Building the Peregrine Galley: Main Deck Details

At this stage, we have the basic hull form completed, but there are lots of little details that need to go on the main deck, including lots of cannons, ladders, capstan, bitts, and even furniture for the great cabin. All of these need to be built before we proceed to the quarterdeck and forecastle.


Harold Hahn in Ships of the American Revolution and Their Models includes a nice drawing showing the scaling of 18th-century guns. He has given permission to post the drawing in the Ship Modeling FAQ, found here. Scale his drawing to match a 6pdr cannon and use it for patterns.

The gun carriage is constructed out of 2-ply cardstock. Since we are working at a very small scale, you can simplify the plans somewhat. You need the sides (including the stair-step sides) but you can leave out the axle. You need the base and the front and back as well, but you can leave out the quoin as it won't be visible anyway. I find it faster to make them assembly-line style. Make 20 gun carriages and paint them red.

carriages, assembled

The wheels are made from a tightly rolled section of bond paper cut into discs and smoothed with glue. These can be natural wood color or painted black. You will need to make 80 wheels, 4 for each carriage. Glue them onto the carriages when done. After I built the cannons I bought a rotary hole punch (like the kind they use to punch holes for leather belts) and if you own such a thing I recommend punching the wheels out of 4-ply card instead - it will go much faster and the results will look better than my handcrafted effort.

carriage wheels

The barrels are strips of paper rolled, glued, and cut to length. Roll them at a slight angle so that they taper, and sand them smooth. The breech end of the gun is made by rolling little glue-balls from white glue with your fingers; this makes nice little hard spheres that you can then glue onto the ends. Paint the guns black. I held them on toothpicks and stuck them in styrofoam to dry; see the picture of the forest of guns.

barrels, painted and drying

Glue the guns into place on the carriages. If your measurements and tolerances are exact, they should fit snugly. Shown below are a bunch of cannons mounted and lined up.

Finished cannons lined up

Rigging the guns is another challenge. At the time I thought that blocks at this scale were too small to represent reasonably, so I decided to simulate them with glue and paint. We need to make the outhaul tackles (one on each side; these run the guns out for firing) and the inhaul tackle (one at the rear, to pull the gun back in for reloading), sixty in all for twenty carriages.

I set up a jig with two black threads to serve as reference. Tan upholstery thread is used to simulate rope. To make the tackles, tie a bit of thread to one rope. Tie it to the other. Run it back to the first and tie it again. Now run it back to the second and tie it again. Glue the knots on each side together with a dab of white glue. We will paint the glue brown to simulate the blocks. The result looks like a section with three ropes between the black reference lines and one lin leading from each side. Leave about an extra inch or two of thread on one side so that we can coil the ropes. You can see the jig and some of the little tackles below.

for making gun tackles

Tying the knots can be a little tricky; I've found it easier to tie the first two knots normally as overhand knots. Thread the first end through the third knot and tie the fourth knot around the second. This tangles the knots on each side together and prevents them from moving apart. Practice until you can get this with a minimum of deformation.

Once you have them all made and secured with glue, pull them off the jig and paint the glue parts light brown to simulate the blocks. Next, make rope coils on the long ends. Cut the end to something reasonable (a little over an inch) and coil them in your fingers. Pur a little glue between your thumb and index finger and rub it around. Touch the end of the coil to your fingers and clamp shut. Now use your free hand to "wind" the rope into a coil centered around the glue in your fingers. This technique actually works pretty well in producing reasonable looking coils; the result is shown below.

Coiling the ends of the ropes on the gun tackles

Now it is time to rig the cannons. Secure the cannons to the deck with a little bit of glue. One outhaul tackle goes on each side, short end (first know) fastened to the rear of each side and the long end to the bulwark, relatively low (below the level of the muzzle). The inhaul tackle is secured with the short end on the deck, the second know at the rear of the carriage, and the coil end behind the carriage. It is easiest to approach this by doing, for example, all the inhaul tackles at once, followed by all of the right side outhauls, and so on. Also, you should sort the tackles by length before starting (there will be slight variation) and ensure that the inhaul tackles are similar in length and that the outhaul tackles on each carriage match. The result with the tackles rigged should look something like below:

Rigging the gun tackles

We're not done yet. On the back of the cannon is the cascabel where we secure the breech line to; you'll notice that we did not do this while making the cannons themselves. The easy way to make the whole assembly, with the breech line wrapped neatly around the end of the cannon, is to make it separately and add them after the fact. Roll a thin stick out of tissue paper and color it black; this will be the cannon ends. Wrap a thicker stretch of rigging cord (sz 8 perle cotton used here) around it and secure with glue. Once they are dry, cut them off and trim them down. You can see the (before cutting) cannon ends below:

ends, with breech line pre-wrapped

Once these are separated, you can glue them individually on to the ends of guns, and once that is secured, you can glue the ends of the ropes to a point near the midpoint of the gunport, close to the opening itself. See below.

Rigged guns, including breech line

Finally, note that there are 11 gunports per side (22 total) but only 20 cannons. Closer observation will reveal that the front pair of gunports are for chase armament - there isn't enough space on deck for two guns to fire out the sides without fouling each other. However, we canot put guns in the second gunport without running into the chase armament. My guess is that in the real ship, the guns that go in the second gunport can be rerigged to serve as bow chasers, swapping roles as needed. Thus, for this model, we will mount the guns out the side of the second gunport and leave the chasers empty.

Anyhow, the cannons, once installed, sure make for an impressive view!

Cannons installed

Great Cabin Furniture

The great cabin in the stern will be visible through the windows. We need to add any details here before attaching the quarterdeck as we will no longer have access once the quarterdeck is in place.

In the great cabin (the large room at the stern) we'll want a largeish table as a chart table, a bunch of chairs, a map chest (perhaps with a bottle of nice brandy on top) and a bookcase or two. Make these out of little bits of card; all the structures are very simple and easy to make on your own. The table legs are made from rolled sticks of tissue and glue as it is difficult to roll even bond paper down this thin.

Miniature furniture for the great cabin

Ordinarily the captain's cot goes in the starboard room and the port side is a guest room, but when the quarterdeck goes on top and the cannons are run out, you can't see any detail in these rooms whatsoever, so there's no need to build these things.

After you rig the cannons in the great cabin (just the breech line; you probably don't need to have the tackles set up), you can install the furniture.

Furniture installed in great cabin

After you install the real stern, you can shine a flashlight through the side windows and see the cabin interior through the stern. Impressive stuff.


The ladders are very simple; just bits of double-ply card edge-glued together. You should size the ladders to the actual hatches themselves and ensure that they reach down to the orlop deck. Below are a couple of ladders, one with glue still drying.

Ladders, before installation

You should install the ladders before proceeding much further with the fittings. I found it easiest to pass them under the nearby hatches and then gluing them from beneath; this requires some skill with tweezers but allows you to make the ladders their full and proper width (which wouldn't fit down the ladderways themselves. The main deck ladders are installed as below:

Forward ladder Midships ladder

Note that the midships ladder doesn't run front to back; I thought this was a more believable ladder arrangement given the size of the ladderway.


The capstan is used for hauling big things like the anchor cables (with anchor attached); it consists of a drum with holes where you can insert bars. Men hold on to the bars and walk in circles to turn the capstan, which pulls in whatever rope is wound around it (usually a messenger cable that is then attached to the main anchor cable).

Constructing a capstan is pretty simple. The capstan is drawn on the Chapelle plans, so you can use this as a guide. Make a tube out of bond paper; this will be the central shaft. Make six whelps (the protruding side parts) out of double ply card and make little triangles to fill the space between them. On the top go two discs (with holes for the shaft in the center). These disks sandwich six little bits of card such that when fully assembled, there are little holes where the bars would go (we won't actually make the bars as the bars are installed immediately before using the capstan and are removed immediately after, so the bars are never in unless the ship is weighing anchor). Paint the whole thing red.


In my absent-mindedness I omitted the square platform that the capstan sits on; this is not really visible in the finished model as the capstan is mostly hidden by the quarterdeck, but you should add a 2-ply red disc at the bottom of the capstan and mount the whole thing on a 2-ply square of brown card.

Riding Bitts

The riding bitts are the heavy timbers that the anchor cable is wound around and consists of upright posts, knees that brace the posts, and a horizontal bar. This is also depicted in the plans from the top and side and is pretty easy to construct. I made the knee and the posts out of 4-ply card, cut to shape, and added two more pieces of 2-ply card on each side of the post to simulate a joined post-knee construction. The horizontal bar itself is constructed from a paper "box" with cutouts to accomodate the posts. Paint the whole thing red. I don't have pictures of the construction process but it is all straightforward and intuitive for anyone familiar with paper model making. The end result is shown below.


Bowsprit Bitts

The bowsprit is not stepped on the keel but is instead held by bitts. This is a simple construction where the heel of the bowsprit goes through the gap between the timbers and are thus secured above the deck. I recommend using a stick or something so you can measure exactly where the bowsprit will end up to ensure that the gap between the timbers is where it needs to be.

Bowsprit bitts

Galley Flue

This is the "chimney" that leads the the galley below decks where the ship's cook works. Note that on the plans it is rectangular when it goes through the main deck, but flues are usually circular at the top. This is easy enough to construct. Roll a tapered cone out of bond paper and cut to the appropriate size. Cut a large V-shaped chunk out of the cone near the top so that the top can come down 90 degrees. Finally, to get the rectangular bottom, pinch the cone to make two pairs of creases in the appropriate location and mount on a rectangular piece of card. Paint the assembly black and mount on a slightly larger brown piece of card (representing the reinforced area around the hole. The result is below.


Hang on to this piece; we will install it much later, after the forecastle goes on.


The pumps are shown on the plans near the mainmast. These are also simple to construct, consisting of a cylinder of bond paper, two "sticks" made of rolled tissue (representing the pump shaft and the lever mount) and a piece of 2-ply card for the pump handle itself. Everything should be black. The finished pumps appear below:



These are pretty easy; make the grating itself from 1mm strips of card colored as the deck.


Make the trim from darker bits of card. Finally, use a 2mm strip around the entire edge to raise it a bit. The finished gratings appear below.

Finished gratings

Do not install the gratings quite yet; we will do that in a moment as we install the anchor cables (which go down the hatch into the hold).

Hawse Holes

Hawse holes are the holes the anchor cables pass through. The outside end of the holes is shown on the plans. First, glue a bit of card over the point where the hawse hole will be to reinforce it. Paint it to match. Take a pin vise and drill a hole at that point going straight back. Clean up and repaint as needed, making sure the hole is clear and wide enough for the anchor cables to go through.

Drilling out the hawse holes


I use the drawings of anchors from the Anatomy of the Ship book on the Royal Caroline. You can probably use any appropriate period anchor as long as it is more or less the right size.

The anchors themselves are 4-ply card cut out to an anchor shape with a sharp knife. Add two little triangles on the ends of the hooks and paint the whole thing black.

The anchor stock is carefully made out of paper to match the drawing. From the top, the anchor stock should taper in a bit; from the side, the top should be flat while the bottom tapers up. Also, make sure you cut two appropriately sized holes so the "metal" part of the anchor can go through the stock (and also remember that they are not in the same plane but are off by 90 degrees). Color the anchor stock brown and edge-glue the parts together. When dry, use thin card to make the metal bindings that go around and install.

Finally, make a paper loop out of card, glue it on the end, and paint it black. The finished pair of anchors are pictured below.


Now we need to attach the anchor cables. Get embroidery floss from a craft store in the tan color and cut some cord with it. What we want to do is to form a loop at one end and secure the loop with thread wrapped in two places. This is what they did on real ships. Thus, step one is to make a loop and tie it together with black thread at the join. Wrap it around a few times and tie it off.

Anchor cable seizing, step 1

Next, we tie and wrap the end on the other side of the loop, forming a nice circle. After that end has been tied down, cut off the excess.

Anchor cable seizing, step 1

We thread the loose end through the ring in the anchor and then pass it through the eye of the loop we've just created. Bring the loop down to the ring and we've secured the anchor to the cable.

Installing the Forward Fittings

The anchors, riding bitts, and bowsprit bitts have to go in a certain order. Let's show that here.

First, we need to thread the anchor cables through the hawse holes. You'll need the assistance of needle and thread to do this.

Threading the anchor cables

Next, we install the bowsprit bitts and the riding bitts. These have to go in after threading the anchor cables as it is much harder to thread the cables after these pieces are in the way. After gluing down the bitts, wrap the anchor cables around them as shown and secure the cables with glue. Also, thread the anchor cables through the front corner holes of the forward hatch, as shown.

Forward bitts and anchor cable

Form coils out of the remaining ends of the anchor cables and glue them to the orlop deck. Glue the hatch in place afterwards. If you look very carefully down the stairs (not shown in the picture below) you can even see the coils...

Bitts and anchor cables installed