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.