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real cloth sails?...

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  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Sunday, April 26, 2009 12:29 AM

The big problem I've always had with "set," or "billowing," sails is that a real sail is a complicated object made out of many pieces, and it seems next to impossible to replicate its appearance on any but very large and very small scales.  (For the latter, here's some inspiration:  http://www.donaldmcnarryshipmodels.com/ .  Mr. McNarry works on scales from 1/192 down.  WARNING:  close scrutiny of his models may make you decide to give up.)

The basic shape of a sail is made up of many strips of canvas, each about two feet wide, which overlap each other at the edges.  (A full set of sails for a good-sized square-rigged ship contains hundreds of pieces of canvas.  Maybe close to a thousand.)  Many additional pieces of cloth of varying thicknesses - reef bands, head linings, leech linings, bunt linings, etc., etc. - are stitched to it.  Pieces of rope and, from the mid-nineteenth-century onward, iron fittings are attached to it in various ways. 

On a model with furled sails most of that stuff can safely be ignored, or faked in one way or another.  But when the sails are set, those items are pretty conspicuous - especially if the light is shining from behind the sail.  Then the thicker portions (i.e., the narrow strips where the individual cloths overlap) look darker than the rest.  Another phenomenon:  opaque items that are behind the sail when it's backlit show up on the surface of the sail as silhouettes.  (Watch the movie "Master and Commander" to see what I'm talking about.  Especially the scene near the beginning where the crew of the Surprise is repairing battle damage, and the rigging is full of people - and backlit.) 

If I can ever figure out a way to reproduce all that in a model I'll give it a shot.  Until then, I'll stick with furled sails - or bare yards.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: portland oregon area
Posted by starduster on Sunday, April 26, 2009 1:30 AM
  When I was in grade school we made mountains for geography maps using thin paper towels and dipping them in bowls of corn starch over cardboard this then was formed into mountains, but put this method into a mold like the vacuformed sails this might also work having marks replicating the separate strips of canvas it might pass for sails, and in the reference materials there's a link to Domonique Banton tutorial on making water but a real surprise he also has a tutorial on making a museum quality Revell 1/96 scale model of the CSS Alabama, but translate it to English and a great build begins including  cloth...cotton sail making for this model, even I can follow and understand...heh and that's an event right there, this is a quality build that I wish there were more of only in English.  Karl
photograph what intrests you today.....because tomorrow it may not exist.
  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: The green shires of England
Posted by GeorgeW on Sunday, April 26, 2009 10:37 AM
 jtilley wrote:

The big problem I've always had with "set," or "billowing," sails is that a real sail is a complicated object made out of many pieces, and it seems next to impossible to replicate its appearance on any but very large and very small scales.  (For the latter, here's some inspiration:  http://www.donaldmcnarryshipmodels.com/ .  Mr. McNarry works on scales from 1/192 down.  WARNING:  close scrutiny of his models may make you decide to give up.)

As a matter of interest John, two of Donald McNarry's models, The Alabama and Kearsage 1" = 16' scale, are up for auction in London on 29 April, by Maritime Models.

The guide price for each is £26 - £28,000, fancy making a bid?

Here's the link http://www.charlesmillerltd.com/

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Sunday, April 26, 2009 11:01 AM

Hmmm...well...not in this lifetime.

When I was working at the Mariners' Museum (Newport News, Virginia) I made it a project to try to acquire a McNarry model for the collection.  Mr. McNarry and I had a rather lengthy and cordial correspondence (he's actually quite a nice man); unfortunately his "major" models were (a) hard to find (he'd slowed down his building pace by then, so most of the "major" ones were already in the hands of collectors) and (b) beyond the museum's budget.  (It looks like the standard prices of McNarry models have at least doubled since then - but that was almost thirty years ago.)  I did manage to talk the museum into buying a McNarry model of a Thames ceremonial barge (the case is about six inches long), and to borrow several of his models temporarily.  Three or four of them came from a private collector in Philadelphia, and we got a long-term loan of one of his magnificent 1/192 Constitutions from the Smithsonian.  (Driving from Washington to Newport News with that thing in the back of the museum's station wagon was one of the more neurotic experiences of my life.) 

Just a few years ago the North Carolina Maritime Museum (the one I visit most frequently these days) scored a coup when a private collector donated a McNarry model of a Civil War blockade runner.  It is, in modeling terms, a masterpiece.  Unfortunately the average museum visitor has trouble appreciating it, for the simple reason that it's so small.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    March 2004
  • From: Spartanburg, SC
Posted by subfixer on Saturday, September 19, 2009 8:19 AM
bump it

I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

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