Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Flag and Flag Halliards

January 6, 2018

Day 645.

One of the final details on a model ship build is to add the flag(s).  The specific kind of flags and their location will depend on the specific ship.  With the Model Shipways Bluenose kit, there is just one flag – the Canadian flag.  The kid includes a nice cloth flag.

However, there is a problem.  The kit’s flag is the well-recognized ‘Maple Leaf’ flag – the flag Canada uses today.  The problem is that this flag was not adopted by Canada until 1965.  The Bluenose was launched in 1921, so obviously it didn’t fly this flag.  (The modern Maple Leaf flag would, however, be totally appropriate for a model of the Bluenose II, which is still sailing today.)


The flag provided with the kit isn’t correct for the period,  This flag wasn’t used until many years after the Bluenose.

So what flag should be flown?  A little bit of quick research (and some browsing of Model Ship World) indicates that during this period, the ship would have flown a variation of the ‘red ensign’ used by the British.

A quick online search quickly provided some images of this flag.

Making a Flag

Since the kit’s flag isn’t correct, I need to make a new one with the correct artwork.  An easy way to do this would be to simply print it on paper, cut it out, and hang it on the ship.  This is how flags are often done on model ships.  But this kit came with a nice cloth flag, and I hate to replace it with paper.

I decided to use an approach I found on the Model Ship World forum.  I’ll be using some special ‘iron-on’ transfer paper to apply the art to some fabric.

To get started, I brought the image of the flag in to my photo editing software (Photoshop).  I adjusted the size of the art to match the scale of the ship (I made the flag 3″ wide and 300dpi).  I chose to make my new flag slightly smaller than the one in the kit.  I felt the original flag was just a little too big.

When the art is transferred to the fabric, it will get reversed.  (Because the printed side of the transfer paper goes face-down on the fabric.)  So, to make a ‘correct’ flag, I need to flip the art.  I simply used Photoshop’s ‘horizontal flip’ function.

I’m also going to be making the flag double sided (because having it blank on one side would just be silly).  So, I’ll be ironing the image onto both sides of the fabric.  This means one will be flipped and one will be left un-flipped, so they are properly oriented when ironed on.

I decided to lay out the art so that I’m making two flags at once.  I added some black marks to help me align things (the dark black marks are more easily visible through the fabric).


The art for the new flag was laid out in Photoshop.

Two copies of this art were printed onto the transfer paper using a normal inkjet printer.  For the fabric, I used some thin white material I bought a while back for testing my sail-sewing abilities.


The art was printed on some iron-on transfer paper.

I followed the transfer paper’s instructions to iron the prints onto the fabric.  I did the first side, let it cool, then did the opposite side.


After ironing and cooling, the backing paper is removed, revealing the art on the fabric.

Once everything was cool, I cut the flags out.  I’m very happy with how they turned out.  You can see the texture of the fabric through the print.  It is a little stiffer than the original fabric, but still flexible enough to bend and shape.


The flag is then cut to size.

Now I need to get the flag halliards installed so I can hang the flag.  There are three flag halliards on the ship.

Fore Flag Halliard


The fore flag halliard is made from 0.008″ tan line.  A long length of line is run through the holes on the truck at the top of the fore mast.  The free ends are then tied off on the sheer pole.

Main Flag Halliard


The main mast flag halliard is done similarly.  It runs through the truck at the top of the mast, and gets tied off on the sheer pole.

Gaff Flag Halliard


The gaff flag halliard runs through a small block at the end of the main gaff.  The free ends run down to the main boom, where they are tied off to a cleat on the side of the boom.

The flag will be hung on the gaff flag halliard.  (This is where other modelers put it, so I’m following their lead.)

I punched two small holes in the flag, and used some short pieces of rigging line to tie to the halliard.


The flag is tied to the gaff flag halliard.

I used a short dowel rod to ‘roll’ the flag a little, giving it a bit of curve to make it look as though it is flapping in the wind.


The flag is a great finishing touch on the ship.