June 18, 2024


Obey Your Travel

Chain-Plate Assemblies for Ship Models

One of the more interesting assemblies on a ship model build is the chain-plate assembly.

The chain-plate assemblies and deadeyes were part of the standing rigging of a sailing ship. These were for attaching the lower ends of the shrouds to the side of the ship. The shrouds were the ropes that steadied the masts and held them tightly into place. The ropes of the shrouds went through the holes in the deadeyes. This way they could be periodically tightened without letting up the strain on the masts. Conveniently enough, the shrouds provided a ladder of sorts, ratlines, enabling the sailors to climb to various levels of the masts.

Plates were used by all countries in the early 17th century. Chains then became prevalent until the mid-17th century after which some countries like Britain reverted back to plates. Chain-plates get their name from the old wooden ships that used to use tarred manila or hemp rope in conjunction with dead eyes and lanyards to tension the rigging. Chain-plates could be one of a number of strips of iron, chains, or a combination of iron links and straps. One dead eye would be attached to the end of the stay while the other dead eye would be shackled to a chain or a link which would be connected to a plate that was fastened to the wales (hull). This plate was called the chain.

By using chain-plates and other apparatus of rigging, sailboats are better able to support complex rigging systems and components. The weight of shrouds and other stays on a sailboat are spread across the hull, along the deck, and against framing components through the use of chain-plates and deadeyes. Several holes in the body of a chain-plate allow displacement among several bolts where the chain-plate is attached to the hull.


A chain-plate is the thick iron plate bolted to the side of the ship to which the chains and deadeyes are attached. The chain plate and chains normally consisted of 5 parts, the lower deadeye and upper link, a middle link, a toe link, bolts, and a preventer link (or chain plate). The upper link surrounds the lower deadeye, the middle link connects to the upper link on the top and the toe link on the bottom. The toe link is connected to the preventer link. The preventer link was bolted to the outer planking.

The lower dead eye has to be stropped with metal. The length of the loop of the metal on the bottom depends on if you are using plates or chains. Also consider that the channel or chain-wales are used to keep the assembly some distance off of the hull so make sure they are wide enough on your ship model. Interestingly the mizzen mast channel was quite rudimentary and many times did not even exist. If you are using chains, the loop should be long enough to go well below the lower side of the channel and act as the first link in the chain. If you are using plates, the loop just needs to be long enough to hang just below the channel and to allow the plate to hook into it. The ship modeler can form the strop using wire and starting from the bottom of the dead eye and moving up. Start off by creating the loop then fit the wire around the dead eye ending at the top. Drill two small holes in the top of the dead eye and run the ends of the wire into the holes.

The lower deadeye can sit in a slot on the channel, directly on the channel or raised just above the channel depending on which era of ship model you are building. The first chain-plate should be perpendicular to the mast beginning from the bow end and moving towards the stern. The balance of chain-plates should be slightly angled as the assembly moves sternward.

The ship modeler has a number of options when it comes to constructing chain-plate assemblies. Like usual keep in mind the era and nationality of the ship model you are building. If you choose to use a solid piece of metal, regardless of the shape there needs to be at least two holes, one above the other, in order to fasten it onto the wales. And don’t forget to simulate caulking around the bolt holes using drawing ink. The upper middle and toe links can be the same size or vary in length. Often the toe link will be the shortest.