Home Forums Air and Sea Naval Scratch Built 50 Gun Ship HMS Leopard

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    Greetings Shipmates,

    (Warning! I am not sure what the post limit here is, this is a long one.)

    Paul asked if I would post some more scratch builds of 1/1200 scale AOS ships.  This is one I did a while back, some of you who have visited my blog may have already seen it. I bought the Anatomy of a Ship – The 50 Gun Ship. In it were plans for several ships. I chose the Leopard. So the first thing I did was take photos of the deck plans and side profile then I started a Microsoft Word file and added the photos. Re-sizing them to 1/1200 scale was not easy. I printed out several sheets too big or too small until I finally got it right. Having GHQ and Langton unbuilt 50 gun hulls for comparison helped.

    Next I cut out the decks and glued them to 1/16″ balsa sheet. An Xacto knife made easy work of cutting out the wooden decks. Then the deck sections were glued together: orlop, lower and upper gun decks, quarter deck, forecastle, poop.

    Leopard Basic Hull

    A quick comparison with the GHQ 50 gun hull:

    Comparison hulls

    A file and some fine sandpaper smoothed the sides for the next step. I carefully cut out two side profiles and glued them to the sides, being careful to leave just enough rail above the decks, joining the stems together at the front of the ship. I cut strips of drawing paper and then chopped them into hatch squares and glued them in place on the hull.

    hull profile

    The stern detail was transferred to another piece of balsa using carbon paper. The stern was cut out and glued on. The detail was carefully trimmed out with dental tools and hatches made of drawing paper added.

    Stern blank

    Bits of old credit card were cut for the deck furniture, bulkheads and shroud chains. Some fine mesh was added for the deck grate. Small bits of balsa were shaped for the stairs. Cannon are made with bits of .016 music wire on thin card carriages.

    Deck furniture

    painted hull

    Next I worked on the masts. Old credit cards never go to waste in my shipyard. They make great fighting tops. Masts are made with .047 music wire, topmasts with .039, and top gallant masts with .032. The fighting top is drilled then slid over the mast. The topmast is glued to the part of the mast above the fighting top. Two pieces of black thread are tied around the joint for detail as well as strength. The joint is coated with super glue. Then the top gallant mast is similarly attached to the topmast.

    Masts 1

    Masts 2

    Masts 3

    Masts 5

    I stopped here to make the base. The base is acid free art mat, with two coats of spar varnish. Household vinyl spackle is what I use to sculpt the water. After the spackle thoroughly dries, I paint the base with Navy Blue. After that dries, I dry brush a dark blue-green with the waves, and if there are any whitecaps I will dry brush white against the waves. This base is calm water so no white, except for the wake.


    When the base is dry I coat it with either Mod Podge or Triple Thick Gloss Glaze.
    Next I started the sails. I have tried just about everything for sails, but I have landed on heavy bond art paper, the kind you can buy in large tablets at Hobby Lobby. Most people use it for charcoal drawing. I transfer the templates in my Mast Log using carbon paper to the art paper.

    Mast log

    The sails are cut out and glued with PVA to some smooth plastic or metal curved object like a pen or marker.

    sail form 1

    sail form 2

    After the sails are dry they pop right off the curved surface. Then spars are cut and glued to the sails. The sails and spars are painted and then the detail is added: Leech lines, bunt lines, clew lines.


    The masts are attached to the hull.

    Masts glued

    Then the sails and spars are attached one mast at a time and more detail is added. (I used cut staples to make the skid beams and added a GHQ ship’s boat)

    Sail mount 1

    Sail mount2

    The finished ship with running rigging.







    Here are a few comparison shots: With Langton 68 gun Dutch on right

    Comparison w Langton

    With Langton 56 gun Glatton on left

    Langton Comparison

    With Davco 42 gun frigate on left

    Davco Comparison

    I hope you have enjoyed this build log. I’m just sorry the photo quality isn’t better.



    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun


    Wow , I like the way you curved the sails with a pen casing !!! Would have never thought of that. Great work.

    Brian Weathersby

    Dang Vol!  I’m not sure that your blog comment about “I’m a gamer who models” is accurate.  That looks much more like a modeller who games.  Very, very nice.


    I'm lucky to be here
    With someone I like
    Who maketh my spirit to shine
    --Warren Zevon


    Yee gads that is impressive

    malc johnston

    Excellent effort, for such a small scale hats off to you.



    Thanks guys. So please tell me, is this kind of long post too much? Should I just link to my blogsite?

    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun


    The “horrible old Leopard*” is certainly not horrible at all.





    • see ‘Desolation Island’.

    Thanks guys. So please tell me, is this kind of long post too much? Should I just link to my blogsite?

    I prefer more on here.

    But then I would.


    Yes the infamous horrible old Leopard. That is why I chose it. 

    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun


    Excellent little project! Sort of a mix between card modeling and wood carving. My scratch builds at this scale normally end up being used as wrecks. What type of glue did you use when shaping the sails?

    The length of the post is fine by me. I appreciate the detailed explanations.

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


    Stunning work!

    Now we want to see one in 1/56 scale…



    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna


    Hello Jeff,

    I use PVA glue, Elmers, to set the sail forms.


    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun


    Great work and I really like the detailed examples.  I agree with Brian in that you appear to be a great model maker that happens to game.

    Mike – I really enjoy that type of long detailed post. It an some of the AAR’s in similar style are, in my opinion, really valuable.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

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