Make Your Ship Stand Out by Planking Your Deck
-- by Greg Alvey
One of the most impressive details you can add to your ship in bottle is to add individual planking to your deck. It adds realism and beauty, while making the ship come alive in such a small scale. Better still, it is relative easy, fast, and inexpensive to do.
You can make very realistic-looking deck planking for your ship in bottle model by using scaled lumber. The width of the wood you select will depend on the scale you are using for your model, but with the many sizes of wood available you should find wood that will work regardless of the scale you choose.
First, mix white glue with brown acrylic paint on a piece of wax paper so it won't stick. The amount of brown color you mix with the glue is the amount needed to match the color of the caulking between the planks of the actual ship you are building. After you are satisfied with the color, you are ready to add the dimensional wood to this glue/paint mix. Although it is easier to use lengths of wood that are just slightly longer than the length of the hull, any length of wood can be used. In fact, this is a good way to use small scraps of wood that are broken or left over from other projects. Be sure to completely cover the wood in the glue/paint mix. Now you are ready to stick the pieces of wood together to form the rough shape of the hull. Later you will remove most of the brown color from surface of the planks and, when you do, you will be left with a very nice patina on the surface as well as the dark color you need between the individual planks. Continue gluing the wood together to be sure you have enough deck boards to fully cover your hull. Then set the deck planking aside and give it plenty of time to dry. Don’t worry if it tends to warp some since you can correct that when you glue it to the hull. But if you prefer, you can cover it in wax paper and add weight to keep it flat.
Once the deck is thoroughly dry, you are ready to glue the whole deck to the hull. It is very important that you mark the exact center of the hull on the end of both the bow and stern, as well as at the center point of your deck planking on both ends. Apply wood glue to the hull and carefully line up your marks to ensure that the deck is properly lined up and centered on the hull. Cover the deck planking with a small sheet of wax paper to prevent sticking; then add an appropriate clamp or weight to the planking to ensure it adheres firmly to the hull. Since the hull will have a slight curve it may be better to use several clamps or individual weights. Once dried, carefully cut the excess planking from the hull and fine sand the deck to the shape of the hull. Take your time and be careful because the small planks can easily be damaged or accidentally broken or lifted from the hull.
You can now begin finishing the deck by using a damp cloth to lightly wipe the excess paint and glue from the surface of the deck planks. Since you used acrylics and white glue you should find it pretty easy to remove the excess. Take your time and be sure to remove the color slowly so that you don’t remove more than desired. Also, be careful with the cloth snagging on the planks. When dry, lightly sand the deck, if needed, and then apply your final finish to the planks.
You should now have a very beautiful and realistic-looking deck with individual planks like the actual ship!