Building a Beginning Billing Boats Kit, Dana Fishing Boat – Part 12: Railing and Block Choice

Topmast Backstays

If you look carefully at the plans you will see a line that runs from the top of the mainmast, down to the rail, aft of the three shrouds. This is the topmast backstay.

I’m using the next smaller size rigging line for this – as a general rule, the higher up you go on the model, the smaller the rigging line gets, at least for the standing rigging. Below is a scan of the rigging diagram. I marked the line with a red arrow.

The green arrow shows the attachment point of the stay to the rail. I believe the kit would just have you simply drill a hole here and run the line through it and glue it into place. That’s perfectly fine, but I have been adding eyebolts to the model, so that’s what I’m doing here.

The rail was drilled through, the eyebolt inserted and glued into place. The excess stick through the bottom of the rail was trimmed off. All set to add the backstay itself.

I didn’t take any photos of the backstay at this point, as it’s such a simple operation. I just took a single piece of thin rigging line, made an overhand knot in the center, passing the loop over the top of the mast, then tightened the knot. The stays, port and starboard, were then tied off to their respective eyebolts.

When doing this, you want the stay to be taught, but not so much that you cause the mast to lean one way or the other. This may take a little practice. Fortunately, the stays attaching the topmast to the bowsprit will keep you from bending the topmast backwards. It’s mostly the left and right lean you want to watch out for.


I know I said last time that I’d start detailing the booms and gaffs, but I got impatient and decided to go ahead and get the railing done. This may be a bit of a mistake and best saved for later in the build. But, I couldn’t help myself as I wanted to make some progress on this part of the model. Anyway, the standing rigging is done and our railing will now certainly clear that rigging.

Below is the photo from the box art, showing the railing in place. There are four brass stanchions on each side (each rail), and a 1mm diameter brass rod included in the kit for the rail itself. By the way, if you run out of this stuff, you can easily get it at most better hardware stores. Look for the K&S Metals display rack. This size comes in a pack of 3.

From the kit’s box art.

Turns out that mounting the rails is really simple, you simply need to thread the piece of brass rod through the holes in the four stanchions, and carefully bend the ends to fit through the holes drilled earlier in the build.

In the photo below, I drew red arrows showing the holes drilled for the stanchions and green arrows showing the holes drilled for the ends of the brass rod.

Carefully bend the brass rod near the ends, but leave a little length at the very ends. You can then trim off the excess later. To keep a nice curve, you may want to bend the end over a small dowel, or too handle. Do one end first and test fit the whole thing. You’ll want to bend the rod slightly to fit the curvature of the hull and bulwarks. Then, you will have to eyeball where to bend the other end of the brass rod.

The photo below shows how this should look now. The red arrows show the excess sticking through. At this point, I hadn’t glue the stanchions to the rod, but this is a good time to do it. Make sure they stand straight and use a little CA glue where the rod passes through the hold in the stanchions. I used medium gap-filling CA glue.

Note the topmast backstays in place in this photo.

If you want to paint the brass, don’t glue the stanchions to the hull. After the gluing of the rod to the stanchions has set, you can remove the whole assembly and paint it. But, clip off the excess that sticks out through the hull first.

After you take the whole assembly back off the model, you may need to file the ends slightly where you clipped off the excess. But, don’t file too much, or you might not end up with enough to fit into the hole anymore.

In any case, paint or not, you can fit the rail assembly back into place and glue it to the hull.

I decided to keep the brass bright, but that means coating it with some lacquer to keep it from dulling too quickly. It will dull a bit, over time, even under the lacquer coating.

My completed railings.

The Block Choice

So, now the time has come to make a final decision as to whether I’ll use the kit-provided blocks, or some 3rd party blocks. I was all set to go ahead with the kit blocks, when I realized that the eyebolts I added to the masts, to which the blocks would be attached, actually made the choice for me.

As it turns out, the rigid eyes on the plastic blocks that are in the kit make for a very bulking looking assembly when tied to the also-rigid eyebolts. It just wasn’t going to look very good. If I had simply tied the blocks around the masts, the way they seem to show in the drawings, then it would have been fine.

So, if you are building you model this way, then you might just stick to the kit supplied blocks. I, however, ended up switching to some 3mm walnut blocks. You can order a pack of 20 of them for $2.00 from Ages of Sail here.

These blocks have to be stropped, which is simply wrapping a piece of line around them. I simply made a loop for an overhand knot, and inserted the block into the loop, tightening the knot on top of the block. Note that to do this properly, the hole in the block


Sheet Blocks and Horses
On my model, I have already mounted a pair of the plastic blocks on the horses on deck. The horses are the metal rails on which a sheet block is attached, but able to freely slide across. At this stage, it’s going to be tricky to attach wooden blocks to the horses, with the horses glued down to the deck and the rigging in the way.

If you’ve already attached the plastic blocks, you may just want to continue with them. But, for the sake of those that want wooden blocks, I’m going to go ahead and swap them out.

The existing plastic blocks will have to be cut loose and wooden ones put into place.

Red arrows pointing to the original horse-mounted blocks.

Again, not to worry if you’re planning on using the kit supplied blocks. But, if you use the wooden blocks, then they need to be stropped differently. I’ll cover this and the next stages of rigging in my next post.


Next Time

Next time, I’ll prepare the details on the booms and gaffs, and deal with some more of the details. Also, I forgot all about adding the topmast backstays, so I’ll be dealing with that too.


2 thoughts on “Building a Beginning Billing Boats Kit, Dana Fishing Boat – Part 12: Railing and Block Choice

  1. Lasse Heine Hagen

    Thank you very much, for makeing this blog. Its very well done, and its a huge help, in building the Dana 200. Cheers, and stay safe. :-D


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