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How does one "grungy" up a furled sail ?

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Progress on my whale boat is coming along. Will work on my case tomorrow. I was wondering about methods of making the furled sail look "grungy". I can imagine this kind of sail received a lot of abuse other sails of the period didn't experience.  Any hints ?





New Bedford Whaleboat build. Kit by Model Shipways



I've been making progress on my model and according to the instruction booklet I should be painting it, at least parts of it.

Are acrylic's ok ? I did apply a sanding sealer. but I want to stain the untreated floor boards which are walnut.









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  • 4 weeks later...

Depends on the scale and what material is being used. There are many methods for making sails and making them look worn. Real cloth, though usually is not a good starting point for scale appearance ...





panta rhei - Everything is in flux



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When recently making the boats for my USS Constitution, I soaked a piece of cloth in tea for several hours and then left it to hang outside for almost a week. The colour came out quite good, but there was less of a streaking effect than I would have liked. However, as my sails were also rolled, this did not really concern me too much.

Might I suggest trying a mix of very strong black coffee ??


Also, as Wefalck mentions, be mindful of the thickness of cloth which you use. I chose a piece of white cloth cut from a child's dress.

Finally, cut back on the amount of cloth you use. Your piece should only be approx 1/4 to 1/3 of the actual sail area.


Here's a link to where I was making my sails.


Hoping this helps you with your excellent boat !!

Edited by CaptainSteve

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One problem to think about - tea and coffee are acidic and contain tannins - they may react with the cloth over time and break it down.  Woodcraft and similar sell wood finishing products - especially water based and alcohol based dyes.  They tend to be more stable over time.

NRG member 45 years



HMS Centurion 1732 - 60-gun 4th rate - Navall Timber framing

HMS Beagle 1831 refiit  10-gun brig with a small mizzen - Navall (ish) Timber framing

The U.S. Ex. Ex. 1838-1842
Flying Fish 1838  pilot schooner -  framed - ready for stern timbers
Porpose II  1836  brigantine/brig - framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers
Vincennes  1825  Sloop-of-War  -  timbers assembled, need shaping
Peacock  1828  Sloop-of -War  -  timbers ready for assembly
Sea Gull  1838  pilot schooner -  timbers ready for assembly
Relief  1835  ship - timbers ready for assembly


Portsmouth  1843  Sloop-of-War  -  timbers ready for assembly
Le Commerce de Marseilles  1788   118 cannons - framed

La Renommee 1744 Frigate - framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers


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Another thing you can do is try a wash on your sail.  Experiment with a solution of dirty water and paint.  When cleaning my brushes I would dip them in some water to clean them.  After awhile that water would become to dirty.  Experiment with this and stain, dye or tea.  That would give you an of what you want.  Either brush it on or soak it piece.

David B

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