San Felipe Rigging Project


San Felipe, 1690

Late in 2012, I managed to get my first actual commissioned project. This was not to build a model, but rather to rig a model that the owner had been trying to many years to get built. The model had a long history after it was purchased.

The owner, a doctor in central California, had purchased it, thinking he was going to build this beautiful, highly ornamented ship model. As many potential ship modelers discover on opening up an a kit like this for a first model, the owner took a look at the kit and plans and knew he was never going to build it. So, he found someone to build it for him.

After moving and discovering that the modeler had done little on the model, he spent an extended period of time trying to get the model back from the builder. I think it took him a year of emails, calls, etc., before he finally got the model back from the builder.

He then found a local ship modeler to work on the model, who had been making progress over time. But, then as with many of our ship modeling friends, age was catching up with him and he became very ill – too ill to continue. That’s when I got the model.

I began the project in October 2013 and in early November the last builder, Mr. Franklin King, passed away. So, this project became a way of connecting with the man and to finish what was primarily his project and I’ve kept him in my thoughts throughout the build.

What was originally a rigging job turned into a kind of repair job as I think the builder’s health issues might have been a factor. Plus, the owner had asked about the possibility of adding gun tackles, which were not part of the original kit design.

The project lasted about 7 months, with the model being rigged mostly according to the kit plans, though I made a few modifications based on books about rigging ships of that period.

The owner was very happy with the final model which now sits in his Monterey home among at least one other of Mr. King’s models.

Purportedly the lead ship of the Spanish Navy built in 1690, this model kit by Mantua/Panart has long been considered one of the gems of ship model kits with it’s large quantity of ornamental brass castings.

The 1/75th scale model is an impressive display measuring just about 38” long and 33” high on its display stand.

I usually build smaller vessels with brig or schooner rigs, but this model got me very interested in doing more full-rigged ships, particularly those of the old days of spritsail topmasts and lateen yards for the spanker.

This model’s rigging is somewhat simplified, and at this scale, it seemed to make rigging a bit easier than on other models.