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Copper plated ships in NMM

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I am asking myself this question:

Did somebody saw modelships in the NMM which are copper plated?


The closest I can come to answer is by the pictures below.

Images are not clear enough to tell the answer.


Copper plating is probably dating after 1770, so Bellona could be?


What would be the color of copper  from a model after 200 years?



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Hi Gaetan,


The Bellona model is a contemporary model which I believe was coppered to to demonstrate the procedure to King George111


This is a slightly more detailed shot


As the copper is also contemporary, I suppose the answer as to colour is as is.



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I have Brian Lavery's Anatomy of the Ship Bellona, which contains a couple of nice shots of the contemporary copper-plated Bellona model - BE's account of the model is accurate to Lavery's description - that is, it was a demonstration of a concept. The date Lavery gives for the coppering is March 1780. I guess the concept worked, as I believe coppering became standard practice in the late 18th and 19th centuries....though undoubtedly not a universal one either by nation or by vessel type


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For reasons I do not know there are apparently not many models with copper plates.

Thank you Captain, contempory model, relatively new. Depending how the picture is taken the copper plates can look like red brown or simply brown picture 1.

Thank you Druxey. I do not know the story of this model, but effectively copper plating is very well done on this model.  As a first observation, it looks like that first effect of time would be to erase the shiny look of the copper picture 2. The look and specially the color of the figure head makr me think that this model is very hold.


If the copper would be outside it would be a different story, green would be the first color for the wethered look.



Edited by Gaetan Bordeleau
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If you are looking for a color tone of aged copper(not green) look at copper pennies.  Lots of people collect coins,  I have an older coin or two.  Pennies that have been in circulation basically turn a dark brown very quickly.  I guess its all the dirt and oils form skin that causes it.  I bet there are some excellent photos on-line of copper coins more that 100 and 200 years old.  I would think that the more valulabe coins are the ones that show little wear from actual circulation. Therefore their current color will not have been influeced by dirt and oils.   I have seen pictures of old coins in coin books but  can never remember seeing the 1909-s Lincoln cent as a shiny penny.   It seems it is always brownish, but clear in the details. Coins are never supposed to be cleaned as it impacts thier value.   Hope this helps.


Phil Roach

NRG Director

President, Southwest Florida Ship Modeler's Guild

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I recently struggled with how to represent the copper sheathing on my own build - the classic 1/96 Revell kit of the Constitution.


Many of us of a certain age (say something north of 50) can remember when American pennies had a much higher copper content.  Every family had a jar full of pennies that showed a wide variation in color and tone.  Most were shades of brown, some were black, some had green... a few were shiny.  I thought it would be worth the effort to add this same kind of variation to the underside of my Connie and make many of the detailed plates "pop" for a better visual effect. 


In addition to the variation found in the old jar of pennies, I was influenced by some cursory research into the production of copper sheets by Paul Revere.  Thank goodness for Google and Wikipedia...


Most of you already know that Revere provided the first copper sheets made in America and used on the Constitution.  He recognized an opportunity to launch a new industry and invested in an old ironworks in Canton that could utilize the adjacent river for the necessary power to turn the gears of the rollers and power the industrial hammers needed to crush ore.  Revere had sent his son to England to glean what information he could on methods for rolling copper.  This info combined with his own experience in working with forging of copper and Iron (and of course silversmithing) gave him enough confidence to proceed.  Benjamin Stoddert, the Secretary of the Navy at the time, was encouraging domestic sources for vital military materials such as copper sheathing and offered to help fund Revere's initial effort.  The US Government provided a $10k loan and the first batch of raw copper for processing into sheets - an early example of federal subsidy of the military industrial complex.  There were no reliable domestic sources for large quantities of copper, so England and other overseas sources were needed.  Additionally, Revere was smelting and refining domestic copper in small amounts from Pennsylvania mines in the hopes of establishing some independence from these foreign sources. Metallurgy in that day was clearly a far cry from what we have today and the consistency and quality would vary widely which would naturally introduce color variation.


Secretary Stoddert preferred that Revere use a "cold rolling" method for flattening the copper through a series of heavy iron rollers into thinner sheets.  He felt that this would harden the material for greater strength.  Paul Revere, however, successfully argued for a "Hot Rolling" method which would anneal the copper as it was flattened through the iron rollers with a final cold rolling pass to add some strength.  This approach, however, introduces "mill scale", which is heavy oxidation on the surface caused by the recrystallization of the metal under heat.  The final cold rolling would help to  reduce the scale problem and give the sheets a better finish.  The heating of the metal would further introduce color variation in each batch - especially when a consistent temperature is not applied.  Revere used plentiful New England hardwoods to heat his "furnace" instead of coal as used in England.  This likely introduced more color variation than the copper sheathing imported from England.


Finally, it appears to have been common practice for the shipyards to store the copper sheets in open sheds to allow some natural oxidation that would help flake off any remaining mill scale.  This period of "weathering" would also introduce wide color variation as different batches were stored for different periods before use - like the old pennies in the jar.


I think it highly unlikely that any ship of the early 19th century was ever sheathed in shiny copper of consistent color.  Even when first applied to a new ship on the ways, you'd have seen a patchwork of color and tone in the underside copper plates.  That is essentially what I've tried to depict.


All of this brain dump aside, I readily acknowledge that all of the choices made by modeler's for representing the copper plating is good by me... A nice even coat of copper paint on the hull produces a beautiful effect.  The use of copper tape seen in some of the newer builds is also a great approach - absolutely gorgeous stuff.  I just prefer the patchwork effect - purely artistic license.

BTW - Here is a link to a nice overview of the Minerva model in the USNA Rogers collection:
Good discussion.
Edited by Force9
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Evan, you are right there is more than 1 possibilities to represent copper sheating.


Variations in tone color of copper is for sure.


A model can be represented with copper in 2 major representation. Freshly coppered, and with copper not altered by wheather and sea.


The other representation  would be a model who saw the outside wheather conditions. I think that we have an example of the Constitution in the video. I remember that few time ago did show pictures of a real ship copper plates, but I do not remember where the color where in green variations. Although I guess the model would have had more variations in the color, it is a very good representation.


To obtain this green color, I do not remember chemically how to do it.

I see 2 possible avenues.

Add chemical products to copper to make it turn the good color.

Or use a different material which chemically could reach the good color. For this reason or for supplying possibilities, we saw that some russians use brass.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Just so happens I have been reading Whaling books of late and possess Whale Ships and Whaling by Albert Cook Church C. 1938.  Dover Re-print 1974.  Turns out there are several photos of whale ships hove down and in the process of hull repair, sheathing and copper plating.  Very enlightening. All photos are in black and white.  What they show is that the even brand new copper plate while being applied to the hull were variegated in color.  The photos are worth a look.  Quite honestly these photos are the best demonstration of the sheathing process and coppering process I have ever come across.  The best photos are of the Ship James Arnold, bark Josephine, bark Morning Star, Sunbeam and bark Andrew Hicks.  A scan from my book would not work. However, a google search of these ship names may turn up the same photos.  I found one in 5 minutes. This is the Bark Josephine from flckr.  If I find more I will post.







Phil Roach

NRG Director

President, Southwest Florida Ship Modeler's Guild

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Michael - indeed, I hand painted each using Vallejo air copper, roof brown, hammered copper, and grimy black all randomly blended together in different combinations and applied with disposable micro brushes. Twenty minute sessions staggered across a week or so when I could grab an odd moment to slink out to the workbench.



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