Paper Shipwright 1/125 Old Mumbles Lighthouse

KIT #: A01986
PRICE: 3 quid
DECALS: Not needed
NOTES: Paper printed kit

In July, 1792, the Swansea Harbour Trust was authorised to build a lighthouse to guide ships along the South Wales coast and into Swansea Bay, while avoiding the Mixon Shoal (a sandbank that lies just below the normal low-water level). Architect William Jernegan designed the lighthouse, and its construction was completed in 1794. It was a 17m/56'-tall, two-stage, octagonal, brick tower and it was built on the outer of two islands at Mumbles Head, 35m above the high-water mark. Known as the Mumbles Lighthouse, it was equipped with two vertically-separated coal braziers so that it looked different from the single beacons of the adjacent St Ann's Head and Flatholm lighthouses. The first brazier was on the roof of the tower's first stage, and the second brazier was on the roof of the second stage.

But the coal braziers were only visible out to 5 miles, and difficult (and expensive) to keep lit, so they were soon replaced with oil-fired lanterns, with the upper light covered with a raised glass extension. In 1860, a single dioptic light was fitted, and accommodation, a fort and a gun battery were built against the tower. In 1905, a rotating shield-with-slits mechanism was fitted to make the light appear to flash. In 1934, the lighthouse was automated and in 1969, the lighthouse was electrified. Modern improvements included a solar panels in 1995 and an LED light in 2017.


Once I discovered David Hathaway's Paper Shipwright web-site, I began buying card models from him. He included this one as a free-be (as per his web-site). This one came on a single coloured A4 sheet and could be built into 1/250-scale model, less than 40mm tall, of the original coal-fired 1794 lighthouse. I took one look at it, then I enlarged it (to 1/125-scale?) onto an A3 card.

There is no instruction sheet like plastic modellers are used-to, but detailed instructions ARE included. The modeller MUST read them carefully, and then follow them precisely, to produce an accurate model. For example, there are several wrap-around layers, and the underside layers have indicators as to where the outer layers attach. This will correctly line-up the printed-on details. Look for the legend that deciphers the little symbols that surround each part. They tell you to where to fold/roll parts, and in-which direction they must be folded/rolled.


I started this model the day after I started my 4-weeks Christmas holiday because I had the time, and it looked like an easy build. There were two things I targeted for improvement. I wanted to cut away the two doors and then reposition them for a more 3D appearance. And I wanted to dump the printed railings (because they are solid) and replace them with wire and thread.

I cut each piece out of the card only when they were required. The secret is to use a sharp/new straight blade and a steel ruler to cut precisely along the outer lines. If you cut precisely, the parts will fit really well - just like a new Airfix kit. Use wood glue (not Tamiya quick-setting), but let it dry for at-least overnight, because 1) the water-based glue will warp the card if it is still damp, or 2) the two cards will separate. You'll need clamps or weights. At first, I used a too-strong modelling clamp that warped the wet card, and so then I learnt to use reversed wooden cloths pegs (as long as you keep them clear of the glue). As the build progressed, I made a wooden anvil which allowed me to support a card piece while I painted the wood glue onto it. The card wouldn't bend under the brush, and the glue wouldn't get into unwanted places. Pieces of scrap wood were useful to clamp larger assemblies at right-angles, or to press-down onto parts, as they dried.

I started this model by gluing part 1 (the base) onto a measured and dressed, wooden square. Part 2 (the first stage core) was formed into a tube, then Part 3 was put on top to solidify it. Part 4 wrapped around the outside of 2, and then Part 5 was wrapped around the outside of 4. Keep advancing numerically. Not all plastic models are like this. I thought about stuffing the core with styrofoam, but this proved unnecessary.

The model's parts have two doors printed on lower-stage parts - one on the outer-most part (#5) and one on core (#2) which will be covered by other layers (#4 & #5), and a lining-up door pattern in printed on #4. I carefully cut-out the door on #5 and the pattern on #4 to reveal the door on #2. On the upper stage, there was no door - just two dark door shapes on parts #8 (the upper-stage core) & #10 (the wrap-around). I cut both shapes away, then placed the spare door (from #2) behind #8. This way, both doors are recessed, yet visible and identical. On the roof of the upper stage, there is a hatch. It may have been used to get coal to the second fire (via a crane or winch?) Anyway, I cut it out, and re-attached it in an open position - just for a little interest.

There are three details on the first stage of the tower - the entry door, a (printed) rectangular recess and a projection from the roof (for the first fire). The base shows clearly where the entry-door is to be placed. Lining-up all of the first stage layers places the recess on the back of the tower. That's the easy bit, because now it gets hard. There is no indication where the small extension should go - above the entry door, or on the other side above the recess. An old artwork of the lighthouse shows the all of those details aligned one above the other, and that's how these models are depicted on the Internet. But current photos of the lighthouse shows the recess and the extension above each-other, but on the other side, away from the entry door.

Other detail is the door on the second stage, but there is no indication in the instructions as to whether this door should open onto the first fire, or on the other side away from it. Current photos suggest that is opens behind the first fire. Now, I'm no Old Salt, or an architect, but logically, I would position both fires on the tower's seaward side, because that's where the ships are that need to be guided by them. And because the full force of a stormy sea would come from that seaward/weather side, I'd have all access doors on the lee/sheltered/landward side of the tower. So, I assembled my model with the fires on one side, and the doors on the other - which disagrees with all my Internet references (which disagree with each other).

The tower has a railing round the top of both stages, but they are printed double-height on the card. After cutting each out, the card is folded-over to show railing on both inside and outside faces. I didn't use them because they are solid, whereas you can always see through a railing fence. None of the PE stuff I had was the right size, so I had to scratch-build replacements instead. I superglued lengths of fine wire to stick-out from the underneath of each stage's roof piece. They were bent up to form the stanchions, then fine black EZ-Line (cotton was too thick) was superglued to them to form the railings. Only after the fences were formed, were the roofs glued in-place. A little force was needed to ensure a seamless bond, and extra time was needed to keep the roof pieces flat (ask me how I know). Unfortunately, the wires under the roofs, coupled with the insufficient time the weight was applied, created painfully-visible areas of separation between the ceiling panels and the roof panels. Rats!!! I tried to add a narrow skirt around the roofs to hide them, but failed because there is a step between the roof and the fence.

The last elements were the two little round braziers on their 4-legged stands, and a tube of fire within them. These were difficult because of their tiny size, and the requirement to roll a cone around 3mm in diameter. I succeeded here because I shaped them on the tip of a pencil. Somehow, I donít believe that a coal fire would exhibit flames 1m/3í high.


Painting and Decaling. None needed - Yay!!!

I wanted to add a small figure to the lighthouse, to provide an indication of the size. My spares box had figures in 1/144-scale and model railway N-gauge, but when I compared them to the doors, they were all too large, and 1/350-scale figures were too small. Success came when I tried an N-gauge child (but don't tell anybody it 'aint an adult). A modelling college (Hi E) pointed-out that the doors were already showing the scale, but they were to at the back, so I still used a couple of (repainted) figures near the fires. Unfortunately (for me) my son pointed-out that the figure beside the upper fire is a woman ("Waddaya mean you didn't know? You can see she's got tits!!!)


This was quite an easy model to build. In fact, it was how I first started building models - with partly cut-out cardboard parts. Card models usually cost less than vacformed models and are definitely waaaaaay cheaper than injected plastic model kits. Another advantage is that the modeller can photocopy the original, so that, if you stuff-up a part (or the build) you have an unlimited number of replacement parts to immediate hand. Or (as I did) you can up the scale - which you CAN'T DO on a vac or injection kit.

MM has at least two other card models in the kit reviews. This one was an easy model to build, so I'm happy to recommend it to even a novice card modeller (but not to a Junior modeller, because of the need for a very-sharp blade, and the requirement for precision cutting). And being a lighthouse with coal-fired lights, it is an unusual subject. If I was to do this model again (and I can, if I wanted-to), I'd consider replacing the paper fires in the braziers, with pieces of clear red and orange plastic (or something), or perhaps flickering LEDs. Next, I have to muster the courage to start a more-challenging card model of a ship.

George Oh

24 March 2023

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