Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Hawse Pipe Lips

September 29, 2016

Day 181.

A trivial detail, but the first use of cast metal pieces during this build, so I thought I’d write it up.

The hawse pipes are holes drilled on either side of the bow.  These holes were drilled a while back.  Now that the hull is painted, and I’m working on finishing up the remaining hull details, it is time to install the ‘lips’ on the outside of the hull.

These are provided by the Model Shipways Bluenose kit as cast metal pieces.

Many kits provide metal pieces to recreate elements on the ship.  Often these are parts of a ship that would have been made of metal, but sometimes they are parts that would simply be difficult to fashion out of wood.

The provided pieces are made from britannia metal, which is a white/silver metal that is fairly soft.  You can often scratch it with a finger nail, and it is easy to file and polish.  These pieces are often fairly low quality casts, and require a bit of work to clean them up.  They typically have extra bits of metal left over from casting, visible seams from the molds, and sometimes lack clear detail and definition.


Raw metal castings from the kit for the hawse pipe lips.  Note the rough edges and extra material.

You can see, especially on the right, the extra metal from the casting process.

Before we can stick this on the ship, we need to get them cleaned up and prepared.  I’ve worked with this kind of stuff a lot (the WWI aircraft I built before getting into ships required a ton of this stuff for the engines), so I’ve got a ‘standard process’.

  1. The pieces are cleaned up with a file to remove extra material, smooth out seams and imperfections, and add detail as required.
  2. The pieces are buffed up using a Dremel with a brass brush.
  3. The pieces are throughly cleaned.
  4. The pieces are painted.

So, to start, I need to clean them up with a file.  There’s no magic to this, just grab a file and go to town.  It is handy here to have files in various shapes (flat, curved, round, etc.) to help match the shape you’re trying to achieve.

Once they are cleaned up, I use a brass brush in my Dremel to polish up the pieces.  This isn’t super critical if I’m going to be painting the pieces, but it is a habit I developed when building planes (which often leave this stuff in the natural, unpainted state).


The piece on the left has been cleaned up with the files and polished with the brass brush on the Dremel.

You can see quite a difference between the cleaned up piece on the left, and the untouched piece on the right.

The next step is to clean the pieces.  Some people use just water, others use detergent or dish soap.  Just about anything will work – the goal is to get the various oils off the piece as well as remove any metal shavings and dust from the filing.

I’m lucky, because my wife runs a jewelry business and keeps an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner in the house.  These are fairly inexpensive (anywhere from $20 to $100).  If you’ve ever taken jewelry into a jewelry store to have it cleaned, this is the thing they use once they disappear into the back room.

The jewelry cleaner is basically a tank of water and cleaning solution.  When turned on, it sends ultrasonic vibrations through the water.  This gently shakes off all the dirt, oil, etc.  When the pieces come out, they are absolutely clean.  I run them under some water and dry them off to get rid of any lingering solution.

Finally, the pieces go in for painting with my airbrush.


The pieces are airbrushed after they get a good cleaning and rinse.

The finished pieces are given a quick test-fit on the ship, then glued in place with CA glue. I always use CA glue for metal pieces, regardless of what they are going in/on.  Wood glue has to penetrate the wood fibers to get a good hold, and obviously metal doesn’t have any wood fibers.

The whole process of cleaning up the pieces and rinsing them takes about 5 minutes.  Painting is quick (although you have to allow time for the paint to dry).


The finished hawse pipe lips installed on the ship.