Ship -in -a -Bottle

By Joe Barr

Joe Barr has been building ships-in-bottles since the mid-1980s. He specializes in Great Lakes vessels.

Joe developed his skill by reading books, by experimenting and by corresponding with other ship-in-bottle makers around the world. He is an active member of the Ships in Bottles Association of America and the European Association of Ships in Bottles. He regularly submits articles that are published in the quarterly journals of both associations.

He has exhibited in the Navy Museum in Washington, DC and in municipal and library buildings near his home in Eastpointe, Michigan.

The techniques that he uses in building the model ships follow a tradition that is over 200 years old. Besides building the models, he researches the history of each ship and drafts appropriately scaled plans based on photographs or plans of the actual ships.

Each ship-in-bottle is hand-crafted. He starts with a block of wood and hand carves the hull. These models are so small that all parts and details must be hand-made. Acid-free paper is used for the sails and flags and all the flags are hand painted. The water is a mixture of oil paint and glazing putty.

The photos on this page are of two very different Great Lakes ships: Zach Chandler and John Stanton.

Zach Chandler, built at Detroit, Michigan in 1867, was a wooden, three-mast schooner, that carried the typical Great Lakes schooner rig, including the triangular sail (called the raffee) on the foremast. This model is based on two pastels done by Vincent D. Nickerson in 1882 and 1883. The Chandler lasted until October 1892 when she stranded and broke up on the shores of Lake Superior near Deer Park, Michigan.

John Stanton, on the other hand, was a straight-deck bulk freighter built in 1905 at Lorain, Ohio. The Stanton spent her entire career on the Lakes as part of the Pioneer Steamship Company. In 1961, she was sold and scrapped in Superior, Wisconsin. A year later, on October 26, 1962, the Pioneer Steamship Company went out of business.





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Schooner ZACH CHANDLER and Tawas Point Light

Tawas Point Light (assembled)

Tawas Point Light (in pieces to show how it can be put in a bottle)

CHARLES H. BRADLEY and Copper Harbor Light

SIDNEY O. NEFF and Copper Harbor Light

RESERVE (this model was given to Capt. Walters, the captain of RESERVE)

Valley Camp

1. Zach Chandler (1867-1892), a wooden, three-mast schooner with the typical Great Lakes schooner rig.

John Stanton

2. In-process photo of the John Stanton. The hull has been carved from a block of pine; the forecastle is glued on. A quarter is in the picture to give perspective.

3. The hull is painted and thick paper hatch covers are being added. The Stanton had 30 hatches.

4. The completed pilot house is set in place to check for size. The background shows the hand-drawn plans.

5. The model is separated into its main components -- ready to be placed into the bottle. After the hull is glued in place, the pilot house, the aft cabins and the smoke stack/mast are separately added and glued onto the hull.

6.  The completed model with all pieces set in place, not glued on, just prior to insertion into the bottle.


7. All the main parts are finished. Still to be added are the navigation equipment and life raft on top of the pilot house, the smoke on the stack, life boats, flag, doghouse on the boat deck and ventilator shafts. The background is a copy of a photo of the actual ship.

8. The John Stanton -- the completed ship-in-bottle including a light house.

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