How Are Ship Models Put into Bottles?
A ship model in a bottle is first completely constructed outside the bottle. The builder then folds the masts and rigging down, slides the ship down the bottle’s neck, and pulls up the masts.
Sailors often made ship models in narrow-necked bottles to pass the time on long voyages. Putting them together took careful workmanship. This model-making dates back perhaps 4,000 years.
When the model was finished, the masts and rigging were folded flat on the deck so that the ship was small enough to slip through the narrow neck and into the bottle. One pull on a thread tied to the masts drew the rigging upright.
Bottles with minor distortions and soft tints are often chosen to hide the small details of the ship such as hinges on the masts. Alternatively, with specialized long-handled tools, it is possible to build the ship inside the bottle.
The date of the first construction of a ship in a bottle is unknown; but the patience needed to fold the masts in the bottle was a challenge, and the bottle protected the model. Most of the classic sailing ships have been preserved in bottles and in maritime museums.