Tools and Techniques
August 21, 2016
Nearly any model ship kit will come with a bag containing dozens or hundreds of eyebolts. These tiny metal pieces are an essential part of rigging a ship.
An eyebolt is typically a tiny piece of wire that is shaped to form a ring with a stem. They are typically secured into hole drilled into the ship. Rigging line then passes through the ring, or is tied off to the ring.
Eyebolts come in all kinds of sizes, depending on the scale of the ship. They are typically provided in the kit, and they can be purchased in different sizes from any number of vendors.
Sometimes, though, you need more eyebolts right now. Maybe your kit didn’t come with enough. Maybe a few got lost or broken and now you’re running short. Perhaps you need one that is just a little bigger.
You can make your own eyebolts, and it is very easy.
On my Phantom build, I ran out of eyebolts. I lost a few, and few others broke. I also discovered that the rigging line I was using was just thick enough that I couldn’t get the required number of lines through a single eyebolt in some places. I needed more eyebolts, and I needed a few to be bigger.
There are a number of techniques for making eyebolts, ranging from the simple (wrap a piece of wire to form a loop) to the complex (soldering eyebolts closed).
I use a technique I saw in a build log somewhere (I’ve tried to find the original source with no luck). This method uses a drill bit to help form a consistently sized ring, which makes mass-producing eyebolts of the same size easy.
There are several benefits to this method:
Obviously, the twisted stem doesn’t look as nice as the kit-provided eyebolts. However, nearly all the eyebolts you install will be stuck fully into the wood, and you won’t see the stem at all. Once installed, these look identical to manufactured eyebolts.
A few notes on the wire…I use some medium gauge copper wire from an arts and crafts store. I just browsed around until I found some that was about the desired thickness. Be sure to get something that is bendable, but not so much that it won’t hold its shape.
Pick a wire that has the look you want for your finished eyebolts. If you want copper or brass looking eyebolts, get wire in that color. If you want your eyebolts black, get black wire, etc. However, try to avoid wire that is rubber coated or painted – the outside of the wire will break open as you make the eyebolt, and you’ll get a funky looking eyebolt
The first step is to get the drill bit ready. You’ll need to pick a drill bit that is the right size for the ring you want to create. We’ll be wrapping the wire around the shaft of the bit to create the ring, so a larger bit will make a larger ring.
Pick the bit you want and put it in your pin vise.
Then drill into your scrap wood. Get the bit in there quite a bit, enough to hold the bit securely. Loosen up your pin vise and remove it, leaving the drill bit in the wood.
Now we’ve got something to wrap the wire around that will give us a consistent size of ring.
Cut a piece of wire to a short length. I typically use pieces that are around an inch and half. Wrap the wire around the bit. It helps to get it pretty tightly bent around the bit.
Using your pliers, grab the ends of the wire together, and start twisting. Keep twisting in the same direction.
The two ends of the wire will start to wrap around each other. It will look ugly when you first start, but as you get it tighter, the wire will straighten out and the ‘wraps’ will get very consistent.
Twist until the wire is snug around the bit.
Finally, just slide the wire off the bit, and cut it to the desired length.
Once you’ve done a few, it becomes faster, taking only a few seconds to make each eyebolt. I made dozens of these for my last build in just a few minutes.