Building the Peregrine Galley: Materials

The ship was built primarily from the drawing by Howard Chapelle and is constructed in a manner similar to wood model ships, except in paper. You can build your own following these instructions and a copy of the plan, but it will be very much like a scratchbuilding experience rather than a paper model kit you can print and cut out. The design is deliberately reminiscent of wood model construction and will require paints and varnishes at various points.

You will need to obtain a drawing of the ship. I used the one drawn by Howard Chapelle in The Search for Speed Under Sail, but I cannot post a full-size copy here for copyright reasons. That book is one of the classic scholarly works on the history and development of American sailing vessels and is easily available at any university library or through interlibrary loan, so you should have no trouble getting your hands on this book. Photocopy the plans and scale them up to 1/96 scale (1/8 inch = 1 foot). I built the model (at least the hull) almost entirely from these drawings, so there aren't any other plans for me to provide (at least until we get to rigging, as Chapelle does not give us spar dimensions).

I am building this model more or less "paper purist" using only paper and thread (and a tiny bit of cellophane for "glass") as materials, plus glue and paint. If you don't plan on being a purist, I highly recommend making several of the components out of wood, especially the masts. You can also use commercially available blocks, deadeyes, cannons, and other fittings, which will save you significant trouble.



This is the main material when building paper models. I use US-Letter size (8.5 x 11 inches) 100gsm cardstock, which you can find at any craft store for very cheap (a dollar or two for a pack of a hundred, practically free).

Since single-layer cardstock is thin and not terribly sturdy, most of the model is actually built from double-layer (or more) stock, with single layer card only used for trim or small parts. I recommend starting by making at least a dozen sheets of 2-ply card. The easiest way to do this is to dilute PVA glue (such as Elmer's) about 2:1 to 3:1 with water and brush onto sheets of cardstock. Place another sheet on top and press flat. Place these laminated sheets between pieces of waxed paper and press them flat for 24 hours under a large stack of books. They actually take longer than that to fully dry, but you can begin working after 24 hours and I re-press all the frame pieces for another full day anyway, by which everything should be dry. This gives you nice flat sheets of 2-ply cardstock.

Bond Paper

High quality laser printer paper is acceptable. Steal some from the office or buy some for negligible amounts of money. We use bond paper for small rolled parts where cardstock would be too thick and difficult to roll, like masts.

Kleenex Tissue

Believe it or not, white Kleenex is useful for making extremely small parts, mostly sticks. You can't roll a 1-2mm tube out of any sort of paper, so what you do is roll a small rectangle of Kleenex between your fingers with dilute glue. Form it as you would a Play-Doh worm and you can make very fine round sticks that are stiff when the glue hardens. Without this technique, we would have to use wood or brass wire to make these parts.

PVA Glue

PVA Glue (such as Elmer's White Glue) will be your primary glue for almost all parts. Buy a bottle, it is cheap and you can find it in any office supply store and even supermarkets during the back-to-school season.

Liquid CA Glue

Liquid cyanoacrylate (such as Zap CA) is used as a plasticising agent to stiffen very small paper parts. It works wonders - a flimsy paper tube (such as a mast) thoroughly impregnated with CA becomes at least as strong as equivalent plastic and nearly as strong as solid wood. Make sure you get the free-flowing liquid kind, not the gel kind (superglue in tubes is usually gel)

Exercise extreme caution when using liquid CA, the fumes are very nasty (so make sure your room is well ventilated and you work only in short stretches) and it will enthusiastically bond your fingers to whatever you are holding. And should you spill the bottle on your workbench, everything will be permanently glued down.

Art Markers

You need art markers to color various small parts. I originally intended for a substantial amount of the exterior to be colored with marker, but found that paint works better for most surfaces. If you build the model, you only need art markers for the interior furniture, the decks, and small parts that are too difficult to paint.

The colors you need are:

  • Light brown (Prismacolor Mocha Light) - for the decks
  • Dark brown (Prismacolor Walnut) - for wooden furniture and other small wooden bits
  • Black (Prismacolor Black) - for simulted metal


Most of the exterior of the ship will be painted. You can buy artist acrylics at any good art or craft store; look for the soft body paints or you'll have to thin down the acrylic every time you want to use it. You could also use enamel paints, but I personally prefer acrylic because it cleans up more easily.

You will need at least the following colors:

  • Dark brown (Liquitex Burnt Siena) - this simulates rich dark wood.
  • Light brown - as an undercoat and for blocks and tackle
  • Black (Liquitex Mars Black) - for rails, wales, and other black things
  • Dark red (Liquitex Burgundy) - for hull trim and inner bulwarks
  • Off-white (Liquitex Soft White) - for simulated tallow on underside of hull


Any tall ship has miles of rigging, so we need lots of thread. Unless your model shop carries lots of wood ship kits, you're not going to be able to find much in the way of rigging line locally. You could order rigging line online, but I found it easier to go to a fabric shop and see what I can adapt. You can find most of what you need there for very low prices.

  • Embroidery floss - looks very rope-like and is used for the thickest ropes like anchor cables
  • Perle cotton sz8 black - also looks rope-like and is used for standing rigging
  • Perle cotton sz12 black - smaller standing rigging line
  • Polyester sewing thread black - ratlines, siezings, and other small standing rigging
  • Perle cotton sz8 ecru - gun breech lines
  • Perle cotton sz12 ecru - heavier running rigging (mainbrace, etc)
  • Upholstery thread tan - medium running rigging
  • Polyester sewing thread tan - light running rigging
  • Beeswax - for de-fuzzing all rigging


Having the right tools is essential for completing the model and keeping your sanity.


A high quality pair of scissors is essential. Get the smallest and sharpest ones you can find - kiddie craft scissors are not up to the task and will warp cardstock unacceptably as it cuts it. I am fond of the Fiskars Micro-Tip scissors; they're scary looking and razor sharp, but are unmatched for fine detail work.

Hobby knife

Get a hobby knife and a lot of spare No. 11 blades. You will go through blades surprisingly quickly.


Fine-point locking tweezers are essential; many small parts cannot be made without it and rigging is utterly hopeless without it. You want ones with the smallest (needle-sharp) points, along with maybe one or two larger ones.

Pin vise and drill bits

You will need to drill very small holes at several points, so a pin vise and small drill bits (No. 60-80) are essential.

Rotary hole punch

You can find one in hardware stores or craft stores; they are used to punch holes for leather belts. Incredibly useful for making small circles - just punch out holes from card and collect the finished circles from the "garbage" compartment. You can make wheels and deadeyes in record time with this tool.


Sandpaper in various grits is used for smoothing down the hull, spars, and other parts where we don't want too much texture. You can find acceptable sandpaper at any hardware store.

Diamond files

Needed for smoothing out hard to reach places and for shaping small decorations.

Sewing needles

Very useful for rigging.