Monday, 21 July 2014

Martian Cloudships the DLI way! Inspired by Space 1889

I was going to wait to publish these until they were finished but due to public demand ;) and this weekend looks blocked up to work on them again here is a brief WIP.

So after many years I got round to building (carving) some Martian cloudships.
They lack the game stands at the moment but here are the three that have completed the construction faze and await a little bit of decoration.




Light crafts in the game and not able to stand up to ironclad gunships but a fun addition and can be used in games for allsorts of tricky Martian plots!

What you will need if you are thinking of having a go yourself. You will need a copy of Sky Galleons of Mars and possible Ironclad and the original Space 1889. If you go for the pdfs it is easier to print off the plans as you would expect.
Balsa wood sheets
Balsa wood blocks 3" by 12"
Balsa wood strips

Wood glue/pva

1xpacket of map pins
Craft knife
Fine tooth saw
Sandpaper and block
Here is the printing 1" scale plans of the Fleetfoot and Smallbird as you can see the deck for the small bird has been cut from balsa sheets and will be placed onto a balsa block later to give the cloudship body. But I used layers of balsa sheets for the Fleetfoot which was a quicker process excluding the glue drying stages. This method a voids heavy carving and is much cheaper in materials.

Here the Clearsight is matched to the deck for its first cut out. It like the Smallbird will made from the balsa blocks.

A scored block with its first sections removed based on the Clearsight. I learnt very quickly to take a little off the block at a time. The balsa doesn't forgive a heavy hand. Nor does it like someone working against its grain.

The basic shapes finished. I used the deck as the carving guide working my way down and around to achieve a shape close to the published specs. These three are basically two semicircles joined with a rectangle in the centre. If you take too much off you can add bit to the form with wood glue and sand it into the desired shape.
Balsa as you'll know or have guessed is a thirsty beastie and these three cloudships soaked up a small tin of black radiator paint and still wanted more.

Placing the pins as a guide to the top rail.

The upper deck dry brushed with the centre rail now glued in place. You maybe able to make out the inset liftwood panels. Unlike the Fleetfoot and Clearsight I added inserts rather than score the panels or paint the individual sheets.

The Clearsight original prop now added to the Fleetfoot the out rig still to add.

The bizarre paint work inspired by a painting from Sky Galleons of Mars. The two new propellers added. All the rails in place and painted.

The main part of the Fleetfoot ready for the out rig. Note the upright shown in Space 1889 but not mentioned anywhere in the specs. It not clear what this would do on the cloudship?

Placing a mini and light guns on the deck to test the layout.

Below the Smallbird reaching completion , still needing the props adding and the rail and hull painting in the final colours. The three traditional guns added. 1xRouge and two sweepers (swivel) guns.
They are far from perfect but for a first time I'm rather happy with the basic crafts. They have been on the books for such a long time it was good to see them in 3D.


Construction Errors

The Clearsight its detailed as much as the Fleetfoot or Smallbird and while they have drawing in the source material all you get for the Clearsight is the specs in Sky Galleons.
No details of how many props are their positions. It is here I found my major error. I mounted a single central propeller but the standard gun placements have a light gun firing from behind the prop. Now this black power weapon once fired from this rear hull position would make a nasty mess of your cloud ship and bring it to a halt. So after the light bulb went on I followed the Smallbird example of two props either side of the stern.


  1. Wow. Inspirational or what? I think you've effectively stalled the already glacial pace of progress on my other projects - I have to try some of this!

    I do wonder if it will be possible to use foam for the lower hull - it might be easier to carve. Hmmm.

  2. Bravo! Stirring stuff indeed. I applaud your innovations and efforts to date to build not one, not two, but a flotilla of craft - Huzzah!

    Regarding after guns and firing clearance, I wonder if it would be possible to lower or cant the screw downwards, so that the gun is firing over the propeller arc? Just a thought anyway.

    Well done old bean!

  3. Thank you gentlemen :)

    Indeed Clive foam could do the job. The ones on the LAF website with foam cores and cloth outers is what boosted my activities. I went with balsa because I got some Amazon vouchers so spent it on some balsa sheet kits. If I was to try to build one of the larger warships or cargo ships I would most likely have to build it from foam.

    Sorry if its added to the projects too much ;)

    Paul it's only guess work on my part. For some reason the Clearsight doesn't have as much background than most of the other craft. On my version the angle of the stern prevented me from lowering the prop. This could of been me getting the shape and scale wrong of the stern or even the prop size. If I was doing it again I would look into it with a fresh eye.

  4. Great looking ships - well done!

  5. Nice work! One of these days I'm going to build a few of these and ether flyers too.

  6. Just to be depressingly faux-logical, it would indeed make excellent sense if screw galleys had a pair of counter-rotating propellors as this would make it much easier to maintain the vessel's trim. In fact the Fleetfoot specifically has a liftwood outrigger to counteract the torque of the single screw.

    This also suggests that they would have a pair of counter-rotating flywheels for similar reasons, but happily they would be internal and so not a problem for us modellers!

    However that doesn't explain how the Aphid copes with what is clearly a single screw.

  7. Thank you AJ, the more the merrier. See you in the shipyards one day. :)

    We are lucky to have you Clive. I'd feel assured if you were our skipper :) There does seem to be allsorts of wonders going on inside the larger ships.

  8. Lovely job! I quite like the railing - very baroque. You're inspiring me to get moving on my OEnotrian armada.

  9. Thank you Keith.

    I had to think of something that sorted itself and the top rail. Balsa that thickness for up rights looked to heavy so I pumped for the pins. Just running string/sowing thread from post to post looked to much like a mini telegraph line to me.

    It may of looked better with a bottom rail though? I may add netting to the railings later if I can find some hair nets of the right sort ;)

  10. Sorry, me again - but it's your fault for getting me thinking about this!

    I was ruminating on alternatives to pins for the railing uprights. I did a search for stanchions on model ship websites and came across a plethora of types in brass and in wood. Dollhouse suppliers also seem to have spindles and balustrades of various sizes. They're certainly not cheap, however, but I suspect it will be more solid than the pins. And I'll keep looking.


  11. Hi Clive,

    Yes they would look better and be more secure I agree. I just couldn't wait to get started after seeing those examples on LAF but I'll keep an eye out for what you've suggested. It wouldn't be too much of a big job to replace them.

  12. Very Inspirational, indeed!
    I really like the way you cut out the ships in large "chunks" and then get to work on them. Cool stuff and inspirational!

  13. Thanks Galdarbjelke, they are a bit rough and ready as Balsa doesn't like being cut against the grain. Maybe one day some enterprising sole will produce a range in plastic or resin in 28mm? Thanks again for your interest Sir :)