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Colored thread for rigging

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Question:  How do I decide what color rigging to go with?


My Mamoli model the Royal Mary has all Tan line - do not like it much as the color is too light.

My Bounty had black rigging and looked good.

I see some models on this forum with shrouds that are black line for vertical and white line for horizontal.


Did every century have different color line?

Does it depend on what country the boat is from?

Does it depend on the type of rigging?


I always like to built my models historically correct, so who knows the answer, if there is one.





btw.  If my era boat is to have tan lines I will give it tan lines.

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Hi Marc.


Historically rigging was not all of the same colour, nor does it depend on its being horizontal or vertical. Ships of various nationalities also more or less followed the same practice:


Standing rigging, which supported masts and yards, was tarred for protection from the elements. This means that it was black or a dark colour, although many modellers prefer to use dark grey or brown to make give it a weathered look.


Running rigging, which moves and runs through blocks, was left untarred and is thus hemp or tan coloured. This can vary between light and dark shades, although it's best not to make it too light.


One perhaps problematic area is the ratlines on the shrouds. Are they standing or running rigging? There are various views on this. My view is that although they were fixed, ie. like standing rigging, they weren't tarred but left natural, or given a light coating of thin preservative. There were likely two main reasons for this: the men's feet wouldn't get tar on them (and it would thus be tranferred elsewhere); the ratlines broke frequently and were continually being replaced. 

Edited by Stockholm tar
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Good comments by Stockholm Tar~!  There was some variation between countries and centuries but if you make the standing rigging dark and the running rigging hemp color, you will be close.  Ratlines were generally hemp color as ST stated, and the lanyards to the shrouds should be dark but generally not as dark as the shrouds (definitely not white). 


Remember, the ship and all of its rigging were exposed to lots of salt water, fresh water, and strong sun light.  The best method our ancesters found for preservation was stockholm tar, a distrilation of pitch from pine trees.  This tar looked like dark kerosene or the fuel oil we use to heat our homes.  It would darken upon expousure to sunlight and also pick up dirt and grime.  So some lines, such as shrouds would have a dark brown color, tending toward black and other lines would vary from light hemp to light brown to darker browns. 


And another HUGE subject is color perception and viewing distance.  For another day.............


So, you are the artist, and you decide what looks 'right' for your creation.


All the best, Duff

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For comparison on French  ships in the 1700 tar was black and in 1780 they used  a better quality one from Stockholm and it was reddish brown.

99% of the lines were tarred  as well for standing and running rigging,  and the blocks were not clog. It was not black pitch as we have today.

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  • 4 weeks later...

So I am about to start rigging - I am waiting for the line I bought from Syren Ship Modeling Co., from Chuck P. - and read this thread again and reviewed many finished ships on this site and on other's as well.  Then I looked at paintings from Bob Hunt and some others.


I checked ANCRE site where Boudriot and Delacroix have there boats and also modelshipbuilder.com.  There is a similar question on that site and there was a member by the name of "aew" who said, "If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move, tar it!".


All I can say that it is rather confusing.  One does this and the other does that. 

Not sounding too harsh in my next comment.  Either the builders don't care, want to do whatever the kit provides, be creative in the color combination or just don't know.


On many sites I see boats with black rope shrouds and the rat lines are tan.


I will go with what aew said: "If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move, tar it!"



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Hey Marc,

Standing rigging would be dark; running rigging would he hemp to light tan. 

All lines would have some preservative to protect against the harsh conditions so no line should have the bright white look. 

Some models look very good with black shrouds and stays. 

Go with your artist's eye and make no apologies.


Have fun and enjoy your build.



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