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An ingenious model ship: made out of matchsticks and a hair net.

I am currently serving a life sentence for trafficking marijuana with 18 months to the parole board. I have been reading COUNTRYSIDE since 1995 when I was arrested. You would be surprised at how many inmates read the articles and yearn for the lifestyle COUNTRYSIDE promotes. In reading the articles I am always amazed at how readers come up with such innovative ways for living on the cheap, and they all seem so content and happy. I want to thank those readers who send in their articles because it has inspired me. This leads to the subject of this letter.

My fool-hardy decision with the marijuana cost me my dental lab, a limousine business, a bunch of properties and my wife and son. It was like a bunch of vultures on a fresh carcass after everyone got done with me. This left me broke, so how could I get my son a nice birthday present?

I was sitting reading COUNTRYSIDE thinking to myself how thrifty some of the folks who write the articles are, how they can do so much with so little and how they use their own hands to do whatever they need done. Then a light bulb went on! I am very good with my hands, I could make my son a birthday present and do it on the cheap.

The prison administration allows some limited hobby activities here like drawing, beading, horsehair and model building. The only one that appealed to me was the model ship building so I looked at the catalogs. The models that were of any consequence at all were hundreds of dollars and I couldn't afford it. But I thought of the readers who write in telling how they save bundles of money by being thrifty and using their head. So right there I made the decision to make it from scratch.

I bought a single page plan of a mixed cargo container for $15 from Taubman Plans Service International. This is in 1/8-inch scale and the ship I picked ended up being 45 inches long. I assembled a bunch of corn dog sticks, popsicle sticks, match sticks and some other assorted materials I will speak of shortly. The ship ended up being made from 95% of these cheap materials along with Elmer's glue.
How the ship was made

Razor blade/saw
Emery boards
and an over-active imagination

Ribs: I took the plans of the ribs of the boat and traced them onto saltine cracker boxes. Then I cut them out. After this I took popsicle sticks and corn dog sticks and glued them to the shape of the cardboard. I'd get them as close as I could and then sand them in the rest of the way. Once the sticks framed the rib pattern, I separated the ribs the proper distance as the plan stated and glued them into place. Then I cut out the inside of the ribs where the cardboard didn't have wood glued to it.

Hull: Once I had all the ribs glued together, I glued popsicle sticks to them to make the hull. To fill the cracks I used sawdust, glue and a water mixture to make a wood putty. This worked just fine. The stern of the boat is round. To make this I set the popsicle sticks on end and walked them around the plan, leaving them to hang over a small amount. Then I sanded the stern in by eye.

Port holes: I was stuck on how to make these. I thought if I painted them they would look cheap. I was sitting in the dayroom trying to figure this out when I noticed a guy doing some bead work. He had some brass split rings. He gave me some and that solved my problem. Since the glue won't stick to the metal I had to figure out how to hold them to the side of the ship. I thought back to working in my dental lab and realized I had to use a mechanical retention instead of a chemical retention. I turned the boat on its side and drilled a small hole where each port hole went. Then I set the port hole over it and put a drop of glue on it that sat above the split ring. I did this because when the glue dries it shrinks. This worked out perfect. The glue enveloped itself slightly under and over the ring and also into the hole. Then I painted the dried glue black.

Deck: All match sticks. I took some paint and brushed it over the whole deck. After this dried I sanded it down. Then I took the paint and thinned it way down and lightly applied it. The original coat filled in the cracks and made it simulate how a real deck would look.

Buildings: I got some veneer poplar and used match sticks for the framing. I cut in each window. I was going to leave them open without simulated glass but I stuck a piece of plastic in one of the windows and when the light hit it, it looked too cool not to do it to all the windows. Then I framed in each window with plastic and 1/32 x 1/32 strips. I bought these. This was the most tedious part of building the ship.

Stairs: The stairs are about 1-1/4 inch long with seven steps. I made a jig to hold the risers, then I set the steps in a small pattern I made.

Hand rails: I used 1/32 x 1/32 strips of poplar. I laid out my drawings on a piece of paper and lightly glued the strips to the paper. Once the glue dried I scraped the paper off the rails. This process ensured that all the rails would be uniform. The hand rails for the stairs were done the same way.

Masts: I used wooden dowels for this.

Cargo nets: I was hand-tying thread to look like a cargo net when one of the guys who works in the kitchen walked by. He still had his hair net on and it's now a part of the ship.

Life boats: Made from popsicle sticks.

Smoke stack: I got a piece of balsa wood and hand sanded it into the shape it is.

Propeller: I used a tongue depressor for this.

Ship's name: Wolfgang, which is my son's name. I am terrible at painting so I got a printout of his name and rubbed a pencil all over it. Then I taped the name to the boat and burnished it and then painted over it. It worked just fine.

Obviously there is a lot more I could explain about building the ship but this will give you an idea how it was made on the cheap. Although it was cheap it still took about 560 hours to complete.

A child's birthday gift is usually cast off by the time the next birthday comes around. In this case, Wolfgang will probably have it for the rest of his life. Thank you readers for giving me the inspiration to build the ship.

The ship plan was purchased from Taubman Plans Service International, 11 College Dr., Box 4G, Jersey City, NJ 07305, web:


ICIO 54763


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Title Annotation:Homestead crafts
Author:Wilhelm, Robert
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Previous Article:Holiday herbs.
Next Article:Rags to rugs.

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