Steve Cracknell  (February 2007)

I am very grateful to Steve for spending time to contribute the following article. Iain

 MASTER BUILDING.     By Steve Cracknell

The following article explains how a commercial master is made.
The systems explained are for a master to be cast in resin or a small metal casting.  Larger masters to be cast in metal are made in a different way. Firstly a comprehensive workshop is required drills and files of all types and sizes including some hand made tools.
Masters are made from plasticard. Every thickness and size are needed. Most builders use Evergreen plasticard as most sizes are made.  

1] Hull.
The hull is made from plasticard layers glued together. The aim is to use as few layers as possible. The hull size is worked out and there should be an allowance of plus 60 thou on the length and 30 thou on the width.  This is to allow room to file down to get the required surface.  Most ships built post 1965 no longer had sheer and had flat decks. When building a post 1960s ship the plans have to be inspected carefully and the amount of rise in the deck at various points worked out. Plasticard can then be glued on to the hull and then filed down to the required line.  At the interface where the sheer meets the flat deck level care has to be taken in order to get a smooth transition. The general rule of thumb is that the hull rises a factor of 2 and the aft a factor of 1. Plans should always be checked as this can be vastly different on some ships . When filing down the hull shape it is always best to do the bow first as this is normally the most difficult to get right. [image 1]

I started collecting models about thirty years ago, mainly Oceanic, Fleetline and Clydeside.  Over the years I built some scratchbuilt models I wanted for my collection.   About 1990 I met Len Jordan at a model show and he took the time to explain how resin models are made. 

I went away and made the first four masters and Len kindly offered to cast them.  They sold reasonably well and so I purchased the casting machine to make my own models.  At an early stage I decided to limit production runs to 50 models.  Those made since then have been mainly post World War II British merchant ships. Over the years I have built up a collection of plans numbering well over 1,000, mainly from shipbuilding publications. The models are available from Wirral Miniature Ships in the UK, are stocked by 1250Ships.com and Morning Sunshine Model in the USA, and Galerie Maritim in Hamburg.   I attend a small number of shows in the UK each year - usually those at Theale, the April Portishead show and  the July Welton Show.

The excess length can then be cut off and the stern shaped. The hull then requires careful inspection to see if there are any pits or gaps between the layers of card. These can be filled by using Squadron Green filler. This filler is used by most of the master builders.  The hull is now complete.

2]  Superstructure 

The plans have to be carefully inspected and a plan worked out of how this is to be made. If a master is being made to be cast the superstructure frequently has to be altered in some way as if it is made as per the plans it will not cast. The most problematic things are undercuts.  These have to be reduced as much as possible .  These are the points where a mould will fail.
The general rule of thumb is that decks are 8 feet high from the upper side of a deck to the one above.  This means decks are 80 thou thick. Depending on the complexity superstructures may be built in situ on the hull or built and added later.

Starting at the lowest deck the piece should be shaped but made 10 thou wider as this can then be filed flush with the hull.  If the deck has an alleyway the sides of the super structure should be set back about 50 to 60 thou.  This will give the impression of the alleyway.  If the alleyway has solid bulwarks instead of rails this can be done by adding 30 thou card between the structure and the side of the model.  This is then filed flush.  It is not possible to put in a conventional bulwark as this would cause the mould to fail after a very short time.

The next deck up can now be added. If the deck house comes to the side of the ship simply carry on as above. If it is an open deck or a deck with items such as bridge funnel etc the deck below will have to be made in a different way.  If this is the case the main block is built from 60 thou card and the overhanging deck made from 15 thou card glued on top. The wheelhouse is usually made by shaping a 30 thou piece of card and adding another on top bur recessing it back from the front of the bridge by about 20 thou for the windows. 

When this has dried a 20 thou layer is added on the top and the whole filed to shape.  There will now be a small recess running across the front of the wheelhouse.  This is to place the windows.  The bridge windows are measured and the area is divided by using strips of 10 thou card to make the uprights between the windows. When this is dried the strips can be cut and filed flush. 
Doors and windows can now be added. Doors are normally made from 5 thou card glued into place. Portholes can be drilled out by using the appropriate drill bit.  Windows can be made by drilling out and then using a hand made tool to punch them square. 
If making an enclosed promenade deck the structure should be recessed and then the windows added as per the wheelhouse.


 If possible these should be made and cast off in large numbers as boats winches and vents are used in large amounts.  Funnels are best made by getting a piece of card and gluing it onto a sprue and working on it and cutting it off when ready and adding it to the model.

4] Decks

If the ship has plated bulwarks these are made from 15x30 thou card and glued to the deck edges.  When dry the reinforcing angles can be added behind the bulwarks.  These are normally made from 10 thou card in small square shapes, which are trimmed when dry. The interface between the hull and bulwarks needs to be checked and any voids filled and sanded. Hatches come in many types and sizes and so the plans need to be carefully inspected before making them. They are best made separately and then glued on.

5] Masts

Most masters do not have masts added to them. They are generally added after casting.  Some very heavy mast’s can be cast in but if this is done then normally they have to be reinforced by having a metal stiffener through the middle.  The position of any masts or kingposts are drilled out at this point. The master can be given a light coating of primer paint if wished at this point. 
This will highlight any points that require filling.  At this point you should have a master ready to moulded.  This is another article in itself.