Prototype Practice and Historical Details pertinent to the Scale Ship Modeler - RC Groups
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Dec 27, 2009, 03:40 PM
SCALE Sailor
JerryTodd's Avatar

Prototype Practice and Historical Details pertinent to the Scale Ship Modeler

The premise behind this thread; Prototype Practice and Historical Details pertinent to the Scale Ship Modeler is intended to gather information to help each other detail their models our accurately. It will contain details on full-scale vessel that can be approximated, or used outright on models. It may be rules of thumb for making things certain sizes; how things were made or done, or not done, in certain time-frames.

Some things may just make a model look more authentic, some may actually improve the model's operation, sometimes it actually works better doing it the way it was done full-scale.

This thread is not only a place to post what you know as well as links to information and research, but to ask questions. There are no "stupid questions"

As you post in the thread, please give your post a title that reflects the topic so people searching the thread can more easily find the information you're offering. If you have multiple topics, feel free to make multiple post, or try to include all the topics in the title of your single post - either is fine.
Last edited by JerryTodd; Oct 04, 2016 at 10:37 PM.
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Dec 27, 2009, 09:02 PM
Registered User
DanL's Avatar

Research links

Great idea, Jerry.
Research links would be great. And feedback, other than "pretty boat", that helps get a more authentic model or "look" would be so great...

For example, a discussion of naval "standards" on ships in light of the fact that they re-armed, re-fit, repaired, re-provisioned, etc from any source they could find. Masts and spars, sails, gun type, etc etc must have been quite diverse on many ships. And captains took a lot of liberties in how they armed and rigged their ships, no? Anyone know more about this or have historical references? Seems a modeler could explain a pretty wide variety of detail options...
Dec 28, 2009, 09:54 AM
Registered User
DanL's Avatar

Definition of Scale

I agree with Jerry that the term "scale" is too vaguely used. Size, accuracy, level of detail, quality of workmanship, method of construction, construction material.....all are factors in a model. Throw in R/C and actual sailing performance, and the definition of "scale" becomes even more maddening.
The objective, skill an effort of the model builder determines the outcome.
I put a lot of effort into the model of Syren to meet the objective of looking passably realistic in sailing photos. Lines were made on a ropewalk to scale sizes (but they are made of polyester vs. prototypical fibers). Running gear was redesigned for prototypical brace action. But the model hull is 3 scale feet off, the mast placement is slightly off, the capstan is misplaced, the sails are inked and glued vs sewn, etc.
I consider it a good scale model because it meets the original objective (nice looking pictures) to my own satisfaction.
But I also really appreciate getting feedback on how it could have been better looking, more accurate, etc. etc. Having the forum for that purpose is great. But each modelers own objectives for his model should be appreciated. And if a modeler posts publicly, he/she should appreciate feedback - positive or negative - from other modelers perspectives.
Dec 29, 2009, 05:16 AM
meatbomber's Avatar
Does anyone have a web resource to naval paintschemes in the age of sail ? I`ve treid to find this in my research for USS Somers but was unsuccessfull, and it seems that the contemporary pics are not all that accurate
i`m wondering for example if the white stripe on somers was slim to fit into teh head and the gun ports overlapped the white area, as opposed to being completely white stripe from upper edge of teh port to the lower edge of the ports ?
Dec 29, 2009, 07:09 AM
Damp and Dizzy member
Brooks's Avatar
Local station admiral would have great discretion on paint schemes for ships at his station. Before the telegraph, it would be weeks or months between communications with the head office, so local commanders were give more discretion than nowadays. I suspect that individual captains, who were perhaps more individualistic than today's skippers, would paint their ships the way they wanted. And if they were on an independent command mission, who would be there to shake a dissaproving finger?

Sailing ship skippers have always valued aesthetics to a greater extent than motorboat skippers; cruise ships nowdays are butt ugly, something that would never have been countenanced in the age of sail. If you find a scheme that appeals to you, then use it; you are the local Klatovy Admiral, after all :-)
Dec 29, 2009, 09:12 AM
SCALE Sailor
JerryTodd's Avatar
In the US Navy the fashion from the 1840's through the 1870s was a white stripe, the height of the gunports, from the quarter galleries or fashion piece forward and continuing the line of the sheer through the head. On smaller vessels the strip might be thinner, wider,higher or lower-usually to align with the wale, some molding, or split port lids better. Narrower gun stripes were in fashion whereas a stripe a strake or two above and/or below the posts was in vogue before.

During the Civil War, many ships were painted all black, and even gray, with no stripe. Farragut had many ships in his squadron painted this way as camouflage in fog and mists. Many Union ironclads were painted in multi-tone schemes, like white over black or dark gray, etc. The Navy worked close into shore during the Civil War so the mindset was a little different than when operating at sea.

In the late 1870s and into the 1890's the Navy's sailing vessels were all black with a single molding along the gunports painted white, and head decorations were usually gilded.

There are, of course, exceptions. You can't say they "always" or "never" did anything. A captain still had some leeway in how he fitted out his command - but anything non-regulation came out of his pocket. A lieutenant commanding a brig-of-war, unless he came from money, wouldn't have the means to get carried away decorating his boat. The Navy also became more regulated with the Gradual Increase Act of 1816. The naval shipyard commander had more say in fitting out than the ship's captain.

It can be very difficult to nail down just how a particular vessel appeared at a particular time before photographs. Images in periodicals like Harper's Weekly can be tricky. In an article about some Naval action, the image might be reused from 10 years before and not represent the ship as she appeared at all!

Non-contemporary publications are worst. Miller's Pictorial History of the Civil War notoriously mis-IDs photos. In one case they display the left half of a photo as being one place and time, the right half of the same photo they ID as a different place and year!

Unless you know that a vessel looked a certain way, you're better off painting it in a way that fits the style of the time of the boat and looks good to you. ie: it's a good bet that Sommers was probably never painted buff with a black wale, and a white leaded bottom like 1700's vessels often were.
Dec 30, 2009, 01:14 PM
SCALE Sailor
JerryTodd's Avatar

Lines belayed and coiled on Pinrails

When a line is made fast to a cleat or pin, there's typically some line left over and laying about the deck in a rat's nest that will likely tangle and knot, or get washed out of a freeing port or scupper when a wave comes aboard.

After the line is belayed to a cleat or a pin, the excess line is coiled in loops typically hanging about halfway from the pin to the deck. Right-laid line is coiled clock-wise so it won't kink, or un-lay. You never coil a line by wrapping it around your hand and elbow - you coil a line by holding it with you left hand about a foot from the belay. You stretch you right hand down the line and form clockwise loops by bringing your right hand to your left and transferring the line to your left hand, and repeating the motion with your right hand. You want open loops, not figure 8's.
After the line is coiled, while holding it firmly at the top of the coils, reach through the coil, hook the middle of the bight between the coil and the belay with your finger, and pull it through the coil. Twist it once clockwise and place the eye formed with your finger over the head of the pin, or horn of the cleat.

The highlighted part of the image of the coil is the loop that holds it to the pin.

When the lines have to be handled, the loops are pulled off the pins and the coil drops to the deck-tangle free.

Coils are not laid over pins on working vessels because they can tangle, come off, and turn into a rat's nest in an instant. I've seen many yachts and static display vessels just lay the coils over the pins, as most modelers do on their models. They don't get used, aren't going anywhere, and don't have to worry about handling lines in an emergency. Lubbers do lubberly things.
Dec 30, 2009, 07:04 PM
Registered User
DanL's Avatar

Coiled lines

Belaying and coiling lines is not an easy job - there are so many of them on Syren...

Jerry, anybody, do you know what the coil in the second pic is called?
Dec 31, 2009, 12:11 AM
SCALE Sailor
JerryTodd's Avatar
I don't know the name of it and my Ashley's is out on loan. The only time I saw something something like it in use were lines flaked out for floats. I think they called it a "trefoil flake"
Jan 02, 2010, 07:18 PM
Registered User
captmsr's Avatar
While going through some old pics, I found these of a Chesapeake Buyboat, one of about ten that I built over the years, two being R/C. While not a sailboat, there is a detail I wanted to mention that came from the days of sail.
When I was a kid sailing on some ships, there was a deck barrel for drinking and washing. The barrel was secured on deck, had a square or round hole, large enough for a long handled ladle to pass through, covered by a piece of canvas. The piece of canvas was nailed on along one edge, and had a weight stitched in the other, holding it down over the hole. You just flipped the canvas up and dipped the water out.
If you ever worked on a boat with one of these, you don't forget the taste of the water that came from them, whiskey or rum aftertaste and warm from the sun.
Some boats had several of these water barrels on deck just like this for the crew. As I understand it, they used to also collect rain water sometimes at sea and put it into these barrels as well. I have never drank rain water from one, but I have used them many times before with fresh water in them.
Aug 19, 2010, 09:02 AM
SCALE Sailor
JerryTodd's Avatar

Off to see the Lizard!

here's one of those little things you hardly notice.

The main brace on a ship typically lead back to a boomkin at the quarter galleries. If it got any slack in it it would sag, and possibly snag, quarter boats, hammocks, gun barrels, port lids, etc, etc, etc - so a simple solution is a lizard.

There are lizards all over sailing ships and they serve basically the same purpose - to hold things up or aside, out of the way and clear of something else.

The one in the attached image shows the main brace passing through a couple of simple eyes in an additional length of line called a span. Sometimes there is no span and the lizard is one length hitched to the shroud with eyes on the two free ends.

More often than not, there would be bulls-eyes or thimbles as opposed to simple eyes to make it easier for the line passing through to slide. For our models that's very important.

Not having a crew aboard to clear jams and snags, we have to design things to be snag free. Braces, sheets, and any other line that may sag and snag can be authentically helped with a lizard - but you should use a glass bead, a bit of Teflon, or some other slippery thing as a bulls-eye to prevent the lizard from causing the snag itself.
Last edited by JerryTodd; Aug 19, 2010 at 09:54 AM.
Jan 31, 2011, 02:44 PM
Damp and Dizzy member
Brooks's Avatar
DanL, the coil you asked about was called a "Ballantine coil" aboard HMBark Endeavour. One web site says it's named for the logo on Ballantine beer. When we made them in halyards, they were composed of 3 overlapping single coils, repeated. The web site describes them differently, saying that there is a big coil, then 3 small ones inside, repeated (of course that is what it looked like on Endeavour, but it was not the way it was actually formed). The big coil might help keep the 3 little ones from sliding all over the deck, but I think it would increase the risk of entanglement when the line is paid out. At any rate, on Endeavour we only made the 3 (medium sized). Jerry's trefoil name makes sense, too.
Jan 31, 2011, 03:57 PM
Registered User
DanL's Avatar


Brooks - that's it!
I askedthat way back in Dec 09. I relearned the term this past summer on the Niagara again.
We laid down one large bottom loop and then all others were 3 coils per layer.

I feel like I coiled a million lines....get the deck shipshape and minutes later having to coil all the lines again...

All hands on deck!
Aug 07, 2011, 01:21 PM
Registered User
stewmeat95's Avatar
Can you direct me to a thread, or add to this one, a dictionary with the terms and their meanings relevant to sailing ships.

Thanks gents.
Aug 10, 2011, 07:59 AM
Registered User
DanL's Avatar
Stewmeat - look three posts down at Brooks post. He includes a link to a great nautical dictionary.

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