Bowsprit

Day 394.

With the hull and deck details done, it is time to start working on the masts.  The first one I’m going to tackle is the bowsprit.

The bowsprit is a horizontal mast at the front of the ship.  It sticks out and becomes the front ‘tip’ of the ship.  On the Bluenose, the bowsprit is a fairly long, roundish stick that starts on the deck near the windlass, passes through the hole in the front of the ship, and sticks out off the front.

There are several steps involved.

  • The bowsprit must be shaped and built.
  • Some metal pieces need to be fabricated and installed.
  • Rigging lines need to be added.
  • The bowsprit needs to be mounted on the ship.
  • Rigging needs to be completed.

So, the first step is to shape and build the bowsprit.

The Model Shipways Bluenose kit provides a 1/4″ diameter dowel rod for the bowsprit.  That’s just about the right size.  However, the bowsprit on the Bluenose wasn’t actually round.  It was tapered.  To make it more fun, it is tapered on three sides, and straight along the bottom.

The exact tapering is the kind of detail that nobody would notice once the bowsprit is installed and rigged.  However, I hate to knowingly ignore things like that, so I gave it a try.

I started by making a scale drawing of the bowsprit and the 1/4″ dowel rod in Photoshop.  Using a few reference points, I took measurements from the plans and determined the size of the bowsprit at each point.  Using those measurements, I was able to calculate how much material needed to be removed on each side at each point.

So, for example, at my reference point ‘C’, the bowsprit should be about 5mm tall and 5mm wide.  The dowel rod I’m using comes in at 6.2mm.  Since both sides of the bowsprit are tapered, each side will be trimmed in 0.6mm at this point.  The top will be trimmed by 1.2mm because the bottom of the bowsprit is straight (so the entire taper needs to come from the top).

Additionally, there are a couple ‘shoulders’ or ‘steps’ near the front of the bowsprit that need to be handled.  On the other end, the portion of the bowsprit that will go between the bitts on the deck needs to be squared off and sized so it fits between the bits.

The reference points were marked on the dowel rod.

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I made a diagram to help me figure out the amount of tapering.

The dowel was then mounted in my milling machine.  I’m using my milling machine here because I can set the depth to the exact amount that needs to be cut at each point.  You could certainly do this by hand – simply file the dowel down a bit, measure, and repeat.

For each point, I cut the appropriate amount off the top and each side.  Since the bottom of the bowsprit is straight, no cuts are made there.

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A milling machine was used to create notches that serve as reference points for tapering.

The aft end of the bowsprit is squared off where it slides into the bitts, so I went ahead and did that work on the mill.

Once all the cuts were made, I basically had a stick with a bunch of notches in it.  The next step was just a lot of sanding.

I used some 80-grit sandpaper, and just started sanding away on the bowsprit.  The notches were used as a guide.  I was basically sanding to get the shape down to the bottom of the notches, ensuring a smooth shape.

When I needed a break from sanding, I made the pieces that will hold the jib stops.  These are two strips of wood with holes where the jib stops will go.  The jib stops are just short lines the hang off the bowsprit.  The line were used to secure the jib sail when it is lowered.

The easiest way to make these strips is just to cut them to size and glue them on, then use a small drill bit to make the holes.  However, I still had my mill warmed up, so I decided to do the holes with the mill.

I cut two strips of 3/32″ square basswood to the right length.  Then I marked the locations for the holes and secured the strips in my mill.  I used a piece of scrap wood to hold them up in the vise and keep them at the right height.  Using the mill, I cut notches in the pieces at each mark.

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Two thin strips are notched to create holes for the jib stops.

With the two strips made, I went back to sanding.  The bowsprit was finished up and given final sanding of 400 and 800 grit.  I did some test fittings on the ship and adjusted the aft end of the bowsprit as necessary to make it fit into the bitts.

Once all the sanding and shaping was complete, I glued the two strips onto the bowsprit.

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The tapered and assembled bowsprit.

The bowsprit then went through the typical painting process.  It was primered, sanded, and airbrushed.  The bowsprit is black outside the ship, and switches to white where it sits on the deck.

While paint was drying, I moved on to the metal fittings.

Rigging requires a lot of hardware – rings, links, shackles, bands, blocks, etc.  Most of this will be tackled as-needed during the rigging.  However, there are often a few pieces of hardware on every mast that need to be installed before any rigging is done.

The bowsprit has a few of these.  It has three bands up at the front, along with a couple eyebolts.  Two of the bands have rings on them, used to secure the various rigging lines for the bowsprit.

There are different ways to create these bands.  The easy way is to fake it.  You can just wrap some material (tape, construction paper, etc.) around the bowsprit to simulate the band, the glue on eyebolts for the rings.  That is what I did for my Phantom build.  This time I think I’ll do it the hard way.  The rings will be made from brass, and soldered to form the right shapes.

To make the bands with rings, I started with my typical 1/64″ thick, 1/16″ wide brass strip.  I cut a strip to form the band, which was bent to create the actual band at the right size and the remaining material was bent out, forming a ‘fin’ on the ring.  I drilled a hole in the fin, right near the band.  This hole will form the ring.

For the other rings, additional strips are cut and holes are drilled at one end.  I kept these pieces long and bent them so they will be easier to hold and secure during soldering.

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Bands for the bowsprit are being made from brass strip.

The pieces are all held down and soldered together.  The main band was soldered shut, and the other two pieces were soldered on at their respective locations.

Next the extra material was cut off.  The strips were cut right past the holes, leaving very small fins sticking out from the band.  A metal file was used to slightly round these fins, making them look more like rings.

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The three pieces of brass strip are soldered together and cleaned up.

This process was repeated for the other two bands.  The Bluenose has one band with no rings, one with 4 rings, and one with 3 rings.  They are all different sizes.

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The Bluenose has three bands on the bowsprit.

The bands were slipped on to the bowsprit and glued in place.

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Bands installed.

Next, two eyebolts were installed according to the plans.  These aren’t used for the bowsprit rigging – they will be used for rigging up the sails.  But it is way easier to install now.

You’ll also notice that I built a stand for the bowsprit.  This made installing the bands much easier.  The stand will also be helpful when I start rigging the bowsprit, since I’ll be preparing all the rigging before the bowsprit is mounted on the ship.

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Eyebolts added according to the plans.

With the fittings installed, I gave the bowsprit a quick test fit on the ship.

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A test fit on the ship.

You can see how the other end of the bowsprit is squared off and sized to fit between the bitts on the deck.

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The other end of the bowsprit fits right into the bitts on the deck.

Aside from rigging, there are two other parts for bowsprit – the gammon iron and the jumbo jib boom traveller block.  Both of those have to be installed after the bowsprit is mounted, so I’ll put those off until the rigging is prepared.

So now it is time to do my first bit of rigging on the Bluenose…