Building a Beginning Billing Boats Kit, Dana Fishing Boat – Part 7: Painting and Preparation

Preparing the Blocks

At some point, we’re going to need to deal with one of the small details, namely the blocks. Billing Boats commonly includes pre-molded plastic block in many of their kits. I think they may use small wooden blocks for some things, but the blocks on this 1:60-scale kit come in plastic.

Now, you may not like plastic blocks and may want to substitute some 3rd party fittings instead.  The blocks in the kit are 3/16″ or 5mm single-sheave blocks. Amati makes 5mm single blocks in Walnut and you can find them at Ages of Sail here, at $2 for a pack of 20. Unfortunately, shipping far outweighs the cost of the blocks themselves. Not a problem if you’re already planning to order other things. But, personally, even though I have many choices of blocks on-hand, I just decided to try out the ones in the kit.

The blocks in the kit are molded in brown plastic. If you want to use them as-is, you can, but I decided to paint mine. I used Billing Boats tan for the wooden block, and Black, #11, for the stropping. Afterwards, I sprayed them with a dull cote lacquer finish. In the end, I think they look pretty decent. Anyway, I think they look good enough that once their rigged, you won’t really notice their plastic without looking really closely.

These are then set aside until needed. My kit had 12 blocks in it and it looks like 11 are needed to finish the kit. Now, given how easily I’ve lost blocks in the past, I strongly suggest keeping these safe in a small plastic parts box or zip lock bag or something until needed.

Stern Detail

While not everything in Diagram D has been deal with, I think it’s time to move on to Diagram E, which deals with the stern detail and the aft cabin.

The first thing to note is that while the diagram does not show any coaming around the base of the cabin, the instructions clearly say to put them on, which I did earlier. I also already added the winch head, part F107, and the cabin roof and drilled a hole in it for the mizzen mast.

Preparing the Rail Stanchions / Rudder Shaft

One of the items to deal with is the shaft for the rudder and tiller. This is provided simply as the same fitting used for the rail stanchions. There are 9 of these pieces needed and I thought my kit might have come up short, but I found them all. These are all to be painted white. I considered keeping some nice shiny brass on the model, and if that’s your taste, I think the railing and stanchions would be a good candidate for shiny brass. But, in any case, I think it’s best to paint the one stanchion used for the rudder and tiller.

For my model, I’ve decided to go ahead and paint the stanchions, including the one for the tiller. The instructions suggest white, which I think will be fine here. While I’m at it, the chainplates are also brass fittings that are to be painted white, so those are being done at the same time.

An Aside About the Chainplates

Now, the instructions show that the chainplates need to be bent to fit over the lip of the bulwarks, but this doesn’t seem right to me. Instead, I think they should pass straight through the lip, not around it. If you look at the photos at the back of the instruction book, you can see what I’m talking about.

As described in the instruction. This arrangement doesn’t make much sense to me.

In the model example, the chainplates pierce the rail, shown here circled in red.

The method described in the instructions are probably easier to build, as this doesn’t require cutting or drilling holes in the hull, and you may certainly chose to build the model that way. I only bring this up now, because if you are going to bend the chainplates, you’ll want to do that before you paint them.


For painting the metal parts, I’m mostly using Tamiya spray paints. I first sprayed with white Tamiya Surface Primer and then sprayed a couple coats of Tamiya Pure White. These ended up looking too glossy, so I ended up spraying an extra coat of Matt White.

My painted stanchions.

My painted chainplates.

Masts and Spars

Since the paint job had to be done over a period of time, I worked on the masts and spars while paint was drying.

I cut all the dowels to length, leaving them a little long, so I could shape them on my lathe. Best to get the measures off the plans, but keep in mind that part of the mast needs fit down inside the hull. In my kit, the mainmast material was long enough to run it all the way down to the bottom of the hull (the keel), but I only had enough material for the mizzen mast to drop down just beneath the aft cabin roof top, where it is seated.

The holes I drilled for the masts are very tight, so I don’t expect any movement of the mast once the shrouds are installed. However, it would be safer to be able to seat the mast down to the base of the hull, so you may need to buy some extra dowel at your local hardware store or hobby dealer.

Being a ship modeler, I keep a supply of small dowels so I can try to use the same type of wood across a model. But, if you’re applying wood stains or dyes, a difference of wood types won’t be so noticeable.

Tapering Dowels

In any case, the dowels all need to be tapered. A few years ago, I purchased a nice Sherline lathe for model making. This is a nice, handy piece of hardware to have, but you certainly don’t need one for this model. One alternative is to use a power hand drill. Just take the extra length of dowel and clamp it in the chuck. You can then use it to spin the dowel while you sand a taper into it.

Make sure to wear eye protection(!), start very slowly, and make sure to support the dowel so that it does not start wobbling. Any wobble will get out of control FAST (particularly LONG dowels), and before you know it, you’ll have a wildly flailing dowel that will snap and go flying. So, be very careful!

Even if you don’t have a hand drill (or don’t want to use one), you can simply sand the dowels by hand – it just takes longer. In all cases, start with coarser grit to remove material and finish with medium and fine grit to remove any scratches from the coarser sandpaper.

Coloring the Dowels

You don’t have to do this, but I chose to color the dowels a dark brown. I have been experimenting with using wood dyes, but most people will probably choose to use a wood stain. Probably best to use a water based wood stain, as this won’t prevent you from gluing or painting the wood afterwards.

Oil based stains are useable, but glue won’t stick to it, so you’ll need to do all the woodworking before you stain. Just remember that stain won’t penetrate glue, so any excess glue has to be thoroughly removed.

Adding Gaff and Boom Jaws

The last item I’ll cover in this part is to add the jaws to the booms and gaffs. These jaws are laser-cut for you, so that part is simplified. However, you will need to taper the ends of the spars, so that you can fit the jaws on the ends.

You’ll not that the fork that receives the dowel end is pretty narrow. Chances are, you’re tapered dowel is too wide. I simply “sharpened” the end of the dowel with a hobby knife, then sanded it round. The ends up too narrow, but this is easily filled and won’t be noticeable at this scale. There are other ways to fit those jaw pieces onto the dowels, but this is the most expedient

After all the jaws were added and gaps filled with glue or filler, I touched up the areas where the dyed wood was trimmed and sanded away. I then painted all the ends white, as well as the lower portions of both masts and the inboard portion of the bowsprit.

Mainmast not shown here.

There’s plenty of detail work to do on the deck yet, so I’ll get back to that next time, as well as maybe adding some details to the masts and spars.


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