Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum! At last I’m able to mention a project I’ve been working on for the last month, which has been shrouded in secrecy.
I was helping out my mates at Printable Scenery to prepare for their new ‘Lost Islands’ Kickstarter, which launched this morning. They asked me to build a couple of their prototype ship models for use in the photography on their site. I was only too happy to oblige, but I was sworn to secrecy to ensure maximum impact when the Kickstarter came out.
I almost let the cat out of the bag when I posted some photos of the model sloop at sea in my swimming pool (yes, they actually float!) … but that was before I realised there was a secrecy clause, so I had to quickly delete the pics when I found out.
Anyway, all can now be revealed! The models are part of Printable Scenery’s new ‘Lost Islands’ Kickstarter. This is a collection of highly detailed 3D printable port buildings, ships, and tribes for home 3D printers, shown in the short video below:
As the Kickstarter publicity says:
Swashbuckling adventure awaits. Sail with your motley crew from the wretched streets of Port Winterdale to the jungle tribes of the Lost Islands. Defeat monsters, pirates and explore the world with nothing more than a barrel of rum, a fine ship and the stars to guide the way.
Each pledge is delivered as an STL file pack to print on a home 3D printer. If you haven’t got a printer, then Printable Scenery also maintain a list of licenced printers around the world who can do the job for you.
My brief was to build, paint and rig the two ships in the new collection – a sloop and a frigate.
The first model I made was the sloop. The hull was dead easy to paint – just a black undercoat, then dry brushing with a couple of shades of brown, and painting in details such as the carving, bolts and ironwork.
A final dry-brush with the lightest of coats of white really brings out the detail, and weathers it at the same time. But use only a very light touch – if you use too much white, the ship will look like its sailing the polar regions!
The rigging is the biggest challenge of making a sailing ship model. But I found it very easy in the end. I used a couple of pictures of real sloops to give me an idea, then cut some pieces of dowel to size. I roughly scratch-built the cross-trees where the main and top mast join together.
I gave the masts and yards tapered ends with a pencil sharpener. They were then all stained with normal household wood stain. I chose a rather dark walnut shade that I happened to have on hand. However, if I were to do this again, I would get an oak stain instead, I think.
Once the mast and bowsprit were done, then I started on the rigging. And this is where I found out the secret to ship modelling – use thin elastic instead of cotton or thread. With the latter, it is difficult to keep everything tight. But elastic keeps every shroud and stay of your rigging completely tawt.
I had an added challenge – my project brief from Printable Scenery was to make the ships so they could be folded up to be transported from New Zealand to the USA to go on display at the GaryCon and AdeptiCon shows.
By using elastic, this problem was quite simply solved. I just placed the masts into their holes in the hull without gluing, so they were held in place with the elastic rigging. To fold everything down, all you have to do is lift the mast against the stretchiness of the elastic until it pops out of its hole, then lie everything flat on the deck. Reassembling, you just do the opposite. Simples!
The actual model (though not the early prototype I built) will have accompanying layers to portray the interior, so your miniatures can fight ‘below decks’ a well. Cool!
The frigate was a bit more challenging, as it has three masts. I also wanted to experiment with adding furled sails.
The hull was painted in the same way as the sloop, though I decided to add a a bit more colour, such as the blue and white upper-works, and the red insides to the bulwarks.
I used some cardboard to scratch-build the fighting tops that hold the top-masts to the fore and main masts, and a simple set of cross-trees for the mizzen mast. Winding a bit of string around the masts at intervals adds some interesting contrast to the plain dowel.
The hardest part was that I decided to move the position of the platforms where the shrouds and ratlines are attached to the hull. I preferred them to be smaller than on the printed model, and aligned behind each mast, rather than forward. A bit of cutting and gluing of the platforms, and, hey presto, quickly done!
The ratlines are formed by gluing bits of cotton across the shrouds (tying them on was far too fiddly for me!). The sails are some light linen folded into position and tied onto the yards with elastic.
Of course, I just had to see if this ship would float too, and, sure enough, it did! Hmm, playing a wargame in a swimming pool – that brings to mind some ideas for the future …!