Category Archives: Amati Gunboat “Arrow” Build

Amati Gunboat “Arrow” Build – The Sails Again

It’s been a while since I posted about the Amati American gunboat “Arrow”. As you can see in the photo below, I have the model mounted on a cherry wood base that I cut and routed the edge.This photo is from a ship model meeting back in March of this year, and shows the sails installed with the final rigging lines going in.


Unfortunately, I am not one to leave well enough alone. The kit plans show two reef bands on each sail. Also, the sails turned out a bit small for the lateen yards. Finally, I didn’t like the run of the brails, the ropes used to haul the edge of the sail in and up into the lateen yard.

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Amati Gunboat “Arrow” Build – The Last Steps

As I mentioned in one of my ship modeling update posts, I haven’t done much rigging in quite some time, and heart just hasn’t been into it. So, it was a bit difficult for me to get back into the rigging of this model. And, for such a simple looking ship, it’s quite a lot of rigging. The ship, being lateen rigged, uses a set of backstays to support the masts, and each one requires two  two cleats. As there are 3 backstay pairs per mast, that’s 24 lines that have to get belayed to their own cleats, while balancing out the pendant blocks that are hanging in the air, so that their positioning is arranged to look visually pleasing.

The part about belaying to cleats that is not fun is that these cleats are fittings that are simply glued to the deck, and I find that tying off lines to them to be much more difficult than to belaying pins, which allow more clearance for the work. Also, it’s easy to accidentally pop cleats loose if the glue joints aren’t strong enough or if you just slip and put too much pressure on it.

I was actually surprised at how well the cleats were holding in place, until I got toward the last of the lines I was tying off. A little carelessness possibly, and I’d popped a couple cleats loose, and one cleat popped off more than once. So, I was really thrilled with I finished rigging these backstays. Unfortunately, they represent less than half of the cleats used on the model.


Make Sail!

The making of the sails gave me a break from tying off rigging lines. I wasn’t sure for a long time, how I wanted to represent sails on the model, whether to set full sails, show them furled, or just brailed up. Using one of the kit-provided sails, I tied it to a dowel to see how a furled sail might look.

It was actually pretty nice. But, then I figured that if I had the sails furled, I probably needed to deploy all the oars. I debated it for a while, but then decided I wanted to show the full sails.

The original sails that came in the kit were printed cloth, which was fine. The problem for me was more that for a 1/55 scale model, the simulated cloth seams were visually too close together. At just under 3/16″ apart, they’d be about 10″ wide in real life. On a smaller craft like this, I thought they should be closer to 18″ apart. So, I ended up making my own sails.

I considered new ways to make decent looking sails out of paper or silkspan, drawing in the seams and all. But, in the end, I fell back on my tried and true cloth sailmaking, using machine stitching to represent the cloth seams, and so on.

During the sail making process, I ended up making and remaking the sails. At one point, I had made a set I was happy with. But, when I went to iron them, the iron left some black residue on the one of sails that was so bad, I couldn’t clean it off. This is something that never happened before, and I couldn’t really be certain if there was a problem with the iron itself, or if somehow, there was something on the surface of the iron that meted and burned – I just can’t imagine what that could have been. Anyway, I didn’t want to chance that happening again, so I bought a new and better iron. But, the sail cloth was ruined and I had to sew another set.

Luckily, I have several sewn sail cloths that I had been making for another project. They were rejects from that project for a reason that didn’t have anything to do with the quality of the work done on them, and the seams were about the right size, so I cut a new set of sails for the gunboat.

For those who are interested, I basically make my sails from simple muslin I bought at the fabric store. I’ve tried unbleached as well as bleached. The unbleached is more a natural yellowish color. But, the batch of cloth I used for this project is plain white (bleached) muslin. Part of my sail making process is to use a liquid called Terial Magic, which you spray on the cloth, let dry, then iron. The result is to make the cloth stiff as paper. The whole process seems to turn the cloth a bit off-white, which is a bit more natural looking than bleached white.

First thing was to wash the cloth and iron it using spray starch. This made it easy enough to draw pencil lines the appropriate distance apart. Then, I’d use a sewing machine set at the finest stitch I could to sew along the pencil lines. It takes a lot of focus to keep centered on the pencil line, and I find it can be a bit physically taxing. But, it’s only two sails here.

When the sewing is done, I wash the sail cloth to get rid of the pencil marks. Then, I’ve been treating the cloth with Terial Magic, as I mentioned before. This stuff, makes the cloth act like paper, so I can fold it easier and make crisp seams for the tablings, etc. Also, I can use it on excess cloth to cut strips with a knife to use for reef bands, corner reinforcements, and so on, without any unraveling or fraying at the edges. Plus, you can wash the stuff out of the cloth if you need to, or you can just leave it in.

I’ve used this stuff on a few projects, but I don’t know how it holds up long term. We’ll see. I like that I can use it to form the sailcloth to help hold its shape and give it a more natural look. At least that’s what I’m trying for. On this model, it will be what it will be.

In any case, I was able to simply glue the tablings and reef bands in place using Aleene’s Tacky Glue, which holds cloth amazingly well, even when wet. I also used Aleene’s to glue the bolt rope into place, avoiding any out of scale stitching. After that, the reef points were added, and the sails were tied up to the lateen yards.

One other thing I’ll point out here about the Amati kit. I used the printed sails as my pattern for making my sails. However, I noted afterwards, that my sails were smaller than those shown on the plans. Turns out that the kit-provided sails were the culprit. So, if you’re planning on making your own sails, make a copy of the plans for your pattern, not the printed sail material.

Mounting the Model

I need to take a set back here and point out that I’d actually decided on how to mount the finished model. It’s actually useful to move the model to a permanent base before the sails go on. I found that these brass pedestals, which are commonly found through ship model fittings suppliers, had slots of perfect thickness. However the slots were way too deep for the keel on this model. So, I simply ground them down to create a better fit.

Below, you can see the original post on the right and the modified one on the left. I can’t actually recall where I bought these. But, I’m thinking they were probably from BlueJacket.

For the base itself, I took a trip over to the woodworking store. I’m fortunate enough to have a Rockler store about 10 minutes from my house, which carries boards of many varieties. So, I just picked up a cherry board, 13/16″ I think it was, cut off a piece on a table saw, routed the edges, and gave it a few coats of wipe on poly.

Below is the mounted model at the most recent ship modelers’ meeting. I’ll probably need to go ahead and order a brass nameplate for it. In the past I’ve used a place called Engraving Connection. That was about 4 years ago, but they were very good, so I’ll try them again.

By my next post, I should have the model done. Basically, I just have to rig the sails into place and mount the anchor. Hopefully, this will happen in the next couple weeks, in time for my next ship model meeting.








Amati Gunboat “Arrow” Build – In the Beginning, Part 2

As I continue progress with the Amati “Arrow” American Gunboat kit, I wanted to wrap up my look at the earlier stages of this kit, which began as described in the earlier post Amati Gunboat “Arrow” Builde – In the Beginning. After the part where I left off last, the footrests for the rowing stations were added, and these openings in the deck were lined.

I found the provided wood had a nice natural look to them, so I avoided any painting of the model. I edged the planking in pencil, and I simulated the treenails in the deck by simply drilling holes for them. I found that the wood dust filled in the holes and made for a very natural look, especially after the application of a little danish wood oil.

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Amati Gunboat “Arrow” Build – In the Beginning

I’ve turned my attention back toward the completion of the Amati Gunboat “Arrow” kit and it’s coming along. I’m ready to deal with rigging and the sails as most of the hull and deck detail is done. This is a kit that I started quite some time ago, but other things pushed it on a back burner, and I mean way back, because I started it in 2014.

I’ll post an update soon. But, I’ve written a few posts now about building this Amati kit, and mostly of the middle stages of construction. For those who are interested in building the kit, since the construction of this kit is unlike most ship model kits I’ve encountered, I thought it might be good to post some photos from the early stages of construction. 

On thing in particular that makes this kit unusual is that this is a shallow draft gunboat, so it’s very wide and flat, and the lower part of the hull is built in plank-on-bulkhead fashion, but with no interlocking keel piece. Also, the upper part of the hull requires the installation of “timberheads” that on most kits are provided as extensions of the bulkheads. On this kit, they are added separately. 

In any case, here’s what is mostly a photo blog of the early stages of the build. Hopefully, some modelers will find this interesting and/or helpful.

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More Musings on the Amati “Arrow” Gunboat

I made some progress over the past few days on the Amati American gunboat kit, but it doesn’t really show very well. Here are photos from my last post and then from today.

It may not look much different, but there are some 116 parts that have been added since last time! That comes out to be 56 cleats and 60 ringbolts. The ringbolts had to be assembled from provided eyebolts and split rings. The cleats are cast metal and I’d already painted them months ago.

Last time, if you recall, I said there were a lot of extra cleats and eyebolts. Turns out I was absolutely wrong. I went over the plans and instructions thoroughly, and I discovered that just about every one of these cleats and ringbolts has a line attached to it, so there is a LOT more rigging on this model than it first appears in the kit photos. Don’t be fooled.

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Building the Amati “Arrow” Gunboat

Amati Model of Italy makes a wide variety of interesting ship modelings subjects. In early 2018, I finished building their Swedish Gunboat kit. Like that one, another gunboat that has been around for as long as I can remember, and was always intrigued by, is the “Arrow” an American Gunboat from the period around the War of 1812.

The Jeffersonian era was an interesting time in American naval history in the desire to use defensive gunboats in place of large expensive warships. As a result, there were numerous gunboat designs implemented. In Howard Chapelle’s book, The History of the American Sailing Navy, several of these designs can be found. Among them is a design that Chapelle describes as a “galley gunboat showing Mediterranean influence.” Clearly, this was the drawing that inspired the Arrow gunboat kit.

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War of 1812 Gunboats

So, this past week, I’ve been having a few conversations with Mr. Paul Reck, who’s an accomplished ship modeler that runs the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights club in San Francisco. I’ve been a member of that group for at least 10 or 11 years. Paul has been talking for some time about gunboats of the Jeffersonian navy. So, 1801 through the War of 1812. And, yes, that’s technically into the Madison presidency, but we’re talking about the gunboat navy that took shape under Jefferson.

Paul has built a model of the War of Independence gunboat Philadelphia and small galley cutter Lee. Lately, his attention turned to these Jeffersonian gunboats. This is something I’ve always had an interest in, though my knowledge doesn’t really go past a couple historical books on the War of 1812 and the Barbary Wars, and Howard Chapelle’s book History of the American Sailing Navy.

A number of years back, my interest did lead me to buy the only available kit of a Jeffersonian gunboat, Amati’s Arrow Gunboat kit. I’d started the model a long time back, but set it got set aside as many of my projects do. But, Paul has seen the model I was working on, and we talked about the boats many times over the years. But, the subject came up again recently, and it sounds like Paul is interested in moving ahead with a build of one of these boats. Continue reading

Amati “Arrow” American Gunboat kit

Ages of Sail

Looking for a nice ship model that’s not too big, not too difficult, but gives you a taste of planking, cannons, rigging and sails? Consider this model of a War of 1812 galley gunboat. Amati’s offering is historically significant, technically accurate, and includes nice quality wood and fittings.

A drawing of this design appears in the book History of the American Sailing Navy, by naval architect and historian Howard I Chapelle. This model appears to be true to these drawings, down to it’s forward mounted cannon and stern mounted carronade, so this appears to be a very accurate representation of a galley gunboat whose design shows a mediterranean influence.

The frames and other wooden parts in this kit are laser cut. There is no balsa, basswood or limewood in this kit. All strips for planking the hull and deck are of nice quality walnut and beech. The hull is double-planked, allowing the…

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