Assembling the 18th Century Sloop

No catchy title for this one, sorry. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. If you’ve cracked open the new ‘Raise the Black’ Kickstarter, you’re probably a little bit disappointed by the instructions with the new Sloop. A single long sheet, it’s a little bit like this:

How to draw an Owl in 2 easy steps!

The fine fellows at Blood & Pigment put together a half-hour “Let’s Build” video of the Sloop. It’s very helpful, and I referred to it a few times while working on this. But I know that some of you learn with informative, scrollable pictures. Also – I don’t have a video rig yet. Deal with it.
Let’s get started:


Gunpowder, nitroglycerin, notepads, fuses, wicks, glue and… paperclips – big ones. You know, just, uh, office supplies

The picture covers everything you’ll need, and then some. The pin vise, paper clip, and Kneadatite (aka Greenstuff) are all optional. If anyone knows how to contact The Army Painter people, I could really use a sponsorship. I use their stuff almost exclusively because it’s the best intersection of price and quality on the market right now, and yes, I’ll die defending that hill from the “Nottingham Cartel.”

Use a good knife or clippers to get your pieces out. For the love of Davy Jones, don’t just rip them off the sprue. The bits of sprue that attach to the part will always leave little marks (I call them “sprue kisses”) but if you rip the piece out, there is a good chance that part of your actual model starts behind and you get a dimple rather than a raised nub. The nub you can file off with the edge of your knife – the marks have to be patched with Greenstuff.

I used plastic cement. If you’re my age, your dad probably used this stuff to glue together a few model airplanes in his time. There are fancier glues on the market, but I’ve used this stuff for the past 26 years and I’ve lost so many braincells huffing the fumes from it that I’m clinically addicted (don’t huff glue, I actually use it because you can get it in literally any store that sells model kits, like WalMart). You could use Superglue if you really wanted to.


This was probably a terrible idea, but it looks so satisfying

Yes, you read that correctly. I primed some parts of the model while they were on the sprue. In fact, I painted my guns while they were still on the sprue. This is a useful trick for dealing with small, fiddly pieces and getting into areas that will be hard to reach later.

If you’re using the Testor’s Toxic Tightness glue, it will melt through the paint just like it softens the plastic and your lung-tissue. If you’re using super glue, I wouldn’t pre-paint anything.

I based everything here in white, so that I’d get a good color for the Army Painter Primer to go over top. I’ll do a full painting article for this thing when I lay more color down.

Cannon Assembly

Finally, we’re building things now! The most fiddly things on the planet. This kit is really fun, but if you weren’t a fan of plastic kits before, this probably won’t change your mind.

Take note of the carriage sides – the two sides are not the same.

The guns come in the 5 pieces you see above. I took a photo of an extra set of carriage sides so that you can see the difference between the outside (top) and the inside (bottom). The outside has rivets. This means that the sides come in pair of Left/Right, but unless the glue-fumes struck early, they don’t seem to be mated up together on the sprue. It’s like a Highschool dance – all the left are on one side of the sprue, and all the right are playing hard to get at the other end, with just a few paired off in the middle.

Notice the orientation of the wheels on the carriage

This is the “guts” of an assembled gun. I found that this is a very fiddly way to actually assemble them. The best way that I found was to glue the rear trucks to my barrels and let them dry. Then, I could glue the sides of the carriages on, and finally, the front trucks.

Guns drying with their rear trucks glued in place
Assembled guns. If you have a pin-vise, you can drill out your barrels for realism. I chamfered the edges of my drill holes by spinning the point of my X-Acto inside the hole.

Hull Assembly

Meanwhile, at the Ikea shipyard, they cut the pieces of the ship from grey birch…
Optional: Mask and Prime

I cut out the pieces of my hull, then sprayed them with my primer. I also masked off the stern cabin area, and sprayed it black. This area will be fully enclosed, and early adopters of the kit have made it “trendy” to black-out the section. I will tell you – there is no appreciable difference in ‘darkness’ if you just leave the section as grey plastic. If you really want to black it out, insert some plasti-card or balsa down the centerline between your guns, so that you cannot see the opposite gunport shining through (but even that is impossible to see unless you’re looking straight into the port).

Some folks have talked about lighting this part of the boat. Here’s what I’ll say to that: the Rule of Cool says that you absolutely should do it. The rules of “not getting your ship burned down in a gunfight” means that all lanterns would be doused and there would be no light except what came in through the ports plus whatever fresh holes were blown into your ship. Gundecks on wooden ships were like a scene from Dante’s Inferno.

Did you assemble your cannons? No? Scroll back up. I’ll wait…


The two sides of the hull clamshell around the deck plate. The bulkhead with its door inserts into two slots on the inside of the hull. It is very important that you clean any sprue tabs off the sides of your decking, or else you could end up with gaps in the hull where things don’t fit properly.

The image above was a dry-fit of the hull sides. I took the photo to show you where the cannons were located. You’ll need to glue them in now if you’re using them. This section in inaccessible once the ship is built.

The stern plate, and the quarterdeck need to be glued in at the same time that you glue the sides on. This is because it’s virtually impossible to get the quarterdeck glued in once the sides are in place, and it’s also very likely that if you use rubber bands to hold the sides tightly to the deck (which you should) the rear of the ship will dry too narrowly to fit the stern plate, and you’ll have to flex your glue to fit it back in.

The order of assembly should be:

  1. Glue the bulkhead and door to the deck
  2. Dry-fit the sides
  3. Locate and glue your cabin guns, if you’re using them
  4. Glue in the rudder post into the slot at the stern or suffer later
  5. Allow that to dry.
  6. Lay a bead of glue along the top of the bulkhead, and inside of both hull halves
  7. Hold the quarterdeck in place and close the hull sides around it
  8. Slot the stern plate into the rear of the ship so that it lifts the quarterdeck into place.
  9. Rubber-band it around each swivel post, and let it dry.

WHEN YOU GLUE THE SIDES: THE BOW MEETS UP, NO GAP – the photo above shows a gap, make sure that when you rubber-band everything, that gap gets some glue in it, and gets stuck closed.

Rudder Assembly

The rudder pieces. That grey plate in the bottom right, is located in the corner of the sprue. Happy hunting.
This should turn. It doesn’t. No, I’m not happy about it either. That can be easily resolved with a pin and some swearing but it was the Holidays and I ran out of dollars for the swear jar building the cannons.

The rudder goes together fairly simply. The kit originally had a turning rudder, and when they nixed that idea, they didn’t update parts of this assembly – hence the little grey bit at the bottom of the rudder. This means that you CAN NOT glue the rudder along the middle. There’s actually a small gap between the two pieces. Glue the keel to the stern first, then glue the actual rudder into the slot at the top of the stern, and index it with the grey piece at the bottom. It’s not very fiddly, it’s just needlessly complicated and fragile.

The rudder post is another story. If you followed my instructions for assembling the hull, you’re good to go. If not, prepare for the suck. Because you need to locate this hole:

It’s the brown one tucked there in the back. [Insert lowbrow joke here, but only with consent]
I found that the best way to fit this in was to insert it sideways and then rotate it into the small notch. Glue goes in the hole, not on the peg. Stop giggling.
We could have just glued this into the stern like I said to do above. Then we wouldn’t have to twist and shout.

Stern Decoration (Being Extra)

Ah yes, the illusion of choice…

This is the first time that you get to choose between two pieces for your ship. Either false windows, or the nameplate and scroll work. There is a hidden third choice, which is to fill the holes and just leave the stern totally plain. The clearly superior fourth choice is to do all of the former three at once: fill the holes, and then include both the windows AND the name plate.

This took an inordinately long time to figure out. Spare yourselves and either scroll on or follow along.

This method comes from the wonderful ‘Buccaneering on the Spanish Main‘ facebook page, particularly the work of Mr. Ryan Peterson. Start by cutting the locator tabs off the backs of the detail pieces, then follow along:

Trim the bottom section off the “window plate” so that it’s as flush as you can make it.
I could have done a better job on mine, to be honest.
Carefully clip the name plate in the areas shown below. You’ll notice that we lose some material in the cut. That’s necessary to make everything fit neatly.

Once you’ve got the windows trimmed, fill in the divots in the stern with sculpting putty. Then, glue the windows along the bottom of the space and place the scrollwork in the corners. Stick the nameplate on. You can see how I did it in the original picture.

The Beakhead

This is the second time that you’ve got a choice with the kit. You can either use the very plain beakhead, or you can use the more ornate option with the figurehead and decorative railing. After making the stern look fancy, I opted for the second method.

Not included in pic: the mermaid figurehead. Too many glue fumes.

Glue the beakhead in first – the keel. It glues into some large holes at the bow of the ship. The railings also get glued into some very shallow notches. These were a little clumsy to attach, because they glue into the beak, to the hull, and to each other in two places. It’s annoying, but it’s worth it because they look very good.

That photo is grainier than a Jamaican beach, and still no mermaids.

Channels & Chainplates

Nautical Know-how: This part is called a ‘Channel’. Stop calling them Chainplates

The channels don’t seem to have a top or bottom, but they do have a “front”. The single hole goes up front, the three holes go in the back. That way, nothing interferes with your cannon barrel.

Since you all like chainplates so much, this kit actually comes with them. They’re attached to the deadeyes. I’m leaving them off for right now. Rule of Cool says you stick them on. Rule of How Boats Work says that deadeyes always come in pairs, and the chainplate which attaches the lower deadeye to the hull should be at the same angle as the shroud above it. For this reason, I’m leaving mine off until I get to the rigging portion of this debacle. That will be in another article, when I feel like giving myself another headache. Captain Tunez was so kind as to give us plenty of rope to hang ourselves, if you want to get crazy with rigging this ship.

Capstan Windlass Assembly

Nautical Know-how: This is a windlass, not a capstan. The capstan is the one that sticks up and you walk around it. It can lift very heavy loads. Most ships had a windlass, only very large vessels needed a capstan. The windlass is for raising and lowering the anchor, but also for lading the ship.

Cut these parts out to assemble your windlass. That handle? It’s tucked away in the corner of the sprue, like that rudder piece. Also, it’s not strictly necessary. The handles were so long that they couldn’t rotate the full 360 degrees – one guy would pull the handle all the way back, and then another man on the other side would insert a second handle into the slot and pull all the way back. There’s a ratchet in the middle to keep the load from backsliding.

The two uprights of the windlass have an inside and an outside. The ‘inside’ has the ratchet piece (on the right, in the picture) when assembled, this ratchet is actually engaged in the notches on the barrel of the windlass, and the piece will not rotate. If you want your windlass to be able to rotate, either build it with the ratchet facing outward, or shave the ratchet back so it does not engage.

You can rotate the barrel however you like, until you press it into the uprights and engage it on that ratchet. Once you do that, it’s locked. I suggest you dry-fit everything first.

Assembly is pretty easy – the barrel goes through the uprights, and then you glue on the two end caps and the handle if you’re using it.

If you’re going to use the handle, I recommend rotating it forward to go along the bowsprit, to keep it out of the way of models and incidental damage from clumsy fingers. Mine is only tacked in for this photo, as an example. In battle and when not in use, the handle would be stowed away.

DON’T GLUE IT TO THE DECK YET! – just put it aside and glue it once the bowsprit is attached.

Brandy, you’re a fine [wind]lass, what a good winch, you would be…

Mast Assembly

Like Lego – I’m showing you where you want to end up, before showing you how to get there.

The masts aren’t very difficult. My recommendation is that you assemble the mast and topmast first, then glue the gaff and boom. You have the glue the yards on last, if you’re going to use them at all. Which we’ll get to.

Start by assembling the topmast.

This picture is “twisted” so that you can see all the important bits. Don’t glue it like this – that would be silly

I’m sorry for not taking a picture of all the individual pieces for this assembly. I might edit the article when I build the next one of these (I have 5. I hate money and love pain). At any rate – Notice the mast cap (the rectangular bit with 2 holes in it).

The mast cap slides down from the top, and needs to go over the tiny notch shown in the picture. If you’re not going to use the topsail, you can cut that notch off. But if you’re building a Bermuda Sloop, then you need to leave it in place. Not shown in the picture is a tiny nub that the mast cap is resting on. That’s the “push no further” point, from what I can tell. Push the mast cap onto that, and glue it.

The cross trees. The instructions show them upside down. We know better.

The next step is a tricky one. You need to get the cross trees onto the two masts. I found it easiest to slip them onto the topmast first, rather than trying to slide the topmast down into them. That is because of the two sets of locating pins protruding from the masts. Do what I did in the photo above. I did not glue my crosstrees at all – something which they also did in the Pigment video. Slide that whole assembly down over the mainmast.

Nautical Know-how: the ‘Gaff’ of a gaff-rigged sail is the yard at the top. The larger one at the bottom is a ‘boom’. As long as the sail doesn’t extend beyond the stern, you don’t actually need the boom.

Glue the gaff and boom, and you’re all set. Note that you might need to flip the two around in their slots, they have a definite top and bottom.

For the boom, the cleats which protrude from the side should be coming off to port/larboard (the left). For the gaff, pay attention to the angle between it and the mast. If it is “upside down” it will point the gaff downwards toward the deck. That’s bad. Nobody wants a droopy gaff.

Relocating the Boom (Extra)

The boom on this model is located very high; probably to give room for your booger-hooks to get in there and pull models off the deck. This results in a very short and weird looking mainsail. I don’t like it, so I moved my boom down until it just barely clears the taffrail at the stern. To do this, you need to break into those ‘extra’ tools that I had listed. The pin vise, the Green Stuff, and the paperclip.

If you have it, brass rod works better than a paper clip – but if you have that, then you already know how to do this, so keep scrolling.

Clip off the peg from the boom that would usually go into the mast. You don’t need that. Then, using your Green Stuff, fill the hole in the mast that peg would usually go in to.

Using your pin vise and a bit the same diameter as your paperclip (err on the side of too small), drill a hole into the boom. Clip yourself a straight length of the paperclip and insert it to that hole.

This is too long, it will need trimmed

Once you’ve got the new pin to insert into the mast, drill the new hole in your mast. Clip the pin to length, insert it into the hole, and glue. It’s actually best to use Super Glue here if you’ve got it, because the Testers Toxic Tightness doesn’t bond plastic and metal very well.

Balandra Finished

Cut out the Bowsprit, and stick it onto the deck, put the windlass over it, attach the mast, and you’re good to paint and rig. That’s a finished Balandra.

Hey, we finally found the mermaid and glued her on the front of the boat!

Bermuda Sloop: Jib-Boom

If you’re building the Bermuda Sloop, then you need to add the extension to your bowsprit, known as a jib boom. It is added in much the same way as the topmast was.

Why the heck is it suddenly pink?!

You’ll notice that once again, we’ve got two mast caps (actually, a cap and saddle). In the photo, the are oriented in the way that they are attached – the larger of the two holes goes around the jibboom, and the largest openings go on first.

Still pink. Why?!

Slide these down – I didn’t actually need to glue mine, they’re friction-fit. Ideally, you want a little bit of protrusion through the caps. Once both of these are attached, you can slip the other openings over the bowsprit.

Nautical Know-how: The Jibboom is actually retractable. In cold weather your bowsprit retracts and gets shorter. No. In reality – whenever you are not running the jib sail, you would retract the jibboom.

Bermuda Sloop: Crossjack & Top Yard

Attaching the crossjack and yard to the mast is probably the easiest bit of building the Bermuda Sloop. At least, I hope that it was, because I didn’t take photos of that step. The longer of the two goes lower, and is called the crossjack. It only exists to ‘foot’ the topsail. The topsail yard does have a top and bottom – there is small slot in the yard which is meant to straddle the small nib that we had to push the mastcap over when assembling the topmast.

The completed Bermuda Sloop, although it seems a bit arbitrary. There’s options for the Balandra to run a tops’l and no reason that it could not also rig a jibboom.

What the FAQ?

Other than the lack of deadeyes and chainplates, I’m sure you probably have questions about how I assembled this. I’ll try to answer them, but if I don’t hit them here, drop them in a comment.

What are these pins for?

The plan for those little pins are a retro-fit for the swivel guns to be used on resin ships. You stick that pin into the bottom of the swivel, and then bore-out the hole in your older ship and now you can mount the plastic swivels. My recommendation: buy metal swivels if you don’t have enough.

I prefer the metal swivels. In fact, I’m doing the opposite on these ships – I plan to cut the swivel posts off and drill holes to accept the metal swivel guns. I just didn’t have the heart to show you that. It will be done for the painting article.

What is the weird pump thing that you didn’t build?
That’s a bilge-pump. It pumps water up from the bilge, in case of leaks. If you want to include them on your ship for realism then you may – they’d go anywhere on the main deck (not on the quarterdeck; there’s no sense pumping the water any higher than necessary)

Where does the anchor go?
I did actually build the anchor, I’ll include it on my rigging article. For simplicity’s sake, rig it near the bow, lashed to the side of the ship.

Why didn’t you include the lantern?
My ships see a lot of travel and demo/convention play. For that reason, I don’t want the fragile lantern hanging off the back of the hull to get busted off all the time.

No gunport lids?
Nope, I left them off for the same reason as the lantern. Plus, ships of this size didn’t always have gunport lids on the main deck. They would be in the cabin. If I weren’t using this ship as an example, I would have left the stern guns out and closed the hatches – I don’t think I’ll ever include the stern guns in game.

Rigging Article? Painting Article? Sail Article?
I’m working on it. I’ll have them up for you all as I knock them out.

Is this ship any good?
I’ll get a review article with my thoughts up, but yes: it’s good. I recommend building a Bermuda and Balandra. If you get a third copy, I recommend building another Balandra as I suspect they’ll work in pairs.

One thought on “Assembling the 18th Century Sloop

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