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Greek Bireme by ObviousNewbie - Amati - 1/35 - A lot of Firsts

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Is there a chance it'd work better to draw the eye on with something like colored pencil or fine pen? That inherently gives the painted-on look without any decal film, and also lets you work naturally with the planking and its seams, just like on a full-size vessel. Might be worth testing with some scrap wood. For example, on my recent Viking ship project, I found that colored pencils created a really nice coloration effect on the shields, far better than paint.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi all, thnx for checking in. After a couple of weeks holiday the shipyard is open again 🙂 . Been reading through your comments while soaking up some mediterranean sun, and that got my mind working on testing all sorts of things.


Decided to ease into the build gently with the oars. Wasn't too happy with what the "instructions" suggested, so freewheeled a bit:




Left is the version from the instructions, middle and right I added some 1x4mm limewood sanded into shape.  Going for option 3!


An important part of the bow was still left to be done: the ram. The one provided by Amati felt a bit lacking, so decided to go look for some real world examples. Found out that, although cargo ships from that age are found regularly, hardly any military vessel is ever recovered. Apparently that's because these ships did not sink that easily, because when hit, the ballast (ie the rowers), abandoned ship, lightening the load and in most cases keeping the ship afloat to be captured by the opposite navy (found that out in a Youtube lecture from the person responsible for the Olympias reconstruction some years ago). Nevertheless, a ram was recovered and is sitting in an Israeli museum:




Important to note: scholars believe this to be a trireme ram, so fitted on a vessel much bigger and heavier than the bireme. Decided to try out some stuff with paper before committing:




Above is version one, a bit tiny compared to the reference material I gathered, so tried again:




Sizewise seems to be better, going to try now and add some curves to the sides, maybe extend the top a bit and round off the business end.


Also thought out under the Greek sun: the eye. Thanks to @Louie da fly@Thukydides@Cathead and @AVBiker for you input, in the end the reasoning I had was that decals might be too perfect to convey what I wanted to do, so tried out the coloured pencil approach (commandeered some pencils from the Rear Admiral). Tried it out on some plywood before moving to some test strips in walnut:




First try, but I really like the weathered look of it, gives it a bit of character 🙂 Still need to see how this will hold with varnish on top, that still needs to be tested.


Last mayor build on the hull are the wales. these run across the entire side of the hull and bend with the stern to the decoration on top.  Luckily some cutting boards were up for replacement, so....




I really should learn to ensure my clamps can actually reach the bent wood 🙂  Letting these dry for 24 hours, so looking forward to fitting them tomorrow. I outsourced the sail to a friend with a sewing machine, that should arrive early next week.


Also, not related, went to my supply store with the Admiral right before leaving on holiday, and this came back:




As the Admiral is into making Mediterranean diorama's, this caught her eye. So another build commission came up 🙂


Also, this came home:




I know I know, I said never again, but Bluenose has been on my wishlist for a long time, and I did some research before buying AND checked the contents of the box at the store, and lo and behold, it came with extensive instructions! And detailed plans and schematics! Looking forward to this one. Found out that the ornaments on the bow and the name were not included apparently, so I fired off an e-mail to Amati customer support 20 days ago to check. Still did not get an answer. Must be an Italian thing 🙂


Take care and stay safe!

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I am reading Homer’s The Odyssey, a modern English translation of the Greek text but in the original Greek Hexametric poetic form.  Much to my surprise I am enjoying it immensely.


Homer likes to use adjectives as literary devices to maintain the poetic cadence;  for example, the goddess Athena is always “Bright Eyed Athena.” With this in mind here’s what he repeatedly says about galleys:


They are usually described as Black Galleys and sometimes Well Balanced Galleys.


Rigging is always Plaited Oxhide Rigging.


They are always moored with their stern to the beach.


When they get underway Their Pine Mast is stepped into the Mast box.




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@ObviousNewbie, I am following with interest your build, being in the past interested in greek history and Homer poetry. I know that this is an unsolicited advise and I waited a lot before writing it. Please do not consider it if you think it is not worthwile.


It is about the eye that you are going to paint/apply on the bow of your ship. It seems that you are going to place the eye with an inclination and with a 'cartoonish' style so to render a kind of 'angry' or 'menaceus' look. I do not think that this should be the case. Please look at documents of the time, like the mosaic above or the numerous pieces of pottery that can be found on the web and you will find that the eye is generally represented with a 'hieratic' look, without any particular expression. The eye was not meant to convey fear to enemies, like a nose art of an airplane, but rather to protect the ship, to give to the ship the sense of sight that would help to navigate and follow safely the proper routes.


Best regards,


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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all, thnx for checking in. It's been very busy in non-shipyard activities, so progress on Ephialtes was slow. However, managed to get some work done, installed the rubbing strakes after bending them and re-used the cutting board to bend the brass decorations which go on top:




After that, had another look at the ram. Made paper prototypes both large and smaller than the ones I had, nothing seemed to really work looks-wise. Got a bit of a feeling the entire bow section wasn't really made for this kind of construction, so decided to give the little Amati ram a go. that seemed to make more sense, so decided to go for that one and adjust the wales and decorations accordingly.


I realise this is not the way some of you have gone, but at this point, with all the changes and additions I did, I got the feeling more and more this wasn't supposed to be an historically accurate version, but rather my own interpretation.


After bending the decorations, proceeded on the stern and worked my way forward:






I used @moreplovac's trick to attach the decorations, spacing the nails at equal distances. This also marked the first time I went electric: got a bit tired of trying to drill through thick brass and got out the Dremel.


Thank you @Danstream for the advice on the eye. I found it odd the eye on Olympias was drawn this way, so tried out some variants in paper. This is the one I'm going for:




Attached the meander decoration as well, and finalised all 44 oars. Now it's clean-up and correction time, and then waiting for the sail to be delivered.


Stay safe!



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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all, thnx for checking in. Quick update, testing for the eye is ongoing, with some setbacks but a lot of lessons learned:




Top two versions were done with coloured pencil, but as soon as the varnish went on, most of the colour disappeared into the brush and the rest got smeared out. Not a good start. I then tried with painting the white and adding the eye on top in pencil (middle three, top left). That didn't work out too good either. It has to be said that I don't consider myself as a painter, more as a smearer, so I try to avoid brushes whenever possible (the irony is: one of the ships highest on my wishlist currently is the Vasa, try getting that one built without touching a paintbrush 🙂 ).


Took a deep breath and decided to forego the pencils and use actual paint. I was assisted for the black lines by some Molotow blackliners of 1 and 0,5mm. Top right was a first try, also tested how well the paint would come off by with sanding if anything went wrong. Bottom left is the last test, which I think works out OK. Now to finalise a process to ensure the positioning is identical on both sides of the bow, and then convincing myself to actually take a brush to Ephialtes itself...


Take care and stay safe!

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Hi all, eventfull weekend behind us: took several deep breaths, tested, retested and measured, and went for it:






Made sure I cut out the masking tape from the same template, and NOT on the hull itself (again, the value of testing off-boat). Put down first layer of Tamiya matt white, but dotted, instead of brushing. Allowed to dry, then applied second template for the iris, used Vallejo royal Blue. After dying, used the Molotow Blackliners, 1mm for the eye, 0,5mm for the iris. Here's what I came up with:






Wanted to make sure Ephialtes didn't end up cross-eyed, so each step was followed by measuring and re-measuring. It's not perfect, but I'm happy with the result.


After that, apply varnish, attached the ram, added another display stand as the Anti one was not to my liking, some final corrections and Ephialtes' hull is finished:






As said, the mast, yard and oars are all ready, waiting for the delivery of the sail now, which might take some weeks 😞  Rudders are ready too, but, knowing myself, they will be fitted last in order to avoid any "accidents".


As soon as the sail arrives, she'll go back to the shipyard, in the meantime, those closed kit boxes are starting to look very tempting...


Stay safe!

Edited by ObviousNewbie
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