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 save in a small plastic parts box or zip lock bag or something until needed.
Among the deck details are the portholes in the forward cabin. These are essentially black plastic flanges and are the same fittings used for the hawsepipe. There is one to mount on the port and starboard sides of the cabin. Mounting these requires cutting holes in the plastic cabin.
Since the flanges have no “glass”, I used some clear plastic I bought a long time ago from the manufacturer Plastruct, which makes all sorts of plastic shapes for architectural and craft projects. Hobby shops used to carry this stuff all the time, but those stores are becoming few in number. You can order direct from Plastruct if you need to, or in this case, you can cut a small piece from a clear acetate sheet protector, which you can get easily at Staples office supply.
The plastic just needs to be big enough to glue over the inside end of the porthole. If you glue the piece into place first, after the glue dries, you can then trim off as much excess as you can, to make it easiest to put the porthole into the hole you’ve made for it.
For glue, I used a product called Canopy Glue. This stuff dries fast and clear. Other glues, like CA or plastic cement, often mar or fog the clear plastic. This is another one of those things I picked up from the hobby shop. The item is specifically called “Formula 560” which comes in a 2 oz. bottle from a company called Pacer.
The portholes come pre-molded in black. They looked pretty good, so I didn’t bother to paint them.
After painting the hull and adding the prop, I went ahead and decided that I didn’t like the position of the prop. Now, you may not care enough about it to want to change anything, but it was bugging me. Now, I may be wrong, but I’m glad I made the changes.
The prop points downward. On a real boat, this would drive the bow downwards, which may be the whole point. The boat may be more stable, operating with the bow not riding up above the water. But, the images of the completed model don’t seem to have the prop pointing down quite so much.
The main issue here is really that the shape of the rudder assembly prevents you from mounting the prop in a “nicer” fashion – the top of the prop hits the wooden frame. Really, all you need to do here is shave away enough of that frame to clear the prop when it’s mounted the way you want it.
If you build the kit straight out of the box, the prop points downward considerably.
Looking at Billing Boats instructions, you’ll need to trim the wooden frame to adjust angle of the prop. Test fit the prop as you go to see how much trimming you need to do.
Marking the waterline
I happen to have a tool that I purchased from Micromark some time ago that they market as a waterline marker. It’s apparently a repurposed toolmaker’s surface guage, but it certainly works for marking the waterline. This marker uses a metal scribe to mark the waterline, which works pretty nicely on the soft ABS plastic hull.
Most waterline markers marketed today, like Amati’s or Model Expo’s, are fitted with a pencil. Of course, if you don’t have one of these, a pencil mounted atop a block of appropriate height will do.
Amati Model’s waterline marker
In any case, the model needs to be sitting so that the waterline is parallel to the work surface. I just used the included cradle to hold the model, though it’s use resulted in a waterline that’s not quite the same as shown on the drawings, but it seemed close enough.
After doing all that deck work and planking, the hull work was a nice little change of pace. This kit features an ABS plastic hull that’s been vacuum-formed. It’s a bit different than working with traditional styrene plastic kits. Vacuum-formed parts usually require some trimming, which is true in the case of this kit.
The hull itself is one piece, with the deck and deck houses being part of the second half of the hull assembly. Along the edge where the hull pieces meet, the edge is oversized and needs to be trimmed even. I used a drafting compass to check the evenness of the work, trimming with a knife and finishing with a sanding stick.
It took me a while looking at the instructions to figure out if the deck on this model is supposed to be planked. I’m accustomed to planking a deck that’s free of obstructions, and the pre-molded deck and deck houses seemed like they would be awkward to plank around. Also, the illustrations in the instructions don’t seem to show any indication that you are expected to plank the deck, though the photocopy-quality photos do show a wooden deck. But, the question is answered in a short paragraph in the instruction text, that clearly states that the deck is to be planked. Also, there are sufficient light-colored wood strips for deck planking.
Now, I’ve seen photos of models by people who have laid deck planking right down onto the plastic deck. But if you don’t want to deal with trying to fit the planks in between the deckhouses and such, you might try what I did.
I started by making a copy of the deckplan. Turned out to be pretty close to the molded piece. I cut out the deck and openings for the deckhouses and test fit on the model. It took a little extra trimming around the deck houses.
I occasionally field ship modeling questions for the ship model shop Ages of Sail and for Billing Boats USA. Recently, a couple questions came up about the construction of the plastic-hull Billing Boats kits. These kits feature vacuum formed hull and/or deckhouse parts.
Now, I’ve never built one of these kits, but I understand the theory. Up to this point, the only vacuum formed parts I’ve ever dealt with are the sails in some of the plastic sailing ship model kits. So, I felt I should have a little more experience.
There are currently four beginning kits from Billing Boats that feature vacuum formed hulls, and I thought it would be good to do one of these, since this will also give me some perspective on how well suited one of these kits really is for the beginning ship modeler. Two of these available kits are rescue lifeboats and two are fishing boats. It was the Danish, ketch-rigged fishing boat “Dana,” which seemed most appropriate to me.