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Learning Rigging


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I am looking for a model to learn about rigging techniques. I am building 2 ships now but want to practice rigging before I get to the real thing. Any suggestions would be great. I was thinking of a model with the hull already done I just need to start on the masts and the rigging.


Thanks in advance.


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Brad, I'm sure there are probably a few Builders out there who would sell (or GIVE ;) ) you a model that they got to that stage and were scared off by the thought of all those "sticks and strings" :D . Not ME though - I love the "S & S" :D .


I wish you luck in your search.


:cheers:  Danny

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Hi again Brad,


After writing the above post I came up with a rather unique idea.


Why not buy one of the Solid Hull Kits out there (take your pick on how complex you want the Rigging part to be). Fashion the hull into a "Silhouette" of the real thing, without going to the detail of planking the decks, hull etc.


Paint it black.


Then add the necessary pieces that the Rigging will attach to like the Channels, Bitts, Eyebolts, Belaying Pins etc but do these "properly" if you wish (you could also paint them black).


Then proceed with the Masting and Rigging.


I've never seen a model done like this ANYWHERE (it was just an idea that popped into my head) but it would save you a LOT of preliminary work making the decks, hull etc. And it would CERTAINLY be "one of a kind", highlighting JUST the Masting and Rigging :) .


:cheers:  Danny

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A third thought (jeez, I'm full of them today :D ).


What's the hardest part about Rigging? GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT.


By which I mean things like:


1. Tying Blocks to a line or eyebolt.


2. Doing Seizings.


3. Belaying a line to a Pin.


4. Threading line through a Block or Deadeye (use a Needle Threader ;)  ).


5. Tying Ratlines (easy when you know how).


6. Getting a Footrope to hang "naturally".


7. Shaping Masts and Yards.


There are a few more that don't spring immediately to mind, but you get the picture. Buy yourself a few GOOD QUALITY Blocks, some GOOD QUALITY Rigging Line and some Fly-tying line and PRACTICE the basics. Use the Tips readily available in the Masting, Rigging and Sails section of MSW to get the idea of how to do each bit. Same with the Masts. Ask questions on specific details if you can't find the relevant info in the forum.


Once you have a good idea of all the above, start on one of your models. Some may look very complex, but that's only because there more lines to rig - everything else is basically the same.


:cheers:  Danny

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Thanks for the info. I like the silhoutte idea. I am currently building the Virginnia Swift (kit) about 1/3 done and started the from scratch the Brig Syren. They both have been on the side for awhile (had a storke and slow to get back to playing). The other question I have is where to buy all fittings, bulk brass strips, eyebolts, deadeyes, blocks, etc. wood is no problem. I have been looking on line and everyone seems to have pieace here and there but noe one source has all. Also it seems everyone has a different way of measuring this stuff, mm, in's, fractions etc. I am already confused in the head and this just makes it worse. Any and all help would be appreciated.Thanks again.


Brad (confused)

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Whether your mind is clear or not, all those different measuring systems are confusing! Rather than thinking in mm, inches, fractions or whatever, I always think in 'full size'. So, rather than think "This piece needs to be 4mm thick" I think "On the actual ship it is 9" (or whatever) thick." Then I use a scale rule with the appropriate feet and inches to the scale I'm using to measure what I want. Saves a lot of headaches! For really small sizes that I need a caliper or micrometer to measure, i have made myself a conversion table to convert the result into 'full size' inches.

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Got this info from BlueJacket, A rigging seminar in May


BlueJacket will be holding a RIGGING CLASS here in Maine on Monday, May 5th thru Friday, May 9th.

Space will be limited to 12 people. The class hours are 9-3 with a lunch break.  This gives ample time to do some sightseeing etcetera if you like.

The fee for the course is $400 and is fully refundable up until two weeks before the start (April 21st).  Up until 1 week before (April 28) it is 50% refundable.  Price of class includes a pin vise, 5 x #76 and 3 x #67 drills, needle-nose pliers, tweezers, and a hobby knife with blade.

On Monday afternoon we will tour the BlueJacket facilities, and participants will receive a 10% discount on purchases anytime during the week of class. 

At the end of class, we will ship instructional items and tools for you.  We have arranged a special room rate of $112 at the Fireside Inn (formerly Comfort Inn) in Belfast, which is where the class will be held.  Breakfast is included. When you make your reservation, ask for the BlueJacket rate.  Here is the web link: 



Of course, you can stay at any of the other fine hotels and B&Bs in the area if you prefer.

So call us and reserve your spot.  We have always sold out the previous classes we have held in the past.



Use of tools
Types of ship's rig
Terms and definitions
Reading rigging plans
Proper shaping of masts and spars from square stock
blocks and deadeye stropping
The bow - gammoning, catheads, bowsprit
Stepping the mast
Standing rigging
Running rigging yardarms, booms, gaff, jib
Knots and coils
Davits, gun tackle


If the demand for this class far outstrips our 12 spaces, I promise to hold it again in the fall.  I want everyone who wishes to take this class to be able to have the opportunity to do so.
There's nothing I'd rather do than work on, or talk about model boats. Have fun! 
Nic Damuck
BlueJacket Shipcrafters, Inc

Edited by BareHook
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A third thought (jeez, I'm full of them today :D ).


What's the hardest part about Rigging? GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT.


:cheers:  Danny


Reading this makes me think that Danny has come up with an excellent list.  The thought that popped into my mind is that all these basics need to be applied in a small space and that order will be important when actually rigging the model.  I am going to add this post to my list of "Favorites"!



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Thanks everyone for the info. I ordered books, "Biddlecombe and Lannarth" will let you know what I think of them. And taking Danny's suggestion (which I really liked) I ordered the Harriet Lane kit ( I liked the hull which I think would work for other ship's and it was in Texas, which is where I am now). I am going to experiment with the rigging and silhouette style of modeling emphasing more on the rigging than the hull. I will start a build log when I get it, hopefully soon. Thanks again to everyone.

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  • 2 months later...

The Underhill book has a few good tricks in it. I've found masting and rigging to be far more interesting and easy than I expected and it's my first time. Just don't hesitate to do something over if you aren't happy with it. I'm a first timer on rigging too. I just went at, first shot at the standing rigging not good so I removed and did it over. It sure was worth the trouble.


Von Stetina

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Guest EricD

Hi Brad--


There are a lot of good ideas here and I haven't built that many ships but with respect to rigging, I wouldn't be afraid of it.  I'd suggest buying a Mamoli kit like the Mayflower or Red Lion (expensive but could be worse and you'll have a nice model to show for).  They have interesting but uncomplicated rigging and the instructions are great.


The one thing I have the biggest trouble with is tying ratlines (rattling the shrouds).  I'm sure you will pick this up your research but its a good idea to draw a template on cardboard and sit it behind the dead eyes and against the mast and it will help you get all the knots aligned.


Good luck!



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  • 2 weeks later...

At the most basic level I think its important to think about the thickness of the material you use to represent the lines on the ship. On an actual ship there were scores of different diameter line in use, a different thickness for different applications in the rig. Its hard to find good examples of this concept in photos, either of model or on full sized ships, since the subtle differences in diameter are lost when you view the 'big picture" of the entire rig.

The rule of thumb is that the greater the forces involved, the thicker (and thus stronger) the rope in use has to be. So the shrouds and the stays are very thick in comparison to the lesser running rigging that doesn't come under as much strain. And there is a spectrum of stains involved in any ship rig and your task will be to try to understand what each individual line is used for and thus how much strain it is under and this will determine the thickness of each line. 

A very broad rule of thumb, one that has exceptions, is that the higher up in the rig a line is working, the thinner the rope it is made of.

On your model you should be employing at the very least three different diameters of line, preferably six or eight.

My advice is to start acquiring all the thicker thread you can find out there. its fairly easy to find thin thread but the intermediate and heavier threads are a challenge.

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When I started out, I learned a great deal about rigging techniques from Robert Hunt's Freshman Practicum "Building the Armed Virginia Sloop".  The techniques are generic and I still follow Bob's hints/techniques. 


I just posted pictures in the Completed Kit Built Models Gallery.  With Bob Hunt's practicum, the MS's Armed Virginia Sloop is a great build and learning project (pictures attached).


Pete Jaquith




Edited by Pete Jaquith
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I find that one of the primary skills needed when it comes to rigging (on ship) is the use of 2 pairs of tweezers.

Keep your podgy finger out of the way, they are a liability, practice tying knots, keeping and 'passing' tension beteen tweezers etc.



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A couple of less expensive thought Brad.   In stead of buying a solid hull, for a "rigging trainer"  just use a pine board say 3/4" thick x 6" wide, mount three masts, and attach shrouds to the edge of the board.  Another would be to look on ebay for Model Expo they frequently sell incomplete kits at a big discount, look for one that has all the hardware but missing something important like bulkheads, should get a bargain.  Or maybe even give them a call and ask if there are any incomplete kits on the shelf and tell them why you want it. They may have another suggestion.  Good folk there.


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