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Tips on rigging small ships

Go to solution Solved by Bob Cleek,

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Hi everyone! Im new to ship modeling and i recently started my first ship, the AL Bon Retour. I have looked a lot of information up in this forum (you guys are amazing) and in others. Im hoping, once the ship is done, to upload the final producto for you guys to see.

Im at the point where the hull has been planked and painted over, and im moving to rigging. This has proven to be very challenging, since AL kits dont usually come with a lot of pictures, and understanding the diagrams for a novice like me is taking me some time.

I have a question. There are some "blocks" on the mast of this boat which lines loop around and apply tension to. I will attach a picture so you will know whatim talking about. My question is how do i do them. I know i need to "file" the mast to the appropiate width. Do i work around filing? Do i just prepare a piece of wood and glue it with PVA?


I need some advice. And sorry for bad english

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What you are asking about are called "bolsters." (See diagram below.) They are simply pieces of wood fastened to the side of the mast which keep the strop from sliding down the mast. You should fashion them from wood and glue them to the mast where you want them, but then drill two or three small holes through the bolster and into the mast and glue small wooden pegs (made with a draw plate) into the holes and sand the top of the peg flush with the face of the bolster, or, alternately, glue a brass pin in the drilled hole, set slightly deeper than the face of the bolster, and fill the top of the hole with a bit of putty and sand fair with the face of the bolster. The pins are necessary to make sure the bolster will be able to stand the load when the rigging is under tension.  Glue alone may not be sufficiently strong to do so. The strops are made up separate from the mast "on the bench" and then installed by sliding them over the top of the mast and down onto the bolster when the mast is rigged. This will require your planning the sequence of setting up the standing rigging so you can get the shrouds and stays over the mast in the correct order. It's generally easiest to rig as much of a mast or spar "on the bench" before installing it on the model, because it is far more difficult to do the work if one has to do so when the mast is erected.







Your kit may have provided the eye-bolts you have pictured on the mast about. The pictured eye-bolts are are grossly over-sized and out of scale. If your kit's eye-bolts are out of scale, as is often the case with kit parts, I would urge you to replace them with eye-bolts that are properly scaled. The ones pictured are at least two or three times as large as they ought to be. They also lack mast bands. (See diagrams, lower left, above.) In real life, these eyes would be part of a metal band set around the mast, not eye-bolts simply screwed into the mast. The mast band is a much stronger fitting. Mast bands can be simulated in modeling by gluing a thin strip of black paper around the mast, then drilling holes through the paper band and into the mast and gluing the eyes into those holes.


This video on making your own eye-bolts may be helpful to you.



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Thank you very much Bob! Your comment was incredibly helpfull. I studied the instructions and now im rigging the whole ship!I will do a build log once its completed


Here is a photo of the bolsters i made following your instructions. I must add, i added a drop of transparent resin in order to secure the pin through the bolster into the mast. That way its almost imposible for it to move, as i found that with CA glue the joint was still a little bit brittle.


Again thanks for your help!




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  • 3 weeks later...
1 hour ago, BobG said:

The diagrams are excellent, Bob. What was your source for them? 


I found them on Google Images at https://www.frankhagan.com/weekender/gaffhaly.htm. The diagrams, from that website, are originally from John Leather's Gaff Rig Handbook, a highly thought of authoritative work. The discussion related in the text, as it turns out, cites commentary from two acquaintances of mine, Andrew Craig Bennet and Ian McColgin, both highly knowledgeable on the subject of traditional rigging details. The point of the article, it seems, is "different ships, different long splices." There's no absolute "right way" to rig a gaff peak halyard, but some are a lot better than others.


If you are looking for a good book to add to your library, Leather's The Gaff Rig Handbook is a must on the subject. I'll add that modern "rigging books" written for modelers are often abbreviated and generalized, if not full of errors. They're sort of the Cliff's Notes on the subject. Books written on rigging full-size prototype vessels are much more useful to modelers, generally speaking. The detective work that goes into building an accurate period model is a fascinating aspect of the hobby to some and if you are one of those modelers, you will find contemporary rigging manuals such as those by Biddlecombe, Lever, and Steel invaluable and, fortunately, readily available in reprints and even in free PDF format online (courtesy of our sponsors, below.)






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A very useful tool is a pair of self locking lock-wire pliers for twisting up eye-bolts very quickly.

With a bit of patience, they are brilliant for twisting up long lengths of copper wire to make 'rope', which can be used for items like foot-ropes or boat falls which can hold a curve or stay straight, when thread won't.


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6 hours ago, Bob Cleek said:

The diagrams, from that website, are originally from John Leather's Gaff Rig Handbook, a highly thought of authoritative work.

Thanks very much, Bob. I got a Kindle version of the Gaff Rig Handbook. How to rig the gaff peak halyard on my Pen Duick has been driving me crazy since the Artesania Latina plans and instructions for it are useless. I will look into the other sources you listed also.


Thanks again...much appreciated.

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4 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

I also recommend Tom Cunliffe’s Hand, Reef, and Steer, a book on rigging and sailing traditional gaff rigged craft.

I recently bought that book. It's excellent.

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