My Workbench

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

How I Make Ship Bases

The following is a short explanation of how I go about making a base for a new ship mini. For the 1/1200 scale ships I use the following dimensions:

  • Unrated 2 - 14 guns                                     30 MM x 40 MM
  • Unrated sloop of war 16 - 18 guns              30 MM x 60 MM
  • 6th rates 20 - 28 guns                                  30 MM x 70 MM
  • 4th & 5th rates 30 - 60 guns                        30 MM x 80 MM
  • 2nd & 3rd rates 64 - 98 guns                       30 MM x 100 MM
  • 1st rates >100 guns                                     40 MM x 100 MM
  1. I use acid free mat board for bases. It's inexpensive and a sheet lasts forever. It is easy to cut with a sharp Xacto knife or a guillotine type paper cutter like I use. Next I liberally coat both sides with two coats of spar varnish. This helps prevent warping from the moist sculpting plaster later. 
  2. After the varnish thoroughly dries, the plaster can be applied. I use vinyl spackling for sculpting the sea base. I determine how I am going to orient the sails on the ship and then sculpt the waves slanted across the base in the desired direction.
  3. After the plaster has set up a bit but not completely hard, I will push the hull bottom into the plaster to mark it. 

  4. When setting it aside to fully harden I set a weight down on the center of the hull impression to ensure the base dries flat and does not bow up. 
  5. When completely hard the base can be painted. I completely coat the base with a navy blue. 

  6. When that dries I apply a light dry brushing of aqua green with the waves and white against the wave crests. If it is a calm sea base I skip the white.

  7. After the paint is dry the base is coated with Americana Triple Thick Gloss Glaze, or I have also used Mod Podge Gloss. When completely dry the base will be almost hard as rock but can still be carved with a Xacto knife if needed to make hull fit adjustments.

  8. I prefer to add a name and nationality to the ships I build. I create my labels using Microsoft Word and print out the sheets, I keep them in a binder and when I need a label I just cut it out.
  9. I save clear plastic packaging to cut up for this purpose. I cut a strip the same size as the base but a bit longer to take the label. 
  10. After I cut out the label to size, super glue is used to glue it to the clear plastic. Then the base is super glued to the plastic strip. 
  11. This not only helps the bases glide easily on the sea mats, but it also protects the ship information I write on the underside of the base.

So that is it! I tried other methods early on and different paint schemes, but I rarely vary from this method now.

I hope this was helpful.



Paul´s Bods said...

Thanks. Very usefull. I did think how you created the bases as they look so good. I thought they might be made using plaster but I didn´t consider using the stuff you use. The method I can use for making river sections.

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

Thanks Paul, just be sure you thoroughly seal the surface of whatever you use for a base. The moisture content in the vinyl spackle will warp it.

Stew said...

Thanks! I found this interesting and informative. I tend to make some age of sail markers for fallen masts and such at some point and will need to make sea bases.

I wonder if vinyl spackle is the same as “paint n patch’ (drywall spackle repair) that I was considering using.

I imagine that the real art form is getting the waves to look right. 😀

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

Stew I believe if the spackle is vinyl it will say on the tub, jar or tube. DAPP is the brand I use.