Ship in a Bottle - Getting Started

Toby Goodrich
Decide what kind of boat you wish to build in your bottle. I recommend a “fore-and-aft” rig for first-time sailboat bottlers rather than a “square rig” like my brigantine. Common fore and aft rigs are catboats, sloops, cutters, yawls, ketches, and schooners. See the illustrations to the right of each type of rig.
My first ship in a bottle was a Gloucester schooner, which I gave to some friends as a wedding present.

Once you select what you wish to build, you must find a proper bottle, anything you think will be good to display your ship or boat. Liquor bottles offer the most interesting options. It is important that the throat of the bottle is large and accommodating. It is also important that the glass itself will offer a clear view of the scene inside the bottle.

In the photos, you will see a very exclusive brand of gin that my daughter gave me over a year ago. Seeing its value as a display case for a ship, I cleaned it and set it aside. As you can see, I have also begun to cut and shape wood supports. This bottle is for the tramp steamer.

Start assembling the tools you will need. The most valuable tools I have are three that I made out of chopsticks and scraps of metal. (See photos)

For the top two, I cut the ends off cheap metal flatware spoons/forks. These tools are for installing the “sea” into the bottle and fashioning its waves. More on that later.

The bottom tool is a thick wire probe made from a piece of a coat hanger. It is my most useful ship-in-a-bottle tool. It serves many purposes. More on that to come later in the next blog.
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