From Rowen:  The more ships I build the more I appreciate that absolute accuracy is worth the extra effort. I use steel rules, protractors dividers and laser pointers to ensure models are accurate and symmetrical. Not only do they look better but finishing does not require any odd shapes to adjust for inaccurate construction.

Member's tip from Rowen: Bending strips. Using 1/2" (or similar) plastic plumbing tubing, capped at one end, make a reservoir into which ammonia can be poured. Slide the wood strip into the tube and allow it to soak. Then remove and bend to shape whilst it is still saturated. 

On drying out it should retain the bend. 

Have also thought the plastic tube, containing the strip, could be bent into shape and then drained.  The strip would then dry out retaining the bend.

          Phil Davis gave us a very interesting presentation on laser cutting of plywood and plastics.  Many of us are aware of the process or at least the final product as most, if not all, new model kits include a sheet or two of parts laser cut out of plywood just waiting for us to punch them out and get to work putting them together.  The parts are always very accurately cut and the edges rarely even need a sanding.
          The exciting thing is that Phil explained we have, in Burlington, the facility to design and cut parts ourselves.  This facility, the Idea Works Studio, is part of the Burlington Central Library on New Street and is available to anyone with a Burlington Library card.  At the Studio you can cut Mylar, plywood (1/8" and 1/4") and some plastics.  
So, How do I get started? you might ask.  It seems that it is quite easy.  First you get your library card.  If you live or work in Burlington it is free.  If you have a Hamilton Library card then it appears that will work too (check to be sure).  If you live outside the area an annual Burlington Library card is available for $57.
          Once you have your card then you are required to take a 2 hour course in operating the equipment.  There is a charge of $25 for this course. The studio is available on a first come, first served basis three times a week.  Then you download free design software such as Inkscape to design your parts - Phil says it is easy to use - and start designing.  Once your parts are designed you save them to a memory stick and head off to the studio.  There is a small charge for the actual machine time but Phil says it is insignificant. Staff members are there to assist and before you know it you are heading home with the beginnings of you new boat!
          These photos show some of the parts Phil has cut at the Idea Works Studio.

Editor's note: ​ Hamilton Central Library has its "Makerspace" which has available four 3D printers as well as a vinyl printer and a vinyl cutter. Their website states that laser cutters and CNC machines will be coming in the future.

Other local libraries probably also have similar facilities.


Member's tip from Paul: Working with cyanoacrylate (CA) is at least difficult and at worst dangerous. Using less is almost always better and I do that by never dispensing the glue directly. Whenever possible I squeeze a couple of drops onto a plastic surface (think lid from a yogurt container) and use a straight pin to apply the glue to the item being glued. This works especially well with locking knots in small lines

Using CA glue 

Aligning motor and prop shaft.

Bending planks

From Roy: Polyethylene is a plastic that consumer-grade glues won't stick to. it's used to make container lids, such as for Pringles, and margarine tubs. The lids are good for mixing epoxy, or for placing a small quantity of CA glue.

It also used in flexible sheet form for plastic bags, Ziploc bags are a good example. So it's a good material to use as a barrier in locations where you don't want glue to get to.

I have also used it to repair a damaged wall, such as on a bulwark. I have mixed epoxy and applied it to the damaged area, then on each side placed a piece of Ziploc bag and a piece of styrene (anything flat will do), and clamped the area to squeeze the epoxy down to the thickness required. Once set, the clamp and Ziploc can be removed, and the epoxy trimmed to size and shape.

Inexpensive Clamps.

Member's tip from Harry: Do you need to make a template of the shape of a hull? Maybe you need the external shape to cut out a support for display, or the internal shape to add a frame to stiffen the hull? Press a length of solder wire onto the hull in the location required. Carefully transfer it to a piece of cardboard and tape it down in a couple of spots to ensure it doesn’t move. Trace it using a pencil, remembering which edge was pressed onto the hull. and cut out.

Paint finishing

If you have a motor shaft of 1/8" diameter, and a propeller shaft of 4 mm diameter (a common combination) you can quickly make a tool to help align the two. You need two short lengths of 5/32" and 3/16" outside diameter brass or aluminum tube. With the motor placed in its correct fore-and-aft position, measure the distance from the end of the motor casing to the inner end of the prop shaft, and cut the tubes to this length.

To use the tool, insert one tube into the other, and the pair onto the motor shaft. Place the motor into position and then adjust its position up-and-down and side-to-side so that you can easily slide the 3/16" tube off the other tube and onto the prop shaft. When you can do this the motor is correctly aligned to the shaft.

Clothes pins are inexpensive and plentiful and also make good additional clamps for holding large surfaces in position for gluing when you may not have as many clamping devices as you would like.

Laser cutting

From Roy: I have so far fibre-glassed the hulls of 4 models, and despite the verbal and written advice I've received, none of them has turned out as well as expected. All have required lots of sanding and redoing, simply to get them to the state that they were acceptable. More recently I came across this video on Youtube by a modeller named Greg Hahn: I tried his technique recently and have been really happy with the result.  There is lots of advice on the web not to dilute epoxy but, so far, I've not noticed any adverse consequences.

Hints and tips: lots of them!

You've probably seen the tip about reversing clothes pins to turn them into clamps. How about the one that says you cut a notch in the end and use them to hold planks onto the frames until the glue dries?

This is one many "gems" in a series of videos that Dale found on the internet.  They are all produced by a modeller by the name of Gary Brinker and can be found on Youtube:

Building Tips - Hull and superstructure

Confederation Marine Modellers

Fitting bilge keels

Cleaning your models


Pictures and text by Paul.

Making a hull template

Member's tip from Steve M: If you have to secure something inside the hull of your boat, say a battery box, use silicone instead of epoxy. The silicone will hold it firmly, but it will be possible to remove it if adjustments are needed.


From Paul: I like to have a VERY smooth finish on the hulls I sail.  While this is mostly so I can stay ahead of Harry in the races I also like the look and feel of a very shiny hull.
All it takes is patience and a little elbow grease.  Once you have a reasonably smooth hull (whether it is wood, plastic or Fiberglas) the next step is to start wet sanding.  If you go to one of the Wood Shows you can get a complete range of wet sandpapers at a very good price.  Each sheet will go a long way since it can be washed and dried and reused many times.  I start with 400 grit and work up through 600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000 and 2500 - yes there is 2500!  In fact you can get 60,000 but it is about as rough as Charmin'.  Dip the sandpaper in water with a tiny drop of dish-washing liquid, it will make the job easier.  Sand in the same direction and just take a couple of minutes for each grade of paper.  Once you have finished then apply several coats of a good wax such as Maguires auto wax.  This process can be done directly on styrene or ABS hulls or after painting.  If you are going to sand after painting then make sure you have several coats of well dried paint and be prepared to paint again if you sand right through it.  It's worth the effort!

Use silicone instead of epoxy.

From Paul: I made the terrible mistake of telling my wife that I would take over the house cleaning when I retired.  It's been ten years now and, yes, I do all the cleaning.
When it comes to cleaning my displayed boats (there are eight or so on display in the house) I use a very soft paintbrush to loosen dust while I hold the tube of the vacuum about six inches away.  This will take the disturbed dust away while leaving the important bits where they are.

Bilge keels are the strips that stick out from the turn of the bilge on most vessels, and are provided to reduce rolling. Here are some suggestions for fitting bilge keels to a scale model.

1.  If you have enough material in the hull wall, cut a slot with a Dremel tool and glue the strips into the slot.
2.  Use a length of styrene angle. Glue one edge flat onto the hull, towards the centre underneath. The glued face will not normally be noticeable, but if preferred it can be cut back at the end at a slight angle to make it less so. The angle is flexible enough to follow the curve of most hulls.

3.  Put nails into the hull along the line where the bilge keel will go. (Model railway track pins are good for this, with the head cut off.) Use epoxy glue to fasten the keel material to the pins and to the hull.