Little Suprise Rigging Practice

Repetition of the “Small Surprise” drill will perfect your ability to set up ratlines and will provide a dummy model to practice all forms of rigging.

One of the tricks used by Capt. Jack Aubrey in the "Master and Commander, Far Side of the World" DVD is one you can use in developing a practice bed for rigging. Capt Jack used a decoy to Mount running lights at the right height to deceive the enemy into thinking he was following the HMS Surprise, Capt. Aubrey had the crew construct a "mini-surprise" complete with a mast yards and rigging.

Use the decoy idea to build yourself a practice bed consisting of a couple masts complete with yards. Make one set from wooden materials and the second from plastic.

Now for each mast set rig shrouds (The vertical supports for  ratlines) between the base of your bed and the mast top. String three to five shrouds with twisted multifilament thread one quarter

to a half-inch apart at the base. At the top, tie them off around the "mast". Typically, shrouds are six to eight inches in length.

Capt. Aubrey was also a believer in practice prior to undertaking the real thing. He had the gun crew run through drills with the larboard guns to trim the time between shots. Practice hones the routine. Almost any form of practice will improve your skills through repetition.

Setting up ratlines is not as critical as gunnery practice, but never

Diagram of a mast & shrouds (red), top with futtock shrouds (blue), and topmast and its shrouds (green). Shrouds are represented as translucent panels; in reality they would consist of many individual lines.
the less making this a routine part of your modeling efforts will sharpen your skills.

Use the smallest, sharpest needle you can find and select a dark colored fine thread for "cross ropes". You will sew the cross ropes through each of the shroud lines keeping them about 1/4-inch apart. Do not pull tight; instead leave each thinner line a little slack. Once cross rope is in place through each shroud. 

Once each set is finished, use a dab of CA adhesive at each junction. Do two complete sets one on wood, the other on plastic. 

You will soon notice the plastic is not as resilient as the wooden set and the more rigging applied; the more the flexibility of plastic becomes a problem. When you have completed the rigging, you want to be sure you still have straight members, both masts and yards.

This drill doesn't take into account the fact many of us have shaky hands that will easily make a rat's nest out of ratlines. Here are a couple of tips that will help you:

Where possible, brace your shoulder against a vertical surface like a door frame, window casing or even a wall.

You need steadiness and that comes through relaxation. The technique I use is to make ticklish moves as I exhale. Try it out and you will find that you are less likely to make any sudden muscular movements as you exhale.

Few of us give any thought to posture when working on our modeling projects, specially those that are nerve wracking. You will find that you often carry out modeling techniques without giving a thought to your body posture.

More Help With Practice Routines For Modelers

As a result work in cramped seating positions, or worse still, you are doing it with your feet together or with your weight on only one foot, your body is in its least balanced position. This imbalance is transfered to your hands, fingers and ultimately to your model.

Now that you have finished your practice ratline sets, get ready for the hard part. Cut them free, throw them away and repeat.

Questions? Comments? Please Use Our Contact Form

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly.