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My Fantasy Project is the Prairie Schooner "Ogallala." I have finished the plans for "Ogallala" drawn as if taken from the "real" prairie schooner. When I set the finished size of the model, generating mast and spar details will be easy. The wheels are much smaller than the hull so will go right in as separate assemblies of two wheels and an axle if necessary. Without a bottle, I just don't know yet what I'll need to do to get it all in.

- David Fellingham

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Image of OGALLALA inside the bottle. The blue tape indicates the "waterline" (actually soil line) inside the bottle. Good fit with about 3/8" (9mm) clearance between the masthead and the bottle.


Hull piece templates attached to 1/64" (.4mm) and 1/32" (.8mm) plywood. Templates were printed onto the paper side of freezer paper, arranged on the plywood, then ironed (waxy side down) to the ply. The pieces will be cut out with scissors and sanded to size. During assembly the paper is easily removed.


Decking section, print-out of decking plan and the left over piece of raw deck material. Planks were made from 1/16" (1.6mm) basswood with thin black paper glued (thinned white glue) to one side then the wood cut into strips about 1mm thick. After cutting planks to match the decking plan they were glued black edge to wood edge. Black paper was glued to the end of one plank at the butt joints. Ordinary transparent tape applied to the assembly fixture's bed prevents gluing the planks to the fixture. After the glue dried the deck was sanded to less than 1/32" thickness, ready to glue to the deck former after it is in place.


Hull under construction, plank on bulkhead technique - never mind that the individual planks cover the entire bottom, sides and ends. The two inner decks are spaced about 1/64" apart - the upper and lower hull sections will be separated between those decks at a later stage of the construction.1403646_209203362593251_455440030_o.jpg

View from port side with deck installed and hull planking complete. It's still planking even if one plank covers the entire side, isn't it?


Starboard side planking with the freezer paper still in place. The upper line matches to the deck and the lower line is the cut line to divide the hull into upper and lower sections. I cut the plywood about half way through on the sides and ends before gluing them in place. I admit that I'm pleased with myself - and surprised - that all those pieces actually fit the way they were planned and drawn on my three-view plans.


I found this HO scale mini kit on a model railroad supply website and bought two of them. The photo on the box blew me away, it's exactly what I was looking for. The kit is made up of ten of these to cover an area 4 inches square (100mm x 100mm). I intend to use very small amounts of thinned yellow and darker green paint to give the "sea of grass" a little irregularity in color. The strips with the plants will be glued edge to edge (like the deck planks) to build up a field.

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Close-up of grass stalks showing the detail. By giving individual plants a twist and/or bend they will be more three dimensional. The same company molds these in a straw yellow to depict a harvest-ready wheat field but I went for the green of a barley field to better depict wild buffalo grass. Individual stalks are .40 inches (10mm) tall. According to the description each kit has 5000 stalks.


Each cargo hatch has three simulated planks that need handles to use when they are removed for loading and unloading. I decided to try making ring bolts as handles. Here's the first one made from 40 gauge wire (.0055 inch / 0.14mm) with a ring that is 4 scale inches (100mm) in diameter - 1/32 inch (0.08mm) on the model. Yes, it was very fiddly. Just 17 more to make.


The 40 gauge wire was the scale size needed. I have some 45 gauge - .0035 inch / 0.09mm. Wire finer than that isn't measured by diameter but by its electrical resistance.

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Overall photo of upper and lower hulls with bowsprit, fore mast and main mast in place but not glued. Painting is mostly complete on the hull/wagon body; the bands where the black strips will glue are masked (with Tamiya tape - great product, by the way) so the strips will glue to the wood and not just the paint.


Closer shot of installed deck details. Note the ring bolts in the hatch cover planks. Since this "ship" is too small for crew quarters below deck, there is no need for ventilation gratings in the hatch openings. (I'll use any rationale to avoid making gratings.)



The hinge near the base of the mast with an X-acto #11 blade for size reference. Although it requires more precision work than the usual simple bent wire hinge it turns out far cleaner and when painted is nearly invisible. I'm very pleased with the look of my deck planking.


Close-up of the main top in progress with trestle trees and two cross trees in place. The mast in the doubling area is properly squared rather than the easier - but incorrect on wooden masts - round. I need to make and temporarily fit my topmasts before the third cross tree can be installed.


Discs cut from 1/32 inch (0.8mm) plywood and basswood to the two wheel sizes and glued into sandwiches of basswood between two layers of plywood. When fully cured the sandwiches were chucked in a lathe and center holes drilled for mounting on an arbor. From upper left: turning the outside diameter of two wheel rims, drilling the rough inside diameter, turning the inside diameter, and the components mostly painted and waiting for my attention. While the lathe was out I also turned the four hubs, shown with bug pins as handles for painting. The yellow ocher spoke material is finished and ready to be cut to length for spokes.


Two piece hull, separated. Note the gammoning at the bowsprit to the stem, and the bobstay and bowsprit shrouds.


Two piece hull, assembled. Bobstay and shrouds are rigged to eye bolts in the hull with .010 in. (0.25mm) diameter eyes made from 36 gauge (.0055 in./0.14mm) wire.


Macro of Fore (to right) and Main masts, tops and topmasts. The tops were fabricated from .015 in. x .030 in. (0.4mm x 0.8mm) plywood strips.


Close-up of the two piece hull posed for a photo with axles and other carriage components. Strips of black construction paper were glued around the rims to replicate the shrink-fit iron tires. Carbon fiber pins (.020 in. / 0.5mm dia.) were glued into holes drilled through each wheel hub into the ends of the axle to reinforce the glued connection. The black strakes at the sheer line are glued in place; three more (on each side) to go. They seem to take more time to prepare than the wheels did.


I almost forgot to verify that the rear wheel and axle assembly will pass through the bottle neck. I measured and calculated and measured again but hadn't physically tried it -- until now.


Here's my problem. I tried to pass the upper hull through the bottle neck knowing there would be contact with the inside of the neck at the top edges of the bulwarks and the lower corners - just enough contact to hold the hull in place for this photo. What I didn't see in my planning was that there will not be room for channels attached at the top edge of the lower black strake, as you can see here. The gap there, strake to bottle, might be as much as .020 in./0.5mm. Fortunately, Ogallala is my own design and after considering my options I've decided to move the shrouds to the top of the bulwarks without channels as was done on boats. I think (hope?) this will solve my problem and not cause another later. We shall see. I know better than to plan for a "close fit" - but did it anyway. This will learn me.


Gaff, gaff bridle and halliard with a .040 inch (1mm) diameter block.

High angle view of hull with installed channels and ribs. The pinrails are also installed to the inner side of the bulwarks but don't show up well because they are red and don't have the belaying pins installed.

Side view. Can you see the dividing line between the upper and lower hull sections?

These ribs will be in line with the deadeyes and shrouds and backstays. First three ribs at each mast line up with the tops and the fourth are in line with the mast head. I'll touch up the black on the channel edges after the deadeyes are installed.

The fore yards. Larger yard is the crossyack with two tiny eye bolts for block attachment. The smaller is the topsail yard with four eyebolts for blocks.

An eye bolt made from .005 inch (0.13mm) copper wire bent over a .012 inch (0.30mm) wire then the tails are twisted snug to form the eye. They are glued into a .012 inch hole and ends are either bent over or cut off flush when installed in a through hole. The foretop has four eyebolts and the maintop has seven for block attachments. I still have some to install in the deck but I haven't figured my count yet.

My custom "bottle". 8 inch (200mm) diameter with 1 3/8 inch (35mm) hole to be displayed as shown with hole concealed.

Wheel in place on deck with tiller ropes secured through holes. Fabricated from ca stiffened card stock, wire spokes and turned basswood spindle.

Dead eye assembled with shroud attached. Fabricated from ca stiffened card sandwiches of 2 - .060 in./1.5mm discs with a .040 in./1.0mm disc centered between, painted, the shroud seized by passing the thread through the thread twice with a needle.

Lower dead eye with copper wire twisted just enough so that the twist will be concealed when installed in the channel. The ends will be attached to the ribs to replicate the strops. Now I need to make some smaller dead eyes for the tops.

Clamp to grip dead-eye made from spring clothespin. The pieces on both sides of the clamp keep the jaws aligned in use. Added pieces are 1mm hobby plywood.

Close-up of stops to align a dead eye with the guide holes for drilling.

Fixture to hold dead eyes for rigging the lanyards made from mini clothespins. The piece of ply in the center lightly wedges the dead eyes against the ends of the pins.

Closer view of fixture. Lower dead eye is to the right. The out-of-focus thread sticking up is from the knot on the back of the dead eye not yet trimmed.

Before removing the assembly from the fixture, thinned white pva was applied in the holes and to the knot to secure the lanyard. There is no tension on the shroud so the lanyard is a bit slack. The loose end of the lanyard will be tied off to the shroud after the shroud is installed.

A double block, made from two loops of thread and three discs, part of the tiller tackle. White discs are .040 in./1 mm used to make the blocks.

Rigging the deadeye assemblies to the main topmast. All four shrouds route through one hole in the topmast. The weight of the clothespins apply tension while the glue in the hole cures. These deadeyes are 1 mm diameter.

Topmast after lanyards were tied off and glued and excess thread trimmed. Futtock shrouds (loose threads from the bottom of the deadeyes) will tie off to the lower shrouds later.

Heart, collar and lanyard at the lower end of the mainstay. The two parallel lines route through the hull and out the bottom to erect the mast when inside the bottle. The drill bit is a stand-in for the foremast.

Lower 1.5 mm deadeyes glued to channels and the wire chains shaped and routed through holes in the hull. The shrouds were needle spliced to the opposite side shroud at the top. Stretcher tied to the shrouds and lanyards tied off then all were glued to secure the knots.

Another view showing the access hole to spread the ends of the chain wires and glue them.

View of the underside of the maintop to show the needle splices of the shrouds and the mainstay. Clothespins were used as weights to set and maintain even tension on the shrouds while the glue was applied and allowed to cure undisturbed. Note the eyebolts previously installed for some of the running rigging.

Inboard side of completed deadeyes.

"Harp" pinned in place with intersections glued with artist's acrylic matte varnish and frame ready to cut from the ratlines. Starboard side has the harp removed but the excess on the ratlines un-trimmed.

Breast backstay and trimmed ratlines. The backstays go through the same hole where the topmast shrouds were secured and are now tensioned with weights. The backstays need a bit of adjustment before they glue.

Larboard view of the mainsail, spars and rigging. This is a card stock sail, tied to the boom, mast and gaff to hold them in their correct positions. The card stock sail was lengthened slightly along its leech (aft edge) to give the belly I want in the sail.

Starboard view with #11 X-Acto blade as size reference. The card stock sail will be removed to use as a pattern to make the sail. The black line will be removed before the sail is installed. I have some cleats to make and install for the leads from the blocks and tackles to tie off to which explains some of the stray threads.

Close-up of main top showing the futtock shrouds and futtuck staves. I used a needle to pass each futtock shroud through a lower shroud, glued it (not ca) then passed the needle through those intersections, sideways, for a third thread to be the futtock stave, glued it and trimmed.

Close-up of main top showing the boom and gaff halliards and gaff throat halliard. After making and installing the throat halliard on the gaff I routed it and the boom and gaff halliards through eyebolts installed while building the masts. The blocks for boom halliards were made in place. The block on the gaff bridle halliard at the eyebolt was glued prior to rigging to act as a stop while rigging.

Close-up of pin rail where the halliards tie off. I installed eyebolts earlier for the gaff halliards to route through so that some of the tension on the pinrail is downward to balance the upward pull by the boom halliards tied off there. Tensions are very light - just enough to hold the line straight - but I felt it necessary to do this. You can also see where one of the breast backstays tied off to the pinrail on the bulwark just below the shrouds. A white thread from the throat of the boom, through the mast and out the bottle for pulling the boom into place is also visible but mostly out of focus.

Foremast with most of the rigging - and looking like a birds nest. It's easier - and safer - to rig as much as possible of the mast off the model.

Foremast in place with the standing rigging and ratlines rigged. Also in place are the gaff with throat and bridle halliards and vangs. The bird's nest is slowly being un-tangled with lines going down to the deck and tied off to the pinrails.

Close-up of fore topmast, gaff, crossjack and topsail yard. You might notice that the topsail yard and crossjack halliards pass through the tips of the yards to become the respective braces. The lines are not glued at the tips, only at the mast. This arrangement allows the yards to rotate to a position more parallel to the mast after the mast is hinged down to the deck for fitting through the bottle's neck.

Another view of the crossjack and top. Note that the running rigging is in four shades of tan to simulate varying states of wear and weathering. I still have the topsail yard halliards and the topsail clew and buntlines to route to the deck and tie off. That will leave the other ends of the clew and buntlines left hanging until I bend the topsail.

Overall view of the progress so far. I didn't forget the ratlines on the main topmast shrouds, I left them off because they were frequently omitted on schooners like this. I also have the fore braces and vangs to rig.

Cleats ready to install. They have a piece of bug pin through them for strength when glued to the bulwarks.

Some of the cleats glued into holes and rigged. The crossing ties on the cleats are fakes. The lines to the cleats will be glued when inside the bottle and trimmed close to the cleats.

Upper portions of foremast yard braces and foresail gaff vangs.

Lower portions of the braces and vangs.

Sail printing master. Used four shades of light gray and two shades of light tan to make the sails more like the real thing. Crosses and border lines are register marks to check alignment with two sided printing. Over 30 sheets wasted before one came out perfect.

Fore topsail bent to the yard with the reef point ties in place and the buntlines finally rigged. Notice the stitch line below the reef band across three clothes for the wear patch on the other side.

Aft side of the topsail. Here you can see the wear patch in a slightly darker shade of gray, a buntline and a clew line (with an appropriate caternary) to the corner of the sail.

Jib with a block and rope for the downhaul. I still need to rig the sheets at the corner. The block and rope for the uphaul is visible just below the stay in the first photo of the topsail.

Rigging, except for what will be secured inside the sphere, essentially complete, larboard view.

Same, starboard view.

Foresail extended away from the model for detailing. Seven lines are still loosely rigged to the model, two more will be added. When the model is inserted into the sphere this sail while be similarly detached.

I needed two blocks for the main peak halliard and main gaff topsail up haul and decided to combine them into a violin block just to keep things neat and tidy.

I needed a pair of cleats, smaller than the first batch, on the bowsprit for the stay sail and jib down hauls. They were made from 36 gauge wire (.008 in./0.20 mm) bent in an "L" about .040 in./1.0 mm both legs. I glued one "L" into a hole then drilled a second hole next to it and glued a second "L" into it.

I needed tackle to pull the foot of that big mainsail taught along the boom and a pair of cleats to tie off to. These cleats were made the same way but smaller with the "L" pieces at .030 in./0.75 mm each leg. They are about two-thirds the size of the wooden ones I made earlier (two visible on the bulwark) and easier to make.

I decided that the deck of OGALLALA would be naked without three or four human figures on it. Here's an armature for my test figure. Arms and one leg need trimming to correct length, the other leg will be left long for mounting.

Figure after about three coats of acrylic gesso. He is posed as a helmsman at the wheel.

Figure after about two more coats and refining his shape and proportions, almost ready for detailing.

My helmsman wearing a green jacket, gray pants, red shirt, black shoes and a straw skimmer. He's .685 in./17.4 mm tall - smaller than an HO railroad figure - 5 ft. 9 in./1.75 m to scale.

Larboard quarter view. I used the blue background color for contrast with his green jacket. He looked too much like a disembodied head floating above gray pants with the green background.

Starboard quarter view. The straw hat was made from discs of ca treated paper glued together and glued to his head after I cut the top of his head off flat. I painted the edge of one disc black for a hat band before gluing them together. I added one more disc to the top of the hat after taking this photo.

Please allow me to introduce the crew of the OGALLALA - plus one. From left: the black man, the red head, the dandy, the Oglala Lakota scout and the Captain/helmsman. The scout will be placed in some chest high prairie grass using his bow to push aside even taller grass to better see this latest wonder from the white men. Black man and red head will be hauling a rope to trim a sail and dandy (who is still learning the ropes) is at the wrong rope. The Captain will be at the wheel, speechless - he's used up all his profanities to hurl at the dandy. They average 5/8 inch / 16 mm tall. Don't be deceived by the clothespins; they're about half the size of a standard clothespin and very useful for handling small parts like these. Click the image for a larger one.

Here's the crew all placed on deck with some additions - suspenders on two of the crew, one also has a cowboy hat and the other has a rope in his hands. These figures are about 5/8 inch / 16 mm tall.

Here's my sea of grass after three false starts.

The prairie with the lower hull assembly in place.


I had problems with the strips of grass assembled side by side and the problem showed up again. I stripped it all off from the plywood base and started over with a different approach.

With this attempt I went with a very realistic look rather than an idealized look that I had in mind when I started. I researched the tallgrass prairie and ordered some model railroad scenery materials and went to work when they arrived.

Here the prairie is about 75% complete. The white rectangles and black lines lay out the wheel and track from them. There will be a bare space under the wagon. The yellow, blue and purple wild flowers were made one at a time.

The sea of grass with the lower hull posed in place. Quite a bit different look than the "fairway" that failed - and I'm glad it did.

Same thing, opposite side.

The sea of grass separated.

Here's the crew all placed on deck with some additions - suspenders on two of the crew, one also has a cowboy hat and the other has a rope in his hands. These figures are about 5/8 inch / 16 mm tall. 

The Oglala scout pushing his way through the 12 foot / 3.6 meter grass to get a better look at this new wonder by the white men.


I bought a photo-etching kit and made these two discs - one to cover the opening of the spherical bottle and the other for the display base. They are 1.730 inch / 44 mm in diameter. As can be seen I've set myself a deadline to finish.

Last photo of the eight components to be assembled inside the sphere while still outside. From lower left across: four prairie segments and the front and rear wheel assemblies. The wheels each have a thread leading through holes in the segments to help locate them in their places. The lower hull is near center held with a clamping tool I made for this project. The upper hull with rigging is at the upper left. At upper right is the sphere on its stone display base. I had it made by a local stone counter-top installer from a remnant from one of his jobs. It is mostly light tan with streaks of red and black through it picking up and complimenting Ogallala's colors. The base has the finished medallion permanently attached and an X-Acto knife for size reference. 


Three segments of prairie assembled with the wheeled assembles stationed for use a bit later. The trombone holds the segments together as the fourth is inserted, positioned and slid onto the three brass rods. The clamp is released from the three segments, opened to hold all four and then clamps them together.

I used the trombone to hold the lower hull as the wheel assembles were glued to it. The threads kept getting in the way and I had to keep in mind that I had to turn this assembly over. I had to take it apart once to get the lines right.

An impromptu stand made from soda cans, a piece of wood with a hole in the center and a piece of card stock all glued together. Lots of clothes pins were clamped on the threads to weigh down the wheels into their places.

Seven components assembled inside the bottle / sphere. Look familiar? This part took about two hours. I left the weights in place over night and all the next day before moving on to the ship itself.

The trombone clamp relaxed. The rubber band is the spring that provides clamping force and is easy to replace with shorter, longer or stronger bands when needed.

The clamp holding a triangle to show how it works.

The clamp disassembled. The small brass pin keeps the ends aligned. By making brass tube pieces to fit in the three vertical tubes the clamp can be easily modified to hold irregular objects. The small piece of tube with one end deformed so that it is a slight press fit in a larger tube is just an extender. An older version was essentially half of this with just one outer tube with a stop and an inner tube like one of these but it would not hold large, irregular objects. Shrink tubing can be shrunk around the clamping points or the points can be wrapped with masking tape for finish protection.

Part way in and looking good, no problems yet, even though the rigging looks like a rats nest again but it's more like organized chaos and will restore most of itself as the masts hinge back up.

Upside down, held in place so I can trim the two ends of the mainstay. Next step is to turn the ship back over and glue it to the lower hull.

Upper hull turned over and glued to the lower hull. The crossed poles are bamboo skewers cut off about 1/8 inch / 3 mm out the opening with a lead weight on the ends while the pva cures. The three stays are the only lines that I've touched so far; more to go but the worst is over.

With the prairie disc located I used three spots of epoxy to adhere it to the glass then painted the inside up to the soil line. The four threads from the wheels are taped to hold the disc in position. I decided to epoxy a block of wood between the prairie disc and the name plate medallion to more robustly secure the disc.

Finished. I found the sphere difficult to photograph without getting reflected flares from the lights.


I used an internal reflection from a light to illuminate the lettering on the quarter.


This photo best shows the color and figure in the marble display base.



I want to thank Josh Gelfand of Revolution Glass in Anaheim, CA for the beautiful glass. I find it hard to believe that these last un-distorted photos were taken through the glass, but they were.