Tuesday, December 24, 2013

20 Questions With Christopher Lemke

A few months ago I sent out 20 questions to my fellow ship in bottle builders in order to get to know them better.  This post features Christopher Lemke.

1. What is your name?
Christopher Lemke

2. Where in general are you from?  
Vine Grove KY (just outside Ft. Knox & Louisville)

3. How long have you been building ships in bottles?
I began building SiBs in late 2011.

4. What got you into ship in bottle building?
I’ve been a modeler for YEARS since I was 11, my father and I built model kits side by side and still talk about our projects, when plastic kits began to skyrocket in prices I wanted to look into scratch building, a friend of mine bought me a Ship in a Bottle kit all pre cut and ready to build… from that point I was hooked.

5. What was the first ship in bottle you ever built?
A readymade “Boat in a Bottle” kit that came completer with a glass bottle, cork, pre cut hull & masts, mast hinge wire, sails, rigging line, clay for the sea, and tweezers. I named it Denise after my wife as she’s the one who would be putting up with my new hobby!

6. What was your favorite build? 
My favorite so far was a build I made as a gift for my dad, I scratch built a model of the ship he served on during Viet Nam. The AKA-112 USS Tulare, I even built the LCM-3 He piloted into the bottle’s glass stopper. 

7. What do you think makes your ships in bottles unique? 
Unique? I’m not sure I rate ‘unique’, yet. I do really like building ‘odd’ ships that folks don’t often see, I’ve a project on the table of an 1800’s Ohio River ‘Kentucky Flat Boat’ loaded with bourbon casks. 

8. What types of ships do you prefer? 
I love fully rigged tall ships of the Golden Age of Sail, I also enjoy Medieval Era ships, Civil War Iron Clads, I’ve even built a Viking Longship.

9. What is your favorite part of ship in bottle building? 
I love the research, finding the plans, colors etc… but I really love the building, adding the details, making everything just right.

10. Is there a design or method that you use that you are particularly proud of? 
I use a variable speed Dremel tool as a lathe to turn bamboo skewers down into masts, also I've become pretty accomplished in building ships where the hulls have to be split down the middle to fit into the bottle.

11. Have you had any instances where a build went horribly wrong?  
Oh yes… I built a Great Lakes armed sloop, placed it into the bottle, got it all seated into the sea and glued down and while I was pulling the lines to raise the sails the bottle pulled off its stand and fell, all the weight of the bottle was hanging from the rigging lines, it broke all the masts. 

12. What are some of your favorite materials to use?
 Basswood for the hulls, bamboo skewers for the masts, and acrylic paints 

13. What are some of the most unusual materials you’ve used in a build?
 So far the most unusual material has been driftwood.

14. What creative tools have you created?
 I’ve made all types to graspers, micro picks, and even a hinged paint brush using 1-2mm brass tubing and rods.

15. What books do you recommend for ship in bottle building?
 There are SO many! But two of the best How-to books are: Don Hubbard`s book SHIPS-In-BOTTLES and How to Build Historical Bottled ShipsThe best reference: The Story of Sail by Laszlo & Woodman 

16. What is the most interesting bottle you have found? 
I have 2 and both have inspired their own projects, 1 is an antique 2 Gallon Jim Beam bottle, that’s what I’m building the Flat Boat in, the other is an antique glass Bayer aspirin bottle That’s going to have the Firs US Navy Hospital ship built in it. 

17. What’s the most unique place or way you have found a bottle?
 I hunt through flea markets and yard sales. 

18. What is your favorite response to the question, “How did you get it in there?” 
Carefully, very, very carefully” 

19. What ships are on your to do list? 
HMS Bounty (working), Ohio River Kentucky Flat-Boat, USS Red Rover (1st US Navy Hospital Ship), NCC1701 USS Enterprise (Star Trek) 

20. What are you currently working on? 
2 Projects, the HMS Bounty and a commission piece for a retirement gift, a 66 Gun German/Dutch Man ‘O War pirate ship. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Beginners Schooner

When I first started this blog I posted instructions for a simple schooner.  I'll be honest.  I didn't know much about ship bottling then.  I probably still don't in comparison to others I associate with.  Since then though I've come a long way.  I have created a new simple schooner that reflects easier and better techniques then the first.  This one was created for a children's class I taught at a Jefferson County Library.  Download the plans by clicking the link.

 To get the supplies for the schooner you'll need to run to your local craft and grocery store.  Pick up the following.

Bass wood - as close to the dimensions on the plans as you can.
 Sketch Paper
24 gauge wire
Blue Construction Paper
Sauce Bottle
Paint, Crayons, Colored Pencils - what ever you want to use to add some color.
White Glue

If your starting completely from scratch you will need the following tools.

Small Saw
Sand Paper
#60 drill bit
Wire Cutters

Now your ready to begin.  Start by cutting your wood to size.  It doesn't have to be exact but try for a 3/4" x 3/8" x 2 1/5" block.  Then cut out a diagonal line into the bow and stern.  These don't have to be exact either.  You can cut them close to what the plans show or try different angles for some customization.

Next sand it down.  Make the wood nice and smooth and round out the edges a little bit.

Once the sanding is done it's time to add the deck house.  Cut out a 1/8" x 5/8" x 3/8" block and sand it smooth.  Then glue it just in front of the middle of the ship.  See the plans for reference.  Now you can color the ship any way you like.

Get out your drill and #60 drill bit and drill six holes as indicated.  The important thing to remember is to drill the two holes on the left and right side of the ship well behind the holes drilled for the mast.

Now time for the masts.  Get out your toothpicks use one to clean your teach or to look cool and two more for the masts.  Check them out first you want a good thick solid tooth pick.  Cut them to size for the mast and the boom and drill holes in the end of the boom and two holes in the mast according to the plans.

Once the holes are drilled you can set the mast.  Get the 24 gauge wire and cut off piece about an inch long.  Push this piece of wire into the hole in the bottom of the mast.  Center it then fold it down either side of the mast.  This will make the hinge that will allow the mast to fold up and down.

Insert the wire into the holes for the mast.  It will be a bit long but that's okay.  Now cut off small pieces of the wire bit by bit until the mast just touches the ship.  If you go to far that's fine it can still work.  It's just easier to get it just right.  Once your there dip the wire in glue and put it in the holes.

Once the glue dries you can attach the boom.  Put the thread through the hole in the boom around the mast and tie it down.  You'll want to leave a little bit of wiggle room so the boom can fold with the mast.

To tie the back stays push the thread through a hole in one side of the ship and tie it down.  Then push the thread through the hole in the middle of the masts and through the hole in the other side of the ship.  Now the tricky part.  Tie a loose knot around the hole on the side of the ship.  With one hand hold the mast upright and with the other pull the knot tight.  It is very important that when the mast is pulled tight against the back stays that it is straight up and down.

The forward stay is then tied to the top of the mast and threaded through the hole in the bow.  Leave enough of this line so that it can run out of the bottle neck.  You will use it later to pull the mast up once the ships in the bottle.

The boom will need to be tied down so that it it's straight.  Tie a line from the top of the mast to the end of the boom to hold it straight.  Then tie a line from the end of the boom to the hole in the stern so that when the mast is upright the boom is held tight.  Your almost there.  

Color the sails before gluing them onto the boat.  To get a nice wind filled look pull the sails between a pen and your thumb.  This will give them a nice curve and make the sails look like they are full of wind.  Glue the main sail onto the mast and then glue the other end to the boom.  Fold the jib sail over and glue it to the forward stay.  Be careful that the line is not glued down to the boat yet.  You want the sails to be able to fold back to get the ship in the bottle.

Color a larger piece of paper blue to represent the sea.  This will have to be measured carefully against the bottle you are using.  If your bottles round make sure it' thin so it doesn't obstruct the view of the hull once in the bottle.  Now she's ready to go inside.

Funny anecdote on this part.  When I did this project for one of the Jefferson County Libraries I helped ten kids put these in bottles.  Some parents dropped the kids off and then left to do other things.  When they got back they asked their kids how they got the ship into the bottle.  Their kids told them,  "We can't tell you it's a secret."

Well here is the big secret.  Carefully fold the mast back against the hull.  You will have to take care not to crinkle the sail.  Push the ship though the bottle neck and into the bottle.  Once inside use a stiff wire like a coat hanger to hold the ship still while you pull the line running out the bottle to pull the mast up.  Once you get the mast up and looking correct let it loosen a little and put a dab of glue onto the line just above the hole in the bow.  Then pull that line tight.  This will pull the glue into the hole and glue down the line.  Hold it tight until the glue dries then cut the line with a long thin pair of scissors.  Try to gut it as close to the bottom of the bow as you can.  If you use super glue wait five minutes before putting the cap on the bottle.  The vapors from the glue can cause fogging.  

You've done it!  The ship is in the bottle.  

 This little ship is actually my wife's first (and only so far) ship in bottle.  She did all the coloring and knot tying.  I had her help me in preparation for the kids class at the library.  For those that would like to try a similar project I'll throw in a few words of advice.

Don't worry about whether or not the kids can tie these little knots.  They will surprise you with what their little fingers can do.  Most tied knots better then I can.

If your doing this for a group of kids teach the adults helping how the entire process works before hand.  This is a craft that will easily descend into chaos if you don't have enough help.  The more that know how it works the smoother things will go.

If you want to get pictures of the kids to post on a website or other media bring consent forms.  This is a rule I didn't think about with the class I did so I don't have any pictures of it.

That's it.  Thanks for reading and good luck on your next Ship in Bottle.      


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

20 Questions with David Fellingham

Over the past year or so I've found that we ship in bottle builders are quite a unique group.  I thought it would be fun to get to know my fellow builders a little better and decided on a good old game of twenty questions.  So first off we have 20 questions with David Fellingham.

1.      What is your name?  
David Fellingham

2.      Where in general are you from?  
I grew up in Iowa and presently live in California

3.      How long have you been building ships in bottles?
I’m not sure, at least 30 years. I have been interested in sailing ships, ship models and nautical history for over 50 years – my first scratch build was at age 9 from a scrap piece of 1 x 4, a tin can and two short pieces of small diameter pipe – the Civil War Monitor.

4.      What got you into ship in bottle building?
My initial interest in sailing ships, nautical history and ship models began with reading C. S. Forester’s Hornblower series when I was 8 years old.. Later, work had me moving quite frequently, which is not very conducive to building ship models. I came across a book in a bookstore about building ships in bottles; seemed to be a perfect way to continue my interest in ship models while remaining mobile – all my tools, supplies and the current project could be packed and transported in a medium size tackle box.

5.      What was the first ship in bottle you ever built?
A generic late 19th century two-masted schooner from the SIB book I bought.

6.      What was your favorite build?
My favorite build has always been the one I had just completed until I start a new one, then the current project would become my favorite. I gave away almost all my SIBs (or lost them during moves). I completely lose interest in finished projects when I am working on a new one. That’s why I still don’t have any of my own. The most fun SIB was a submarine in a bottle – a sea with a very small periscope. Almost everyone who saw it picked up the bottle and turned it over and over looking for the rest of the sub.

7.      What do you think makes your ships in bottles unique?
Perhaps my attention to detail. I think the sea for my waterline models (the only kind of SIB I do) is more accurate to reality than almost any I have seen. For several years, my work was on offshore oil platforms off the southern California coast in deep water far from shore, which is the kind of sea where sailing ships spent 99.99% of their time. Most of that work included a journey by boat of as much as two hours, one way, to and from the platform every day. I had the opportunity to study and memorize the ocean’s appearance under just about all conditions from calm and flat to 40 mph winds and 30 foot waves (from trough to peak) which was just about the limit of what the crew boats could handle. Most people think deep-water seas look like the surf at a beach – but the only similarity between the two is that they are both salty and wet.

8.      What types of ships do you prefer?
In general, I prefer pure sailing ships. At present, I find myself most interested in the smaller warships of the early 1800s up to the time just before the introduction of steam. My favorite ships are topsail schooners (aka Baltimore Clippers) with a very radical mast rake that makes them look like they’re doing 10 knots even at anchor.

9.      What is your favorite part of ship in bottle building?
I enjoy solving the unique problems presented by each build. I also enjoy the rigging when I get to see the results of all the different pieces coming together into a whole.

10.   Is there a design or method that you use that you are particularly proud of?
I am very pleased with the box joint mast hinges I developed that are invisible when the mast is erected unless the viewer knows what to look for.

11.   Have you had any instances where a build went horribly wrong? 
Of course! Maybe not “horribly” wrong but I have had difficult problems crop up more frequently than I care to remember getting a ship in the bottle or setting up the masts. Each time the problems occurred because I failed to plan ahead well enough or to do a trial fit with the hull, bare masts and minimum rigging to check that everything fits and test  the mast erection. On one occasion, I omitted the test and later found that the main mast was too tall after the fore mast was set and glued. I had a lot of rigging and several spars to replace by the time I got the ship out of the bottle. I ALWAYS make a trial fit since that disaster.

12.   What are some of your favorite materials to use?
I fabricate many things from wire as fine as 45 gauge. I am also very pleased with a brand of fly tying thread I found. On my current build, I found that the fly tying thread can be taken apart into the twisted yarns that were twisted together to make the thread and I will use those yarns for ratlines when I get to that point on my current build. The yarns, at less than .001 inch diameter, work out to be the right size for 5/8 inch rope at 1/640 scale. I also like paper stiffened with ca glue in a variety of detail applications.

13.   What are some of the most unusual materials you’ve used in a build?
I once used human hair to rig a SIB in a glass airline-size liquor bottle. I will never do that again because hair is very difficult to work with in almost every regard.

14.   What creative tools have you created?
I make many special purpose tools for working inside the bottles as the need arises.

15.   What books do you recommend for ship in bottle building?
Just about any book on building SIBs covers the basics well enough for a beginner and provide a foundation for the rest of the learning process, which will never end. I have learned more in the last year after meeting other SIB builders through the internet than in the previous thirty. Shipbuilding in Miniature by Donald McNarry, although not about SIBs, has a wealth of information about miniature ship modeling techniques that are adaptable to SIBs.

16.   What is the most interesting bottle you have found?
A bottle is analogous to a painter’s canvas or a picture frame as far as I am concerned. I feel that complex, ornate or extremely unusual bottles distract the viewer from what is important – the ship inside the bottle. I feel the same way about display stands and exterior decoration. I believe strongly in the KISS principle – “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” The only criteria I have for bottles are clarity, uniform thickness for minimal distortion, usable interior space and the inside diameter and length of the neck. I found sources for laboratory glass which is what I intend to use from now on. The only exception I would consider is a classic Pinch bottle.

17.    What’s the most unique place or way you have found a bottle?
not applicable, see #16

18.   What is your favorite response to the question, “How did you get it in there?”
I thought of several smart-ass responses over the years but never use them. I explain the basics simply and concisely.

19.   What ships are on your to do list?
I don’t have a “to do” list as such. I have a mental list of ships that intrigue me for any number of reasons as possible future builds. At some point during a build in progress, I find myself thinking about what to build next – usually while working on some of the boring, repetitious details that occupy only a part of my attention. Eventually one or two of the “possibles” rises to the surface, so to speak, and I start the necessary research. My next build is going to be a conventional wood ship model from a kit – Caldercraft’s Cruizer, a British brig of war from the Napoleonic Wars modified slightly into one of the other 105 brigs built from the same plans in that period. It will be an interesting change to work on a relatively huge 1/64 scale model after working at 1/640 scale on my current project. I’m considering building the same brig from scratch in a large bottle concurrently.

20.   What are you currently working on?

I am currently building the Chilean Navy School Ship Esmeralda at 1/640 scale. Esmeralda is a four masted barquentine and the second longest and tallest conventional sailing ship in the world. Photo albums of progress photos are posted on the Ship in Bottle Builders and my personal facebook pages. I also have a comprehensive build log for Esmeralda on the Model Ship World website.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

America's Cup Fiasco

This post has nothing to do with ship in bottle building so if you don't care for the Americas Cup just skip to the previous post.  Just thought I'd air some frustration.  

Well I was very excited for the America's cup.  I love the idea behind the AC72's and they are really a beautiful and fast sailing ship.  I was really looking forward to seeing them race on Sunday....then on Tuesday ....now I still am.  Trouble is there is drama behind the scenes that has made for some pretty lonely one boat racing.  It's kind of like watching a sword fighter battle the air or a dancer do the salsa with out a partner.

For those that don't know the story I'll try to sum it up best I can.  Keep in mind I only started following the Americas Cup a month or ago so I am may not be totally current with history or terminology.  The trouble started when the Regatta Director Iain Murray announced some new safety rules a week before the race.  These included things like last minute adjustments to foils heavier boats and deeper rudders for better control.  Sounds all well and good except that Luna Rasa and New Zealand protested the changes and now Luna Rasa is waiting for an international jury to decide whether it's fair or not before they race.  This lead to more finger pointing and drama leaving New Zealand to race alone.

At first I wanted to sympathize with the protest since changing major aspects of the ship a week before the race is pretty screwed up.  Looking further into it though I understand the need for the rule change.  The AC72 is a 7 ton ship that regularly sails faster than 40 knots, or close to 50 mph for us land lubbers.  With the increase of speed and size also comes a decrease in control.  Since the ships use a hydro foil and raise up on their rudders the surface area of the rudder becomes even less which of coarse means less control.  This had lead to the two of the ships flipping over and even the tragic loss of Artemis Teams crew member Andrew Simpson on May 9th.  So between May 9th and the start of the races in July they have been investigating the causes and finding ways to prevent them.  They came up with 37 new safety rules and implemented the a week before the race.  Could this have been done sooner?  Or could they have talked more with the teams before announcing new rules all of the sudden?  Welll....who knows I'm just a couch potato captain waiting to see a good race.

I will point out though that this is nothing new to the Americas Cup.  There have been times when they have spent more times in court rooms arguing than they spent on the water actually racing.  It sounds ridiculous but you have to keep in mind what the Americas Cup races actually mean.  It's not like the Olympics where they are trying to find the best sailing team.  Or like drag races trying to find the fastest car.  The Americas Cup is all about winning and holding onto the Americas Cup.  This is why the New York Yacht Club held onto it for 132 years.  He who holds the cup sets the rules.  In this case Oracle Team USA.

Really the mess the Americas Cup is in falls on Oracle.  I think they reached a bit far on deciding to use the AC72's.  The cost of the ships has forced the majority of the teams to drop out leaving only four.  Had we more teams in the race we may have actually seen a race by now.  It's obvious that the AC72 is cutting edge sailing technology but I think it needs more testing and adjusting to gain the mix of control and speed it's really capable of.  The races this year would have fared better if they would have added foiling technology to the AC45 and ran with that.  At the very least I think we'd have more teams in the race.

Of coarse what does this couch potato captain know.  Can you really blame Oracle for pushing for the fastest craziest ship they could?  It took 132 years to loose the cup from New York it could very well do the same some where else.  So when you get a chance to set the rules why not run with it?  Except that the America's cup has become more than a bunch of rich guys racing overly expensive yachts.  It's become a money maker.  The reason they switched from the mono hull yachts to the multi hull catamarans was to bring the race closer to shore and which allows for spectators to watch the race.  With spectators comes money.  Team apparel sales, ticket sales, concert sales.  As a business the Americas Cup can do very well.  Unless you can't get the race started with more then one boat.

I read an article recently where Louis Vuitton is asking the Americas Cup for a refund of 3 million dollars.  I guess the fiasco has left the sales of their 11,000 dollar America's Cup watches as low as the fans disappointment.  On the bright side if this keeps up maybe I can afford one.  I really wanted to like the Americas Cup. Last year was so incredible.  The AC72s are really incredible.  Putting the two together would be spectacular.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  We're only a few days in.  There's time to turn this around and still have some incredible racing.  Mean while enjoy a piece of last years racing.  If you haven't seen it already it's a ton of fun to watch.




Monday, July 8, 2013


"You'll go a long way before you see seagulls in bottles." - George Fulfit

This concept behind this post started with the documentary "Steady as She Goes" about George Fulfit a ship in bottle builder who made a trade mark of putting seagulls in his bottles.  

I watched this video a long time ago and had always kept the idea in the back of my mind.  I saw that George  carved his seagulls and made the wings out of Styrofoam.  The seagulls worked well for his bottle but they seemed to be to big for the ones I was building.  Months later I saw seagulls again in a bottle by Heather Rodgers.  Again I wondered how this was done.  Heather's answer was simple.  The seagulls are paper built up with paint.  

I decided to experiment with idea it came out so good I used it as a finishing touch for my recent Yacht America.  

The first thing to do when making a seagull to go into your bottle is get the right shape.  I did a quick Google search on seagull outlines to get the right idea.  They are actually quiet simple, point for a head curving wings and a fan like tail. Once I got the general shape I found I could draw the wings head or tail in different ways to get different mid flight type poses.

Once the seagull is drawn I start on the wing color.  Mostly because it's easier to do before the gull is cut out.  There are many different types of gulls so they can be any variety of colors.  The ones I've seen most often though have grey wing with black tips.  I draw in the grey with a pencil making it as feathery as possible and then draw deep black streaks on the tips of the wings with a black colored pencil.  Once that is done I cut the seagull out with an exato knife.

Now it's time to get out the paint.  I use acrylics since they wash out with water and are so easy to use.  They also have a way of clumping when you paint over a surface multiple times which is good and bad.  For seagulls it's a good thing.  I put a nice big glob of white paint on the body and let it dry if my seagul is still looking a little flat I add another one and let it dry until I have a nice looking gull.

I then move on to the beak and feet.  Sometimes I use orange for this sometimes yellow just depends on what I want at the time.  With the gulls being so small I just dip a toothpick in the paint and then dab it onto the beak and press in two dabs for the feet.  Chances are no one will see the feet but it's fun to know they are there.  The last part is folding the wings.  I fold the wings where they connect with the body then round them out like they are catching the wind.  This is important in that they will be glued to the bottle by the wing tip.  Now they are ready to fly.

The last part is the most tricky and is probably best done with an ear polypus.  Since mine broke I've been stuck using coat hangers so I made one that cradles the seagull while I get it in position.  I use super glue to glue the seagull to the side of the bottle where I want it to be flying around.  Put just a dab of glue on the side of the wing and touch it to the side of the bottle where you want the gull.  Then hold very very still.  Super glue and glue in general has a weird tendency to not dry when it's moving.  I also will note to be very careful putting glue on the sides of your bottle.  If to much glue is applied it can distort the glass and distract from the seagull and the ship.

Also a word of caution with super glue.  Normal grocery store super glue which is what I use has a lot of fumes.  If you cork the bottle before the glue is dry the fumes fog up the inside of the bottle and is very hard to clean.  If you use super glue leave the bottle open with the top facing up to let the fumes out.  I let it sit like this three to five minutes while the glue dries.  Hold the gull in place until it looks like the wing is firmly glued to the bottle.   If you end up getting some unwanted glue on the side of the bottle don't worry about it.  It's inevitable with seagulls.  Get a long dowel and attach an exacto knife at a 45 degree angle at the end.  Once the glue dries use the blade to scrape off the unwanted glue.

Now slowly pull the wire out until your well clear of the seagull.  With the gull being so small the paper holds it's weight on the wing and the gull appears to be flying around the bottle.   I didn't have a whole lot of time so the gulls I made for this post aren't as good as they can get.  Have patience and work with it and you can get some pretty good looking seagulls.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

America's Cup

I'm so excited for the 34th America's Cup.  The new AC72's are some of the most fascinating ships I've seen.  It will be a lot of fun to see them race.  Check them out.

For more info check out http://www.americascup.com/.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Wreck of the Brigantine

I've been so busy with life I haven't been able to put together a post.  I wanted to put something up so people know I'm still out here so I went through some old photo's and came up with a short something to put out there.

First a few shameless plugs on upcoming posts and things.  I'm hoping to have a post up soon about putting seagulls in bottles.  I still have to get some photo's done and I'll have it up as soon as I can.  

Also if you've seen my gallery lately you may have seen my latest ship the Santa Maria.  I hope to do a post on that one as well but not until after September since it will be featured in the Bottle Shipwright a magazine created by the Ship in Bottle Association of America.  For more info on the Bottle Shipwright or to become a member of SIBAA check out the SIBAA website.  

So now a couple very old pictures.  This is a brigantine I built quiet a while ago.  Keep in mind this was early in my learning of the craft so the ship is not that great.  At least by my current standards.  

I show this to point out that some times things go wrong.  In this case horribly wrong.  I was trying to use a technique where I would pull the masts into place using a line attached to the base of the mast that then ran into the hole for the mast and out the bottom of the ship.  The technique worked great at first.  The ship was very easy to insert into the bottle.  The only problem with it was the amount of lines coming out of the bottle was tremendous and beyond what I could handle at the time.  

I began tightening the lines and got the foremast into place but couldn't keep all the lines tight.  I tried to resolve this by gluing a few lines and cutting them off.  Trouble is I glued the wrong line and the spanker mast would not come up at all.  I worked on it for a few hours before I decided enough was enough and there was nothing I could do.  At the time I didn't have the equipment to cut the lines that far into the bottle so I felt my only option in correcting the mistake would be to just pull it out and hope it didn't break to bad. 

I got it to the bottle neck and got some pliers on it and pulled it out.  It all but shattered.  The back stays got pulled too tight and tore the bulwarks off the ship.  Masts and yards broke into splinters.  To fix the ship now would be to rebuild it altogether.  

At that point I was done with the ship.  I had spent to much time to have it end so horribly.  So I kept what scraps were left and moved on to other projects.  I eventually came back to it and realized it didn't look like much any ways so it was finally disposed of.  My point of this post though is some times stuff happens.  A build goes horribly wrong or busts into pieces and then never sees the light of day, but you know, that's okay.  To perfect your craft you have to just keep going.  

I learned a lot from this failed brigantine.  It taught me to stretch my abilities and where to draw the line.  I learned what worked for me and what didn't, like a too many lines coming out of the bottle.  Each ship after has been the same.  I try something new adapt it if it works and leave it if it doesn't.  My hope is to make each build better then the last.  

There's only one thing I could have done differently with the brigantine which I probably should have.  Which is to stuff the piece's back in the bottle push them into the sea and call it a shipwreck in a bottle.  The fun of ship in bottle building is that even when you screw it up, it works.  

Good luck and keep learning.   


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Building The HMS Bounty

I am long over due a new post and have been contemplating what to write next.  There is actually a lot of new techniques I have picked up in the last while due to a community build in the SIB community.

I'm sure most have heard now of the sad sinking of the HMS Bounty in hurricane Sandy and with it the tragic loss of her Captain Robin Wallbridge and crew Claudine Christian.  For me it was an instance of you don't know what you had until you lost it.  In truth I barely knew the ship existed previous to her sinking. I was soon awaken from my obliviousness as the model ship building community took the news very hard.  I've read many posts of sadness, commemoration and memories of visiting the ship.

I guess it's no surprise that I never knew much about the Bounty.  I have always lived in one land locked state or another.  What I found though was that I didn't grow up seeing this ship on the ocean but seeing it on the silver screen.  From Treasure Island to Pirates of the Caribbean I had seen this ship several times.  I didn't know the ship but yet I did.

The SIB Facebook forum was no different in lament and commemoration of the HMS Bounty and her lost crew members.  Photos, memories and plans filled the forum.  It was then suggested that a community build be done in commemoration of the HMS Bounty.  The rules were simple.  Build the Bounty and post your progress.  Size, plan, and length of time didn't matter.  Which I think is the true beauty of the ship in bottle art.  The only constraint is it has to go into a bottle.  So a bunch of us began our logs and started posting progress.

SIB builders on the forum have since been building the Bounty.  Greg Alvey, who created and updates an incredible site www.folkartinbottles.com, created a page where all of the current builds can be seen together.  Here's the link. http://folkartinbottles.com/workshop/building-the-hms-bounty 

The great thing about the community build is it has created a way to learn and try new techniques from more experienced SIB builders.  I have been able to glean information I would never have thought of.  Some of these new techniques I will include in this post.

I started the usual way by carving out the hull.  I decided on doing a really small build.  I had been reading a lot on miniature SIB's and figured I'd try it out.

I then worked on the forecastle.  I ended up cutting match sticks to splinters and gluing the splinters on the ship.  Other builders used styrene which I may have to try out.

I continued using match sticks to create the channels and chain plates.

I painted the ship with acrylics and after checking it against a few photos I decided that my bulwarks were to high.  So as I cut the top of the ship down to size.

I did worry a little that the gun ports would not be big enough to put the cannons through but they ended up ok.  You can also see in these photo's a much nicer deck then I usually have.  The great part about the community build is that I was able to get ideas from other builders doing the same ship.  As I watched Cecil Tiller build his ship I noticed his deck planking looked great.  So I asked how he did it.  He told me to take clear finger nail polish and coat the deck.  After it dry's use a razor blade to cut the lines where the planking should go.  Then stain the deck.  The interesting thing about this method is that the stain darkens everything but where the nail polish is.  Creating awesome and very visable contrast in the deck planking.  To see more of Cecil's work click the link  http://folkartinbottles.com/workshop/building-the-hms-bounty/223-cecil-tiller-building-log  

I went on to add the bow and the deck furniture.  The helm was made by cutting a seed bead in half.  This was kind of crazy but it worked.  The cannons are pieces of wire.  I build the launch out of match sticks using the same method I outlined in a former post "Ready the Longboats."  The winch was made from match sticks and bamboo.  The great thing about bamboo is that it remains strong even when it's cut very thin.  The capstan is just a splinter glued in a hole with the top painted red.  

The hatches were tricky and I stumbled upon a new technique in creating them.  I noticed that Greg Alvey did a terrific job on his hatches and I asked how he did it.  He explained that he took the picture of the deck plan stained the hatches and glued the paper down as the hatch.  I couldn't get my printer to print small enough with out the lines running together so I initially thought I will just stain some paper and no one would notice there were no lines in the hatch anyways.  As I was gluing the paper down I pressed it down firmly with the exacto knife I was using to position it.  I noticed the knife left a small divot in the paper.  I then started lining up divots until I had all the lines in the hatches.      

I like to add anchors on all of my ships and the Bounty was no different.  This time I got some smaller wire and made them particularly small.  

It was then off to the rigging yard.  The masts and yards were all made from bamboo with paper and paint making up the platforms.  I tied a lot of thread blocks since the masts were to small to drill through.

I wanted to go with a more realistic rigging but then chickened out and used a usual SIB rigging.  This constitutes the sheets all running aft to either the stay or mast behind the yards they control.  That sentence was a bit technical for a beginners blog.  Kudos to those that understood that.  In lay mans terms the tan lines that control the sails are run towards the back of the ship.

My rigging was a little different with this ship.  I used a shallow hole to set the masts instead of the usual hinge method.  This gave me a little more flexibility getting the ship in the bottle.  I made it so the masts still folded backwards but used a slightly different technique on the mizzen mast.  Since the forward stay ended at the base of the fore mast and I didn't want to drill a hole through my ship I had the line exit the top of the mizzen mast.  I did this specifically because of the bottle and sea method I was using would allow it.  Typically I wouldn't rig the line that way.

I found a couple new methods on the shrouds that worked out well.  I had recently seen a technique where the back stays are weaved back and forth through the ship. I wanted to try this technique but the size of the ship and angle I would have to drill made it all but impossible to go through the ship.  So I drilled three holes below my chain plates where the chains would have been attached to the ship.  I bent a small piece of wire a U shape with a gap just big enough to put thread through the U.  I glued the wire in the hole and bent it upwards to act as the chain.  I tried to make them so the came just below the bottom of the chain plate.  I then threaded my back stays through the U of the chains back and forth as I had seen in the threading technique.  With the ship being so small I only had to dab paint on the lines going over the chain plate to make it look like they were going through the chain plate.

The other method I used for the shrouds above the platforms.  I really got tired of gluing tiny piece of thread to the back stays and decided to make a jig that would help me make ratlines.  I tried using pins and wood and things but they all just failed.  Then I found tape.  I used my finger nail polish bottle to wrap masking tape around so that it was sticky side up.  I then carefully measured and applied thread to the sticky side of the tape with three lines to create the stays and a row of lines to create the rat lines.  Once they were all pressed firmly onto the tape I slid the bottle out leaving my rat lines in mid air attached to the tape.  I poured on the super glue and blew off the excess so I didn't have any between the lines.  Once it dried I cut out my shrouds and glued them onto my masts.

Once the rigging was done I used drawing paper to make my sails.  It was probably a bit thick but it holds it's shape well which gives it a good full of wind effect.

Once the sails were complete it was time to build the sea and bottle the ship.  For the sea I used a technique from a video posted on the facebook site a while back.  Robert Little explains the technique better then I can so I will let him tell you.  The explanation starts at the 4:40 second mark.

Using Robert Little's technique this is what I came up with.  I used cardboard instead of wood since it was more readily available.  

Once that was done I put the ship in the bottle.  The bottle I originally planned the Bounty to go into a light bulb but it didn't clean out well so I used a Christmas ornament turned upside down.  The Bounty is a little small for it but not overly so.    

You can see with the sea being able to move around in the bottle why I didn't worry about having lines coming off the front and back of the ship.

Here you see the ship is all set up and ready for the finishing touches on the sea.  I added a little clay to make it appear to cut through the water as well as a small wake behind her.

Here is the completed HMS Bounty in a bottle. I cut a hole in a block of wood and glued the top, now bottom of the ornament into it.  I then painted on the name as well as my name and year completed.

This one was a lot of work.  The small size and amount of detail put it made for a very long build.  At least longer then I'm used to.  In then end I'm pleased with the results.  Thank you for reading and if you haven't yet seen the other HMS Bounty build logs please check them out.  They are all very well done.  http://folkartinbottles.com/workshop/building-the-hms-bounty