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Now begins what I consider to be the most difficult part of this build. Most of the problems arise from the use of the plastic ratlines supplied by the manufacturer. Notice the three holes in the bulwarks in the picture above. These are for running two sets of shrouds for each mast. The shrouds extend from the holes to the top- and top-gallant masts. (Actually, there were many more shrouds. Technically the ratlines are the horizontal ropes used as ladders to ascend and descend to the tops. They, too, are attached to multiple shrouds running vertically from the masts to the gunwales. But needs be we must simplify!)
However, the way these models were designed, the ratlines overlap these holes. Historically, the shrouds would not pass through the ratlines. They would be located aft of them. So we need to either drill new holes aft of the ratlines in the bulwarks for the shrouds (which is not possible for the foremast because of the location of the gangway and the hammock rack) or we need to trim the ratlines to accommodate the shrouds. Since I’m going to trim the ratlines anyway to accommodate the projecting cannon muzzles, I’ll take this second option.
A second consideration is that the shrouds must pass on the outside of the ratlines. If you simply ran the shrouds through the hole, one of them would be on the inside of the ratlines which would then interfere with the shroud’s path to the attachment point higher up on the mast. Frankly, there are no easy solutions unless you simply omit the shrouds. Given that they are pretty well hidden once the model is finished this may be a viable option for some people. Visually, the ratlines are a much more defining feature of the model than the shrouds. It really depends on your level of obsession and how much work you want to do. I’m pretty obsessive.
Since the mizzen shrouds provide the least problems (they are correctly located aft of the ratlines) I’ll go ahead and complete them. In order to ensure that both shrouds are outside of the ratlines, I insert a loop of the shroud line though the hole from the outside. I then pull the loop over the bulwark and pull the loose ends of the line though the loop in an upwards direction. Then pull the loop tight by pulling the loose ends upward. I do this for both the port and starboard shrouds. Essentially, I am hitching the shrouds to the bulwark.
Each shroud is then fed upward to its attachment point and looped/tied to the mast and glued. I do port and starboard of the lower shroud, then port and starboard of the upper shroud ensuring that I do not over tighten them and pull the mast to either port or starboard.
Take your time and let the glue dry. Notice the use of miniature clothespins to keep the lines under slight tension while the glue dries. Take your time. Practice patience.
Once the mizzen shrouds are dry and the excess line trimmed off then it’s time to hitch the main and fore shrouds to the bulwark. But before running the shrouds to their finish points, we want to install the ratlines. Notice the ubiquitous clothespins being used to keep the loose lines out of the way for now.
Now comes the most onerous part of the build: The Ratlines. This is where a set of magnifying goggles and small sharp scissors are worth their weight in gold. First off, cut the correct set of ratlines from the sheet—highly important! (Don’t ask me how I know.) The next thing I do is put a small amount of glue between the acetate sheet and the white paper backing in order to make it easier to see the ratlines as I cut them out. Be careful not to get glue directly behind the ratline. That would leave quite a mess when you finally separate the acetate from the backing paper. You want the clear parts of the ratline to remain clear. I also lay a sheet of white card stock across my work surface. Once the ratlines are separated from their paper backing I find them almost impossible to see since my normal work surface is dark green.
Starting with the most difficult placement first means starting with the mainmast. There are a couple of challenges here in addition to the aforementioned shrouds. The bottom edge of the ratlines should sit directly on the channels, those flat surfaces extending from the outside of the hull. Those surfaces are obstructed by the deck guns so the ratlines will need to be notched to allow the muzzles through. In addition, the courses (those furled sails on the lowest spars of the main and fore masts) also interfere with the placement of the ratlines. I’ll be cutting a notch in the leading edge at the top of the ratlines to accommodate the sail. And, since every build can be a little different, the actual length of the ratline and placement of the notches may vary.
The procedure will be to 1) Very Carefully cut the entire ratline from the sheet; 2) Carefully notch the bottom edge to accommodate the protruding gun muzzles while ensuring that the ratline does not interfere with the previously attached shroud, 3) Carefully notch the leading edge to accommodate the furled sail, 4) Carefully trim the upper point of the ratline to the correct length, 5) finally, Carefully glue the ratline to the mast and hull. Do all this while handling the ratlines with kid gloves. It is very easy to scratch the ink off of the acetate. Also note the repeated use of the word ‘Carefully’. Spare parts are not provided. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
Before and after pictures of the mainmast ratlines. Note I over cut the sail notch on the one on the left.
014 – 015
Once a pair of ratlines is attached I go ahead and run the shrouds for that mast to where they’re suppose to go. Let ’em dry and trim ’em. This at least gets the loose lines out of the way while you tackle the next set of ratlines. After gluing on the fore- and mainmast ratlines and shrouds the mizzen mast should be a cakewalk.
Once all the ratlines are attached… well then, this project is beginning to take on some character.
Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/