Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Curse of the Sirens Scream

She was a Brigantine freighter like a thousand before her, moored in a harbor unloading her cargo of oil and exotic spices from faraway lands.  It mattered not what language her crew spoke, for her destiny would be to serve under a flag of skull and bone. 

On shore, a band of criminals and cutthroats had the freighter in their sights.  Recently broken out from a prison and leaving no one alive to sound an alarm, the desperate group knew their time was slipping to make their escape.   Using stolen rowboats, they easily crossed the channel and climbed aboard the unsuspecting ship under the cover of night.  By daybreak, the Brigantine was under new command with the bodies of her old crew in her wake.

The captain was ruthless and fearless, pirating without mercy or care until a faithful decision would test their luck.  Deciding to navigate a forbidden passage known for disappearing ships, the freighter found herself in the clutches of the most feared demons of the sea. 

Some call them mermaids, others sirens, but able sailors knew them as nightmares that arose from the deepest trenches to entice the fateful into their arms for a deadly embrace.  An attack by a monstrous kraken would be more welcome than the sight of these fair-skinned nymphs breaching upon the rocks while singing their lethal cry.

Their beauty could tempt the most prudish and their song lure the most willful, but the unfortunate sailors that succumb to a siren’s charm found themselves pulled to the ocean depths to satisfy the lust and hunger of these watery beasts.  Hunting was scarce for these creatures as most ships knew better then cross the home of these deadly fiends, and the sly captain saw an opportunity to make a deal.  In exchange for treasure, the pirates would deliver holds full of unknowing victims for the sirens to feast upon.  The aquatic devils with faces of angels and tails of fish agreed, and loaded the freighter with gold and jewels taken from the skeletal remains of sunken vessels scattered along the ocean bed. 

The captain rechristened the Brigantine freighter the Sirens Scream, and set out on his unholy quest to satisfy his contract with these evil monarchs of the sea.  However, the captain had another path in mind.

True to his form, the pirate captain betrayed the merfolk and instead spent the winter season safely on a Caribbean island where the rum flowed freely and the women were less famished for human flesh, except for ways more welcome by the crew.  Soon the treasure had been spent, and the pirates found themselves back upon the waves looking for other vessels to plunder when the sirens found those that had deceived them. 

No skill of tongue would save the captain this time, and the crew of the Sirens Scream were cursed to sail the world as a ghostly vessel crewed by undead spirits that know no rest nor pity.

Even today, the youngest of sailor’s sons are warned if they encounter a ship on the darkest of night moving against the wind and glowing a phantom green more bright than Saint Elmo’s fire to turn and not look back for sake of their very souls.  For if the ship comes near enough that you can see a rotted hull more at home at the bottom of the sea than upon the waves, then it is too late, and all that will be left of your name will be inscribed upon a tombstone before an empty grave.

Hello, my name is Philip and this blog will follow my build of a pirate ghost ship.  I thought it would be fun to document the many steps involved in a project like this.  The base model being used for this project is the 1:80 scale Brigantine Corsair kit produced by OcCre.  Brigantines were a favorite ship for pirates due to their speed, maneuverability, and large cargo hold.  This is a plank-on-frame kit, which would build up to a museum quality model.  I chose this kit as I wanted to do a very detailed ghost ship.  The planking and rigging will be the main challenges of the build. 

I have been building models for over 30 years, but this is my first plan-on-frame kit.  I will be customizing the ship as the build progresses and trying out new things, so we will see how it goes.  This is also the first time I have created a blog, so good times all around.

The Corsair kit by OcCre is very nice, with detailed instructions and a comprehensive parts list.  I have been researching wood ship building for the past few weeks to get a better understanding of what I am in for.  Fortunately, there are several websites dedicated to model hobbyists that have a wealth of information. 

This is the basic kit out of the box.  Wood kits like these are not cheap, with a medium sized ship like this going for around $250.00 or more.  I will probably have at least a couple hundred more invested in other parts and supplies before I am done.  Modeling can be an expensive hobby for a welfare guy like me!

And here is my workbench with some of my basic construction essentials.  Actually, I will do most of the work in another room, and just jump back and forth as I need things.  I won’t go into too much detail here as far as what tools and supplies are needed for the build, rather, I will talk about that as the build progresses.  Basic tools such as files, sandpaper, hobby knives, and clamps will be used throughout the build.  I am not sure how long this will take, but some of these builds can take months, or even years to complete. 

But hey, look who works for the government!  This guy!  Looks like I will have a little more time than originally planned to work on this ship as we are currently in a furlough.  

Here, I have removed the fame pieces and glued them onto the false keel piece.  These parts are laser cut into the wood, and are held on by small tabs that were not cut all the way through.  Care must be taken to remove these without damaging them.  The frame sides are then sanded.  The laser cutting process seals the sides somewhat, which can interfere with the wood glue penetrating.  It is important to sand all these sides to ensure good adhesion. 

The frame pieces were test fitted to the false keel part before being glued in place.  Care must be takes to ensure the frame is at a right angle to the false keel.  If the frame is not correct, it will throw off the rest of the model.  To make sure the fame is correct I set the deck piece on top to make sure the notches all line up.  As there is a bit of a curvature to the deck a weight was used to hold it down.  The deck is not glued on the ship at this point.

This ship is a double planked hull design.  After the first hull layer is attached, then a finishing layer is attached on top of that.   Keep in mind this ship will be a derelict, so I will not be finishing off certain parts to make it pretty.  The final design must look closer to being a wreck.  I attached some hull planking just to get the feel of it here.

The main and poop deck has been attached at this point.  All the surface pieces have thin strips of decking attached.  You can see this in the bulwarks, where I haven’t trimmed the decking yet.  After the decking is glued down and trimmed, a pencil is used to line out the individual planking to simulate the caulking.

Here the bulwarks are being attached.  To make the wood curve, pieces must be soaked in water to make them pliable.  This will be done as needed.  To soak the hull decking steps, I took a large piece of PVC pipe and sealed one end, then filled with water.  This made a handy way to soak the wood strips.

Clamping parts that have a curvature sometimes takes creative methods.  Here the stern has been attached.

First layer of hull planking is almost done.  Yeah, I know it is not pretty right now but I will sand and grind down where needed.  I purchased an Amati Delux Nailer to attach the small brass nails which works great.  Hull strips are also glued with wood glue. 

The hull will be coated with the patch and paint and then sanded.

Here the patch and paint has been added.

Second layer of hull planking being added.  I wanted to make a large hole in the side of the ship as well, and have cut that here.

Planking just about done and keel added.

I wanted to make the stern cabin sides longer than the plans called for, so I made some extension strips to attach.

This kit contains several metal parts that need to be painted.  I was going to just paint everything wood brown until I came across some textured rustic umber paint.  I thought it might make an interesting effect.  

The parts turned out to have a neat aged look.

Stern cabin sides have been completed, and now it is all about adding the trimming.

More creative clamping for the trim.

Making the pinracks.  This is my second attempts, as my first I make the holes too close together.  I am spacing them out with the deadeyes to make sure they line up.

I wanted to add some decorative carving to the ship, so I picked up some of these little wood parts.  I also got some actual wood belaying pins to replace the brass ones in the kit.  There is a brass one next to the wood ones for comparison.

The windows in the kit were metal, but I wanted open ones to give a more ominous look.   Here are the ones I made next to the kit supplied parts.

Holes were cut into the stern cabin and the windows attached.  Also, more trimming and the carvings have been attached.

Stern window.

Here I am stiffing the thread that will be used on the anchors and windlass winch.  I clamp them to keep tension on the thread and brush on some Minwax water based Polycrylic clear finish.

Here I am working on the mast pinracks.  They were rather a pain in the buttocks.  I am using a 2 part epoxy adhesive to ensure they will not come apart.  I also used the epoxy on the other pinracks along the hull sides.  Because there will be tension on these pinracks from the running lines and shrouds, I am cautious to make sure they will not come lose.

Here are some more metal parts, including the cannon and anchors.  I wanted a different color for these, and picked up some Sea Green Multicolor Textured spray paint.

I really like the look of these parts.  They appear to be rusted and crust-covered.

So, here is the ship so far.  Most of the trim is on, along with the pinracks and winch.  The bow anchor details have been added, with some other details here and there. 

Keep in mind there is no finish on this wood, it is being kept bare for the aging process to come later.

Finished making the rest of the deck details today.  I am leaving off any metal parts until I have aged the wood, which will be done a little later.

The kit came with a metal hulled lifeboat, however, I wanted a wooden one for the ship.  Model Shipways makes a few different sized lifeboat kits, so I picked up the 95mm one and will work on that next.  Here are the parts for it next to the kit supplied one.

While parts of the lifeboat have been glued and I am waiting for them to dry, I thought I would also work on the masts.  The masts come in wooden dowels that need to be cut and tapered.

You can taper the ends by hand using sandpaper, or my way.  Take a belt sander and turn it upside down, then just run the dowels until tapered.

Masts are done.  The yardarms are temporary attached by wire.  I will remove them until most of the rigging is done.

I am going to try something different for this ghost ship built.  I plan on using blacklight paint to make a ghost like effect, hopefully it will work.  Blacklight paint should not be confused with glow in the dark paint.  Glow in the dark paint absorbs light and then glows when the lights are out.  The paint will fade down over time, though.  Blacklights reflect ultraviolet colors, and some backlight paint will have phosphorus added to make it reflect better. Some colors will naturally work under blacklight as well, like some neon colors.  

Anyway, my dad made a case for me for my ship, which was nice of him.  The case is 32x30x12, so the ship should fit well.  There is a blacklight mounted at the top.

I received a background picture found on eBay after much searching.  I thought this picture will go well with a ghost ship theme.  As a bonus, the brighter colors reflect under the blacklight, so the case is good to go.

The Figurehead:

The kit does not have a figurehead, however, I definitely wanted a mermaid figurehead for my ship because that’s how I roll.  I thought about several options, from pewter mermaids to sculpting one myself.  I then came across this little carved netsuke I thought could be modified.

The wood was very hard and took a lot of grinding to remove the base.

Here she is mounted.

The lifeboat is also complete, looking all wrecked and such. That lifeboat was more of a project than I thought!

Masts are now in place.  Basically, Phase One construction is complete with all wooden parts attached except for the yardarms.  The ship is now ready for aging the wood.

Aging Process:

This is a wood aging technique that can be used on furniture or any wood material.  It is a two step process. 

First, take some fine steel wool and vinegar.  It does not matter what kind of vinegar, I happen to have apple cider vinegar on hand.  Put together in a container and let sit for several days.  The steel wool will dissolve into the vinegar.

The second ingredient is made by boiling up some strong, dark tea.  I only had green tea, but made it very strong.  

Here is the tea and the vinegar mixture.  Brush on the tea all over the wood and let sit until dry.

When the tea is dry, brush on the vinegar mixture.  

Here are some of the treated and untreated yardarms to compare the effect.  Different types of wood will have different results.

The blocks and deadeyes were also treated.

Here is the treated ship.  Quite a difference, sure don’t look pretty anymore!  I will take this outside and spray it down with some clear matt before moving on to the next step.

With the ship treated, I will now work on attaching all the rigging blocks.

It has taken three days, but I have completed attaching all the blocks to the masts.  Here is a little rig I made to tie off each block.  Also, the eyeholes were too small in the blocks, so I drilled those out.  The blocks with double holes were a bit tricky to drill.  After every knot was tied I put a drop of CA glue to hold it in place.

It might be a good time to talk about threads used for rigging.  Many ship modelers use a cotton thread to rig their ships.  Since the thread can be a little fuzzy, they will wax the thread as they use it.  For myself, I am using two types of thread.  The thinner running lines are being rigged with Coats brand Button Craft thread that can be purchased at Wal-Mart.  I was going to use black and an off-white thread for the rigging, but I think I will just use black because I think it looks better with the color of the ship.  The thicker line is a pre-Waxed Thread you can get in the leather section at craft stores.   Works pretty well.

Here is the ship so far with the blocks attached.  I am now ready to start the most tedious part of the build, making the shrouds and ratlines.  Also of note is that I dusted the hull with the brown textured paint I used earlier.  It gives the hull a bit of a sandy look.

The bottom deadeyes have been attached.  I used thin black wire to attach these.

I looked at several methods other modelers have used to make the shrouds.  Here is a jig I made to make mine. 

Once I got going, it wasn’t so bad.  I decided not to make the last three, as those will be tied off at the mast and not part of the ratlines.

Working on the top shrouds.

And the shroud lines are done.  Next I will be working on the ratlines.

Working on the ratlines.  So many knots!

Finished tying the ratlines.  I used clove hitches to tie the center lines, then drops of CV and white glue on all the knots to hold them in place.  

Any pirate ship worth its weight in salt has guns, and the Sirens Scream will have 16 on deck.  Earlier pictures show I painted the cradles with brown textured pain and the cannon with green.  Cannon should be rigged to the ship, but these did not have any rigging eyes on them.  I found these eye pins on eBay and thought they would work.  I had to cut and file all the stems off the eye pins, then painted them with the brown textured paint to match the cannon cradles.  Two eye pins were glued on the cannon and two on the bulwarks.  

Here are what the cannon look like assembled.

There were no cannon balls with the kit, but I wanted to put a couple on the deck anyway.  The ones I purchases are actually too large for the cannon scale, but they don’t look bad so what the hell.  I drilled some wood strips and weathered them, then glued on the balls.  Cannon balls were mounted toward the center of these ships to keep as much weight as centered as possible.

The cannon, cannon balls, lifeboat, and other little parts like the ship’s wheel are now attached.   Next comes the rigging, fun fun!

The standard rigging is complete.  This is the rigging using the thicker waxed thread that stabilizes the masts.  I have also completed the bowsprit rigging, and attached the gaff and boom and rigged those.

The rest of the rigging will require the yardarms and sails to be attached, so it is time to work on the sails.

I originally planned to make new sails, but instead decided to use the sails included with the kit being they were already pre-cut and sewn.  The sails were an off-white color, so I decided not to boil them in tea to stain them. 

 Instead, I brushed the sails with the vinegar liquid I used to age the wood.  After the sails dried a little, I put them in an old pillow case and tossed them in the dryer to finish drying.  The sails instead ended up bunching together and the liquid seeped from sail to sail.  I then ironed them flat.  They ended up coming out beautiful, I was really happy with the result.

The bottoms of the pre-sewn sails were cut off and cuts were made.  I then went over the sails with a dremel tool using a bit used to polish off rust.  The result worked out great.  It gave the sails that worn look I was hoping for.

Yeah baby, now those are the sails I was looking for.

Sails and yardarms are now mounted.  Starting to look like a pirate ship!  I’ll be working on the rigging for a while now.

Rigging is done…yay!  There is some additional rigging that could go around the sails I left off since the sails are ragged, so there was little need for it. 

I also mounted the anchors and rigged them.

Here is a little nameplate I made and painted for the stern.  Painted in…BLOOD…of course….

Now that the rigging is done, I can finish up the little details on the ship.

Here are the four swivel guns mounted.  The instructions show the guns mounted on higher posts, but I thought those were too high so I made some smaller bases.

Fire was a constant danger on sailing vessels, so there were rarely any lights on these ships.  However, many vessels carried two or three lanterns on their stern.  This kit did not contain any lanterns, but I wanted to mount a couple anyway. 

I picked up a set of resin 1/35 scale lanterns and lamp posts from Verlinden to use.  There were three different kinds of lanterns to choose from.  I am using the two hex shaped ones and the metal mountings.  Those were all sprayed with the textured green to age them and I used ultraviolet yellow for the light part.

The ship also needed a bell, but no bell was in the kit.  I found a package of plastic liberty bells that will work.   I think I have enough bells to last a lifetime now.  I aged one of the bells with a little green paint and mounted it on the foremast on a little post. 

Here are the mounted lanterns.  I trimmed the mounts so they would sit level.  I think they came out nice.

The kit supplied two different pirate flags, a square and banner type.  I am just using the square one.  The flags kinda suck.  They were not printed as one flag but in two halves, so I had to glue the flag together.

The black coloring on the flag was dull, so I darkened it in with a sharpie.  I also painted over the white skeleton with ultraviolet white paint so it will glow, and gave it the same treatment as the sails to make it worn.

Here is the mounted flag.

Well, here she is.  Construction is now complete of the ship.  But, we’re not done yet...ohhhh no.  The next task is to add extra weathering details.

To make the ship look like she has been resting on the seabed, I wanted to cover her in seaweed and such.  I picked up some of this decorative moss to use and it worked out well.  Long strings of the moss were woven around the rigging and masts, and other moss placed here and there.  I also got a bag of little dried starfish to use.  Anything at the bottom of the sea seems to have some starfish on it.  I also found a little octopus to put on it later.

After these details are done, I will spray the ship down with this invisible UV green paint.  Hopefully this will give is a ghostly look under the blacklight.  This paint isn’t cheap, as this little can cost me $35.00, but I have seen it for up to $60.00.

Here is the final construction of the ship.  All that is left is the crew.

Now we can make the crew.  This ship is suppose to be in 1:80 scale, however, there are parts of it that are a little out of scale so any figures I want to use don’t have to be exactly 1:80. 

I found a couple neat little figure kits in 1:72, one of pirates and one with skeletons.  The kits I picked up are the Orion 1/72 72001 English Pirates Sea Warriors and Caesar Miniatures 1/72 F103 Undead Skeleton w/Lich King sets.  I also found a couple packs of little skulls to use somewhere.

I picked out a few figures to use on the ship.  A ship this size could hold up to 100 pirates, but I’m not using that many.  The figures were modified a little where needed and painted white with primer. 

I got a set of UV paints and a bottle of UV white for the painting.

I went over the figures with the UV white, and then colored the clothing in.  This paint requires a two or three coats, so it is not good for figure detailing.  But, since I am just making ghosts it should work.  I also gave them glowing red eyes.  The figures will be cut free of the bases after painting and mounted at various locations on the ship.

Done Done Done!  Here she is, the Sirens Scream in all her unholy glory.  

Here is the ship under the blacklight.  Unfortunately the camera doesn’t capture the full effect, the color is brighter and more detailed in person.  The crew glow pretty well too, especially the red color.

Well, another project off the bucket list.  Thanks for looking!