Revell Cutty Sark in 1/350
             Start: January / 2007
Current state: Rigging


Something different, eh? I simply don't recall the last time I played with a ship. And I've been collecting some of them in my stash, although mostly in 1/700 scale. I also still have that old Revell "Man'O War" in mint condition, but that one is too big for a momentaneuos brain failure of mine. Anyway, this one is in 1/350 scale (I guess it is the third Cutty Sark incarnation by Revell), with new tooling as far as I can say. Even so, she looks so small in comparison to other 1/350 ships...

The hull is split through the waterline, so you can choose what to do here. I confess I have a weak point for waterline models, but for me sailing ships simply must display the entire hull. So I glued the three pieces hull amazed by the excellent fit of the parts - no filler was used.

The display plugs are a bit loose, so I reinforced them, just in case. A couple of pieces of tubing and lots of CA:

Next, I primed the hull with Gunze's Mr. Surfacer and corrected minor glitches:

The hull was then painted using natural wood color for the inside (Model Master), black (Tamiya XF-1) for the upper hull and my own mix of light cooper plating (Vallejo) for the lower hull. The two white and brown thin stripes which run around the upper hull were masked and airbrushed. My cooper plating resulted too light, but I hope the wash will darken it significantly later. Once everything was dry, I applied a heavy coat of Future to seal the job in preparation for washes and drybrushing.

I incidentally removed some paint in a few spots when pulling the masks. Instead of re-spraying the area, I airbrushed an old spare decal and cut it in small plates, matching the hull's ones. I should have done that on the whole hull... the effect is quite convincing.

Ship decks are alway a problem: how to simulate the wood planking in a convincing way? In larger scales they could be masked and painted, but given the small size of my Cutty Sark, I decided to use an old recipe based on pre-shading. First you paint some randomly picked plankings using a dark color (you can use stripes of painted decal, if you wish). I simply filled a technical pen with some dark brown enamel and drew lines directly on the decks, using the molded-on planking as a guide.

I then airbrushed natural wook over the deck parts in light mists, letting the paint to build up enough to cover the part, but still allowing the dark planks to show through. The final effect is quite good, particularly for small ships, as far as you don't overdo the top coat. Before proceeding, the decks were sealed with Future.

The hull and the decks were then washed to simulate the effects of exposure to sea elements. The decks received oil filters in ochre, browns and tans. After that, everything received a coat of Testors Dullcote. A light drybrushing in tan/light brown highlighted the deck details, while grey was used on the black areas of the hull. For the plated areas of the hull, I used Natural Shadow oils. Another coat of Dullcote was applied to fix the drybrushing and
the decks were installed in the hull. I then turned my attention to the smaller details. Painting these tiny stuffs is not as hard as cleaning them. You don't have much choice as for the black or white colors, but I tried to vary as much as I could for the natural wood colors, using everything from khaki to dark earth. As usual, everything was painted, sealed, washed, flat coated and drybrushed. I found it is very difficult not to overdo the weathering in such a small subject...

The hull was basically done, only missing the lateral balconies and the masts, of course.

I added some other smaller bits, and the little thing started to look like a ship. I confess that I lost a number of them, which had to be scratchbuilt or resin copied from their pairs (if any):

A very visible characteristic of the Cutty Sark were her dingies. They were externally white, and left unpainted on inside. They had a black trim along the hull border which would be impossible to mask and paint in this scale. I took a shortcut here, and used a 0.4 mm black tape (those used to decorate R/C and slot cars) applied directly along the side of the boats. Fast and effective:


I then started to study the best rigging sequence, for what the attachment sequence of the next parts is crucial. Meanwhile, the masts were painted according to the photos of the real Cutty Sark in London (recently burned). Working with so small parts is a pain. So I took some shortcuts here. The masts were firstly painted with gloss black using automotive lacquers for fast drying. The fore and main stunsails were brush painted with Vallejo Earth Brown (142) very lousily. Once dry, I protected the Vallejo paint with Future and let it dry for a day.

I then prepared a very thick wash of black artist oil and applied into the recesses between the topsails/topgallants and the stunsails. I waited it to dry a by and removed the excess with a cotton swab moisted in white spirit. This allowed me to leave a more straight separation between the black and the brown colors. Not perfect, but visually ok, and much easier than masking. Next, I brush painted the stunsail irons with black enamel. After drying, everything was covered with Testors Dullcote

While studying the rigging sequence, I made a set of small barrels to be scattered along the deck of my Cutty Sark. The method is quite simples: I just turned toothpicks on my Dremel, using a piece of sandpaper to shape the barrel. When satisfied, a razor saw was used to produce a recess at the base of each barrel, for easy removal later. Next, I dipped the barrels in a wood stain solution. Once dry, I sanded it again to highlight the wood grain and finally added the steel braces using a drafting pencil:

Now it is just a matter of snapping each one out of its support and glueing on the deck:

Not having a suitable photoetched rail to be installed on the top of the bow deck (absent in the kit), I made one using stretched sprue. A jig of needles was build on a piece of wood, using the spacing required to form the rail. I then sewed the jig with long pieces of stretched sprue, overlaying the vertical braces on the horizontal ones. Liquid glue was then brushed on the right angle crossings and let dry.

The unwanted braces were trimmed later, and painted white. I glued one end to the model, and proceeded to the other end once the first one was dry, allowing the proper bend to follow the deck's curved walls. The photo below shows one end already glued:

After almost a year without touching the model, I finally decided to tackle the sails. I couldn't make my mind about doing the sails furled or deployed, but in the end I decided to model only the spanker, fore staysails and flying jibs deployed. The idea was to enphasize the rigging, since in my opinion it would be very difficult to model the sails realistically in this small scale (for a sail ship). Therefore I planned to show the topsails and staysails furled with the studding sails removed.

Before proceeding, let me make it straight that I got heavily fuzzed with all the complex nomenclature of sail ships. I highly recommend Lennarth Petersson's book "Rigging Period Ship Models" (Chatham Publ., 2000) for a illustrative guide on the subject, although it doesn't apply directly to ships from the Cutty Sark period. A comprehensive diagram found on the internet summarizes the sail names:

In order to replace the kit's plastic sails (which can not be furled, obviously), I cut the topsails, royals etc. from silk paper, roughly following the pattern of the kit's parts.

The new sails were dipped in coffe to get some color, and let dry. This is a very effective tip, giving to the sails that convincing dirty look, difficult to achieve with paint:

Once all sails were tinted and dry, I started furling them. First the lower corners were folded inwards, then they were folded over itself a few times leaving a narrow unfolded lip on the top. The final step was to wrap the sail by rolling the remaining lip over the whole thing. The whole process took just a minute or so for each sail. After the final wrap, I brushed water over the sails and rolled each one on my palm top to tighten them:

After waiting the water to fully dry, I proceed to the installation of the sails, one by one. I started by glueing the sail with tiny drops of CA in front, slightly below of the corresponding yard. I decided not to simulate the running laces. That would require a very thin line and should pass through the sails edge - definitely something impossible to me. And besides, the running laces would be covered by the robands, and I was afraid it would turn into an unrealistic mess of cords and lines. To simulate the robands, I used elastan, a very elastic, almost rubbery line used in clothing. It can be safely stretched up to 4-5 times the original length, reducing its cross sectional area as much as you wish, and keeping the pressure on the surface where it is laced.

Unfortunately, I didn't have elastan in a more convincing color like brown or dark earth. Therefore I colored the line using a permanent black marker. Once stretched, it becames a dark gray or something close to it. I lost my count of how many times I broke the yards running the line around them. The advantage of the method is that the elastan keeps the tension and therefore the pressure on the furled sail. After anchoring the ends of the lines with very thin CA glue, many spots became shiny... another coat of flat clear would be necessary. But before that, I brushed the sail with water, so that it softened enough to the tensioned lines produce the characteristic wrinkles.

Once I finished the installation of the sails on all three masts, I had an accurate idea of the final aspect of them. It's not bad for my first sail ship model since my childhood, but it could have benefit of a thinner, accuretely colored line. Anyway, it surely would look better after a coat of flat varnish.

On a second thought (and comparing with model photos from the internet), I wondered if my sails resulted too thin. I googled "furled sail" images and found that, in fact, my efforts may be more accurate than many model photos I've seen - at least in that aspect. Two simple examples:

I then proceeded to the spanker. In this case I used the kit's plastic sail, which was painted with Gunze Sail color (H-85) and post shaded with Tamiya White (XF-2) to match the furled sails. I punctured the holes for the running laces using a thin needle, and theaded a length of polyester line along the spanker gaff. You may be thinking why I haven't used polyester line in the yards. Simple answer: lack of elasticity. I would not be able to lace and anchor the sails using my fat fingers with polyester line.


I took the above photo in 2009. Fast forward seven (!) years... I'm trying to finish off as many started models as I can, and Cutty Sark is one of them.
So here I am. After recollecting all the work I had ahead, I started by gluing the masts in their holes, in preparation for the rigging phase. I was decided not to use rubber-like rigging products, as they tend to break after a long time. Stretched sprue could be an option, but it is not very realistic. In the end, I selected a few cotton lines that I had in my stash and looked in scale. I removed most of their fuzz by running them over a piece of bee wax. Work startd using black lines to install the ratlines stays. The steps would be glued one by one at the end:

Next, brown lines and lots of patience two long nights helped me to install, in sequence: (a) fore and jib stays; (b) fore, main and mizen stays; (c) main and mizen topgallant stays; (d) a few others. I left several backstays, years, braces and lifts for later, but most of them will not be installed. I lost the account of how many times I broke something with my fat fingers...

I was inclined to install the flying jib, jib and the foremast stay sail deployed, just like I did with the spanker. Well, whatever I choose, the lines were in place:

During the initial steps of the rigging, the tension in the parts made them break loose. I had to reinforce several joints using extra-thin CA glue before resuming rigging. This means many shiny spots to retouch later with flat clear. This would be necessary anyway to remove the gloss finish of the furling lines I used:

I achieved a moderate level of success in keeping the stays tight up to this point. Unfortunately, this kit is very well molded, but not very well detailed. Many anchor points along the hull are not there, and I'm anticipating to make some holes here and there to better anchor some lines. Regardless, it was clear that only part of the rigging would be installed for it would be physically impossible to install all visible lines... But even then it was already a beautiful model:

Paint touch ups will be necessary later, as well, of course. I inadvertently scrapped off the paint from several places while running the lines and making knots:

One more week was necessary for me to find a few hours to put on this floater. Well, I added all the lifts and some of the top braces. If you compare the photo above with the one below they don't seem too different...

... but by changing the angle of view you see how messy this thing is starting to be:

Some riggings were not tight by then, and they will not be until I pull the spanker boom by connecting it to the bow, something not covevered by Revell instructions. I also had to add holes and chain anchors to the side of the hull as future fixture for the lower braces, also overlooked by Revell, although the braces are negligently drawn in the instructions.

The thing is: I'm starting to really like the aspect of the model, but it is easy to overstress the rigging on one side and the accumulated effect of that is a crooked mask in the end. At this point I was studying how to install the lower braces, as they remain very loose and sagged with the sails furled. I probably would take the stretched sprue road...
And quite frankly, for each knot I did, I broke at least two parts. It was a hell... My Cutty Sark was slowly becaming a Bondy Sark, due to so many shining super glue spots scattered long masts and deck.

I decided to spray the whole model with another coat of flat varnish before proceeding, since I would not be able to make the airbrush spray reach certain areas after the lower braces were in place.

Well, now you know why I chickened all this years to finish this model.

Stay tuned...

Technical file
- Revell #05409

Basic colors: 
- Primer: Gunze Mr. Surfacer 500
Wood colors:
Testors Model Master Wood (#1735) enamel, Humbrol Natural Wood (#110) enamel, Humbrol Dark Earth (#29) enamel, Testors Model Master Dark Tan FS 30219 (#50442) acrylic, and Vallejo Brown (#142) plus some custom mixes.
- Black: Tamiya Flat Black XF-1  and  Nitrocellulose automotive lacquer.
- White: Tamiya Flat White XF-2
- Sail: Gunze Sail Color H-85
- Cooper plating (hull): Vallejo Model Air Bright Brass (#067)
- Flat coat: Testors Dullcote
- A few parts were scratchbuilt in replacement of the originals.

Rato Marczak 2016