Man O’War Project

The biggest project I undertook in 2013 was a ship build based on a Playmobil toy. This was the third ship model that I have built from a Playmobil hull over the last few years and by far the most ambitious.

This hull was obtained on eBay and only consisted of the upper and lower hull components and no other bits.

The first step is to waterline the hull. After marking the line with a heavy marker pen, a combination of hacksaw and jigsaw is used to cut the base off. Counting fingers afterwards is also a good idea.

The first two Playmobil conversions had not altered the structure a great deal, for this one I wanted to build up the fore and aft decks to increase the bulk of the ship. I made some card mock ups of how I wanted it to look and also to work out how they would be attached to the main hull.

The plan for the expanded forecastle was to have an area on the very front with a raised upper deck.

The rear castle is to extended over the rear of the original hull. I also considered adding a walkway around the sides and rear of the hull.

The main deck needed the cargo hold blocking up. A couple of extra supports were attached across the gap to strengthen the desk. The stairway was also not required and some supports were added there as well.

The new deck cover was cut to shape and decking lines cut into the surface.

The first of a few stair sections were added, these were constructed from plasticard as usual.

One of the most complicated sections was the rear castle. Based on the card mock up put together, the sides and deck were fiddled with plenty until they would fit.

Once the sides and deck were glued together, the rear plates were added.

The next complicated section was the forecastle. The rear section consisted of straight sections that easily glued together once the angles had been sorted out. The forecastle needed to have curved sides and this would be a bit more difficult to construct.

Once again, the card mockup was used to shape the main deck and then the sides. These were glued together initially with a small amount of superglue and then polystyrene cement was added for strength.

At this stage I was not sure if the vertical leading edge of the forecastle was going to work very well…

At this stage, as I was not sure how to design the components required for the rear or forecastles, so I decided to do something else, like make the crows nests. These were quite easy really, just needed lots of railings cut and drilled with holes.

The mast hole was drilled off center to allow plenty of models to be positioned.

The rear castle had stairs added and some sprue added to the sides to represent wooden beams. A low raised section was also added where the original steering colum has to be hacked off. There was a replacement steering wheel to be added later. You can also see the first of the green stuff accessories made for the ship. I wanted several doors around the ship and found an old plstic door from which a mold was made using Silly Gum.

By now, the ship was really starting to take shape. I was thinking ahead to how the sails would be shaped. I considered having more than one sail per mast and cut some paper sails to see how it could look.

Some garden wire was added to the crows nests.

The green stuff doors along with some balsa detail was added to the stern.

At the other end, more deck was cut and fixed along with a door and a hatch.

The forecastle had more sprue added to the outside to give it more thickness and resiliance. There were also lots more green stuff castings added otherwise the there would be far too many smooth flat surfaces.

All ships of this style need a good figurehead. This model is a bit off an old Empire Altar. This also influenced the ships name, The Griffons Wrath.

I was not sure if a walkway around the stern was going to work but I decided to make it anyway to find out. The sections were slowly cut and shaped until they would fit around the hull.

The shape of the hull required some carefull cutouts and tricky gluing.

I decided to go for it and glue the walkway to the hull. Underneath the walkway, I added lots of supporting braces and liberally applied glue. The three windows in the rear were blocked off with plasticard.

With the walkway in place, more plasticard was fitted to the stern to form some arches.

For the sides on the stern, the hull windows were to be replaced with doors and smaller windows.

These side sections fitted into the recess of the sides.

The next bit was an accident really. I was adding some plastic sprue to the stern and realised that I could continue it all the way down to the walkway. Thsi would provide extra support to the walkway and would look quite good.

During the whole construction, I had been making loads of green stuff casts of ship decorations. There were several different designs, some long and thin and some square. There were now enough to start to decorate the hull.

Also at this stage, I made some balsa window frames for the stern, athough I was not that keen on them.
The walkway railing was added and decorated with more casts.

At the front, I added another stairway, which I had almost forgotten about, but that is why it is tucked in the corner.

The rudder was trimmed with some plastic strip that would be painted link metal banding. I had also cut more holes in the hull for cannon, lots of cannon.

Old pens stolen from the kids stash were used to make lots of cannon.

With lots of guns, would be lots of hatches.

The cannon were added to the hull and trim added to those holes cut.

On the stern, the cannon were added along with some “rivets” on the rudder. These are actually nail art gems from eBay.

This shows the whole hull with all the cannon in place.

When the hatches were added, it was clear that some support was going to be required otherwise they whould not last very long. Plastic sprue was used to prop up the harches.

The pre-existing gun ports had a frame and this was copied for the added gun ports.

I really decided that I did not like the balsa window frames on the stern, so I picked up some laser cut window frames from Colours in Newbury. They worked much better and I made a balsa panel for the rear to finish it off.

The main construction was just about finished. It was looking like a multi coloured monster.

Green stuff was added to the waterlined hull to cover up the sawing.

The whole of the ship was now heavily decorated with green stuff casts. I hoped that when they were all painted that it would not be too much.

Some of the historic images of 17th and 18th century warships I had researched did show the sterns were very ornate.

As this was such a big model, it did not quite fit in my garage spraying box.

The first coat. It now looks less red and a bit more brown.

The whole thing looks much less like a Playmobil toy and more like a wargames ship. I was feeling pretty pleased by this point.

There were some spots here and there that needed touching up with some wood brown.

I had to decide how I was going to detail the ship. The figure head and all the casts would take some time to do.

The stern was still the most heavily detailed part of the ship.

The casts and decorative bits were picked out in gold. Edges were done in desert sand with some panels picked out in red brick for contrast.

The painting was done quite quickly over a few days as there was a date for a game looming. Hence there are not a lot of work in progress pictures during this phase. Or indeed the making of the sails.

So the next pictures are of the ship in action.

The whole thing turned out well. The rigging was done in a rush and could do with being redone.

The bow sail still needs to be added and when it does, I will update it here.

The forecastle section from the deck. I still think some of the plain wall sections need some decoration of some sort.
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The walkway around the stern has plenty of room for sharpshooters.
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A selection of deck accessories.
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The ships wheel. This is actually behind the rear mast and sail, so the helmsman cannot see where he is going…
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So whats next?

I have another Playmobil ship in the garage and a Megablocks ship of some sort in the loft.

Useful Links
Ship Building links page at Cianty’s blog
Amati Decorations at Cornwall Model Boats
Black Pearl Mega Blocks Conversion
Blockade of Brest on Wargames Illustrated

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6 thoughts on “Man O’War Project”

  1. This is fantastic, really good conversion. Once it is painted up it takes on a whole different feel and moves away from a toy to an impressive model. Excellently done.

  2. Incredible…I agree with the others that it became something else entirely upon painting. It became quite a masterpiece–well done!

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