Building Model Ships - A Fanciful Hobby
By Jimmy Cox
A workmanlike finish with varnish means your ship model will be
extremely well presented and durable. In the case of old-time
ship models the bulk of the materials employed are wood, paper,
card and plaster, with only a few metallic parts; and of the
woodwork, the most important is the hull.
Supposing this to be plank built, it will need only very
carefully sandpapering with old well-worn but clean fine paper,
followed by a dusting, and then by one coat of clear crystal
varnish. This should be allowed to dry hard and then be
carefully but lightly rubbed down with sandpaper, dusted, and
given a second and rather more generous coat of varnish. This
treatment leaves the wood in its natural colors, but if a deeper
and richer effect with a very high gloss is desired it will be
necessary to employ a high grade carriage varnish and to give
two or three coats, each allowed to dry hard, prior to rubbing
down with fine sandpaper, or preferably with pumice powder.
To rub down a varnished surface with pumice powder, put some of
the powder in a linen bag, an old handkerchief folded into four
answering very well. Draw the corners upwards and tie them
together with string, leaving a flat part at the bottom of the
bag which can be used as the rubbing surface. Dip the pad in
water and rub lightly and briskly over the surface of the dry
varnish, using a circular motion. Keep the varnish and the pad
moistened with water to prevent the varnish lifting or pulling
up, as it would do if the surface became hot by friction. Endeavor to produce a perfectly smooth even surface,
marble-like in appearance and texture. Similar measures can be
employed when rubbing down for French polish, or to impart a
fine surface on paintwork.
The final coat of varnish is generally left plain, but can be
rubbed down in this way and polished afterwards with linseed oil
and a trace of beeswax dissolved in turpentine, and rubbed on as
if French polishing.
The foregoing is an excellent finish for mahogany or other woods
used for deck houses and the like, and for the masts and spars.
Usually on small model work it is unnecessary to give a
preliminary coating of size or filling, but this may be
occasionally needed. Varnishes ought to be applied with a medium
soft brush, and flowed on or applied rather thickly; it is
difficult to describe how much varnish to use, but it must be
sufficient to flow together after the brush has passed, thus
obliterating the brush marks, but it must not be too generous or
it will run down into miniature rivulets and never dry flat and
uniform in appearance. Try to apply a coat absolutely uniform in
thickness, use a proper "varnish brush," the best quality
varnish, and success will surely follow if the work is guided by
A good deal of the paintwork has to be done on the model at
various stages of its completion.
Back scenes on scenic models are generally done with ordinary
water colors or poster colors. Plaster waves or other parts are
generally painted with oil colors, or with poster colors if the
plaster surfaces are previously gone over with a light coat of
crystal varnish or a thin coat of clear shellac varnish, either
of which closes the pores and stop the "suction," thus enabling
a uniform surface of color to be attained. When varnishing and
painting are completed, your ship will give much pleasure to you
and all who view her.
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