Feb 21, 2015

Pre-dreadnought step by step

For some reason I always liked ships. Big sailing ships, mostly. Which is quite unfortunate in a landlocked country. But since a very young age I built all sorts of ships. I played the battle of Trafalgar with the folded A4 paper sheet ships. I had the Airfix Victory and a bunch of WW2 warships with a very sloppy enamel paint job. My dad has had a number of books and plans for model ship building but he never really got into it. I still have three of those books on my shelf and huge blueprints for the frigate USS Constitution.
And now I have the skill, time, money and materials to build ships - my sailing ship project is stalling but these pre-dreadnoughts are very easy to build. I'm also planning on building the SMS Weissland for Nova Hungaria and a Ruslander/Agytpian warship. For now I'll stick to small scale though.
So this post (lots of pictures!) illustrates my current process with a battleship, in this case a Jackewlinese capital ship.

The preface done, let's cut to work. By cutting I mean literally. I measured two blocks on the 8mm balsa piece, roughly 32mm wide and over 18cm long. Some space left between the two pieces: one of the key points of this stage is to be generous with measurements as I'm going to be sanding a lot.

The steel ruler is to cut straight with the grain and the blue marker leaves visible lines so I'm using that.

Cutting the rough shapes with a blade, these are the two I'm using. Actually I just ran out of blades for the small one.

Using the file to create a homogenous surface. It's a metal file but tools made for woodworking would eat the balsa away.

Enter the 1000 grit sandpaper and dust begins to mount up.

Shaping the upper hull the same way and test fitting.

First coat of PVA.

Gluing the pieces together when they dried and comes the second sanding, this time with sandpaper only.

Decided to experiment a little and added a ram piece to the bowsprit. I'm using lots of PVA as filler at this point. The domino thingy is obviously to have a grip on the ship while I'm painting.

Funnels cut from sprues, this is a Zvezda sprue but all pastic sprues behave similarly. I bend them very carefully at an even pace (they still snap sometimes) until the shorter end reaches the other half of the sprue (it will bend back).

No measurements again, cutting them to size by eyesight.

I always make spares because I keep losing them.

Stacks from plastic crossbow bolts. The Jackewlinese ships have taller stacks but less in number.

The shorter ones are for a pocket cruiser I'm building along with the battleship.

Here are all the things I need to keep up with the work. The plasticard pieces are for something else actually.

Cutting out the rough shapes of the turrets from balsa.

After sanding;

Toothpick barrels added.

Plasticard piece cut and sanded to shape for the bridge.

An upper structure from balsa and card.

Like the good craftsman I started with the roof and then built the walls.

Masts added.

Finished masts and bridge.

Test fitting the larger superstructure bits.

Another layer of PVA.

The cruiser's hull has been ready for a while so while the big ship dries I'll finish this one.

Now I only need to add the barrels to the side guns.

Covered the bowsprit with a piece of paper (plus lots of PVA) and sanded it when it was dry. Starting to add the superstructures.

Gun ports from card. I bend them a little and use superglue to fix them on the hull.

Broadside battery ports are fixed with PVA because it does not expand like superglue and I can even the ports if I don't align them well at the first try.

Punching small holes to the large ports with the scalpel and placing the barrels into those. I hope this gives the bond some strength as this was an issue with the Rhealla. The ship is now ready for painting.


  1. great tutorial!
    you had a really good idea to build ships: thanks for sharing.