Crafting Sweeps for Blood & Plunder Ships

We looked at using the Sweeps trait on ships on Blood & Plunder ships in a recent article. In this post we will look at making simple representations of sweeps for your Blood & Plunder ships and boats. This is a very optional project for Blood & Plunder players, but it can be fun to have a visual representation when you ship is moving under oar power.

This project can be completed with about $10 worth of materials and around 1 hour of time spread over two sessions.

Materials for Crafting Sweeps for Blood & Plunder Ships

The supply list is very simple. You’ll need:

  • 1/8 inch wood strips
  • 1/8 wood dowels
  • Multi-purpose glue
  • Brown contrast/speed paint

The only real tool you’ll need is a sharp hobby knife. You’ll also need a Firelock ship or boat!

Step 1 – Cut & Shape Wood Strip

In this step we need to cut a length of 1/8 wood strip to size along the length of the ship we’d like to add Sweeps to.

Here I’m adding sweeps to a longboat so I cut a strip to about almost 5″, covering each spot for an oar. To shape the strip to the curve of the top of the side of hull, cut small notches on the inside.

Then bend the strip, cracking the wood and forming it to the curve needed. Apply a drop of glue to each notch, then shape the strip to the desired curve.

Some ships will require more curve than others.

If you’re building Sweeps for anything larger than a Longboat, attach some vertical posts on the inside of bulwark to stabilize the sweeps during game play.

They should side right inside the bulwark likes so. But make sure they don’t block a cannon port like I “almost did.”

Finally, carve out a small divot in the top of the strip at each place you would like an oar.

Step 2 – Cut Dowels for Sweeps

Cut your dowels to length. Real sweeps appear to be very long, but for ease of gameplay, you probably should trim them shorter than period images portray.

For the Longboat I cut them to about 3″ while 4″ seemed about right for the Sloop. Longer would be cool, but it just makes it a little unwieldy on the game table.

If you want to get fancy, you can cut the ends of the sweeps to the proper angle to match up to the table. Using a small saw would be advantageous here as these bamboo skewers are pretty hard to cut at an angle with a standard hobby knife.

The Longboat needed 4 dowels per side while you have more choice for the Sloop. The game only requires 2 models per deck, so you could use four for the Sloop as well as a reminder, but I opted for 6 because it looked better. The period drawing above has 15 oars per side!

Step 3 – Attach Dowels to Strips

Glue the dowels to the wood strips. This isn’t the sturdiest product, but the divots previously cut should help provide the maximum surface area for the glue joint.

On the longboat, you can easily space your oars using the rowlocks. Just be sure to not let glue connect your wood to the resin.

Technically, the oars should extend over the deck of the ship, but for practical gaming reasons, I’m leaving them flush with the bulwark.

Use enough glue to provide a strong bond, but don’t get glue over everything because the paint won’t do well over the glue.

You have a choice on the angle of the sweeps, but they should all be more-or-less parallel. The oars were obviously in motion so any of several angles could be appropriate, but either perpendicular, or angle towards the stern of the ship seems to look best to me.

After these dry, you should be able to gently remove the whole apparatus from your ship when you want to use your sails, or drop it back in when you want to use sweeps.

Step 4 – Paint Your Sweeps

I like using contrast or speed paints on porous wood like this. It functions basically as a stain, preserving the natural variation and texture of the woodgrain and producing a pleasing effect with one application of the single paint. Here I’m using Citadel Snakebite Leather.

You might want to match the color of the top of your bulwark for the wooden strip connecting the sweeps.

Step 5 – Use Your Sweeps Because They’re Pretty Cool

Sweeps are a lot of fun and can really surprise your opponent! Check out this article on their uses here!

These Sweeps were built for the Sloop hull and the Longboat hull. Let’s see how well they can be used on various ships in the Blood & Plunder line.

Sweeps on the Longboat

This boat has locks for 4 oars, but it looks a little spare. Maybe it would have better to set them at more of a “sweeping angle.”

Doesn’t look amazing but it clearly shows its being moved by Sweeps!

I didn’t attempt to fit this creation into a Canoa. It would be possible, but I don’t feel it’s necessary since canoes have to move by Sweeps or Paddles and don’t have the option to use sails. And I believe Natives Americans would have used shorter paddles and maybe not in such strict spacing and coordination.

Sweeps on the Piragua

The set of Sweeps I made for the Sloop actually work just find on the Piragua. The contour of the hull is close enough, this dropped right in and was stable. Added bonus, there’s no significant rigging to get it tangled in!

Sweeps on the Bark

It was a bit of a challenge setting the Sweeps in on the smaller ship, but it works fairly well. Close enough I don’t feel I need to make a custom set for the Bark. IF I was to every pay the extra 1pt to purchase Sweeps 2 on a Bark!

Sweeps on the Bermuda Sloop/Balandra

Sweeps 2 is also a 1pt upgrade for the Balandra and Bermuda Sloop.

It was a real trick threading this sweep piece between the shrouds and other rigging elements, but everything fit fine once in place.

Sweeps on the Sloop

The standard Sloop model has Sweeps 2 built in so you don’t have to pay extra for it. I designed the system for this hull, and it works great. Easy to slid in and out unless you’ve added extra rigging elements.

It looks a little weird without handles extending into the ship, but they would get in the way of ship capacity and moving models in and out. I’ve made compromises to make it easy to play with.

Sweeps on the Brigantine

Once you move into the 3 deck ships, this set of Sweeps I made starts to struggle. The decks on the Brigantine are a bit too small for this set of 6 oars to fit.

It’s too long and it looks pretty bad but if could still be used if you are feeling lazy.

I tried it on the Light Frigate but it was even less functional so I might have to craft another set to work on the larger ships. I have an alternate system in mind that might be more authentic that involves magnets and attaching the oars to the outside of the hull instead of the top of the gunwales. But that’s a project for another day!

Final Thoughts

This was a fun little project. It’s not a necessary project, but if you like using Sweeps, or like the “exotic” look of the Sweeps on your ship, it’s pretty easy to whip up something that looks respectable and makes it easy to remember you’re moving under oar power.

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