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Scratch Building Ship's Fittings and Equipment

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       Gidday All, my modeling passion is mainly warships in 1/600 scale, most of my models to date being Airfix ship kits. Unfortunately 1/600 is not a common scale now but I find it suits me. And disappointingly it seems that many of the kits are no longer being produced. Those of you familiar with Airfix ship kits will know that their detail is often somewhat bland, even crude by many standards. However they were often quite cheap, in my part of the world anyway, and hence they suited my mediocre skill level and limited budget, so this is an observation, not a criticism.

       I bought quite a few Airfix ship kits a number of years ago when they were still available, and modify most of them now as I build them. And while I do so I'm replacing many of their small parts with those I scratch build, such as light guns, Carley floats, DC (depth charge) throwers, anchors, screws etc. The parts I make are still a bit crude and can never compare with PE items, bought AM items and now 3D printed parts, but I enjoy making them. Plus it saves me a bit of money, something I have to consider now that I'm retired. I've wondered if other modelers are in a similar situation to me and would be interested in how I make some of these items, so hence this thread.

       I intend to keep each item in a separate post, plus leave this initial post as a sort of index which I can update by editing. I also intend this thread to be informative, so if anyone has any other ideas please feel free to make suggestions. Anyway, here goes  .   .   .


In order of posting, below are the methods on how I make:-

                  Carley Floats

                  Screws and shafts

                  Hawser reels

                  Bollards and fairleads

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This will be quite an interesting thread. A part of the scratch building process is clearly figuring out how to make a part. And that may only succeed the 2nd or 3rd different way. I would think that a number of people could contribute a post on how to make a specific part. 

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       My main era of interest in warships is WW2, and AFAIK just about every RN warship of that era carried Carley floats. Until recently my source of them was Airfix HMS Belfast kits, which were relatively cheap and well supplied with the floats (and other equipment). But that only provided floats of one size, 5mm long and 2mm wide. Plus the supply is now drying up for me so time to make my own.

       The first time I did this was for a model of the heavy cruiser HMS York, which needed two much larger floats. I glued two kebab skewers together as a former for the inflation tube, wrapped .75mm styrene rod around them and then heated them. Once cooled I sliced along one side.

Large floats 1


Sliding the rings off I then re-glued the join, wedging it between two guides as I did so.

Large floats 2


For a base I simply used styrene strip. But before I glued the inflation ring to it I scratched a lattice effect onto the surface with a pin. Unfortunately the lattice effect is not very noticeable in the photo.

YK610 catapult & large Carley floats

Included in the photo is the aircraft catapult I made for the model.


         More recently I've needed Carley floats of various sizes, smaller than the two for HMS York but larger than those supplied with the Belfast kit. To make them I've used a similar method but with slight variations:

Making Carley floats 1

    1.  Firstly you'll need a former to make the flotation rings, which in this case are from 0.5mm styrene rod. The former is a shaped bit of wood (a trimmed popstick). I've used wood because styrene cement doesn't stick permanently to it, although it tries to sometimes. Those holes are 0.8mm in this case and you can drill them at an angle if you wish to ease the pressure of the first 'corner' the rod has to form around. I didn't think of it when I made the former above. When you wrap the rod around the former don't do it too tight or it might snap. You can see the former has it's rings of styrene wound around it and it is about to have a bath in a cup of boiling water.

       2.  When the water cools you can slice the rings on one side of the former and slide them off. As you can see they've opened up slightly. The first lot I tried to glue the rings closed while sandwiching the ring between two guides (as I did with those for HMS York) and hold it flat while I did so, then just sit there holding them all while the glue set. This turned out to be fiddly, awkward, time consuming, messy and of mediocre success, I think due to the much smaller size.

       3.  So I made a simple jig. Two short lengths of popstick as guides glued to a base of wood (MDF board in this case) with a bit of match-stick as a stopper at one end. I used a 2mm thick bit of styrene as a spacer between the two popstick guides as I glued them to the MDF base. The first time I used this jig I simply pushed in the flotation ring and then glued it closed, with the intention of gluing the closed ring to a base of sytrene later. But excess glue made the ring difficult to remove So I decided to insert a long strip of styrene (0.25mm x 2mm in this case) and glue the whole thing in one go. Excess glue still tried to hold it into the jig but the longer base strip made it much easier to remove. So don't use too much glue. On top of the jig is a tapered cocktail stick I fashioned to push the styrene ring closed (up against the matchstick stopper) as the glue set.

       4.  Once the glue is set remove it from the jig, cut the float free of the rest of the styrene base and then repeat the procedure. Once they're cut from the strip they can be trimmed and sanded. I think you can use this method for floats of any size. For wide Carly floats you can scribe a lattice pattern onto the base strip before you use it if you wish. For a recent model of a Flower class corvette I needed two Carley floats of this length but a bit wider. The method was the same but with slightly larger formers and guides, plus I used 0.67mm rod for the flotation rings.

FLWR350 busied 1

That's them on the model, you can make out the scratched lattice effect on these. And in the background you can see that I've added another set of guides to the MDF to make them.


Anyway, that's it I think. Regards, Jeff.

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       Gidday All, as I've said in other posts I like building ships in 1/600 scale, mainly Airfix. Nearly all multi-screwed ships that I'm aware of have either inward-turning or outward-turning screws. That means that the screws on one side of the ship turn in the opposite direction to those on the other. The majority of ships that I've built have outward-turning screws which means those on the port side have left-turning screws (counter-clockwise when viewed from astern, looking forward) and those on the starboard side have right-turning screws. Most Airfix ships that I've built however are supplied with the screws all the same, either left- or right-turning, you don't get both. (The Repulse and KGV kits are exceptions I think). I find this annoying so now I've started to make my own screws/propellers.
       The first lot were a set of four for a HMS Hood model. This ship had 15-foot diameter 3-bladed screws, which equate to 7.5mm in 1/600 scale. I managed and they look OK but the method was awkward and would have been very difficult had the screws been smaller or had more blades.

HD41.430 screws fitted

Notice that the angle of the blades is opposite on either side of the ship. They're a bit rough but as they were my first attempt I hope I can be forgiven. To get the blades evenly spaced around the screw hub (the centre body of the screw) I placed pencil marks on the hubs and corresponding places on the screw blades. This worked in this case but would have been quite difficult with smaller screws or with more blades fitted.

       My next effort were the screws of my model of HMS Glamorgan. This was a modified Devonshire kit, also in 1/600 scale. This class of ship had 5-bladed screws and while I don't know the diameter I took a guess at 10-feet, which equates to 5mm diameter on the model. (The model BTW came with 3-bladed screws). So the previous method used on Hood probably wouldn't have been possible. So instead of marking the screw hub I drew a pattern on a block of wood for the spacing of the blades and used a chamfered chisel blade to get the blade angle.

GLM310 progress 4

The completed screw in the photo is in fact an oversized trial, I didn't use it. Once the first model screw was done I had to move the chisel blade to the other side of the hub to get blades the opposite angle. This method worked but the angle of the blades was dictated by the angle of the chisel blade chamfer. Still, again I think they looked OK on the finished model. That's them sitting on the deck.

GLM350 boats fitted

       The method I'm going to show you now is an improvement on the above method I think, and is more versatile regarding screw/propeller size and blade angle. The screws I'm making in this demo are for a model of a HMS Nelson class battleship. Unlike most ships of this size these ships had only two screws, not four, so they were rather large. These will be 8.5mm across, equating to 17-foot diameter screws. Below is a photo of the screw hub and blade construction.

screw constr 1

From top to bottom:
   1.   The screw hub. In this case it is from 2mm styrene rod, tapered by filing and sanding. The final length will be about 5-6mm but use a long length at present. You'll see why soon.
   2.   The blades in this case are from 0.25 x 6.3mm styrene strips. To save a bit of sanding mark the corners you can trim off. In this case those pencil marks are 1mm from the end.
   3.   Trim off the corners then sand the outside curve (the end of the strip) to the desired shape.
   4.   Mark where you'll cut the blade from the strip. In this case I marked the centre of the strip 4mm from the end. I used a cardboard guide, seen to the right. The angle of the left hand wedge of the guide is 120* (degrees) for three blades and that pencil line points down the centre of the strip when marking your cuts.
   5.   Cut the blade from the strip and sand it to shape. You see here three blades roughly placed in a circle, with the inside 'points' trimmed then filed to suit the hub.

You can make the blades any size and shape you want. The only real limitation is your ability to hold and file/sand very small pieces. Glamorgan's screw hubs were from 1.6mm rod and the blades from 0.25 x 2.5mm strip I think.

       Next is the assembly of the screws. Get a piece of smooth wood and draw a star pattern to suit the number of blades for each screw. For three blades draw a six-star, 60* angle between them. Then drill a hole right through the centre of the star to stand the screw hub upright. The hole should hold the hub snuggly yet allow it's easy removal. As I don't have a 2.1mm drill bit I drilled 2mm and sanded the screw hub until it fitted.
       Now choose something to support the blades as you glue them. I used a small chisel for Glamorgan's screws but as you can see I chose a scraper/razor blade for this demo. Those two metal screws (one's under the scraper/razor blade) allow you to adjust the angle of the screw/propeller blades. In this case I chose 30*. Tape the scraper/razor blade to the wood and let it rest on the metal screw under it. The angle of the screw/propeller blade can be set by simply raising or lowering the metal screw.
       Once you have the scraper/razor blade angle set to your satisfaction insert the long hub into the wood block with the desired final length protruding above the scraper/razor blade's cutting edge. In this case it is 5mm. Then mark the hub length flush UNDER the wood block, remove it from the wood and cut the hub to that length.  Note - this is not the final length. Now with the wood block sitting on a firm surface, re-insert the hub into the wood block.
       Now glue a screw/propeller blade to the hub, as shown, with the blade positioned between the lines of your drawn star:

screw constr 3

When the glue has dried, carefully lift the hub out a little. You may have to slide another razor blade under the glued screw/propeller blade to loosen it if you've used too much glue. Now rotate it 120* counter-clockwise, re-insert it and glue in the next screw blade to the screw hub.

And then do it again. You should end up with this:

screw constr 5

Once the final screw/propeller blade is glued on you will need to remove it, and then reposition the scraper/razor blade to the other side of the hole to give the next set of propeller blades the opposite angle. And repeat the process:

screw constr 6


Once you've completed the screws/propellers I'd suggest you re-inforce the glued joins with either epoxy or PVA glue. You can see that I've done that with Hood's screws in the top photo although some were a bit rough.
Naturally if you're making a ship with four screws/propellers you'd make two before repositioning the scraper/razor blade. And now finally cut the screw/propeller hub to it's final length.

Below is a pair of screws I made (about 5-6mm across I think) for a recent model of the HMAS Vampire II:

VAMP 2.120 shafts added

Again you can see that the blades have opposite pitch.


       While on the subject of pitch, these blades are flat with a constant pitch (angle) but in reality blades are often curved, the pitch differing the further away from the screw hub. So you might want to experiment a little to get the pitch appearing to your satisfaction. These screws have a pitch of 30* but you might want to reduce that a little - it's up to you really.
       This process I think can be used to make screws of any size and with any number of screw blades. It might sound complex but I don't think it is really, and like most things you'll only get better with practice.



       For shafts I obviously use styrene rod, for struts (supporting legs) I use styrene strip. If you know the correct lengths and angles the struts can be added to the shafts before fitting to the hull. These are the shafts for a model of HMS Jamaica, that used a HMS Tiger hull.

JAM60 shaft construction 1 JAM70 shafts fitted

That screw is from a Belfast kit, I didn't make my own back then.

If you don't know the lengths and positions of the struts you can fit the shafts to the hull, supported by a cardboard frame and then cut and fit the struts to suit. I did that for HMS Hood:

HD41.130 gluing inner shafts 2

The outer shafts are done, the inner shafts are being supported by the pins at their ends into the cardboard. You can see how inaccurate the kit strut positions were.


Anyway, I think that's it for this too. HTH. Regards, Jeff.

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Here is how I make hawser reels for ships, hawsers being very heavy rope for berthing, towing etc. The procedure I use I've demonstrated below.

UL220 making hawser reels

     1. Drill down the centre of the drum, or reel itself. This hole is for the axle. I've used Evergreen styrene rod for the drum, in three sizes to date - 1mm, 1.2mm and 1.6mm. (These sizes are for a model of a light cruiser - 1.0mm for general purpose reels, 1.2mm for hawsers (berthing lines) and one of them is 1.6mm for the towing hawser.) I initially drill them out to 0.5mm.
     2. Drill a hole (0.5mm or 0.6mm) at right angles into the reel to poke in the mounting rod.  Drill until you reach the axle hole. I've drawn an arrow on the peg where I drill this hole, but hold the pin-vise vertical while doing so. I actually hold the rod in the large peg shown. I've used the small peg in the demo to get the rod closer to the mat for focus reasons in this photo. Alternatively, with a bit of practice I've found that if I lay the rod in a saw cut in a block of wood I can hold it steady enough.
     3. Cut the drum to the required length and then insert and glue the axle. I've found that rarely does a 0.5mm rod fit into a 0.5mm hole so in order to get the axle into the hole I either drill out the hole to 0.6mm or run the axle through pinched sand paper to narrow it slightly. (This is the preferred method I find. Drilling out to 0.6mm is easier to get the axle into the drum but then sometimes it doesn't sit straight.) Then drill the hole for the mounting rod a little deeper, into the axle .
     4. Glue in a mounting rod. I attach small fittings such as this to the model by this method. I can paint the fitting before attaching to the deck or bulkhead, then drill a 0.6mm hole into the painted deck or bulkhead, shorten the mounting rod to 1-2mm then glue it in. It makes a nice sharp demarcation between the two colours.
     5. Make the end frames. For this size I use 0.25mm x 1.5mm strip. Drill a 0.6mm hole in the exact centre of the strip, about a mm from the end. Shape the 'top' half (the end of the strip) round then cut it from the strip. For this size reel I measure 1mm from the centre of the hole to the cut. If you make this measurement too large the reel sits too high off the deck and the mounting rod becomes visible. Then repeat the procedure for the second frame. Before cutting the second frame I slide the first onto the 0.6mm drill bit, slide on the second and used the first frame as a guide to get the second the exact same length. (I use excessive lengths of 0.5mm rod when making fittings such as this as it gives me something to hold. When complete the excess is trimmed off and used for the next piece.) Fig 5 has a frame on the left axle prior to gluing. Apply a bit of glue then attach the end frames, making sure the straight edge of the end frame is perpendicular to the mounting rod. I find a bit of wood with 0.8mm hole is useful here. Drop the mounting rod into the hole then make sure the straight edges are sitting on the wood, as they would on the deck.
     6. When the glue is dry, trim off the excess axle. Then paint the piece, shorten the mounting rod and attach it to the model. 


When I originally formulated this method round rod was actually round. I'm finding now that it's often disappointingly oval shaped in cross-section and a bit more over-sized. So instead of styrene rod you can use stretched sprue instead, and drill any holes of a diameter to suit it.

Also on the board here are three winches I've made. Two have a single warping drum and are the winches for paravane recovery. The other has two warping drums and is a boat handling winch. I wasn't exactly sure what they looked like so I took an educated guess. The round electrical motor is from 1mm styrene rod and the square gearbox holding the warping drum(s) is made from 1.0 x 1.5mm styrene strip. They are joined by an internal length of 0.5mm rod. Again you can use stretched sprue. The warping drums are from 0.75mm styrene rod. You might notice that the mounting rod is attached to the round motor rather than the flat gear box. This was a mistake I think. The next time I did this I attached the mounting rod to the gearbox instead.


These are a bit crude and basic but I found that they help to "busy up" a model ship. Here are some hawser reels on a model of a light cruiser that I built.

UL250 aft superstructure 1


HTH. Regards, Jeff.

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Here is how I make bollards for my model ships. Below is a photo showing the stages of their construction. The stages number from top to bottom, although I didn't actually number them in the photo. Sorry.

UL190 making bollards and capstan

     As is often the case I find wood jigs with holes drilled vertical quite useful. The base plate is of Evergreen 102 strip, (0.25 x 1.0 mm or 10 thou x 40 thou) while the bollards themselves are from Evergreen 218 rod (0.5 mm or 20 thou). The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the strip I've used in stage 1 is the incorrect width. It is 1.5mm wide but I didn't notice until after I'd taken the photo. It'll do for this demo though.
     1.     Drill two holes 0.6mm diameter in the base plate strip. It is important to get them dead centre in the strip and the exact distance apart. I pin-gentleman's parts them first. The distance to the end of the strip is not important, it can be trimmed later.
     2.     Push and glue two lengths of 0.5mm rod into the holes, going about 1mm through the base plate into the holes in the wood. I use lengths of about an inch (20-25mm) to make them easier to handle.
     3.     To cut the bollards to the correct height I use a height gauge. In this case I have drilled holes into a scrap piece of Evergreen strip 1mm thick, the height I require these bollards to be. Lower the height gauge over the two bollards and down onto the base plate, then cut the rods flush. One has already been cut here. Put the off-cut rods aside for the next job. You'll notice three holes in the height gauge. That is for different sizes of bollards. I'm using the smaller size here.
     4.     Trim the base plate to the required length. In this demo the length is 3mm for a model of a light cruiser. Then remove one of the pins underneath. I only use one pin to attach the bollards to the model because it is easier to position it than with two pins (getting the two holes drilled aligned and the correct distance apart etc).

     Also in this photo is a capstan being made from 1.6mm rod. It simply has a slot filed all the way round, and then I'll drill a hole up the centre for a mounting rod of 0.5mm styrene.


 Since I developed my original technique I'm finding that the rods I purchase are not round but oval shaped, a bit disappointing. This means that I have to drill larger holes for them, which I'm finding splits the styrene strip I'm using for a base. Not good.
     So for my last lot I've used stretched sprue instead of rod, which just fits through a 0.4mm hole. I push both through the base plate then a touch of glue fixes them simultaneously. Then a simple trim to length. This is much easier for smaller bollards for fitting to smaller ships such as destroyers, corvettes etc.




     I've developed a method for making the fairleads I sometimes use on my model ships. The sizes mentioned here I use for 1/600 battleships and cruisers but I see no reason why they can't be made a bit smaller for destroyers etc.
     I use 0.5mm thick styrene strips for them, which at 1/600 scale would make them 1 foot thick, measured sideways. I start by making a slot in the styrene, usually about 0.8mm wide and about 1.5mm long. I used to make the slot along a styrene strip but I found it very difficult to get the slot in line with the edge of the strip so now I use a wider strip and make the slot across the strip.

fairlead constr 2

     For these I'm using Evergreen 127 strips, 4mm wide and 0.5mm thick. For this demo the top of the fairleads is nearest the end of the strip, to the right in this photo. For trimming I prefer the blade shown. They're available from cleaning supply stores and are called 'scraper blades' here. I find them easy to line up then simply push down into the styrene for the cut/trim.

1.  Make two pin-points across the strip, 1 to 1.5mm from the end. These two pin-points are about 0.8mm apart, but you could make the closer or further apart, depending on the desired size of fairleads. For smaller fairleads with a shorter slot you can drill a single hole.
2.  Drill the holes out to make a slot. I drill them 0.4mm, then 0.6 and 0.8mm. Again, choose your own size. I then file the holes into a slot. For files I use a set of nozzle cleaners for gas welding tips. They work a treat on styrene. As you can see, I found it very difficult to get the slot exactly parallel with the edge of the styrene. Doesn't matter.
     Now you have to decide if you wish to have the fairleads on base plates. Those I've used on my models to date don't have them and I think they look OK, but for larger models having base plates might look better. Your decision. If you want base plates then continue to stage 3. If not, go to stage 7.
3.  Cut the fairlead away from the strip. This cut is at the base of the fairlead. Make the cut close to and parallel with the slot you've done.
4.  Cut the sides so that the fairlead starts to taper upwards. Don't cut the top of the fairlead at this stage. The bulk at the top is holding it together.
5.  Glue the fairlead to a strip for the base plate. In this demo I've used Evergreen 101, 0.75mm wide and 0.25mm thick. Again you choose a size that suits your model. Taping the base strip to a block of wood helps here. In the demo I've just glued two but you could glue quite a few to the base strip if you wish. I've done six at a time on either side of the tape the other night.
6.  When the glue is dry you can shape and trim the top of the end fairlead to how you want it. Some are thin on top, some are thicker, some have a slot at the top, some don't. You decide what you want. When it's styled how you want it, cut it off from the base strip and then do the next one. And they're done!
            If you want fairleads without base plates then continue on here from stage 2.
7.  Trim the top of the fairlead to the thickness you desire. Then trim the sides to get the taper effect.
8.  Shape the top of the fairlead to your desired style. Thick/thin/open/closed etc.
9.  Cut it away from the strip. As you have no base plate here you'll have to cut it so the base is thicker than you did in stage 3 so it holds together. As you can see, this one is not quite even but a trim of the thicker end should fix that. It was done quickly for the demo.
     And it's done! Now go and make a whole set.

    Personally I found those without the base plate easier to do as you've got the whole strip to hang onto as you shape the top of them. I also found it a bit difficult to get them all exactly the same so I make quite a few, then select those that match each other for the model. The rest go into spares.
     Here are some bollards and fairleads I made for my model of HMS Jamaica a while back.

JAM470 focsle fairleads added


Like the hawser reels in the post above they look a bit basic but they help to tizzy up a model ship I think. HTH. Regards, Jeff.

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