Here are the basics for how each ship in a bottle is created. This page details how the replica of the RC Mohawk was built. Much of the process remains the same from model to model. You can scan through this information, check out some of the other shipwrecks in bottles Capt. Berg has created or pick up a copy of his how to book

 


 

Captain Dan Berg's
Shipwreck In A Bottle
(click above for ebook)
The complete how to guide to the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building

Available on Amazon.com
(click here for softcover)

For many, a ship-in-a-bottle is perhaps the most recognizable classic piece of nautical decor available. This fascinating book puts a new twist on this ancient maritime art. For years shipwrecks have intrigued and fascinated everyone from treasure hunters and divers to fisherman and maritime historians. Now you can learn how to create your own unique Shipwreck-in-a-bottle maritime masterpiece. This 124 page text is heavily illustrated with hundreds of color images. Find out how easy it really is. This book details all the tricks of the trade and secrets involved in building these unique miniature vessels. Anyone interested in shipwrecks, or who loves the sea, can now have the enjoyment of crafting and displaying their own shipwreck-in-a-bottle.

 

 

 

According to Terry Butler Pres. of the SIBAA -
( Ships-in-Bottles Association of America.)

 I must have 50+ books on the subject of Ships-in-Bottles. This became the most recent book in my collection and I put it as one of my favorites! It is all in FULL COLOR with many illustrated instructions for every aspect of ship bottling. I was surprised at how much info was packed into the soft cover 188 pg book, and how much I learned from this one that I hadn't from my other SIB books. No matter what your skill level, i believe anyone could learn something new from this book. I have both of Dan Berg's books. The other is geared more for beginners. This one would appeal to ALL ship bottlers or beginners. This is easily MY favorite of the two books.

 

 

 

 

Building a model of the
R.C. Mohawk shipwreck in a bottle

The Revenue Cutter, Mohawk, was built in 1902 in Richmond, Virginia. She was commissioned on May 10, 1904, and was owned by the Treasury Department. The Mohawk was 205 feet, six inches long, 32 feet wide, powered by steam and displaced 980 tons. On April 6, 1917, she was temporarily transferred to the Navy. The Mohawk served coastal duty for convoy operations.

 On October 1, 1917, the single screw cutter was sunk due to a collision with the British tanker, SS Vennachar.

 

block of wood for ship in a bottle model

The art of building a ship in a bottle dates back to the early 1800's. Sailors for centuries have crafted items during their long journeys away from home. They worked with supplies that were readily available to them and are responsible for some of the finest scrimshaw and models ever created. Exactly when the first ship was built and inserted into a bottle is unknown. Bottles older than the mid 1800's were often not clear enough to showcase a miniature tall ship. By the late 1800's, good quality hand blown glass bottles were abundant. It was during this time that this craft was perfected. Models back then were often created out of whale bone and exotic hardwood. Many of these early examples are now housed in museums around the world. Many people think that the miniature ship model is actually built piece by piece while inside the bottle. Others think it's a complete illusion and that the bottle is cut in half and then glued back together around the miniature model. Actually, the detailed ship model is built outside the bottle but it's designed in a way that allows itís masts and sails to fold flat. The model is then slid in through the bottles neck and then the masts are carefully pulled upright with string and a few handcrafted tools. Of course, it sounds a bit easier than it actually is. With the information and techniques provided in this text anyone with a little creativity will be able to craft and display a quality piece of maritime art.

 

Materials
Appropriate bottle
Wood
Wood dowels (for masts)
Sand paper
Thread (black, tan)
Elmers Glue
Paper
Wire
Art tape
Oil based paint (for hull and details)
Blue oil based paint (for water)
Epoxy casting resin
Blue paint (for water)
Clear silicon
White silicone

Tools
Needle nose pliers
Tweezers
Wire snips
Screw driver
Razor blade or razor knife
Needle &pins
Saw
Sand paper
Drill bits
Hand held dill (pin vise)
Wire coat hangers to make into tools

Additional (Optional) tools
Dremmel grinder
Pin saw
 

Choosing the perfect Bottle
Picking an appropriate bottle is actually the first step in any ship in a bottle project. Your bottle should be clear, have a shape that will enhance and showcase the ship inside and should have a large diameter neck. Although it's not mandatory a cork style bottle is often preferred over modern screw tops. Keep in mind that square or triangular shaped bottles will sit independently on a display shelf. Round bottles will require a display mounting base to prevent them from rolling off the shelf. The choice of the exact bottle size and shape is entirely personal. New bottles are much clearer than antique glass but the old hand blown bottles of the late 1800's offer their own unique character. I actually prefer to use antique bottles. These bottles have nice cork stoppers but you have to be careful as many have small necks which may not be suitable for ships in bottles. As a scuba diver for over thirty years, Iím fortunate to be able to find a good assortment of old bottles while scuba diving in old harbors. My thought is that these antique glass bottles with their inherent imperfections add more character to the finished project. Fortunately, you do not have to be a scuba diver to find great old bottles. Any antique store should be able to provide you with a wide assortment to choose from. Pick a bottle with a large diameter, short neck and clear glass.

For the RC Mohawk project I decided to purchase two hand blown custom made bottles. I sketched out what I envisioned. A clear glass, round bottom bottle with flattened sides that would allow for the best presentation for ship viewing.

Hull Construction
Some model builders go as far as researching builders prints for each vessel and then converting them to scale. Others, like myself, use a little artistic license and just sketch a vessel that artistically fits the bottle chosen. I usually take a good look at the bottle of choice and figure out how long I want the hull to be. Also take into consideration how tall the masts can be and how the finished ship will look inside the bottle. It's highly recommended to draw a rough side view sketch of the ship with masts in place. When creating these sketches make sure that the total height of the hull is no larger than Ĺ the diameter of the bottles neck. If your bottle has a short neck you may be able to slightly increase this size. Basically, the hull with the additional height of the folded mast, rigging and sails have to be able to fit through the bottles opening. You can then create a matching top view of the basic hull. You should also note that my rigging is designed to be taught when the masts are upright yet still be able to fold. This is done with only a few lines (one per mast) running through the ships bowsprit and out the bottles neck during construction.

Start by cutting out both the top and side view of the hull which are used as templates. These can be traced onto a piece of wood. You can use hardwood but it's much easier to work with pine. You can use a variety of tools to cut out and shape the hull. Some carve the entire hull by hand others use a pin saw or band saw to make the rough cuts and a dremel sander to finish up the rough design. The decks of the vessel can be recessed by scoring the outer edge with a razor knife and then using a small wood chisel to remove material. This area will have to be sanded flat but the effect of a deck with raised gunnels is well worth the extra time. Once the hull is sanded it can be stained or painted.


If you are going to paint I would recommend oil based paint. You can also use line tape available at most art supplies stores. The tape makes a nice straight line between bottom paint and hull color. Some additional details like hand rails, or shipís anchors can be added at this time.

For handrails just drill snug, wire diameter holes around the perimeter of the hullís stern. Cut an adequate number of wire uprights. With a good pair of tweezers pick up one wire at a time and dip one end into Elmer's glue before inserting it into the drilled hole. Be sure to leave an empty hole at both ends. Once all of the hand railing uprights are inserted and the glue is dry you can trim them with a wire snip so that they are all the same length. The top of the handrail is made from a longer piece of the same wire. Dip one end into glue and insert it to the empty drilled hole and then carefully bend and mold the wire so it sits on top of each upright. Once finished be sure to glue each upright to the top piece. A small straight pin works well for applying just the right amount of glue to these small wires.

 

Masts
Masts can be constructed from wood dowels available in most model shops. If the shop does not have round dowels you can use square stock. Square stock is actually sometimes easier to work with and drill holes into. Once the length is cut and all holes are drilled just use a little sandpaper to round the corners. The alternative is to hand carve each mast. This is actually easier than it sounds. I usually just split a piece of wood off a block. I then use a razor to carve it into rough dimensions and then round the edges with sandpaper. The most important factor in crafting masts is to refer to your master sketch. Each mast should duplicate the exact dimensions of the sketch and should have pre-drilled holes in appropriate locations for hinge, cross beams, and rigging. It is very easy to drill these holes before the mast is attached to the hull but a bit more difficult after. Please note that you will need to drill two different size holes in each mast. A smaller hole for wire hinges and a larger hole for thread. Diameter of drilled holes will differ based on diameter of wire and thread used. Basically the wire should be a press snug fit and the thread should be a loose fit. Please refer to illustration for details. Once the masts are completed and pre-drilled itís time to make the hinge and attach the mast to the vesselís hull. The hinge is a very simple, easy to make design. Insert a straight length of wire through a pre-drilled hinge hole. It should be a snug fit so your mast does not flop around. Then bend the wire on either side of the mast so it creates an inverted U shape. The two ends should extend at least 1/8Ē longer than the mast. Hold the mast in position on the hull and mark where each of these wire ends hit. Drill snug holes in the hullís deck and insert mast hinge ends into each hole. Your mast should now stand upright and be able to fold back toward the back of the ship. One of the mistakes made during this process is not making the mast hinge hole high enough. This hole has to be as high as the tallest section on stern of model. Otherwise, rigging would prevent the mast from folding back. Repeat the same process for additional masts.

Mast supports (rat lines)
Each mast must be supported with thread that runs from the upper portion of the mast down to the gunnels. Please refer to Basic Principles Illustration for details. I use a single length of thread for each side. Start by drilling 4, 6 or 8 (depending on size of your model) sung holes for wire along the side of the hull. Be sure to keep the forward most hole even with the mast. If your holes are forward of the mast, the thread would not allow mast to fold. Insert and glue a small piece of wire into each hole. You can also insert and glue a piece of wire into the pre-drilled hole on the top of each mast. Bend both ends of this wire upward so the thread will be less likely to fall off as you warp it into place. Now start at the top. Tie the thread onto the mast wire then bring it down and loop it around all of the hull wires. Now go back up and around the mast wire again and back down. This time only wrap the inner wires, repeat this process for the total number of hull wires. The thread can tied to the mast wire and then a drop of glue can be applied to each wire so that the thread will not slide off. As you are wrapping each thread make sure the mast is vertical and not tilted to the left of right. Once finished, confirm that the mast can still fold backward. Now repeat for each mast.


Main Lines
Before even starting to rig your ship, note that a little Elmers Glue should be applied to the threads end and then twisted between your fingers. Once dry, use a razor blade to cut the thread. This leaves a very stiff sharp needle like thread which is much easier to work with and to push through all of your pre-drilled holes. Now start adding the main lines. Much like the mast supports start by drilling a snug wire hole in the stern directly behind her aft mast. Insert and glue a small length of wire. Start the rigging by tying and gluing a thread to this wire. The thread should be left long enough to reach the outside of the bottle once the ship is mounted inside. Pass the same line through the pre-drilled holes in each mast and then down through the forward most pre-drilled hole in the shipís bowsprit. With each mast upright this string can be wrapped around the mounting bracket and temporarily held in place with masking tape. Do not glue this thread to any mast, spars or bowsprit at this time. Now repeat with the next line starting at the aft mast then running through the forward mast and then down through the second hole aft on her bowsprit. This thread can also be wrapped around the mount. Again, I use a small piece of masking tape to keep these threads in place. If your ship has three or four masts you will have to repeat the process for each mast. Basically, each model will have a main line for each mast. You will use these lines later to raise the shipís masts from outside the bottle.

 



Ocean in a bottle
While working on your ship model you can also prepare the sea scape which will add character and also be used to attach the model to the bottle. Most ship in a bottle builders use putty which is mixed with oil based paint. The putty is inserted into the bottle one tiny piece at a time, often with a handmade tool fashioned from a coat hanger. This method is very time consuming and the result does not always produce a realistic looking ocean. I prefer to use epoxy casting resin and silicone. The epoxy is used to form the base of the ocean. I mix the resin with blue paint until the desired color is achieved. I then use a funnel attached to a clear tube. The resin is poured through the funnel and into the bottle. This is a great method especially when working with large bottles. Do not attempt to remove the funnel tube until the resin is completely dry. I learned the hard way that smeared blue resin is very difficult to remove from the interior of a bottles neck! The next step is to mix some clear silicone with blue oil based paint and insert it into the bottle much like putty. Use a wire bent to form a small spoon to insert and craft the silicone into waves. Try to create a pattern or realistic looking ocean. The last step is to use white silicone to highlight the top of each wave. This creates very nice looking white caps. White silicone will also be used as a base to glue your ship into place. Do not apply this until your ship is finished and ready to be inserted. Once your ship is all ready to be inserted through your bottle neck create a base of white silicone. The ship will be pressed into the silicone which should be slightly longer than the shipís length. Once dry, the silicone will securely hold your ship in place while creating the appearance of a shipís wash.

Additional details
Each ship should be as detailed as possible. Modelers can add lifeboats, deck houses, an anchor, a helm and even flags for detail. Most of these items can be easily fashioned from a small piece of wood, paper and some wire. Many of these details can be mounted to the ship prior to inserting it into the bottle. Others have to be fitted and then removed and placed on the ship after her sails are erected.

Anchor
Ships anchors can be made from bending wire to form the bottom curve. A straight wire and wood spar will complete the detail. Once finished the anchor can be glued in place in the shipís bow.

Lifeboat
Lifeboats can be carved out of wood or can be crafted by cutting a small piece out of a toothpaste bottle. Once painted, either style can be mounted to your hull with two wires that form the life boat davits.

Deck house
A shipís deck house can be carved out of wood, painted and glued into position. Be sure to confirm that your mast hinges pivot high enough so the masts can still collapse sufficiently to get through the bottle neck even with the deck house in position. If not, you will have to install the detail after the ship is in position inside the bottle. To do this just use a little masking tape (like double sided tape) on the end of a wire tool. This will transport the house inside the bottle. Be sure to add a drop of glue. Then use an L shaped wire to hold deck house down and pull the house free from the tape.

Flag
Flags can be added to the top of each mast. These are cut from colored paper and shaped and glued into position before the ship is collapsed. A deck flag can be fashioned by drawing it on paper and then cutting it out and gluing it to a straight piece of wire which acts as the flag pole. Flag can be shaped around a pen to make it look like itís blowing in the wind. I use a little artist spray fix to hold flag in its desired shape.
 



Inserting the ship into your bottle
Once the ship is complete, all paint is dry and additional details secure, itís time to get the tiny vessel into its glass container. Fold back all masts and wrap the shipís sails over the top of your shipís hull. Secure a set of tweezers to your ships bowsprit by wrapping masking tape securely around the tweezers. Now add a little white silicone to glue the ship onto your epoxy and silicone ocean. The white silicone will end up looking like a shipís wake. Now, carefully insert your ship stern first into the bottleís neck. Holding the tweezers on one hand and an L shaped wire tool with the other, position the shipís wood hull directly over the wet silicone. You may have to slightly raise each mast my pulling on the strings that run from the ships bowsprit. Once you are sure no lines, or sails are low enough to touch the silicone, let the wood hull sit into the white silicone. Use the L-shaped tool to press the hull into the silicone to make sure model will be secure. Once the silicone is completely dry you can cut the tape to your tweezers and pull each mast completely upright. If needed the L-tool can be used to gently guide each mast upright. With the masts upright and rigging taught use a wire tool to glue each string hole on the bowsprit. Allow this glue to dry completely and then use a razor blade attached to a coat hanger wire to trim each string off the bottom of the bowsprit. Next position each spar and sail in place and use a tiny drop of glue on the tip of a wire to glue each pivot point and thread hole. Your ship is now basically finished. Just a few more details to complete the display.

 


 

 

 


 

Captain Dan Berg's
Shipwreck In A Bottle
(Click above for ebook)
The complete how to guide to the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building

Available on Amazon.com
(click here for softcover)

For many, a ship-in-a-bottle is perhaps the most recognizable classic piece of nautical decor available. This fascinating book puts a new twist on this ancient maritime art. For years shipwrecks have intrigued and fascinated everyone from treasure hunters and divers to fisherman and maritime historians. Now you can learn how to create your own unique Shipwreck-in-a-bottle maritime masterpiece. This 124 page text is heavily illustrated with hundreds of color images. Find out how easy it really is. This book details all the tricks of the trade and secrets involved in building these unique miniature vessels. Anyone interested in shipwrecks, or who loves the sea, can now have the enjoyment of crafting and displaying their own shipwreck-in-a-bottle.

 

 

 
According to Terry Butler Pres. of the SIBAA -
( Ships-in-Bottles Association of America.)

 I must have 50+ books on the subject of Ships-in-Bottles. This became the most recent book in my collection and I put it as one of my favorites! It is all in FULL COLOR with many illustrated instructions for every aspect of ship bottling. I was surprised at how much info was packed into the soft cover 188 pg book, and how much I learned from this one that I hadn't from my other SIB books. No matter what your skill level, i believe anyone could learn something new from this book. I have both of Dan Berg's books. The other is geared more for beginners. This one would appeal to ALL ship bottlers or beginners. This is easily MY favorite of the two books.

 

 

 


 

Build a Ship in a Bottle
The complete how to guide to the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building

 

eBook


only $9.95 6 MB instant download, printable  PDF file

 

SoftCover only $14.95
Amazon.Com


Unlike other books on the subject, that provide a diagram and step by step instructions Capt. Dan attempts to teach model builders to understand the basic principals involved. After reading this heavily illustrated text, readers should have a good understanding of how to design rig and build both square sailed as well as fore and aft rigged vessels. They will then be able to apply the basic principles and techniques and build any type of sailing ship they choose. Please note that there are many different techniques used by different builders in creating their ship models. Some use elaborate mast hinges while others contend with a maze of rigging lines which all run through and under the hull.
This book teaches Capt. Dan's basic and the straight forward simple techniques that the authors uses on all of his ship in a bottle models. These basics can be enhanced and modified as model builders become more proficient. Capt. Dan has included a showcase of ship in bottle images from some of the best master model builders in the world. Often the best way to improve skills and technique is to examine the exquisite work and detail of these masters.

 

 

 

 

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Captain Dan Berg's
Build a Ship in a Bottle
The complete how to guide to the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building


only $9.95

This heavily illustrated ebook is 5.5 x 8.5, 64 pages, 6.5 MB and loaded with color photographs and sketches. This printable ebook is available for immediate download as a PDF file.

 

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Sincerely,
Capt. Dan Berg

wreckvalle@aol.com

Check out some of Capt. Berg's other shipwrecks in bottles

Capt Berg's How to Guide for building ships in a bottle
RC Mohawk in a bottle
Cornelia Soule shipwreck in a bottle
Lizzie D shipwreck in a bottle
USS Tarantula shipwreck in a bottle
RMS Oregon shipwreck in a bottle
Andrea Doria shipwreck in a bottle
Custom made ships in bottles

Check out Capt. Dan's shipwreck and diving eBooks
 

 

 
   
     

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