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Modelling a Xebec

Modelling a Xebec

Xebecs were ships, very similar to galleys primarily used by Barbary pirates, which have both lateen sails and oars for propulsion. Xebecs featured a distinctive hull with pronounced overhanging bow and stern, and rarely displaced more than 200 tons, making them slightly smaller and with slightly fewer guns than frigates of the period. My model Xebec was designed by the very talented Iain Lovecraft as part of his Pirates vs Cthulhu Kickstarter. The hull, masts, spars, anchor and cannon have all been 3D printed from Iain's files on and Ender 5 FDM printer using 1.75mm PLA filament, apart from the cannon that were 3D printed in resin.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

Here we see her before rigging. Having looked at some pictures of real Xebecs and read about their rigging in the period 'Elements and Practice of Rigging & Seamanship' I'd identified that the masts were supported by groups of shrouds and stays running fore and aft. I drew the attachment points for the shrouds in Corel Draw and cut them out on a laser cutter, together with a guard rail to run across the upper deck as it looked like a bit of a health and safety hazard without one. These were glued in place with super glue and painted to match the rest of the ship. The unpainted wood areas had been sprayed with Army Painter Leather Brown, dry-brushed 'tanned flesh' and then stained using Army Painter Quick Tone. All paints used were from Army Painter range and included Gunmetal for cannons, grate and other metallic parts, yellow and black for hull stripe and goblin green for upper deck rail detail. The spars were spray painted Army Painter Demonic Yellow before picking out detail in black. Four holes were drilled in line going down mast from spar attachment point to take the shrouds, while another hole was drilled fore and aft to take the stays.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

The standing rigging is made from 1mm diameter elastic cord to represent tarred rope. Elastic cord is an ideal material for rigging as the elasticity makes the rigging self-adjusting, so there is no danger of a line going slack when you add a subsequent, tighter line. I fashioned a threading tool out of thin brass rod to act like a big needle to allow me to thread the elastic cord through the holes in the mast and the shroud plates. The cord was cut off behind a small not at each end. This is hidden in the recess of the shroud plates.

Construction_2

The sails are made from a triple laminate of 80gm copier paper and Japanese tissue paper. I used the spar to draw the shape of the sail, with a pencil onto the copier paper. This was cut out, brushed over with diluted PVA glue and a sheet of tissue paper was glued to both sides. When the glue had dried, the tissue paper layer front and then back were brushed over with diluted PVA glue and left to dry. This gave a nice tough, textured sail effect. When it was completely dried, the tissue paper was cut to the shape of the inner paper. I then used a ruler and pencil to draw parallel lines to represent the joins in the sail cloth and marked dots along the luff (part of sail that's next to spar) at 1/2" intervals. Using a large darning needle, holes were made on the dots and at the clew (where sheets attach).

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

The sails were bent onto the spars by sewing thread through the holes. The spars were then glued to the masts. The next thing to do was to attach the sheets (ropes that control the set of the sails). I made some fairleads and cleats out of MDF to pass the lines through and secure them. A pair was glued aft of each mast, and an extra fairlead on the bow.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

As this is a model for wargaming with, rather tan a display model, the rigging is vastly simplified. The only other thing that I wanted to represent was a halyard for raising and lowering the spars. This was made from 1mm brown elastic cord. Holes were drilled through the top of the mast and the ends of the spars, and a length of elastic threaded through and secured with small knots and superglue. In real life there would be a live running down the mast and cleated off to allow adjustment.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

I also tied a length of cord to the anchor (using an anchor bend) and carefully coiled off the standing part of the line, applying superglue to keep the coils in position before gluing to the forward deck.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

Sea-going Mediterranean peoples greatly favoured xebecs as corsairs. The corsairs built their xebecs with a narrow floor to achieve a higher speed than their victims, but with a considerable beam in order to enable them to carry an extensive sail-plan.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

The lateen rig of the xebec allowed the ship to sail close hauled to the wind, something that often give it an advantage in pursuit or escape. The use of oars or sweeps allowed the xebec to approach vessels who were becalmed.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

When used as corsairs, the xebecs carried a crew of 300 to 400 men and mounted perhaps 16 to 40 guns according to size. In peacetime operations, the xebec could transport merchandise, my model is obviously a baby Xebec with a mere 10 cannon in five pairs.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

I'm planning to use her in Blood & Plunder as well as 'On the Seven Seas', so must find if there is a ship data card or if I need to design one. A Xebec is going to be very fast and manouverable, with good sweeps, a generous deck space and a handy five gun broadside. I would imagine it would be possible to mount a couple of swivel guns fore and aft as well.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

The harbour is built using Terra-Former modular terrain boards. These are 1' square terrain modules with embedded rare earth magnets to hold them closely together. They are edged with Terra-Former harbour wall edging which has not been release yet, but will feature in our nauticaly themed 'Rising Tides' Kickstarter in a few weeks time.

Model Xebec Pirate Ship

The wooden platforms and jetties are Harbour Quays from Sally 4th, and the townsfolk drinking and brawling on the quayside are from Sally 4th's The Villagers range.

We stock pirates from a number of Manufactuers including North Star, Artizan and Crusader Miniatures

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