Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Brief Interlude 2: Signal Flags

This isn't directly related to my models, but it is a cool website:


Type in a message, and this website will translate it into the Popham flag code in use by the Royal Navy (1806 version).  For example, the title of my blog looks like this:

163                       756                       85 

The signal is read from left to right and top to bottom.  The red/white flag is the telegraphic flag that says the code book is being used.  The diagonal blue/yellow flag shows that the signal is finished.  That graphic may turn up elsewhere on this blog later.  If you're interested in the Popham code, the 1803 book is available on Google Books.  Just search for "Popham signal code" and it should be the first result.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Is My Time Worth, Part 2: Fitting and Filing

Before doing any painting, I think it's necessary to fit everything together and see if it works, or more likely, does not.  Mast holes in the hull might need to be drilled out ever so slightly, or the masts might need to have the bottom trimmed so that they will fit securely and the fighting tops will be in the right positions to each other.
The fighting tops on this diagram of Constitution are circled in black.  Note that they are at different
heights to each other.
Along with drilling out the mast holes ever so slightly, I decided to grind a little of the hull down at the waterline.  For whatever reason, this model has the gunports sitting about 12 feet above the water, which is just too tall.Fortunately, some coarse grain sandpaper followed by some finer grain took off the small amount I needed quickly enough.  Cleaning and grinding the hull,along with fitting the masts to the hull took 1 hour and 2 minutes total.

I don't normally glue sails to the masts at this point, preferring to wait until after the hull is painted.  For this model though, I had to drill a hole for the bowsprit which meant that I needed to make sure that the headsails on the bowsprit would fit correctly against the sails on the foremast.  The best way to do that was to glue the sails to the foremast.  Well, with that done we may as well assemble the whole sail set.  It took about 22 minutes to assemble the masts and sails.  While doing that, I managed to break the headsails off of the bowsprit.  I have figured out how to fix this using a piece of wire, so I will make sure and show some pictures of that at the appropriate time.

So, where are we now?  I've spent 1 hour and 24 minutes on this frigate, and not a single lick of paint has been applied.  The next entry in this series will cover painting the hull.  As a reminder, to buy this frigate already assembled, painted and rigged would cost about $86.00.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What Is My Time Worth, Part 1

There's no doubt that 1/1200 scale sailing ships can be very labor-intensive compared to other miniatures.  Even if you don't rig them, you still have to paint the hull with all its tiny details.  Then you have to assemble the sails and masts, paint them, and glue them into the hull.  Once that's done, then you have to make a base for them, or buy a pre-made one which will still have to be painted. If you do decide to rig them, then that's even more work.

So then, it's not a surprise that there are few places or people that will paint and/or assemble them for you.  When you can find one, their services don't seem very cheap.  For example, a rigged British 36 gun frigate from ModelJship.com with white metal sails and a base costs 73 Euros, not counting shipping. At this writing (early August 2017), that is approximately $85.96 US.  A three-deck ship of the line like HMS Victory costs 138 Euros/$162.47 US.  By comparison, that same $85.96 will get you anywhere from 42 to 85 to 122 painted 15mm infantry figures from Fernando Enterprises in Sri Lanka (http://www.miniaturelovers.com/15mm.html).  The wide variance in the number of 15mm figures is because Fernando Enterprises offers three different painting levels to choose from.

I now realize that I have no idea how long it takes me to build and rig one of my models.  What this series of posts are going to do then, is to try and figure out how long it takes to build one ship, and how that compares to the prices above.  I'll build a British 36 gun frigate, and record my progress in this post.  When it's done, we can see what my time is worth by comparing it to the ModelJShip price.  I suspect (and am a little afraid) that I won't like what I find out very much!

First up is the miniature itself.  A British 36 gun frigate hull from Waterloominis.com costs $6.50, the sails costs $7.25 and the ratlines costs $3.00.  I've used the same spools of threads for years, so won't count that.  I can make many bases from the plastic sheet I buy, so to price that we'll use the cost of a resin base which is $3.50.  That makes the total cost for the raw material $19.25.  In the next post, we'll take a look at how long it takes to paint the hull.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Brief Interlude: Cannon smoke

Like most people, for years I have used puffs of cotton batting or stretched out cotton balls to represent ships firing their guns.  Not until I started taking pictures of my ships did I realize that this method has some side effects.  Said side effect is that quite a few of my ships have little tendrils of cotton or batting hung in the rigging.  For whatever reason, I had never noticed it before but it is VERY clear in photos.  So, I started looking around for something else to represent that ships were firing their guns.

Langton makes a set of "ship fired" markers, and they are very nice.  They come in a package with three "fall of shot" markers for about $3 US.  The fall of shot markers are also nice, but not really useful in any of my rules so I see no need to buy more of them.  The cheap side of me also has a problem paying about 1$ each for these:

Nice, but not that impressive by itself...

As I said though, they look very nice.  Maybe just not 1$ each nice.
I decided to see if I could make something that would look similar, and prevent the problem of stray hairs getting stuck to my ships.  I took a small piece of basing material, trimmed one of those chenille craft sticks (I still call them "pipe cleaners"), and glued it to the base.  I then took some little cotton tufts torn from a cotton ball, rolled each of them into a smaller ball and glued them to the base.  The result is below:
Trust me, it looks better in person.

Does it look as good as the metal one?  Oh goodness no.  However, when you put it up against a ship:
Not so bad now, huh?
Of course, that's just the unpainted prototype.  I lightly hit it with some gray spray paint, painted part of the pipe cleaner yellow and red to simulate gun flashes, and got this:
A little darker than what I wanted, but it's a prototype.

When placed alongside a painted ship, you get this:
I think that will work for me.
As a bonus, there's a sneak peek at the next ship up on the blog.
Does it look OK?  I think so.  Is it cheap? Definitely.  Is it a solution looking for a problem? Maybe.  The nice thing is, I can make a double height one for three-deckers that should really give a feel for how much throw weight they can put out.  Just add another row of cotton on top.

This doesn't mean the cotton batting is going completely away.  It will still be used for drifting gunsmoke.  This is just a way of trying something new, and a quickie project when you just don't feel like doing anything else, for whatever reason.  Cutting the base was probably the most time-consuming part of the project.