Rigging - The Eternal Question

Discussion in 'Tips, Tutorials & Tools' started by JRSeese, Feb 19, 2004.

  1. JRSeese

    JRSeese Member

    Does the rigging hold up the masts, or do the masts hold up the rigging?

    Heh, just thought I would try to add fuel to the fire in here a little. I've always gazed admiringly at the beautifully rigged ships and prop planes, wondering how in the world it could possibly be done without wrecking it.

    When I was a teen, I built a model Mayflower that I bought at a museum in Plymouth Rock. Never got past the masts; the masts were so rickety I was scared to death to try to attach string to them!

    What say you? Give us some beginner's tips for rigging just for fun.


  2. Corporal_Trim

    Corporal_Trim Member

    Maintain tension between the forestays and the backstays. :wink:
  3. JRSeese

    JRSeese Member

    *the light of comprehension dawns on my thick skull*
  4. JRSeese

    JRSeese Member

    You might have guessed that I find the thought of rigging to be the most intimidating aspect of potentially building big ships / biplanes / etc.

    I thought of another question; when you get a big ship kit, like the ones being documented during building elsewhere on this site, do you get diagrams showing how the rigging is supposed to be added or does the designer assume you are learned enough to work it out on your own?

    I suppose I could read up on it, I'm sure Maurice could recommend a book or two :wink:

  5. Joseph

    Joseph Member

    as far as I know, most polish models have a diagram for the rigging (aircraft or ships) :wink:
  6. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    From what I have seen, the rigging plans are included in the kit, but there is the question of how extensive and/or accurate they are when compared to the real thing.
    It also depends on the scale. But since you started out talking about the bigger kits (Cleopatra, Victory, et al.) those kits have fairly good rigging plans. There are texts out there that show the true rigging, if you are interested, depending on the nationality, period of time, etc.

    It's really not all that bad, once you have an idea of what the basic rigging practice is. For instance, you normally start with the standing rigging setup; those are the shrouds, stays, and the lines that aren't adjusted on a daily basis. They support the spars, so they hold the masts in place. Then you add the yards, most of which you can pre-rig off the model to make it easy, adding the haillards, braces and lifts once it is on the model. You try to work from the inside areas outboard so you don't paint yourself into a corner. It just takes a bit of planning, but you probably already know that. :)

    Do you have a ship model in mind?

  7. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Hi All,

    Josh, what did you step in! Go outside and wash it off with the hose, and from now on take your shoes off before entering the house!

    Yes, you did step in it. Rigging could be a website dedicated to only that subject alone. Keeping it simple though there are two major categories of a saiing ships rigging; the standing and the running. The standing is exactly that, it remains fixed and is used to brace the masts. The running rigging is also just that, it's used for actively sailing the ship or running. Standing rigging consists of shrouds and stays. Shrouds are the triangular shaped rigging that support the masts athwartshiips (port and starboard). Stays support the masts fore and aft. The running rigging allow eacb sail to be "set" independently for best sailing conditions and are to numerorus to cover in a simple post like this. So there's a nut shell compendium of rigging basics.

    When rigging a model the standing rigging is done before the running and the rule is work from the centerline out. Thiis allows the least interference in accomplishing the rigging work.

    Are you sure you got all that stuff off your shoes?

    Best regards, Gil
  8. barry

    barry Active Member

    400 th scale rigging

    what is the best material to rig 1/400 WWII battleships please. I look at black cotton and think noooooo it dont look right.

  9. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Barry, I'll tell you what I am experimenting with, and finding it to work out great for railings, and I am sure it will work just as good for aerials, rigging, and the like.
    I use a jig which I made out of foam board, but any framing with the middle open should work fine.
    I am using a fly tying silk, "Uni-Thread" is the brand I have, which is size "8/0". I figure out the spacing between the rails (i.e., three rail, two rail) and then the stanchion spacing, and mark it on the jig...the long side is the stanchion spacing, the short side the railing spacing. I then start to string the jig, taping down the tape end and then running it across the open part of the jig, wrapping it around and keeping the space between the threads to keep the rail spacing I marked on the edges (truth be know, the last run I made I did by eye, it worked easier). Keep the thread snug but not too tight or else it will spring back when cut later and not keep the correct spacing. I then start to wind the thread around the jig for the stanchions. You could use a slightly thicker thread for effect, but I haven't tried that yet. You might also want to run an extra run when putting down the rails to use as the base for gluing, because without the extra bottom "rail" it's difficult to glue up on the model later.
    Then, I used arcylic paint the color I want the railings to end up being, and gently brushed the whole "netting", starting carefully at the places the rails meet the stanchion threads, and gently coating the thread throughout. By the time I got to one end the beginning was fairly dry and the threads bound a bit together at the joints like glue, so I added another coat. You could repeat this a few times until you are happy with the stiffness and joints. Using acrylics, I used a dab of water here and there where the paint globbed up a bit, and it seemed to give me a nice even coat of paint. I then let it dry thoroughly, and then roughly cut our the "netting." At this point you measure off the pieces you need and trim them carefully using a very sharp modeling blade or single edge razor. I am learning to take my time in trimming because the tolerance is so small I sometime separated the stanchions and railing at the wrong time. :?
    My first run with this method worked out fairly well, but I need to measure the stanchion spacing better to fit the various sections along the decks that I intend to use this railing, because it seems some runs came up a little short...okay, a LOT short. :shock:
    I hope to do a bit more this weekend on the railings and post some more pictures to show how this technique is panning out for me. I also plan on using this basic technique for the cargo boom rigging as well as any aerials. It should work as well I imagine.
    BTW, this is a variation on tips I've read from others, like on the Digital Navy webpage, and is a work in progress, so if anyone tries this and has a suggestion that works out better, PLEASE let me know! :wink:
    I suppose this went beyond your question, Barry, but I hope it helps anyway. :)
    Good luck!
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Member


    How far do you wish to journey in your quest for knowledge ? :)
    To answer the question that opened the thread, masts act in compression, rigging in tension, and niether would be there long without the other.
    The Polish kits do usually contain rigging diagrams but in the case of the larger scale ship models they may not give enough detail to do justice.
    For mid 18th to mid 19th century rigging the book you're all already rushing out to acquire :)
    "The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships" by C. Nepean Longridge currently published by Nexus Special Interests
    ISBN 1-85486-122-0
    is again excellent and informative in this area.
    The manpower on hand to operate these rigs was never a problem but changes came as the 19th century wore on. Sailing ships needed to go faster and with much smaller crews to remain competetive. Sail area and the number of sails increased whilst the size of individual sails decreased and became handier. But essentially the basic system remained the same.
    Again the perhaps definitive work on these rigs is quite elderly and goes back to the late 40's.
    "Masting & Rigging, the clipper ship and ocean carrier" by Harold A. Underhill published by Brown Son & Ferguson
    ISBN 0-85174-173-8

    But look folks I must stress that these are just my ideas, not everyone will necessarily be suited by them and there is much else also available.


    Not a gunshot in sight but a good read
  11. barry

    barry Active Member

    Thanks Jim it seems to work for you.

  12. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Thanks, Barry. It's going well so far...and I am still learning things along the way. :eek:
    But that's the fun part, right? :?
    I posted some new pictures of my "progress" this morning in my album. Still seeing some fitting problems with the model, but that is most likely due to me rather than the kit design. :oops:
    Let me know how it works for you.
  13. JRSeese

    JRSeese Member

    What is the best material to use for the rigging? And the best method for attaching it to the model? CA glue? Do you actually tie it in circumstances?

  14. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Josh, I like to use fly tying silk on my smaller scales, some folk use that clear hemming or tailor's thread and paint it. I don't like the hemming thread, at least not the stuff I have found, because I find it pretty difficult to take out the coil from the spool, and I find it difficult to manage, but that's just me. I'll stick with the fly tying thread for the smaller scales I like to build in, it's in scale and is way easy to handle, takes paint well, and, most importantly, doesn't have all that fuzzy tufts that cotton and other fiber threads do.

    In wood ship building, I like to use linen line when I can find it, or even the cotton poly mix which has been polished; it helps to run the thread through bees wax and then run it between your fingers to set the wax into the thread to lay down the fuzzy tufts you see in the cotton or cheaper line. The thread I use all depends on the scale I am working in; I have even used coat/button thread to replicate the larger line for things like shrouds and stays.

    In some things you can even use very small wire, like that nichron stuff, which is easy to work with in some scales, at least in wooden models, but I haven't tried it with paper models yet. I plan on using some on a modern frigate on the shipways (i.e., to be done folder), for whip antennae, and am sort of anxious to see how it works out. Some folk even use streached plastic styrene sprue (you know, the "trees" from the plastic kits that use hold over a flame to soften and then pull to form "strings" of various sizes and thicknesses depending on your feel and the heat applied; it's an acquired skill, and works fairly well, but the consistency of the thickness can be a problem).

    I sometimes paint the line, to stiffen and/or color it, and/or apply a 50/50 diluted white glue and water mix. In the larger scales I like to soak the line in Minwax in the color/tint that makes it either look nice and blackish brown for standing rigging (jacoba bean is the name, I think) and a lighter brown fo the running rigging. On the smaller paper models, however, I usually stick to the fly thread and just paint it the color I want. In a given situation I will tie the thread to, and dab a bit of glue on the knot, and in small scales a knot can be made to replicate a block when glued and painted a bit. I also sometimes put pin holes in the model and insert the thread, dab a bit of glue on it, and when it is set, rig the other end to, for instance, masts, poles, for use as stays on booms on cargo ships, etc.

    I don't like CA for thread; I really don't like to use CA for a lot of things, actually, since I don't seem to be able to control the flow all that well and it ends up going where I don't want it to go. But that's just me. :? Besides, I find CA tends to turn the line into very stiff and slightly discolored and shiney stuff that I don't like, although for some things that works our well as long as I paint it when I am done. So, I pretty much use white glue, which glues flat, doesn't soak into everything like CA, and let's me glue to pretty much anything.

    No doubt you will get a million others opinions on this, and that' great because we all have different experiences that work best for us. Maybe I have given you some ideas to work on; experiment and see what line works best for you and what you want it to look like. If you find something else that fits the bill, let us know; I am always all ears to find something new to try for rigging.
    Wow.... :shock: Guess I got a little carried away there, huh?
    Yipes, sorry about that, folks! But there is a lot to say on this topic, if you think about it. Talk about a loaded question. :D
    Well, I hope this helps answer at least some of your questions.
  15. JRSeese

    JRSeese Member

    EXCELLENT stuff - thanks for taking the time.

    OK, now I want to know what the easiest method is!! Have to weigh the options, of course

  16. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Well, Josh, it depends on what ship you are building.... 8)
    Seriously, are you talking about a sailing ship, then as the earlier posts mention, you need to have the standing rigging and then some running rigging. Depending on the number of masts, how she was rigged, whether you are showing sails and how exact you want to get, it all factors in to how easy or simple the rigging will be.
    Some plastic kits, and some paper models in smaller scales, have simplified rigging plans. For instance, I started the Wilhelmshaven 1/200 model of USS Constitution, and the rigging scheme there is fairly simple for that scale, but I will add some details to it based on my knowledge in building her in wood and much larger scale.
    Maybe you are asking to see a basic rigging discussion for sailing ships. There are a few books out there that give you a fair discussion of the rigging schemes, although geared for wooden ship modeling, but that is a good start. Or would you like a crash course/discussion on rigging; as was said earlier, that could be quite extensive, depending on how much detail you are looking for.
    I'm sure Maurice, Gil, Max, myself and others could try and explain how we do our sailing ship rigging, sort of step by step, but I'm not sure if that is what you are looking for. I can try and find a link or two that might help, if you'd like (assuming they are out there).
    Beware...remember, you asked for it! :lol:
  17. JRSeese

    JRSeese Member

    Tell you what - I'll get back to you when I have a model ready to run lines on.

    I do far too much speculation, and far too little execution - Chemical imbalance in my brain, I think.

  18. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Okay, Josh.
    Anytime I can try and help, don't hesitate to drop me a line!
    I might be a novice in paper modeling, but I feel I do have a fair amount of working knowledge on rigging sailing ships, and merchant ships too, so if you gots a question, I mights have an answer...or at least know where to get an answer...or a semblence of an answer... :lol:
    Let me just say, the rigging may look difficult or somewhat imposing, but when you break it down you'll find it's simply a matter of putting the lines on in a logical fashion and order, and taking it step by step...and you eventually get done. :wink:
  19. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Maybe I have the same chemical inbalance, but I often find myself thinking over or, as I like to call it, "visualizing" through a particular problem for hours on end, every spare moment I get, :shock:
    whether in trying to figure out a better way of making a subassembly or how to try and create a railing or rigging item, before I actually get the chance to sit down and work on it. And when you have a little one, you find the time to actually do the work gets less and less (at least that's the way it is in our home), until, I am told, they become teenagers and don't want to acknowledge you as a parent. let alone spend time with you. :lol:
    But, seriously, visualization has been the way I tackle modeling problems for quite some time now. Some times the actual execution comes out like I imagined, sometimes not, and when not, :? back to visualization again to try and work out how to make it better. This is particularly true of rigging, because I like to work it through in my head a bit before actually cutting and laying the lines and making a mess of it.
    But, that's just me. :wink:
    Oh, if you suffer from this condition, just to let you know...it never goes away, :shock:
    you will suffer this disorder for the rest of your day...but I know you will make great models along the way a result. :wink:
  20. bwallaw

    bwallaw Member

    Earlier in this thread, Jim mentioned using a jig to create railings for his ship models. I tried this technique on the Ambrose I'm building. I built a jig to make the rope ladders that run from the deck up the mast. I'm sorry, I don't know the proper name for these ladders. I followed techniques for building railings described on this site and at David Hathaway's Paper Shipwright site.

    • The jig is constructed from a small piece of foam core with the ladder plan glued onto it. Around the edges, I glued scrap strips of thick cardboard to elevate the thread when I lay it across the the rigging plan.

      Using a straightedge I notched the cardboard border to line up with each strand of the ladder on the plan.

      Next I laid the thread into the jig. I used a #30 guage-0.008in diameter rigging thread that I had purchased from Mico-Mark. First, I put a drop of CA on each notch for a single piece of thread, then I string the thread across the jig making sure it goes into the notches. Hold for a few seconds and it will stay on its own.

      After all the thread is strung across the jig, I coated all the thread with CA to connect the joints and harden the pieces. I had problems keeping the glue from filling in the grid, so I used tissue to dab it out. Set this aside to dry for several hours.

      After the pieces had dried, I checked for pieces that didn't stick or came loose. (Do this sooner than several hours after the initial CA soaking).

      Once the pieces are dry, I cut the parts out of the jig, and laying them over another copy of the rigging plan, trimmed them to size. I did have to repair a couple strands that disconnected during trimming.

      Finally, attach to the ship.

    This technique worked verry well for me and I recommend it. I'm a bit unsatisfied with the "wet" look that the ladder has, and blobs formed at the thread joints despite constant dabbing. So I think for the port side, I will use less CA to impregnate the thread. I also wasn't sure where the top of the ladder should be attached, so I guessed. Hope this is helpful.

Share This Page