Belem (Restoration)

In late 2023, we were tasked with restoring a Belem ship model for a private client. Their model had sustained serious damage due to inadequate packaging from the initial manufacturer. The rigging was loose and messy, the main masts and the foremast were in poor condition and the client also wished to have a display case fitted to protect the model from any potential wear-and-tear or damage in the future.

Originally, the Belem kicked off its journey as a cargo vessel, ferrying sugar from the West Indies and cocoa and coffee from Brazil and French Guiana to Nantes in France. Over the span of more than 120 years, this majestic ship has undergone quite the transformation. From serving as a private yacht for Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster (rechristened as Fantome II), to traversing the world’s oceans under the ownership of beer magnate Sir Arthur Ernest Guinness, its history is as rich and varied as the seas it sailed.

This model in question had the following measurements:

  • Stem to stern: 71 centimetres
  • Base to masthead: 60 centimetres
  • Beam: 6 centimetres
  • Stand: 47 centimetres
  • Width of stand: 10 centimetres

As mentioned above, the project was completed on behalf of a private client, and so not much can be said here other than that they were thrilled with the end result, restoring their model to its former glory, and they were also very pleased with the display case we fitted for further protection.

Restoration endeavours demand extensive communication, both in the prelude and throughout the process. Our model restorer initiates contact with both the client and our team initially, ensuring that every stipulation is not only feasible but also financially viable.

Discussions encompass various tools and techniques, particularly for older and more delicate models that necessitate meticulous handling. Rigging, in particular, presents challenges owing to its intricate nature, yet our restorer executes the task with consummate skill and precision.

In this scenario, our model restorer started with the rigging as that was the most complex issue, before moving on to the masts and base, and then of course fitting the display case at the very end prior to shipping.

The aforementioned initial phases of a restoration project necessitate close collaboration between our team, including our skilled restorer, and the client. This ensures that the client’s vision and expectations are thoroughly understood while establishing a practical timeline and budget that satisfies all parties involved.

An invoice is promptly prepared for the client to facilitate adherence to the agreed schedule and budget constraints.

Subsequently, our restorer begins work on the model, prioritizing tasks such as refurbishing the hull and rigging. Scratches are meticulously buffed out, and any necessary repainting is executed with precision to ensure a seamless match of colours.

Using specialized rigging tools, the restorer replaces outdated materials with new ones, painstakingly discarding the old rigging in the process. Though this phase may be arduous, our team ensures it is executed to perfection.

Final touches usually include any accessories, in this case being the addition of a display case. It was complete with a lovely light oak wood finish. This ensures the long-term protection of the model, allowing it to retain its fantastic quality.

This project was finished on schedule, within the agreed budget, and to an exceptional standard of quality. All parties were delighted – us with the work conducted and the overall experience, and the client with the enhanced quality of their model.

Restoration projects are consistently fulfilling, as they entail revitalising old, damaged models, essentially ‘restoring’ them to their original splendour. It was a delight to undertake the restoration of the Belem model, largely owing to its significant historical importance.

We eagerly anticipate our next restoration endeavour!

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