Building the Peregrine Galley: The Basic Hull

The first major undertaking is constructing the hull. In this model, we will be building everything from the gun deck up, so there will be cabin interiors and all that fun. The hull itself is constructed plank-on-bulkhead style, just like a scratchbuilt wood model, although paper behaves somewhat differently from real wood.

In slightly more detail, the steps in constructing the basic hull form are to first make the frame from the false keel and bulkheads, attach the main deck, attach the cabin bulkheads and stern plate, making and attaching the bulwarks, preparing the first (underlayer) planking, planking the hull and bulwarks with strips (second planking), and painting the hull.

Hull Frame

The hull's frame consists of a false keel, numerous bulkheads corresponding to the marked frames on the plans, and a horizontal bulkhead at waterline 3 that is more or less at the orlop deck. The easiest way to do this is to photocopy the plans at scale and cut them out, as shown below. You can use these templates to transfer to the actual card.

First, cut out paper templates from the plan sheets

The keel should be traced from the plan's sheer profile and goes up to the bottom of the deck (also marked). Since the keel is more than 11 inches and will not fit on letter-size cardstock, we need to construct it from pieces. We also want the keel to be thick anyway, so I made it of two layers of doubled cardstock (four layers total) in four pieces, overlapping at different points for strength.

We will be making a portion of the orlop, so create a cutout in the false keel from the deck down to waterline 3 on the plans in the area between frames 9-C and F-P. Don't forget to cut the hole near the bow for gammoning the bowsprit much later, as I did. At the bow, the keel needs to extend up to the beakhead bulkhead to support the tiny little deck there. Also, cut out runs for the masts; this will allow the keel itself to support the masts when we step them later.

Next, make the bulkheads. Xerox lots of copies of the body plan. Fold them along the center and cut to each marked frame to ensure perfect symmetry. Tack these to double-ply cardstock and cut out the bulkheads. Remember that bulkheads 6-0 and I-M will need to have a 1.5 inch cutout down to waterline 3 to accomodate the orlop.

Next, cut out a horizontal bulkhead corresponding to waterline 3 on the deck plan. You'll need one for each side. Check that the distances from each bulkhead centerline to the side agrees with the deck plan.

Now we need to cut lots of slots so that everything fits together like a puzzle. This is very straightforward but is quite a few hours of work. Make sure that you're cutting the slots at the right places or you will have a warped hull. Each bulkhead will have a slot at the bottom for the keel and a slot on either side at waterline 3. The keel will have slots at each bulkhead, while the waterline 3 formers will have a slot that matches each bulkhead.

When you're done, put all these parts under a stack of books to press them flat again, as they have undoubtedly warped during your cutting and handling. The result is a whole pile of frame pieces, as shown below. Notice the cutouts in the false keel and in some of the bulkheads to accomodate the orlop deck in two sections.

frame parts

The stem and the stern above waterline 3 should be colored wood (Prismacolor Walnut) at this time. The fronts of bulkheads 9 and F and the backs of bulkheads C and P should be colored black.

Assemble and glue the whole mess now. The result is shown below. Let dry for a day before handling.

assembled frame

Orlop Deck

The orlop deck "overlaps" the hold and is clearly visible through the hatches and ladderways, so we'll need to put something there.

Prepare the orlop decks from single-layer card 1.5 inches wide by the length that fits between frames 9-C and F-P and plank with 1/8 inch strips colored as the deck color (Prismacolor Mocha Light). Don't forget that the main one will need a hole for the mainmast cut in it prior to installation.

orlop deck

Here are some deck planking tips, as we will need to do this again for the main deck, quarterdeck, and forecastle. I use 1/8 inch strips of cardstock (which scales to 1 foot, reasonable for wideish planks), colored an appropriate deck color (Prismacolor Mocha Light). Markers color unevenly unless you go over the area repeatedly; you don't need to do this as some color variation is a good thing here. The substrate we are planking to is colored a darker color (black works fine) and we glue the planks onto that; minor gaps and imperfections in your planking will reveal the darker color underneath, simulating caulking (cardstock is difficult to edge-color without bleeding). In practice I pencil in a grid on white cardstock and color the reverse side after planking is completed - the color goes through because the Prismacolor markers bleed through cardstock if you repeatedly color over an area. Doing it this way lets me mark and measure with pencil as I'm planking, while getting it black from the reverse side when I'm done.

I'm not sure what planking pattern was actually used in the real ship. The orlop can be planked with a simple 1-2-3-4 pattern, but this is not correct for decks. One reasonable pattern for the main deck is a 5-butt shift in a 1-3-5-2-4 pattern. To do this, lay the first plank of 5 units (if you use 1/2 inch units these planks will scale to 20 feet, which is about right) long down on the centerline. Declare the left end to be the endpoint. Lay the plank below it 2 units to the right, the next plank 4 units to the right, the next 1 unit, the next 3 units, and then repeat. See the picture.

planking pattern

You can also simulate treenails by embossing them with a compass needle (I put two at the end of each plank); real treenails are less than 2 inches wide and otherwise impossible to represent at our scale. After planking, lightly coat with matte varnish to protect the surface. Install into the appropriate spaces when done. The result is shown below. The black "box" around each deck section helps hide the fact that we don't build the whole orlop as only these small sections will be visible through the ladderways.

orlop deck

Main Deck

The main deck is conveniently shown in the half-breadth plan. You will need to lengthen it ever so slightly to compensate for the sheer; check against the plans and make sure the station lines match exactly. Cut out a full deck from single-layer card and plank. Cut out the forward hatch, forward ladderway, main hatch, main ladder, and the holes for the three masts. Cut a slot where it matches with the keel at the bow. The completed deck is shown below.

main deck

Although you could do it later, I found it convenient to add the trim to the ladderways before attaching the deck. This is constructed from 4 pieces of card, one at each edge, with the corners beveled so that the pieces meet at 45 degrees.

Varnish the deck, press flat to remove any warping resulting from the planking, and bend the camber and sheer curve into it by hand. Once it more or less holds the appropriate shape on its own, glue the deck to the frame and tie it down with elastic bands as shown below. Make absolutely sure all the stations match up and the lines are fair before doing this.

Gluing the deck
onto the frame


Although many English ships of the period have round tuck sterns, the plans (see waterlines 5 and 6 in the sheer and compare to the half-breadth) and the Van de Velde painting clearly depict a square-tuck stern. This makes construction easier. In this step we will attach some structure for the stern but the actual finishing, with windows and gilt and whatnot, will be for a later stage.

The stern is constructed from several pieces. There will be the rear stern plate that forms the end of the stern. There is a horizontal piece that doubles as the window ledge in the interior of the captain's great cabin. Finally, there is the large stern fascia that comprises most of the stern above the deck. The details we will add later. The picture shows where these three pieces will show up in the sheer profile.

Pieces for
the stern as marked on plan

Make the lower stern piece by slightly lengthening (to account for the slant) the rear profile of the ship from the body plan. Color the part a wood color and mount on end of the ship. Plank the exterior with diagonals, sharp end up. See pictures later.

Since we are constructing everything above the main deck, the great cabin and the captain's quarters will be visible through the stern windows and gunports. Two bulkheads are actually shown on the plans for this purpose. We can make these bulkheads by using the closest frames (frames 21 and 15) as an outline, extending them as needed to fair with the hull curves at the point of installation. Plank these horizontally and glue on small fake doors (planked vertically); I made mine scale to 5ft by 3ft, which gives a slightly short but comfortably wide door. Make the door details like hinges and handles out of bits of scrap colored black. Finally, make the longitudinal bulkhead that divides the fore part. The end result is partitions for three rooms: the great cabin at the stern (where the captain can entertain guests and where charts and navigation is done), the captain's cot on the starboard side (shared with the a gun), and the corresponding port side room (also shared with a gun). Note that the center divider needs to be off center to accomodate the mizzenmast and the stairwell. The parts are shown below.

bulkhead parts

Install the bulkheads as shown below. This also illustrates how the sternplate should look, with the diagonal planking described earlier.


Now we complete the transom. Plank a piece of bond paper to the width of the rear sternplate; this will form the underside of the transom. Cut out the stern fascia using the body profile; you'll need to adjust it a little higher to compensate for the slant (compare and triple-check against the sheer plan to make sure you have this measurement right). The piece will need to run from the end of the sternplate up to the stern rail. Remember that this piece will be curved out a bit (loosely following the line in the half-body) so it will need to be slightly wider to compensate. Finally, remember that the stern fascia will extend beyond the bulwark (which follows the inner curve with more tumblehome) and will have a curved piece capping it off later, so it bulges out slightly compared with the rest of the body. Cut out the section in the middle for windows. We will build stern details and fittings on a separate piece and glue them on later.

Make the horizontal piece; this will have a curve on the rear edge matching the curve of the stern fascia and will be straight across on the front edge where it meets the sternplate. Cut an angled bit of double-ply card to set the angle correctly. This piece actually goes where the rudder post and tiller goes (the business end of the tiller is actually in the cabin roof); we will frame this later so that the tiller has somewhere to go. Finally, cut tiny curved and angled wedges following the curved knee in the sheer profile; these go on the bottom of the stern piece. The picture below illustrates this assembly; it is much simpler than described. The part on the left makes the top two red lines I marked on the plans; the last segment is on the hull already. The part on the right will form the underside of the transom.

stern parts

With all these angled bits setting the angles, glue the stern piece onto the sternplate; these two pieces should run parallel to each other. Once this is set, curve the transom (from planked bond paper) to match the curve, cut out excess to match the curve at the top, mark and cut out the tiller hole, and glue in place. See picture for completed result.

pieces in place

At this time I made a little pirate figure to help judge scale; he is 5 feet 6 inches tall plus a tall pirate hat. The Peregrine Galley is a small ship and the Great Cabin is perhaps not so great.

Forecastle bulkhead

We need to install a forward bulkhead where the front of theforecastle is. The front one is the beakhead bulkhead and is the frontmost outline on the body plan. Note that it flares out very sharply from the tumblehome of the rest of the bow and basically looks like an trapezoid with the pointy end down. Plank this piece horizontally and paint red.

The installed forecastle bulkhead is shown below. The second one is temporarily fitted so I could more easily judge the placement of parts but should not be a part of the model at this stage (we will later add false knees after the forecastle deck is attached).

forecastle bulkheads


We'll make bulwarks in three parts: from the stern to the end of the quarterdeck, the midsection, and the forecastle. I used spare card and compared against the sheer profile to construct the outline. Mark and cut out the gunports and oarports as well. The bulwark goes down to the deck level except closer to the midsection where we take it closer to waterline 3. The pieces are divided as shown below:

Make the
bulwark in three pieces

The rear two pieces curve gently to match the tumblehome of the hull, but the part under the forecastle curves radically. This part has an unusual shape and needs to be custom-fitted. The top curves sharply out at an angle. When viewed from the top, the top edge follows a nearly straight line connecting the tops of the bulkheads, while the bottom follows the deck.

Make all pieces out of double layer card. When everything test-fits ok (temporarily tape or rubber cement the pieces), attach them edge on edge, plank, paint red, and varnish. After the parts are dry, hand-shape the bulwarks until they hold the curve on their own. You do not want tension when you glue down the bulwarks.

painted and shaped

Glue the bulwarks in place and tie them down with elastic to dry. While the glue is still tacky, constantly check and adjust to make sure everything is in alignment. The forecastle rail needs to line up across the centerline, all gunports should be in line, and the bulwarks need to be at the same height. I used a thin and long dowel or ruler and set it at various places to determine alignment; if the bulwarks are at slightly different heights the ruler won't lie perpendicular to the keel.

glue down
the bulwarks

I colored the bulwarks with marker at this point, but this is not necessary as we will be planking and painting over this area anyway. Note the temporary second forecastle bulkhead; this was to guide the shape of the bulwarks at this stage and will be removed once the bulwarks are secure.

bulwarks installed

First Planking

We'll make a first planking out of double-layer card. The frame makes a nice and natural grid to follow, so cut out one piece for each box in the grid. Shape and trim the pieces to fit off the ship and then glue on, taking care to make the curves smooth with adjacant pieces.

first planking

This is one point where we deviate from wood ship construction; the transverse plates are more akin to steel ship construction and definitely look all wrong on a wood ship. That's why the first planking only serves as a support structure for the second planking, which will be done in a more authentic manner.

Before you get to the bow, you need to construct the bit of deck planking forward of the beakhead bulkhead, as shown.

bulkhead deck

After everything is covered, plug up any holes with scraps, smooth glue into the cracks as a filler, and sandpaper smooth. Repeat with the filler, glue, and sandpaper until the hull is sufficiently smooth to begin the second planking.

sand the hull smooth

Second Planking

The second planking is the externally visible planking and will be done with the usual 1/8 inch strips. I colored them walnut, but this turned out to be unnecessary as I wound up painting the entire hull. Before you begin, lay down temporary strips and mark where they lie to give you an idea of the run of the planks. In all cases the planks must lie naturally and must not be forced laterally. The planks go straight down to the waterline and then up from the keel, meeting in the middle (this will result in oddly shaped planks sealing the middle, but this reflects actual shipbuilding practice).

down temporary battens

Start planking in straight runs from the deck up and from the deck down to the load waterline. You will have to cut the planks to go around the gunports and oarports as it is difficult to trim them cleanly on the model.

above the deck

From the keel, place planks for the lower part of the hull. They will be thinner at the front and will flare out near the stern. The picture below shows the mostly completed lower planking, including the flare-out at the stern where we will need to put in extra bits of card (called stealers) to fill in those spots.

hull planking

It's starting to look ship-shape now!

planking nearly finished

After this is done, you can paint the bottom off-white. A light mist coat of spray primer will help prevent the underlying color from showing through; had I left the planking uncolored this would not be necessary. The point of this rather tedious step was to provide the appropriate planked surface texture across the entire main hull after painting, and the effect is well worth it.


On a real ship, the wales are thicker planks at key locations that serve as structural reinforcement, providing attachment points for high-load structures like the chainplates. We fake the wales on the model by adding a double-ply strip where the wales should be.

The plans show two wales just above the waterline and a third that runs through the gunports. Note that they do not run parallel to the waterline but instead curve up near the bow and stern. On my model, they did not line up precisely with my planking (which turned out to run much straighter than I thought).

To match the painting, I added a fourth wale around the level of the quarterdeck, following the curve of the gunwale. The area above this wale will be painted red.


The channels are the points where the shrouds and backstays transfer stress to the hull. They are shown in the outboard profile clearly as to their length and placement, but not as to their width.

The channels must be wide enough so that when the shrouds are attached, they clear the bulwark and rails. You may have to eyeball this; I set up a temporary mast and ran thread down the side to see what the offset should be. Make the boards out of 4-ply cardstock and glue onto the side. Note that we are not drilling holes for the deadeyes and chainplates yet; at a later stage we will cut small notches for those parts and cover it with a fashion plate, just as in a real ship.

This bow shot captures all the channels and gives you an idea of what they look like installed.

Bow view, showing channels


Cut out the rudder from the outboard profile from 4-ply cardstock. Make sure that the top end fits into the rudder hole. Mark the waterline and paint the area below off-white and the area above the same brown as the hull.

Painting the Hull

Mark the waterline by setting the hull upside down with the keel parallel to the table. An unopened stack of 100 3x5 index cards under the forecastle was about right to prop up my model; yours may vary. Get a stack of CDs, paper, and whatnot such that a pencil held level at the top meets the waterline (just below the lowest wale). Using the stack to hold the pencil level, draw the waterline onto the model.

The area below the waterline should be painted off-white (I used Liquitex Soft White / Beige). Paint slightly over the line.

Paint the bottom of the hull white

The area above the waterline is painted brown (Liquitex Burnt Siena). Mask the waterline with curve tape and painter's low-tack masking tape.

The area above the fourth wale is painted the same red as the bulwarks. Again, mask and paint.

The basic painting looks like the picture below when completed. I made a temporary stand out of card to facilitate work on the deck fittings and things, which comes next.