Hand Carved Sails – of cherry of course!

Poor Servia. I haven’t even finished the portrait and already I am working on a second suite of sails. Originally I had planned on ones made from modeling vinyl. But, as I was assembling them I was disappointed in how they lay on the model. It was back to the very old school technique of carving sails from wood. My friend William Bromell, a professional model maker for many years, demonstrated some of the techniques to me. Actually fairly simple with a bit of practice. If the sails are flat against the background, as most of these will be, it’s simply a matter of contouring the shapes on one side. But, when the sails need to be hollow, to allow them to be seen from multiple angles, it becomes a devlish proposition.

On Servia the sails mostly will lie flat, except where they will overlap. There, no chafing gear pun intended, will be the rub. I’ll have to hollow the shapes out to overlay.

More on the sails. They won’t be in their native cherry color. Experience has taught me that sometimes the color and grain of the wooden sails fight with the cherry used for the background. So, I varnish, sand and finally paint the sails an aged titanium white, or parchment color. This can also be shaded depending on the age of the sail cloth. If the whole is finished with a coat of satin varnish a certain amount of darkening of the sails will occur anyway.

My much earlier carving of Belganland was also complex, but the sails were carved directly as part of the entire, and not attached individually. Two different approaches.

A final bit on the featured image. It’s a painting by Antonoio Jacobson of Servia done soon after launching . To determine sail plan, details and colors for these ships I have to depend upon photos, plans, sketches and paintings. In Servia’s case there were several paintings and photos available so I could make choices in items like the sail plan. Part of the process, enjoyable, and less than enjoyable, are the surprises you encounter along the way. My notes indicate that I began research on this project in January, began construction in April, and have worked on the piece periodically since then. Not all projects are so involved, but this one has had a real learning curve to it.

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