Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Main Rail

September 4, 2016

UPDATE: I ended up repainting the main rail white later down the road, because it was white on the original ship.  Just pretend this post, and all the photos it has of the rail show it as white.  Thanks!

Day 156.

Once my custom bow and stern pieces for the main rail were complete, it was time to get the main rail installed.

The bow and stern pieces form the ends, and you make the rest of the rail from supplied wood in the Model Shipways Bluenose kit.  Since I had purchased some 1/16″ basswood sheets, I opted to use those instead.

The rail pieces need to match the width of the ‘arms’ on the bow and stern pieces.  They also have three spots on each side that are wider to support belying pins used for rigging.  The plans call for making the rail out of multiple pieces using ‘scarf joints’ where the pieces meat.  (Think of a cut in a kind of ‘z’ pattern).

Since I’m going to be making pieces to fit between the bow and stern pieces, the first step is get those glued in so their position doesn’t change while I’m working.  The pieces I made in my previous post were sanded, primered and painted (see my note at the end about paint color!).

Once they were ready, they got glued into position.


Finished bow piece installed for the main rail.


Finished stern piece installed for the main rail.

My first attempt involved cutting strips of wood, soaking them in water, and bending them to match the shape of the hull.  That didn’t turn out to well.  It was tough to get the pieces to bend laterally.  I tossed those and tried a different approach.

I started by placing a sheet of basswood on top of the ship, and tracing the outline of the hull to get the exact curve.


My rail sections were cut from a 1/16″ thick basswood sheet.  The sheet was pinned onto the ship so the curve of the hull could be traced onto the bottom.

The curve was traced onto the underside of the wood sheet, then the sheet was removed.  I transferred the width of the stanchions to the sheet, and added in the lines indicating the width of the rail.

I also added a line further inboard, which allows some extra material to make the wider parts of the board.

Note that I did the entire length of the hull at once.  I did this to get a single long piece that matched the curve of the hull.  The piece was actually about 1-2″ longer than what I would need.


Once the curve was marked, I added in lines to indicate the stanchions, the overhang on each side, and the extra material to create the ledges for belaying pins.

This piece was cut out using an X-Acto #11 knife, then sanded smooth on the outside curve.


The sheet was cut to produce a single piece with the right curve.  This piece runs the length of the entire ship.

I didn’t worry about sanding the inboard side, since that material will be cut off as I shape the rail.

I carefully cut a scarf joint in the stern end that fits the joint created by the stern piece.  This required some trial and error, and some sanding to get a good fit.


I started at the stern, and cut a matching joint into my rail piece.

Once the joint was made, I decided where to split the rail into the next section.  The plans suggest every 6″, but that leaves either one really long section or an extra really short section.  I felt like three sections was a good number, so mine ended up being just over 7″ each.

I found that spot on the rail, and drew in a scarf joint.  I cut that joint to separate the pieces.  Since I’m working from one long piece, I can just cut the shape of the joint I want, and the pieces are guaranteed to fit!


After deciding where to start a new section, I simply cut the strip in the correct shape for a scarf joint.  Since I’m cutting a single strip, this makes getting a good joint easy.

This created my first piece.  The piece closest to the stern doesn’t have any wider areas for belaying pins, so I went ahead and trimmed the piece down the correct width.  I used some calipers set to the width of the rail to run along the piece and make sure the width was consistent.


The first piece doesn’t have any ledges for belaying pins, so it was trimmed down to the correct width.

Once completed, the first piece gets pinned onto the ship.


The first piece is pinned to the ship.

The process is repeated for the second piece.  This piece has a long section for belying pins.  I took the position of this from the plans, and cut the piece to fit.


The process is repeated for the second piece.  This piece has a wider ledge for belaying pins – the location was taken from the plans.

The process was repeated for the third and final piece, which has two wider areas.  The third piece butts up against the custom bow piece, which means that joint needs to line up.

Once all the pieces were done, they were pinned onto the ship.  The process is exactly the same for the other side (although I repeated the WHOLE process, including tracing the hull shape, since the sides could have slightly different curves).


All the pieces cut and pinned into place.


The rail is starting to look real.

The pieces will be glued down, and paint can prevent glue from working well, so I ran some tape along the bottom of the pieces before primering and painting.

The pieces were primered by hand, sanded down to 800 grit, then airbrushed black.


Some thin tape was applied to the bottom of the six rail pieces.  This leave some bare wood exposed after painting so the glue sticks.  Also helps to identify the ‘bottom’ after painting, which makes it easier to keep the pieces in the correct spots.

Once all the pieces were ready, they were glued in place.  I used a dot of CA glue (super glue) every 4th stanchion or so to hold the rail in place while the wood glue dried everywhere else.

Once everything was dry, I used a file to clean up the joints and make sure each piece flowed nicely into the next.  I used some wood filler to fill in the joints and make them look a little tighter.  The entire rail then got a final quick coat of black using a normal brush.


The finished rail, after painting, gluing, filing, sanding, and more painting.


I really hope those wider ledges on the rail for belaying pins are in the right spot!


A note on my choice of paint color…

All of my research says that the main rail on the Bluenose and Bluenose II was white.  I saw a few old black-and-white photos that suggest the original Bluenose had a black rail at some point.  The kit plans say white.  The practicum says black.

White would probably be more accurate.  But I’ve seen a bunch of models that used black for the rails, and I liked the way they look.  So I went with black.  Artistic liberty.

Next up will be the buffalo rail!