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Moonglow Builds a Boat WIP

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So for awhile now I've had this goal, nay, this desire, nay, this primal compulsion to build a boat.  It is not enough to have hand drawn maps, or 2D terrain tiles.  I need a fully functioning 3D boat!  Well, maybe not fully functioning.  But I want to build a cool boat!


I've been working on a nautical campaign full of swashbuckling, sailing, and sea monsters for a few years now.  It's my White Whale project.  Always just on the horizon.  It'll happen some day, but in the meantime, I have a million small projects to complete and extend the chase.  One of which is my desire to build a few different sized ships to enliven any possible naval combat.


I actually attempted this about two years ago, just winging it and making some measurements and throwing them at some craft supplies.  I wanted a cheap option that wasn't too difficult to repeat that way I wouldn't be discouraged from making multiple ships.  So I limited it to cheap crafting materials like foamcore, wooden dials, popsicle sticks, and thumbtacks.  And the result wasn't  bad.  Especially for my first attempt at any kind of terrain building.


It actually turned out rather nice!  To my surprise.  But I got hung up on mast and sail designs and never finished.


The wood on the deck had 2x1in grid carved into it for easier D&D use.


and the figurehead was designed to be modular.


However, overtime the boat collected dust and little scratches.  I should have given it a coat of mod podge or sealant of some kind, but never did.  And eventually it had an unfortunate run in with an injured owl that we took in for a night.


Here's the little devil himself.


Anyways, I put this project on the back burner for long enough and feel inspired to dive back in.  Especially with a certain Bones ship on the Horizon that I'm still on the fence about getting.  I was doing some browsing on the web and recently found this wonderful little blog complete with loose instructions and a plan from a now defunct wargamming site.  The blog creator had found the old plan and adapted it to build something using most of the same materials I have already stockpiled. 



There's a few choices that I like better than my first attempt so I think I'm going to use this as some inspiration as I give this boat thing another go.

My hold up now is still those darn masts.  The original plan above used wood and required drilling out holes for the masts.  The blogger use foam for his ship and found random bits of tubing to house his masts.  I could try to find something random like that, but I was hoping to find something simpler for easy repetition.  And I would also like to keep the masts loose so they can be removed for easy storage, or to swap out the sails.  Any thoughts?

Any resources, tips, recommendations are very welcome!  I'll post back here with any updates.


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Cool.  If you're using less durable materials you could always snatch the cardboard tube from a roll of cling wrap or foil.  Otherwise, you can find pvc pipe of the right diameter for a couple of dollars.  Either drill a hole and plug it with the mast or attach some kind of tab or pin as you did with the figurehead.


edit:  or just a section of wood dowel if you're actually buying things!

Edited by BLZeebub
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Sometimes you just have to dive in or you'll never leave the shores of procrastination. Following the idea behind a few of your suggestions I made a custom fit "sleeve" for the mast to rest in below deck.


I just wrapped some cardboard around the dowel I had purchased from before and then wrapped it in masking tape. It holds pretty snug and should be easy enough to replicate in the future. 


With that problem solved well enough, I feel better diving into making new ship templates. Trying to be a bit looser with my design so I don't get slowed down measuring everything and trying to keep it all adhered to an inch grid. Got the bottom deck cut out. Should be easier from here. Let's see how far I can get in a night. Fueled by sudden inspiration and a playlist of suitable piratey music. 


Edited by MoonglowMinis
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End of night 1. Using the plan from the above link as a reference, I measured and traced out my own ship template.


I am aiming to make a Brigantine. A classic 2-masted sailing ship. Very medium sized. This will be my point of reference for making larger and smaller ships in the future. 


I traced and cut out all foam board pieces. I also made a few more mast sleeves. These will eventually be sunk through the upper decks and only a small portion will be visible above. I have pinned together the foam to get an idea of the finished item. 


I think I will remove the paper from all the exposed sides of the foam. I may also decide to double up the foam board on some of the support pieces.


I'm currently planning on drawing the deck boarding in to the foam of the upper decks. Like in my original attempt. I will likely use a fork for the wood grain and a pencil to widen the wood beams. Instead of the tiled pattern I used before, I think I'll let the wood run the length of the ship and use "nails" to mark out every two inches after that. So the grid will be visible but not as obvious.


Might also change up how the ship stem is attached to the bow. I am hoping to make it modular again, but I think I want it to be more internalized. Like the way the upper prow deck is currently gripping the top of the stem.


The sides of the ship will be made from overlapping cereal box cardstock. I definitely don't have any long enough to wrap the whole way from stern to bow. Any suggestions there?


That's it for tonight. Anyone see any glaring mistake I've missed?


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Spent the morning testing out some techniques for the decking. All of the decks will be made from exposed foam board, like my original attempt, but I wanted to try some different techniques for the wood grain and for marking the grid. 


I grabbed a scrap piece of foam and tried out some stuff. The left side is a more exaggerated wood grain using a fork. The right is more subtle using a wire brush. At this stage I was still favoring the fork technique I used the first time. 

I also tried two different grid styles. Having done more if a checker board pattern the first time, I wanted to try using "nail holes" to mark the grid. On the lower half of the test piece, the nails are evenly spaced every two inches all the way across. On the top I have them staggered like the original ship attempt. 


I coated the whole test piece in a mix of black paint and mod podge ala Black Magic Craft. 




I then over brushed with Americana Dark Chocolate and dry brushed with Honey Brown. At this point I finally prefer the wire brushed side. And I think I'm leaning towards the staggered nail holes. 



What do you think so far? Which plank style do you like?


If all goes well, by the end of today I hope to sink the mast sleeves through the decks, add the wood grain and nails to the decks, and possibly mod podge and paint the wood bits. If I still have time and energy, then maybe I can partially assemble the foam pieces!

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As I think ahead, I'd love any suggestions people have on ways to make the siding of the ship more modular.


The masts can be removed and ideally the ship stem/figurehead will be swappable. But if there was a way to make some trim details along the side modular that'd be great.


Changing some colors and ship name would be great. I'm planning on making the siding out if cereal box cardstock.  Maybe I could get away with making an extra hanging layer? But that sounds finicky and I'm trying to avoid steps that are difficult to replicate. 


Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Update 4

Progress on the ship has been a little slow. Over the past few days I've been finding myself repeating the same few steps. Remeasuring parts, cutting them out, texturing, mod-podge, waiting for the mod podge to dry, then painting then discovering something else needs redesigned and starting over. This has really dropped an anchor on the ship-making process. 


However! Now that I have the parts measured it should be quicker to replicate.


Here's the templates I made and am using for this "medium" sized Brigantine. 




This is everything made of foam board. The siding of the ship will be made later using cereal box cardboard.  The back of the ship might end up being made of foam board after all, but I'll figure that out later. 


The deck is 5 in at it's widest, and roughly 18in at it's longest.  The quarter deck will rest just over 5in from the ground. 


I went back and forth on the heights of the quarter deck and fore deck before settling on a shorter foredeck and a quarter deck that slanted slightly. Hopefully this will be subtle enough to not send minis sliding off. 


I also had to make adjustments to the bow stem so that it could be modular and removable to allow for swappable figureheads/rams/etc.


Here's where we stand now:




All exposed areas of foam have been modpodged and painted. Lower deck got mod podge on both sides to firm up the shape and protect it from scraping against tables. The stem supports on the left also got mod podge on both sides so they'll hopefully grip the modular figureheads better.


The mast sleeves are also prepped. Still deciding if the small exposed black parts should be painted to blend in with the wood or painted to look like metal.


Documenting the size of the mast sleeves here for future reference:


Main mast is 1/2in dowel

- sleeve is wrapped cardboard and is 3.5in tall. About 1/2 in will be exposed above deck. 


Foremast is 1/2in dowel

- sleeve is wrapped cardboard and is 4.75 in tall. About 1/2 in will be exposed above deck.


Bowsprit is 3/8in dowel

- sleeve is wrapped cardboard and is 4.25 in long. Length may very. At this point it is difficult to predict where it will end up as it will enter the deck at and angle. 


I am planning on using tacky glue to hold the layers together. I previously used hot glue, but I am running low and wouldn't have enough to finish. Plus I don't love how the exposed hot glue turned out on the original test ship. Anyone have any words for or against the use of tacky glue in foam crafts?


A note on the sails:

I need to run some tests, but I am planning on attaching sail similar to the way the masts are held. The mast arms and sails will be permanently attached and will end with small cardboard sleeves disguised as wrapped rope. The sails will slide on and off the mast to allow for swapping sails. The cardboard sleeve method has shown to grip surprisingly well so far, so I'm not worried about things slipping down. 

I am concerned that moving pieces on and off the mast might start wearing off whatever paint or stain I put on the mast.  I also am not sure how to attach the triangular head sail that would normally grip the main mast and the bowsprit. May need to do some thinking about this one.  I'm not positive there's any benefit to having sails removable from the mast vs being permanently attached.

The sails themselves will be made from a textured scrapbooking paper I found that had a cloth-like woven texture.  Faction insignias will be painted on the sails, and regional flags will be made as well.  That is the current plan at least. 


A note on modularity:

In general, I want to be able to use the ships for any situation in-game. I don't think there will be any easy method of making the siding modular or adaptable, so I think I'll paint most ships with neutral colors and let the sails and flags distinguish factions.

If I need a specific ship to look different and anticipate it being used more than just once, then I might go ahead and make a custom ship. Something like a ghost ship or a scary blackened ship would be deserving of such treatment. 

Based on the size of the ships and the size of my gaming table, I can't see a situation where I'd play out a battle with more than 4 ships at once. Anything that large would be theater of the mind with the immediate action represented on the table.

With that in mind im thinking I'll make 3 Brigs as a medium sized ship, 2 Galleons as a large option, and maybe 4 sloops as the small variant. Maybe somewhere along the way I'll design some longboats and rowboats but those are low on the priority list and can easily be represented by 2D options I already own.


Any thoughts, advice, words of warning are appreciated. I am definitely being slowed down by my fear of screwing something up. But so far so good! Hopefully I'll have an assembled ship by end of day. In a more ambitious world, maybe I'll have the siding cut out. Stay tuned!

Edited by MoonglowMinis
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End of day 3. Rough assembly done. I started by gluing together the upper deck and the upper deck support. I used liberal amounts of tack glue and left a whole stack of D&D books on top to hold them together. This really helped flatten the curving top deck. 


I also assembled the ship stem after making an indentation and gluing a popsicle stick inside for stability. This is a relatively flimsy piece and since it will be modular I wanted to reinforce it. Unfortunately I will have to remake this part for a third time. More on that later




I started assembling by opening up holes for the mast sleeves and using the sleeves and friction to line up the main deck and the foredeck where the foremast intersects two decks. IMG_20200913_173956696.thumb.jpg.d918bc2079f41dd71620d0e5580dc906.jpg


I then started lining up the various support walls and the quarterdeck and glued them with tacky glue and pinned them together to hold them while they dry.







If I had better planning skills, I would have dug out a trench for the bowsprit sleeve before gluing the decks on. But it's a difficult thing to measure as it enters the deck at an odd angle. I figured I'd eyeball it later but ended up testing off a lot of the foredeck support wall in the process. This will have to be remedied later. But for now. More glue.





Attaching the lower deck took a lot of eyeballing. And was pretty dependent on lining up the ship stem support pieces. These were spaced accordingly with two scrap pieces of foam to help while gluing and pinning. It was at this point that I realized the ship stem was 1/4 inch too short. Sigh... That's a project for tomorrow. 


With everything else glued and pinned down below, I grabbed my dowel rods made some approximate measurements and cut them to length. They may end up shorter, but with everything together, it's starting to look like a ship!




We're getting somewhere folks. Reginald continues to overlook construction. He approves of the progress. The shape is more interesting than attempt #1 and efforts to achieve some modularity are more promising. 


Tomorrow's goals: remake the ship stem and begin work on the siding.

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End of day 4.  Only a little progress today.


Remade the ship stem that was off by 1/4in




It finally fits and is property modular. I'd like to make a few with interesting figurehead designs, or with battering rams. 




This is a much better system than my original attempt with popsicle sticks jammed in between an already-assembled part of the ship. Even with sitting around for nearly two years, the old one became very loose.


I also managed to make use of the old ship stem piece and turned it into a rudder. It's not my favorite design, but I truly didn't want to mod-podge and paint another piece of foam. 




While cutting out new foam for the stem, I also cut out a new piece for the stern wall.  I am going for an ornamental curved stern.  Not sure how I will end up decorating it, so for now it's just pinned in place.




It seems to be in-scale for the rest of the ship, but it bothers me that it's well above sight-line for a mini. I plan on having inch-high walls around the rest of the deck, and a standard medium character can see over that fine.  Maybe I'll shave half an inch off that piece.  What do you all think?



Slowly taking shape. I'm a little indecisive about how to tackle the siding which I think is why I've slowed down.  I am planning on using box card stock and ideally will have a piece long enough to cover the ship with one piece. Decorations will be added using foam sheets.


Ideally I'd like to get a template to trace from so it'll be easier to replicate in the future, but I can't see an easy way to trace the ship. 


But that'll be tomorrow's problem. Thanks for the support so far everyone!


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Day 5.  So a bit more progress today.  Still slower than I'd like but I'm still being indecisive.


I started today by cutting some granny grating to fit the cargo hatch and painting it up silver.  It was a quick task that helped get me moving again.




With that out of the way, I moved on to making some progress on the siding.  Not seeing any easier way to do it, i tossed the ship on its side and traced it.  From there, I measured up about an inch and sketched in the shape of the gunwale.  I left some extra length on either end to help wrap around the bow and stern.  I then cut it out and pinned it to the ship.






Reginald thinks an inch is the perfect height to look out upon the great blue yonder great white wall.


This rough sketch actually fit pretty well.  I had to make a few adjustments where it wrapped around the bow and where the stem slotted in.  But it did get kind of messy in the stern, especially with the clunky stern wall I had cut out.




So i took the side back, made a few adjustments to account for curves, and i cut down the over-sized stern so it would be shorter, and more in-line with the rest of the ship.  Still had to make a minor tweak to make it fit nicely,  but this was much better.




And again I was frozen by indecision.  I am learning that the best cure to indecision is to just try things, or make test pieces.  So I looked at some reference images and just dove in, sketching out some details I wanted to add to the sides.




Most of these details will be cut out of foam sheets and glued over top to add a bit of depth.  The windows will be made of more granny grating.


Still unsure of how I was going to get some wood-grain on the sides of the ship, or how the mod-podge would hold up, I grabbed some scraps and made a test piece.




I brushed the mod podge on in the direction the wood grain is traveling.  I then painted in the same direction with a heavy dry brush.  It blends in fine with the rest of the ship and I'm satisfied with the results.  Not sure how I feel about the cannon flaps though.  May just leave them as open holes, or paint them out a different color.  I also need to cut out some foam sheet and test out the decorations and maybe decide on a color scheme.


My final bit of progress today was testing out some paint on the dowels of the masts.




I made a wash of the dark brown paint I had been using, and a bit of black to help darken it, and painted it on one end of the dowel.




It's pretty close in color, enough that I'm going to move forward with it.  We'll see if there's any problems with the color scratching off inside the sleeve.  I also need to get myself some goo-gone to clean up the residue left behind by the barcode label.


That's probably all for tonight.  I might get around to cutting out both sides of the ship and covering them in a layer of mod podge.  But cutting out stencils for the details will probably have to wait.

It's coming along.  Indecision is my greatest enemy, and fear of ruining what I've already done.  But once the sides are done, it's on to the sails and final details.  Heave-ho!

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