Rigging Plastic Ships

The rigging of plastic ship kits differs from that of wooden kits. On a wooden kit, you normally set up all the rigging on the various belaying pins or whatever and make the tidy little rope coils and install them, and get everything ready down on the deck before you attach the masts, then you run the lines from the deck up to the yards, sails and/or masts.

On a wooden kit, you can pull on those yards and they won’t bend or distort (unless you put Clint Eastwood torque on it), so you can tie them off “up top” and have a nice, clean job.

On a plastic kit, pulling (even a little) on a plastic yard or mast will bend it or pull it out of place. the only way to deal with this is to attach the line “up top” after the masts and yards are assembled, and then, very gingerly. pull the line down to the deck, draw it just taught, and secure it to a belaying pin or clevis or whatever — just like the real thing.

Except that you’re not a half-inch tall and doing this is crazy-making, especially on a small model. This is (yet another) reason why wooden models never have been replaced by the plastic variety.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes on a wooden model the lines are drawn down and tied off, and on a plastic model it is possible, once in a while, to attach a line to a deck fixture and then pull it up to the yard, but this is the opposite of the usual thing. It also explains why it is very challenging to make the deck look all authentic and tidy when building a plastic kit.

In truth, the plastic sailing ship model is a study in contradictions. It’s more authentic and less authentic. It’s easier and more difficult. It’s less work and more work. What it really is, ultimately, is more-or-less compatible with a set of skills gained while building other kinds of plastic kits. You don’t have to have the woodworking skills required to build a wooden model, or the scratchbuilding skills, for that matter.

On this Golden Hind, I’m dependent upon the instructions. Without them I wouldn’t know a scupper from a dingy. So, all in all, I feel pretty good about this experience. I am getting a little anxious to get back to the airplanes, now.

2 Replies to “Rigging Plastic Ships”

  1. I think you are doing a great job on the Hind, but I also look forward to your return to aircraft. It is in that genre from which I can learn.

    1. I’m looking forward to it as well. Made good progress today. I think the lookout is shouting “aircraft ho!”

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