seems to be encouraged by certain kit manufacturers for the sake of making their kits "more complete" or accurate.   Commonly seen are bottoms sheathed with wildly over-scale-size "real copper plates" which modelers spend huge amounts of time "dimpling" with "rivets" (which were never used) that, at best, are at scale the size of railroad spikes, or larger, misplaced and often over-scale-sized plank fastenings and fastening plugs, frequently of contrasting color, which would never be the case in real-life practice, and incorrectly colored rigging (e.g. lightly colored deadeye lanyards.) Such affectations will ruin an otherwise excellent model.


If you hull isn't fair, there is nothing for it but to putty the depressions and sand it fair. That is going to foreclose a bright finished hull. You can scratch in the plank seams through the putty, but I'd urge you to consider whether you are intending to build an accurate scale model of a vessel and depict her with plank seams open by two or more scale inches.


You ask, "Would a slightly rough hewn quality make it seem more authentic to the building standards of the time?" In a word, no. Your understanding of "the building standards of the time" is incorrect. These vessels were built by master craftsmen. There was nothing "slightly rough hewn" about them.  Spend some time looking at real ships, or pictures of real ships, taken from a distance that makes them appear to be the same size as your model will be when someone looks at it from a few feet away. Your model and the real ship should appear as much the same as possible. Like women who always look better at closing time, ships always look better the farther away you are when looking at them. "Too much out of scale detail" is a fault found far more often than "not enough."


Your hull needs to be 1) sealed (shellac works well and is far less expensive and works better than the stuff sold by model paint companies,) 2) liberally filled with marine grade surfacing putty (sometimes called "glazing putty," which has nothing to with windows) and, when the putty has set up, sanded perfectly fair and smooth.  https://www.go2marine.com/product/205507F/surfacing-putty.html?WT.mc_id=b1&msclkid=7830403141f71de2c52a1bc6efdc414c&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Go2marine Product Ad Campaign(BSC)&utm_term=1100402429854&utm_content=Bing Product Listing Ad

This product is made for this application and sands easily and takes finish paint well. It is thinned with acetone. Keep the top on the can at all times, as exposure to the air will cause it to skin over. Add a teaspoon of acetone to the can before closing it after use. Make sure the top is well sealed. Store the can on the shelf upside down to prevent evaporation in the can. The added acetone will be absorbed by the putty overnight and keep the putty the correct consistency.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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Personally, I just buy the minwax wood filler.  I’ve never had a problem with it.  I usually take a piece of whatever I’m matching into the hardware store with me.  


I can usually match the color well enough that once sealer is applied, no one will notice the filler.

Building: 1:64 HMS Revenge (Victory Models plans)

1:64 Cat Esther (17th Century Dutch Merchant Ships)

On the building slip: 1:72 French Ironclad Magenta (original shipyard plans)


On hold: 1:98 Mantua HMS Victory (kit bash), 1:96 Shipyard HMS Mercury


Favorite finished builds:  1:60 Sampang Good Fortune (Amati plans), 1:200 Orel Ironclad Solferino, 1:72 Schooner Hannah (Hahn plans), 1:72 Privateer Prince de Neufchatel (Chapelle plans), Model Shipways Sultana, Heller La Reale, Encore USS Olympia


Goal: Become better than I was yesterday


"The hardest part is deciding to try." - me

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