Sailing Ships of the Recycled Fleet

From the workbench of Lee Murdock, the Balladeer of the Great Lakes, comes an interesting new perspective on sailing ship models. These stylized replicas, produced from all recycled materials, give the viewer the impression of a sailing ship while underway and in full dress, all sails flying. Using recycled plastic milk bottles for the sails, old single-strand copper speaker wire for rigging and fittings, and small scraps of mahogany from his other projects, and even tooth-picks shaped for spars and yards, Lee has been able to recreate the look of classic sailing ships in all their glory as they would be viewed from across the water at a distance.

Lee was inspired by many craftsmen over the years, but two especially have been instrumental in helping his vision for these models. Larry Penn, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a well-known songwriter in his own right, has built wooden toy models of trains, riverboats, and Lake-freighters for many years. His lake boats had the distinction of having their hulls end at the waterline, thus rendering the tabletop or shelf as representing the water level. Lee brings this idea forward by heeling these sailing ships over, opposite the wind direction, like that which actually happens on water.

How to make the sails look like they’re catching the wind? Don Hardy, of Tampa, Florida, came up with his idea of using recycled glass (beer & wine bottles), for his sails on his “Ships of Glass.” The curve of the bottle shards gives the impression of full sails, as well as reflecting the sun light in a beautiful array of colors. If glass bottles can be used, why not plastic quart milk bottles? Besides being easier to cut, they are also translucent, just like the real thing. To finish off the illusion, Lee places each replica on a wood base, (usually highly figured maple), where the grain pattern in the wood resembles the waves on water.

Contact us at 630-557-2742 or email us to order.

These models come in four styles, each with their own maple base and display case.


Topsail Sloop Friends Good Will ($85.00)
(Display case size 5 x 6 3/4 x 9 3/4)


Coastal Schooner Manitou ($120.00)


Lake Schooner Denis Sullivan ($135.00)
Display case for Manitou and Sullivan together (size 7 3/8 x 7 3/8 x 11 5/8)


Brig Niagara ($175.00)
Display case (size 12 x 12 x 16 inches)