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Looking for advices on finishing choices for a clipper of Baltimore


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I have started the building of a Baltimore clipper (1800-1840) ship model many years ago.

Now I take it again and it seems to me that I didn't always make the good finishing choices.

It seems to me that I have too much used shiny varnish on some inboard wood components.

Before rigging I wish, if possible, to correct these choices. That is the reason why I should know which were the regular finishing look and colors applied on the masts, the spars and the bulwark on such a ship.

I imagine that it could be colorless products (oil, varnish, etc...), colored paints or not any product which were used on these surfaces.

I thank you for your advices.

Mike

 

 

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Mike,

 

Colors varied by nationality and by the cost of pigments. In the early 1800s in America there apparently weren't many choices. Howard Chapelle says in The Baltimore Clipper (Edward W. Sweetman Company, New York, 1968, page 170):

 

"The painting of the hull seems to have varied widely as yellow, black, green and blue were used, with white or black bands. On privateers, the inside of the bulwarks were often painted red or brown, but the decks were usually bright [unfinished]. Yellow and black were popular colors, however, for pilot boats in 1812-1814. They had yellow sides with black mouldings, wales, or trim. Very few were painted white, as it made them too prominent at a distance, which was considered naturally, a handicap during the war."

 

And that is the entirety of the references that I have found specific to the colors of Baltimore schooners!

 

If it was a navy ship it would be painted with standard navy color for the nationalitys. However, in the late 1700s and early 1800s American ships were often painted in British colors, although the US Navy had no official colors until sometime in the 1820s or 1830s. Some captains or ship owners used unorthodox color schemes.

 

I have read that deck houses and other deck furniture were often the same color as the inside of the bulwarks, at least up to about 1840 (red is popular with ship modelers). Then white deck furniture became popular. If you have ever been on a pitching deck in a rough sea on a dark rainy night you will appreciate the virtue of white or light colored deck furniture!

 

I have also read that less expensive ships were painted with the least expensive paints available, and Baltimore schooners were usually cheaply built.

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I own the book of Howard Chapelle, it is why the hull, that I have painted gloss white 30 years ago, is now mat dark blue with the upper white band.

 

I had finished walnut masts and spars whith gloss varnish. I realize now that it was a mistake. It is why I consider to sand masts and spars and then apply matt colorless oil. Is it a good idea ? 

 

Thanks

Mike

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It depends on how far along the assembly is.  If the masts are fixed in place or the rigging is started, I’d personally put it in my lessons learned file for next time and call it good.  If not, then there is no harm in sanding and refinishing, in my personal opinion, if that is what you want to do.

Edited by GrandpaPhil
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The best finish in my opinion for a model is Satin Wipe On Poly. This is a US product, but I believe there is a Euro equivalent. I’d recommend against stains and varnish, they are designed for furniture, not models, again in my opinion. At any rate I’d remove any gloss or semi-gloss product for satin or matte. 

 

Gun carriages are most commonly deep red, sometimes yellow. 
 

British ships had “white stuff” below the hull water line before copper plating, I don’t know that US ships did. The definitive Baltimore clipper, the Pride of Baltimore is a combination of dark green, black, and yellow. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/2/2020 at 8:59 AM, glbarlow said:

The best finish in my opinion for a model is Satin Wipe On Poly. This is a US product, but I believe there is a Euro equivalent.

"Satin Wipe-on Poly" is nothing more than thinned polyurethane coating. You are paying a lot of money for thinner! I've read that it isn't sold in Europe, where people simply thin the "full strength" polyurethane and achieve the same result. The same result can be achieved with a 50-50 mixture of linseed oil and turpentine. If you want faster drying, which isn't that much of a factor with thin coatings, you can add a bit of Japan dryer to the mix, or use "boiled" linseed oil, which isn't boiled at all, but simply has the Japan dryer added already.

 

Oops! I forgot to mention for "the youngsters" who may not be aware in this day and age, that rags and such soaked in linseed oil should always be properly hung to dry outdoors and disposed of in a covered metal can. This prevents spontaneous combustion which can occur hours after throwing them out. 

Edited by Bob Cleek
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2 minutes ago, glbarlow said:

I’m not sure than $13.95 is a lot of money as opposed to buying two and determining the proper mix and then having three cans to store. But it’s good those that don’t have access to Home Depot have options. 

Well, I'm assuming if one is using a solvent-based coating at all, they will also have to buy the solvent as well, for cleaning purposes, at least.

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The old gunsmith’s formula for finishing gunstocks is 1/3 linseed oil, 1/3 turpentine, and 1/3 varnish.  This is applied with a rag and rubbed out with a Mark 1 Mod 0 finger.

 

I mixed some up a while ago using  stuff on hand from previous projects; satin marine varnish (not polyurethane), boiled linseed oil, and real turpentine.  It works great, providing a hard satin finish.  It,keeps well in a screw top jar.

 

incidently, I have a big waste basket container in my shop where I keep a supply of tin cans, plastic yougart cups, etc.  like Bob says, don’t throw things away.

 

Roger

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If you have painted something with a thin glossy finish and you want semi-gloss you can just rub it with 0000 steel wool. Just be sure the finish is dry/hard before you use the steel wool. After rubbing with steel wool rub with a clean cloth to remove any fragments of the steel wool.

 

The white stuff used on hull bottoms was something like white lead and tallow. It sealed the wood and inhibited marine growth. It wasn't as good as copper, but was a lot cheaper and easier/faster to apply. Again it was a matter of cost.

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