Jump to content

Coppering the Ship Model Hull


Recommended Posts

Various techniques including copper paint, individual copper plates, photo etched plates, and self adhesive copper tape have been used by ship modelers to simulate the copper sheathing used for under water hull protection on both naval and merchant ships from the late 1700’s thru the late 1800’s. The following notes describe the technique selected for my Topsail Schooner "Eagle" of 1847 build.

 

Test Pieces – Test pieces were prepared to evaluate the installation process and appearance of various methods including individual plates, individual plates cut from self adhesive tape, strips of copper tape, and both plain and embossed plates. The selected approach was individual plates cut from self adhesive copper tape with embossed nail heads on the exposed plate edges only.

 

Copper Material – The material used for copper sheathing was .0015” x ¼” wide self adhesive copper tape purchased from Blue Jacket Ship Crafters.

Plate Fabrication – The individual copper plates were cut from self adhesive copper tape using a Carl Rotary Trimmer from Staples Office Supply. The plates were ¼” x ¾” (16” x 48” full size at 1:64 scale). The individual plates were then embossed from the back side using a fine pounce wheel.

 

Hull Preparation – After filling and sanding any minor dings, holes, etc. on the lower hull and completion of topside painting (acrylic paints); the topside and bare lower hull were sealed with three coats of Minwax Wipe-On-Poly (oil based wiping varnish). A hard smooth surface is necessary for tape adhesion, and a smooth surface is important as any defects will show through the thin copper foil.

 

Hull Layout – With the model resting in its building cradle, the waterline was laid out using a surface gauge. The gore line was then located using the copper sheathing layout taken from a similar size merchant hull plans (whaler "Kate Cory"). The plate layout consists of upper and lower gore strakes with no dressing belt. The individual copper plate strakes were laid out using a tick strip working up from the keel. The water line, gore line, and individual plate strakes were then marked on the model hull using narrow strips of blue masking tape. Note that properly locating the waterline and gore line are critical as I have seen models where they dip down badly in the stern area.

 

Plate Installation – Individual copper plates were applied using the masking tape strips as a guide and working from the keel up and the stern post forward. The plates were overlapped approximately 1/32” and butts were staggered like brick work. A fair amount of fitting was required in the upper stern area due to the hull shape, and the upper corners of the plates were cut off for those plates that crossed the gore line and waterline. After installation, all copper foil plates were rubbed down with a soft rag.

 

Protective Finish – After installation, I cleaned the copper plates with denatured alcohol and applied three coats of Minwax Wipe-On-Poly to seal and protect the copper surface. After approximately 10 months, the copper sheathing is beginning to show some tarnish under the varnish finish. On future builds, I may just choose to clean the copper plates and let them tarnish naturally.

 

While the above technique is only an approximation of full size practice as the nail pattern would have covered the complete plate and would hardly be visible at this scale, I was pleased with the overall effect. As noted; critical items in the application include having a smooth hard surface, layout of the waterline/gore line, and holding the plate strakes straight.

 

Brigantine "Newsboy" 1854 Installation – Following completion of the Topsail Schooner "Eagle", my next ship model was the Brigantine "Newsboy" of 1854 (also in 1:64 scale). The copper sheathing installation on "Newsboy" was similar to "Eagle" with the following exceptions:

1. Due to her finer hull lines, I chose to model the copper sheathing layout after the clipper ship "Flying Fish" of 1851. The copper sheathing layout consisted of an upper and lower gore with a single dressing strake at the water line.

2. The copper plate fabrication and installation was similar to "Eagle". Based on the recommendation of friends at the USS Constitution Model Shipwrights Guild, I elected not to emboss the copper plates with simulated nails. I was pleased with the result, and plan to follow this practice on future models of American Merchant Sail from the mid 1800’s.

 

The following pictures illustrate copper sheathing installation on the Maine Topsail Schooner "Eagle" 1847 and Brigantine "Newsboy" of 1854.

 

Pete Jaquith

Shipbuilder

post-5855-0-25432600-1400429986_thumb.jpg

post-5855-0-40084800-1400430005_thumb.jpg

post-5855-0-11239800-1400430073_thumb.jpg

post-5855-0-51725700-1400430074_thumb.jpg

post-5855-0-18789200-1400430075_thumb.jpg

post-5855-0-77463200-1400430075_thumb.jpg

Edited by Pete Jaquith
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sal,

 

Once you have the copper sheathing designed, copper plating actually goes quite quickly. If you are satisfied with copper tape, the above process works well for me. I would anticipate that "Phantom" would have a similar layout to "Newsboy" but adjust your plate size for the scale.

 

Pete Jaquith

Shipbuilder

Edited by Pete Jaquith
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Looks very nice Pete. I am shortly going to start coppering a 1:72 kit of HMS Victory. The  makers of the kit do not suggest using gore lines, but the result is that their copper plates go all over the place if one looks at their photos of their build. I want to use gore lines but do not have a clear idea of how to establish where they should be. Can you give any clues?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pete is correct: in the 18th century the copper strakes started at the keel and were laid parallel to it. This results in the highest strakes running out at an angle fore and aft at the waterline. On way the sharp ends were dealt with was with a wood batten nailed along the waterline overlapping the edges of the copper. Another, probably later, way was to run the top two strakes of copper along the waterline. 

 

See the photos of a coppered model of Bellona on the National Maritime Museum's 'Collections' site that shows the earlier method.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Plate Installation – Individual copper plates were applied using the masking tape strips as a guide and working from the keel up and the stern post forward. The plates were overlapped approximately 1/32” and butts were staggered like brick work. A fair amount of fitting was required in the upper stern area due to the hull shape, and the upper corners of the plates were cut off for those plates that crossed the gore line and waterline. After installation, all copper foil plates were rubbed down with a soft rag.

 

 

 

Latestarter

 

No such thing as a stupid question.  Sometimes when a new question is asked inside a topic that was already started, it is easier to miss.  In any case, here is what Pete did - check the first post in the topic for a pretty complete description of his process.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Latestarter,

 

Bob has summarized the process I have used.  Working from the stern post forward and keel up is based on the copper plate overlap practice utilized in North America during the mid 1800's.  I recall seeing material that some naval ships in the late 1700's were coppered from the waterline down, and this would change the plate layout and installation sequence.  As Bob has noted, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

 

Regards,

Pete

Edited by Pete Jaquith
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice job there,i used the copper tape method for my cutty sark (5mm wide x 15mm length) and ran the top two "runs" parallel to the water line- took something like 3000 tiles to do all the hull- it is the billings 1/75 version. Vowed i would never do it again, but here i am having just ordered 60 metres of tape for my Victory!

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

All,

I have been watching this thread with great care, as I am just starting out on the coppering of my kit build of the Kate Cory. I am now two rows into the copper plating process which is going smoothly.  I do have a question though, and wondering if anyone here might throw out some suggestions for me:

 

Post-coppering, the metal will just be hanging out there on the model, unprotected. I imagine that people have been coating their copper with something or another.... the question is what?    I would also imagine that the coating would depend on what the craftsman is looking to accomplish for a finished product appearance, yes? Some might want the copper looking brand spanking new and shiny, while others would want a more weathered appearance. 

 

What coatings should be used to protect and keep copper shiny and new looking?

What would be the best coating for a weathered look, and also protection?

 

Thanks,

~john

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi John,

 

On my last couple coppered models, after completing the copper sheathing, I sprayed the hull with flat lacquer. It takes away that overly shiny look to the new model and it keeps off dirt and grime and makes it possible to handle the model without leaving permanent fingerprints as oils in the skin can't reach and react with the copper surface.

 

In my experience, no matter what you do, the copper will not stay new looking no matter what you do. It will always slowly dull and tarnish, but I think the "aged" copper looks much better after 2 or 3 years – much more natural.

 

Clare

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 9 months later...

 

Nice job there,i used the copper tape method for my cutty sark (5mm wide x 15mm length) and ran the top two "runs" parallel to the water line- took something like 3000 tiles to do all the hull- it is the billings 1/75 version. Vowed i would never do it again, but here i am having just ordered 60 metres of tape for my Victory!

Keith

Greetings Keith- just completed secondary planking on my Cutty ( constructo 1:90- log in progress on this forum) Was going to leave the sapele  wood alone, but I had to do some major surgery ( AFTER the planking of course)on the stern to get the angles right I patched it up pretty well w new  . 5mm planks but the patch is still visible... So I'm considering painting it above the waterline and coppering below. Have any photos or other suggestions? The other alternatives are  1 . Live with the visible patch 2. Do a third planking. What do you think?

 

Thanks and fair winds.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

When I was working on a couple of ships a few years ago, (Cutty Sark and Charles W. Morgan) some of the references I used said that the Americans coppered from the keel up, whereas the British coppered from the waterline down. Don't think it makes a lot of difference in appearance, but if you're a purist. I also polishsed my copper after I'd finished and then coated it with a spray lacquer. Over the years they were on display, I never had any discoloration.

 

I'm a stained glass artist, so I've used a lot of copper foil in creating Tiffany style pieces. 

 

Don't buy your copper foil from ship modeler's websites, go to the stained glass ones. I've used www.Delphiglass.com for a lot of my supplies, but there are many and Delphi isn't the cheapest.. Copper foil comes in a variety of widths generally from 5/32 to 1/2 inch so you can match the width of the foil to the scale of the ship. It also comes with a variety of backing colors. I typically use black backing for my stained glass, but it also comes as copper-backed and silver backed. My recommendation is black, since, should a corner come up it would show black which would resemble the felting and tarring used under copper sheathing. The copper also comes in a variety of thicknesses. 1.0 and 1.5 mil are the most common. I prefer the thicker copper since I feel it's easier to detach from the backing paper. Copper sheets with black backing and adhesive are also available if you need odd shapes. 

 

Delphi--and all other stained glass vendors--also have some useful tools. THey have very nice burnishers, which I use to make sure the copper foil is firmly attached, but also use it on my masking tape to avoid paint leaks under the tape. They also have fids, which may be useful it moving small things into small places, or making sure that the copper fits tightly into a groove. 

 

Probably the most important thing for me is a foil dispenser. When foil starts to come off its spool, it makes a terrible mess of copper tape all over the floor that's creased and you can't do anything with it. Think 'toilet papering' a house. Obviously the dispenser shown at Delphi is made for a number of different sizes. In my stained glass studio, I'd occasionally have all six slots filled with different widths of copper foil. An alternative would be to one of those paper towel holders, but I'd put another layer of something down on top of my spool of foil to make sure it didn't fall apart. The other thing that can/should be done is to leave the spool in it's plastic wrap, and just pull out what you need.

 

Finally, if you need strong strips of something, look at 'strongline', which is a thin 20 mil x 1/8 strip of spring steel coated with copper. If I needed strong pintles and gudgeons ore chain plates, I'd think about using that product. 

 

I also use the ponce wheel method of making 'nails'. Just make sure to impress the paper side, so the point of the wheel doesn't go through the copper. 

 

After the ponce wheel, I detach a length of the backing and cut my pieces to the right length (5/8" for me) and apply them directly. I use narrow masking tape to keep my copper lines straight. 

 

Hope this is useful. I'll be starting a blog soon on my current project USF Essex (model shipways)

 

Dan BLumhagen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

Hi, some years ago I start a scratch build 1/100 model of the tea clipper Sir Lancelot. At that time I do the coopering using copper strips glued with a neoprene based cement. Long and difficult. Finishing was perfect for some years but eventually the glue loss its grip and the strips start to loose up. Not all of them but enough to spoil the model. There is no repair, so need to do it all over again.

My question is, what glue or fixing will do the task? I have done some test using double face high strength tape, and again initially a perfect finish with strong hold, but under extreme conditions such as sun lite exposition make it fail. Thanks in advance for your advise. Saludos from Chile, LFG,  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...