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First Build for Wooden Model Ship

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I have always been a plastic aircraft modeller, but I have alawys been interested in sailing ship models, and have decided to take the plunge.  The question is where to start?  Solid hull, plank on frame?  I welcome all suggestions/recommendations.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Depends on your skills. Plank on frame requires properly shaping the hull planking, known as spiling. Jim Roberts' Planking the Built-up Ship Model is an excellent treatise on the subject. Solid-hull models is simpler in principle since the hull needs shaping. These choices are about the hull though. You can take a look at a plank-on-bulkhead kit with these instructions for Model Shipways' Mayflower and compare that with a solid-hull model of Model Shipways' Kate Cory. Both of these are square-rigged vessels, which do have quite elaborate rigging. Model Shipways' Willie L Bennet is a plank-on-frame skipjack--an oyster dredging vessel used on the Chesapeake Bay. I have Kate Cory and Willie L Bennet in my stash; Even though Willie L Bennet is plank-on-frame, I'll do her first, because she has a simpler hull and simpler fore-and-aft rigged. Kate Cory, while solid hull, has a far more complex rigging. I have done other wooden ships in the past, but they were simpler subjects.


Even if you don't build a Model Shipways kit, their instruction manuals are online, so you can see what's involved in each kit. Personally, I like their kits, as the instructions are fairly comprehensive.


Another outstanding source of wooden ship models is The Model Dockyard. In particular, Caldercraft kits are outstanding. You can take a look at some of those instruction manuals at the JoTiKa Ltd. site.





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Some 'cheap' wood kits are dreadful and don't accurately depict real sailing vessels at all. Some are no more than (very expensive) ornaments- and the designs date back in some cases to the '70s. Sergal, Mantua, Mamoli, etc are often guilty of this.  Many of these are to modern ship modelling what a 70s Airfix kit is to modern plastic modelling.


I'd suggest a simple 'bottom of the range' kit from a premium manufacturer. You can be sure you'll get everything you need, and the end result should look like a real ship!


Modelshipways 'Sultana'- solid hull

Caldercraft 'HM cutter Sherbourne'- plank on bulkead construction


Both available for about £100, both a large enough scale to not be fiddly. Both accurate and detailed models.


Just to throw things wide open- there are some amazing card kits of sailing warships made by company 'Shipyard'. The construction is very similar to building a wooden kit, but they cost about 1/3 as much! Some come with lasercut frames, and accessory kits.



Edited by Killingholme
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Irish Kiwi , I`ll second the remarks made above . I`ve built five plank on frame kits to date ,three of them from

JoTika/Caldercraft and have found them top notch. The last one was the simplest , the schooner Pickle , which I

would recommend also as a starter . It was also easier on my old hands ,(mine ,not the deck crew).If you want to

see a couple of mine look on page eleven ,Ready for Inspection,under A Change . On this kind of modelling you

really can claim to have made it yourself.

Happy bending and shaping .


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  • 1 month later...

I did my first plank on frame kit after never being near a wooden kit before. From my experience, get a double planked kit, that is, 2mm thick pine first layer and then 0.5mm mahogany top layer for my kit. This lets you smooth out any build problems on the first layer by either filling or sanding. Make sure that you wax the rigging twine and generally take your time. My kit and books etc. came from Modellers Central in Australia, you can check out their website for ideas.


If you get stuck consider what the part is supposed to do, especially the rigging, and then go from there. My first build is on the “Ready for Inspection” forum, Port Jackson Schooner, if you want to have a look. Please feel free to ask any questions, we need some more wood examples on the forum!!

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