Reconstruction of a Galleon at Tilted Kilt

"The wonderful thing about being a multidisciplinary artist is that you never know what's going to fall on your lap."

John Rivera-Resto




January 2012
"The background details"

It was a cold and windy winter evening when I got an email from a client. The message was Spartan: -"What do you think?" Below he has pasted a link. I followed the link to a sales listing with a picture of a ship sitting inside a warehouse. The "ship" was actually a scale model of a Spanish galleon that had been featured in a Vegas show. Now it was gathering dust until someone made the purchase. The picture was all I had to go on because the information on the listing was scant. But I could tell by looking at it that this model must have been a very pricey item when it was originally constructed since it was detailed enough to be used in a Hollywood movie.




the CMHA mural by John Rivera-Resto, Cleveland, Ohio USA This is the image of the ship listed on the online sales catalog. Apparently, the photograph had been taken at a Las Vegas warehouse where the ship was being stored.


The next day I got a call from the client. He said the ship would make a good focal point at a restaurant and I said it might, but that it needed work. The listed cost was several thousand dollars but the freight cost to have it shipped to Cleveland was even higher. Apparently this was a very heavy prop. After another minute or so, we ended the exchange and I thought that was the last I would hear about the ship. Then, a couple of weeks later I got another call to meet at the Fat Fish Blue Restaurant, which was a stone's throw away from Cleveland's Public Square. It was at this meeting that I learned that the ship was being crated for it's journey from Vegas to Cleveland, and that its final resting place would be the same place we had gathered. And that's where this story begins.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-fat-fish-blue-restaruant-in-cleveland The Fat Fish Blue restaurant location in Cleveland (2012), which became the new home for the Tilted Kilt restaurant. Businesses are at Street level; above, is a parking garage.






The Tilted Kilt Downtown

I had never heard of the Tilted Kilt before this job came along. The "Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery" is a modern Celtic themed sports pub and franchise restaurant chain in the United States and Canada. Tilted Kilt describes itself as "a modern American, Scottish and Irish sports pub". Another way I heard it being described is as a "breastaurant," in the same vein as Hooters and Twin Peaks, specializing in scantily-clad female servers.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-clients,-architect,-and-general-contractor January 5, 2012. The general contractor, the clients, the architect and I met at a Cleveland warehouse to inspect delivery.


Well, my first thoughts upon learning more about the franchise, were: -"Well, Cleveland is definitely a sports town. And... men like breasts." That was a two on the plus side. But then the pragmatic side of my mind countered with: "Fifty percent of Cleveland's sport fans are... (get ready for it)... women! So, how will they feel going to a place where their men are ogling (or trying very hard not to ogle) young female breasts prominently displayed on push-up bras?" And last but not least as important: "Celtic is very white. Almost fifty percent of Cleveland sport fans are... (get ready for this)... very black! So, aside from the universal male attraction to breasts, would the Tilted Kilt concept of a sports bar with not a single black athlete -in a town ruled by Lebon James, be an appealing decor for them?" Hmmm... Food for thought.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-what-we-got Opened shipping crate.


Well, this thoughts aside, the clients were not immune to pragmatism either. But on the numbers side, the Tilted Kilt at this time was a strong growing franchise and the Cleveland location couln't have been better placed -literally a stone's throw away, a few blocks walking distance, from the Gund Arena (now the Quicken Loans Arena) and Jacob's Field (now renamed Progressive Field), and across the street from the JACK Cleveland Casino. But if they could add another piece to the decor that would be an iconic attention grabber, it made sense to go for it. This is where the idea of having a galleon display came into being.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-a-shipwreck A shipwreck -not what we were expecting.


But going ahead with the plan was not a done deal. The problem was that the Tilted Kilt had an almost medieval franchise regulation book of everything that you-can and can-not-do with the place. Hanging a galleon was a "no" on the can-do list. But the client was not sitting idle while this conundrum was being cracked. The ship was on the way from Vegas so, if Tilted Kilt didn't approve it, there were other restaurants, such as Paninis Bar & Grill, that would were more pragmatic about going with would grab the patron's fancy. But then, what would better catch men's fancy: young female boobs or a toy boat? The answer seems obvious, but what an interesting experiment in psychological and behavioral science (with a surprising result -once you get to the end of this page). And so, whatever the outcome, I was asked to "fix a boat".



Designing the display

While the ship was inside a crate, being trucked to Cleveland, I had to do a conceptual rendering of the ship display so the clients could show their idea to the Tilted Kilt franchise. All I had to start with was a ship image from the sales catalog. But a galleon is a type of sailing ship I was familiar with, so I knew I could create a reasonable facsimile of the ship. I then asked the clients what they wanted to do with the ship; what type of display was it going to be? The answers were as follow: the ship was going to hung from the ceiling, out of hands reach, but they should be able to see the details on the deck. You know what's funny about this answer? That they failed to see the irony of this request.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-the-scaled-model A ten-dollar model kit of a galleon.


If the ship is raised up in the air, all you can see from the ground is the bottom of the ship's hull, not the deck. To see the deck you had to be up in the air above the boat. To see the deck from the ground, the ship had to hang upside down. This I didn't mind at all. What could more memorable than an upside galleon inside a restaurant? Before the idea took hold, it was set aside because of the logistics of hanging the boat and other safety issues -namely, idiots trying to hit the masts and rocking the boat. But being reasonable didn't stand in the way of the clients still wanting to show the deck of the ship. This is why I get the calls: I can think out of the box. So I went home and let my mind do its thing -while I played video games.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-model-kit-of-dutch-galleon The assembled four-inch long model. I didn't need the oars that came with this particular model so I left them out (most galleon used in the Age of Exploration had no oars).


One of my best tools of visualization, is the use of scaled models. I started doing miniature models when I was about twelve years old, and by the time I was creating theatrical sets at age fourteen, I had discovered how effective models were in working out design problems. To study how a ship would look suspended from the ceiling of a particular space, I needed a miniature of the ship, and photographs of the space taken from various viewpoints. One way to go about it, was to build a model of the ship. Or, I could go online and order a replica, like a toy or something of that nature.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-photography-of-scale-model Scaled model secured in position for photograph.


All good replicas of galleons began a the one-hundred dollar mark. But I finally found a galleon model kit from the company Revell of Germany that fit the ticket. It was very close in appearance to the actual boat and it only cost ten-dollars. The scale was 1/450 the finished model would be less than four inched long when assembled. When it arrived, it took me less than ten minutes to put together the nineteen pieces that made up the kit. Then I played with it for a while holding it up and studying the model from various angles. I also had a collection of photographs I had taken at the restaurant. So by having a photo on my computer screen and holding the boat in front, I soon had a good idea of what the ship would look like in reality.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-floating-galeon-conceptual-3 Conceptual rendering of how the galleon display would look like.


I even solved the problem of showing the deck of the ship while looking from below. Simple: use a mirror to show the reflected image of the deck. As long as you had a mirror facing down from above, you could see the reflection of the deck by looking up at the mirror. Now all I had to do was use this practical information and come up with a design. And to produce a photo-realistic image of this design, I used Adobe Photoshop. Here I could combine an actual photograph of the place (my background plate), another photograph of the ship, a photograph of onlookers, with a digitally painted image of other elements, tweak it here and there by adjusting scale and color, to achieve a final rendering of the conceptual design.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-conceptual-rendering Conceptual rendering showing designs on sails



I began by taking a photograph of the ship model in the correct viewing angle and lighting conditions, and then uploading the image into Photoshop. The picture was taken in front of a green-color cardboard to make it easier to eliminate the background. I ended up with a cutout of the ship, which was then over-imposed over a background image of the restaurant. I made scale adjustments until I looked right. Then, with color information I had noted by studying photographs of existing Tilted Kilt restaurants, I colored the background image. Then in another layer I added a couple looking up, corrected the scale, and the finished composite image looked very convincing. Now all I needed to do to complete the visual was to add a mirror above the ship.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-selected-design-for-galleon

The approved model with the final selection of sail-flags.


To integrate the mirror into the design, I painted a compass. The face of the compass was the mirror with only the letters of the cardinal directions (north, east, south, and west) showing. Next, I painted the flags of the Celtic nations on the sails, creating a couple of versions showing the flags. At the next meeting I showed the clients printed copies of the two designs. They requested a further change on the sail-flags, and once back home, I produced the final rendering. A digital version of the imaged was sent to the Tilted Kilt corporate office for approval. After a week or so, we received the go-ahead to install the boat inside the restaurant.



Taking inventory of the wreck

I was still working on the design, when I got a call that the shipment had arrived. So late afternoon the next day, the clients, the architect, the general contractor and I, met at a Cleveland east-side automobile warehouse to see what we got. Winter was raging outside and it was snowing heavily. But thankfully, the warehouse was heated. In it, cars, RV's and boats were kept secured from the weather.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-crate-delivered Shipping crate, my tool box, and two I-beams delivered at the work site.


spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-chris-step Chris Step standing next to the shipping crate. The shipping weight was 1,200 pounds. So we estimated the weight of the boat at half a ton.


The large crate with the ship took the space of a parking spot. I grabbed a hammer and began to pry open the lid. Once the lid came off, I looked at the content with dismay. There was a ship alright, but all the masts, sails and rigging had been chopped up in pieces. Parts of the ship were also gone. Even worse, the ship was not the one from the catalog image. It was similar, but not the same one.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-removing-transport-supports Crate panels were removed and we began to evaluate the condition of the ship.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-removing-objects We discovered beautifully cast replicas of canons in their carriages.


It was going to take a lot of work and time to fix it. How much I couldn't tell because I didn't want to open the entire crate to expose the ship at this time. The clients asked me if I could fix the ship inside the warehouse. I explained that the finished ship with full sails would be at least fifteen feet high. Better to do the repair work and assembly inside the restaurant. And, it would be easier to transport it inside the shipping crate. This task fell on the general contractor. Considering that the crate was listed at 1,200 pounds, I didn't envy his task. Once inside the restaurant, I could remove the crate and estimate what needed to be done.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-a-royal-mess We also discovered the remains of a system of miniature spotlights and strobe lights, most likely used at a former display setting. None of them worked.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-taking-inventory Slowly and carefully we removed all loose items, taking careful inventory and making a photographic record.


A ship expert, I was not. But I needed to become one fast. And not just any ship, but a fifteenth-century galleon. Not many experts on galleons around. So I hit the books and every article and museum diagram that I could lay my hands on. My ancestors had arrived to Puerto Rico in this type of ship. Some even fought on them. While visiting Genoa, Italy in 2000, I had even boarded a replica that had been used on a period movie. But I never took notice of the million-and-one details that go into rigging one of this ships.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-taking-the-boat-apart At some point in the past, all the masts had been carelessly cut and reassembled erroneously. The rigging was also entirely wrong.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-taking-things-apart Assistant Chris Step removing mast pieces and rigging. Most of it was so tangled, that we ended up cutting it away.


While I was studying books relating to the project, and building up a massive research morgue of notes, diagrams and images, the crated was transported to the restaurant. By then, the Fat Fish Blue had closed for business and demolition work had begun. One of the managers had a roommate that had worked at a nautical store. He was familiar with boats and the terminology. So I asked him to work with me for a few weeks. Together we released the ship from the crate and finally took a good look.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reconstructing-the-structure Mast pieces rearranged on the floor and photographed for later reference.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-old-main-sail The sails were so brittle that even with careful handling they broke apart like potato chips.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-torn-sails It seem clear that the graphics on the sails were not part of the original construction but a latter addition.


I was dismayed by what we had on our hands. Not only was the ship in an awful shape, but we soon realized that at some point in its history, it had been re-purposed by other owners, and they in turn had reconfigured the ship's masts, sails, rigging, and parts of the bow, in the worse possible way, without any knowledge of how a real ship was put together. Many of the miniature props were also broken or missing. Even the masts had been cut down perhaps to fit the boat at a smaller space. I had been counting on re-assembling a ship, not in having to reconstruct one. This job had turned complicated.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-stripping-the-boat Stripping away everything attached to the hull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-exposing-the-boat Detail of the ship's bow after being stripped.


Before I could start planning, I needed to find out what I had to work with. So our first order of business was to take inventory of all the parts and pieces. We began the task by photographing everything in place, and then everything that was loose was removed off the ship. We were particularly careful with the sails. They were so brittle that they cracked like potato chips.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-a-hand-fork-lift Hand lifts were used to move and support the hull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-securing-the-lift With a hand lift at the bow and another one at the stern of the ship, we raised and moved it away from the crate's bed into a better work area.


Once everything had been inventoried and photographed, it took little time to decided to move the project from being one of assembly and restoration, to doing a complete reconstruction -a lot of it from scratch. This was going to take a lot of time and effort, not at all what I had anticipated. Not being able to estimate how much time all this was going to take, and considering that we had a deadline for the official opening of the restaurant, I took off for a week to concentrate on research and planning. I needed to come up with answers. I needed to become an expert.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-realizing-the-job-took-a-wrong-turn

Realizing that this was going to take a lot of time and effort, not at all what I had anticipated.



Planning and Research

This is how I do research: Firstly, I go online into the Cleveland Public Library catalog, and I order any book and video relating to the subject. Anything and everything is included. Once I get notification that the material is in, I borrow everything and carefully browse through the content, identifying anything of value with a paper marker. Everything marked gets scanned, photographed or copied by hand into a notebook. Then I return the material as soon as I'm done with it, because if not, your office will be get cluttered in no time.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reference-books-1 Diagram listing the parts of a galleon.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reference-books-2 Diagram listing the parts of a galleon.


Secondly, I go online and do searches on every topic relating to the project. Images are downloaded and saved into a file, and important text is copied and pasted on Microsoft word, and then saved into an appropriate file. Thirdly, I order any books that may be of use to me and add them to my personal library. And lastly, I get comfortable and go over all the material I have collected. Everything that's printed goes into a large ringed binder and is kept close at hand when references are needed. This will become the "Project's Bible".



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--galleon-hull-diagram A scaled diagram listing the hull sections of a galleon.


One thing I give special attention are scaled models. In most cases, someone already figured out how things were done. Of course, this depends on the complexity of the model and the amount of detail. Depending on scale, some models are very simple but others, such as museum replicas, are done to exacting detail. But when your knowledge-base is starting from basically zero, even simple models will give you just enough data to digest, before increasing your understanding on the subject with more complex material. The only major drawback of reference images you may find online, is that the image resolution is not good enough for magnification in order to study smaller details.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-simple-scaled-model-of-an-elizabethean-ship Simple scaled model of an English galleon of the Elizabethan period. The rigging is kept simple and easier to understand.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-scale-model-of-elizabethan-galleon The detail on this model is more elaborate and complex. But as you progress in your research, you realize that your understanding has increased tremendously and excitement grows as you can identify, and name, the components and what they do.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-museum-galleon-replica A photograph showing the exacting detail of a museum replica. When you realize you can identify all the elements in images like this one, you have graduated into expect level.


Sometimes it's very useful to revisit period movies to take notice of certain details. I feel this helps to flesh out in three-dimensional reality the knowledge you are absorbing. One of the side effects of becoming an expert on the subject, is that you begin to notice all the things the film creators got right or wrong. So in a way, your enjoyment of the films increases. And, as in my case, you can speak more than one language, your enjoyment goes off the chart, especially when you begin to pick up on all the bad accents, or wrong accents, spoken by supporting characters and extras in the background.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-Spanish-galleons-on-film Spanish ships as seen in many period films.


A final comment about doing research, is that you don't have to limit your subject to only Spanish galleons. While Spain popularized these ships needed to do the oceanic crossings between Europe and the American continent, other nations, such as England and Holland, also adopted and even improved on the design. So your research can extend to these countries as well. Galleons were, for the most part, armed cargo vessels, and, as the value of their cargo increased, so did their size. Not only could large galleons carry more cargo, but just as importantly, they could carry more guns for protection. The galleon model we had was from an early design corresponding to the Tudor period (1485-1603).



Creating a suspension system

In addition to reconstructing the galleon, I had to figure out the engineering needed to hang the ship from the ceiling. This was a heavy object, so I had to make sure that the ship's inner structure could support the hanging system without breaking or falling apart. Since this part of the job needed to be completed at the earlier stages of remodeling (before the finished floors were laid), I produced two simple renderings to illustrate the system. These types of images are extremely useful to everyone working on a project. The general contractor had no problem understanding the system, and then he was able to pass the information along to a structural engineer who had to make sure the system worked as intended.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-boat-bar-for-support-wires-layout

The galleon suspension plan.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-beam-placement-diagram

I like to visualize everything. Renderings like this one are essential to make sure everyone understands how things work.


The design for the placement of support beams as shown on the renderings was as follow: Two I-beams (shown grey) would be welded to the existing ceiling structure, and then, two metal cross-beams (shown orange) would be welded across. The galleon then be suspended from four steel cables secured at the tips of each beam. Finally, two hole-punch pieces of structural tubing (shown blue) will be added to support the compass.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-marking-the-direction-of-the-boat With chalk we drew the position of the two main I-beams on the floor and with the help of a laser level we also marked the position of the ceiling beams on the floor too. Then the cross points of the beams were accurately transferred to the two I-beams.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-laser-level-to-mark-ceiling-coordinates A laser level made it easy to transfer positioning coordinates from the floor to the ceiling.


To determine the exact placement of the I-beams on the ceiling, we first positioned them on the floor. Then we placed a laser level on a beam and moved it along until the laser dot was exactly on the intersecting ceiling beam. Next, with the help of a lift, we marked the intersecting points on the ceiling beam with chalk. The final step was to raise the two I-beams to the ceiling and weld them on the right spot.




spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--reaching-the-ceiling A scissor lift was used to reach the ceiling and move the beams up.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-x-marks-center-point Laser points are marked on the ceiling with chalk for precision metal beam placement.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-ceiling-crossbeams The two I-beams already welded to the ceiling structure. Adjustments had to be made to account for the awkward placement of sprinkler water pipes. The sprinkler system is strictly regulated by law and building codes. To move it or make slight adjustments would have been very costly.


With the I-beams welded in place, we proceeded to attach the crossbeams in similar fashion. Like the two I-beam, the system had been arranged on the floor, marked accordingly, holes for later used were drilled, then lifted and welded in position. Finally, everything was painted flat black to make them "dissapear" from view against the dark high ceiling. Due to good planning, the process worked smoothly without any problem.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cross-beam Detail of one of the two cross beams. Holes for placement of eye hooks at each end were pre-drilled on the ground.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-attaching-hanging-crossbeams Installing the cross beams. Notice the positioning chalk markings on the I-beams for accurate placement. We used pieces of blue tape to aid visibility because it was darker at the top than it appears on this over-exposed photo. Once noted, the tapes were moved before attaching the beams.



Adding hanging pipes to the ship

The suspension system required two pipes going across the ship's hull. Steel cables would then be attached to the end of these pipes and to the ends of the cross beams to suspend the ship in midair. But for this to work, the hull had to be strong enough to withstand the pressure of it's own weight. To make this determination, we needed to look inside the hull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-taking-a-look A flexible snake scope camera was inserted in a mast hole to view the interior structure of the ship's hull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-snap-on-digital-inspection-scope The scope has an LED light at the tip. This allows a good inside view in the camera's LCD monitor.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-inside-view The hull's interior structure was made out of plywood sections.


A flexible snake scope camera was inserted in a mast deck hole to view the interior structure of the ship's hull. The scope has a light which allows you to see a clear image on the camera's LCD monitor. What it revealed was that the hull's structure was made by a series of plywood shapes that acted as ribs, which gave the hull its form and made it incredibly sturdy. With this information, I could design a way to secure the cross-pipes so they would support the weight, and not slide if we tilted the ship.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cutting-an-opening Once we had a good idea of the hull's inner structure, we were able to cut an access panel on the ships deck using a scroll saw.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-opening The access panel had to be large enough to allow the insertion of a drill with a hole-saw.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--hole-for-pipe We cut holes on the sides of the hull to allow for the insertion of two support pipes.


To have access to the plywood ribs, we cut two opening on the ship's deck, one of each pipe. Then holes were drilled on the side of the hull to pass the iron pipes through. Once the pipes had been inserted, they were secured in place with wooden braces that were glued and screwed to the plywood ribs. Lastly, we covered and sealed the deck openings.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cutting-pipe Two sections of black steel pipes were cut to size.




spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-pipe-locking-bracket Braces were constructed to secure the pipes in position.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-securing-pipe Detail showing the bracing of the support pipe to the boat's plywood ribs.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--gluing-supports Plywood tabs were glued to the underside of the deck. Once dry, the tabs supported the deck sections that were removed. After the decking was secured back into place, the seams were filled with wood putty.



With the completion of the ship's suspension system, we could begin the reconstruction plan. At this point, with his contribution to the job done, my assistant Chris Step left the project and I moved into the comfort of my shop to reproduce all the missing pieces, sew a new set of sails, and shape the parts for the giant compass mirror. Assistants with a new set of skills joined the team.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-hanging-pipes-detail Later detail showing support pipes extending from hull.



Reconstructing the masts

I had very good references and construction manuals to reconstruct the masts, yards, crow's nest and the ship's bow sprit. In addition, I carved dead-eyes and blocks to replace missing pieces. I have fun doing this type of carpentry. After all, you are doing a scaled model. So the craft feels more like a hobby. But I was not adding more to the model than what it original had. Whenever possible, I was simply reconstructed what was missing. In a week's time, I had all the parts I needed, painted and ready to go. The next series of photographs show the work progress.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-diagram-of-galleon-masts Diagram showing a galleon's mast structure.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reconstructing-main-mast A missing section of the main mast was added and hand shaped to match the original. The other cut sections of mast were rejoined using metal dowel. The joints lines were then wrapped with cord that will later simulate the mast's tar-covered rope wrappings.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-new-yard-tips The ends of all the yards (these are the horizontal wood beams that hold the sails) had been sawed off. So new ends (called 'yardarms') were made and attached in place.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-new-topgallants New top gallant masts for the fore-mast and the main-mast were constructed. We got the right proportions from studying ancient shipbuilding manuals.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-mast-construction-detail A base coat of primer was applied to the masts.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-crow's-nest A photograph showing a crow's nest detail of a real-life reconstruction of a galleon.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reconstructing-the-crow-nest The crow's nest was taken apart and reconstructed with replacement parts.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-attaching-mast-sections Attaching gallants to the masts. We used wooden dowels, wood glue and screws for the job (though the screw heads were made invisible with wood putty).



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-priming-parts-with-basecoat-color A base priming coat was applied to the masts. The primer was tinted yellow to serve as a base color for the faux finish.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-painted-yards The finished yards were painted to simulate the color of the actual wood used in their construction.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-assembling-crows-nests Completed crow's nests assembled on the masts. I resisted the urge to add more details to better resemble the real ones. But this simple design did a reasonable job.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-masts All the galleon's masts are color primed and ready to be faux painting to simulate the type of timber traditionally used in their construction.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-finished-crows-nest Detail of mast and crow's next after faux painting. A clear gloss finish was applied to the woodwork since dust settles less on a smooth gloss finish. Also, a display like the ship would look more attractive when it gleamed.



Constructing new sails

Next on the agenda, was creating a new set of sails. Once again, I had very good references. I also had a seamstress at hand: my wife Nancy. In addition to being an experienced travel-agent and world traveler, a display artist and a chef, she is also a very good seamstress. With detailed measurements and notes at hand, the sails were created to scale. Then they were primed, shaped and painted. Two assisting artists, Denise Aviles-DeNoble and Joey Santana, helped with the painting. The flags of each of the six Celtic nations were painted on the sails. These nations are: Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. The following series of photographs show the work progression.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-diagram-of-sail-construction An example diagram of sails for a Spanish galley. In the early decades of galleon construction, they were smaller in size. So in addition to sails, many also had oars for propulsion. And while the size of galleons increased and other technical modifications made, sail construction methods remained the same.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-diagram-with-construction-measurements Measurement sketch for seamstress. Fortunately, we had plenty of photographs, written descriptions and construction diagrams to guide us.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-original-sail Detail of original sail. Saw dust had been added to the stiffener mix for texture (a common practice in theatrical set construction).



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-new-sails-being-sewed-to-match-original-stitching The stitching scale was reproduced on the new canvas sails. In addition, we also reproduced the zig-zag stitching pattern on the overlapping panels (a very simple thing to do on a modern sewing machine).


Galleons used two types of sail: the Mediterranean-style lateen-rigged sail on its mizzen mast, and a northern European-style square-rigged sail on its foremast and mainmast. Sails were constructed by stitching together strips of cotton (or sometimes flax) canvas fabric parallel to each other. The seams were often overlapped between panels and sewn with zig-zag stitches in order to increase tensile strength. Bolt ropes were sewn onto the edges of a sail to prevent tearing, or to fix the sails to the spars (poles) supporting them. When constructing the sails for our model, we followed closely the dimensions of the old sails and even improved the stitching pattern to make it more historically accurate.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-mixing-fabric-stiffener Once the sails were sewn, graphic images were traced from designs using permanent markers.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-metal-rods-for-seam-pockets Metal rods were inserted in the pockets along the edges. These rods were bent to help the sails maintain the desire form.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-detail-of-graphic-drawing To stiffen the sails, a mixture of glue, water, acrylic paint of the desired color, and powder wood filler was applied on both sides. The dye in the marker's ink has the quality of showing through layers of painted canvas, so the design was always visible.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-sailed-hung-to-dry-in-the-proper-shape Sails were hung to dry by securing the sail-heads to straight wooden ruler and then bending the metal rod edge-inserts to the desired curve. Cords with small clamps at the ends were used to hold the corners, and a temporary metal rod was fastened across the sail to make sure the shape did not collapse as it dried.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--clamps-securing-canvas Detail of clamps holding the sail-head to a wooden straight edge. The ends of the straight edge hang from cords tied to eye-hooks on the ceiling joists.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-fabric-stiffening-process It was important to adjust the hanging rig to achieve the desired form. The stiffening mix is thickly applied by brush on both sides and takes time to dry.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-flag-secured-for-drying After bending the edge rods to the desired shape, the pennant was coated with stiffener and hung to dry.


Once a sail was sewn, artwork was traced using a permanent marker. The process consisted of drawing the design on paper, then placing the design over a light table, then placing the sail cloth over the drawing, and lastly, tracing the design on the fabric. We did the tracing before priming the fabric to take advantage of the transparency of the material. Then we applied several coatings of a mixture of paint, glue, and wood filler to stiffen the fabric into shape. The shape of full wind-blown sails was achieved by adding bent metal rods along the edges, and then hanging the sails parallel to the ground to dry while the fabric was still wet with the stiffening mixture. We basically let gravity do its thing.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-Detail-of-painted-flag-shield Celtic flags were painted on each sail using water base paints.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finish-sail-with-Irish-flag Painted sail hung to dry.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-sail A second coating of stiffener mix was reapplied on the back side.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-painting-flag A pennant being painted. Notice the bolt rope stitched around the edge and the fixing loops on the corners.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--finished-flag Detail of finished pennant.


The last task in sail construction was to paint the designs on them. This was done using water-base acrylic paints. If necessary, another coating of stiffening mix was also applied to the back of the sails. After they were hung to dry for several days, we were wrapped in plastic film and stored until needed.



Duplicating broken or lost items

While all the sails, banners and pennants were being completed, I began the reproduction of smaller components. The complexity of a large sailing ship is enormous. It has two systems of rigging: standing, which supports the mast (and bowsprit), and running, which controls the orientation of the sails. Rigging is held together by blocks, which are wooden and metal single or multiple pulleys in a variety of types, depending on the function they perform. Two or more blocks are combined with lines (ropes) to create tackles, which are basically a mechanical assembly to pull or move heavy loads.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-constructing-new-carraiges The ship had beautiful scale models of iron cannon mounted on wooden wheeled carriages. Unfortunately, a third of the guns were broken or missing all together.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-broken-cannon-and-carraige We used wood to replicate the missing carriages, but felt it would be better to cast new cannons, especially since we had good originals from which to make a mold.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-constructing-cannon-ball-stack,-cannon-port-doors-and-powder-barrels Wooden beads of the right scale were glued in formation and then painted to resemble cannon balls. Small "powder kegs" were carved and shaped from wood and gunport lids were cut from textured wood panels.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-constructing-the-grill The deck grills were recreated by gluing together strips of wood. We used a piece of rigid foam with two strips of double-contact tape to secure the first row in place.



To replace missing blocks, I carved four different styles of block using existing pieces as models. Well, to say "carved" is really a stretch. I used a scroll saw, a drill, and hand files to "shape" wood pieces. Then I smooth them with sandpaper and stained them to match the originals. As the pieces were finished, we placed them in clear plastic bags and stored for later use during assembly. The cannon wooden carriages were constructed in similar fashion. But when it came to reproducing the cannon, I opted for casting them since it would be a faster process, better suited to capturing the form and surface details on the originals. Since the pieces did not have to stand up to close scrutiny, I could get away with less.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cannon-mold-positive A box was put together from plywood pieces and screws. Then lubricant was sprayed inside the box before pouring about an inch of plaster from the bottom. Next a cannon was greased, placed leveled on the bed of plaster, and more plaster was poured until it came up halfway to the side of the cannon to create one-half of the mold.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cannon-mold-half Before the plaster completely harden, indentations were carved by the corners to serve as alignment registers. After the plaster dried, the cannon was carefully pulled out until the plaster had completely cured. The mold was then heavily lubricated by spraying several coating of LPS White Lithium grease.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-pouring-plaster-into-mold The cannon greased again and placed back inside the half-mold and more plaster was poured to create the second half. It should be noted that Vaseline applied with a brush is also a good lubricant; I just happened to have the a spray-can of LPS lubricant at hand.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-mold-completed After the plaster cured, the screws were removed and the plywood box pieces taken apart (except for the pieces at the bottom of the halves), exposing a block of hard plaster. Next the mold was split opened, and the cannon was removed, leaving a good impression.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-spray-foam-and-releasing-grease Just out of curiosity, I painted the inside of one of the mold blue to better see imperfections in the casting. Everything looked good. Then more lubricant was sprayed over the two halves before joining them tight with the use of clamps. My plan was to cast the cannon using spray foam insulation, which would apply quite a bit of pressure on the mold halves as it expanded.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-filling-mold-with-foam Insulation foam was sprayed into the inside of the mold and allowed to expand and harden for a few minutes. Then the mold was opened and the casting removed. Immediately, more lubricant was sprayed before putting the mold back together and casting another piece for a total of five. One can of spray foam was sufficient to complete the task.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-castings-of-cannons Before the foam castings had time to loose air and contract (the one drawback of this casting method), we did the final step of filling away imperfections before sealing them with a coating of black paint. Even seen up-close, they looked just like the originals.



Constructing the giant compass

Next on the agenda was the construction of the giant 10-feet diameter compass. The design called for attaching it face down to the ceiling. The face was going to be a circular 8-feet diameter mirror, secured by a simple but elegant gold ring. Its construction had to be sturdy but light in weight. From the start, I knew that using a glass mirror was out of the question. Glass is very heavy, especially for a mirror of the required size, difficult to cut, and worse of all, dangerous to have above people's heads. When it comes to safety, I always prepare for the worse that can happen. So a plastic mirror, cut from 1/4-inch (5.6 mm) thick sheets of rigid acrylic, was what I had envisioned using all along. Acrylic mirror sheets are half the weight of sheet-glass of equivalent size, eight times stronger, and shatter-proof.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--compass-face-reference Reference image for designing the face of the compass.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--compass-design The compass design.


The job of building the compass was divided for two locations. The wood base support and the mirror was going to be worked on site, and the gold ring and compass letters were going to be created in the workshop. To create the 10-foot diameter base, we laid 4 pieces of 5/8" (12.88 mm) thick smooth plywood on the floor -that's two pieces of 4' x 8' (1.22m x 2.44m) and two pieces of 2' x 8' (.6m x 2.44m). We arranged them so we could trace a 10-foot (3.05m) diameter circle on them. Then we cut the circle with a jig saw. The process was repeated a second time to create a second plywood circle. Then we cover the surface of one of the circles with construction adhesive.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--laying-plywood The compass was constructed out of 5/8" (12.88 mm) sheets of smooth plywood. 10-foot diameter circles were traced on the plywood and the sections cut with a jig saw.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adhesive-and-notched-spreader Construction adhesive was used to bond the plywood layers together. The glue was applied with a notched metal spreader.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-plywood-circles-being-constructed Screws were used to secure a strong bond. Each circle required 3 sheets 4' x 8'x 5/8" sheets of plywood (one cut into two sections of 2' x 8').


Next, the sections of the second cut circle were placed over the first circle with the joint lines going 90 degrees in the opposite direction so that two abutting joints are always backed by a solid piece on both circles. 3/4" (19mm) drywall screws we used to secured the sections for a strong bond. Then we waited 24 hours for the glue to cure. The resulting circle was both sturdy and rigid. To make it lighter, we cut out four sections within the circle, leaving enough surface to securely glue the mirror pieces in place. Then the entire base was painted flat black on both sides to avoid warping. Then, using a make shift compass (made from a thin wooden ruler, a nail, and a chalk through a pre-drilled hole) we drew the circumference of the mirror on the wooden base.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-openings-to-lighten-weight To lighten the plywood base, four sections were cut out.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-chalking-guide-lines The base was painted black on both sides. Then, the circumference of the mirror was chalked in.


At the shop, my son Alex was working on the compass' ring components. The design has 24 dome-shape decorative bottoms on the ring and one at the center. To create them, styrofoam balls were cut in half and then coated them with a mixture of glue and wood filler. Several coatings of the mixture were applied with a brush. After the coating dried, the "domes" were sanded smooth. Then they were stored in a cardboard box to be later transported to the site. They would eventually be painted with solvent-base gold paint. The solvent in the paint (xylene) disolves styrofoam as if it were an acid. So the hard coating was necessary to seal in the foam surface and achieve a smooth surface for the gold paint finish.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-styrofoam-balls-cut-in-half Styrofoam balls were cut in half.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-half-spheres The styrofoam domes were coated with a mixture of glue, wood filler and water.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-coating-styrofoam-with-mix Two coats of the mixture were needed to achieve a hard shell.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-sanded-and-ready-for-painting After they dried, the domes were sanded smooth.


The last major element to be constructed was the compass' outer ring. For lightness and ease of work, we used 2" x 4' x 8' extruded polystyrene (XPS) rigid foam insulation panels. Two Styrofoam rings were needed to complete the design: one for the base, and a second one that would be further divided into two thinner ones. Because of the large diameter of the compass and the size limitations of the available material, each ring consisted of three section pieces. Some of the individual sections were made up by gluing several pieces of foam into one piece with Wooden rods inserted to strengthen the joints. Once all the sections had been cut, the entire ring was roughly assembled with a few styrofoam domes placed in between the two thinner top rings to check the spacing. Taped marking we added to make sure all the sections could be re-assemble in the exact order.

spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cutting-sections Insulation panels were used to construct the compass' ring. The base ring was marked using a blue-ink marker, and the top rings in red. A jig saw with a fine blade was used to cut the shapes.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-foam-sections Two Styrofoam rings were needed to complete the design. Because of the large diameter of the compass, each ring was made in three sections, and some of these sections, were made up by gluing together several pieces of foam panel with wooden rods inserted to strengthen the joints.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-shaping-styrofoam Styrofoam is not only lightweight, but also easily cut with various saws or knives, and shaped with rasps, files or sandpaper into any desired form.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-checking-for-proper-spacing The rings were roughly put together without glue and the adjoining ends marked with tape so they would match during final assembly. At this time the cut imperfections were smoothed out with a rasp and sandpaper.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-completed-ring The finished compass ring. Styrofoam can be sculpted and sanded into any form or shape. All the ring edges were rounded smooth.


With the shaping of the compass ring completed, everything we had worked on at the shop -sails, masts, yards and props, was transported to the site. Once there, the styrofoam ring was placed over the plywood base making sure it was a perfect fit. Then it was brush-coated with several layers of Styrospray 1000, a two part polymer that dried to a hard plastic finish that enhances the strength and durability of finished parts. The half domes and the compass letters were also coated with styrspray 1000. The letters for the mirror face of the compass, were ordered from an online letter supplier. The letter were one-foot in height and cut from Gatorboard -a type of display board with a dense inner core made of foam and a rigid exterior made of wood-fiber veneer. We could have cut the letters at the shop as we have done for other jobs, but the ones sold online were machine cut to perfection, cost effect, and saved us construction time.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-styrospray-1000 Styrospray 1000 is a two part polymer that can be applied to styrofoam to create a hard finish.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-coating-ring The Styrofoam compass and domes are coated with Styrospray 1000.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--applying-styrospray Styrospray 1000 polymer is very tacky and dries fast. Several applications are needed to achieve a hard surface.



The letters for the compass' mirror face, were ordered from an online letter supplier. The letter were one-foot in height and cut from Gatorboard -a type of display board with a dense inner core made of foam and a rigid exterior made of wood-fiber veneer. We could have cut the letters at the shop as we have done for other jobs, but the ones sold online were machine cut to perfection, cost effect, and saved us construction time. They were the perfect alternative.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-applying-styrospray-to-letters Foam cut letters were also covered in Styrospray 1000.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-coating-letters At this point the compass ring had not been secured to the base.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-spheres-covered-with-styrospray Domes drying before painting.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-painting-rounds-and-letters-gold A coating of solvent-base gold paint.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-gold-finish Solvent-base paints dissolve styrofoam as if it were acid. Styrospray 1000 creates a barrier that protects the foam from the solvent.



After all the compass' components had been gilded, we proceeded to add the hanging hardware to the wooden base. Two steel slotted strut channel bars would be bolted to the ceiling beams and the compass secured with threaded rods to the channels. Aided with a laser level, an exact diagram of the ceiling beams had been drawn on the floor panels. Placing the bars on the floor diagram guaranteed perfect placement of bars on the beams as well as the positioning of the threaded rods on the compass's base. We also marked the position of the right placement of the cardinal letters using a compass.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-compass-placement-diagram Diagram showing how the compass was to be hung. Four threaded rods would secure the compass to sloted strut channel bars (shown in blue).



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-ceiling-beam-position-marked-on-floor Using a laser level, the exact position of the ceiling beams was recreated on the floor below. This floor diagram was used to determine the exact placement of the hanging hardware on the compass' base.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-marking-compass-coordinates-on-floor Using a compass, we marked the direction of the cardinal points. This was crucial for the proper alignment of the letters (N, E, S, W) on the giant compass.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-marking-sections-on-wood-base The chalk marking on the base are mirror image since the compass would face down once hung.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-marking-coordinates-on-hanging-support-bars The position of the steel slotted strut channel bars were marked on the floor-diagram. These bars were later welded in place to the ceiling beams



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-marking-contact-points-with-blue-tape Detail of threaded rods used to secured the compass' base, and the steel slotted strut channel bar.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-marking-contact-points-on-bars-and-rods The hanging bars are placed on the compass base in perfect alignment to the floor diagram. The position of the hole for the placing the thread rod is then marked with blue tape.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-cutting-threaded-rods Threaded rods were cut to size.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-threaded-rod-secured The rods were secured to the compass' base with washers and nuts on both sides of the panel.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-rod-extension Detail of a thread rod extending from the compass base.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--lifting-supports Two pieces of 2 in. x 4 in. x 10 ft. lumber were screwed to the base in three places. They were used as temporary supports to raise the compass into position.



The plastic mirror was made from two 4 x 8 ft. acrylic mirror panels. They were cut with a jig saw using a special blade designed to cut plastic. The mirror halves were bonded to the compass base with construction adhesive. The sections were placed over wooden rods to get them in position. Once adjustments were made, the rods were removed one by one until the mirror was perfectly placed. In addition to the glue, the mirror was screwed around the outer edge. The holes on the plastic were made slightly larger than the screw's diameter to allow for some expansion and contraction of the material.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-plastic-mirrors The plastic mirror was made from two 4 x 8 ft. acrylic mirror panels. The protective plastic that came with the panels was left in place.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-attaching-mirror-sections The mirror sections were bonded to the compass base with construction adhesive. The sections were placed over wooden rods to get them in position before gluing.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-mirror-in-place Once adjustments were made, the wooden rods were removed one by one until the mirror was perfectly placed. At this point the mirror still had a protective plastic covering.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012-mirror-edges-secured-with-screws Using a drill designed for boring into plastic, holes were made along the edge of the mirror. Then the mirror was screwed to the wooden base.



With the mirror in place, we proceeded to add the gilded ring. This was done by gluing the ring pieces to the base and further securing them with drywall screws. Next, the domes were positioned and glued in place. Finally, the cardinal letters were attached using a double contact tape specially designed for that purpose. After the glue was allowed to dry for 24 hours, the mirror's protective plastic was peeled off and the compass was ready for installation. It turned out to be a gorgeous looking piece that looked a lot heavier than it really was.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-appying-glue-for-ring The compass ring was then glued to the base and further secured by screws to the wooden base.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-compass-in-progress The domes were then glued inside the ring.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-letters-positioned-in-place The position of the letters had been marked on the mirror using blue tape. They were then secured in place using double contact tape.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-compass The finished compass. It turned out to be a gorgeous piece.



Then, with the help of two hand-crank jacks and plenty of hands, the compass was turned over, straps were secured to the ends of the 2x4s, and then the piece was slowly lifted into position. Next workers on the scissor lift secured the treated rods to the hanging bars and lastly removed the 2x4s to complete the operation. Everything worked out as planned without a hitch.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-compass-being-raised-by-jacks The compass was turned over and then lifted into position using two hand-crank jacks.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-compass-raised-into-position Once the compass was secured in place, the support wooden beams were removed. The entire operation went like clockwork.



Reconstructing the ship's hull

Our attention turned next to the ship. We began with reconstructing the forecastle deck, the main deck, the quarter deck, and the poop deck. Most pieces of wood were pre-cut at our shop and then glued and secure with clamps and a few brads or small wooden pegs. Wood filler was used to fill in dozens of holes that had been drilled by previous owners to add rigging in all the wrong places. Then all surfaces were sanded, cleaned and prepared for painting, some with a coating water-base yellow-beige tinted primer, and other areas with wood stains. The following photographs both explain and document the reconstruction process.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-clearing-the-bow-section-for-reconstruction The beak and the forecastle were stripped of broken pieces and holes were filled with wood filler.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-upper-deck-woodwork-reconstruction After sanding and cleaning, damaged sections were reconstructed. Thin wood veneer strips were used to replace broken planking on the bow. Glue and clamps work great but you have to be patient.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-top-railing Once the forecastle was reconstructed, the decks were primed and the foremast fitted into place. Whenever possible, we glue back broken pieces and reused the original wood sections.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reconstructed-forecastle The fore peak or "beak" had lost most of its original pieces. So using historical diagrams, we reconstructed this section.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-sample-paint-piece I tested several oil stains on pieces of pre-primed wood. Once satisfied with the finish, we faux painted the decks.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-main-deck-faux-finish-completed With the main deck finished, we moved on to the quarter deck.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adding-other-elements-to-upper-decks Missing pieces and railings were added and base-coated in brown flat paint. Later these painted areas were further stained to achieve a richer color.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-foredeck-before-painting Detail of the forecastle deck before staining. Gun carriages are also primed with a coating of brown paint.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--attaching-the-deadeye-brackets My brother Ricky installing "thriple-hole deadeyes" that would help secure the standing rigging. This block and tackle system gave the shrouds (the ropes that hold up the mast) greater tension and flexibility. Ricky is a NASA technician who works with state-of-the-art technology on projects that will not see the light of day for years. So working "low-tech" in the evenings makes for good coffee-break conversation.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-deadeye-brackets-secured The three-holed blocks were called deadeyes because the position of the three holes resemble the eye and nose sockets of a sheep's skull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-prow-reconstruction Detail of deadeyes on the prow of the ship. Once they were secured, the hull was wiped free of dust and then cleaned with a cloth moisten in mineral spirits.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-stern-deck-before-faux-painting The thin coating of mineral spirits is quickly absorbed by the dry wood. At this point, I begin applying a dark stain to ship's hull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-staining-detail I apply the stain with a hog's hair bristle brush, making sure to blend each stroke to avoid creating blotches. I used commercially available stains because there is such a good selection that I invariably will find the right one for the job. Unless I have to color-match, there is no need to alter them by adding Artist's Oils.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-beginning-to-stain-the-hull Stains penetrate the wood fiber, so you control the intensity of the color by the amount of time it stays on, before you wipe off the excess with a rag. With practice, you develop a good sense of timing.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-being-inspected Nancy is big on "quality control". But I'm sure she also get's a kick out of bossing me around or finding a "shivo" (a spot you missed).



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--staining-progression I completed staining one level of the entire ship before starting on the next.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-nancy-lewis-rivera-working-on-the-rigging My wife Nancy couldn't wait to finish her "boring" day job, to come over and "have fun" with the assembly. Once we had all the parts inventory, we began the assembly of smaller components, taking care to follow the rigging notes from our research.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-constructing-deadeyes Triple deadeyes (like the ones shown in this image) are used in pairs; a line called a "lanyard" is run back and forth between them, through the holes, so that the system function much as a block and tackle would.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adding-rope-rings-to-mast Nancy binds the masts with woolding -the rope used for binding masts and spars.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-reconstructing-the-beak Installing the bow sprit.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-beak-reconstruction Completing the head of the beakhead. This is where the toilets (heads) were located at either side of the bowsprit.



Adding props and detailing

The gun deck aboard a ship was primarily used for the mounting of cannon to be fired in broadsides. This galleon replica is an earlier period -the Age of Exploration, with only one gun deck, -with guns placed on the upper deck, forecastle and quarterdeck. The gun deck was later applied mostly to ships with decks enclosed under roofs, such as ships-of-the-line. Water-tight gun ports along the side of the hull opened up for guns to show through. The guns were placed on wheeled carriages, which were held in place by breeching -a rope system that controlled the backward recoil of cannons. The next set of photographs show the deck assembly.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-gun-enplacement Detail of gun emplacements. For this replica display which would end up suspended high above ground, we kept it as simple as possible.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-gun-port-detail Gun showing through the gunport. The gunport lids were designed to be watertight when closed.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-gun-deck Detail of guns on both sides of the deck.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-broadside-before-detailing Detail of broadside batteries.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-cannon-balls Detail of cannonballs and breeching (heavy rope fixed to the ship's side that gun carriage to control backward recoil).



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--detail-of-finished-gun-enplacements View of main deck batteries before moving on to the quarter deck.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-view-of-finished-top-decks View showing guns on the quarter deck.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-bow-reconstruction View of the forecastle.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-work-in-progress Long shot of the entire boat, with foremast and mainmast in place.



After making repairs and reconstructions, completing the decks and staining the hull above the waterline, we began the fun task of painting colorful decorations on the ship. Historically, the interior of galleons was left unpainted, while the upper portions of the outer hull and superstructure were often, as in this replica, painted in bands of bright colors. With historical references to guide us, we initiated the decoration with the application of white primer and a base-coating of green paint. Then the design pattern was carefully penciled on the primed areas and then painted.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-painting-the-stern-of-the-ship Applying priming base-coat to areas that will be decorated.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-cannon-doors Detail of primed areas above gun ports.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--rigging-the-sprit-sail-yard Detail of primed beak area.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--work-progress-3-26-2012 All sections primed and ready for decoration.



Note that the point of priming over the dark wood is because color paint is not entirely opaque. So, without priming first, it would have required more than one coat of paint to achieve full color saturation. This would have forced us to paint the same design several times over -and that's a lot of work. With the assistance of the lovely Denise Aviles-DeNoble (who has the patience of biblical Job), the ship was transformed into a thing of beauty by a colorful banding of geometric shapes.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-drawing-geometric-designs Banding designs were penciled over primed areas.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detailing-of-forecastle-in-progress Beginning decorations with the application of base colors.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detailing-in-progress Assisting artist, Denise Aviles-DeNoble, joins me on the tedious task of painting decorations.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-denise-aviles-painting-details I believe women are better suited for this kind of decorative painting. All the girls in my team can spend hours doing this type of repetitious work that really test my patience. The guys seem to prefer "action" painting rather than detailing.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-view-of-entire-ship-during-detailing For the most part, we used fluid artist's acrylic paints. While we painted, the mizzen mast was installed. Once the decoration was done, the standing rigging -the system of lines and ropes that securely hold the masts, was fixed in place.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-stern-detailing-completed Decoration completed. Detailing adds such amazing visual appeal that you begin to understand why those ships of old looked like floating works of art.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-denise-aviles-noble Another Puerto Rican flower -Denise Aviles-DeNoble. I have been extremely fortunate to have a really fantastic wife and amazing young ladies helping me on all my projects. Plus, they are so much better at small talk, so our conversations are never boring. Over time, I have adopted high school kids with a passion for art and a curiosity for life. They are our second family. Even after going away for college or starting their way in life, they keep coming back to participate in projects. They help me get through the tedium I feel during most of my jobs.



Rigging the masts

The complexity of rigging a large sailing ship is enormous. Rigging is the system of ropes, cables, or chains employed to support a ship's masts (standing rigging) and to control or set the yards and sails (running rigging). By the end of this project, we had used over seven-hundred feet of cord -and this was after keeping it simple! Naturally, we had great visual aids helping us along the way. I can not overestimate the importance of doing extensive research "before" you start a project. I selected a variety of cords that best match the scale of the ship. Then Nancy helped with most of the standing rigging. She actually loved doing this kind of work. Looking at the following photographs shows without a doubt how attention to detail really added to the quality of the work.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-fore-channels-and-dead-eyes With detailed diagrams like this one, we were able to replicate the rigging exactly as shown.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-fore-shrouds During this project, I learned an entirely new vocabulary of nautical terms. I was in awe at how every piece of line (rope) on a ship, has a specific reason and purpose for being there.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-shroud-rigging-bracing Up close, it looked like the real thing and not a scale model.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-fore-topmast-and-shrouds Many of the available diagrams were not for our specific ship. But this was not a problem since rigging basically remained the same for hundreds of years. We were pretty sure we were doing it right.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-shroud-rigging Detail of shroud with ratlines on the main topmast.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-top-topmast-and-preventer-stay Even with very good reference, like this one, certain details seem to make no sense -until we did them on the model! This was one hell of a schooling -learning by doing.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-bow-detailing-and-mast-rigging Detail of the ship's beak.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-shroud-ropework-detail Detail of foremast and bowsprit rigging.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-view-of-gun-decks View of gun deck.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-mast-and-penant-detail Detail of flag on mainmast.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-finished-shrouds Detail of shrouds.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-stern View of standing rigging from the stern.



Doing the standing rigging was actually a lot of fun, almost like doing a puzzle. You begin to see with clarity how every line and tackle, every block and sail has a purpose in the operation of a sailing ship. The beauty of symmetry reveals itself as you build up the rigging. There's a science to it that is amazingly simple in its practicality. Everything is a tension act where forces work back and forth to achieve a balance. And, as you begin to understand the science behind the rigging, you develop an appreciation for the level of training and discipline required of a sailing crew to to operate and maintain that system.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-galleon-before-adding-sails

It's a beautiful thing to see a ship being rigged.



Adding sails

Immediately after completing the standing rigging, we started adding sails and running rigging. Even with plenty of references, the rigging proved challenging. The ropes in the system used for raising, lowering, shaping and controlling the sails on a sailing vessel have names that identify the task they perform. For example, halyards (or haulyards) raise sails and control tension, and topping lifts hold booms and yards aloft, while the brails, buntlinesm, lifts, leechlines, bowlines, clewlines, braces, sheets, tacks, and so on, also perform specific tasks for controlling sails. As a result, it took us a while to complete the rigging.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-galleon-sails One of many images in our collection of diagrams showing the sails plan in a galleon.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-sprit-sail-rigging Detail of the spritsail and running rigging with the flag of Cornwall.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,--detail-of-sails-and-rigging The sail to be added wad fore course sail with the flag of Scotland.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adding-sails-and-rigging Above the fore course sail we added the fore top sail with the flag of Wales.



Before we could finish installing all the sails, the ship was raised to its hanging position, suspended from stainless steel cables. A new floor was being installed in the restaurant and the task could not be delayed on the construction schedule. So, with the aid of tower scaffolds, ladders and planks, Ricky and I completed the difficult task while the boat was in the air. The next series of photographs show the work progression. After installing all the sails and completing the rigging, we repaired the bottom of the hull and the rudder, added chained anchors at the bow and decorations to the back of the stern, and adjusted the ships tilt so the top pennant was almost touching the face of the mirrored compass.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adding-sails-and-rigging-2 Ricky and I worked on scaffolds to complete the installation of sails and running rigging.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-another-specialized-job-for-Ricky-Nelson-Rivera My brother Ricky flashing one of his trademark smiles.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adding-sails With so many cords crisscrossing in between masts and sails, it was very difficult to position the platform over the ship and do the rigging.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adjusting-rigging-around-suspension-cables With a lot of care, know-how and patience, we managed to complete the installation of all the sails.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-adjusting-scaffolding-for-rigging We removed the scaffolding and prepared to work on the repairs to the bottom of the ship's hull.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-almost-done At this stage we also made adjusting to the suspension cables to make sure we that the ship's tilt was at the correct angle.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-galleon-suspended The hull under the waterline needed a lot of work to patch holes and replace missing planks. There was more damage than we had anticipated.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-galleon-suspended-2 We used a pair of smaller scaffolds to work the bottom of the hull. We began repairs by first sanding the entire area.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-fixing-holes-in-hull-and-keel At some point in the ship's history, a base-support piece had been attached to the bottom. The attachment holes had to be patched. The keel also needed to be stripped and secured with screws. Missing planks were replace with new one.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-rigging-pipes Wood filler was used to level surface discrepancies.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-patching-the-underbelly This photographs shows the hull areas that were repaired. The next step was the smooth everything we several grades of sandpaper, and then coat it with a wood sealer.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-sail-rigging After the wood sealer had time to cure, we applied a base coat of tinted primer and painted the blue band that marked the waterline. We also completed decorations to the stern.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-detail-of-rudder The rudder was also cleaned and stained. Some of the metal hardware had rusted so we replaced them with new pieces.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-ships-prow-completed The anchors (one on each side) were fixed and secured to the ship.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-compass-view A view of the ship's reflection on the compass.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-a-very-tight-fit The primed hull was coated with several layers of stain until we achieved the desire effect. After the stain cured, we applied a coating of varnish.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-galleon-stern-view Rear view of the ship.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-galleon-side-view Nighttime flashed photograph showing a side view of the ship.


On April 8, 2012 -exactly three months after we started, the project was completed. Three weeks later, the Tilted Kilt opened for business. I must confess that I greatly enjoyed doing this project. I found the change of pace relaxing when compared to mural painting. This type of commission only comes around once in a great while and I was glad I had the chance to do it. Everyone who worked on it loved the experience. The ship looked fantastic and turned out to be a one-of-a-kind display. I was very fortunate this job landed on my lap.



spanish-galleon-reconstruction,-by-john-rivera-resto,-2012,-finished-galleon-front-view

April 8th, 2012. View of the ship floating ship under the early morning light. The galleon was completed.




Update: Fall 2018

After six years in business, the Tilted Kilt was transformed into a Panini's Bar & Grill by the owners. Public tastes had changed during the six years that the Kilt was in business, so moving to a proven Cleveland sports bar/restaurant franchise was the wiser move. To read and view images of the transformation, see the page in the "Rest & Bar Design" Menu link.






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