My Workbench

Friday, April 13, 2018

Making Sails for Wargaming Ship Models

I am going to divide this post into three parts

I: Making & Dressing Ship Sails
II: Making Brass Sails
III: Making Sails for a Cutter

The most important tool I use for starting scratch built masts or sails is the Mast Log I created.

In this Mast log I have recorded the lengths of masts from every size and type of ship I have purchased. In addition I have traced most of the sail sets from Langton Miniatures, GHQ and several from Davco.

When I want to make a set of sails I flip the log open to the sails for the size ship I want and use a small sheet of old fashioned carbon paper to trace the sails onto a sheet of heavy bond sketch paper.

I: Making & Dressing Ship Sails

For full sail rigs I like to cut the sails out in blocks so I can keep them straight. Sometimes, when I have to stop working and come back later, I will store them in small zip-lock  bags marked with what mast they go to.

Next step is cut the sails out then give them the proper shape. I do this by applying Elmers white glue (PVA) to a smooth surface cylindrical object like a marker pen or Xacto knife handle then press the sail onto the glue in the proper orientation to form a curve.

After the sails and glue dry they will pop off fairly easy as long as the marker surface was clean. And this is what you get:

At this point I measure across the top of the sails plus a bit of overhang on each side then mark it out on a length .015 or .020 gauge music wire I purchase at Hobby Lobby.

Super glue does a good job of affixing the new spars to the new sails. After the sails have been painted and dried, single rows of window screen mesh are cut and glued to the larger sails for reef points.

Then I start tying on the leech lines. These will be used later to tie onto the masts.

Sometimes I will just use a colored pen to add in the reefs and leeches. I will do it that way when I make single piece sail sets like the picture below.

After painting the spars it is time to attach the sails to the masts. I always start with the mizzen mast, working bottom to top, then forward to the next mast.

As shown the leech lines are wrapped around the mast and tied with a drop of super glue.

Ship with full sail compliment

II: Making Brass Sails

I use thin brass shim sheeting you can buy in rolls for about $4 to $6 just about anywhere from Walmart to Lowes. A little more expensive at auto shops. The sails are traced out the same way as with the paper, then cut out.

After shaping the sails over a marble, details like the reef points are added the same way with single rows of window screen.

Prime with black primer, measure and cut spars. Attach with super glue.

A finished ship with scratch brass sails

III: Making Sails for a Cutter

Sails traced for two cutters

Shaping the sails

Dressing the sails. Adding the reef points

That is all there is to it


Brent said...

Thanks for the tutorials! The sails are simply beautiful - great job.

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

Thanks Brent

Stew said...

Nice post, very helpful for scratch made sails. I’ve been using the white metal sails so far as the brass sails seemed intimidating.

Interesting that you put the masts to the hull and then attach the sails. I might consider that.

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

"Interesting that you put the masts to the hull and then attach the sails"

Stew that just seems the easiest way for me to attach them and orient them to the wind from starboard or port or dead astern to match the wave pattern on the base I made.

Blake Lindsey said...

Thank you VERY much for posting this. I am not much of a modeller and am new to miniatures, so when faced with the prospect of making a set of sails for a flotilla of 1/1000 schooners, I wasn't quite sure how to proceed. You just showed me the way.

Fair Winds and Following Seas, sir. :)

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

You are Welcome Blake! Hey, I want to see your schooners! 1/1000? Sails of Glory perhaps?

Blake H. Lindsey said...

For use with two different games, actually: "Post Captain" miniatures rules, and an upcoming board game by Legion called "A Glorious Chance: The Naval Struggle for Lake Ontario in the War of 1812." The designer of "Glorious Chance" also creates miniatures on Shapeways, and right now she's the *only* source for the Ontario fleet. Unfortunately, we just found out Shapeways can't print the topsail-schooner's foremast because the design is too fine for their printers---hence my searching the web for alternatives.

It turns out it was a fortuitous occurrence, because I *really* like the way your sails turn out. Making them myself will also give me some flexibility in configuration and in how full I make them, since schooners always look their best with full sails and a decent heel to either beam.

I'm also going to try your ratlines technique, although the challenge there will be to find mesh fine enough to work in 1/1000 scale.

I'll post some "process" photos once I start the first vessel this weekend.

Thanks again for sharing your experience. :)

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

Looking forward to seeing them Blake. I am pretty sure Langton produces all of the War of 1812 Great Lakes ships. If you are in the US, Waterloo Minis is the place to shop. Jeff Przybylo is a great guy to do business with. The same mesh I use on my 1/1200 scale ships I have used on the larger 1/1000 scale Sails of Glory ship models and I think it looks ok. I have a couple of SOG ship bash posts here so you can be the judge. And there is also a mast tutorial here

Blake H. Lindsey said...

Thank you for the tip about Langdons; they are generally viewed as the benchmark in minis for 1/1200 scale, and you are right---they *do* have the Ontario fleet. I just got my shipment from the Shapeways user and although the frigate is not bad, the brig is really, *really* bad. The hull is a surfboard, and although the deck detail is good I will have to glue it to a slab of basswood and rasp/sand it to proper shape before I even have enough wale to paint. That's a lot more modelling work than I should have to do for a model that is almost equivalent in price to a Langdons. I had read many comments that 3D printing isn't quite there with scale minis yet and I now agree with that assessment, at least at the smaller scales.

I'm also going to switch scales to 1/1200. There is a lot more support and available materials out there for that scale, and the difference isn't that great.

Thanks for the help. I'll be placing an order with Waterloo at the end of the month.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

A Miniatures Hobby Room said...

Good to hear Blake, there is definitely more available in 1/1200 scale. I would advise taking a photo of the surfboard ship and send it to Shapeways with an explanation for your disatisfaction. I know of several folks that have done so and Shapeways has always made it right and sent a corrected model. You can always use the surfboard as a wreck. At least you won't be out good money that way. Keep it touch and let me know how it turns out.