Merchant Brig

And now for something completely different!!!

I have modelled my first ever ship, or to be accurate a two masted brig.  I did this because I wanted to model several of the amphibious or coastal operations which took place during the Jacobite Rebellion.  One of these was the Battle of the Forth on 11th January 1746 which was an unsuccessful attempt by the Royal Navy and a composite infantry/naval force to block a Jacobite Merchant Brig ferrying heavy guns across the Forth to besiege Stirling Castle.  A map of the action is shown below:

1- Battle of Forth

The Merchant Brig was at Alloa loading the siege artillery, which had been provided by the French, landed at Montrose and towed by oxen down to Alloa.  There were no bridges over the Forth before Stirling and a span in that had been destroyed by the garrison in Stirling Castle.  Two Royal Navy Brigs sailed up the Forth from Edinburgh to prevent the Jacobite siege artillery crossing.   They were assisted by an amphibious operation by the 27th Foot (Inniskillings) and a small Royal Naval landing party.  Cromartie’s Regiment had accompanied the siege artillery from Montrose and they were now joined by the Camerons.  This Jacobite force drove off the British landing party.  Meanwhile the Royal Navy ships were engaged by Jacobite shore batteries and also driven off, allowing the siege artillery (two 16 pounders and two 12 pounders) to cross the Forth.  Two Jacobite 8 pounders had already crossed a few days earlier.

I decided to model one of the Royal Navy Brigs (HMS Vulture) and the anonymous merchant brig.  I had purchased two identical plastic model brigs of the pirate ship “Black Falcon” which I planned to convert to these.  One was an original Aurora model and the other an identical but more recent reissue by SMER.  They are both 1:120 scale, but I thought would work as small brigs with 1:72 plastic crews.  Having never made a model ship before, I decided to start by converting the SMER model to a merchant brig so that I could learn from that experience.  Here is an image from the SMER box.

2- Black Falcon

I decided to remove the gunports and change the deck to lower the focsle (forecastle) and quarter deck down to the height of the main deck.  I therefore removed the upper superstructure of the hull.  The side of the ship before and after this conversion is below.

3 - Side conversion

I wanted the merchant brig to have a hold large enough to take one of my French 16 pounder guns.  Here is the deck before conversion.

4 - Original Brig deck

And here is a 16 pounder gun with the hold which I scratch built from some plastic which looked like timber planking.  I took the gratings from both of my model brigs, turned them sideways and joined them together with a scratch built section to make a new grating large enough to fit over the hold.

5 - Hold

I also moved the cabin aft (to the rear) to give room for a steering wheel, helmsman and Captain to stand.  I made the cabin like a miniature hold so that it could hold a chest of money, as provided by the French on several occasions..

Here is the flattened deck with the hold fitted, steering wheel modelled (I made it higher than the original model to fit my 1:72 figures), plus cabin and hatch cover repositioned.

6 - Converted deck

Here is the hull and deck fitted together.  The deck is slightly lower on the hull than it was designed to be on the original model, so that it looks right with my 1:72 figures.

7 - Hull sides and deck fitted together

I then cut the hull down to a waterline model, making this just below the bottom of the hold.  I actually cut it with a hot soldering iron, which I found easier than using modelling knives or saws.

8 - Hull cut down to waterline

I then made a new flat bottom for the brig from a piece of plastic board which bought in a local craft shop (Hobbycraft).  I weighted the inside of this with nine large washers (3 stacks of 3) to make the brig more stable, since I decided that the model would look better just sitting on water terrain and not with its own base.  I had to leave a clear area where the hold fitted.

9 - Hull Base weighted

I glued and welded this onto the bottom of the hull:

10 - Hull and Base fitted

I then fitted the masts and shrouds (standing rigging).  I had to shorten the lower shrouds on the foremast, since I had lowered the deck by removing the focsle.  I also had to create a new seating for the bowsprit and very slightly lower the position of the figurehead.

11 - Masts & Shrouds fitted

The model has no sails but comes with diagrams so that you can use thread to add a lot of additional rigging, but I decided to add the bare minimum to allow me to set sails, without making it difficult to position the crew.

12 - Brig Sail Plan


I used a sail plan of a brig which I found online to create my sails.




The sails themselves were cut from a strong plastic shopping bag.

13 - Merchant Brig with sails

There was no flagpole with the model but I added one by using a mast from a Zvezda Medieval Lifeboat.  I had used these lifeboats as Royal Navy ships boats, as seen in my previous post (here), but had made these entirely as rowing boats and not used the masts.

Here is the brig painted.  I painted the sails with an off-white paint which looks right.  The matt enamel paint did make the sails stretch which actually gives them more of a billowing effect.

14 - Painted Brig

15 - Scottish Merchant Navy Ensign


I have shown it with a pre-1707 Scottish Merchant Navy ensign, since I did not think that the Jacobites would want to have sailed under a normal British Union Jack Red Ensign. I guess that some pre-union ensigns would still exist at that date.

The flagpole slots into a plastic tube glued inside the rear of the ship’s side.  This tube is a section from an old paintbrush protector.


16 - Great Britain Merchant Navy Ensign

This allows other ensigns to be used, such as this British Red Ensign.   I will also create post 1801 Ensigns for use in the Napoleonic era.







I painted the figurehead with a low cut dress and added the anchors, glued and welded on,  which came with the set.  The hawsers (ropes) on these are waxed string, bought from my local craft shop (Hobbycraft).

17 - Anchors & Figurehead

17 - Merchant Captain conversion

I converted the Merchant Brig Captain from a Strelets Swedish Infantry of Charles XII figure.  I removed all weapons and mounted him on a 15mm square piece of plastic planking (Wills now Peco model railway scenery) to represent the ship’s deck).

18 - Merchant Helmsman conversion


The helmsman was converted from a Hät Napoleonic British Royal Navy figure.  I removed his pike, repositioned his arms, moved his legs slightly closer together and turned his head to face the front.


19 - Merchant Crew - a


I used that same set to convert four crew to trim the sails, two to each mast.  I used two different figures for this.  The first was the same figure as the helmsman, just with the pike removed as though he was hauling on a rope.

20 - Merchant Crew - b


Here is the second figure.  I just removed his axe, again to give the impression of hauling on a rope.





Here are all of the Merchant Brig crew painted.  I have given them a variety of different coloured shirts, trousers and woolen hats.  The Hät sailors were originally bareheaded and stripped to the waist, but I thought that was unlikely in Scotland in January.

21 - Merchant Crew painted

22 - Hold Grating



The model came with a small boat which I glued in its recommended position on top of the grating, which is useful to lift the grating off the hold.





23 - 16 Pounder in hold



Here you can see the hold with a 16 Pounder gun in it.






24 - Cabin


Here is the cabin skylight, which I modified so that it lifts off.






25 - Chest of Gold


This allows a small chest to be placed in the cabin (perhaps containing some of the millions of pounds of Jacobite gold still hidden somewhere in Scotland).  The chest is from an Airfix Wagon Train set, with wire handles added on the ends.



26 - Gold Chest in cabin


Here is the chest in the cabin.



Here is the completed Merchant Brig and crew.

27 - Completed Merchant Brig with crew

Finally, here is a close up of the crew on the Merchant Brig.

29 - Close up of Merchant Brig


Next I will model a Royal Navy Brig.




11 thoughts on “Merchant Brig

  1. rodwargaming October 27, 2019 / 7:21 pm

    Glad you liked it. It was quite a challenge for me to model a ship for the first time ever, at my advanced years.



  2. Robert Burnham October 27, 2019 / 7:23 pm



  3. Antonio October 27, 2019 / 10:16 pm

    Achiving new goals!


  4. Pete S/ SP October 28, 2019 / 11:16 am

    That is wonderful. I love your conversion work.




    • rodwargaming October 28, 2019 / 2:46 pm

      Hi Pete,

      Glad you liked it. I have just started on my RN Brig, which is an identical model but will look very different when completed.

      Best wishes


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Marvin October 30, 2019 / 10:04 pm

    As always, I greatly admire you conversion skills and ability to bring a little history to life.


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