The VotiveThe votive ship model, like all ex-voto offerings, is not a curiosity. Unlike other types of ship models,
the intent of the builder was to give thanks to God, or god(s) of the seas for his life.
And while we're going to build a ship model, my intent is to address the origins of the unknowable
beliefs that exist between men, boats and the sea. I know these exist, but since I can't fully explain them to myself
I can only hope for the best in explaining them to anyone else.
ancient spiritual association of boats with passage from this life is best depicted in the actual boat buried alongside Khufu
(King Cheops). The ancient Egyptians were comfortable with his destiny of sailing with the sun on its daily path, so they
provided him (and other pharaohs) with a number of watercraft ranging in size from scale models to full-sized yachts.
Sailors are probably less superstitious today, but the notion of a gift,
or ex-voto, for safe passage was and still is accepted practice. And sailing every day for eternity is not a bad
way to go.
In Western history the oldest documented ship-model
votive is the Mataro, thought by many to be an offering to the Virgin Mary. This model, built in the 1400's,
has been studied, documented and recreated many times.
should not be surprising that most early wooden models were lost to the same fires that destroyed many European churches during
various periods of religious and political instability. Or, like scraps of clothing and other personal items that were offered,
were discarded in favor of more impressive offerings.
is a large model. To gain an appreciation for it without visiting Rotterdam, follow this link: http://www.modelshipworld.com/phpBB2/files/mataro_model_196.jpg
and to read more about
By modern standards
the Mataro is not all that elegant, and suffers from the same lack of documented scale as most historical ships.
Given her apparent size (65 tons or so), her simple rigging, and huge rudder, she was very practical: that is to say easy
to sail (probably within sight of land at all times). I'm guessing that my original catboat could have left her standing
in its wake (what there was of it), but in a busy port she obviously got the job done. This probably explains her veneration.
As you might suspect from the examples we have built, my preference is for
models that represent interesting grains of historical wheat that got ground up by the wheels of history: everyday stuff,
as depicted by artists like Henry. In this case, votive offerings would have been at the lower scale of precision, but at
the high end of significance. If they had survived.
prefer smaller models that can be unobtrusively displayed as a vehicle for discussing what they represent. The model itself
can do the talking, but a host who understands why he built a model in the first place is probably an interested and interesting
In this series we have danced around the 19th
century as a reasonable introduction to wooden ships, mainly because ships of the period enjoy at least some documentation.
In terms of the votive model, there are a number that still
hang in Nordic churches, but very few in North America. The only votive ship model that I have visited hangs in the nave of
the Naval Academy Chapel. That votive was an alumni gift in 1941 from the Construction Corps (better known as the Seabees).
The ship itself is a carrack, which, from a design standpoint is very similar to the Mataro.
There may be others, but even if they are displayed in museums, the true nature of the
model has probably been lost or ignored.
So between 1300 BC
and today there are a limited number of ways to express the idea that a model of a ship or boat could have some extraordinary
meaning other than itself.
Either the Mataro,
the carrack or a similar ship would be consistent with our earlier models. That pretty much explains why I'm ready
to sail off in a new direction.
I'm going to stretch this
whole notion of a votive a bit, and distinguish it from the ex-voto, (or offering of thanks after the fact).
This will allow a much broader study of beliefs associated with boats. (For those who might prefer a journey into Buddhist,
Shinto or other philosophies, there is an abundance of elegant thought and art, but no boats. Unless you want to get into
Kubla Khan, and we all know how well he fared in sailing to Japan.)
To quote Wikipedia:
"A votive deposit or votive offering is one or more objects displayed or deposited,
without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. Such items are a feature of modern and
ancient societies and are generally made in order to gain favor with supernatural forces."
you totally accept the contributor source or not, I have the basis for a wide range of votives.
I've accepted the notion that the boats provided to Egyptian pharaohs and nobles satisfy the
definition, and as a bonus, are interesting boats to build. The most famous range in size from actual (Khufu) to the small
but exquisitely crafted models associated with the tomb of Tutankhamun (King Tut). Whether full or model-sized, these boats
represent unique and timeless design.
This model will
be based on one of the 30 or so models provided to King Tut. As it was presented in his tomb, his throne was not occupied,
and the twin rudders were not manned, so the bare boat was ready to sail. It can be constructed out of wood, and shares a
harmonious set of lines with the whaleboat. It won't be that hard to build, and will fit nicely with the rest of the fleet.
The original model is 155cm long, or 61 inches. Given an approximate actual
length of 33 feet, this works out to a scale of 1:6, and if we covert that to the whaleboat scale, gives us about a
12" model at the same (1:32) scale (anathema to the train guys but perfect for a scratch builder). For me that's
at the high end of obtrusive and this model will match the whaleboat and steamboat when they're in the same room. (I'm
still struggling with the canal boat. So far I have taken it completely apart in the belief that it can somehow be made to
look like an attractive boat.)
By now you're familiar with
the tools and methods that I use, so no changes there. The materials also stay the same- I will be using leftovers and scrap
from the earlier models to build this one. If you need supplies, buy or make as we go. I'll also be using the same steaming
and bending process, forms and paints shared with the other models, so any new investment should be close to zero. Except,
of course, labor hours, and they're up to you.
take a look at some images of this boat:
There are quite a few other Egyptian model candidates that share
the same heritage, so if you want to venture off into constructing one of the others, the methods we are using will be the
Before we get too far into our perpendiculars, this might
be a good time to bring up Phi. Variously known as the Golden Mean, the Golden Sphere, etc., Phi refers to a constant ratio
(1.618) that is found in nature, architecture and many works of art. This ratio was well known to the Egyptians, and explains
in part the beauty of their pyramids and other art. A pretty good synopsis can be found here: http://jwilson.coe.uga.edu/EMT668/EMAT6680.2000/Obara/Emat6690/Golden%20Ratio/golden.html
Or just pick up a French Curve if you have one handy. Better yet,
bend a long thin strip of basswood- Phi will exist between your fingertips.
The boats associated with the pharaohs share a similar papyriform head at the bow and stern. These pulpits (my term)
on the boat flow into the sweep of the hull in a series of curves that follow the shapes of even earlier Nile boats.
These prehistoric boats were constructed from native papyrus, (which has since disappeared), and the papyriform theme carries
throughout depictions of the gods who were important to civilization on the Nile.
All of this art follows a set of timeless rules that flow from what the human eye (ancient and modern) determines
to be a pleasant versus a rude or clumsy shape. To the many and vocal critics of models that are not constructed to a precise
numeric scale, a compelling case can be made that art and engineering don't meet that often, but when they do, Phi
is present in the dimensions.
We'll get to the sun
boat of Cheops as we get more deeply into construction details, but the various geometric elements of that boat will find
their way into this one. The drawings, sketches and the final model will be consistent with the rules, so we're on some
pretty solid historical and technical footing. Granted that footing spans 12 centuries or so, but the Egyptians had been building
their boats for many centuries before the wooden boat appeared, and throughout this time frame the form, function and construction
methods remained fairly constant. The same can be said for all other boats and ships.
As we drill down into the technical details of the model, be prepared for the fact that the literature
is replete with speculation and virtually devoid of reliable metrics.
While we're dealing with terms and concepts. I'm going to use the word "pulpit" to describe the
vertical papyriform structures that rise from the bow and stern of all boats where Ra, the sun god, is present. There is no
convenient term in a nautical or archeological dictionary that comes close to naming these, and "pulpit" is easier
than "vertical papyriform structure". Since the world seems to have run out of acronyms, and "VPS" can
abbreviate just about anything, bear with me when I use a convenient but technically incorrect term. Since this is used in
a nautical context it probably makes as much literal sense as dozens of other nautical terms.
Let's also deal with the cubit- the Egyptian measurement scale. In the literature this can range
from the royal cubit to the biblical cubit and all over the place in the course of the last few thousand years. Like it or
not, the baseline cubit for this book is 18 inches, for the simple reason that when I measure the distance on my arm from
the elbow to the tip of my middle finger the number is 18. If you encounter any other cubit, be prepared for the task of determining
the time frame and anthropology- you could be in for an argument that has no logical or documented outcome.
Egyptologists are no less odd than model builders, but at the other extreme
of precision. To give them their due, they are dealing with a time frame of about 2400 years that spanned the Bronze Age,
so details like precise dimensions are almost irrelevant to their discipline. For model builders, dimensions are our lifeblood,
so if we can survive the vague nature of the cubit, we can also forgive a lack of scientific guidance.
In terms of building skills, the Egyptians were jewelers on a giant scale. And they
applied these practices and skills to boats. One translated notebook describes building a 60x30 cubit boat (roughly 100'x50')
for the transport of limestone blocks. The craft took 17 days to complete, and when it was done, could float at least two
16-ton blocks. The boat was built of acacia wood, which is not particularly buoyant, so it must have had some characteristics
of a modern shallow-draft barge. Let's give it a draft of 2 feet, so we can join in the speculative frenzy and rate it
as a 312 ton vessel. Lower the draft to a foot and this monster still displaced 155 tons. In 17 days 3000 years ago.
And these boat were portable. As we'll see, their method of construction
allowed the Egyptians to disassemble a boat, transport it upstream and reassemble it fairly quickly. Another scenario would
be that they transported disassembled barges to places like Byblos (by sea) or by way of Qoseir (by desert). Upon reaching
their destination they could easily have reassembled the barges and then sailed them, plus the barge-carrier, back home.
Another transport scenario for the cedar and other logs is
that they were tied and towed in a line behind a boat powered by rowers and/or sail. The prevalent winds on the southern Mediterranean
shoreline would have been northerly, so a fore-aft rig would have worked well at sea while a square rig would have been the
rig of choice sailing up the Nile or down the Red Sea. Since neither Cheops' or Tut's boat carried an easel-type mast,
we can further speculate that their journey was intended to be totally downstream (a pretty safe bet if the boat was launched
north of Hierakonpolis).
While their absolute measurements
of a given object might have varied, their precise replication of hundreds and even thousands of objects argues for the widespread
use of templates, from their pyramids to sculpture, and undoubtedly, boats. Particularly boats, since any lack of hull symmetry
will seriously degrade a boat's seaworthiness.
persuasively for the widespread use of molds, down to the forming of papyrus stalks into fishing boats.
The Egyptian boat builders also employed a set of hieroglyphics to designate a boats
quarters (fore, aft, port and starboard). A forward starboard plank, for example, would have been marked with a symbol that
looks like a plus ("+") sign.
Before the age of
inflatables there were a number of small portable boats that could be assembled and launched from the trunk of the family
car- I don't recall whether the sellers of these things gave the Egyptians credit for the design.
Cheops' boat was discovered in a state of complete disassembly. The reassembly of
such a large craft would have probably been a few days work for the ancient Egyptians, but it took modern restorers about
ten years. Of course, nobody called in an ancient or a boat-builder.
The Egyptians also made wide use of matrix-grids for two and three-dimensional drawings. So if you combine this with
the use of templates and molds, just add a computer and build today's boat.
A final note on enabling materials and technologies. The Egyptians made use of the lathe and its small cousin the
bow drill. With supplies of copper from the eastern desert and the Sinai, and tin from what is today Syria, the Egyptians
could produce annealed and serrated tools, thus the adze and saw depicted in many of their murals.
With an unlimited supply of various sands they could and did fabricate many sanding
and polishing tools, and no doubt imbedded sand in the cutting face of other tools. Flecked flint knives, chisels and burnishers
rounded out their woodworking arsenal.
From well before Cheops'
dynasty they were milling cedar and acacia into planks, and with an unlimited supply of acacia thorns and cedar pitch could
fasten and glue any wood.
Threads of the papyrus and other
reeds were woven and braided, producing thread and rope of almost limitless size. These ropes and threads were further twisted
using wooden levers- the ancient equivalent of a turnbuckle. On a large scale, a rope turnbuckle can move a huge object fairly
easily and quickly, or act as a ship‘s truss.
that, our only technical advantage is the camera for recording the likely steps in building a boat, and even that is not a
significant improvement over their murals.
There are very few
published books that are useful to this project, but if your local library can find a copy of "The Boat Beneath the
Pyramid", Text by Nancy Jenkins Photographs by John Ross, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1980, you can get
a sense for the construction details and significance of Cheops' boat at Giza. And the author fills in many of the blanks
that I have left open.
Every model-building text starts with a tool
description. I built my first scratch model using a machinist's rule, a razor blade and scraps of sandpaper. That model
took awhile, and I've only added tools that fit what I needed. My advice is to read the text, figure out what tools might
be handy, and buy them only if you feel you need them. What comes next is the result of many, many models, including the ones
in this series..
And while I started this series of books
with a description of a set of tools for each model, the sets began to look very similar, so here are most of the things I
use every day. ( In order left to right, top to bottom.)
one for short and one for long scraps. Indispensable.
Box. In this assortment I have rigging cords that start at .008 all the way up through sewing thread, button thread and 48
Clamp Box. In here you'll find wooden clothespins,
adjustable bar clamps, bulldog clamps and paper clamps. Almost hidden in front of that are a couple of ship model planking
clamps- I have many more, and they are very handy.
Wands. I'll describe these later. There are also some emery boards, a round, small wand and one scrap of many scraps of
Micro files. Sharp and broken-off round, plus the
normal assortment. Very handy.
Fences. These are actually metal
rulers, a machinist's rule and a machinist's square. All stainless steel, to stand up to the knife blades.
Loupe. Only handy if your eyesight is as bad as mine and the work is really
tiny.(It will be tiny as we go along.)
Glues. CA gel, craft
and wood glue. Mandatory.
Template Bin and wire. All small
templates, subassemblies and small parts I'm working with on a given model go in here or they'll get lost. We won't
be using that much wire or brass rod..
Pin Board. This once
was a piece of foam craft board that now has hat pins and various other pins that I use for marking, gluing, clamping and
other things that I forget until I need a specific pin. Stuck into the side are sewing needles of various sizes- there is
no logic to explain how they got there.
Scissors. Any sharp
pair will do.
Step gauge. You can't see this too well,
but this homemade gauge is cut (stepped off) in 1mm increments from 1-5mm. I have another one stepped off in 1/32nds. As you'll
see when we stab-mark and cut thin strips of basswood these make the job simple and repeatable. If I know I'll be working
in large increments like these, this is also how I measure and cut at the same time.
Tweezers. Large and small, and sooner or later you'll be filing the tips because they just don't
work right until you do. The tape on a couple of these is to disable the locking feature- sometimes that feature is good,
but the spring-loaded pair on the right is usually better.
tape and Q-tips..
Rigging needles. I use two types- the "big
eye" and the twisted steel beading needle. The beading needles are much easier to use on small diameter threads.
Saw (draw) blades. Fine (54 teeth per inch) and medium (40 teeth per inch).
You'll need both.
Blade pack. I rarely use anything but
X-ACTO #11 blades and I buy them in bulk. This pack of fifteen might last for years or for weeks.
Knives. I keep two of them on the table- the one on the left always has a clean, sharp
blade, and the one on the right (red paint) always has a used, not-as-sharp blade for applying glue, breaking out pieces,
cutting paper, etc.. The red one is the one I use when I know that I'm about to wreck a blade somehow.
French curves and pattern templates. The curves are indispensable.
Dividers- Map (rough) and student (fine). You can't transfer or repeat any measurement
accurately and repeatedly without them.
Beeswax. Handy for
preventing lint on cotton line, but indispensable for creating a release when gluing.
Forceps. I also use hemostats, but this is my go-to pair.
Compass and Angle rule. Both very handy. Both are worthless for tiny angles and tiny circles.
Hand gouge (chisel). Indispensable for breaking glue joints, I keep this
razor-sharp, because it comes in handy as a cutting/punch tool as well.
Rigging scissors. Cuticle scissors, suture-removal scissors and optical surgical scissors. Each is valuable for a
particular rigging task.
Large tonail clipper. The flatter
(or convex) the better.
Large T-square. For squaring cut card
stock. We'll be using a lot of card stock, and I like to keep my scrap square.
Calipers. I still use the plastic one for very rough measurements, but a digital caliper spoils you
for any other type.
Miniature linemen's pliers. Also a
heavy wire/rod cutter. The flat face comes in very handy for breaking pieces away (mistakes) once the glue has set.
Pin Vises. I use the pair because I usually drill a pilot hole before I drill
a finished hole. These have bit storage in the handles, so you can't see my drill bits. I suggest you start with a standard
20-bit set (#61-80, You'll quickly discover which ones you break, lose or otherwise need- buy a few of those at a time
and store them in a secure place. In my case they're in the handles- one for 1mm and smaller and the other for larger.
Oriental (decorative) toothpicks. I forgot to put these on the table, along
with bamboo skewers. Indispensable for gluing, making small parts, etc..
Paint Brushes. I didn't include my paint brush collection because it might depress you. I've cut off handles
to make spars, used junk brushes to apply glue, and generally destroyed many of them. And you'll have to decide what brush
material works best for you. I can say that you'll eventually need brushes down in the 00 range for detail work- in this
case buy the best brush you can find. I have about 4 brushes that I care about, and the rest were purchased as sets ( and
I probably kept one out of every set and wrecked the others).
very small tools go into a large tackle box that also contains hundred of little gil-guys, pieces and parts. If it's very
small or very large and isn't used often it goes there. Everything else goes into a rotating divided hexagonal thing that
I found at a garage sale. Whatever it once was, it's perfect now.
Let's discuss the large sanding wands. I make these out of wooden paint stirring sticks (paddles). By applying
contact cement to the stick and rough (60 grit) sandpaper to the wide and narrow edge on one side and finer (120 grit sandpaper)
to the other two sides I have an easy-to-find tool that is also handy for everyday use. Simply cut a piece of sandpaper to
a slightly larger width than the stick, apply contact cement to the paper and the stick and when it's ready, fold the
paper onto the sick. Use a sharp knife to trim the bare edges: this is now a huge emery board and a very accurate straight-surface
sander. It will be a great loss if these paddles ever disappear.
the extreme, these paddles are made from clear (knot-free) pine. They are very exact, well-made and free, but getting harder
to find. (I'm guilt-free because of the small fortune I've spent on house paint.) They are very handy for drilling
and other experiments- as a matter of fact I think it might be fun to build a complete model from a single paint paddle.)
Note that the work board I use is about 18"x24"
from a piece of scrap ¼ inch balsa-faced plywood (generally available at homestores). It has a number of holes
drilled through it that act as holding dogs, a cutting and clamping fence and has rounded corners. The balsa accepts things
like pins and knife blades while the plywood ensures a flat and, when needed, rigid frame. (This board replaced my earlier
one that I made from a sheet of birch veneer plywood. On that one I had glued (contact cement) a 1/8th balsa plank
in front of the cutting fence. It worked well for about 20 years until I found the balsa-faced plywood.) If you look closely,
you'll see that I've covered the area in front of the board with 1/64th aircraft plywood because it has
gotten so chewed up.
A very important feature of any work board
is that small cutting and clamping fence. Mine have either 90- or 45-degree angles cut into both ends and they're the
right size for any number of cutting and clamping tasks that require a sturdy brace and guide. (The 90 is on the able. They
are screwed-in from the back) The holding dogs (holes) elsewhere on the table are used when the fence is not the right size
or shape- dowels or other things can be stuck into the holes to hold odd shapes or an entire model.
This size fits between the arms of a comfortable chair and goes wherever I feel like
working- including outside on a nice day. Also, trying to work at a heavy traffic location like a dining table can be a domestic
disaster unless you can move all of your work all at once.
keep in mind that even the right or most expensive tool might make the job easier, but not better.
Another note on the subject of tools, methods and materials. I'm assuming that you
are building this model after either building or reading the texts on the whaleboat and the frigate. If you're jumping
in at this point you've missed such subjects as cutting, steaming, marking, drilling, templates, etc.. So if you
come to a step where the process seems to appear from left field, the reason lies in a prior base of experience, processes
and materials. You may be well-served to go back to those books and study or practice those types of tasks.
5-gallon paint paddle (stir stick)
1-gallon paint paddle
x 3 x24 Basswood sheet
1/8 x 3 x 24 Basswood sheet
Upper Hull Deck
1/32 x 3 x 24 Basswood sheet
Papyriform bow and stern
Keel sheet scraps
Hull and Deck Stitching
10lb hemp (died or natural)
6" x 8" x 1/64 birch (aircraft) plywood or
Hull Deck scraps
The diagrams that follow were first drawn on
paper that will not reproduce properly on a web page. So the original has been cut and pasted so that the individual schematics
can be printed on card stock or other thick paper and traced, cut, etc.. This will cause some distortion, but by following
the measurements, a model can be built to the same approximate size. In this case we're rounding to the nearest cubit,
not the nearest millimeter.
Let's start with the mold braces.
The middle mold brace is a notched affair. The notch will
allow pieces of reinforcing strips to be fitted and glued to what for a lack of better term I'm calling the keel plank.
In practice, based on the Cheops boat, this part of the hull would have been constructed of multiple cedar planks. The depth
of the notch doesn't have to be too precise, since stringers will fit into it, but it does have to be square.
As usual, I have fabricated the mold from paint stirring sticks that were
compliments of a local home improvement store. ( Since I've invested a small fortune in house paint I'm
not the least bit guilty about this.)
The base started out
as a 5-gallon -sized stick. The width and length of the base is not important so long as it can accommodate the keel assembly
with room for twisted rope (string) clamps.
When it's complete, the base should look like the photo. Note
the centerline. The end line (left) is marked at exactly 12 inches overall: the middle mold brace is glued at dead center.
The end braces are spaced at 95mm from dead center.
added 1/8 x 1/8 braces for no particular reason initially, but they provided needed support during various periods of abuse.
The keel plank shown in the photo is cut from this template:
The exact measurements are: width at centerline-35mm, length at
centerline- 284mm(5 ½ inches). The sketch above may not reproduce unless you capture two copies and tape
First, let's steam and form the keel plank
on the mold.
I'm using 1/16th basswood, and
I‘ve cut out the keel plank and steamed it a bit more than usual. After drawing a line, end pegs are inserted
at 125 mm off center, and a large peg is glued at 25mm below the centerline. To avoid squaring the plank I butchered a sewing
bobbin to ease some of the midline pressure, creating a 35 mm total distance from the centerline.
The plank dried overnight. Any rounded object will create a graceful
curve, but using a thin or square mandrel as a bending fulcrum will create a messy curve.
The keel plank braces, formed from 1/8th square strips are formed using the same frame,
but with a spacer to raise the center 17 mm ( slightly less than ½ the beam) off the surface of the bending frame.
I'm using planking screws to anchor sets of wooden clamps at
either end. This is a complex curve, and the braces will try to naturally twist toward the center curve. Since these must
lay flat when they are fitted to the keel plank, they must come out of the mold flat. Pins or other clamps will work just
as well so long as the ends are forced square.
This is probably
a good time to point out that you might be tempted to call these braces by their more modern name, stringers. But the
author I mentioned earlier has provided drawings and pictures of a boat that didn't use a keel or stringers. Rather, the
hull planks were very thick cedar planks elegantly tooled with scarfs and rabbets, so when they were eventually rove (lashed)
together, the woven lashings held the planks together. A stem-stern beam, stanchions and ribs supported the deck, but the
boat could have sailed without these. From an engineering standpoint this accomplished the same goal as the keel-keelson-rib-rivet-stringer-nail
construction that westerners know well, but was probably much stronger.
This lashed construction is consistent with the Egyptian evolution from shaped papyrus rafts, and while my building
reference is very different, that simply means that I‘ve been hanging out with people who didn‘t study practices
that are still common on the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
the braces that we are bending did not exist on the Egyptian boats, but will contribute to the illusion that the model is,
in fact, a replica of the real thing. That is one license granted to the model-maker so long as the philosophy of the model
remains true to the original. If we've taken a leap of faith with the basic definition of a votive we might as well go
all the way to hell with a few details.
Once dry, each brace
should be fitted to the keel plank allowing for a 1/16th rabbet along the outside edge to accept the strakes. This
will require an angled cut at each end along the centerline, and some gentle sanding and fitting so the keel plank looks approximately
As you'll see as we go I have marked lateral centerlines on
everything. I glued a piece of scrap in the mold notch I mentioned earlier- by using the exact thickness, this is the lazy
way of insuring that the notch and the keel braces meet the mold more or less perfectly.
Also note the mason twine and lever. The Egyptians used various cordages for drilling, lashing and
moving heavy objects, so the twist clamp that I'll be using is not just a historical nod, but also a practical one.
It may not be obvious, but the levers on each end are held in compression
using pins. As you will see later, these twine clamps work well but they started to dimple the wood, so look ahead a few photos
and you'll see that I inserted a strain pad between the keel plank and the string. (The bobbin is still on its peg but
isn't touching anything.)
The garboard (strake) is measured
and cut from the following diagram:
I'll be using 1/4x1/32 basswood strips for the strakes, so
sanding to a fairly precise fit is not difficult, but mark these with a pencil, not the knife, so you can sand down to a fit.
First, rough-cut the garboard:
First, clamp and glue the center section. I'm using a planking
clamp and brace, but a wide-headed pin will work just as well. The garboard will fit into the keel plank groove, and there
will be a remaining space between the mold and the garboard- that will be filled shortly.
I've taped the ends of the garboard so that the entire glued
strake is forced into the plank/brace groove.
On to the second
strake. To help hold the second and third strakes in place I coated the middle mold brace with beeswax and glued a ¼
x 1/32nd center strip to the inside of the second strake.
Fitting and gluing this strake is a two-step process.
mark, cut and trial-fit the second strake. Apply a bead of wood glue and clamp it to the garboard and the center strip. Both
ends should be free.
In the photo, both ends are free (unglued), and the bulldog clamps
are positioned at the ends of the glue line. The centerlines line up, and the second strake is forced into a tight fit with
the garboard and the center strip using another planking clamp.
this dry. Note that I have started to use pads between the keel plank and the string clamps. These pads have holes for the
strings, and the same twist levers, and a better view of them looks like this:
In the photo above, the second strake has been center-glued and
the clamps have been removed.
The next step is to force and
glue the second strake into the garboard and keel/ braces:
This will require some square scraps to hold the ends in place
while the glue dries. These may not be obvious in the picture, but they're there, and the center strip is now obvious.
The third strake takes a 3-way journey- around the chine angle on the mold,
upward to match the sweep on the model at the bow and stern, and inward as a glue-joint. There might be room on the
mold to attach it, but the basswood can only be bent so far.
some complex steaming and forming is in order. First, cut two 11-inch 1/4x1/32 strips. Next, construct a bending/press form.
In my case I am using the bending board as a base and a stir stick as the other half of a forming vise/stamping mold.
To help with the next step, this sketch may be helpful:
There should enough dimensions on the diagram to sync your actual
to the picture's actual. This will help form and place the third strake.
The third strake is going to be steamed and bent against its will (on the wide, not the thin). This will cause the
strip to twist as it seeks a better natural bending angle. A press is needed to force (flatten) the strake.
The paint paddle is between the two clamps. The bending pattern consists
of 3- 1/16th holes in the paddle. These are first laid out with cross-marks at dead center and two parallel lines
at 4.5 inches on either side of the centerline. The first hole center is ¼ inch from the paddle edge, and the other
two are marked at ½ inch from the same (bottom) edge. These are marked, and then holes are drilled through the paddle
and the plywood below.
In the photo (above), the planks are just above the paddle. They
are center-marked to line up with the middle line on the frame and platform.
The strakes are then steamed. This is not a casual steaming- very hot water for a few minutes should be completed
before they can be bent. (I used an electric cook top for this step, but placing them between wet paper towels and applying
a very hot iron will work just as well.)
Next, the strakes
are pegged in place using 1/16th dowels (broken oriental toothpicks in my case). This requires some amount of forcing
and bending. I'm using mini-clamps, but no matter what clamp is used, it is important that the pressure on the frames
allow the wood strip to bend to an unnatural curve. If too much pressure (arc) is applied, the bent strip will be forced into
an irregular curve at the points where it would normally twist to resist this unnatural shaping. Since I learned this lesson
already, you don't need to relearn it.
Once the strakes
are captured, the assembly was left to sit overnight. While drying, the whole operation looked like this:
In the photo a very small edge of one strake is visible at the
After the strakes had dried overnight the clamps came
off and the strips looked like this:
center points were dented by the middle peg, so the dimples were flattened using the small red pliers in the photo. The grain
in the basswood strips is never going to be perfect, so the resulting curve won't be, either. The twist area that I mentioned
earlier will be minimized, but unavoidable. Unless you can figure out how to locate a perfectly-grained strip of wood, ( and
I haven't), this irregularity will effect the steps that follow. If is more than a ¼ inch or so, re-steam and re-clamp:
trying to force a snug fit with glue won't work well.
the model from the frame, and line up the centerlines of the third strakes with the second strakes. One set of third strakes
will match up better with the other (laid) strakes. Keep track of which side pieces match best- marking them might be helpful.
On one set, mark the keel profile on a third strake, and trim the ends so
the third strake fits more or less comfortably into the second, and meets the keel plank more or less well, sanding as you
Place a dot of glue on one side of the center strip and
a glue line along one half of the second strake. Press the third strake into the second and clamp it along that line,
and force the end into the keel brace. This looks like (and might be) a world-class kluge:
It isn't obvious from the photo, but the other half of the
strake is seriously misshapen. Once the better side is set, I will begin to sand and glue the other. Again, note the (released)
scrap that is forcing the strake into the keel/brace groove.
might be a good place to mention that where we are with the model was depicted in the Fifth Dynasty tomb of Ti, where a large
bas-relief scene clearly shows the various steps involved in constructing a wooden boat. The scale of the strakes in that
scene very closely resemble the strakes we are placing- they were either steamed or adzed to a shape that also very closely
resembles the shapes that are being placed on the model. My method is considerably uglier than theirs.
The Cheops Royal Boat was constructed with 5 planks to a side. These were scarfed to
insure longitudinal strength, and pegs were inserted to hold the planks in place. The joints and seams were barely visible
when the workmen completed their joining and disappeared when they were caulked and tightened. We'll get to the thwarts
and deck beams pretty soon, but for now the point is that when the sanding and final shaping start there will be the same
caulking, filling and sanding needed to eliminate these seams on the face of the model. So if there are some very minor irregularities
they'll be sanded away. That is, unless you want an observer to note how difficult it was to form these strakes- in that
case leave an obvious seam or two. We could add a few more sets of frames to the mold, cut the joints and pegs and build the
model that way, but the workers depicted on the wall and I were and are going for a boat, not a psychiatry test.
After the third strakes are placed the boat is going to look something like
the next photo. To prepare for the ceiling (floor), the boat and the original keel plank pattern should look this:
In Khufu‘s boat, tunnels were drilled in an elongated "v"
shape through the hull planks, ropes were passed through the tunnel (or eye), threaded over a batten and then back down through
the next tunnel, over the next batten, etc.. Like everything else, this was done very precisely, and when all the tunnels
and battens were loosely threaded together, some sort of caulking was inserted into the hull seams, and the ropes were tightened,
forcing out any excess filler. This tightening step probably involved the same type of twisting vise that we've been using,
and undoubtedly also involved the thwarts, keel beam and ribs in a carefully orchestrated effort to tighten everything sequentially.
Let's start with the ceiling, which was not a ceiling
at all but solid pieces of planking. One of the reasons for the keel stringer was to shape the hull- the other is to provide
a space where this threading can be recreated without drilling hundreds of "v" tunnels and ruining the model in
The keel pattern should rest comfortably on the
keel stringers- if not, some very slight trimming of the pattern may be needed. The ceiling assembly is going to fit onto
the stringers, so the pattern fit is important.
The beam on
the pattern template should not be much broader than about 1 5/16 inches (33 mm) to accommodate five ¼ x 1/32 in. strips.
Any width adjustment that is much more or less than this can be made by ripping the middle strip to a width that results in
an overall width of 1 ¼ inches (31 mm).
not present on Tut's model, the shipbuilders of the actual-sized boat incorporated fore and aft bailing wells. This provided
access to the bilge, and in the case of the model, will provide visual access to the construction of the hull. This is a departure
from the original (Tut) model, but an important point when it comes to understanding the actual boats.
If you don't plan on revealing the construction of the hull, ribs and beams, you
can skip a lot of work (and authenticity) by fast-forwarding to the section that deals with the construction of the deck.
Otherwise, lay out the ceiling strips on the pattern to cover it completely
(there will be a 32nd or so showing on each side). Mark the width on a couple of scrap ¼ x 1/32 strips,
apply a light bead of glue between the marks on the reverse side and clamp the scrap strips to the ceiling strips at no particular
location. These are to brace the ceiling for the next steps. Be a little careful not to glue these braces to the work board.
This assembly looks like this:
On our model, Tut's throne is going to occupy a footprint on
deck of about 25x 10mm. I am going to construct the deck and throne so that the throne will be removable, allowing a visitor
to see the inner construction details. This can also be accomplished by adding removable bailing wells, so if that's your
choice, adjust the next steps to your method.
It is unclear
what device was used to bore the original, actual holes in the hull planking, but the tool(s) had an effective boring depth
of about ½ the plank thickness. In case your library didn't stock the text mentioned earlier, a much less professional
sketch of the hull plank construction looks like this( the heavy black line is the lashing, which in our case is the thread):
With 1/32 planks we can't peg the planks together, and we can't
bore the tunnels, either. But so long as the batten-lashing-batten pattern is followed with at least two threads per hole,
the ancients will probably forgive our compromise. Or not.
start with the drilling template.
Find or cut a piece of 1/16th
scrap cut to ½ x 2 inches. Construct a T-square using another piece of scrap ( 1/4x 1) squared and glued across one
end. Mark a line across the top of the square where the "T" meets. Lay the square on the ceiling and mark the location
of the seams on the top of the square. If you are using all ¼ inch strips on the ceiling, simply mark a 6 lines ¼
inch apart using a knife or a thin pencil. Mark 2 more lines on the long axis 1/16th from each edge- these will
serve as the drilling lines.
Turn the ceiling assembly over
(braces down), and trace the keel plank onto the ceiling blank, keeping the bow and stern of the tracing template centered
on the blank. Trim off the ends of the braces.
Place the T-square
on the ceiling blank and look at the marks and the planks. The plank seams should line up with the lines on the thin arm of
The 10 pound hemp has a diameter of about .5mm
and will compress slightly, but not much. So 2 strands of thread will be going through each hole with very little (no) room
for error in the holes. If any 2 holes are too close together or too close to a seam the wood will disintegrate, and if one
hole is too far apart a following hole will have to be too close to something. The hole pattern is critical, so if you don't
like the line or hole pattern on the first T-square, throw it away and build a new one.
Marking the holes on the drilling lines of the T-square is easiest if you don't measure them.
Find a piece if 1/16th scrap ( a fence) and line it up on the mark that lies over the first seam of the first ceiling
plank. Rest a pin on the fence and mark a hole- this will be the location of the first hole on the first plank. This hole
will lie on the right hand drilling line. Mark another hole on the left hand drilling line- this will be an alignment hole.
Move the fence to the next line and mark the second hole for the first plank on the right side. And so on, omitting the holes
on the left side until you reach the last plank where another one or two alignment holes should be marked.
Place the T-square on a flat surface (not on the ceiling), and drill pilot holes through
all the marked holes using a small (.7mm or so) drill bit. Put the T-square back on the ceiling blank and look at the hole
pattern and the planks. The hole pattern should be at least as exact as the ancients, and if it isn't, throw away that
T-square and start over.
If you are unsure whether or not the
T-square will pass muster, use the T-square and the same drill bit and drill a set of holes into a piece of scrap with no
seams. If the holes are crooked or unevenly spaced the T-square fails.
I'm using 10 pound hemp thread (.5mm); a rigging needle will add another .1-.2mm or so to the material going
through a given hole. So sooner or later 1.1-1.2mm worth of stuff will have to pass through each hole. So I'm going to
drill the final holes through the T-square and the planks using a 1.13mm drill bit. If you are going to use a thread
with a different diameter, do the math and pick out an appropriate final drill bit, keeping in mind that .5mm thread is about
the widest that will fit through all these holes.
Or use different
wood (plywood or hardwood), a different thickness of wood, or make the ceiling out of one wide strip instead of 5 thinner
strips. Any of these will work just as well, and so will thinner thread.
The picture shows the process :
The clamps that were pinned to the board have been trimmed. It's obvious
from the photo, that I'm using long hatpins- these make it easier to line up the alignment holes with the ceiling. The
top of the T-square is another check. This may seem like a lot of trouble, but from what can be seen of the lashing job performed
by the Egyptians they were apparently even more precise than this.
drilling the first set of holes (the right side of the template in the photo), move the template, press the centering pins
into the correct holes, down into the workboard, and drill another set of holes. Repeat until the fore and aft lines of holes
extend about 70mm on either side of center.
(As you will see in
a later chapter I did not extend the holes 70mm originally, so I had to stop and re-visit this step).
Returning to our discussion of wood tolerance, the holes will be slightly ragged, and since we have
to pass 2 threads through each hole the holes can be burnished by passing pins through them before the threading starts. At
this point I've drilled 10 holes per set, and 15 or so sets, so that's a lot of tugging on thread, and each pull puts
a strain on the planks.
After drilling, turn the ceiling blank back
over, use a knife to cut out the blank along the traced lines, and trial-fit the ceiling to the boat. My trial- fitting looks
If the center is pressed gently the ceiling should fit comfortably
into the hull with a 1/8th clearance created by the stringers.
Now for the battens. I'm using 1/16 x 1/16 strips for the battens. Each strip should be sanded to form
a slight crown (see the drawing) that will fit (just barely) between the holes that straddle each seam in the blanks.
In an actual boat, the thread that we are using on the ceiling followed the
bored tunnels, so the stitching is not visible on the outside of the hull. On our model, the stringers and centering brace
provide spacing between the hull and the ceiling to create this illusion. The stitching pattern follows the heavy black line
on the drawing without the middle tunnel(s).
I'll be using
10 pound dyed hemp to create a more dramatic color difference between the wood and the lashings, but the same contrast can
be created by staining the planks and/or the battens and using a lighter or natural color hemp. As the stitching proceeds
the ceiling will become much more rigid, and since we're going to need the whole assembly to warp into the boat, the lashings
should be tight enough to fit, but at the same time be slightly loose so the ceiling assembly can bend into the shape of the
As I was sanding the battens I marked the sanded surface
of each one- without that step it was difficult keeping track of which were the sanded edges.
I've started by lashing both ends first- this will keep the battens oriented. The loops are
neither tight nor loose- a hatpin can be used later as a marlinspike to tighten up any obvious holidays. The rigging
(or big eye )needle can be seen amidships. (It was been bent out of shape previously.) If you're trying to thread this
boat using anything but a big eye needle you will be in for a very tough slog.
If the thread on a second pass doesn't pull through with a
gentle tug, then the rigging needle probably pierced the strand in the first bundle- pull the needle out and aim for an open
corner in the hole. The basswood may still splinter between holes- if this happens, save the sliver, finish both threads and,
using a dot of clear nail polish and tweezers, push the sliver back into place. It will dry just fine- leaving an open split
in the wood is probably not the best way to display your work.
the rows of battens have been stitched, it's now time for the bow and stern sections. Before starting this phase, fold
the threads over the back and temporarily tape them in place using small strips of masking tape. Cut and glue a 1/8x1/8
spacer between the center set of threads on the same side as the glued braces. The length of this spacer is not important
so long as it nests between the keel plank stringers. Once the spacer has set, trim the lashings to a length that equals
the keel plank width- the end of each thread should reach the other side, but not much further.
We're now going to construct a fitting pin so that the ceiling can be removed and replaced accurately.
Place the ceiling back in the hull and press it down so that the ceiling
is forced to rest on the stringers and the middle brace. Drill a pilot hole through the ceiling, the middle brace and down
through the keel plank. Remove the ceiling and drill a final hole back through the middle brace but not through the ceiling
plank. Drill the same size hole through the keel. In my case I'm using a 1/16th dowel, so these holes are 1/16th.
Glue a dowel (or toothpick) into the middle brace hole and let it set. The dowel is now the centering pin.
The back of the ceiling should look something like this:
Once we're ready to complete the ceiling the lashings will
be tightened with a marlinspike (pin), so they are a little loose, and when the pegged ceiling is pressed into the hull, the
pin will go through the hull, and if tugged, will pull the ceiling into the keel plank. The boat should look like this when
the pin is pulled:
A bulldog clamp is holding the peg in place. Now we can begin the
Bow and Stern Pulpits (Sections)
bow and stern sections of Cheops' boat were independent of the hull structure. Whatever you choose to name them, these
structures were singularly important to a king or queen's boat. Other model boats that were present in Tut's tomb,
and many other examples of lesser boats might have been intended for other uses, but the sun boat was strictly his.
These sections should be called vertical papyriform structures (as I mentioned
earlier), but I'm calling them the bow and stern pulpits. In the Cheops boat these assemblies were fitted into the sides
and bottom of the hull and were lashed tight to side planks. The bottom seam was comfortably above the waterline and was not
lashed through the hull. They were structurally weak because of their vertical dimensions, and were held upright by overlapping
the pulpit's side with the strakes. This is the only case on that boat where hull lashings are visible- in order to achieve
the strength required to hold the pulpits upright, much thicker lashings were threaded through the strakes and then covered
by decorative battens. In the case of Tut's boat these lashings and battens were not included, but I believe these are
an important bridge between the actual and the model. So I'm going to overrule the Egyptian model builder and incorporate
them on the modern model. Whether this has dire consequences in the afterlife remains to be seen.
The pulpits on Cheops' boat were constructed using multiple pieces of cedar- these
pieces were most likely rough-cut with an adze, fitted precisely to each other and the hull, and then planed, abraded and
polished smooth before a final fitting and lashing.
details are not present in any of the models from Tut's tomb, but they are important to an understanding of Egyptian boat
construction as it evolved. So we are going to continue to diverge from a strict copy of one model to capture the essence
of many actual boats. As we go along feel free to choose to stick more closely to constructing a more exact copy of the model.
On the marked-up copy of the photograph and the museum photos there are clear
demarcation points between the main hull and the pulpits. These show up in the different colors, the pulpits appearing to
be being gilded gold, meeting the white and dark of the hull. While the ancients probably assumed that everyone knew
about the spiritual essence of the underlying cedar, that understanding in a modern context could easily be lost unless we
find a way to reveal the assumption. This is one more aspect of the model that you may choose to ignore or modify, but I'm
building my model and you're building yours.
As we have
gone along I have made the assertion that the last boat ever built owes its heritage to the first boat ever built. And then
there is the matter of equifinality and, last but not least, phi. The bow and stern sections of this boat are not theorem
proofs, but these sections will be built using the same bending frames as the whaleboat, since the natural sweep of the whaleboat's
bow and stern are identical to the curves found on Tut's boat. As a matter of fact, the drawing was made by tracing the
whaleboat bending templates onto a blank piece of paper.
comes into play when you consider the calculus formula for the natural curve of a bent piece of wood versus trying to duplicate
it any other way- the curve cannot be achieved other than by allowing it to bend naturally. You could try to beat this proposition
if you have a micron-level machine or a laser cutting tool, but the resulting piece of wood will look like a tooled piece
and will break if you touch it.
Equifinality rears its not-so-ugly
head because there are many ways to bend the wood, but there is only one result- an artistically pleasant curve. Not to mention
the fact that it is aerodynamically perfect.
Such is the tyranny
of nature and history- fight these if it suits you.
get at these two sections of the boat.
I'm using 4 scraps
of 1/16x¼ basswood for each section. After steaming, these are pegged into the bending frame:
It isn't obvious, but I have shielded the strips from the pegs
using scraps. This will prevent denting of the strips- they should emerge as very clean curved pieces. (This is the bow pulpit-
I'm planning on bending the stern somewhat differently.) Allow at least a few inches of excess material at each end- the
longer end will be incorporated into the keel plank and the shorter into the papyriform crown.
In case you wound up here before building the whaleboat, the bending form is covered in that book,
or trace the shape from the drawing below and build one using oriental tool picks and a plywood bending/clamping table.
The sweeps will change as the hull and assemblies are fitted, but
the drawing should be enough to convey where we're headed.
the pulpit strips have been in the bending form for a few hours, (still slightly damp), mark a line straight across all of
them as a reference point. Remove them and apply release (beeswax) to all of the form surfaces. Then apply a thin bead
of wood glue between the strips from the start of the curve to whichever end is going to point upward. Re-clamp and let dry
overnight. The laminated assembly should be flat to the form's base, and protected from the pegs by strips of (released)
When it comes out of the form, a pulpit should look
In the above photo the next pulpit is in the bending press, a formed
pulpit is behind it, and I have laid a cutout from the drawing at the bow of the boat. Whether the formed pulpit or the cutout
is the bow or stern has yet to be determined, since they should each fit either end of the boat. If you look very closely
at the end of the curved portion of the formed pulpit you can seen my pencil marking that was used to line up the pieces before
they were glued at one end, and to define an unglued area on the other end that could be cut and fitted to the hull. Since
the photo was shot at an angle it also isn't obvious that the formed pulpit is a pretty accurate 90-degree shape. ( Given
the many variations adopted by the Egyptians, a perfect 90-degree angle here seems preferable, but close-enough was acceptable,
Trim both ends of one pulpit, cut off both ends of the
ceiling (about 1 inch or so) and mark the keel stringers so that the pulpit will fit flush to the keel plank at what will
become the bow. Cut and chip out or remove the waste section of the stringers. Trial-fit the pulpit to the keel plank. I have
adjusted the fit so that what is now the bow blends into to the overall sweep of the hull. In my case the bow section does
not conform perfectly with the scaled photo, but it looks harmonious so that's where I'm going with it.
Remove the ceiling, and glue and clamp the pulpit to the keel plank. Don't
glue the strakes to the pulpit- some of the strake area has yet to be removed.
The stern assembly is more complex, and in many other models, is just not done pleasantly, or as artistically as
the ancient Egyptians, which amounts to the same thing. So it requires a little precision, patience and your judgment
of what looks right. My opinion in the matter counts for my model but not for yours.
Recall phi- it is an infinite number. In this case, like phi, there is no amount of physical measuring
that will make the balance of the model, and the bow and stern profiles mathematically perfect, or even correct, (if correct
is even the right term). Like quite a few things in life you'll have to know it when you see it.
Trim off about 3/8 of an inch at the stern, cutting through the strakes and keel
stringers, but not the keel plank. Like the bow section, mark the stringers, cut them on the mark, chip out or otherwise remove
the waste sections. The stern pulpit will rise about and trial-fit the stern pulpit (either end) to the keel plank.
Document the angle of the bow pulpit by leveling the boat
(I'm using a cardboard shim). Using the bending template and a piece of cardboard or paper, trace the elevation and angle
of the bow pulpit onto the paper.
My paper gauge looks like this:
The papyriform capital at the top of the pulpit at the stern will
have the same angle as its cousin at the bow. It will be slightly higher- both the Tut model and the Cheops actual are identical-
the stern is 1.07 the height of the bow at their highest point. Any other difference is probably the width of the pencil line
that I used as a guide. Why or if the angles and the heights matter is probably another subject of lively but pointless debate-
I'm sticking with the what not the why.
To achieve the
proper elevation and angle the stern pulpit will have to rise about 4mm, or 3/32nd , and I have sanded 4 more lengths
of 1/32nd strip into gently-sloped chisels- these will provide additional strength to the pulpit, and provide a
more robust sanding base. The stern assembly now looks like this:
Most of what appears to the left of the curve in the photo will
be cut off and discarded.
If you place this assembly on top
of the bow and stern pulpit drawing (the stern, bottom drawing ), the cut lines basically extend from the notch (facing the
bow on the drawing, on the right, above ), straight down and off. Then the remaining base should be cut at about a 12-degree
angle starting about an 1/8th of an inch in back of the notch and ending about 1 inch from the notch on the top.
If this all sounds too much like a geometry problem, cut a
piece of card stock or cardboard, fit it into place and trim it until you‘re comfortable with the cut pattern. Then
trace and cut the wooden piece.
Glue and clamp the stern pulpit
to the keel plank.
I leveled the boat on the board and marked
a line around the bow pulpit that is 62mm from the board, then I cut off the top of the bow pulpit at 70mm. In the stern I
marked the pulpit at 65mm and cut it off at 73mm. I cut the keel plank off at an angle at the bow to blend it into the pulpit
base, and at the stern I trimmed about ½ inch off the aft (rear) section of the plank and the pulpit.
I cut off the strake braces and gave both ends and the strakes a light pass
with the 150-grit sanding wand. The boat now looks like this:
Compared to both originals, the lines of the model are now pretty
clear, and it is more or less true to its heritage. That probably depends on the eye of the beholder and which aspect(s) of
which original(s) should dominate.
Let's keep going.
In the case of Khufu's
boat, what could be called ribs were lashed to the ceiling, and formed a platform for the thwart beams that in turn supported
a main beam that ran stem-stern. The forces on the main beam were transferred to the ribs by way of stanchions that supported
the thwart beams.
Harking back to the discussion of the steamboats,
you'll recall the hogging frames that were built to accommodate the weight of the massive engines- the Egyptians built
exact forerunners of these frames during at least the Eighteenth Dynasty, giving ship builders another 3,000 years to get
The lashing of the rib-stanchion-beam-truss structural
system on Khufu's boat was clearly secured by using some variation of the twist-rope vise, and it is likely that as the
boat was being tightened, wedges were used to keep the lashings very tightly held. The modern equivalent would have been the
tuning pegs on a grand piano.
With that in mind we can begin
to tune the boat.
I have steamed a 1/16 x 1 x 8 inch strip
of basswood that will become the apparent inner surface of the strakes. I'm using the same fixture and pattern that was
used to bend the strakes:
The length is about the shortest 1/16th that will bend
to the pattern without breaking. If you use something like 1/32nd or 3/64th material you can make the
Once the blank has dried, use the strake pattern
to trace a line on the blank. Cut the blank on the line, and then adjust the length of the blank to the length of the lashed
Trace the curve from the strake pattern onto the lower level of
the blank, and cut the blank along that line. Sand a slight bevel into the lower edge of the blank (sharp edge inward).
Then, using the drilling template, drill a companion set of holes through the blank, lining up the holes on the piece with
the holes in the threaded ceiling. Use the drilling T-square, running it along the straight (top) edge of the new blank.
Repeat this steaming-bending-drilling step for the other side.
Now let's fit the side ceilings to the hull ceiling.
Starting at the center and working fore and aft, thread sets of lashings, one at a time,
through the first row of corresponding holes in the side blanks (probably the first 2 or 3 in each direction) until the distance
between the threads and the edge of the deck is less than 1/16th (the thickness of the sides). Leave slack between
the deck and each side, and bring these threads back through the second set of holes.
At each end, loosely thread the last set of threads through the 3rd holes. The threads
are ready for the first batten. Loosely thread the lashings center through the 3rd holes in the same row, and slide
a 1/16th square strip across the side and between the 2nd and 3rd holes. Lightly snug the
threads to hold the batten, and then work your way across the row.
As in the above photo, the side batten should extend past
each end of the side, and the threads should be dangling out of the outboard side. At each end there will probably be a set
of threads that won't fit neatly into the side- these will prevent the side from forming onto the ceiling. These should
be re-threaded through themselves underneath the deck, and the side hole left empty.
from the center, snug the threads. The sides should now start to conform to the shape of the bottom. Working your way back
and forth, keep tightening the thread until the sides fit onto the top of the deck and both pieces are snug together.
As you are tightening it will become apparent that these sets of weak individual
lashings are, in fact, becoming incredibly strong as a group. If you want to test their strength, try pulling a batten back
out- it can't be done (or at least in one piece). We might have been able to apply glue to achieve a similar strength,
but when it came to building a ship, this threading-lashing format is the forerunner of the planking rivet, and achieves the
same result- the wood will be destroyed before the joint fails( assuming you could make the joint fail at all). This fact
will make an interesting discussion topic with an unsuspecting student of marine architecture.
Let's get back to the task. Apply dots of clear nail polish to each set of threads at the holes,
using a pin tip. When the polish is dry, trim off the threads and apply a coat of nail polish along the outer trimmed
row. Trim off any excess batten on the ends. The sides should look like this:
Complete the other side. As you go you may want to reposition the
ceiling in the boat to insure that it still fits, but it will.
When both sides are finished, replace the ceiling in the boat and firmly hold (clamp) it in place. Trace the
top of the third strakes onto the sides of the ceiling- this will be the cut line. Remove the ceiling and cut and sand the
ceiling sides level with the top of the third strake. As usual, cut on the outside of the line and then sand the line off.
On Khufu's boat the ribs were lashed to the ceiling bottom, stanchions
were lashed to the ribs, and the main fore-aft truss sat on the stanchions. The thwarts (beams) were mortised into and rested
on notches on the main truss and were stabilized with port and starboard lashings. The main deck rested on this truss- beam
With a minor risk of any viewer noting that the
ribs weren't, in fact, solid, you can probably combine the entire lower structure into one piece and call it a frame.
I was tempted, but it would have looked too much like a kit, so let's get on with the structure.
I've cut 5 ribs, each 1 inch long from a 1/16 x 1/8 strip. Using the fine saw blade
and knife, I've chipped out notches to clear the battens, and tacked these in place with white glue. On the actual these
would have been lashed using a crisscross pattern between mid-plank tunnels, but due to our restricted real estate I've
drilled new holes on either side of each rib and lashed them to the keel plank with a single thread.
The ceiling now looks like this:
The centerline is not yet lashed because I intend to lash any stanchions
when we get there.
Pulpit CapitalsTo achieve the symmetrical
rounding of the forward edges of the pulpits I'm using a 1 in. strip of 150-grit sandpaper. The hull is clamped to the
table, and to avoid any side motion I've drilled a hole in the worktable for a holding dog that fits through the centering
hole in the keel plank. This is not as complicated as it sounds
The bow and stern pulpits are part of separate sections that are
discrete on the Khufu boat and implied on Tut's model. On the actual, these sections slid into the hull, and were lashed
into place through the strakes and into the keel plank. The overall impression is one sweeping curve into the vertical, rising
to a papyriform capital. On the actual the pulpits were formed by carving two planks into the correct shape and pegging and
lashing them together- they were then mortised into another set of planks that flowed into the hull. The model appears to
have been built from one solid blank, so this was not the same problem that we face. So, as usual, we're going to give
a nod to both and wind up somewhere in the middle.
to shape the pulpit by working the sandpaper up and down the pulpit, maintaining pressure (symmetry) as you go, and try to
achieve a slight forward/upward taper. I plan to cut the top of the pulpit later, so precision at that end is not all-important.
Once the pulpit is rounded on the forward edge, use a sanding wand to sand a slight upward taper on both sharpened edges,
and sand it half-round again. (The holding fixture can be as simple as your lap.)
This as good a time as any to glue the ceiling in place. At both ends, cut off about 1 inch, down
through the battens and ceiling planks. Apply glue lines along the keel stringers and the middle brace in the ceiling, clamp
it securely and let it dry. Then cut off the alignment post and sand it flush to the bottom.
The round papyriform capitals will be weak if a single piece of wood is used for a blanks, so I'm
going to make 2 capitals out of circles cut out of a scrap of 1/16th basswood. I have a pattern template, but any
series of round holes will work fine.
First, trace the circles:
The exact diameter is not important, but the capital is going to
flow into the pulpit, so the smallest circle should be the width of the pulpit (¼ inch or so). In my case I'm starting
at ¼ and building up to 3/8. If you want to make the curve in the capital more severe, change the diameter more abruptly
and use fewer blank circles. I rough-cut these away from the blank and then rocked the knife around each perimeter.
Glue 2 sets, stacked like pyramids of 3-4 blanks each. When the glue dries, drill pilot holes close to each center from the
bottom up, but not penetrating the top (largest) circle. Drill a final hole to the diameter of whatever wooden post ( toothpick,
etc.) you have on hand, ( I'm using some 1/16th dowels) and glue these in place. The rough assemblies should
look something like this:
In this case I'm going to cut the pegs midway, and chuck them
into a rotary tool ( a cordless drill). The first sanding step is to round/square the top layer using a square sanding wand.
I want the curve to blend, so I have wrapped 100 grit sandpaper around a standard 5/16th pencil. This
is how mine looked after milling the first one:
I'm going to sand these to approximately the same size. I'm
not going to try and achieve the delicate reed and ring pattern on the Tut's boat, since that is a good deal more whimsical
than the straight rounded capital found on Khufu's boat. Looking at all the variations in the many originals, that detail
ranges from non-existent to elaborate, so my vote is simplicity. If you disagree, have at it.
The size and angle of the capital, the rake of the pulpits, the size of the fore and aft deck platforms
and other details that we'll explore all imply that the ancients probably had a wry sense of humor. Nothing else would
explain their exact adherence to details that were so widely mixed and matched. This also leads to the conclusion that any
model builder worth his salt might as well go along with the joke and laugh at least once or twice when a modern attempt to
match them goes to hell.
( I bring this up because my first
attempt to bring phi into the picture with the pulpits and capitals resulted in what can only be described as a kluge. Throwing
phi to the winds resulted in a much more pleasant but mathematically-incorrect bow and stern.)
Drill a shallow, centered, hole down into the center of the bow pulpit and trial-fit the capital.
If it is off-center, saw off the pulpit‘s head to the depth of the hole and re-drill. There is no fixed or proportionate
rule for the height of the pulpit, but try not to deviate too much from the scaled photo‘s proportions. When everything
seats well, drill a slightly deeper hole, trim off some of the peg, and glue the peg and capital into the pulpit. Repeat at
the stern pulpit.
I'm going to call the forward section
the forward section. Using the keel plank pattern, trace the forward section onto a piece of 1/16th basswood. Much
of this will be sanded away, so 1/16th is about the best thickness. Lay this out so that the deck piece is cut
cross-grain: cutting in this direction allows flexibility so the deck can climb up the pulpit. This piece should be about
½ inch long- I've rounded the front edge but that is probably not necessary.
Trial-fit the deck piece- there should be at least a 1/32nd lip along the edge where
it meets the third strake. Glue and clamp it in place. On the aft piece, cut it with a ¼ inch flat nose, and cut out
a ¾ x ¼ inch rabbet that slides over the rear pulpit, again with a small side overlap. Sand a slight bevel into
the edge that fits against the pulpit. Then glue and clamp the stern section.
There is no apparent reason why the bow and stern sections are discrete. In the hieroglyphic scenes of boatbuilding,
the ends of the boats all appear squared or pointed, and many of the models are built the same way. In one relief, Tut can
be seen standing on a squared papyrus float, but other scenes that include other kings include the pulpits, while nobles must
have been content with the plain bow and stern. This begs the question of whether most of the wooden boats actually had dual
purposes- on Monday a noble's boat and on Tuesday, the king's ceremonial boat. Wooden boats were scarce, and cedar
boats nearly nonexistent, so recycling the main section of a boat is a very logical possibility. It would not have been difficult
to switch the sections, and when you're trying to conserve precious cedar, and precise woodwork, this approach would have
been consistent with the ancient's good common sense. I'm certain that this is issue could be another source of lively
I've started to blend the capitals into the pulpits
with the ceiling in place. I'll be using round wands for much of the sanding on both the capitals and the decks, so with
the decks in place, the boat's status and the wands I'm using are shown in this photo:
At this point the boat has begun to resemble Tut's boat with
a clear nod to the actual at Giza. The pencil wand is carrying both 100 and 150-grit and the larger wand only 150.
Like its cousin the whaleboat at about this point, the once-delicate and
fragile hull is very strong. I didn't toss it quite as far as the whaleboat but I did toss it, so if you drop it on the
floor at this stage it will survive. (Throwing it on the floor may cause a bit more damage.)
Fore and Aft Sections, et.
built the frigate you have a leftover piece of 1/64th plywood. If not, either buy a small sheet or improvise as
best you can with what you have on hand.
I've cut a 2 in.
slab from the plywood sheet, cutting across the grain. ( You would not expect a grain in something this thin, but it's
there. ) I then traced the pulpit/strake/deck outline onto the plywood. Since there is a break in the sweep where the strake
meets the pulpit, I overlaid a French curve, retraced the piece and then cut it so that it appears to be one long sweep. I
re-squared the end of the plywood strip, traced the cut section onto the new end and cut a twin. These will become the forward
sides- a little light sanding may be needed to create a more or less perfect pair. The aft pair will be done exactly the same
Holding one piece against the hull, imagine a 90-degree
angle to the waterline and sand the after (rear) edge down to achieve that angle. Sand both pieces until they fit more or
less perfectly into the space between the keel plank overlap and the deck overlap. They should line up identically with the
aft edge of the foredeck Glue these in place, and repeat on the afterdeck/hull sides. When the hull is sanded there
will be a tiny overlap where these sections meet the strakes- that is intentional, and will be eliminated.
Find a comfortable place to relax, because we're now going to begin the sanding
process, and it's going to take a few hours of start-stop-inspect-continue-repeat to blend everything together. If this
step turns out uncomfortably badly, then your boat could probably best serve as a fire-starter, and it's time to go back
to page 1. (If it only turns out semi-badly, then keep going with the thought of donating a practice version to a worthy child
as a bath toy.)
In the sanding process I'm only using 150-grit
paper- mostly cut strips to achieve rounded edges on the chines (bottom and sides) and flat wands where straight edges meet
(decks). The width of the strips will vary based on the location (large or small area) and the curve or angle I'm trying
to achieve. It should be apparent that there are no metrics or rules here- try something and see how it goes. If it goes well,
keep going- if it's off-course do something else. That's my plan, and if I screw up I have a child in mind who takes
regular baths. Or I could just take a break and build a birdhouse before I start over.
If you find that you have tiny areas that are exposed by sanding, or that won't sand into a
more or less perfect profile, make a sawdust/glue paste, fill them in and keep going. We have a long way to go and there's
no timetable. Furthermore, if you are working under any source of artificial light and you think you're done sanding,
take your model out into a very bright morning sun and inspect it carefully. Under these conditions you will discover how
far away from being done you really are.
Having gone through
the first sanding phase, give the fore and aft assemblies a coat of clear nail polish. Basswood is a wonderful wood, but sanding
will lift the grain and leave small fiber strands all over the place. This will become apparent after the first coat dries-
the tiny hairs will become very obvious.
Once the polish is dry,
polish the polish. Using very fine steel wool or a clean plastic scouring pad, go over the polished areas to remove the burrs
(not the polish). Apply a second coat. These priming and sealing coats will allow the final finish to show its stuff. You'll
also find even tinier areas that will need some minor touchups with filler, sanding, etc.. Touch these spots and polish the
I can't be sure what the ancients might have
chosen as a color scheme. Khufu's boat was not adorned at all, while Tut's boat appears to be gold clad at the bow
and stern, and trimmed with white, red and black. The decks and wales are clearly white, and his chair or throne is clearly
You can hold off painting the bow and stern sections,
but since I have a bottle of copper paint handy I'm going to apply a first coat of metallic copper to both sections.
I will change the color later, so consider this coat another step that will allow a closer inspection of the final finish-
at this point a light coat of any glossy finish will work.
you endured lashing the ceiling and ribs this is probably a good time to start thinking about how you want to display your
work. I believe the construction details are important, but I haven't come to any conclusions on how I want to share them.
But we're about to button up the boat, so a little thought is in order.
Khufu's boat was built with convenient deck hatches- on this model these would allow inspection of the inner
workings of our boat. Tut's boats were sculpted from solid materials, so no insights there. A very useful and impressive
display format is the cross-section, as in the frigate. Another is the longitudinal section, and many fine models employ variations
of this to encourage an understanding of both the original and the model builder. I'm in no great hurry to either cut
the model in half or close it up completely. A dilemma.
this quandary I'm going to proceed with the boat's deck.
starting with the throne.
Throne ( 1 of 2 )
Outside its basic
dimensions, Tut's throne was adorned with fish scale patterns and relief sculpture of a classic standing cat which no
doubt represents the goddess Bast. This not the place to get into the importance or significance of cats in either Egypt or
my home, but the cat does appear on the sides of the throne, probably as a protector. ( I can confirm that in over 10,000
years of domestication, cats haven't changed one bit. Mine hasn't encountered any cobras lately, so I may be wrong.
But I don‘t think so.)
While I'm at it I've included
a drawing of the paddles that will be built as we go. For those who recall the incendiary discussion of the whaleboat's
paddles, the paddles used by the Egyptians are identical to those of the Aleut's- half a world and many centuries away.
Flatten the handle and these can be found in most outdoor outfitter's stores today.
In some of the literature that traces the history of the oar, the classic oar/oarlock/rowing format
suggests one and only one way to row a boat. Any fisherman will tell you that sculling (moving an oar back and forth from
the stern) is a very powerful and much quieter way to go about approaching fish (or whales if you go back to the beginning
of this series).
I could get the debate ball rolling here
by calling these things Maybellines, but I'm going with paddles which, headed downstream acted as rudders, and upstream
pushed the boat along. They also functioned as depth-finders, crocodile repellants and air conditioners for the pharoah. You
can make them as stylishly whimsical as it gets, since the ancients did the same thing.
Here are the basics:
I copied the throne elevation onto a piece of card stock, cut it
out and will use it as a pattern.
The most difficult part of
the throne is the curved (scrolled) seat. There are probably dozens of ways to create the compound curves, but having tried
a few of these with questionable success, I'm going to describe what seems to work the best.
(This is not exactly the same, simpler seat seen on Tut's boat. The scroll cushion
does show up on numerous other pictures of fine chairs and thrones, and what I believe to be a woven cushion would probably
have been created by the artist if tasked. I'm going out on a limb again because I doubt my ability to carve a seated
cat into the sides of the throne. If you can carve the cat and the scalloped design, go for the plain seat. If you go for
the bent cushion I can speculate that very few people will know how it was done.)
Trace the seat outline onto a ¼ inch piece of scrap. ( Having wasted my last few pieces of
plywood scrap on earlier failures I'm using a 5-gallon paint stirrer.)
I cut out a larger blank that could be clamped and used a hand
jig saw to cut out three layers at once.
off the clamp stock the pieces were glued. This solid piece might pass for a throne, but it just won't look right (remember
After some trimming with a razor saw and sanding the
block should look something like this (along with what‘s left of the paddle):
Steaming and bending these angles takes a little time. In my case
I crosscut a ¾ in strip of 1/16th basswood. Then, using the solid blank, drilled holes for the bending pegs
and the spool into the bending table. The critical bend here is the very top of the throne, so after destroying a few strips
of wood I rounded it slightly, and at that bend, made six knife-saw kerfs on the back edge of the strip to absorb the bend.
(Each of these cuts was a little less than ½ way through the strip, and these were spaced at about 1/32nd.)
Bending with the grain will work- trying to bend across the grain will create a uniquely-twisted piece of scrap.
To bend the curve into the main part of the seat I have fitted the
same bobbin to the bending table- to do this I pressed the bobbin against the blank, and drilled holes in the table for the
bobbin pegs.In the bending form the scroll cushion should look
something like this
As you can see, the pegs had to be reinforced with a little help
from shims. The clamp forces the bobbin into the seat. The wet/hot seat will stay in the form overnight (more if it takes
longer to completely dry). It will be fragile when it comes out of the form.
The first step is to give the throne seat a slight bit of strength by applying clear nail polish to the top and lower
bend (stressed) areas. Then mark a cutting line about ¼ inch from the top and bottom of the cushion (see the diagram).
The plan is to make the throne the focal point of the model,
and at the same time use the throne as a portable handle for a window into the inner work (ceiling). (If you decided not to
construct the lashed ceiling, then the throne will serve as simply a throne.)
The piece parts of the throne are laid out here:
WARNING NOTE !
Be warned- I wound
up making two different thrones, and this is the first version. It will turn out to be OK as far as thrones go, but not up
to the higher standard that I was going for. My advice is to read this section to get a feeling for this throne, then read
the next throne section, and only build one version.
rough-cut and then sanded 2 scrap pieces of 1/8th pine from a small stirring paddle, ( any 1/8th piece
will do), using the solid form as a sanding fence (guide). These should fit snugly into the cushion, and I‘ll call these
The legs will be cut from 4 oriental toothpicks,
knurled end down, and I'm going to fit these into the pine to form a seat and either into 1/8th square basswood
or brass rod that will form the lower frame (stretchers). Variations of this chair were found in many ancient tombs, ( Amehotep
is the example I have chosen).
Measure about ¼ inch
from the seat on one arm, clamp it to the other and use a razor saw to cut off the bottoms on that mark. Center-mark drill
holes about 2mm from each end on the arm bottoms and drill pilot holes and the 1/16th holes (about 2mm deep) into
the arm bottoms.Mark 5/8th of an inch from the knurled
ends of the toothpicks, and then cut and sand each so that the 5/8th sections form the chair legs that fit into
the arms. Glue these in place:
I have drilled holes through the chair legs for pieces of scrap
brass wire. Whether you choose to install these or other stringers is optional. I then center-drilled the seat stringers to
accept scraps of copper wire to hold then in place. The piece parts:
And when these are in place, the seat can be added. I have used
contact cement to hold the seat, and wood glue to join the stringers. The throne begins to look like this:
After some light sanding I have given the entire throne a primer
coat of clear nail polish.
The bow and stern sections of the
boat were similarly primed. After cutting and fitting a (card stock) template, I traced and rough-cut the main deck using
leftover 1/64th plywood from the frigate.
point, here we are:
I have obviously added 3 sets crossbeams and mortised a 1/8 x 1/16th
center beam into them. You can add as many beams as you think appropriate, but the center beam is a signature part of Khufu's
boat. It isn't entirely obvious in the photo, but I also cut a scrap of clear plastic (from a greeting card box) into
a 1x 1.5 inch rectangle. The throne in the photo is standing on that piece, and I plan to cut a viewing hole into the deck
to hold the base of the throne and provide a window into the ancient technology (and all that lashing work) below the main
I have given the bow and stern sections a coat of finish
The throne also has a first coat of finish paint.
As you will find if and when you begin looking for a suitable paint, not all golds are the same gold. I chose a shade that
probably has a fairly high copper content- this seemed to match the gold on Tut's boat. The label claims that it is a
gold leaf, but there are many choices here of not only paint, but various metallic leaf products. So go with whatever suits
your notion of ancient gold.
At this point I'm going
to give the hull and main deck a coat of white (primer), cut out the window and clear-glue a 1/64x1/8th frame around
the inner rim of the window. After gluing the clear plastic window to the frame, the boat looks like this:
With this picture window under the throne I can't imagine being
accused of stealing any ancient secrets. And this format is an invitation to an inquisitive child (or adult) who wants to
understand an incredibly practical and precise boat building technology. There may be other ways to make the point.
Main Deck Finishing
It's now time
to button things up and add a few key details to the boat's exterior.
First, I'm going to run a heavy bead of white glue along the tops of the strakes and ceiling. The hope is that,
as I tape down the deck, the glue will be forced out of the seams. With a little sanding this should result in an invisible
The steering posts and paddles are pretty
straightforward. On Khufu's boat the steering paddles were leaf-shaped (more pointed) and laminated. On Tut's model
the shape more closely followed what a typical Nile paddler might have used on his papyrus boat, and were carved from a single
piece of wood.
The steering/sculling platform on Khufu's
boat was a simple spindle- the paddles rested on top of the thwart-wise shaft and were most-likely lashed in place. The platform
on Tut's boat was a slightly advanced affair, with locks bored through a circular overhang, and pedestals were installed
to provide a convenient holding place for the handles. These can be seem in the pictures of the actual. Taken to the extreme,
crutches were also provided as rests for the handles- possibly for neatness or simply as a guarantee that the boat would be
ready to sail at a moment's notice. For all I know these guesses have been debated, with no clear conclusion.
I cut the paddles from 1/16th basswood sheet (see the drawing),
and glued 1/16 x 1/16 strips to either side of the shafts. After the glue dries, taper the strips into the face of the paddle
and spin the shafts inside a sheet of 150-grit sandpaper to round them. Since I ran out of any reasonably-dark wood stain
I gave the paddles a coat of copper paint- it is red enough to imply cedar and dark enough to be any other king-worthy wood.
I tried various iterations of sculling platform. The one that seemed closest
to the Tut photo was made from scrap 1/32 plywood. The dimensions turned out to be ¾ x 2 inches. I traced the deck
onto both sides of the blank and glued a 1/6th piece of scrap to the ends so that the platform would snug to the
hull. After drawing lines 1/8th inch from the hull line, I centered ½ inch circles on that line and used
the knife to cut the outside edges of the platform. A 5/32nd hole drilled through the centers created the space
for the paddle shafts.
The two 1/8th inch posts
( whose purpose escapes me and the builders of Khufu's boat) were then pinned with planking nails and glued square to
the centerline between the lines.
Both ancient boats were built
with splash rails that extended almost the entire length of the deck. Trying to add these before the deck is glued in place
is an invitation to broken glue joints, so I'm adding these after the deck glue has set and the sweep has settled into
its final form.
For these rails I'm using 1/32
x 1/8 strips, pre-painted white. To hold these in place I have notched 2 scraps of 1/8 square strip, fastened with rubber
bands. To force the strips onto the deck I'm using other long scraps. The rails will want to twist as they are bent to
a compound curve, so I'm also clamping them amidships using a temporary brace. The brace is held in place with white glue
and will be broken away after the rails are in place. You could try to steam and/or press the rails, but the curve of the
resulting strips won't match the deck curve perfectly, so this clamping process is probably inevitable. The process looks
I'm going to hold the center in place with a ½ x 1/16
x 2 inch scrap and another rubber band. I laid down a bead of white glue 1/8th inch from the edge of the deck under
the rails, and forced the rail assembly into that glue bead. Once the rails were in place and clamped I cleaned off the exposed
glue with a q-tip.
While that dries I went back to Throne
I- it was just a little too plain.
I added a tiny black stripe
around each spindle, and a 1/32nd red stripe a the base of each arm. These basic colors are found on a number
of different thrones in various formats such as checkerboard patterns, and are a minor but needed distraction.
The steering/sculling platform was primed and given a coat of gold leaf paint.
Once the rails are in place it's time for a little (or
a lot) of finishing. The bow and stern sections on Khufu's boat were held in place with lashings that were threaded and
bound to battens like the hull planks- the lashings on these battens faced inward and were invisible.
First, the bow and stern sections on Khufu's boat were lashed to reinforcing battens
inside the hull, and the same threading pattern as the hull planks. The exterior of the planks were shaped to make the presentation
more finished, since raw rope would have looked out of place on an otherwise exquisite hull. Tut's boat, crafted from
solids, did not make a point of how these sections were attached, but I will.
I drilled 2 holes through the bow and stern sections using the ceiling template and drill bit, and like the ceiling,
threaded a double set of lashings through the hull. A dot of nail polish holds them in place.
This last bit of lashing is enough to arouse some curiosity, but there is still a need to show the
ceiling, but not right away. So I'm going to conceal it. But take heart- the window that was so much trouble to construct
will still be an important part of the model.
with a number of alternative coverings I went back to the same sheet of plastic that I used on the window. I made a card stock
template that fit snugly between the rails (side to side) and barely covered the window (front to back).
The plastic (or any other clear plastic) will not hold paint by virtue of the fact that
its surface is so smooth- even nail polish will scratch off if you touch it. I know this to be true.
So after cutting out a plastic copy of the paper template I sanded both sides of the
plastic cover using 150-grit paper, and sanded all four sides with a wand. The platform and the window cover (before painting
white) look like this:
(The rest of the plastic is in the background.)
The oar lock holes may need to be tapered outward slightly so the paddles will fit at
an appropriate angle. A small rattail file does the job.
model was probably bright white when it was sculpted, and bore a set of three stripes on either side- these are clearer in
the linked photos.
To apply these stripes you have a number
of choices. Hobby and craft stores carry thin striping tape that can be easily applied. I've used it, and it probably
looks good on a plastic model, but on a wooden boat it looks like striping tape. They also carry thin, model masking tape-
this also works well on plastic surfaces but will dent when pressed into the tiny imperfections inherent to wood. Either one
of these options might work here.
That probably explains why
I didn't use them.
Instead I laid out short ( 12 inch)
strips of regular masking tape that I had on hand on a sheet of glass and smoothed these to the glass with a fingertip. Using
a metal ruler as a fence I cut a number of strips- some 1/16th, others 1/8th and wider- using the knife.
These can be peeled off the glass, and since the adhesive is somewhat thicker than the modeling tape, it seems to do a better
job of gripping the wood.
You will need a very small brush
for the striping, and you'll probably have to visit an art supply store to find one that works. Before you do that, my
advice is to apply the tape that you plan to use to a painted scrap, paint the stripes as best you can with what you have,
and then go shopping nor not. Your brush may work out just fine, but if you need to buy a brush you'll know exactly what
brush tip is best for you.
Here is the starboard side as the
taping went along:
I didn't tape the deck- the top (blue) stripe flows along the
third strake and the deck. The window cover is above the model and to the right.
I'm using primary colors- the blue is navy, and the red is fire engine. After painting the stripes, filling
in the ends and putting all the pieces on the workboard, this is where we are:
At this point the model looks fairly close to what probably went
into Tut's tomb, except for the throne and the eye of Horus at the bow. But it doesn't look at all like what came
out of Tut's tomb- the white is about 3,000 years too new and bright. So some more aging is in order.
The first step is to create an alternative throne. If you chose not to expose the ceiling,
or, alternatively, not to cover the window, or even a different way to hide the window, then you may not need a different
throne. In any case you know how to mold the seat, which is the hard part, so a new throne is a minor task.
Throne ( 2 of 2)
This time I steamed
a ½ x 1/64 strip of plywood in the same bending form that we used on the first throne. In addition to the cat, Tut's
throne was inlayed with a fish scale pattern, so to work this into the design I sharpened a scrap of copper tubing and then
ground off about 1/32nd from one half of the circular cutting face. This created a semicircular punch, and when
rested on and against a 1/32nd basswood fence, punched nice semicircles straight through the plywood.
So to get to the fish scale pattern I softened things a bit with small strips (spacers) of tape. This is an effective
but not particularly elegant setup, and looks like this:
I cut another bending form from scraps of stirring paddles, sanded
it, and glued the fish scales to either side of the form. Once the sides were cut and sanded I glued the seat in place- there
was about a 1/64th overlap on each side that I sanded down, and then gave the throne a coat of gold leaf paint.
Sitting on the model, it now looked like this:
The scales are not too clear in the photo but they stand out on
the model. (In this photo you can see that I'm screwing around with the concept of a floating stand.)
Removing the window cover for that interested child (or adult), and you get:
This is pretty much what I was going for when I started the model.
Except, of course, for that aging process.
Aging the Model
There are many
ways to age white paint. It can be scuffed, dented, stained or even burned. If you study our railroad colleagues, they are
past masters at aging railways and scenery- in many cases the older and more beaten-up the better.
But I'm going to borrow a page from the furniture distressing handbook and age the
boat using a series of washes.
If you drink coffee or tea
you already have one wash at hand- add cream and you have a slightly older and dirtier wash. Stick a brush in your cup, spread
it on and wipe it off and you've added at least a hundred years to any (flat) bright white.
I'm going to mix up a nastier brew using brown and yellow acrylic paint- by varying each color
and the thickness of the soup, I can really mess up a nice white. (Before jumping into this phase I suggest painting some
scraps white and playing with various discolorations that suit your notion of 3 millennia underground.) For starters, this
The window cover didn't stain as well as the rest of the deck,
so when it dries I'll give it another coat or two of bright white and mess it up again.
Adding the eyes of Horus to the bow section is optional, but with a little practice and a micro-tip
pen it can be done.
I think I owe it to the model to at least
make the stand base out of red cedar, and there are a couple of hardwood dealers (Woodcraft, etc.) who stock dimensional aromatic
cedar. So sooner or later I'll use cedar for the base. Until then I'm using a spare oak base (½ x 3 x 6).
I've floated the model on its mail peg using a fitted assembly. I like the idea that it just doesn't sit on
a fixed peg. No instructions here- the base is a matter of how you see your finished product.
The oiled oak is good enough for the title picture, so, like all the other models, I'm done