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Modeling 1:1200 Scale Napoleonic Sailing Ships

100 Gun Ship-of-the-line (HMS Victory) - Full Sails
Product #
Suggested Retail Price
$13.95 USD

74 Gun Ship-of-the-line (Le Superbe) - Full Sails
Product #
Suggested Retail Price
$13.95 USD

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colonneh137 writes:

Captain Rivet counter here. Very pretty paintwork. The ship's boat tagging astern on a painter is a nice touch. However . . . The maintopmast brace needs to be attached to the bottom of the foretopmast, not to the top of the foretopmast. All of the braces run parallel to the main brace. The main brace is the line running from just below the platform (Main top) above the mainsail down to the foremast. Nevertheless, very pretty work.

Revision Log
11 May 2012page first published

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Volunteer Fezian writes:

Four GHQ Napoleonic Ships

For some time now, I have wanted to try my hand at modeling 1:1200 scale Napoleonic sailing vessels. I have only found three sources for these tiny models: Skytrex, GHQ, and Langton. I have read several reviews by wargamers and modelers that favor either GHQ or Langton as the best in mold detail. Langton has the largest product variety, including accessories such as etched brass ratlines, signal flags, damaged vessels, etc. Langton also has 'at quarters' vessels that actually have open gun ports and protruding cannon. The disadvantage is that they are more expensive than the GHQ models. The GHQ 74-gun ships can be obtained for $11.50 USD to $13.95 USD - this includes the ship and the sails. You have to purchase the hull and sail sets separately from Langton - for a 74, this would amount to $16 USD to $17 USD, depending on whether you get the white-metal or brass sail set.

When I decided to put a few ships on my Christmas list, the only U.S. distributer of Langton ships - Waterloo Miniatures - was undergoing a website renovation. So I went with the GHQ ships. This article will cover the construction of two of these models: the 100-gun HMS Victory and the 74-gun Le Superbe.

Typical GHQ ship package

My first step is to clean up the model, using an X-acto knife and needle file. The cleaner you get it, the easier it is to paint. GHQ does a great job getting most of the flash off before packaging, so this step takes minimal time. I also drill out the holes for the masts, as they are too small. I also drill small holes at the rear of each of the shroud chains. These will be used to secure the thread for the standing rigging later on. Then I glue the stern to the rear of the hull.

Next thing is to prime the parts. I like to use white because it brings out the detail better. After priming, I temporarily mount the hull to something that I can place in a clamp. This can be anything from a small block of wood to a discarded phenolic name plate. The clamp I use comes from MicroMark. I adapted it to a steel stand I made, to give it some weight, which allows me to use both hands.

Mounted to a steel stand

I gave both hulls a coat of Straw Yellow.

Hulls painted Straw Yellow

While the hulls are drying, I mount the masts (with sails) in holes drilled into small wooden blocks. Mounting the mast in this way really helps by giving you something to hold while painting.

Important: Do not use glue! Otherwise, you may have to destroy the block to get the mast out.
Masts mounted for painting

I first use a coat of off-white Linen for the sails. While the sails are drying, I start the detail on the hulls and decks. I have used 'Nelson Checker' for the Victory, and black hull with plain yellow stripe for Le Superbe. I paint the sterns black to begin with. Once they are dry, I drybrush the raised detail with whatever color I want it to be, i.e. Straw Yellow for the Victory and gold for Le Superbe.

You can also use white for American or French vessels, but you can't really go wrong with gold since most navies used it.
Finished deck and hull

Finished deck and hull

Finished hull and decks of both ships

Back to the sails now. I do a wash of Iraqi Sand (or any darker tan color will do here, since we are just trying to simulate weathering). Then I drybrush the ropes and other raised detail with Light Brown. I used the same Straw Yellow for the Victory's masts, and Natural Wood for Le Superbe's masts.

Victory's masts

For the Victory, I added black bands on the masts with a black fine-tip, ball-point pen. After the ink went on, I sprayed the masts with a clear-coat sealer and let it dry, to prevent the ink from running. I then started fitting the ratlines in the tops.


Here I added a spritsail yard and dolphin striker to the bowsprit, since GHQ doesn't include them on their models. The bowsprit is very flimsy as well, which made rigging more difficult. (I built my own bowsprits for two later ships I built, the Shannon and East Indiaman. I may show these in a later article.)


I bought some small mesh/screen material at Lowes that I used for shrouds and ratlines. It works OK for the larger ships, but the mesh is really too large for the smaller vessels. (I later found some fine net/mesh dress-trim at Hancock Fabrics that is perfect.)

Ratlines for the tops

After mounting the masts on the hull, I started working on the mizzen shrouds. I do this before rigging the mizzen stay lines, because there is limited room to work with the spanker sail in the way. The following photos show how I do the lower shroud/ratlines:


I start by cutting a rectangle the length of the distance between the shroud chains to the bottom of the fighting top, and the width of the shroud chain. Then, using superglue, I glue black thread diagonally from about two mesh squares at one end to the outside of the other end of the rectangle.



Then I use a pair of scissors to cut along the outside of the thread. The result is a finished shroud/ratline.



The finished shroud/ratlines are put to the side while I complete the standing rigging. I start at the rear and work forward, alternating directions, rigging the back stays, then the fore stays for each mast. Doing it this way helps stabilize the soft metal masts.

Ratlines in place

Another modification I made at this point was to fabricate and install boat davits on both sides of the quarterdeck. I used HO scale railroad spikes, bent with needle-nosed pliers, as shown below:

Bent railroad spikes (sorry it's so blurry)

I drilled small holes in the quarterdeck on each side of the shrouds. A couple of drops of supergel, and then I pressed the davits in place.

Davits in place

Now I fit the rest of the lower shroud/ratlines.

Lower ratlines in place

At this point, I started thinking about basing. I decided to use heavy duty mattboard. Then I took wall spackle and, using a putty knife, sculpted waves and small white caps, then set aside to dry.


After the spackle was dry, I mixed Sea Blue, Basalt Gray and Dark Green, and painted the waves.


Here, I am making sure Le Superbe still fits the base:

Checking the fit

I then drybrush a light blue, then white, for the spray and whitecap effect. Next job is to mount the ship using white PVA glue.

The ship is mounted to the base

Here is the cutter hanging from the port-quarter davits:


And the other cutter being towed:

Cutter being towed

Here's a rear view:

Rear view

After finishing the Victory, I resumed work on Le Superbe. First, I set the quarterdeck davits.




Here is a detail of the main shroud and starboard davit with cutter:


Everything else went pretty much like the Victory, and here is the result:

Final result

I hope this short article will be of some help to any newcomer to these great, small scale ships. I am anxiously awaiting two Langton ships I ordered. I will let you know how they turn out.

P.S. (and in case some of you are wondering what the box is with The Prancing Pony sign behind the ships in the first photo in this article) Here is a photo of the inside:

Inside the Prancing Pony