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  • I was given the Revell Thermopylae tall ship.  Unfortunately the kit is missing the sails.  This being my first attempt at a tall ship (I am strictly a WWII aircraft builder) and I want it to be as shown on the box.  I am not sure I could fabricate them as the look to be vacu-formed.  My second choice would be to get some cloth and show all the sails in their stowed position,  Any ideas out there?




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  • My own opinion is you didn't lose anything.
  • Hi Richard,

    I agree that this was not a great loss.  Showing the sails furled would be good, however, as you're preparing cloth you only need to cut them to about 1/4 - 1/3 their actual size.  If you cut a sail to the full size and furl at this scale, the bulk would generally be out of proportion.  Alternatively, cut them a bit larger than I suggested, furl and assess whether the bulk is too much, then cut smaller as needed.

    Cheers,  Rick

  • Rick- you've stirred the rats in my mental attic. I remember a long time back a project for this model/ Cutty Sark where the modeler used white kleenex rolled up and dampened which dried hard(?). I'll see if I can track that down.


  • I tend to agree with Bondoman.  I've never been a fan of vacuum-formed plastic sails.  On the other hand, if I remember correctly the ones in this kit are better than most.  (Oops - I may be making an unjustified assumption.  The 3-foot-long, 1/96-scale Revell kit has nicely formed "sails."  Revell later issued a smaller version of the ship - about two feet long, I think - in its "Quick Build" series.  I don't think I've seen that one outside the box.)

    I do feel obliged to make one point - which is applicable to both those kits.  They aren't scale models of the Thermopylae.  They're slightly-modified versions of Revell's Cutty Sark kits.  In reality, the Thermopylae and the Cutty Sark looked similar from a distance, but that's about the extent of the resemblance.  (If you do a forum search on the word "Thermopylae" you'll find at least one fairly detailed discussion of the subject.)  As the Cutty Sark, the 1/96-scale kit, in particular, is a real classic and a fine basis for a serious scale model.  As the Thermopylae, it's one of Revell's all-too-frequent marketing stunts.

    How much this matters is, of course, up to the individual modeler; I'm not suggesting that you throw the kit away.  But I do think the consumer is entitled to go into a project like this with eyes open.

    For what it's worth, here's a link to a discussion we had some time ago about sailmaking:  /forums/350912/ShowPost.aspx

    Good luck.

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

  • I think we are missing one thing.  If the plastic sails are missing and this is not really the Thermopylae, how can you know the outline of the sails that fit this model?  Isn't he forced  into finding the plastic sails or finding someone who can measure a set of sails?
  • My understanding is that the intention is to show the sails furled, which is a much more forgiving exercise. I don't remember the sails too well from the kit. I know Revell had at least one ship with loosely furled droopy sails, but I don't think it was this one.

    To replicate the sails set is a whole other magnitude of difficulty of course. Crude as they were, the kits sails had at least some ghost of a notion of reefs and reinforcing, I'm certain.

    If a clipper with sails set is desired, better to buy the Cutty Sark which will have a better return on the time spent.

    I personally think that a clipper under bare poles is as beautiful a thing as any other option.


    p.s. bought a new ship model today!

  • I agree with you as far bare poles on a clipper ship.  Not too many things prettier than a clipper ship anyway, speaking of ships only!  But I am a new ship modeler, not a new modeler, and doing my first set of sails.  It has taken me seven tries but I finally have a good looking sail.  I found out that it is easier and more realistic to make a complete sail then a furled one.  After I have more experience, furled sails may be possible, but as a 'newbie', I just don't have the experience to get the right look.

    There is an excellant article on furled sails on Model Ship World Database.  But once again, it is hard to achieve a 'look' to the sails when you don't know what you're looking at.  I hope this makes a little bit of sense.

  • I personally, for the reasons I mentioned in that other thread, find furled sails a great deal easier to model than set ones.  (In fact I've never been able to produce a set sail that I've found halfway satisfactory.)  But I guess everybody's different; to each his/her own.

    I continue to recommend either furled sails or "bare poles" for a model.  (That article in the MSW database, incidentally, is largely reproduced - with my complete approval - from what I wrote on the Forum thread I mentioned above.)  If you do want to show the sails set, though, working out their dimensions isn't actually so difficult.  Lay them out on paper first.  If you can find a sailplan of the actual ship - great.  (Reconstructed sailplans of the Thermopylae can be found in three books by David MacGregor:  China Tea Clippers, Fast Sailing Ships, and British and American Clippers:  A Comparison.  I may have garbled the titles slightly.)  Don't assume the kit matches the plans exactly, though.

    If you have to work out the dimensions of the square-rigged sails from the kit parts, it isn't hard.  Fit all the components of, say, the foremast together and lay them out on a table.  In the big Revell kits, the yards are fastened to the masts by convenient (if not-quite-to-scale) "snap rings."  If I remember correctly, there are raised rings around the masts to locate the upper topsail, topgallant, and royal yards in either the raised or lowered positions; if you're opting for set sails, put the yards in the raised positions.  You can then determine the height of each sail by measuring the vertical distance between a yard and the one below it.  Subtract about 1/8" (i.e., a scale foot) or a little more, and you've got the depth of the sail.

    The head of the sail is stretched between the yardarm cleats.  (The yardarm is the extreme end of the yard; each yard has two yardarms, one at each end.)  I don't remember exactly how Revell represents the yardarm cleats, but there should be some obvious fitting two or three scale feet in from the extreme end of the yard.  The distance between those two points is the width of the head of the sail.

    The lower corners (clews) of the sail are held down by heavy ropes (or, in some cases, chains) called sheets, which pass through sheaves in the yard below, just inboard of the yardarm cleats.  As I recall, Revell repesented those sheaves as holes in the yards.  Measure between the two holes.  That's the width of the bottom of the sail.

    The course (the lowest sail on each mast except the mizzen; the lowest sail on the mizzenmast is called the crossjack, or crojack) doesn't have a yard at its foot.  Its sides (leeches) are almost vertical; the foot is about four feet wider than the head.  (I'm basing that figure on the sailplan of the Cutty Sark, which I happen to have in front of me.)  The clews should be two or three feet above the tops of the bulwarks.

    Each of the square sails is gored slightly - that is, the foot is shaped in a slight concave curve.  (That allows space for various rigging lines that have to pass under the middle of the sail.) The amount of curvature is smaller in the upper sails than in the lower.  For the courses it's about three feet; for the royals it's about a foot.

    The overall shape of a square-rigged sail therefore could be described as a trapezoid with a curved bottom. 

    The spanker is, if I remember my high school plane geometry right, best described as an irregular quadrilateral; none of its four sides is parallel to any of the others.  You should be able to take its dimensions from the mizzenmast, the gaff (the spar at its head), and the boom (the spar at its bottom).  The other sails you'll probably want to represent are the jibs and staysails.  They're shaped like triangles with slightly curved edges.  You can take their dimensions from the sailplan; they don't have to fit precisely between kit parts.

    All this sounds at least twice as complicated in written form than it is in reality.  If you take a look at a sailplan for the ship, or even a similar one, it should all be pretty obvious.   

    Hope that helps a little.  Good luck.

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

  • I want to thank all of you for your input.  It was most educational.  From what I can tell, with my being a newbee in tall ship modeling I believe I will bypass the sails for now and do a bare pole ship to get my feet wet.  After that I might go into something more challenging.  It seems that ship modeling is a whole different world compared to aircraft modeling and I am looking forward to getting started.  Once again, thanks to all.


  • I think that's a wise decision.  A clipper ship under bare poles, with a reasonably complete rigging job, is a thing of great beauty.

    Just be sure to get the yards in the right places - i.e., the upper topsail, topgallant, and royal yards in their lowered positions.

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

  • Richard

      I built this model a couple of years ago.A quick suggestion.Replace the belaying pins with wood or metal. The kit supplied ones are very flimsy and won't take much tautness.Its a little extra work at the start but saves a lot of cursing later.


  • Thanks for the suggestion Rod I do appreciate it as I do all the inputs I have received.


  •  Richard,

       Here's a photo of the Thermopylae that I built when I was ten, fifty years ago. As you can see, I rigged it with the sails, but if I built it again, I definitely wouldn't put them on.


    I stop in the local cafe now and then just to see what I've been up to.
  • Rats, the image didn't come through...
    I stop in the local cafe now and then just to see what I've been up to.