From all of the model categories, I find ship models the most exciting! It has nothing to do with the models but with their story. The difference of ships with everything else, apart from a few exceptions, is that ships are personalities. They have got names and each one has its own (longer or shorter) story. You do not say that you make a German battleship, but the Bismarck! It is unique!
What can you say about the Hood, the Arizona, the Yamato, the Missouri to name just a few. Even the smaller and most numerous classes have their own unique units. Who doesn’t know of the “Beasts” of the Hellenic Navy or of “RHN Adrias” with her blown off bows…? One day, five years ago, when I started looking into modeling, while surfing on the internet I came across some constructions by Kostas Katseas and my jaw dropped to the floor! “How the heck did he make that sea?” The model stopped being a toy and it was a ship now. From then on I was hooked! I decided that I would never do a “fish out of the water”. I started studying tutorials again and again and experimenting all over again…

On the internet you will find many techniques to experiment with, but for me the best seas are made by Chris Flodberg and Kostas Katseas. Fortunately for us, Chris is a great help and has uploaded many tutorials on various procedures he has tried at times and most likely you have already watched them. Below I will present a process which I personally believe is closer to the reality of the water element and at the same time is safer for our model. Here we go!
The materials we will need are very cheap and so we do not have the anxiety of success on the first try. To form the sea, we will need:

– A piece of blue or green Styrofoam which can be found in large sheets in shops selling construction materials. I recommend 3 to 4 centimeters of thickness because if any thinner it may bend.
– Newspaper.
– Wood glue.
– Acrylic sealant that when dry is transparent (watersoluble). This can be replaced with wood glue, so it is optional, but it has a bit more stiffer texture and therefore is more convenient to apply.
– Various shades of blue colors.
– Cotton for the “foaming” of the waves.
– Acrylic gloss medium (not gel) from an art supply store.

You don’t have to have the entire ship completed, but only the hull assembled in order to begin. If you have a “waterline” model, things are even simpler.
IMPORTANT!!! Find a photo of a ship at sea that you want to represent and study it during all stages of your construction. Whenever I left it to my own imagination, I failed…

Place the ship in the position you want to have it on the base and mark the outline of the hull.

Draw the direction you want the waves to have and mark the wave tops to avoid cutting away the Styrofoam at those particular spots.You can remove Styrofoam in different ways, but the quickest, easiest and cleanest way is to melt it. On my first attempts, I used to hold a candle underneath the Styrofoam which I was holding upside down (!). This was both tiring and difficult as you must stop and check frequently, let alone that the candle is not a very stable source of fire.
if possible. Following the lines you have drawn, pass the torch over them with constant moves and melt the spots you want. Constantly check looking from the “sea level” in to the light to see how it looks like. If you’ve overdone it in some spots, it doesn’t matter as you can correct it in the next stage.
You can of course cut it and sand it, but I find it very tiring, “messy” and time consuming. If you are not happy with the surface that you created, it is advisable to start all over with a new piece in order to save yourself from troubles later.
Important! Melting Styrofoam is always done outdoors or in a well ventilated area because the fumes created are not the best thing for our health.

If your ship has a full hull, cut the opening and place it to see how it fits. It doesn’t need to be a perfect opening; the gaps at the perimeter can be filled in later. {Tip: Do not cut the opening before the melting procedure is done because it will mess the edges and the resulting gaps will be huge}. At this point, you’ll have a very rough Styrofoam surface which must be smoothed out. We do this with the newspaper.

Tear (don’t cut) the newspaper into small pieces of about 3 X 3 cm. The edges have to  be torn in order to have a smoother transition from one piece to another.
Apply a layer of wood glue, place one piece and then apply another layer of wood glue above it and continue until the entire surface is filled. At this stage we can fill holes / accidents we did with the torch by inserting small pieces of paper and then gluing more pieces on top of them.
In order to be sure of the perimeter of the ship, place the model in the desired position and take care that the pieces of paper are resting against the hull. DO NOT apply glue on the model. When the entire perimeter is done, remove the model and you will have a perfect opening for it.

When the glue is dry, I spray black color just because the various small pieces of the newspaper make me dizzy…
Note: You can use paper towels or even toilette paper to create different and rougher textures, depending on what you want to do. Experiment!

Next, you must smooth out the surface. This is achieved with the acrylic sealant. Apply the material over the entire surface and then with your fingers press it and spread it well.
CAUTION! Do not use silicone, the material must be water soluble!
Following that, go over to the sink and holding the base vertically, thoroughly wet your fingers and caress the material until its smooth. We hold the base vertically to rinse off the water for it and not allowing it to stagnate.

At this point, if you look at the base in the light, you will see a very shiny sea. Wet, caress and constantly check to make sure that the entire surface is smooth. Next step is to drain the base from the water and leave  it to dry. Now we have a nice, smooth but unpainted sea.
You could do the same with wood glue, but you wouldn’t get the same effect because wood glue “sinks in” too much. If you do not find transparent acrylic sealant, get a white one as it is irrelevant because later you’ll over paint it.

Personally, I do not prefer multicolored seas – I am a bit lazy – so I apply a coat of dark  blue over black, followed by light blue around the vessel, on the wave tops and the stern wake, using an airbrush.
When the colors are dry, seal with a (preferably) gloss varnish. Up to here, things are relatively easy. Let’s move on to the most difficult ones. We start the “foaming” process by closely studying our photo, to see where we will apply them and where not. Generally we work in 2 layers.

Using the gloss medium slightly spread at the point where you will place  the cotton. Roll out some cotton ball in your fingers as much as you can without dissolving it and place it on the base. Then with a bit of gloss medium on a brush, tap it to stick. The more medium you apply on the cotton, the more it will disappear when dry. Before it dries, you can create fibers and formations with the brush. There is no rush; the medium does not dry out quickly. If for some reason the effect doesn’t pay off, don’t insist, pull the cotton off and add a new one.
If you leave it to dry, you’ll never get it off!
Apply the first coat and wait until it dries.

You can do a second coat to add foams if needed, always consulting our photo, mainly in the sterns’ wake and outwards. Depending on how you pull the cotton from the bag, different lines are formed which you can take advantage of in order to give direction.
Generally we bear in mind that the ship displaces the water and sends it outwards and slightly diagonally forward.

After the second layer is dry, apply gloss medium in lines across the entire sea surface and very gently spread it with your finger.
The medium is thick and self-leveling, so don’t worry if you leave any fingerprints, they will disappear. Only be careful not to stagnate it in puddles.
When this dries as well, the sea will have a very nice shine and depth. You can apply a second layer and some more glossy varnish, but I don’t find it necessary.
When everything is dry, roughly place your model and feel a first satisfaction!

In order to create the foaming at the tops of the waves, roll out some cotton again but this time fold it in half.
That way, we have one “fluffy” side and on the other we pull it to “fade”. Place it on top of the wave but don’t wet all the cotton.
The “fluffy” side remains without medium or just a little bit without pressing it in order to give volume to the foam.
Caution again when placing the cotton to avoid straight lines.Refer to your photo!
At this point and after everything has dried out and all our painting and weathering on the hull is done, it’s time to place the model at the base.
At the perimeter of the model, fill in any small gaps that may exist as follows: Roll out some cotton and cut it in half with your scissors. Touch the straight side on the ship and glue it with the medium pulling the cotton outwards.
The medium that will touch the boat will make it look wet.

For the end, there is the cut from the bows. This can be big or small, to rise high or be kept low. Once again, the photo will tell you what to do. The higher, the greater quantity of cotton we use. Form it with your fingers as close to the preferable and final shape and glue it to the
bows. Lift it and add more medium at its base to make it stand up.
Then, using a fine brush, apply droplets of medium around the model to give a liquid texture to the foam. You can also use silicone but it is quite difficult to apply, but on the other hand it gives very nice results. Be prepared to make several attempts until you reach the desired result on both sides.

Our sea is ready!
Try to experiment with textures on the sea surface either using different types of paper to cover the Styrofoam, or with a different application of the medium or wood glue or acrylic gel, (which is even thicker) on the finished surface (e.g. application with a sponge for rougher waters, or application in drops or lines), depending on the surface you want to create. The sea has many faces and so almost everything is realistic.
Of course you may not get it with the first try, but don’t get disappointed! I have done up to four seas for a model until I made the one I liked. Because the model is not placed until the last stage and the materials are very cheap, any failure is virtually “bloodless”. For me it has become to be more fun than the assembly of the model.
Do not forget to check out the seas of Chris Flodberg at www.modelwarships.com I have not seen anything better. I hope I didn’t confuse you. If you have any questions, do
not hesitate to contact me.
Happy modelling everyone!

Construction – text – photographs: Νikos Kosmadakis
Translation: George Roumbos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *