Tuesday, 15 September 2020

All at Sea - Sloops and more Scratch Builds

Back in July I showed my proof of concept scratch build ship-sloop adapted from the Warlord brig model to produce a ship-rigged flush decked sloop or corvette.


Following that initial build, I completed two more and rigged them for French and Spanish options and thought you might like to see how they turned out.

As with all my model builds I am always looking to find better ways to build them and with my Spanish and French versions I used the brig ratlines for all masts instead of adapting a frigate ratline for the mainmast as used on my British version.

I simply left more of the clear acetate under the fighting top and painted it black grey to disguise the addition.

I have a few small ship engagements in mind where these small 20-gun ships played a part, particularly the French, with actions such as that fought off Ushant, 13th March 1795 between HMS Lively 32-guns and Tourtourelle 24-guns, with the Frenchman firing red hot shot using a small furnace on board, that burnt some of Lively's rigging during a two hour fight.

In addition, these small ships open up other interesting scenarios close to shore, cutting out actions and going up against merchantmen and Indiamen, where the smaller warship against a moderately armed merchantman can make for an interesting fight as illustrated in the header picture showing a hard fought little action off of Portugal between a Spanish brig-sloop and a British merchantman.

Of course if you do start chopping up your brig models, you might find you get the bug for all this cutting and gluing and you'll definitely have to find a use for the short sections of brig left over from the sloops.

Mast building becomes fairly straight forward once the first one is done and serves as a template. Furled sails as required can be added using some Milliput.

I decided to see if these hulls would work for some of the smaller brigs often used by privateers and common on the Great Lakes, but I wanted to avoid cannibalising masts from other models to build them.

So after ordering up some appropriately sized plastic rod and card I sat down to scratch build some mast sections for these small men-of-war and found the work surprisingly straight forward producing a robust mast section that can fit well with those supplied in the kits.

Once these are painted and rigged, I think they will be hard to tell which parts were scratch built and those that came ready prepared. 

I now feel confident at adding mast sections to other models and furled courses are easily added with the addition of some carefully sculpted Milliput or such like.

My concern was for the rigidity of the final build, but the liquid cement really welds the mast together and fully rigged will be fine

So finally, while I was messing about with craft knife and liquid cement I decided to have a go at a project long in the gestation.

A very famous British 64-gun ship of the line, HMS Agamemnon in action with Ca Ira - Geoff Hunt

The basic Warlord plastic third rate with its generic options of figureheads and stern galleries are fine as far as they go, but if like me you are interested in producing some multi-ship fleet/squadron type actions, and why wouldn't you with model detail such as this, then you are going to want to add further variations to your battle line, as the third rate ship category included 64's and 80's.

Below you can see my first efforts at transforming two 74-gun hulls into a 64-gun and 80-gun options set alongside a standard 74-gun for comparison and very pleased I was with the outcome that again was very straight forward, using the modelling saw and files together with liquid cement to get the seamless hulls you see below.

Next up was the 64-gun/80-gun mods seen above

The technique with these mods is to saw steadily and straight down through the hull and gently removing any excess plastic from the cut.

Then the liquid cement goes to work producing a seamless weld that will paint up a treat.

I'm not concerned with the spar deck irregularity as this will be lost to the eye once the ships boats are arranged and stacked over it.

From top to bottom, 80-gun, 74-gun and 64-gun

The 64-gun ship was still prominent in the British and Spanish navies right into the early nineteenth century as the smaller, cheaper to build, third rate was ideal for policing the empires of both countries, while the larger options were retained closer to home as part of the main battle fleets.

In the case of the Royal Navy in particular, the 64 makes an interesting addition, as these smaller ships could often give a very good account of themselves against larger opponents as illustrated in the picture of Nelson's Agamemnon going toe to toe with Ca Ira or HMS Africa at Trafalgar mixing it with the mighty Santisima Trinidad.

As the saying goes, 'it's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, but rather the size of the fight in the dog!'

Once I have one prototype completed, its time to see if it can be easily reproduced

That included the third rates and so four boxes produced four of each size. I'm really pleased with the 64's in particular as they will be very distinctively smaller when seen in the line of battle

Likewise, with the 64, the 80-gun third rate was quite a significant option for all navies of the period, but particularly the French who often used these large two-deckers in preference to the small three-decker used by the Spanish and British as flag ships for their respective commanders.

The slightly longer hulls of the 80-gun ship should make imposing models when finished and will add impact to my French line. 

Having got all twelve hull variants built , I was keen to get on with adding these options to the collection, and priming and painting were well underway by the close of the weekend and I look forward to showing you the final look in a week or two.

A good weekend's work, now all I have to do is paint and rig them!

The first hulls sent to the paint shop with three 64's front, one 64, centre left and two 74s and at the back two 80's

Already with just an initial prime and base coat, the cut down hull of the 64 is taking shape with the shorter spar deck and hammock nettings indicating the shorter hull.

A standard generic 74 for comparison and a key addition to the collection

Again once these are painted and rigged as with the sloops, they should be very able to take their place in the line of battle, as smaller or larger third rates as required.

The long hull of the 80-gun variant

More anon, and I look forward to showing the new models once they are done, but before that I have nine third rates of renown to display, complete with new decks, stern galleries and figureheads, three from Britain, France and Spain.

Not only that but I have an interesting walk Carolyn and I did to a WWII coastal battery close to home, to report on, plus another book review and a roundup of Steve and my Vassal adventures.

And if that wasn't enough stuff, I'm off on another walk with Mr Steve to another famous historical battle site, so am looking forward to showing you all the fun of our little adventure.


  1. Wow, truly splendid sloops...

  2. Great post! I have been following your Black Seas post series. Amazing work! I have tried something similar to the 64s but with a frigate to create a light frigate. Very good work with your 64s and 80s!
    Can i ask you for a painting steps tutorial post? I like your paintings results a lot and would like to know the colours and steps. Thanks!

  3. I would also enjoy seeing an article in the tutorials about the painting but also your conversion process to make the 64s/80s (locations of the cuts etc.)

  4. Wonderful stuff! Thank you for showing us how to do this. What saw do you use, by the way?

  5. Thanks for your comments chaps.
    I will look at putting a video together illustrating the preparation and painting of these models, when I can fit it in, but in the meantime you can visit my YouTube and have a look for one of the first All at Sea reviews where I illustrate the bases and the colours used with the models as per the link.


    In addition Warlord Games promoted a very good painting tutorial by, I think 'Pete the Wargamer' where he illustrated his method and colours for painting the brig, which is one of the better painting guides I have seen.

    Link below