Ron sails away with hobby

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RON Sharp – better known as Razor – knows he should have won the ship-building contest hands down with his four feet long model of HMS Unicorn.

Typically, the details were all there, down to the cannon loaded with a realistic-looking pencil lead, but the prize for the best ship made out of trash went to a child.

To be fair, the competition – one of the entertainments aboard ship that Ron and his wife Sue enjoyed on a Caribbean cruise – was not exactly a challenge to the man who doesn’t throw anything out in case he can put it to good use in his hobby of making bottles in ships.

Old coins, scent bottles, little light bulbs and even an old house sign have been incorporated into Ron’s many models on display at his home in Helmsley Way, Spalding.

He has also used medicine bottles and they act as a reminder of the reason he started building the ships in the first place – as therapy after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or cancer of the lymphoid tissue, in 2002.

“When you are having treatment it is surprising how it affects you,” admits Ron. “I got aggressive and tended to lose my temper. The slightest thing would trigger it and the therapy was very good. You have to calm yourself down and slow your breathing to stop your hand shaking when you are working on intricate details.”

The HMS Unicorn made for the holiday contest wasn’t the first time Ron has tackled that particular subject as it was the first ship he built, and that was selected as the subject because of Ron’s great interest in the history of the ships he models.

Ron says: “All together there have been six ships called Unicorn and the one I have got is modelled from the world’s most original wooden war ship. She is a completely wooden 32-gun frigate. It had a very good history. She was built in 1794 and during the war of 1812 she was involved in blockading the American coast.

“I like researching the history of whatever I build, but I don’t class myself as a perfectionist. There are many modellers much better than me, although I do like things to be as accurate as I can get the details.”

Wood, calico for sails, thread for rigging and a plastic farm horse adapted to make a unicorn were all used on Ron’s first ship. The figures aboard the ship are made out of wood and polyfiller and Ron once took HMS Unicorn to a scout evening and asked the children to count how many men there were.

He says: “There are men in the rigging, on the crow’s nest and all over the deck. Every scout gave a different answer so I still don’t know how many there are.”

What Ron particularly likes is to put a ship in an unusually shaped bottle, such as the cidar bottle used for his Master Shipbuilder scene in a realistic-looking working environment complete with sawdust. The bottle is 20cm long and 5cm high and if the shipbuilder was standing he would be about 18cm high, but he is sitting at his bench. Ron explains that the figure’s body parts are joined by wire and hinged so he is inserted into the bottle in diving position, with his arms above his head, before being unhinged and tweaked into position, the technique used for getting ships into bottles.

He now has plenty of time for his hobbies now, having retired a couple of years ago after almost 40 years in retail management – some people may remember Ron from his days at the former Brown Brothers & Taylors, once in Hall Place in town.

What Ron would like to know is whether a club exists for ship modellers in the district.

Contact him on 01775 714822.