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Posted (edited)

I have read somewhere but can't remember the source ( I have read that much of late) that pre-soaking the ratlines in diluted PVA  glue and allowed to dry makes the ratlines look better. However prior to fitting them they must be wetted again to make them soft again. Just wondering ifthere is any advantage in doing this or is just waxing the rat lines sufficient? How many of you modelers pre soaking your rat lines or do you think it is worth a try? Best regards Dave

Edited by DaveBaxt
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I've never heard of such a process. I tie the ratlines on the shrouds and then I apply white shellac, which soaks into the thread and locks the stiches. As the alcohol evaporates, the thread will stiffen as the shellac dries. This permits shaping any desired catenary into the ratlines. Some others used thinned PVA instead of shellac. I prefer shellac because is is easily dissolved by an application of denatured alcohol. PVA can also be dissolved in isopropyl alcohol, but with more difficulty and mess than shellac. 

 

Perhaps others have a different technique.

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29 minutes ago, Bob Cleek said:

I've never heard of such a process. I tie the ratlines on the shrouds and then I apply white shellac, which soaks into the thread and locks the stiches. As the alcohol evaporates, the thread will stiffen as the shellac dries. This permits shaping any desired catenary into the ratlines. Some others used thinned PVA instead of shellac. I prefer shellac because is is easily dissolved by an application of denatured alcohol. PVA can also be dissolved in isopropyl alcohol, but with more difficulty and mess than shellac. 

 

Perhaps others have a different technique.

I am no expert and only a beginner and wonder if the procedure I have mentioned would prevent the mess as you suggested when using PVA. Just a thought. I have also been informed ( from an old book) that once the rigging is completed it is then varnished. Is this still carried out today. Thanks for your input and for another way forward. Just wondering if you use shellac on any other rigging other than the rat lines.

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Personally, I prefer 'zapon varnish', rather than shellac, because it is less brittle. Zapon varnish is cellulose nitrate dissolved in a mixture of amylacetate, ethanol, and ethylacetate. It is the varnish that is commonly used to prevent the tarnishing of silver or brass objects. It is almost invisible, but can also easily dissolved with acetone.

 

I would be cautious to varnish rigging wholesale. Varnishing with shellac could make it rather brittle. I gather some people did it to keep humidity out of rigging. At least in central and northern Europe we tend to have now proper central heating so this is not an issue anymore. In the UK and southern Europe it is probably still different ;)  Some very dilute shellac or zapon varnish can be used to coerce certain rigging elements into the 'natural' catena curves you would see on the prototype, but for which on a model the ropes are too stiff and lightweight.

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Thank you for your replyies and this is obviously something I need to think of carefully before going ahead, AS this will be the first time I will be doing ratlines perhaps I need to try doing them without pva on them and see how I get on, once I have mastered the technique, perhaps then I can consider attempting trying pre soaking a few pieces and see if there is any difference. Best regards Dave

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43 minutes ago, wefalck said:

I would advice against pre-soaking.

I would too, simply because I would image that through handling the tackiness of the line will be prone to picking up (and retaining) all manner of dust and debris thereby making your end result a bit messy?

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1 hour ago, wefalck said:

How do you want to tie the stiff, pre-soaked threads then ? Also, you may not be able to tighten the knots sufficiently with the stiff material. I would advice against pre-soaking. I understand  that is why the lines are moistend before using.

 

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Hi Dave,

Have you thought about using bee's wax on your rigging? I use it all the time for most of the rigging I do. it adds a bit of stiffness to the thread you're working with and it does away with the "fuzziness" of the thread as well. Try drawing the thread through the wax a couple of times. It also adds a little tackiness to the thread which helps hold it in place to certain contact points and holds knots a bit better.

The only places to put glue on rigging is on the knots to make them permanent. However, I prefer dulcotte laquer on my knots, using a paint brush.

Hope this is a help.

Cheers,

Peter

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The jury is still out on longevity, but even museums nowadays seem to prefer polyester threads, such as Gütermann's Mara (which is what Chuck Passaro seems to use for his ropes). There is little or no fuss on such ropes and no need anymore to mess around with dust-catching tacky bees wax.

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I suspect the beeswax thing is another of those passed down tales. I believe that heavy thread was waxed years ago to make sewing by hand easier. Some ship model maker saw this and thought "Hey, it makes my coarse thread less hairy," and used it. Word spread and every ship modeler started waxing their thread, whether it needed it or not. Somehow the idea of preservation got into the mix, in spite of the fact that beeswax is slightly acidic. That's my theory, anyway!

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Shoemakers do it regularly, but they don't use real beeswax, but rather some sort of pitch with wax mixture. It comes in little blocks and thread is drawn between the finger and the block, the friction heat helping to impregnate the thread. However, when sewing shoes, some waterproofing makes sense.

 

If I felt compelled to use wax for historic or other mystic reasons, I would use a hairdryer or a hot-air gun to melt the wax into the thread at least, before using it.

 

It always amazes me, how certain age-old practices are perpetrated simply because they are age-old practices and therefore must be good ...

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The instructions for my old Revell Constitution (the instructions are from 1964), a big plastic model with fairly complete rigging, recomends using beeswax. The purpose of this is: "This will protect the tread from moisture when you have completed the assembly."

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, DaveBaxt said:

I am no expert and only a beginner and wonder if the procedure I have mentioned would prevent the mess as you suggested when using PVA. Just a thought. I have also been informed ( from an old book) that once the rigging is completed it is then varnished. Is this still carried out today. Thanks for your input and for another way forward. Just wondering if you use shellac on any other rigging other than the rat lines.

No. The procedure you have mentioned would create a big mess. Do some experimenting before you commit to any approach and draw your own conclusions. You will find that while thinned PVA will stiffen thread somewhat, wetting it again will do nothing to change that after the PVA has cured. If you want to dissolve PVA, you can do so by soaking in isopropyl alcohol, which will soften the PVA in the thread and leave you with sticky thread to work with which makes no sense to me at all. 

 

I don't see the need to shellac all fiber rigging. i use it when I want to "set" a knot that may potentially come undone (especially if the bitter end is cut off close to the knot, in which case i cut off the bitter end after the shellac has dried. In addition to using shellac to "set" catenaries to shape and to make reefing points lay naturally flat against sails, I also shellac coils of rigging line which I want to hang naturally as the prototype would. (Round "donuts" of coiled line on belaying pins look really stupid.) Others, like Eberhard, use thinned cellulose nitrate lacquer, which I believe the British call "nail varnish," which behaves pretty much the same as shellac, but thins with acetone instead of alcohol. Having used both, my own preference is for shellac, which is inexpensive and easy to work with and serves also as my all-purpose sealer on all bare wood. Shellac is about as impervious to moisture as any material available. Its archival qualities are also well-proven. Which of the two to use on rigging is, I believe, simply a matter of personal preference. 

 

I routinely used beeswax to eliminate the fuzz from rigging lines for some time, but abandoned it in favor of simply passing the line through a flame quickly to singe off the fuzz. (A technique called "flame finishing" in the thread industry. You will see some thread described as "flame finished" on the label. This means the thread has been "de-fuzzed" during manufacture.) I found the beeswax tended to prevent the shellac from soaking into the thread and risked imparting a slight gloss shine where the shellac dried on top of the beeswax. As mentioned, beeswax is also acidic and seems to catch dust easily. "Flame finishing" works very effectively and the modern polyester threads, such as the mentioned Gutermann Mara brand, have little, if any fuzz and appear to have been given the imprimatur of knowledgeable museum curators as to their archival longevity, in Europe, at least. 

 

Druxey is correct that beeswax is used by leather workers to lubricate sewing cord and was used by others generally to lubricate thread. This became essential when sewing machines came into use and the friction of the thread passing through the eye of the needles created so much heat that the thread would burn (or melt with synthetics) and break unless it was lubricated. Modernly, most all thread is sold pre-lubricated (or "pre-finished" as the term is used in the trade,) so there's no reason to need to use beeswax to lubricate it.

 

As you are new to the craft, I would strongly urge you to experiment extensively before you try anything on your model. All experienced modelers do this. Experiment on scraps that can be easily discarded thereafter. Your model is the last place you want to "try out new techniques." Always test paints and varnishes for finish and color suitability, and compatibility with any underlying coatings, before starting to paint your finished work. Rather frequently, a color won't be just right or a paint will do something unexpected, like wrinkle or "orange peel" or just bead up and not stick or dry when applied on an incompatible underlying finish. You'll save yourself a lot of grief by testing beforehand.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Bob Cleek said:

No. The procedure you have mentioned would create a big mess. Do some experimenting before you commit to any approach and draw your own conclusions. You will find that while thinned PVA will stiffen thread somewhat, wetting it again will do nothing to change that after the PVA has cured. If you want to dissolve PVA, you can do so by soaking in isopropyl alcohol, which will soften the PVA in the thread and leave you with sticky thread to work with which makes no sense to me at all. 

 

I don't see the need to shellac all fiber rigging. i use it when I want to "set" a knot that may potentially come undone (especially if the bitter end is cut off close to the knot, in which case i cut off the bitter end after the shellac has dried. In addition to using shellac to "set" catenaries to shape and to make reefing points lay naturally flat against sails, I also shellac coils of rigging line which I want to hang naturally as the prototype would. (Round "donuts" of coiled line on belaying pins look really stupid.) Others, like Eberhard, use thinned cellulose nitrate lacquer, which I believe the British call "nail varnish," which behaves pretty much the same as shellac, but thins with acetone instead of alcohol. Having used both, my own preference is for shellac, which is inexpensive and easy to work with and serves also as my all-purpose sealer on all bare wood. Shellac is about as impervious to moisture as any material available. Its archival qualities are also well-proven. Which of the two to use on rigging is, I believe, simply a matter of personal preference. 

 

I routinely used beeswax to eliminate the fuzz from rigging lines for some time, but abandoned it in favor of simply passing the line through a flame quickly to singe off the fuzz. (A technique called "flame finishing" in the thread industry. You will see some thread described as "flame finished" on the label. This means the thread has been "de-fuzzed" during manufacture.) I found the beeswax tended to prevent the shellac from soaking into the thread and risked imparting a slight gloss shine where the shellac dried on top of the beeswax. As mentioned, beeswax is also acidic and seems to catch dust easily. "Flame finishing" works very effectively and the modern polyester threads, such as the mentioned Gutermann Mara brand, have little, if any fuzz and appear to have been given the imprimatur of knowledgeable museum curators as to their archival longevity, in Europe, at least. 

 

Druxey is correct that beeswax is used by leather workers to lubricate sewing cord and was used by others generally to lubricate thread. This became essential when sewing machines came into use and the friction of the thread passing through the eye of the needles created so much heat that the thread would burn (or melt with synthetics) and break unless it was lubricated. Modernly, most all thread is sold pre-lubricated (or "pre-finished" as the term is used in the trade,) so there's no reason to need to use beeswax to lubricate it.

 

As you are new to the craft, I would strongly urge you to experiment extensively before you try anything on your model. All experienced modelers do this. Experiment on scraps that can be easily discarded thereafter. Your model is the last place you want to "try out new techniques." Always test paints and varnishes for finish and color suitability, and compatibility with any underlying coatings, before starting to paint your finished work. Rather frequently, a color won't be just right or a paint will do something unexpected, like wrinkle or "orange peel" or just bead up and not stick or dry when applied on an incompatible underlying finish. You'll save yourself a lot of grief by testing beforehand.

Thank you Bob. It is obvious to me that you are very knowledgble in model ship building and I bow to your prior experience and forgive me if I have frustrated  you in any way. It is  interesting to know that there are so many different views in this hobby and not always helped by so many different media to choose from and not all being correct. I would also like to thank you for what seems to me like sound advice regarding testing different things away from the model before trying it on the actual model itself. As regards pre soaking of ratlines before fitting them to the model, which has not been backed up by any other person and is strongly ill advised by a number of people I will therefore send this idea to the bin rather than attempt any experiments or otherwise. 

                     It is also interesting to here what you and others are saying regards Bees wax. Something which I have been using from the beginning. I do find it makes the thread easier to work with  but did not find it was of any use with reducing the fuzz, when threading eyes and blocks etc ,especially when using the  lighter thread, which being a lot worse

than the black thread. I am assuming the lighter thread is hemp and the black thread being synthetic but I could be wrong. 

               I would like to thank you again Bob for yours and anyone elses  patience in tying to help me with this hobby and look forward to any future help I may need. I believe if it was not for the help of people like your good self and others on this wonderful forum ,I would not have got this far with my first build of a period model. Best regards Dave

Ps  Perhaps I should win an award for the most help received in building a model ship

Edited by DaveBaxt
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3 hours ago, DaveBaxt said:

forgive me if I have frustrated  you in any way.

Not at all. I'm happy to be able to share what experience I have. That said, compared to the skill and experience of many forumites, I'm just a journeyman and hardly a master!

 

One other general observation I can share is that in recent decades amateur ship modeling has advanced greatly and what we see being done by hobbyists now is often many times more accurate and refined than the norm even thirty or forty years ago when many of us geezers were cutting out teeth on primitive kit models. The internet has made so much more information readily available and forums like this one have exponentially increased communication within the field. This has in some ways rendered things in the older books on the subject obsolete as new tools, materials, and techniques have been developed. The old ways still work, but not everything in the old books is current practice.

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6 minutes ago, Bob Cleek said:

Not at all. I'm happy to be able to share what experience I have. That said, compared to the skill and experience of many forumites, I'm just a journeyman and hardly a master!

 

One other general observation I can share is that in recent decades amateur ship modeling has advanced greatly and what we see being done by hobbyists now is often many times more accurate and refined than the norm even thirty or forty years ago when many of us geezers were cutting out teeth on primitive kit models. The internet has made so much more information readily available and forums like this one have exponentially increased communication within the field. This has in some ways rendered things in the older books on the subject obsolete as new tools, materials, and techniques have been developed. The old ways still work, but not everything in the old books is current practice.

Thanks for sharing that with me Bob. Unfortunately I think a lot of what I have picked up might be old methods and now not necessarily be the best way forward. I have now gained a number of books most of which have helped me with the basics but not necessarily accurate and although possibly get you by but better procedures, tools and information are now available. Unfortunately it is not always easy when so many procedures are done in different ways. Although it is sometimes frustrating I nearly always check on this forum what peoples thought on the subject are. Home this makes sense. Best regards Dave

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There is a sort of feeling among many people, artists, museum conservators, modellers, that old methods are better and time proven, but time has proven that some of the practices used in the past are not as good as one might think.

 

Today, our scientific understanding of materials and their interactions is much better than it was 50, 100 or even more years ago. We can have a more rational approach to materials use and don't need to do something simply because that it is how it was done always.

 

Doing things the way they were always done never was a good reason for me. A reflection on why something is done and for what purpose is always helpful and helps also to better judge 'advice' from books or fora.

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11 hours ago, wefalck said:

Doing things the way they were always done never was a good reason for me. A reflection on why something is done and for what purpose is always helpful and helps also to better judge 'advice' from books or fora.

Quite true, so long as it's tempered with the realization that if something has been done one way for a long time, it is more likely than not to work well and was the product of a greater number of minds better than one's own. New materials provide opportunities for innovation and improvement, but new materials must be viewed with considered suspicion until they, too, have stood the test of time. It must also be remembers than new ideas come along a lot less frequently than new materials and few, if any of us, ever have an original one. As Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Dave,

 

I am in the midst of my Caldercraft 1:72 Victory, and had the same questions as I approached the ratlines.  I wasn't happy with the rope supplied with the kit, so I made my own using Coats Quilt+ 100% cotton thread and Chuck's Syren Rope Rocket.  The thread mics up  at about 0.010", and has little or no fuzz. The smallest diameter rope I could make with the thread is two turns, which makes a rope about 0.013" dia.  I tried that as ratlines, but it looked too big ( at scale of 1:72 it would have been almost an inch in diameter).  So, I opted to use a single thread of the Coats for the ratlines.  I developed a method (not saying it's right, but it worked for me).  I wanted to have each ratline terminate at the 1st and last shrouds with a spliced eye, and clove hitches on the intermediate shrouds.  I made the eyes by piercing the thread at one end, making a loop to form the eye.  I then wetted the line with 50/50 Elmer's School Glue and stretched it taut.  Elmer's SG has the property that it dries hard and clear, but will soften again when dampened.  To begin, I started on the right-hand shroud (only because I am right-handed) and lashed the eye in place. Note that having a pattern in the background is a must, as is placing temporary spreaders at points up and down the shroud set to prevent pulling them out of alignment.  Lightly dampen the line with wet fingers to soften it as you work. Place the clove hitches on the shrouds as you work your way towards the left.  When you get to the last shroud, lash the line in place, then pierce the thread again to make the final eye in place.  Put a dab of Elmer's at either end at the eye splices to hold them in vertical position according to your background pattern. Don't worry too much about the vertical position of the intermediate knots; they will slide up and down the shrouds slightly later on when you do the final alignment.  After all is done, a final 50/50 wash with the Elmer's darkened with a little black paint locks everything in place.

 

I know this sound involved, but I'll add a few pix to show what I mean.  If it interests you, let me know and I'll post some more details on the methods used to make and install the ratlines.

Regards,

Ted

P1030699.JPG

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P1030702.JPG

P1030703.JPG

P1030704.JPG

P1030706.JPG

P1030707.JPG

P1030709.JPG

P1030752.JPG

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8 hours ago, tedrobinson2000 said:

Hi Dave,

 

I am in the midst of my Caldercraft 1:72 Victory, and had the same questions as I approached the ratlines.  I wasn't happy with the rope supplied with the kit, so I made my own using Coats Quilt+ 100% cotton thread and Chuck's Syren Rope Rocket.  The thread mics up  at about 0.010", and has little or no fuzz. The smallest diameter rope I could make with the thread is two turns, which makes a rope about 0.013" dia.  I tried that as ratlines, but it looked too big ( at scale of 1:72 it would have been almost an inch in diameter).  So, I opted to use a single thread of the Coats for the ratlines.  I developed a method (not saying it's right, but it worked for me).  I wanted to have each ratline terminate at the 1st and last shrouds with a spliced eye, and clove hitches on the intermediate shrouds.  I made the eyes by piercing the thread at one end, making a loop to form the eye.  I then wetted the line with 50/50 Elmer's School Glue and stretched it taut.  Elmer's SG has the property that it dries hard and clear, but will soften again when dampened.  To begin, I started on the right-hand shroud (only because I am right-handed) and lashed the eye in place. Note that having a pattern in the background is a must, as is placing temporary spreaders at points up and down the shroud set to prevent pulling them out of alignment.  Lightly dampen the line with wet fingers to soften it as you work. Place the clove hitches on the shrouds as you work your way towards the left.  When you get to the last shroud, lash the line in place, then pierce the thread again to make the final eye in place.  Put a dab of Elmer's at either end at the eye splices to hold them in vertical position according to your background pattern. Don't worry too much about the vertical position of the intermediate knots; they will slide up and down the shrouds slightly later on when you do the final alignment.  After all is done, a final 50/50 wash with the Elmer's darkened with a little black paint locks everything in place.

 

I know this sound involved, but I'll add a few pix to show what I mean.  If it interests you, let me know and I'll post some more details on the methods used to make and install the ratlines.

Regards,

Ted

P1030699.JPG

P1030701.JPG

P1030702.JPG

P1030703.JPG

P1030704.JPG

P1030706.JPG

P1030707.JPG

P1030709.JPG

P1030752.JPG

Thanks for that . You have put in a lot of work into that but clearly worth it as the end product looks very neat and tidy. Something worth considering for the future. Best regards Dave

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