Thursday, 29 November 2012

How to Build a Wargaming Warship Part 1

or more specifically a Cruizer class Brig Sloop. Well after trawling the Internet for suitable small Warships to represent some Pirates and a first rate Boat of the line I looked down at my Napoleon Total War and found this little statement...
"ship plans courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London."
Now so far all the searches I had done for ship plans had taken me to model ship builder forums, Which are really useful... if your not making wargaming ships I needed a large selection of old drawings, sure plenty out there but not a nice selection in just one place... until I went to the Museums Internet site and then with a bit of knowledge gifted by Uncle Wiki I was set to build... and now you can too! P.S I am still building this ship and Paul so please hang tight as this is only the first part...

Preparation: get some plans...
go online and look for some plans some are free but the best are not
To do this you can search the Internet for all the kings of images you want but simply typing into Google "sloop ship plans" is not really going to help to much and typing "Cruizer ship plans" will normally only give you pictures of the Beagle. (HMS Beagle). So if you know what you want go for the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich... ignore the fact it tells you the page does not exist... then go to collections and start looking :-)
Also try Wikipedia for some basic ship Dimensions convert to the correct scale and then Round them UP to the nearest cm or if you use imperial... umm... not quite sure half inch? perhaps. Rounding up is better as ships in scale look smaller for some reason.
some information from Uncle Wiki... I should have looked at the crew size and gone oh it is huge

This is some "Lines" of a Cruizer class brig sloop

 Now that you have your plans get some materials.... You will need! (for this stage)
  • some french curves (well more useful than necessary)
  • a pencil
  • Foam board, polystyrene or other foam material
  • Craft knife
  • some thick card, foam-core or some hardboard or a material thinner than the foam
  • A ruler
  • cutting board
  • PVA glue
  • patience and lots of it :-(
Step 1: getting the rectangle
 it is important that you get the overall length of the ship and the width so that you can make a rectangle. Draw this rectangle onto your foam and then score the foam before cutting.

Do this process twice.

Now that you have your rectangles you need to cut them out. do this carefully as you will need to do more measurements later on.  I recommend that you only cut one out for now.

 Step 2: Getting the curves
Now ships are not giant rectangles so we need to put in the curves for the bow and stern to do this make a grid pattern on the face of the foam. I put "vertical" lines every 3 cm.

Now you must look back at the plans to see what the curve on the actual ship is like. Now go to your foam sketch an proximate curve onto it. in the image across I have drawn the sterns lines and also some lines to represent what the underside will look like.remember do to make these smaller than the plans so bow is thinner and sharper and stern is less rounded.

Now do some cutting this must be done slowly and precisely to minimise the risk of ending up with an odd looking ship later on.

Now do the same on the underside. for this go about 1 cm in from the edge at the side and around 2-3 on the bow and stern... referring to the plans help determine the angles.

now comes the blade destroying part. cut diagonally through the foam from the bottom to the top creating the angles. it helps to cut the lines on the bottom first to reduce the risk of snapping your craft knifes blade!

 Step 3: the layers - poop deck and forecastle
Now that you've done the base of the sloop you need to do the top. re-do steps one and 2 but this time follow the plans more exactly so that the curves on the ship are more like those on the plans.

make sure that the bottom of this layer matches up with the top of the previous one so that they fit together. or else you will be in trouble.

Now cut out the centre of the second foam layer so that you have the ends. These are the forecastle and poop deck. glue these in place. unlike me I recommend that if you have a clamp to use it.

Step 4: the gun deck/ centre of the ship

get your other material, I use some really thick card. its really strong which might be useful later but even some foam core or hardboard will do.

measure up the gap between the forecastle and poop deck. Once again cut out a rectangle to fit in the gap. if there are some curves that need to be taken into account simply trim the rectangle to fit without overhanging the edges.

Then glue down the card, foam or whatever you are using if like me this layer is not thick enough add another until the gap between the layers seems more like that of the plans... so in this case not to big.

End of Part one 
 now step one is complete you should have the backbone of a ship onto which you can put your cardboard skin and planking. More importantly you will need to put the masts on.

Thats all in part 2 though so you need to wait. also I have not even got that far yet.


 Now just a look at HMS Paul... progress has been slow because I have been focusing on building the larger ship so Paul will take a while but here is what she looks like so far... She, why are ships she? even when they have masculine names?
the sides are added and just need trimming

nice and smooth... as you can see this ship is also made from cracker boxes

I think this fig is fed up with being used for all the naval posts :-P
Well now all I need to do now is work on the ship so that I can make part2. This ship will be Abigail the Pirate ship that terrorised the Atlantic coast of North and South America and cursed that Caribbean. destroying cities as she went... oh wait that's my sister... its appropriate :-D now my sister does not feel left out.  now just need a few more to complete the fleets.


  1. Excellent!
    Those curves made me stop a boat I was trying to do. I'll look carefully into this and give it another try.

  2. Great tutorial and thanks for the resource.

  3. That's a very impressive method. I suggest "Master and Commander" if you haven't seen it yet. It contains lots of inspiring early Napoleonic naval action.

  4. Ship coming along great! Looking forward to seeing it complete. I agree with Ben B, watch Master and Commander: the far side of the world, an excellent yarn!! As an aside, for reference you may want to look at this site gives ship plans for a lot of ships, from sloops of war to ships of the line.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  5. Actually, it were better to read the books. The movie 'Master and Commander' is based on at least two of Patrick O'Brien's sea stories, the first of which gave its name to the movie, the other might have been 'HMS Surprise'. My favorites are 'Master and Commander' and 'The Mauritius Command'. All the stories feature 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey (the eponymous M&C of the first book) and the mysterious Stephen Maturin, impecunious Irish physician, naturalist and Spanish landowner.... oh, and intelligence agent. One word of warning: these books I class as 'literature': extremely well written, and not afraid to use words (if you know what i mean), and very erudite (not only on naval matters, too). It takes a while to get any action, but the action once you get there is worth the wait. The Battle of Ile de la Passe is just amazing.

    The movie... mmm... I hated it, frankly, but the spectacle has its moments. Quite why 'Peregrin Took' was cast as Bo'sun Barret Bonden, I can't think, and only 'Stephen Maturin' looks the part. But that's me. Others clearly have a different view.

    Quite a lot of those armed brigs and schooners and what have you were 'flush decked' - they didn't have a fore or after castle. So you could 'get away' without them, making construction simpler, perhaps.

    Those examples you show are pretty well armed for quite small vessels. Eighteen-pounder carronades were fairly ineffective at anything much beyond spitting range, but yardarm to yardarm, they could be deadly. The two 'long' guns were accurate at a much longer range, and might well have been 'chasers', that is, placed in the bows facing forward.

    I reckon you have made an excellent choice of craft for the Oronegrin Navy, Gowan. For a newly minted and fairly small nation of no great wealth, these vessels will be the equivalent of line-of-battle ships in the service of wealthy and large European navies. At that, you have room for smaller coastal craft - luggers, cutters and the like - should you ever find the need for them.

    1. ah well then the books it is then... oh and don't worry about literature I read the silmarilion twice because I liked it... though the first time I was too young to understand more than the jist of it.

      as for the forecastle and poop deck I am keeping them as they will add an extra dimension to the fighting... on deck fighting is going to be very important in these ships.


    2. Well, you can probably see the best parts for free on youtube anyway.
      I've not read the books so I can't compare them like that; but considering its a new movie with top actors, minimal profanity, and super realistic close quarters naval action, its not bad compared to most Hollywood garbage. Plus, who can't like Pippin and a cello playing Irish naturalist in star roles? :D

    3. good point! and of coarse Pippin is good fun... and top actors and realistic close quater combat is a very nice change from most Holliwood rubbish... minimal prophanity??? how can they be pirates then??? :-P but I guess times change and perhaps they would not use language like that, or if they do not as much.
      lets face it some words they considered offensive are not anymore or do not exist and vice-versa

    4. If you ever find the 'Hornblower' TV series, they're worth a look. Better yet, if you haven't read them already, get hold of C.S. Forester's 'Hornblower' books. They feature a certain Horatio Hornblower, beginning with his entering a frigate in 1792 at Spithead as a 17-year old midshipman, and ending with him as Lord Hornblower, Rear Admiral of the Red commanding in the West Indies in the early 1820s. Actually, there is a short story of his meeting Louis-Napoleon - the future Napoleon III - in 1848. By that time Hornblower has long since retired with the rank of Admiral of the Fleet.

      Probably the best action is in 'A Ship of the Line' in which Hornblower alone takes on four French line-of-battle ships, but the battle between his Lydia frigate and the Spanish 50-gun 2-decker in 'A Happy Return' is almost as good.

      I would also recommend some of Showell Styles's sea stories. 'The Frigate Captain' (about an actual Captain Cochrane) is probably the most famous, but I remember it only as a radio play back in the early '60s (before we got a TV!). He wrote a couple about a Lieutenant Fitton (another actual officer). These you'll enjoy, I think, as they deal with craft about the size that you are making. Fitton seems to have been an officer of real ability, but not having 'friends at Court' so to speak, never had the 'pull' to progress to 'Master & Commander', let alone Captain. There are sone Showell styles books about a certain Mr Midshipman (Septimus) Quinn, though I find these rather fanciful...