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"Fletcher Pratt 1"=55' balsa wood ships" Topic

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Malchor26 Apr 2021 12:36 p.m. PST

Fletcher Pratt is said to have carved his ships at 1"=55' from balsa wood. Using some wire and

Anyone know of a how-to for this?

What scale does that work out to? Something between 1:600 and 1:700? It is 0.46mm/foot.

advocate26 Apr 2021 12:59 p.m. PST

No idea how to model that.

Malchor26 Apr 2021 1:22 p.m. PST

Link to an image of Pratt and some of this ships. I believe that is his wife, a referee in the games: link

Thresher0126 Apr 2021 1:27 p.m. PST

Balsa is very soft, so quite easy to cut, sand, and shape.

Just get a piece and start practicing.

Use scaled-down plans printed on paper as a guide to assist you. Your printer can help you easily create any scale images you need for side and top-down views.

Use sanding blocks for straight-hull sides/decks, and use your finger with sandpaper wrapped over it, or other materials, for shaping the curved bow sections.

It's not too difficult, especially if you take your time, and don't worry about being perfect.

I made a 1/600th scale RFA that looked the part back in the day, for a Falklands Conflict game, since I couldn't find a model of it. Turned out pretty decent. Could use some upgrades, but was decent enough to serve as a bombing target on the tabletop.

JimDuncanUK26 Apr 2021 2:11 p.m. PST

I used to make 1:1200 WW2 ships when I were a lad.

Not too difficult. Get lots of balsa wood sheets, some wire and some glue, maybe some dowels or plastic straws.

Source some ship plans, you'll need both plan and silhouette views.

Choose a simple ship first and cut carefully.

JAFD2626 Apr 2021 2:13 p.m. PST

Salutations !

There are a couple of smartphone apps – 'Quick Scaler Pro' and 'Scale Calc' for two – that'll do the math.

Basswood ('English Lime' east of Atlantic) is easier to work with than balsa

When working, use either imperial or metric measurements. Trying to convert one to other midproject is crazymaking.

You may want to make your models to a scale compatible with commercially available kits – 1/1200 or 1/1250 for small scale, 1/700 for bigger. (I may well be wrong about this – you can check what's available these days.)

The English magazine _Model Boats_ had a 1/1200 warship plan in each issue, waybackwhen. Still available ???

You may wan to read _Miniature Ship Models, A History and Collector's Guide_, by Paul Jacobs, published 2008, by US Naval Institute Press (May still be available from them.) Has material of Fletcher Pratt, chapter on 'building your own', and bibliography.

There have been other books on 'building miniature ship models' over the years. Check libraries

Good luck and good gaming !

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP26 Apr 2021 3:17 p.m. PST

Might want to have a chat with Virtualscratchbuilder

TMP link

d88mm194026 Apr 2021 3:34 p.m. PST

This gentleman, Coatney, makes a bunch of ships available in paper. You could use the hull shapes as a guide for the hull sanding, then use printed paper parts to fill out the upper works.

Schogun27 Apr 2021 5:24 a.m. PST

Jane's Fighting Ships has the line drawings. Then scale to the size you want and start building.

My group discovered Fletcher Pratt's naval wargame rules (still available) when we were young and proceeded to build close to 1500 WWII and WWI ships in 1:1200 scale (1 inch = 1 foot) from balsa, wire and other materials.

cfielitz27 Apr 2021 6:35 a.m. PST

I used to make 1:2400 ships mostly out of balsa. They weren't perfect, but they did the job.

Andrew Walters27 Apr 2021 9:01 a.m. PST

Many of the old Wargame books and rules discuss creating miniatures, since you had to DIY back in the day. Ships are probably the easiest things to make.

Donald Featherstone's Naval War-games has a lot of rules and instructions.

I made some (very) simple models for Franklin's Sea with full instructions. You can download that from BoardGameGeek. I used craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks) instead of balls because of a TMP contest about making a game from trash or something like that. I find balsa difficult to sand because it's so soft. I could definitely make better models today than the Franklin's Sea designs, but they're an easy starting point. For Age of Sail ships, anyway.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP27 Apr 2021 12:45 p.m. PST

A friend of mine has many of the Fletcher Pratt ships. I wonder if he reads TMP and sees us. I haven't seen him for a number of years but I'll try to post it to him so he can show some pictures maybe.

Dagwood28 Apr 2021 6:51 a.m. PST

@ Schogun, 1 inch = 100 foot, you mean, of course. Otherwise you would have to use 6" "action figures" as crew figures …

Malchor29 Apr 2021 5:25 a.m. PST

Bobgnar, wow!

Was wondering where Fletcher Pratt's ships ended up. A lot of Pratt's papers as an author ended up in two university archives, with nothing in those collections related to his wargaming.

Malchor29 Apr 2021 5:30 a.m. PST

Andrew Walters, ha! I did find the instructions section in Featherstone's Naval War-games. This has caused me to waver. I've been looking at Ed Smith and R. Nelson's early 1970s ancients rules and a friend has got me into Don't Give Up the Ship. For both we have been mucking around on virtual tabletops.

I need to pick an era (and a rules set!) now and stick with it for a bit. I am thinking Triremes might be the easiest of the three eras to start, then circle back to sails or iron.

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