Bowsprit Rigging

Day 402.

With the bowsprit built, it is time to add all the rigging.  This will be the first bit of rigging I’ll be doing on the Bluenose, by design.  I intentionally did the bowsprit before any of the masts so I could get my feet wet with the rigging before I start on more critical rigging that actually holds stuff in place.

On my Model Shipways Phantom build, I took a lot of shortcuts on the rigging.  In most cases, I simply tied the lines off.  On the Bluenose, I’m going to try to do things more correctly (although my limited skills will cause me to do things that might make an experienced modeler cringe).

I’m going to set up the rigging before mounting the bowsprit.  Doing the rigging off-the-ship seems to be the recommended method.  This makes it easier to do all the little work each line requires without having to work around other lines, masts, booms, etc.

The first step is to fully understand what I’m doing.  Even the simple rigging for the bowsprit has a lot of parts.  For someone like me, who isn’t familiar with all the terminology and standard parts, knowing exactly what each line requires is difficult.  Personally, I find the rigging plans hard to read.

So, I spent some time mapping out each line, and created my own rigging plans.  I made two sheets – one for most of the rigging, and one specifically for the foot ropes.

Bowsprit-Rigging
The rigging plan I created for the bowsprit.

The basic rigging for the bowsprit involves a few different lines:

  • The backropes are found on both the port and starboard side.  These connect to the small ring at the very end of the bowsprit and run back to the rail on the bow.
  • The guys are also found on both port and starboard, and connect to the larger ring on the bowsprit, and run to the hull.
  • The upper bobstay and lower bobstay run from the bottom of the bowsprit to the front of the bow.

Using the plans, I also mapped out all the hardware involved.  This required flipping between several different drawings of the bowsprit and its rigging.  I identified a few different pieces of hardware that I’ll need.

  • Staples are ‘U’ shaped pieces of metal that go into the ship, allowing things to be attached to them.
  • Links are like links in a chain – an oval loop of metal – and used to connect things to staples.
  • Plates are strips of metal that are bolted to the hull, similar to the chain plates.
  • Shackles are generally ‘U’ shaped, but have holes at the tips to allow a pin to be passed through, securing them to something.
  • Turnbuckles are more complex assemblies that have rings on either end, attached to screws, allowing a line to be tightened.

I also worked up a plan for the foot ropes…

Footropes
The rigging plan for the foot ropes.

The foot ropes are just two ropes that run from the ring on the end of the bowsprit back to the hull.  However, these lines have some slack in them so they hang down a little.  Sailors would use these to walk on when they needed to get out to the bowsprit.  To keep them stable, some stirrups run from guy-to-guy, tied off on the foot ropes.

So, with my plans prepared, I set out to make all the hardware.

P1050688
Staples are easily made by bending wire.

The staples were easy to make from 22 gauge brass wire.  Short pieces of wire were simply bent around a pair round-nose pliers.  These will be trimmed to their appropriate lengths when they get installed.

P1050694
Links are made from wire.

Links were also easy to make.  Some wire is just wrapped around and cut.

Links

Shackles were a little more tricky.  A common way to make shackles is to bend some wire around.  My first attempt at this turned out pretty good, but I realized they were WAY too big.  To get them smaller, I had to use thinner wire.  However, even with my thinnest wire, they looked pretty bad.

P1050710
Early attempt at shackles using wire.  Tough to get to scale, and they look pretty bad.

So, I decided to try a different approach.  I decided to try making the shackles from brass strip, bent into a ‘U’, with holes drilled in either end.  To make them a little fancier, I’ll try using my milling machine to shape them.

I took some 1/16″, 1/64″ thick brass strip and glued it down to a piece of scrap wood.  I determined that my pieces needed to be about 8mm long before being bent, so I marked that on the wood.  I drilled a hole in each end of each piece, making several at once.

P1050735
Making shackles from brass strip – starting with drilling the holes.

Once the holes were drilled, I moved the assembly over to the milling machine.  With the brass still glued down, I used my mill to carve away a little bit of the brass strip on either side, between the holes.  This wasn’t a precision job – I just eyeballed it.

The brass was then removed from the wood, and the pieces were cut apart.

P1050751
Brass strips for shackles after drilling, milling, and cutting to length.

They don’t look great when they first come off, but they look a lot better once they’re bent into shape.

Each one was bent using round nose pliers.

P1050752
Shackle being bent to shape.

I made some temporary pins from brass wire.  Here you can see the whole shackle assembly.

P1050728
Completed shackle made from brass strip.

The last big piece of hardware is the turnbuckle.  Turnbuckles are basically impossible to make accurately at this scale, and many different ways to ‘fake it’ are out there.  I decided to try making my own, using a process I detailed here.

P1050684
Turnbuckles made from brass rod and tube.

The other parts, like the plates, will be made when I need them.

Now I just need to install everything.  As mentioned before, I’m going to do as much as I can with the bowsprit off the ship, sitting on a little stand I made.

I started with the upper and lower bobstays, then did the guy lines.  The basic process is to cut some rigging line (with a good amount extra) and attach it to the bowsprit using whatever hardware is called for by the plans.  The other loose end is coiled up and taped to keep things tidy.

On the bowsprit, all the lines are secured using an eye splice.  This is basically a loop in the end of the rope, made by weaving the rope back into itself.  I got some great tips from others on the Model Ship World forum for making these, and I detailed my method here.

Below you can see the guy lines attached to the ring band using shackles and turnbuckles.  The bobstays are secured to the bottom of the bowsprit.

P1050717
The guy lines and bobstays attached to the bowsprit.

All the lines are run back to the stand, coiled up, and taped off.

P1050718
Lines are coiled up and secured to keep them organized.

The backropes are installed next.  These run from the front ring and are attached using shackles.  You’ll notice that I started using large pieces of wire bent into an ‘L’ shape as the pins for shackles.  I did this so that I can easily remove the pin and take the rope lines off.  This will be helpful once I start attaching the rigging to the hull.

P1050779
Backropes are added.

The photo above shows all the rigging ready to go.  The loose ropes at the front are the foot ropes.  I tried to make those off the ship (shown here), but later ended up taking them off and remaking them.  It was nearly impossible to get the length right (and get the right amount of slack) while the bowsprit is off the ship.

With the lines ready, it is time to actually install the bowsprit.  This just requires sliding it through the hole in bow.  I applied a little bit of CA glue on the white end of the bowsprit to secure it in place.

P1050790
The bowsprit is installed.

With the bowsprit installed, I can now finish up a couple non-rigging things.  There are two details that couldn’t be completed when the bowsprit was initially built because they can’t go on until the bowsprit is installed.

The first detail is the jumbo jib traveller block.  This is a little piece that sits on top of the bowsprit and holds one end of the jumbo jib boom.  The piece was carved from a strip of basswood according to the plans and painted white.

P1050794
The jumbo jib traveller block is made from strip wood.  The wire is NOT glued in yet.

Two notes on the jumbo jib traveller block.  First – the bottom must be shaped so it sits nicely on the bowsprit.  Since the bowsprit is round, the bottom of the block needs to be curved to match it.  Second – the block has a wire on top where the jumbo jib boom hooks on.  This wire should not be glued in now.  I’ll need to be able to slide the ring of the jumbo jib boom on here, and that won’t be possible if the wire is glued in.

P1050795
The jumbo jib traveller block installed on the bowsprit.

The next piece is the gammon iron.  This is a metal piece that wraps around the bowsprit right at the bow and secures it to the hull.  This can be made from a single strip of brass, but I decided to make it more realistic.

To make it, I took a pice of brass 1/16″ x 1/64″ brass strip and folded it in half.  I drilled a hole in the top and glued in some brass rod.  This ‘bolt’ will secure the two halves of the gammon iron together.

I trimmed off the excess rod and also cut off the fold in the top.  Next I bent the pieces around the bowsprit to get the right shape, then drilled some holes through the lower areas where bolts will secure it to the hull.

Gammon

The completed piece was then filed a bit to clean it up.

P1050786
The completed gammon iron made from brass strip.

The gammon iron was placed over the bowsprit right at the bow and secured with a little bit of CA glue on the lower parts.  Then some more brass rod was glued into those holes to simulate bolts.  As done with the chain plates and rudder pintles+gudgeons, these were trimmed off once the glue dried.

P1050798
The gammon iron being installed, with brass rod to simulate bolts.

With those two items complete, the ‘construction’ of the bowsprit is done and I can get back to rigging.

The backropes were attached first.  These are attached to staples that go into the rail, just forward of the catheads.  The lines use an eye splice to attach to turnbuckles, and the turnbuckles attach to the staples.

P1050824
Backropes are attached to staples in the rail.

This is where being able to unhook the shackles on the bowsprit comes in handy.  Once the turnbuckle is attached to the staple, the line is pulled through it and tightened.  Then I mark the exact spot in the line where the eye splice needs to happen, and remove the line from the ship.  Now I can do that eye splice (including wrapping it) off the boat, then install it back on.

Next up were the guy lines.  These attach to plates that are mounted to the hull.  The plates have a bolt on one end and a staple on the other.  I used more of my favorite 1/16″ x 1/64″ brass strip here.  The three holes were drilled and the strip was painted black, then it was glued in place.  The fake bolt and the staple were then installed.

The guy lines were then attached to these plates using an eye splice and a shackle.

P1050827
Plates are installed on the sides of the hull for the guy lines.

The bobstays attach to plates that seem to wrap around the keel at the bow.  At first glance it looks like these might be done similar to the gammon iron, but they are actually separate pieces on either side of the hull, with a pin running between them.

I make these plates according to the plans.  The plates for the upper bobstay are shorter than the ones for the lower bobstay.

P1050835
The plates for attaching the bobstays to the bow.

These were glued on either side of the hull at the right locations, then fake bolts were added as I’ve done elsewhere.  A piece of brass rod was used to make the pins that run through the single holes at the end.  An eye splice and a link secure the bobstays to the pins.

All that’s left at this point are the foot ropes and jib stops.  As mentioned earlier, the foot ropes I made off the ship were the wrong length.  I pulled those off and started over (again, good thing my shackles are removable.

The foot ropes attach to staples below the rail on each side up by the bow.  I installed these, then made new foot ropes that were extra-long and only had an eye splice on one side.  Those were secured back on the bowsprit, then run through the staples.  I adjusted the length until I was happy with them, then added the eye splices on those ends and attached them to the staples with shackles.

To keep the foot ropes from swaying too much, stirrups connect them to the guy lines.  I found these tough to do correctly, so I faked it.  I think the right way to do this is to tie a line to the guy line on one side, then run it to the nearby foot rope, tie it, run it to the other foot rope, tie it, then run it to the other guy line and tie it off.  When I tried that, I had a really hard time keeping everything hanging right.  Tying four knots in one line made it difficult to keep the right amount of slack in the line.

So, I did it this way:

  1. Tie the stirrup to one guy line.
  2. Run it under the foot ropes and up to the guy line on the other side.
  3. Tie it to the other guy line, being sure to leave the right amount of slack so it has the right curve.
  4. Use black thread to tie the foot ropes to the stirrups.
  5. Secure all the knots with a little dab of CA glue.

This didn’t turn out perfect, but it is ok.  I’ll see if this still looks sub-par to me over the next few weeks, and if so I’ll remove the foot ropes and guy lines and redo them.

P1050840
Foot ropes and stirrups installed.

The last thing to add are the jib stops.  These were short ropes used to tie down the jib sail.  Unlike the rest of the bowsprit rigging, these are made from tan rope.

I cut several short pieces of rope and tied knots in the ends.  These knots will keep the jib stops from falling out of their holes.

P1050842
Jib stops are made by tying knots in short pieces of tan line.

Each piece was trimmed at the knot and placed through one of the holes along the top of the bowsprit.  They were secured with a little dab of CA glue, then trimmed to a consistent short length.

P1050844
Jib stops dropped into their holes along the top of the bowsprit.

And that’s it!  The bowsprit is now done.

You’ll notice that I still have the big ugly wires in the shackles.  Those are going to stay for a little longer.  Leaving those in gives me the option of redoing those foot ropes if they start driving me crazy.  Also, I’m waiting on an order of some small brass bolts that might make great shackle pins.  So until those arrive, the ugly wire stays.

P1050845
The completed bowsprit, still with ugly wire for pins.
P1050855
The ship is now too long to fit on the shelf I’ve been using when I need to get it out of the way.

With the bowsprit done, I’m ready to start working the fore mast.