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The brig is complete!

For as much whining as I’ve done about these models, I really like them. Which is good as this is the first of 26 ships. I wanted to complete the brig before going forward with any of the others as a way to suss out techniques that worked for me. What follows is my step by step with pitfalls found.

While I greatly appreciate the design of the plastic parts, I think the printed sails (and the ratlines) and the rigging thread don’t match the same quality. To me, the sails seem overly large, too thick and too heavily printed. I ended up making my own sails from 65# card stock and painting them. The printed mizzen sail particularly bothered me. In every photo I see of these models there seems to be a gap between the leading edge of the mizzen sail and the mizzenmast. I think that’s just wrong. As far as I know, the mizzen sail was attached directly to the mizzenmast by a series of rings that allowed the sail to be raised and lowered, but kept it in virtual contact with the mast.

Rigging Notes

I intensely studied the tutorials provided by JJ (http://jjwargames.blogspot.com/2019/12/all-at-sea-rigging-tutorial.html) and War Artisan (Jeffrey Knudson) (http://www.warartisan.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Rigging_Tutorial.176184616.pdf). The most invaluable tip was from War Artisan (WA) who talks about stiffening up the rigging thread with glue before attempting to rig. Absolutely essential—particularly since the thread provided by Warlord is quite thin and flimsy. (In fact, after my first experience with this thread I’ll pitch it and use regular cotton sewing thread—as I did for the running rigging on the brig.) The two tutorials have two different methodologies. JJ runs his rigging from point to point so a single thread could be used for many different lines. However, WA cuts each run of rigging separately to the exact length needed and glues each end.

Here’s my process: I ran the standing rigging as JJ does, i.e, tie it at a beginning point then run it up to where it needs to go, loop it around and then to the next point and finally tie it off at the eventual end point. Use a toothpick to apply a dab of glue to all the points where the line contacts the model. For example, all my shrouds for each mast (the lines that attach a mast to the sides of the ship) are a single piece of thread. The initial attachment is made at the lowest point on the mast, run though the hole in the bulwark, up to the higher point, looped around, then down to the other side bulwark and finally back up to the starting point on the mast. Four shroud lines, one piece of thread.

But when it came to the running rigging the runs become pretty complicated. Plus, by this time I had added the sails and frankly just can’t manipulate the thread with my tweezers and optivisor in that tight space! So I adopted a variation of WA’s technique. My hand-eye coordination and lack of depth perception made it impossible for me to cut individual lengths and fit them in place. So I ended up cutting an overlong length of glue stiffened thread and folding it ot create a ‘V’. The thread is stiff enough to hold that shape. I then put a dab of glue on the mast where the ‘V’ of the line would attach, placed the ‘V’ in the glue and extended the longer legs of the ‘V’ to where they would end up—typically on a yardarm. I let the legs just sit there while the ‘V’ attachment dried. Once it was mostly dried, I’d gently lift each leg at a time, put a dab of glue where it met the spar and gently let the leg back down into the glue. Once this dried, then I could trim off the extra length of the legs with my trusty mini-scissors and optivisor. This method allowed me to avoid having to make precise measurements where a single mis-measured millimeter could make a significant difference. I still had a few individual pieces but not many. The key to this process is patience. Work on one or two lines at a time. Go do something else while the glue dries. Come back to it in ten minutes. Repeat ad nauseum.

I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue for all the rigging attachments. I squirted a blob out on a ceramic tile I use as a palette and used a toothpick to apply glue directly to the model (actually I switched to using an old dental tool with a more precise point). Aleene’s dries crystal clear and is water soluble. So, if I ended up with an overly large blob of glue on the model I could use a moist paint brush to somewhat dilute the glue, spread it around a bit and lift up any excess. This is also the glue I used to stiffen up the thread before starting the rigging process. Aleene’s maintains some flexibility, it doesn’t get brittle like some PVAs do. I think it’s perfect for this type of job.

Assembly Sequence/Notes

1. Clip all the pieces and sort them into a compartmented box. I keep all the brig, frigate and 3rd rate parts in separate compartments. I clean them of mould lines as I use them.

1. Assemble the hulls including the bow sprit. The plastic pieces fit together with great accuracy. The optional metal pieces (stern plate and figurehead) don’t fit quite as nicely. If you are using them be prepared to trim down the attachment tabs of the stern plate in order to fit it flush against the hull.

The 3rd rate ships have a lower deck section that glues to the underside of the deck. It is advisable to paint this piece before attaching it as it is almost impossible to paint it after assembly.

(Note that during the rigging phase there is a stay that extends from the base of the bow sprit to the foremast. You may want to hold off in attaching the bowsprit until the rigging phase as it is very difficult to attach this line after the bowsprit is attached. If you choose to do this remember to attach the rigging line to the base of the bowsprit before gluing the sprit to the hull. Just let the line hang free for now.)

2. Prime and paint the assembled hulls. I paint the decks first and then the exterior surfaces of the ship.

3. Glue the hulls to the bases. I paint the bases first but add wakes and bow waves after gluing the hulls on. I have all my bases painted and finished just awaiting the fleet. My bases are 4mm thick cardboard with tin foil waves. They are 40mm wide and overlap the stern and bowsprits of the models by about 1cm. All painted a cheerful Caribbean blue. I’ve added magnetic sheet to the bottom of all the bases. This helps prevent warping in addition to the advantages of having magnetic bases.

4. Paint and attach the masts from front to back. Remember that line attached to the bowsprit? You may also want to tie on the center-line stays to the foremast at this point. Again, just let them hang free until you’ve attached all the masts. Attach the boom and gaff to the mizzenmast before attaching it to the hull. The boom is the longer of the two pieces and goes on the bottom! (I got these mixed up on the first two models I built. Most people won’t notice but I know it’s wrong! It will also complicate rigging and attaching the sails if you mess this up.)

5. If you intend to include the running rigging, now is the time to attach the lifts that run from the mast-tops to the yards. (This is the perfect time to practice ‘V’ rigging.) By attaching the lifts to the fronts of the masts and yards the ends will be hidden by the sails. This will also lead to a cleaner look on the back of the masts since so much of the running rigging attaches there.

6. Gird your loins in preparation for rigging.

7. Rig the center line standing rigging (e.g., the lines that run from mast to mast). I work from front to back, bottom up. However, for now leave off the forestays that hold the jibs.

8. Attach the ratlines. While I’m not a fan of the acetate ratlines provided by Warlord, after much experimentation I decided my skills were not up to scratch building ratlines and my budget won’t accommodate photo-etched additions. So… I used the acetate ones. NOTE: The ratlines often cover the holes in the bulwarks of the ships provided for running the shrouds. You’ll either need to trim the ratlines to expose these holes or add holes to the ratlines to allow the shrouds to pass through them.

9. Attach the shrouds. These are the lines that run from the mast tops to the sides of the ship. Running them through the holes in the bulwarks can be challenging to say the least.

10. Attach the jibs and mizzen sail. I glue the jibs to lines first, and then run the lines from the bowsprit to the foremast. Ensure that the jibs sit just about on the bowsprit—they should not be halfway up the stay! You may need to trim the mizzen sail to get a good fit. Again, I believe the leading edge of the sail should be right up against the mizzen mast and the top should fit right along the gaff. I think the bottom edge could run free of the boom—I’m not entirely certain it was attached for its full length.

11. Attach the square sails. I used the provided cardboard sails as templates after cutting them down to what I thought was the appropriate size—except for the mizzen sail which was entirely wrong. So I drew the new sails on light card stock, painted them—front and back—an off-white with some beige shading and let that dry. Some details were added (reefing points and seams) with a sharp pencil. I then cut out three sides of the individual sails but left the bottom margin where I had written the position of the sail. I then moistened the back sides and wrapped them around a large marker to impart the right curvature. I then wrapped string around the sails/marker to hold them in place and let them dry over night. Once dry and unwrapped, then, one by one, the bottom margin was trimmed off and the sail was glued to the appropriate yardarm.

12. Attach the running rigging. Again, I worked from front to back—foremast to mizzen—bottom to top. Again, ‘V’ rigging worked best for me.

13. Rig the bowsprit, jib lines and dolphin striker.

14. Attach ensigns, flags and pennants.

15. Breathe deeply and relax.

Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/