Building a Beginning Billing Boats Kit, Dana Fishing Boat – Part 13: Blocks and Sails

The simplest way to mount the block is to first tie the stropping line around the metal horse, then wrap it around the block and tie it off around the block. Remember that the sheave hole should be closest to the horse.

I took a slightly more complicated route, which is to take a line and loop it around the horse. Then, I made a simplified seizing, by using thread and tying a simple overhand double-knot. The knot is then slid down close to the horse to tighten the loup. A tiny dab of glue is applied to the knot to hold it in place. When dry, I can take the loose ends and make a loop, insert the block, and tie a simple overhand knot around the block. Below shows an example using a piece of wire to attach the block to.

And here’s the shot of one of the actual blocks now in place on the model.


A Rigging Modification

While I’ve been avoiding it as much as possible, I am going to suggest a simple rigging modification, particularly if you’ve chosen to upgrade the blocks in the kit and have a couple to spare. If you don’t want to make the modification or you are only using the blocks included in the kit, no worries. Just ignore this part.

This is a very simple modification, and I think it will add a little detail to the model. This is to add a pair of blocks at the bowsprit as shown by illustration below. One block at each green arrow.

These are the outhaul blocks for the jib and staysail. The kit has you simply tying the tack of each of these sails to the bowsprit. In reality, there were be a block through which the line would pass and they would run back to belay somewhere at the bow of the ship. I’ve illustrated the lines in red and suggest just tying them to posts at the foot of the bowsprit, but of course that will be done at a later stage.

Here’s how they look on my model.


About Sails

Before I go into the finer details, like adding the anchor or navigation lights. I want to deal with the sails, as these other details will only get in the way otherwise.

I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit on how I want to deal with the sails. I was thinking of making those red-brown sails that you often see on European fishing boats, but I was finding it difficult to see any marks I drew on them for cutting and sewing. Then, I considered using pencil drawn seams on tissue paper, but having never done that before, it seemed inappropriate on a beginning kit. Finally, I went back to using the tried and true method (for me, anyway) of sewing the sails from cloth.

Now, rather than sew the sails, you might take a simpler route and just draw the seams right onto the sail cloth in pencil. I’ve done this before, and it works just fine. Simply trace the outlines of the sails shown on the plans onto the provided cloth, and draw the seams. You’ll need to do this anyway, if you’re going to sew the sails, though a lighter touch is probably best in that case.

I began by preparing the sail cloth. Now, there are a lot of warnings against using tea to stain the cloth to give a more natural, weathered appearance. The acids in the tea will attack the cloth over time, so the sails may degrade in the long run. Many people look simple projects as something that they will enjoy building and looking at for years, but don’t expect them to hold a high place on the mantle forever. I’ll leave that choice up to you. If you do use tea, soak the cloth in hot liquid, stirring regularly to keep from ending up with a blotchy appearance. Rinse it thoroughly when done. An alternative to tea is fabric dye, but for such a small amount of cloth, you’ll be wasting a lot.

I went ahead and decided to use tea for this model, just because it’s the way so many models were done in the past.

I had hoped to use red-brown cloth color, and I did dye some fabric for this project. But, the color makes details too hard to see, so I opted for unbleached cotton cloth. I have some on hand, and it’s lighter than the cloth provided in the kit. Plus, if I mess up something, I have a few yards of it, so I can redo any missteps.

Before using the cloth, I iron them using a lot of starch. This makes the cloth a little stiffer, and helps with the upcoming procedures.

Next, I made paper copies of the plan sheet, and cut out the sails to use as patterns.

Using these patterns, I transferred the details in pencil onto the sail cloth. If you opt to not sew the sails, then you’ll want to transfer the seam lines to the reverse side as well. If your pencil marks go outside the boundaries of the sail, or if you make a small mistake, you can get rid of most of the lines with an eraser. Some grime left over may just make the sail look more weathered.

Before you cut these out, I recommend using a product you can buy at the fabric shop called “Fray Stop”. You spray this on the fabric, so that when you cut the fabric, the threads along the edges won’t start to unravel while you’re working on it.

For those who are more adventurous, or just prefer to practice another skill, I’m going to sew the seams on mine. I’ve done this a number of times and have gotten pretty good at it. And even if you’re not sewing the sails, you might want to follow along, as a couple things I do may help you with the drawn sails as well before cutting the cloth to shape.

Otherwise, cut the sail cloth, leaving a 1/8″ buffer all around the sail. Cut it so that this buffer is as clean and even as possible, all the way around the sail. Fold this extra cloth over the edge of the sail so it’s on the right or starboard side of the sail. You can use a little white glue (Elmer’s Glue All) to hold the fold, but don’t soak the cloth. You just want enough to hold the cloth. I recommend using a small disposable brush to apply the glue. As with all new techniques, I recommend test it out on scrap cloth first.

You’ll need to use some weights to hold the fold until the glue sets. Use some wax paper to keep the glue from sticking to other surfaces. Be careful not to use too much glue, otherwise the glue will form a solid, slick surface when it dries.

This folded over cloth is called the tabling, and it will strengthen the edges of the cloth, which is necessary when you start attacking lines to the sail.

Sewn Sails

If you don’t have a sewing machine or never used one, you can always ask someone who is better equipped to do it for you. But, basic sewing machines are not expensive and the skill might come in handy, so you might just want to give it a try.

A model of the “Lively” I built years ago that featured a set of sewn sails I made.

Next time, I’ll talk about sewing the sails (but, no sewing lessons here) and detailing the gaffs and booms prior to mounting the sails.

2 thoughts on “Building a Beginning Billing Boats Kit, Dana Fishing Boat – Part 13: Blocks and Sails

  1. agesofsail

    Reblogged this on Ages of Sail and commented:
    A bit of progress since the last time we took a look at this build of the Billing Boats beginning kit, the fishing boat Dana. The builder attempts to keep to the basic instructions, but there are some simple modifications described.

    The Dana is basic kit that features an ABS plastic hull. If you are interested in building your own, you can purchase a kit here:—billing-boats-bb200.html


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