LLOYD McCAFFERY


Tea Clipper THERMOPYLAE of 1868
Scale:16'= 1"          18 1/2" Length           $90,000

Thermopylae was one of the loveliest of all the clippers. She was designed by Bernard Weymouth and built by Walter Hood & Company of Aberdeen. She was a composite ship, with iron frames, beams, and keel. The planking was wood, sheathed with copper below the waterline. She was specifically designed for the China tea trade, and became the great rival of Cutty Sark. She was sold to the Portuguese in 1897 for use as a training ship, and renamed Pedro Nunes. She was deliberately sunk in 1907 after being found unserviceable.

This model is a waterline model, set in a carved and painted wooden sea. It is based on the lines, general lay-out, and sail plan drawn by David MacGregor. There are a number of photos and paintings of the ship, and these were used for various details. Most important is the model of her by Cyril Hume in the Powerhouse museum, Australia. This was made in the early 20th Century by an individual who interviewed some of the crew. This model provides many details that otherwise would remain a mystery. The books by George F, Campbell and David MacGregor on the tea clippers were a valuable source. The book Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier by Harold A Underhill was used for all rigging details.

The basic hull of the model is made of basswood, with side and deck planking of crabapple. This wood is the very best I have found for imitating deck planking. All deck houses and fittings are made like the original. The stanchions of the bitts and fife rails are all hand turned, with finials. Brass is used for the signal gun, tops of the capstans, portholes and binnacle. The side pinstripe, names, scrollwork, trucks and cockerel are 24K. gold leafed. The figurehead is based on photos of the ship, and the close- up photo of the figure on the original builder's half model. The planking on the quarterdeck and aft house is properly curved and tapered.

The masts and yards are made of degama, and painted white where appropriate. Thermopylae was unusual in having white rather than black spars. All rigging is of a nickel-chromium alloy called Nichrome 80, designed to never disintegrate like rigging made of thread. The larger sizes are twisted up to simulate rope, and painted to represent natural or tarred standing rigging.

The sails are formed from a Japanese rice paper called masa. Wooden formers were carved to the shape of the sail, and the wet paper gently pulled over the form to give the curves in two dimensions. A cloth was stretched over the paper to keep the shape while drying. This shaped piece of paper was then painted and sanded to look like a sail. Cloth lines were drawn on with pencil, and reef points made up of wire. The flags are made from neutral pH glassine, painted and curled to represent flags flying. The red duster is at the peak of the gaff, with the house flag at the main truck. She makes her number, 1569, under the second distinguishing pennant. This is from Marryat's code. The Hume model shows the house flag painted on the ends of the catheads, and this is done on the model.

A crew of 17 figures is shown about the decks and in the rigging, with the ship's cat leaning into the lift of the deck on the main hatch. The sea is carved from English linden wood, which is harder and crisper to work with than American basswood. The botanical difference is Tilia Cordata or platiphylos versus Tilia Americana. The base is of strips of black walnut. The nameplate is the artist's own original design, acid etched in a brass plate.

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