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Yellow Ochre versus Gold Paint for ship's carvings.


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It seems that prototype practices varied over time and region (as always). However, if anything was gilded than it may have been only certain details or elements, to provide highlights on otherwise decorations painted in ochre.

 

Conversely, contemporary models often show a more liberal use of gold, being decorative objects already in their time. 

 

I gather, the question is, do you want to show the ship as she appeared in real life or do you want to create a decorative object ?

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I definitely fall into the non-gold camp as well...my personal opinion is that the gold actually cheapens the look of a model.  I also suspect that gold paint was not used (did it even exist at this period?) and that actual gold leaf would have been the method used.

 

I recently obtained a copy of "Old Ship Figureheads and Sterns", in it the author alludes to the very elaborate and complex figureheads of the mid 1700's on 1st and 2nd rates (Victory of 1737 and Royal George 1756 being illustrated) were only partially 'guilded' on the primary element, with supporting details being painted.

Edited by Beef Wellington
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15 hours ago, Beef Wellington said:

I definitely fall into the non-gold camp as well...my personal opinion is that the gold actually cheapens the look of a model.  I also suspect that gold paint was not used (did it even exist at this period?) and that actual gold leaf would have been the method used.

No opinion on the question of usage, but it appears gold paint called Shell Gold existed as early as the 12th Century (https://www.materializedidentities.com/single-post/2017/02/03/shell-gold-production-usage-and-handling-of-a-historical-artisanal-technique-including). Basically finely ground gold leaf in a binder.

 

Regards,

George K

Edited by gak1965
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Good Evening All;

 

To add to the correct information in all those previous posts:

 

In the early 17th century, quite a number of the carved parts of ships were covered with genuine gold. This is clear from the specific phrase used in the accounts: 'gilding with fine gold', and was applied to, for example, 'sundry garnishings and embossing on the galleries and head'; as well as more specifically 'the beast' (ie the figurehead) and the king's arms and badges. 

 

Gilding is specified in contracts, for finishing the king's arms in the stern, right up until the early 18th century, and probably continued to be used for prestige first rate ships for some time afterwards. 

 

After this, the cost meant that it was normal practice to paint features with yellow ochre; at least on Navy ships. Royal yachts, however, were definitely gilded. Bills for such works survive from Charles II's reign, with references to gold size as part of the process. The number of books of gold leaf used on the Royal Caroline of 1749 is mentioned in letters from the dockyard; and the cost of gilding is mentioned as a separate item in various accounts for the same vessel, and others; normally a substantial sum, far in excess of what paint would have cost. In addition, references occur to making surfaces ready for gilding, and the difficulties of gilding in inclement weather. 

 

With regard to the Sphinx, it is by far most likely that, as agreed above, yellow ochre paint would have been used. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 1/29/2022 at 11:32 AM, Landlubber Mike said:

If you do decide to go with gold, consider Gilder's Paste Wax.  You rub it in and if done lightly, you will already get lowlights and highlights.  I'm probably going to go this route on the gold accents of my LAR.

 

image.png.05990269d9d3f96c1aa08ad93afed663.png

Picture please when you get her done! 😀

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Mark

I'm coming rather late to this thread, but as a fellow Sphinx builder I've been going through the same thought process.

Recently, I've had a look at examples of18th century heraldic art, which you can often find in churches and museums.  In almost all examples, like the one below, the artist has represented the gold effect by the use of shades of yellow ochre and, if you look closely at the lion in this example, what could be red ochre to look like gold in shade.

 

It's convinced me, and I'm anticipating having a lot of fun in using these colours to make the Sphinx friezes, stern, and figurehead look contemporary and realistic.

 

 

 

image.jpeg.139d4f8773b97159366359f2ad3284d0.jpeg

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I have recently been reading about scale effect of paints.  As colors appear more muted and grey from farther away.  The same effect applies to models. The smaller the scale, the more muted and grey the color should be.

 

That leads to considerations for bright metals on models; copper sheathing and the gold carvings under discussion. While I know that in both cases there is a desire to use the real thing, a more convincing effect might be gained with paint where the color can be controlled.

 

Roger 

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When I reach a milestone that I have set for myself I have considered taking a break from my Benjamin Noble Lake Freighter Model to build a simple c1800 vessel that I have found.  As this vessel would have been coppered, I am interested in simulating copper sheathing with thin paper or silkspan, painted to resemble aged copper.  IMHO this would be a vast improvement over kit supplied embossed copper tiles stuck on with pressure sensitive adhesive.

 

Right now it’s just a mental exercise.

 

Roger

 

 

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11 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

I have recently been reading about scale effect of paints.  As colors appear more muted and grey from farther away.  The same effect applies to models. The smaller the scale, the more muted and grey the color should be.

 

That leads to considerations for bright metals on models; copper sheathing and the gold carvings under discussion. While I know that in both cases there is a desire to use the real thing, a more convincing effect might be gained with paint where the color can be controlled.

 

Roger 

 

I've also become more aware of the "viewing distance effects" on paint colors. (As I recall, there's an excellent article on the subject in Volume II of Ship Modeler's Shop Notes.) That said, real gold leaf has remarkable reflective qualities which greatly exceed that of paint colors. Back in my classic yacht transom name painting days, I'd mix yellow "One Shot" with a touch of red to get a "gold" colored paint that was a presentable substitute, but it was never possible to duplicate the reflective quality of real gold leaf with paint. (To my eye, "gold" paint containing metal dust or flakes never really looks like real gold leaf.) 

 

Since we don't have any ships covered in real gold leaf these days, I had to go elsewhere to find an example of gold leaf viewed at a distance. After the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake in the S.F. Bay Area, the San Francisco City Hall was "earthquake retrofitted" with a total rebuild and restoration. My cousins' painting and decorating company won the contract for the painting on the job, which included gold leafing accents throughout the building and on the dome, which is larger than the dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. That job is about thirty years old now and the gold leaf they applied appears to still be in excellent condition. Being the most noble metal, gold doesn't weather at all and, so long as the sizing adhering it to the surface remains intact, it is a very long-lasting finish.

 

As can be seen from the below selection of Google images of the dome taken at different viewing distances and light conditions, the gold leaf "jumps out" remarkably, even when in the shade. Its reflective quality really makes it stand out like nothing else. When I gold leafed varnished yacht transom lettering, I'd lay down a few coats of clear varnish over the gold leaf so that the transom could be lightly sanded to key it for later maintenance varnish coats without damaging the gold leaf. This compromise had the effect of slightly reducing the gold's reflective qualities, but not so much that it impaired the intended effect. I think the fact that the color and brightness of gold leaf doesn't doesn't "mute" at the same rate as paint as the viewing distance increases, at model "scale viewing distances" "gold" paint or gold leaf should be muted much less than regular model colors need to be muted to compensate for the same scale viewing distance. Some experimentation is in order, but I'd expect a very light wash of a clear matte finish might tone down the gold's reflective qualities enough to yield the desired realistic scale effect. 

 

Parenthetically, I asked my cousin the cost of the gold leaf they applied on that job and he demurred, explaining that there was a non-disclosure provision in the job contract prohibiting their ever disclosing the price of the gold leaf because the politicians were afraid of the backlash they might get from their constituents who, if they knew the price, might think they should have used faux gold paint instead! :D 

 

 

17163125385_cf2efb9434_b.jpg

 

15713135555_e1bd4a7a1e_b.jpg

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3339/3313699165_3f0681016c_z.jpg?zz=1

 

3282357444_17f08708bc_z.jpg

 

 

 

 

dometop3.jpg

Edited by Bob Cleek
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1 hour ago, Roger Pellett said:

As this vessel would have been coppered, I am interested in simulating copper sheathing with thin paper or silkspan, painted to resemble aged copper.  IMHO this would be a vast improvement over kit supplied embossed copper tiles stuck on with pressure sensitive adhesive.

 

Yes, I think this is an excellent option. Small pieces of silkspan may be too fragile to work well, but a very thin paper laid in wet shellac, and then sealed with thin shellac worked well for me. The thickness of the thin paper should approximate the thickness of the prototype copper sheets and the laps should be quire subtle at scale viewing distance. In scales below a quarter inch to the foot, the tacks are not really barely visible at all at scale viewing distances. A very realistic appearing coppered bottom can then be crafted by airbrushing a basecoat of "tarnished copper penny brown" and adding then patchy accents of varying shades of dirty greens and dark browns to simulate fouling, together with a verdigris band at the waterline where the copper develops a patina as it is exposed to the air. (I've used color photos of coppered bottoms from Googled images for "inspiration.")  It can be a tedious exercise in artistic "weathering," but it's very effective if you are showing the hull as it would appear shortly after it was hauled out. For an "as launched" bottom, I'd just use the "copper brown" and skip the weathering patina. I know there was some variation in the color of individual plates, depending upon how much weathering the plate got before it was hung on the hull, and some photos will show a "shiny copper" finish contrasting with the oxidized plates where a plate has just been replaced during a haul out, but, myself, I'd find attaching a patchwork quilt of separately colored individual plates at those scales truly crazy-making. I think it's fair to fudge a little on a hull below the waterline. It is probably the last part of a model to which the viewer's eyes are drawn and an "artistic impression" there is sufficient.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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I think the different aspects of colours and details as a function of viewing distance is an old dilemma for 'realistic' modellers. A modell will be viewed from a wide variety of distances and angles, unless it is set into a diorama-box that fixes these variables. 

 

If you design the model to be viewed from a certain distance, it will look cruede, when oberserved close-up. Have a look at e.g. a painting by Caneletto: paintings are normally designed to be viewed from a distance of about the length of the picture diagonal - from this distance his paintings give a vivid impression of life in 18th century Venice. However, when you put your nose on it (or as close as the security measures in the museums permit), you will only see some pretty shapeless blobs of paint. So, we have to build our models to be viewed from close-up or prevent this by the setting in which a model is to be displayed.

 

Concerning the question of ochre vs. gold, this also depends on what kind of model your a building. If it is going to be a 'realistic' one then you will have to take the above considerations into account and also follow the full-scale practice, where indeed parts may not have been gilded, but painted in ochre or a similar yellow paint. Sometimes, just a few highlights were picked out in gold or certain elements were emphasised by using gold. On the other hand, if you are building a sort of 'artistic' model, replicating e.g. the prestigious display models of old, you may well use gilding, as this is what was used then for models.

 

 

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There are figureheads painted gilded varnished unpainted, I prefer boxwood unpainted aged by time.

I would classify color in the column of the personal choices. Some peoples choose paint other just the color of the wood.

They are both right, it just depends of what do you want to represent.

QUEEN CHARLOTTE.jpg

12.jpg.3282a5298c369c9508f9785e7ff641fa.jpg

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On 1/20/2022 at 2:50 PM, mtaylor said:

yellow ochre be more appropriate?  My gut says to go with the ochre.

I agree, that a gel stain, or just sealer on bare wood. I’m not a fan of gold paint on models, it looks a bit much and unrealistic to me. Without all the analysis, for me it’s just a matter of personal taste. No gilding for me. 
 

I like how these posts can go so far afield from the original question.  

Edited by glbarlow
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Bob,

 

The San Francisco City Hall is amazing.  Thanks for posting it.

 

I am considering a model of a sailing water tank vessel built by the Royal Navy in 1806.  The copper color would In my opinion be interesting as this vessel sailed at two different drafts; tanks full an empty.  When empty, I would assume that the exposed copper would weather to a greenish color.  I would not show copper tacks.

 

Roger

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8 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

The copper color would In my opinion be interesting as this vessel sailed at two different drafts; tanks full an empty.

That would certainly be interesting. I expect there would be a wide band of green patina between the two waterline extremes. I'm not expert on the period, and I'm not sure one way or the other, but I wonder if the Admiralty would spend the money to put copper sheathing on a relatively small water lighter.

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I thought the same thing.  These two sailing tank vessels were built at Bermuda to a modified Baltimore Clipper design.  They were specifically intended for Jamaica- tropical waters.  They were an early, and successful experiment at supplying RN ships calling at the Jamaica Naval Base with water from tanks instead of barrels.  The drawing specified that they be copper fastened.  For vessels serving in tropical waters they had reasonably long lives; from 1806 until the mid 1820’s.

 

Although the evidence is circumstantial I believe that they would have been coppered.

 

Roger

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