Fact check…I’m not great at rigging. Rigging is a pretty specific skill, unique to model ship building, and this is only my second build. On my Phantom build, I kinda rushed through rigging and just tied a bunch of knots. I’m determined to do better this time.
The Plan for Rigging
In looking at other build logs, it seems that many modelers prefer to prepare as much rigging as possible before the masts are mounted on the ship. This has some pros and cons…
- You can move the mast around to get a better angle to work.
- You don’t have to reach around existing rigging lines to attach things.
- You will likely use more rigging line, since you can’t precisely size each line. You have to leave extra length on each run to ensure it is long enough.
- You have a mess of rigging lines that you need to keep organized.
- You have to do a bunch of work before you see any results.
On my Phantom build, I did all the rigging in place, after the masts were installed. This time, I’m going to pre-rig what I can.
The general plan:
- Attach all the blocks, shackles, etc. to the masts, booms, and gaffs.
- Attach as many of the rigging lines as possible to the masts, booms, and gaffs.
- Leave each line with extra length, and coil the lines up.
- Tag each line with a sticker noting which line it is.
- Mount the masts.
- Run the shrouds and attach them to the deadeyes on the hull.
- Run the remaining standing rigging.
Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing the plans and attempting to identify each rigging line. There are some details that are not very clear on the plans, so I’ve had to research a few items. I’m sure that I’ve got some things wrong, but I think my rigging notes are good enough to get me started.
In preparation, I’ve made the following documents:
- A diagram of all the rigging, prepared in Adobe Photoshop, that shows each rigging line using a color-coded line. The different types of lines are on different layers, allowing me to turn them on and off to isolate lines by type.
- Diagrams of each line, showing how each line is attached, including what kind of splice, seizing, hook, shackle, etc. is used, as well as any blocks.
- A spreadsheet of all the lines, indicating the starting point, ending point, color, line size on the model, and where it is shown on the plans.
The spreadsheet assigns a unique number to each line so I can keep track of things as I’m working. I’ve identified 89 different lines.
Types of Rigging Lines
There are two main ‘categories’ of rigging: standing and running. I’ve never been on a boat, much less a sailing ship, so my knowledge is limited to what I’ve learned over the last couple of years.
From what I’ve seen, standing rigging includes all the lines that hold the masts up. These are typically fairly heavy, and are relatively ‘fixed’. (They can be adjusted through lanyards and such, but they typically do not involve blocks or pulleys.). Running rigging includes all the lines that hold up the sails and adjust how the sails are angled against the wind.
On model ships, standing rigging is often done with black rigging line.
The shrouds are rigging lines that hold the masts up by their sides. There are normally several shrouds for each mast. The Bluenose has 4 shrouds for the each lower mast, on each side, for a total of 16. It also has a shroud running down from the top mast, adding another 4. These 20 shrouds are run down to the main rail, where they are secured to the deadeyes on the chain plates.
Finally, there are two top mast shrouds on the main mast, that run from the top of top mast to the trestle tree.
Stays hold the masts on the fore and aft sides. There are a number of different stays on the Bluenose. A few run between the main and fore masts, while several others run down to the deck or bowsprit.
Most (all?) of the running rigging on a model ship is done with tan rigging line.
The term halliard comes from ‘haul yard’, and refers to lines that raise things. The halliards tend to be some of the more complex rigging lines. They typically have a number of blocks, and often weave back and forth.
The lifts hold tings up, like booms. The Bluenose has lifts for the main boom, the fore boom, and the jumbo jib boom. A couple short spreader lifts hold up the spreaders on the fore mast.
The term tackle seems to refer more the actual pieces that form the pulleys. However, there are a few lines on the Bluenose that the plans refer to as tackles, so I’m using that term here.
The Bluenose has a tackle on the bottom of the main boom and fore boom. It also has tackles for lifting the dories on both the port and starboard sides.
The sheets are lines that control the corner of a sail. They can keep tension, as well as control the movement of the sail. Many of these seem to be capable of running on either the port or starboard side.
The tacks are fairly simply lines that hold down the bottom corner of sails.
The downhauls run from the top of the sail down, and are used to pull the sail down when it is being stowed.
These might better fit under one of the other categories, but I’m separating them out into a miscellaneous category because they a little different than the other lines.
Ratlines and Footropes
Ratlines are ropes that form ‘ladders’ on the shrouds. These can be used to climb up to the upper portions of the masts.
Footropes are lines that are secured to things like the main boom and the bowsprit (not shown) where they extend outside the ship. Sailors could stand on the footropes when they need to get out to these areas.
The flag halliards are technically halliards (they lift something), but they are just used for flags so they tend to be pretty light/simple. The Bluenose has three – one on the main mast, one on the fore mast, and one on the main gaff.
I didn’t bother to draw up the clews, but these are noted on the plans so I’m including them here. The clew lines seem to run along the edges of sails, and are used to pull up the corners of the sails.
There is a LOT of discussion online about what size rigging line should be used for the various lines. Hardcore modelers use all kinds of resources to determine the precise size of rope that would have been used. I’m not that fancy.
The Model Shipways Bluenose kit provides rigging line in a few different sizes: 0.008″ (very thin, like thread), 0.021″ (medium weight), and 0.028″ (thicker). These don’t match what’s indicated on the plans. The plans show a variety of thicknesses, like .006″, .012″, and more.
To make things a little more complicated, I’m replacing all the rigging line in the kit with line from Syren Ship Model Company. The kit line is fine, but Syren’s is way better. The sizes are not always exactly the same, so I went with what was close. The 0.008″ kit line was replaced with 0.008″ Syren line. The 0.021″ kit line was replaced with 0.018″ Syren Line. The 0.028″ kit line was replaced with 0.025″ Syren Line.
I decided to use these lines as follows:
Blocks, Hooks, Shackles and Splices
Knowing where lines go and what size they should be isn’t enough. The details matter. Each line has its own unique usage of blocks, hooks, shackles, splices, etc. Adding all these details accurately makes all the difference in the look of the model.
I’ll just touch on the basics here, and go into more detail about how I’m implementing each piece as I get further into rigging.
There are a number of pieces of hardware that go into the rigging. All these little bits and pieces have specific purposes. Some are supplied by the kit, while others have to be made from scratch.
Blocks are pulleys. (Some hardcore ship guys would probably cringe at that statement, but that is the simplest, easiest explanation).
Rigging lines are run through blocks to make things easier to pull and lift.
On a model ship, the blocks are not actually functional. They don’t have the little wheels. Instead, they are just small wooden pieces with holes drilled through for the lines. Depending on the ship, a kit might have many different sizes and types of blocks.
On the Bluenose, we have single, double, and triple blocks. A single block has one set of holes, representing one ‘wheel’ in the pulley. A double block as two sets, and a triple block has three sets.
The Model Shipways Bluenose kit provides blocks in a number of different sizes. I’m only using the triple blocks. All the others have been replaced by block from Syren Model Ship Company. Syren’s blocks are much higher quality.
Blocks can be attached in a number of different ways. I spent a lot of time going over the plans to determine how each block should be attached. Typically, a hook or loop is attached to the block, which is then attached to a mast/boom/gaff, or to another rigging line. I identified several different configurations:
- A block with a single hook attached.
- A block with a single loop attached.
- A block with a loop on both the top and bottom.
- A block with a hook on one end and a loop on the other.
Seizing a block and setting up the hook or loop is a skill that requires a lot of practice. Many modelers have come up with creative jigs and techniques for this.
Several places in the rigging call for hooks. These are fairly simple metal pieces with a ring on one side, and hook on the other. I make mine by bending brass wire.
Shackles are a little more complex. A shackle allows a line to be secured in place, but removed at any time by removing the shackle’s bolt. There are a number of ways to make them. I’ve made some for the bowsprit, and my technique is covered there.
Deadeyes are typically round pieces that are used to secure the shrouds. I installed some of these when I put the chain plates on. Working on the deadeyes is one of my least favorite parts of rigging.
Deadeyes come in pairs, and each pair is held together by a lanyard. This allows the lines to be adjusted to achieve the right tension. Getting them all straight, tight, and even is a pain.
Securing the Lines
To secure the lines to all this hardware, a few different techniques are used. On my first build, I simply tied knots for everything. This time, I’m trying to do things better. My usage of these techniques will not be accurate. In many cases, I’m going to use simple versions of splices and seizings.
I’ve written about eye splices before. An eye splice is a loop in the end of the line, created by splicing the line back onto itself. Eye splices are much easier to do before the line is attached (in any way) to the ship. Try to do all your eye splices in advance.
Some places call for eye splices that have to be done in place on the ship. In these cases, I’ll be ‘faking it’, but simply seizing the line to itself, wrapping it with thread, and hoping nobody notices.
A seized loop is common on a model ship. The end result is similar to an eye splice in that it creates a loop, but this technique allows you to tighten the line in place. The line is looped around whatever it is being attached to, pulled tight, then tied to itself with thread.
Lanyards are used in a few places there things need to be pulled tight, but remain adjustable. There are two main types of lanyards on the Bluenose.
The lanyards for the deadeyes are done in the traditional method. There are many diagrams on how to do this. The lanyard is run through the holes in the upper and lower deadeye, they tied off on the shroud.
In other places, like the spreader lifts, lanyards are used to pull the lines tight. For these, I’ll tie the lanyard to the line, then loop it through whatever it is being attached to several times (eye bolt, bail, etc.). Once I’ve got a few loops, I’ll tie it off again.
So, What Next?
Now that I have a plan for the rigging, it is time to get everything I can installed on the masts. The goal is to get everything as complete as it can be before installing the masts.
Unfortunately, it is really hard to document and illustrate this as I go. Also, it would be a little confusing for someone jumping in later looking for assistance with a particular line (they’d see one end of it installed now, and the other end installed much later).
So, to make it easier I’m not going to document the rigging prep I’m doing on the masts. Instead, I’ll jump forward to once the masts are mounted, and fully document each line as I finish it.
Prepping all the rigging on the masts went fairly quickly, taking about a week. Once the prep work was done, all the lines were labeled (I printed some labels). Then I installed the masts.
Serious modelers will tell you not to glue your masts in – the rigging should hold it up if you do it right. The advantage of that is that if you need to remove the masts in the future (repairing damage several years from now), you can.
I’m not good enough at rigging to pull that off, so I glued my masts in place.
The coiled and labeled rigging lines look like a mess, but they are actually pretty well organized. Each line is identified by the number from my spreadsheet as well as its name.
Now all I have to do is finish attaching all this stuff.