Ship in a Bottle. Chinese Junk




Introduction: Ship in a Bottle. Chinese Junk

So after long time I back to making ships in a bottle. In fact, I am working all around the world and several years of break in ship building was due to my work locations – I had no opportunity to continue. And now I’m ready to start again.

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Step 1:

I made promise to myself, that if I restart doing ships I will fabricate my tools first of all. Of course, it did not happenJ. I did my new tools, but in very primitive way, as to fabricate properly tools you need another workshop, which I do not have. Never mind, tools that I use do the job, so it most important. Tools I use inside of bottle are:


Cutting blade

Strong and very fine hooks

Simple wire

Rope guiding tools

Gluing tool

Nail sanding sponge

Other things that you will need:

Wood, soft for carving.

Wooden tea sticks

Dry grass straws

Hobby paints

Sewing thread

PVC glue (wood and paper glue), white one

Cianoacrylate glue (superglue). Better use superglue gel, but I did not find here, so I was struggling with liquid one.

Oher little things and tools I will not mention; you may see later as the work progress.

Step 2:

In fact, before doing this Chinese junk, I did full rigged ship

, but instructable is not that good – I lost many pictures from the beginning.

So, starting from selecting ship to build and making sketch. I always wanted to do Chinese junk in a bottle, so I googled for suitable picture first. Then, for the first time, I did not draw sketch by hand, but used PowerPoint. And I found it really easy and much more fun. Also, you can correct your drawing much easier if you see some mistakes. Drawing softwares could be good as well, but I am not pretending to be an expert so I go for simple PowerPoint.

Step 3:

First, dimensions of the bottle interior and bottle neck. You can’t push inside of botte something bigger than bottle neck, and ships must be as big as possible to make looking good inside. So bottle dimensions are where we begin planning our ship. Put square on sketch. Print just to try if dimensions on drawing correspond dimensions in reality. Strongly but with Mac I never had problems about dimensions on sketch and on paper after printing, but always with Windows. So I increased by 15% square to match real measurements, in my case.

Paste picture of the ship and zoom under the limits of square. From here we can start sketching masts and sails and connecting points for rigging. Print final slides for reference as it will be 1:1 scale for ship building. For printing sails and flags you need to use double side printing, so here is how to do. Just note that I did add some texture with transparency of 75%. Sails look better and more natural.

Step 4:

The hull of the ship appeared too big to be inserted to the bottle in one piece, so it must be done in two – upper deck and lower part. And body of the ship is slightly curved, that is why I decided to make it from wooden tea sticks, glued together like plywood in curved shape. First, drill 3 holes in a piece of wood, and place supports. I had drill piece that perfectly matched my dremel tools, so I used them. Of course, it can be done by 3 screws, or nails, or whatever. Sandwich wooden tea sticks with PVC glue and place in to shape for drying. Let dry overnight.

This is the result of lower hull. Upper deck curvature must match lowed hull, so glue upper deck sandwich using lower hull as template. Let dry overnight.

Step 5:

Now time for shaping and sanding, for what I used dremel tool and sponge nail sanding tool. Sponge one is much more easier to work with than simple sanding paper. Excess of PVC glue must be removed by sanding completely, as it will not allow water based varnish to cover wood. It would be not a problem if opaque hobby paints are used, but I decided to make junk of natural wood looking.

False boards are slightly curved, so I bent them to match grooves on the upper deck. Tip here – put drop of water on wood and let it dry overnight. Once is wet and dried it will keep desired shape. Glue false boards with superglue and other parts as rudder, keel, but be careful not to excess as glue will cause discoloration of wood. I did few mistakes, though. Make final sanding.

Step 6:

Once both ship parts are ready, they need to receive first layer of varnish. Later works with superglue will unavoidably leave some glue on the surface, which again will not allow varnish to cover the wood. I did not bother to go and buy some commercial wood paints, so I used concentrated instant coffee. Result is not bad. Once it dried, I covered wood with layer of hair oil for preservation. Again, there are plenty of commercial wood oils, and I have one can in my garage in home country, but I didn’t carry with me so I used what I could find :)

Dry grass straw of various thickness is very good material for ship building. Easy to work, natural looking. So I outlined some ship details with straws, then another sanding and another layer of coffee varnish and oil.

Step 7:

If you noticed, before I drilled with fine drill three holes through the upper deck and well deep into lower hull – this is for fixing wire of masts. Then pieces of wire glued to lower hull for the middle and rear masts. Those two wires are inserted vertically and at same time will serve as guidewires for assembly of two hull parts together inside of the bottle. Front mast wire will be inclined, so I drilled hole, but did not glue wire. Wire will be glued to the forward mast and inserted inside of the bottle.

Now I did some cleats and canons. Those small accessories for ship modelers are available in hobby shops, they are precasted and look nicer. But here I do not have hobby shop, so I did canons from toothpick and cleats from piece of wire. To make canon just roll toothpick under hobby knife, then cut carefully to inclined direction. Small sanding will be required. To make life easier while working with such small things I glued them on lines of cardboard or slice of wood. For cleats, as wire cutting ends were sharp and would create headache when working with rigging, put droplet of PVC glue on tips. Painted black with hobby acrylics and dry-brushed with white paint.

Step 8:

Time for sails. Before starting sails, I was quite optimistic about time I will spend for this ship. But after I spent two evenings and my rear sail was still under 50% done, I started feel some reality :). So be patient while doing Chinese junk :)

Cut sail from printout. Using fine pencil I marked estimated points for battens, then using two sticks for bending bent sail in those points. In between bents, I bent slightly backwards without sharp edge, to imitate sail inflating under wind pressure. Then glued with PVC battens made of straws. Superglue is not good in this case as it is changing structure and color of paper. Batten parrels are made of thin wire. Coiled on something with wider diameter as mast and cut for individual ring, then glued to battens with superglue. Parrels painted black then.

Step 9:

For rigging I did not have good thread; the one I could find in market here is bubbling. Not really visible with naked eye, however making difficult to work. Good quality threads are really important. So I used two tea stick with clamps to hold all masts in place and made all rigging. Tied to batten by knots and fixed with droplet of PVC glue, otherwise knots can untie inside of bottle or slid off batten, which would be difficult to fix.

Please note that there are blocks on rigging. Those are really too small to be done out of something else, so I just simply made double loop of thread and knot on pin, then glued with PVC glue and painted black.

Step 10:

OK, time to dive in to the bottle. To position ship in correct position I normally mark axes on glass. This will make life easier, because glass is breaking angle of view, and mistakes are really easy to make. Lower hull part inserted in to bottle, then drop of two component epoxy transparent glue positioned in few places on a center keel line, and carefully hull placed to position. I am leaving to dry overnight, just to be sure.

Upper part of the ship inserted to bottle and placed on lower part. Two rear mast wires are positioning parts perfectly matching. Droplet of superglue is applied to wires – that will fix both hull parts together. After drying is time to work on inserting riggings. Masts are pulled out of batten parrels, but thread is temporarily glued to base of mast to make it easier assembly inside of bottle. Also note that middle and forward sail riggings are connected to afterward mast. This will allow save some time on “fishing” insertion of thread through the loop later on. When mast is assembled and positioned on corresponding wire, adjust angles with help of wire, and glue base of mast with superglue to deck. Only different with forward mast - wire is already inside of mast, so all of that will go inside of predrilled hole. Another few drops of superglue applied to parrels after giving correct angle to the sail. Sails’ riggings are run on cleats, tensioned moderately and glued with superglue. Excess of riggings cut away with blade tool, after giving time to dry completely. Continue with next mast only after previous is completed with all riggings in place and cut.

Please note that Chinese junk masts are not stayed or shrouded, so tension of sail rigging must be very gentle, not to bend mast.

Vapors of superglue are making “foggy” effect on glass, so don’t be hurry when working with lot of glue – allow bottle to ventilate properly. Also after completing ship I let few days bottle open, before closing with wine cork.

Ship took me 4 weeks to complete. But nor working full time, of course.

I hope you enjoyed. If somebody needs PowerPoint file that I used, or needs any advice – let me know.

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