Galleys Guns and Glory! Assembly instructions: Galleys

 I've finally put together an assembly guide for my galleys. This will soon be available as a free PDF download on my webstore, but in the mean time- here you go!  I'd love any feedback on if this makes sense, and where to improve any areas. 

Once the weather allows I'll be taking pictures and doing similar guides for other ships, in particular the Galleass. 

 Galleys Guns and Glory! Assembly instructions: Galleys


The Galley in the Renaissance: An overview

The main fighting and merchant vessel in the Mediterranean for hundreds of years, galleys in the Renaissance became amazing instruments of war. Measuring from 140- 160 feet in length and having between 22 and 26 banks of oars (24 seemed to be the norm). Following the ancient doctrine of the galley being a forward facing weapon (the sides were venerable) yet updating to the times, just behind the great “spur” ram of the ship, Renaissance galleys had an array of cannon in the bow, with one large “great gun” firing a 30- 50 lb ball- running down the center line with keel, and that flanked with smaller caliber guns. 
A Papal galley in all it's glory!

Over the gun deck was a sort a fighting platform, called an arumbada. From the protection of the arumbada platform, an array of swivel guns, crossbowmen or harquebusiers would fire down into an enemy ship while the boarding party used the spur of the ship as a boarding platform.  Although all oared vessels of the period were built similar to each other and in the case of Venice on a real assembly line setup, each ship had its own foibles, and was painted and decorated to the tastes of the owners. This allows for plenty of leeway in terms of personalizing each of your Galleys Guns and Glory! ship models.  

To help with this, each GGG! model comes with extra parts, such as open or closed top Arumbada, and masts with or without the sails attached.  

General Assembly

This brief guide provides some handy tips for assembly of an Galley model but  aside from a few parts, pertains to all ship models Remember, All  Skull and Crown models are  designed for children ages 14+, but should ALWAYS have parental supervision when assembling, especially when sharp objects are involved!

This image shows all the galley parts laid out next to the piece onto which they will be assembled. The design is such that it’s like stacking blocks.  Note that you have options for furled sail or no sail on the yard arms (called antennae during the renaissance)   as well as closed or open Arumbada “forecastles”.

Tools of the trade

You will need a sharp knife, a suitable cutting surface, some sandpaper and a bottle of carpenter's type wood glue.

Cutting parts off sprues

Skull and Crown ship models come for the most part “off sprue” and as such are ready to go. The crew markers are sprued for convenience of painting and because they rolled away too much in prototype phases of production.  To remove any sprued parts, use a sharp blade and nick the back of the connecting tab first, then cut all the way through from the front.
Remember to be very careful when handling the blade and cut away from any fleshy parts!
Crew markers on a sprue. Note the small tab marker


   All parts come pre sanded, but I recommend before assembly giving all the parts a light sanding, in particular on the cut edges.  This helps with painting later. Use medium or fine grade sandpaper (200-400 grit is fine). I find that it’s a lot easier to lay the sandpaper flat and move the piece to be sanded than trying to hold the sandpaper in a traditional fashion.

Test Fitting Before Gluing

This is probably the most important part of the assembly process!

Start with the base which has the oars on it and build the mode up by “stacking” pieces on top of each other. Refer to the images as to how pieces go. 
Except for the yard arm, all these pieces are just stacked, unglued.
After loose fitting all the model pieces to see where they go, go through the steps below and glue, using any wood glue. I recommend “yellow” carpenter's glue. For ease of application, I’ve replaced the tip of my glue bottle with the smaller children’s nozzle. Remember to be sparing with the glue, to keep the pieces clean, and to hold the parts together firmly to get a good bond.

Assembly: Step by Step

Yard arm is glued at an angle. Use the guide line lines on the mast.

Start by gluing sub pieces together such as the Yard arm to the mast, and the main hull body to the oars base. 
Hull and aft section assembly

Next, glue the aft castle onto the hull and add the aft castle side railing piece.  The lantern is  optional, and the location can also be used for another flag.

Pro Tip- I find that painting model pieces in sections makes the model go faster. at this stage I will have painted the “water”  the basic oar color,  the exposed wood planking on fore and aft, and the rower’s benches. 

Paint by pulling brush away on the lines, just like pin striping.
 Example of pre painting pieces before full assembly. Here I’ve taped off part of the oars so I can paint the edges. In the background you can see a hull with the wood sections and rower bench area painted. 
You can see that I use the same piece of blue tape over and over.

 Upper Hull and Mast

While the main hull is drying, take the upper hull section (the one with the guns) and choose which forecastle piece you want to use. Line the piece up with the edges of the upper hull and then glue it on. Historically the Spanish, Papal, and some Maltese ships would have the fully covered Arumbada forecastle, but it is easy to imagine that captured ships would be used as is by anyone. 
Open style Arumbada forecastle glued on. The swivel guns on both pieces can be seen here.

Next, glue the assembled mast to the upper hull.  Note that the square mast holes made in the hull is set an angle. When you put the mast in, give it a gentle twist to help snug the mast into position.  

Pro Tip- I At this point on the model if you want to put rigging on, I suggest that you paint up the upper hull section and mast before gluing it onto the main hull before. (see Rigging below).

Separated sections showing assembly of other parts


If you wish to rig your ship models, I strongly suggest you paint pieces first then add the rigging. The rigging on a galley is fairly easy (very easy compared to later period ships!) 
Cut three pieces of strong thread (I use “Coats Extra Strong”  upholstery thread) about a foot each. You will have lots of excess, but believe me, having longer thread pieces makes this much easier.

Example shows rigging on a Lanterna Galley, with two masts. At this stage I pull the thread through and super glue it in place. Make sure to hold the lines taut while the glue is drying.  

Find the half of a thread and make a slip knot in it. Loop the knot onto the mast over the yard arm, tighten it and add a bit of super glue.  Once dry run the  threads through the first holes in the upper hull on each side. Pull the thread taut and secure with super glue. Make sure you have them dry before letting go.
Do this step two more times but on the next pieces situate the threads such that each piece goes through to one side.   Once all rigging is dry, carefully trim the excess with a sharp blade, then sand the base if needed and then glue to the rest of the ship. 

After dry, sand the base of the hull to smooth away any glue and thread bits. 

Pro Tip- If you have already glued the ship all together already fear not!  just use a 1.5mm drill and, using the upper hull holes, drill all the way down the model. they repeat the above rigging steps! (Yes this comes from experience!)

Final assembly

Once all the sub assemblies are done, glue all them together. You may need to hold the upper hull section down with your fingers or with clamps while it dries.  Once dry, if you didn’t paint the model in stages, go ahead and paint away.
Afterwards cut out the bulwark trim and awning, as well as flags and attach them.
An example of a fully assembled (but unpainted for demo purposes) model, showing paper trim and rigging
Example of a Lanterna, pre painted  and rigged, before Assembly

Painting guides

I’m working on another full article on history of color choices and step by steps, but until finished I would point you to my blog where you will see several examples of painted ships
Jay While has posted a great step by step on his blog on how he paints his ships- very good!

An example of variation you can get. Turkish galleys


  1. Excellent stuff Thomas!

  2. Great tutorial, very helpful to a newcomer like me.
    On the Papal galley in the second picture, the main hull looks to be shorter at the stern than on the Turkish and Venetian models I've got. Is this a new template, or just your own modification? Either way, it sure looks good!

    1. Ahoy Stefan, thanks for your kind words- and good eyes! Yes, it is a test for a different variant of the stern castle for galleys. I'm also working on some variations to the spurs. These will be introduced soon- glad you like it!

  3. Oh dear, I should have waited with my next order then - but it's just been dealt with by Dave... Ah well, looking forward to the new design for the next batch!

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