Model ship building is a fun, challenging, and rewarding hobby. It is more than just a way to pass the time. Model ship building is an ancient art that combines creativity with the opportunity to work with your hands and experience the immense satisfaction of a job well done.
Model ships are scale replicas of ships. Some models are of well known historical ships, such as the Titanic and the USS Constitution. Others are different types of ships or boats, such as war ships, whalers, yachts, and sailboats. They can range in size from 1/6000 scale war ship miniatures to very large models that are capable of holding people. Model kits of all kinds may be purchased at hobby stores. Simple kits for beginners are often available at Toys R Us and Walmart. Kits and plans may also be purchased online.
Aside from actually building the ship model, builders typically become experts about the type of ship they are building. Learning about the historical significance of a specific type of ship is often as important as the building itself.
The History of Ship Modeling
Ship modeling is a hobby as old as ship building itself. The first evidence of model ship building occurred in ancient times when water transport was first being developed. Ancient ship and boat models have been found in many Mediterranean countries, especially Greece, Egypt, and Phoenicia.
These models give archaeologists and historians a window into the technology of the time, as well as the social and economic importance of sailing. Unfortunately, many of the ancient ship models have suffered damage due to time or rough treatment. Still, historians are able to get a glimpse into the lives of ancient people by studying the model ships they left behind.
In ancient worlds, ships were the most technologically advanced mechanisms in existence and were highly prized. Ships made travel and trade much easier. War ships were equipped with weapons and added new tactical aspects to war as well. People originally started creating boat and ship models because they were of such importance to them. Everyone was involved in or depended on ships and the shipping industry. Their own lives and the lives of their families relied upon the ability of ships to deliver food and goods to the area and protect them in times of war.
Did You Know?
- Ancient Greek model ships were often used as burial offerings
- Most of the first model ships were miniature war ships
- Radio-controlled model ship building is a popular variation of the traditional hobby of building model ships
- Some experienced and talented wooden ship builders use knives to carve intricate designs in their models, making them truly one of a kind works of art
How to Start Building Ship Models
Building model ships is best enjoyed if you have the necessary tools. Most of the required tools are available at well-stocked model shops. Other supplies can be found at your local office supplies store.
Spend money on quality tools rather than quantity. Quality tools will not only last longer, but will make your ship modeling tasks easier. Purchase tools over time to better manage the cost.
Below is a list of tools commonly used in ship model building. This list is only a guide. Tool requirements vary from project to project.
- Rulers and compasses
- Fretsaw with table and clamp
- Hand-drill and a variety of bits ranging in size from 1/32″ to 1/4″ for both wood and metal
- Wood rasps, needle files, a variety of sandpaper
- Small hammer
- Hobby knives with a supply of extra blades
- Small needle nose pliers
- Scissors, pins, and needles
- Magnifying glass: suspended or standalone that allows you to use it hands-free
- Vices, large and small in size
- Clamps of various types: Purchase clamps as you need them in the required size
In addition to tools, glue, paint, lacquer, stain, and finishes will likely be required.
Create a workspace for building your models. Your work area should have a work table, space for your tools, storage for the required materials and equipment, and closed off from living areas in the home because of fumes and debris. The basement, a spare room, or the garage make ideal modeling work areas.
Free model ship building plans can be found online; others can be purchased at minimal cost. Most plans include a list of the required materials and tools. Kits are particularly well suited for beginners. Costs vary greatly. Simple beginner kits for a small wooden ship and basic tools can cost less than $100. More complicated kits range in cost from $300 to $500 or more.
How To Build Model Ships
If you have purchased a kit, make sure the kit contains all of the required parts and that nothing is missing. If you are working from plans, gather the necessary parts. Place your building materials and tools within easy reach.
Read the instructions thoroughly before starting. Get a basic understanding of the tasks and procedures involved.
Lightly sand the wood pieces. Don’t overdo the sanding. Too much sanding can damage the wood.
Follow the building instructions carefully. Assemble each piece in order. It’s tempting to jump ahead, but if you are a beginner, follow the directions. As you gain experience, you can rely less on the instructions and more on what you know.
Display or store your finished model. Clean your work area thoroughly so you are ready for your next project.
Tips And Tricks
Use the following tips and tricks to get the most out of model ship building…
- Start small. Begin with easy models and work your way up. Experience will automatically prepare for you for larger, more complex projects later on.
- Building model ships is a great hobby to pass on to children. The quiet hours spent working on models can provide quality time together.
- Displaying your models enhances the satisfaction of building them. Use display cases or shelves to show off your best work. Lighting over the shelf or in the display case can enhance the beauty and workmanship.
- If you are looking for a super easy way to start, choose a plastic kit. The plastic pieces are easier to handle and less likely to break, making them ideal for the beginner.
- Join a local model building club. Members are typically excited about their hobby and are anxious to share their knowledge with newcomers. Speaking with other builders is a great way to learn about resources, techniques, and share knowledge.
Model Ship Building Ideas For Growth
Building model ships is the ideal hobby for those who are looking for a satisfying way to spend their leisure time. It’s a hobby that can stay simple or be taken to a more challenging level, whichever you prefer. As you gain experience, you may wish to challenge yourself a little more.
Some ways to increase the fun of model ship building include:
- Tackle bigger projects. Each completed ship model will bring more confidence and increase your skill level.
- Attend local arts and crafts shows.
- Join a model builders club.
- Move into different types of model building such as cars or airplanes.
Related Ship Model Building Resources
The following online resources provide additional information on model ship building…
Model Ship Builder: An online community of ship and boat model builders with information and a forum.
Tall Ship Models: Online ship model store with emphasis on tall ships.
Shipwright’s FAQ: Informational site full of tips, how-to instructions, photos, and plans.
Model Ship World: Forum, articles, photos, plans, and model ship building resources.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.