DANMARK in a bottle

DANMARK ship in a bottle (with Video)

I have just finished making the sail training ship DANMARK and decided to try and make a miniature of it in a bottle.

The main model is 1:60 scale and the miniature is approx. 1:400.

Although I know the principles of a ship in a bottle, this is a complete learning curve for me as a first timer.
The hull started out in 3 pieces (the hull would not fit the bottle neck in one piece) and the third piece was in order to get the red waterline.

  The three pieces were clamped together and 4 holes drilled right through them to take toothpicks for registration guides. The toothpicks were glued into the bottom section and the tops of them rounded. The assembly was then shaped to the hull profile. The top piece was shaped to the deck profile and then a step was sanded down both sides (similar to the armour step on Bismarck), to take a strip of veneer to form the bulwarks of the main deck.

The lifeboats and davits were assembled as separate units on the cabin roofs and will be glued in place onto the cabins once the hull is in the bottle (I hope)!

I have made some long clamps by cutting and extending  electronic test clips (kleps?) with thick copper wire (from twin & earth), using 4mm ID aluminium tube into which the body of the clips were a push fit.

In a normal ship in bottle, the masts are hinged at the base and fitted and rigged outside the bottle. The masts are then folded down and the whole assembly inserted into the bottle and then the masts raised again.
Due to the shape of the main deck with the Fore and Mizzen masts against the bulkheads, this is not possible so I have fitted 2mm ID copper tubes where the masts will step.
I plan to build the masts and rig them outside the bottle, them remove them from the ship, place the hull in position inside the bottle and then insert the masts and step them into the tube sockets using 24 hour epoxy to allow positioning time. In a similar fashion, the yards will be glued into place after the masts are inserted.
This is what I hope will work but as with all trial and error, it will be gloriously successful or an almighty c**k-up!
Time will tell!

The masts were made from 2mm walnut dowel, sanded to shape. The upper bands where the mast sections are joined are cotton wound around the masts and superglued.

The mast trees were too small to make out of wood so I experimented with cotton, winding it around a cocktail stick in a coil formation and gluing with CA glue as I went along. When it was to the right size, I soaked both sides with glue and then left it for 24 hours to cure. I then sanded the coil to shape.
This came out quite well.

This is the first mast done with the above method. The trees will be painted brown and black.

I am making the yards from 1mm brass rod. I have soldered 0.4mm brass wire to the centre of the yards.

 0.5mm holes will be drilled into the masts at the relevant yard positions and the brass wire inserted and cut off at the rear of the mast. This will enable me to insert the masts into the bottle with the yards folded. The masts will then be stepped and the yards swivelled temporarily into place. The masts will then be glued into place with 24hr. epoxy. When the masts are glued and set, the yards will then be fine-tuned and glued.

Here are the masts and yards painted.

By trial and error, I finally came up with a simple clamping arrangement on the jig for the ratlines.
The black strips are sanding sticks glued to the baseboard. The cotton is wound over them and then another sanding stick clamped on top.

I intend to glue the top of each ratline to its associated mast, splayed outward, before insertion into the bottle. After the mast is stepped and the glue dried, I will “spring” the bottom of the ratlines into place onto the side bulwarks. (Hopefully!)

There are 18 sets of ratlines (3 each side of each mast) and I didn’t feel like making 18 individual sets, so  I made a new jig to make multiple sets at once.
This will make a complete set for each level (with a couple of spares), in one go.

Here are the ratlines attached to the masts. The second and third pictures show them temporarily fitted to the hull.

The sail plans from the kit were each scanned into MS PAINT and printed out at the reduced scale. They were then attached to one sheet of paper and scanned in again so that I could print out multiple copies as required. The tops of the sails were reinforced with cotton glued on with PVA. They will then be attached to the yards with CA glue (Superglue). I found that the cotton provided an excellent medium for gluing the sails to the yards with CA.

I wanted to see how much rigging I could get on the boat but did not want to make any mistakes using the masts already made.
I decided to make a set of practice masts from toothpicks and another, spare set of yards.


Using these practice masts, I learnt a lot, especially the method and sequence of assembly.
I am starting to modify the main hull for the rigging lines. Below are pictures of the channel cut out underneath the hull for the rigging lines. The lines will run through “hoops” (made from cut down staples), fitted into the channels. This will stop the lines fouling the lower hull when the two hull pieces are glued together inside the bottle.
The rigging lines will exit the hull through the hole in the bow. This hole is sleeved with a piece of tube and will then be covered up by the “bow wave” in the plasticine, which will form the “sea”.


Here is the practice jig with the practice rigging started. When this is complete, it will show me the order of assembly of the rigging on the proper masts. I have also hopefully found a solution to stop the masts getting tangled in the rigging when they are lying loose.


The bottle was marked with the waterline and Main mast position. It was then masked off to keep the neck clean whilst the “sea” was inserted. It appears that the two most common methods of creating the sea is using either linseed oil putty (glazing putty), or plasticine. The putty takes about 8 weeks to set hard but the drawback is that you can see it’s natural colour (grey or brown) through the sides of the bottle and the surface must be painted. Plasticine on the other hand is self-coloured but remains semi-pliable.
I did an experiment mixing plasticine with 24hr epoxy and this was perfect for what I wanted. I then started laying up the shell of the “sea” with the epoxy mix.

I left the centre clear as I wanted to glue in a platform upon which I would glue the lower hull. This would provide me with the rigidity to assemble the ship inside the bottle and pull the rigging lines without the hull moving.

I mixed some more “epoxy plasticine” to coat the glass base and then glued some wood to the required height using pure epoxy.

I then filled out the “sea” with ordinary plasticine to the level of the platform.

I then cut a wood blank, slightly oversize to the lower hull dimensions and laid this “dry” on the central platform. I then filled up to the top of this all around with more plasticine.

The blank was then removed, ready for the lower hull to be glued in place.
I found that the best tool to use was aluminium tube. Providing you don’t flatten it, you can keep bending it to different shapes for the various areas of the bottle.
The sea will be fine-tuned once the ship is in the bottle.


I spent the better part of two days studying the rigging on the ”big” ship and drawing diagragms of the rigging that I figured was possible. I then drew up diagragms for each mast with the rigging drawn and labelled. From these notes, I then drew up an assembly sequence of each mast and its sails, once inside the bottle.
I have worked out that I am able to fit 52 rigging ropes through the hull and another 17 from mast to mast, therefore I have decided to fit the sails after the masts are mounted on the hull in the bottle.

The yards were made as previously described. The sails had the foot ropes drawn on them in black and the seams in light grey. They were then printed out and the seams overdrawn with brown pencil. Using a home-made light box, I drew the sail outlines and seams on the other sides. They were then cut out and attached to the yards.

The only sail attached to the mast before insertion is the sail attached to the rear of the mizzen mast. The top is 1mm brass rod with the end flattened and a 0.5mm hole drilled in it. A piece of 0.4mm brass wire was threaded through it and bent in a U-shape to form a hinge and this was attached to the mast. The bottom spar of the sail had a notch cut in the end with a jeweller’s saw and another piece of 0.4mm wire bent into a U-shape and soldered into the slot. The sail will be folded up during insertion and then once the mast is glued and set, the sail will be opened out and the bottom spar engaged on the mast by means of this locating lug. The sail will then be pulled tight by means of the stay fitted at the rear end of the bottom spar (not shown).

As can be seen from the above photo, the masts are rigged individually on a small jig.
It is so easy to knock the masts whilst rigging them and I snapped the mizzen mast at its base where it fits into its socket. I glued the ends together and then reinforced all the masts with pieces of 0.8mm rod. This was done by drilling the ends of the masts with a 1mm drill and then using medium SG to glue the rods in place. The ends were then trimmed.


This is the master rigging jig made up from off-cuts of scrap wood. The threads were kept apart by using cocktail straws to hold each group of ropes.
The straws were labelled, as were the ends of each rope, to coincide with the mast diagragms.

As each mast was rigged, it was transferred to its position on the master jig where the ropes were fed through the deck, through the lower hull, through the straws and then the ends were clamped to stop them getting tangled. Some tangling still took place but not serious.
Here is a picture of the ropes going through the tube in the lower hull (located in the centre of the jig).

Below is a picture of the threads going through the guide staples in the underside of the hull.

When all the rigging was done, the top and bottom hull parts were fitted together to check that the threads moved freely back and forward.


The lower hull was now inserted into the bottle and the rigging lines positioned out of the way and covered to prevent any glue touching them. 24hr epoxy was applied to the mounting platform and the lower hull placed in position. A simple “T” was made from scrap wood and used to level the hull fore and aft and side to side.

This was now left for a day to fully cure.

The hull was now clamped and all the slack taken out of the rigging lines.

The masts were then removed from the hull and all the rigging was extended out of the hull to allow enough slack to fit the hull into the bottle with the masts remaining outside.

Paper was laid over the plasticine to protect the hull and finally, the hull inserted into the bottle.

The hull was now clamped using a locating tool clamped to the neck of the bottle so that the threads could be straightened out and pulled tight to allow the upper hull to fit onto the lower hull.

A dab of 24hr epoxy was applied to the tops of the locating pins on the lower hull and the upper hull was placed in position over it. The threads were pulled back and forth to check that they were free.

When the masts are glued in place, the glue in the bottom of the mast locating tubes will further reinforce the join between the two parts of the hull.


Although I took every precaution (or so I thought!) to prevent the lines getting tangled, I wasted the better part of a day trying to untangle the rigging on the masts, between the masts and their corresponding holes in the deck.


I cut the rigging where it was attached to the masts and then starting from the mizzen mast position at the stern, straightened out all the mizzen mast threads ensuring no overlaps. These threads were then re-attached to the mast outside the bottle.
This proved to be far easier than the original idea and if I build another sailing ship in a bottle, I will follow the original procedure up to the point of placing the rigging lines through the two hull pieces but not joining them to the masts. The lower hull will be fitted into the bottle as described, the threads pulled tight and the upper hull placed in the bottle. The rigging lines will be tightened and then the upper hull glued to the lower hull as before. The rigging from the upper hull will then be identified as just described and attached to the masts as described below.

 The sequence will be :-

1 - Rig mizzen mast
2 - Insert mast into the bottle
3 – Glue mast into position
4 – Attach sails and rigging
5 – Main mast similar
6 – Fore mast similar
7 – Attach Jib sails

Patience is a virtue………
Whilst working on the mizzen mast, I snapped off the top section in two places. It snapped at the mounting holes for the yards. I made a new section and in future, when drilling holes in thin dowel, I will drill the hole and then put thin SG in it to strengthen the grain around the hole. When dry, the hole will be re-drilled.

Here is the mizzen mast being “re-rigged”.

Now the jib sail is folded in order to put the mast in the bottle.

The threads are straightened and the mast readied for stepping.

5 min epoxy is applied to the mast socket and the mast is stepped.

The rear lifeboat assembly is glued with 5 min epoxy.

Now the sails are attached, starting from the bottom.

The same procedure was followed with the main mast.
The mast was rigged outside the bottle and then the lines pulled tight.

The mast was then inserted, top first, gently pulling the threads as the mast moved down the bottle. Be very careful not to allow the mast to twist. One twist and you get an almighty tangle. (Tell me about it!)
Once in the bottle, the mast was fitted temporarily and the rigging lines pulled to take out the slack. They were left slightly loose to allow the mast to be removed for gluing.

The mast was glued and when set, the rigging was pulled tight and glued. Special tools had to constantly be made and modified as I went along.

Here is the main mast in position.

I decided to try and simulate the rigging blocks. I wanted to put a “ball” of brown on the threads.
I tried paint but it wouldn’t “ball” on the thread. I then tried epoxy glue mixed with paint but it also wouldn’t “ball” or stick to the thread. I then tried quickset PVA mixed with paint and it was perfect.

 Now the main mast is rigged.

The foremast being placed in the bottle.

And finally, the foremast is in place and jib sails positioned.

This has been a 100% learning curve so far and at the end of the diary, I will summarize all that went wrong and the solutions that I found that worked for me.

Finally, the ship is completely rigged.

There are 51 rigging lines going through the hull and 31 lines going from mast to mast and jib.

Now, all the rigging lines through the hull are pulled tight, one by one and then 5 min epoxy is applied to them where they exit the front tube of the lower hull. When dry, they are cut.

The plasticine is now “tuned” and the sea touched up with some white acrylic paint.

After all the stress and swear words that would make even Nemesis blush, cutting the last thread was a huge anticlimax!
It was like coming down from an adrenalin high!

 The neck of the bottle is sealed with a “cap” made from thick string. The string is glued in a spiral with PVA and then formed into a sleeve around the neck of the bottle.
The name is from some transfers left over from the “big” model.


First of all, it is vital that all rigging lines are comprehensively marked as to their location. After finishing the masts, I decided that my original idea of rigging all the masts on the jig was the better one. Rigging the masts after the hull was in the bottle proved harder as it was more difficult to check that the lines did not cross each other coming out of the bottle due to distortion when looking through the glass and the number of lines converging at the neck.
The main problem, however, whichever method was used, was the lines getting tangled. The lines always got tangled due to the ends being loose. To overcome this, I grouped the lines together in plastic straws and sealed the ends in plastic bank bags.

When inserting the mast into the bottle, it is vital that the mast does not get even one twist. Set the mast in its position on a temporary jig, outside the bottle, take up the slack and then fit it into a paper tube whilst inserting it into the bottle, top first. Slide it in, 10mm at a time, pulling the rigging lines one at a time, to take up the slack. Do not pull the lines as a group, but one at a time.
Make sure all the other rigging lines are out of the way to avoid tangling.

I snapped the mizzen mast outside the bottle and the foremast snapped inside the bottle whilst trying to position it. The problem was the yard mounting holes drilled into the masts. These weaken the dowel and even strengthening the holes with CA did not cure the problem. It was also very difficult to see where the holes were on the masts, once inside the bottle.
My solution is to not compromise the masts with holes but to fix the yards on brackets fitted to the masts. See example below. This also makes the mounting of the yards much easier. (By the way, a toilet roll is great for holding small parts).

Putting a ship in a bottle is not for the faint hearted. If it was not for the fact that I had a special reason to do this particular ship, a simpler rigged ship or even a cargo or warship is a must for a beginner. You will have to make a variety of special tools as no ordinary tools can be used.

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