Friday, May 11, 2018

British Unrated Cutter from Games of War

The British Unrated Cutter "Fly" 1763 from Games of War is the latest addition to my shipyard. In this blog post I describe the painting and building process of the vessel, its sails and other accessories.

1. The Model

The Fly is a medium sized ship from Games of War. With its hull dimensions of 31cm length and 11.3cm width, however, the ship is pretty large for a 28mm scale model - especially compared to other manufacturers' models. Or, put differently, it is more true to scale.

I already have the smaller ships and boats from Games of War and they are all excellent. Like their previous ships, this model is very nicely detailed and the cast is nearly flawless, which means that you can quickly move on to painting the model.

The parts of the Cutter kit

2. Painting

 "USS Syren" brig from

I decided to go with a traditional color scheme of yellow and black on the hull and red on the inside. Photos of the ship model "USS Syren", which I came across multiple times on various sites (Facebook, Pinterest, etc), were my main reference while painting.

Games of War offer great paints with their Admiralty Paints range and I can highly recommend them. Their Yellow Ochre and Red Ochre are nice muted colours.

For the wood I went with my trusted Vallejo paints with Beige Brown being the defining wood colour.

The painted cutter

3. The Anchor

I use model ship anchors for the cutter. A piece of rope is tied to the anchor with an anchor bend knot.

I spent a little extra time and effort attaching the anchors:

Close-up on the anchor

4. Cannons

The model has 12 gunports but it does not come with cannons. For the first couple of photos I took the cannons from my Old Glory Brigantine. Then I dug out some cannons that I had ordered from Games of War years ago and which are no longer available. They are very small overall so they take up little space on board.

Small cannons from Games of War

5. Spars & Sails

I bought a couple of small beads to attach to the boom.

The boom and gaff (the spars to which the gaff sail is attached)

Creating and attaching the sails was definitely the most pain-staking part of all. My girl-friend has a sewing machine and she was kind enough to try out various techniques and approaches until I was happy with the results (did I say already that she's the best!).

Various prototypes for testing the stitchings of the jib

The stitchings for the gaff sail, forestaysail and jib applied

The most difficult thing was deciding how to do the edges of the sails. The fabric I had chosen doesn't hold the thread very well. Eventually, we decided that I simply cut out the sails along the stitching and seal the edges with watered down white glue.

Gaff sail

The cutter is gaff rigged with a large four-sided mainsail. This gaff sail is attached to the boom and gaff.

The gaff sail


Headsails are the sails set forward of the mast. The cutter has two staysails: the forestaysail and the jib. They are fixed to the bowsprit, to the bows (or to the deck between the bowsprit) and the mast.

The headsails of the cutter

Square Topsail

It appear that the cutter is not intended to be equipped with a square topsail. However, all the references I had a look at suggest that this was the right thing to do, so I took two wooden sticks (from other ship models I have lying around) and made a template for the topsail. And again, another request for my better half:

The square topsail

Rigging Period Fore-And-Aft Craft

The book by Lennarth Petersson describes the rigging of three period vessels: The British Naval Cutter, the French Lugger and the American Schooner. If you want to properly rig your Cutter model, this book is the perfect companion: It depicts all the details of the rigging with very clear illustrations. For each of the ship types there is a single page of introductory text followed by detailed and clear illustrations - in the case of the cutter it is 27 pages full of illustrations (112 pages overall). Sadly though, the book focuses on the rigging only and mostly excludes sails. For the cutter, only the jib and foresail are depicted so other sources need to be consulted if you are interested in sail configurations.

6. Flags

An important feature for bringing a ship to life is giving it some proper flags. This ship obviously deserves British flags, but the question is: what ensign exactly and where to attach it?

For the British Navy in the Caribbean, the Red Ensign is appropriate. The ensign has evolved over time: the one that was in use from 1707 to 1800 is the right one for 1763 (see the model's name) and, more importantly, for the era I am targeting - the later part of the Golden Age of Piracy.

Lastly, I had to decide on a size for the flag. The battle ensigns of the time were huge, really huge. Examples are the Spanish San Ildefonso with a size of 32 x 47 ft (9.8 x 14.4m) from 1805, and the French Généreux, 27 x 52 ft (8.2 x 16m), from 1800 (source). Granted, the cutter is not a ship of the line but these flags had to have a certain size so that they could be seen from a distance. Based on a 1/64 scale, a flag of even 6 x 12m would be about 9 x 18cm. Looking at various photos of models and paintings of cutters and similar size ships, I felt that I could go with a smaller size though.

I took images of the Red Ensign and the traditional Jolly Roger from Wikipedia. Then, I applied some filters and shadows to give the flags a more natural look. I went to a copy shop to have the flags printed out in a decent quality. In a future blog post I will describe in detail how I made the flags.

7. Finished! aka Gallery

And that was it! This has been one of the largest modeling projects I have worked on so far. That is mostly due to me procrastinating because I was unsure how to tackle the sails. I have learned quite a lot and for the next ship (either the even larger Bermuda sloop or the slightly smaller Sea Prince, both from Games of War as well) I should be a lot faster and I might step up the rigging game a notch. For now though, I am quite happy with the result and look forward to fielding this mighty ship in a naval game of Dogs Ahoy.

Here are some photos of the cutter in action:


  1. Amazing clearly have more patience than I !

  2. Thank you, Lee. With the yarn occasionally tearing and having to hold things in place, doing the sails was indeed testing my patience a lot.

  3. Very nicely done! I love the colours, and also the way you've correctly attached the anchors to the catsheads. The sails are particularly well done. By the way, one secret I've found for rigging is to use thin elastic rather than cotton - this keeps everything nice and taut. I found this a really useful tip when I rigged a couple of ship models recently:

  4. Thanks, Roly! I eventually went with "proper" rigging yarn from model ship supplies. That material is at least sturdy and doesn't tear. However, I like the idea of elastic - GoW actually send some together with their Sea Dog and I believe Firelock also do for their ships. I should try this with one of my next ships.


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