FineScale Modeler


If you’ve never built a wooden boat before, now’s your chance! Greg shows you how to piece together Amati’s bragozzo.

A bragozzo is a flat-bottomed boat used for fishing the shallow, rocky waters of Italy’s Venetian Lagoon during the 19th century.

Amati’s bragozzo (No. 1570) is 17 inches long and 15 inches tall. Laser-cut pieces fit together well but a bit of scratchbuilding make this boat stand out.

From a painting perspective, there were as many color schemes on bragozzos as there were boat owners, so a modeler could let his or her imagination run (sail?) wild.

When building wooden boat kits, a great deal of cutting and shaping is necessary, but — as with plastic models — getting it juuust right is part of the fun!

If you’re new to nautical builds, look for sailing definitions along the way.

A good way to begin is to number the bulkheads and ribs according to the plans. Next, attach the ribs to the keel with superglue.
Mast: vertical sail post. Build the mast steps onto the keel and then lay the bottomboards inside the hold.
Chine: sharp intersection of the sides and bottom of a flat- or V-bottomed boat. To fit the optional chine logs, cut notches along the corners of each rib. Next, dry-fit them into position to check alignment.
Glue the chine logs in position and then sand what you have so far. You want ribs to present a smooth, tapered surface to get the proper curve when gluing on the hull planks.
In my kit, I found the 3/32-inch walnut hull planks impossible to bend. Instead, I copied templates for the side and bottom planks onto graph paper and transferred the shapes to 1/32-inch birch plywood.
After dry-fitting the replacement deck and side planks to the chines and frames, clamp and glue them in place. Repeat the same process for the bottom plank. Sand all the seams for a smooth surface.
Cover the deck with thin strips of dark walnut. The hull is now ready for paint prep. To prevent overspray in the hatchways, cut out a mask using the deck sheet as a guide.
Deck rails must be formed to match the bow’s taper. If you first scribe them with a plank bending tool on the inside of the curve you’ll have an easier time.
Spray the deck rails with glass cleaner before placing them in a plank-forming jig. Then slowly bend them by hand and allow them to dry.
Airbrush the deck with medium gray (XF-20) and the side planks and hull flat black (XF-1). Tamiya colors are used unless otherwise noted.
Off the hull, airbrush the deck rails flat green (XF-5), and bumper trim flat yellow (XF-3). Once dry, glue the rails first, followed by the bumper.
Piece together the hatch coamings before airbrushing them dark yellow (XF-60). Sand them so they align with the deck, then clamp and glue them in place.
Cleat: wooden or metal fitting to make fast a rope or line. Eye bolts, cleats, tie-downs, and the forward hatch (also in dark yellow) complete the deck. Now, the rudder and masts can be added.
A display stand will give the rudder proper clearance. If, like me, you could not bend the kit’s walnut planks, use them here! Double them up as if building a log cabin to make support beams.
Join the tiller and rudder, then nail (and glue) the gudgeons to the sternpost. I found the kit’s pintle pins too small to work with, but deck nails salvaged from another kit made good replacements.
Stay: rigging to hold the mast upright. Because stays will lock the masts in place, there’s no need to glue them to the step. Taper the mast and boom before painting them white and fitting the eyebolts.
Reeving: to thread rope through a block. To assemble the stay blocks, I used a jig made of a pair of reeving tools. I bridged them together by screwing them on opposite ends of a 3-inch strip of pine.
Sheets: ropes that angle sails. Here you can see how the mainsail sheet begins to come together through the blocks and deck eye bolts.
Thread your block-and-tackle pulley system with the blocks tied off to the eye bolts on the boom and deck.
To fabricate your own clean-looking main and fore sails, cut muslin. Stiffen it with a coat of flat polyurethane. Airbrush Model Master insignia red and a 5:1 mix of yellow zinc chromate and insignia red acrylics.
Punch holes along the head and foot of each sail to lash them to the booms and top spars. It helps to have washed, dried, and ironed the muslin beforehand to give you a flat, smooth surface to work with.
Mount sails to the masts and complete the rigging. Paint the oars and coil the mooring lines around cleats. With that, the bragozzo is ready to sail.