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Apr 29, 2017, 01:01 PM
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Gammon Iron's Avatar
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Thinking of building an RC scale sailboat? READ THIS

I thought I'd start a thread that everyone can add to which would help first time builders. We all have varying levels of ability. We all have ideas on what works and doesn't work in building TO COMPLETION an RC Scale Sailboat. Lets try and build this thread for those thinking of building. Lets share our knowledge and make it a bit easier. There are no right or wrong suggestions...what scale? what material? what method?, what type of vessel? what type of rig? what type of RC radio? what type servo set up? where to sail maiden voyage? etc...

I'll start by saying, you should build what fuels your nautical passion...modern or historical. Depending on your model, it's going to take weeks/months/years to build. Those hours should be filled with time you feel was well spent and not a drudgery to get past until launch day.

Kit or scratch built? Kit selection maybe expensive and have limited selection. But, it may also be the perfect fit. It can be the fast way to get on the water. It also can settle the basics of the vessel to which you can spent countless hours perfecting over time. Scratch building is hard to do as a first build even with plans. But, it can be the least expense way into the hobby.

Build as small as you can to get something in the water as fast as you can to keep the interest in RC sailing alive...and not a forgotten half finished model. But, small is a relative term. The vessel has to be big enough to handle the waters on which you'd like to sail. A small model can quickly be overwhelmed in 'open waters'. I'd say something two feet may be the right length for a quick build. But then again, there is a "Footy" design which is a quick easy build with plans that you can deviate from for your personal interest.

Which scale you build in matters. Can the vessel you want to build be a good sailing model in such a small scale? Others can expand on that idea.

The fewer sails you have the easier the rigging will be. A catboat or sloop comes to mind.

The materials to use are endless...strips of wood, sheet wood, paper reinforced with fiberglass, foam, plastic bottles...etc. Whatever one is comfortable using may be the best guide.

Glues. The fast drying CA glues have revolutionized the hobby world. There are many kinds based on the need...quick drying, slow drying, gap filling....etc

Sails. I use cotton. But, others use modern fabrics that are more efficient and do not absorb water. Heck, your first sails can be made of just about anything.

Making things watertight. I build in wood that I later apply on a combination of penetrating epoxy and fiberglass soaked in epoxy.

My best advice is READ. Read all the great thread on Scale Sailboats and start a build log of you own. You can do it! We can help.
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Apr 29, 2017, 10:58 PM
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SirHarrisTweed's Avatar
The first thing that occurs to me is also the first rule of full size sailboats:

The bigger and more complex the boat, the less it gets sailed.

I built Brando in about a week (almost all balsa) and have gotten more sailing entertainment out of him than I did my four foot schooner. Both have brought me a lot of joy, but one for the sailing and the other for the building.
Apr 30, 2017, 02:03 AM
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DanL's Avatar
Remember the story about the axe....." I love this axe....had it for 30 years....and I only had to replace the head and handle four or five times."

When I bought the SC&H brig, I almost choked at the cost, but I've spent so many totally enjoyable hobby hours with it that it's for sure the lowest cost-per- hour hobby I've ever had. I've sailed it a ton of hours, but have spent many more with it as a test bed for rigging techniques, servo set-ups, firing gun systems, etc etc. And you can fix, change or rebuild any of it whenever you want to. So, if you like to either build, tinker and/or sail, building and sailing a scale RC sailing ship is a great long term hobby. Go for it.
Gammy....great idea starting this thread.
May 06, 2017, 09:17 AM
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Gammon Iron's Avatar
Thread OP
Ballast and false keels. There is something called "scale effect". You can scale down a full size vessel. But, you cannot scale down the wind and water. That means your model will always be facing faster winds and heavier seas than the full size vessel would normally face. To counteract those conditions, you need to reduce sail area which will lessen your models tendency to be pushed over (heeling) by the wind. OR, you can keep all you sails up and place the ballast you need deeper in the water than the full size vessel. This is done by attaching an additional or false keel under your model with ballast. This can be achieve several ways. I use threaded rods that go through tubes in the hull and connected to the false keel filled with ballast. You can also make a false keel that fits inside the keel/hull of the model.
May 06, 2017, 03:16 PM
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Bill Zebb's Avatar
Beautiful schooner ! I think starting small is a good idea. My first project is a scratch built four- masted Bark conceived by Yalex, who gave me a great deal of help getting started but it seems like it's taking me forever to move forward due to the complexity of this project.
May 07, 2017, 10:50 AM
Registered User
i might have mentioned this before somewhere, just my imagination going..... but what if the sails were made of a more porous material which would not catch as much air but would still look good....thought that a ship would be able to sail in more breezy conditions which often seems to be more than less....??...i apologize if this is silly but i had to share....
May 12, 2017, 04:56 PM
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SirHarrisTweed's Avatar
Another piece of advice which others may not share, but has been absolutely true for me (and I feel bad for saying it):

Don't hope for much from your local hobby shops; look for advice from the internets. I spent way too much time trying to find a shop that could do more than just sell stuff. I never found one. Too be charitable, none were focused on scratch building of any kind. I kept expecting to describe a problem and have a hobbyist interested in selling me a solution. No exaggeration, I never found a shop that offered more than an internet store. It was extremely discouraging.

Oddly, it seemed to me that shops oriented to trains had more scratch stuff. At any rate, if you're reading this you've already found one of the best resources.
May 13, 2017, 05:10 PM
SCALE Sailor
JerryTodd's Avatar
I would warn new folks not to equate "scale" with "complexity" or "detail." A scale model can be as simple or as complex as you want, or are capable of. Scale is about measurement.

Secondly, size doesn't equate to complexity either. You can build an very simple model that's 10 feet long, or a very complex model that's a few inches long.

A large model requires more materials, stronger equipment, and the means to store, move, and transport it. A large model requires more planning about how you're going to handle than a small model you can pop into the back of the car and go.

Not to be cliche, but there are no stupid questions. This forum is a gold-mine of information and people that have been down the road the new person's about to travel - if you don't know - ASK! BTW, it's a big help if you ask BEFORE you've done it.
Jul 15, 2017, 11:53 AM
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beneteau3's Avatar
Gammon, Tweed, DanL, Zebb, Vic, Jerry, etc, - If you don’t want to create a nice sailing hull out of sticks, there remains one and only one opportunity left to acquire a SC&H Brig hull & deck from Philip Roberts at for $600. It is an ABS prototype, not fiberglass. You would still have plenty to do to create masts, sails, rigging, artillery, etc., which I don't think are available from Philip. I have no reason to help marketing of this remaining hull except that it sure would be fun to see another brig build on this website......
Last edited by beneteau3; Jul 15, 2017 at 12:02 PM.
Aug 30, 2017, 11:36 AM
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rgburrill's Avatar
Originally Posted by beneteau3
Gammon, Tweed, DanL, Zebb, Vic, Jerry, etc, - If you donít want to create a nice sailing hull out of sticks, there remains one and only one opportunity left to acquire a SC&H Brig hull & deck from Philip Roberts at for $600. It is an ABS prototype, not fiberglass. You would still have plenty to do to create masts, sails, rigging, artillery, etc., which I don't think are available from Philip. I have no reason to help marketing of this remaining hull except that it sure would be fun to see another brig build on this website......
A lot has changed in a month. They now show only 3 boats and they go from $3000 to $7000.
Dec 30, 2017, 04:10 PM
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E-Challenged's Avatar
I am not a serious model sailing ship builder but I did assemble and complete the fully rigged large Revell Cutty Sark plastic model, including all 39 billowing sails. If you plan to build a highly detailed sailing ship model, also plan how and where you are going to store it, protected from damage and dirt. Also I wished that I had left the sails off and displayed the model as a ship in dry dock. I also wish that I had built or bought a glass display case but never had room for one. Don't start a build unless you have what it takes to finish it.

I did learn a lot about the days of sail and gained much admiration for full size ship builders and those who sailed them.
Apr 21, 2018, 12:06 PM
Registered User
A long number of years ago I started building a Malabar 2 schooner from a Hartman fiberglass hull, I was inspired by the southern Calif schooner club pictures.
I found it disappointing that there was nothing written up on building & sailing from this group.
I did find 2 books that have helped me along the way.
Sailing Ships Remote Controlled by Martin Becker ISBN 1 900371 96 0

Scale Sailing Models by Phillip Vaughan Williams ISBN 1 900371 20 0

Both books are available at Amazon at very reasonable cost and are worth the money.
May 07, 2018, 09:31 PM
Registered User

A simpler alternative

As a novice model boat builder and sailor I was drawn to a schooner of about 5 feet of length and 25 pound displacement with a simple plywood hull and realistic appearance above deck.
Even with modest ambitions this model took lots of time and crafting. The results, however, are delightful! She sails so nicely and looks so good out on the pond I just couldn't be more satisfied.

The simplification of the hull and long, heavy fin with ballast bulb gave me the time to put more effort into the above deck appearance and give the model great stability and sailing manners.

So, my intent here is to mention a model schooner that can appear and sail very realistically without requiring the skills and effort of a more true scale design. This is Gary Webb's "Irene" with her build thread in the Sailboats area of rcgroups. The thread is "Bearospace schooner Irene". Gary's plans are very affordable as is the plywood for the hull.

Perhaps the Irene would be a good step from a plastic racing sloop before attempting a true scale hulled wooden boat or ship. As a novice it would have been very disappointing to invest a great amount of time and money without creating a successful model. Gary's "Irene" was a great choice for me.
May 10, 2018, 09:24 PM
Registered User

Links to historic schooners hull line drawings/sail plans

Ahoy! I am planning on scratch-building a RC historic sailing schooner, about 4ft OA length. Plywood spine and bulkheads and strip planked with thin aircraft plywood, or balsa? Looking for resources which include hull line drawings and sail /deck basic layout. I really want to start from basic drawings so not really interested in 'plans for sale'. Just wondering if any of you fine nautical folk know of any good sites. Something like Bluenose appeals to me, what a sleek hull and all those sails! Perhaps a lesser known schooner from the glory days?
Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to give me.
Last edited by bonaccordians; May 10, 2018 at 10:45 PM.
May 12, 2018, 07:12 AM
Registered User
Gammon Iron's Avatar
Thread OP
Charlie you've picked a very popular subject. One Google search brought up "About 46,700 results (0.47 seconds)" You have a lot to choose from.

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