Quentin Robinson, ship in a bottle maker

Suffolk resident Quentin Robinson wrote a few days ago to describe his adventures with model ship and ship in a bottle making, together with this gallery of photos. Thanks Quentin! Here’s what he had to say:

‘I was at a loose end. It was a Sunday and there was a boot fair on, so I headed down to try to seek out that elusive bargain that I could take on the Antiques Road show and ask “how much?”

‘It’ll never happen, but I found a book titled Ten Simple Sailing Models,  which seemed a snip at 50p.

‘I started to have a go, and the schoolboy in me came alive. But I didn’t think ahead, for the trouble with taking on this new hobby was that I live in a very modest house, and I was going to run out of space very quickly. Having invested in tools, materials etc etc etc.I would either have to give up or find another way. So I dwelled on the problem…

‘Then it came to me. Ships in bottles! I vaguely remembered seeing somebody making ships in bottles on the telly, so thanks to the power of the internet I went into a research and development phase.  All I needed were  few more tools, and a few bottles…

‘First your have to find your bottle and then empty the contents… and after 18 years as a deckhand on tramp steamers I had no problem with that part.

‘Then you plan the ship – the only rule is it has to fit through the neck of the bottle. As this was my first attempt I kept it simple.

‘I firstly painted the inside of the bottle and then considered what would go in with the ship – it’s not enough to just pop the ship in – so I built a lighthouse and some rocks with a wreck aground, and a wreck buoy.

‘Next I worked on the ship. It takes a lot of patience, but fortunately with my seafaring background the rigging came easy. I currently have three ships in various stages of rigging – the one with the black sail will be “bottled” tomorrow, followed by the green-hulled vessel the day after, and the one under the masking tape will follow.

‘I then considered where they were to be presented. I came across the idea of wall mounted models. I had lots of wall spacebut very little shelve space. I did name the first two ships in bottles that I built, but then there was a change in my life which I shall now explain…

‘While all this ship building activity was going on, I started to go blind. I had no idea it was going to happen. Please don’t feel the need to say sorry, it’s a bit boring hearing this after the first few hundred times.

‘Things started to disappear from my life, forever. And I found myself unemployed. Every interview I attended would turn me away and refuse to employ me on the grounds of health and safety. So what next?

‘Again I pondered on this. Well there’s no point in getting down about these things, so I went into mass production of ships in bottles with a view to selling them via the Internet, craft fairs, boat shows and regattas.

‘I use a rope mat instead of a wooden plaque, and don’t give the ship a name plaque – the idea is, that you, the customer, gets to name the ship. And  after all, as the new owner you are in charge of your ship.

‘Also, I think it makes a refreshing change from all those models that are labelled ‘Cutty Sark‘, when most of them don’t look anything like the famous clipper.

‘So in time I will start to travel to various venues and will pop up in all the best places. If you see me come and have a chat. You don’t have to buy anything and you may even win a prize for completing the tongue twister I’ve written!

‘What’s next? As a bit of a special project, I quite fancy making a model of the SB Victor out of Ipswich.’

If you’d like to contact Quentin – perhaps to invite him to show his ships in bottles or to commission an item – email him at quentinrobinson62@yahoo.co.uk .


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