Rigging Tips for Building a Model Ship


Rigging is a significant part of the process of building a model ship. It can be tedious and time-consuming however putting the effort in adds to the beauty of your finished model.

In general, the instructions on rigging provided by the manufacturers of model ship kits are fairly sparse. Whilst there are several specialised and very detailed books on masting and rigging, they are more concerned with matters of historical and technical accuracy than with the sort of advice that might help the beginner to understand the best way of going about what might appear to be quite a daunting task.

Highly recommended is a 3 DVD set available from Modellers Shipyard on Masting and Rigging. This is a comprehensive set which shows all aspects of preparing the masts, spars and yards and the rigging for a period model. For further information call our office or visit our website.

We do strongly recommend “Ship Modelling Simplified” by Mastini – it contains excellent advice on ship modelling in general and has a good section on rigging. Modeller’s Shipyard has produced the following information as an introduction to the Rigging of a model ship. The following points should be noted:

  1. This is a general guide only and is to be used in conjunction with any instructions and plans provided by the kit manufacturer. In particular, it must be emphasised that any illustrations used in this leaflet are purely for the purpose of example and may not relate to your specific model.
  2. The approaches described are not the only way of doing things and the order in which the various processes are carried out may be varied, within reason, to suit the individual modeller.

Building a model ship is as much an exercise in using the mind as it is in using your fingers and hands. In this small leaflet, we can’t hope to cover all the problems and queries that may be encountered in the construction of your model. It is necessary to spend as much time thinking about the task at hand as actually doing it. If having thought about it, you still have a problem then contact us. We’ll either be able to advise you ourselves or refer you another modeller in your area who’ll be happy to help you with “hands-on” assistance.


The rigging of a ship can be divided into two main parts:

  1.  “Standing” or “Fixed” rigging, which is used to support the Masts and Bowsprit.
  2.  “Running” rigging, which is used to manipulate spars and sails.

On an “actual” ship any Rigging which didn’t pass through a pulley block was coated with tar to help prevent it rotting. For this reason, standing rigging is often, although not always, black on ship models.

If you do want your standing rigging black, and black cord is not supplied in the kit then you can consider these options:

  1. You can purchase Black cord. 
  2. The use of black rigging “wax” gives a very authentic tarred look but it is difficult to do well.
  3. The cord supplied with the kit can be coloured using black dye or “Raven Oil” as used by leatherworkers/saddlers.
  4. Black felt-tipped “Texta” is an easy way to colour the cord.
  5. Black “Padawax” shoe colour is also very satisfactory.

When any liquid dye has been used it will be necessary to stretch the cord by hanging it on a clothesline, with weights, to prevent it going slack after installation on the model. It will also probably be necessary to use clear wax to eliminate any furry look in the cord.


This includes the rigging of the Stays, Backstay, Bowsprit and Gammoning. This is fairly straightforward and should present few difficulties. Work from the centre of the ship out and try to avoid difficult and confined spaces. A Rigging Tool presented in the Tools section of our Catalogue will be helpful when rigging. The various names for the standing rigging are presented below.

  1. Fore stay
  2. Fore topmast stay
  3. Jib stay  
  4. Fore topgallant stay
  5. Flying-jib stay
  6. Fore royal stay
  7. Fore skysail stay 
  8. Main stay
  9. Main topmast stay
  10. Main topgallant stay
  11. Main royal stay
  12. Main skysail stay
  13.  Mizzen stay
  14. Mizzen topmast stay
  15. Mizzen topgallant stay
  16. Mizzen royal stay
  17.  Mizzen skysail stay
  18. Mizzen topmast backstay
  19. Mizzen topmast backstay
  20. Mizzen royal backstay
  21. Mizzen skysail backstay
  22. Main topmast backstay
  23. Main topgallant backstay 
  24. Main royal backstay
  25. Main skysail backstay
  26. Fore topmast backstay
  27. Fore topgallant backstay
  28. Fore royal backstay
  29. Fore skysail backstay
  30. Shrouds
  31. Bowsprit shrouds (bobstays)
  32. Jibstays