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Tar on dead-eyes and hearts


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Were dead-eyes and hearts tarred? Or they went black due to fact that the tar of the standing rigging ropes came oi contact ?


Ps is there a name for all this (dead-eyes, bull-eyes, hearts etc)standing rigging "blocks without sheaves"?

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45 minutes ago, wefalck said:

Only, if coal tar was used, say post 1840s.

In my experience, pine tar tends to pick up dust and dirt and turns "black" in use eventually. I'm not sure of the exact date, but at some point, I've heard they also added lampblack to pine tar to produce a rigging "slush" that was decidedly black in color.  I'm not exactly certain why they did this. It may have been that the darker color served to limit UV degradation of the tar.

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Please allow me to contribute to this conversation.

 

I finish my deadeyes (and nearly all blocks) in a dark "chestnut" color. I use Fiebings medium brown dye which penetrates boxwood, pear, other euro woods included in kits really well. After the blocks have dried, a little wipe with a cloth cleans them up nicely and also imparts an ever-so-subtle "shine." This color may not be entirely authentic, however, I prefer it on my builds. Black, to me, is a little harsh looking; native pear blocks would be my second choice and third, native boxwood. The chestnut brown is much closer looking to actual restored blocks and deadeyes I've seen first-hand on full-size replica ships.

 

To my eye, Lignum Vitae, a material used for sheaves, also looks darkish brown.

Ron

FiebingsDye.jpg

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Since none of us are first hand experts, to weather blocks or deadeyes of period ships....(and generally any ship built between 1700~1900), were weathered brown or black based on the material supposedly used to preserve standing rigging at the time....is actually factual....we have to do a lot of guessing based on preferences..

Many paintings are virtually unclear.  What is clear, is the practice of using a preservative on lanyards(blocks and deadeyes) was a factual reality, was it *Dark*, probably.  How that application actually looked on a weathered(or new) vessel is simply speculative.

I tend to follow the logic of the experts....since the Historian restorers and nautical architects determined the Frigate CONSTITUTION required black deadeyes and lanyards, I tend to replicate all my clippers with the same. Feeling confident I'm not far off from the truth.

 

Rob

50925438_2191276194522830_3101225674887659520_o.jpg

IMG_6963-1-1024x683.jpg

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2 hours ago, rwiederrich said:

Since none of us are first hand experts, to weather blocks or deadeyes of period ships....(and generally any ship built between 1700~1900), were weathered brown or black based on the material supposedly used to preserve standing rigging at the time....is actually factual....we have to do a lot of guessing based on preferences..

Okay, I'll bite. No, I wasn't actually there back in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, but I've used enough pine tar on enough cordage, blocks, decks, and other wood not to feel like I have to add the disclaimer, "IMHO." I know firsthand how it looks and how it weathers. There's several options.

 

Real pine tar ("Stockholm tar") is dark brown, almost black, colored, The more coats you apply, the darker it gets. (It's much like orange shellac in this respect.) 

Straight pine tar on new wood: This with bring out the figuring and darken the wood, as might be expected of any "oil."

Straight pine tar on old wood, multiple coats: Dirt and dust will make it darker still. Mold will often grow in and on the wood surface beneath the tarred coats and make it darker still. So, depending upon how many coats of tar have been applied, it will eventually look darn near black, or sort of a charcoal grey eventually when in use.

Color of blocks and shells when tarred: This depends upon the species of wood used. At the top of the list was lignam vitae, which was always hard to come by. It's a dark brown color. Locust, another dark wook, was another favorite, As mentioned above, tarring the wood makes it darker. Weathering makes it darker still. It ends up black or charcoal grey eventually.

Pine tar with lampblack on wood: I'm not sure of the date this started, but was a pretty common thing eventually. They say it made the tar last longer, which it probably did, slowing down the UV degradation. This was not used on running rigging cordage. Only on served standing rigging.

Painted wood: Pine tar and lampblack early on. Later pine tar, lampblack, and a bit of Japan drier. Ultimately, linseed oil and lampblack with a bit of Japan drier. All thinned with turpentine. The color of this was black, obviously. Pine tar and lead oxide with a bit of drier made white paint. White's reflective qualities made it even better than black for withstanding sun damage.

 

Most cordage was hemp and hemp cordage must be tarred to preserve it in the marine environment. Running rigging is tarred with thinned pine tar, turpentine historically being used as the thinner. When manufactured, the yarns of the larger diameter cordage were run through heated copper troughs of thinned pine tar, then spun. They were able to run the yarns through rollers that, by squeezing the yarn, could regulate the amount of tar on the yarns and in this way vary the qualities of the cordage produced. "Small stuff" was spun first and then dipped in thinned pine tar. When tarred, new hemp cordage is a fairly dark golden bronw color, but it darkens with use (picking up dirt.) Weathered, it's a grey-ish brown color. Manila cordage isn't really suitable for the marine environment because it shrinks when it gets wet and, if tied, and gets wet, the knots are very difficult to untie.  Light straw colored running rigging wasn't used on boats and ships. (It was sometimes called "Manila hemp," but that was because all cordage was called "hemp" back in the day. It's not made of hemp at all, though.) White colored cordage was never seen until the advent of the synthetic fibers after WWII. While frequently seen today, white or other light colored lanyards run through deadeyes is a glaring inaccuracy on any ship model prior to circa 1950 or so. Hemp production was once a huge industry, but was pretty much rendered obsolete by synthetic fibers, not to mention a "certain prejudice" against hemp that arose in the 1930's when marijuana was outlawed. It's rare to come across a length of hemp line these days, but well broken in hemp line is wonderful stuff. It's soft and supple, yet very strong.

 

As for other colors, forgedaboudit! The only blue pigment available until 1704 was ground up lapis lazuli, which was hugely expensive. Artists used it. Nobody was painting ships and boats blue until a German guy discovered how to make Prussian Blue. In 1828, a Frenchman created another blue, French Ultramarine. Yellow was not as expensive, but pretty much the same. It wasn't until 1820 that Chrome Yellow was available at a reasonable price. Until mid-Nineteenth Century, the world was pretty drab, at least outside of artist's colors. Lots of blacks, whites, yellow, red, and brown ochres and rust oxides. (The "red barn" wasn't a fashion statement. It was just a cheap color, as was "red lead" used in marine construction.) Those rainbow colored Mayflowers, Ninas, Pintas, and Santa Marias... no way!

 

Nobody's going to go wrong coloring standing rigging black, running rigging medium to dark brown, or deadeyes black or dark brown. Remembering "scale viewing distance," it's pretty much going to look black or charcoal grey with a touch of brown on a model. Given what we do know of the history of the maritime trades, many of which are still practiced today by some, I don't see any argument that can adequately justify the "oak colored" deadeyes and "white" or "straw colored" lanyards we see on some models today. Except of course that is the was the model maker felt like doing it for who knows whatever reason.

 

Real pine tar:

 

Wood_tar.jpg

 

 

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Bob...I would conclude that you are one, who I would say has first hand experience.   I should have used the language, *Most of us are not first hand experts*.  Still...you make my point very clearly..... The materials used to weather  standing rigging and deadeys, blocks and hearts would tend to *blacken* these items...not lighten them as some would model.  The reason why I said , *some, model, based on preference*, not from what actually would be reality. 

 

Tanning, taring, oiling, varnishing these members to preserve them will in fact gather dirt and all manner of debris (Not failing to mention that these preservatives themselves are dark)....discoloring them to dark brown or grimy black.  Reason why I used the Constitution rebuild as an example.  These smart restoring folks know what we are talking about...that is why they chose to represent the rebuild with black line and fittings.

 

Your expertise is always welcome and appreciated....I can't speak highly enough of it.

 

Rob

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Very well explained, Bob.  BTW, hemp rope is coming back slowly due to the legalization of marijuana in many states.  A friend here in Oregon with about 2 acres of that particular crop (legally certified, etc.) is selling the stems, trunk (I think that's the proper word) to company making hemp rope.  Last time I saw him, he showed me some and it's much like many of us..,..err... senior types probably remember.

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There's nothing like the smell of tarred hemp in the morning... 

 

I used to work near the cable car barn and "wheel house" in San Francisco. It's a working museum and you could go in and see the cable wheels turning to pull the cables that pulled the cable cars. They tarred the steel cables with real pine tar and the place smelled strongly of it. I used to stop by just to watch the Victorian machinery running and smell the pine tar. Great stuff. One outfit even sells pine tar scented men's cologne.

 

If you want to really be accurate, use the real deal on your models! Kirby Paints in New Bedford, Mass. has been continuously selling marine paint in New Bedford since 1846. They still sell real Stockholm tar exactly as it was made two hundred years ago. It's 100% historically accurate and made from kiln-burned pitch pine. (You can buy the cheap modern-made pine tar by the gallon from Walmart, even, but it's not really the same.) Give George Kirby III a call and he'll fix you right up. I don't know another paint company you can call on the phone and have the owner answer!  https://kirbypaint.com/products/pine-tar

  • Kirby's Pine Tar

Kirby's makes pine tar soap, too. For manly men. (They make a lighter version for the ladies.) https://kirbypaint.com/collections/kirby-standard-goods/products/new-papa-kirbys-pine-tar-soap 

 

Kirby's makes some of the best oil based marine paint around, as well, of course. Great people. Great service.

 


  • Papa Kirby's Pine Tar Soap
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19 hours ago, rwiederrich said:

Tanning, taring, oiling, varnishing these members to preserve them will in fact gather dirt and all manner of debris (Not failing to mention that these preservatives themselves are dark)....discoloring them to dark brown or grimy black.  Reason why I used the Constitution rebuild as an example.  These smart restoring folks know what we are talking about...that is why they chose to represent the rebuild with black line and fittings.

Lets not forget the effect of tarred rigging on ships' decks, either. Most know that wooden decks, primarily on naval vessels, were "holystoned" (sanded with sandstone 'bricks" and washed down with seawater) to keep them "bright." Teak, especially, benefits from this treatment, bleaching to an attractive "white" color when freshly holystoned. (Unfortunately, this treatment, essentially sanding the surface of the deck, is very hard on the wood and accelerates the need to replace them.) This was done regularly in earlier times and the British Admiralty and US Navy were much enamored with doing it, especially immediately before making port, so the vessels would look "shipshape and Bristol-fashion." The reason this was done at all sometimes seems lost on ship modelers who favor holly and other "white" wood for decks, particularly on merchant vessels. Holly for decks is a bit bright for my taste in a model, as even bleached teak would appear darker at "scale distance," but it is pretty close to the same color as a bleached teak deck up close in real life. (I don't believe teak decks were common in British naval vessels anyway, at least until England became firmly entrenched in South Asia and commanded a seemingly endless supply of the stuff and a well-established trade route to ship it back to England. Teak's propensity to splinter on impact was also problematic on naval vessels, even considering that teak splinter wounds were less likely to fester owing to teak oil's antiseptic properties than oak splinters with their high tannin content. )

 

As for the real color of period sailing ships' decjs, providing they weren't kept holystoned, they ended up being pretty dark.  (You can look up the old Admiralty orders. At one time regular holystoning was mandated until they realized how much it was costing them to replace decking!) In hot weather, particularly in the tropics, the tar on the miles of tarred rigging aloft would thin in the heat and drip down onto the deck below, as would the tow from the cordage. Particularly in the doldrums where there wasn't a lot of wind to blow the tow overboard, the decks would accumulate a lot of bits and pieces of broken strands from the cordage.  (Hence the daily bosun's call, "Sweepers! Sweepers! Man your brooms! Port and starboard. Fore to aft!") The black pine tar with the tow stuck in it created quite a black, sticky mess, which, of course, was tracked about by the sailors' (often bare) feet.  So, if one wants to be really accurate about it, and isn't depicting a naval vessel that's tricked out "shipshape and Bristol-fashion" for inspection, or a merchant vessel, most of which gave little or no thought to appearances (excepting the passenger-carrying Blackwall frigates and clipper ships,) a rather dark brown colored deck would be the more accurate depiction. Real pine tar, as great-smelling and useful as it was, and still can be, is also a nasty, filthy, sticky stuff that gets all over everything and ends up being tracked everywhere.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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On 10/11/2019 at 1:12 PM, druxey said:

Bob Cleek: Smalt (another blue pigment) was readily available and economical prior to the invention of Prussian Blue. But we digress.

Ah, yes, indeed we do digress, but that's exactly how trivia wonks like ourselves amass our great store of questionably useful information!

 

Smalt is ground "cobalt glass" used as a pigment. It's the color seen in blue medicine bottles, Venetian blue glassware, and Chinese and Dutch "Delft blue" pottery. "Cobalt glass," quartz glass made blue by the presence of cobalt oxide and potassium, is near exclusively used in glassware and pottery glazes. It was widely used by some fine artists during the Renaissance because it was another cheap substitute for lapis lazuli pigment, but it never was all that satisfactory as a paint pigment because, for reasons unknown to me, unlike when it is used in glassware and pottery glazes, when Cobalt glass is ground up to be used as a paint pigment, its color is unstable and it discolors fairly quickly. Renaissance paintings containing smalt pigment don't look blue at all today. There wasn't much point in using it in the quantity necessary for structural and marine paint applications because of its cost and color instability. 

Edited by Bob Cleek
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On ‎10‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 11:42 AM, Bob Cleek said:

Lets not forget the effect of tarred rigging on ships' decks, either. Most know that wooden decks, primarily on naval vessels, were "holystoned" (sanded with sandstone 'bricks" and washed down with seawater) to keep them "bright." Teak, especially, benefits from this treatment, bleaching to an attractive "white" color when freshly holystoned. (Unfortunately, this treatment, essentially sanding the surface of the deck, is very hard on the wood and accelerates the need to replace them.) This was done regularly in earlier times and the British Admiralty and US Navy were much enamored with doing it, especially immediately before making port, so the vessels would look "shipshape and Bristol-fashion." The reason this was done at all sometimes seems lost on ship modelers who favor holly and other "white" wood for decks, particularly on merchant vessels. Holly for decks is a bit bright for my taste in a model, as even bleached teak would appear darker at "scale distance," but it is pretty close to the same color as a bleached teak deck up close in real life. (I don't believe teak decks were common in British naval vessels anyway, at least until England became firmly entrenched in South Asia and commanded a seemingly endless supply of the stuff and a well-established trade route to ship it back to England. Teak's propensity to splinter on impact was also problematic on naval vessels, even considering that teak splinter wounds were less likely to fester owing to teak oil's antiseptic properties than oak splinters with their high tannin content. )

 

As for the real color of period sailing ships' decjs, providing they weren't kept holystoned, they ended up being pretty dark.  (You can look up the old Admiralty orders. At one time regular holystoning was mandated until they realized how much it was costing them to replace decking!) In hot weather, particularly in the tropics, the tar on the miles of tarred rigging aloft would thin in the heat and drip down onto the deck below, as would the tow from the cordage. Particularly in the doldrums where there wasn't a lot of wind to blow the tow overboard, the decks would accumulate a lot of bits and pieces of broken strands from the cordage.  (Hence the daily bosun's call, "Sweepers! Sweepers! Man your brooms! Port and starboard. Fore to aft!") The black pine tar with the tow stuck in it created quite a black, sticky mess, which, of course, was tracked about by the sailors' (often bare) feet.  So, if one wants to be really accurate about it, and isn't depicting a naval vessel that's tricked out "shipshape and Bristol-fashion" for inspection, or a merchant vessel, most of which gave little or no thought to appearances (excepting the passenger-carrying Blackwall frigates and clipper ships,) a rather dark brown colored deck would be the more accurate depiction. Real pine tar, as great-smelling and useful as it was, and still can be, is also a nasty, filthy, sticky stuff that gets all over everything and ends up being tracked everywhere.

 

 

Another fine lesson in historical accuracy...…..Bob.

 

As you have described...I never build a model that doesn't depict some form of weathering...for the deck and   nearly every aspect.

I appreciate, how you outlined the realities of these weathering materials being *messy* and contributing to the dirty appearance of vessels as much as its protection.

 

Just one trip *Round the Horn* left clippers as if they had been through a sand blaster.  Freezing rain cracked newly applied paint and expansion and contraction literally broke caulked seals and chipped paint off like a wire brush. And poorly preserved iron ran red with rust streaks.

 

I have a B/W image of Glory of the Seas just after one rounding of the Horn and she looks beat up.  Many images can be found on line.  My own version of her has her decks pretty dark.

 

Rob

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The Teak Decks aboard the Helena CA 75 were bleached to get them a light color, Boiler Compound, Scouring Powder, Salt Water Soap plus anything else the Boatswain Mates put in it. Modern times so the concoction was mixed in a garbage can with salt water and let sit and age overnite, would eat a Whitehat. That stuff was put down with a swab before the Holy Stoning began, that mix was used about once a month unless we were being bombarded with stack soot, the holy Stoning itself was done once a week and it never bleach anything by itself, carrying the Flag, all had to look good. Once had Mount 32 a 3"50 Dual Purpose Gun located on the Port Side aft of Turret Two on the main deck right outside the Admirals door to his living spaces, had several different Admirals and all were friendly and respectful to us working on that Mount, it was the Junior Officers that gave us fits. Photo a section of our Teak Deck.

 

Mk-33-gun-002.jpg.982e66706957bae153700f381896f6e6.jpg1230236894_DIRECTFROMCEARCLICK206.thumb.jpg.da12e281c484fcb1e8bc2b6b72e85af0.jpg

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A relatively mild solution of oxalic acid ("wood bleach" in the paint and hardware stores) or citric acid in water swabbed on will bleach teak well.  I never heard of the Navy's concoction you described. "Boiler compound" is some really nasty stuff. It's a very strong base and highly caustic. Mainly a sodium hydroxide/morpholine mixture. It's used for neutralizing acidity in boiler water. When it hits certain metals, it generates explosive hydrogen gas. When it's mixed with water, it creates heat. Burns when it comes in contact with skin. Thanks for the tasty bit of nautical trivia!

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Bob,

 

I like that: "Trivia Wonks." That's a "thing"for sure - and I'm going to unapologetically steal your phrase, but I'll use it "spar"- ingly.

BTW: I do like my models' decks to be a little dirty**, in a weathered light-to-dark grey in fact.😏

 

**Note that I've set someone up with a really good punchline here.

 

Ron

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31 minutes ago, hollowneck said:

That's a "thing"for sure - and I'm going to unapologetically steal your phrase, but I'll use it "spar"- ingly.

Go for it! This forum probably contains more nautical trivia, and nautical trivia wonks, than anywhere else on the internet. After all, isn't a ship model nothing more than a collection of nautical trivia when you get right down to it? Where else in the world do so few share so much about so little of interest to most other people!

Edited by Bob Cleek
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19 hours ago, wefalck said:

It's these trivia and their absence or getting them wrong that will be picked out by 'professionals' and old tars ... they are difficult to know, if you haven't been part of the story. Luckily, for anything older than WW2 hardly anyone is left, who really knew.

I suppose there aren't a lot of people out there today who know what "boiler compound" is, since it's something particular to steam engines. Perhaps it's still used on nuclear-powered ships today, since theirs are essentially steam turbine power plants. There are a few of us who, in our youth, had an unusual fascination for the subject and sought out those vanishing "old salts." Some were agreeable to sharing a lot of their experience with the "odd kids who were nuts about old boats." I was lucky to grow up in a seaport town with a father who worked his whole life in the shipping industry. You can pick up a lot by "osmosis."  It's not easy knowing the difference, though. It's hard not to roll your eyes when you see "glaring" errors in otherwise technically perfect models, but to do so risks causing hurt feelings. I have a hard time getting past "white" colored deadeye lanyards, for example. 

Edited by Bob Cleek
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