Jump to content

Welcome to Model Ship World
Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. If you already have an account, login here - otherwise create an account for free today!
Photo

For Beginners -- A Cautionary Tale


  • Please log in to reply
95 replies to this topic

#1
ccoyle

ccoyle

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 1,222 posts
  • LocationGreenville, South Carolina

Dear prospective ship modeler,

 

Welcome! If you're reading this, it's probably because you are ready and raring to get started on a first ship model. But before you do, allow me to share the following with you.

 

We get a lot of first-time builders on this forum. People who are eager to build a first ship model are attracted to the hobby for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you were captivated by a stunning model of the USS Constitution or the HMS Victory. Maybe you have a beloved relative who was a modeler. Or it could be that you just have a love of the sea, even if you've never sailed on anything larger than a rowboat. All of us came to MSW with similar motivations. Those of us who have been at this for a while not only love the hobby, but also love passing along our experience to new builders. It's a special treat to see a new modeler persevere through the joys and sorrows (and often tedium) of building a ship model and arrive successfully at the end of a build with a finished model to be proud of.

 

Unfortunately, many of those eager new members also turn out to be last-time builders as well. There are lots of reasons why a first-timer might give up. Building a nice ship model requires the learning of many new skills, a not inconsiderable amount of tenacity, and usually a significant time investment. Some new modelers get bored, others get overwhelmed, and some get overtaken by things like career changes, cross-country moves, babies, sudden illnesses -- that life stuff we all have to deal with occasionally. We understand those things happen. We get it.

 

This post, though, is written for a particular kind of first-time modeler: the modeler who takes on more ship then they can handle. Unfortunately, this kind of modeler is all too common. Bewitched by a clipper ship or sailing man-of-war, this kind of newbie believes that they can jump right in and build something similar.

 

Allow me to use an analogy. I'm not a pilot, but I love old warbirds. Suppose I go to an airshow and, having been awed by the spectacle, decide to go out and buy a P-51 and take her up for a few high-g maneuvers. All with no flying experience, mind you. I don't have to tell you how that first flight is likely to end up.

 

Sadly, many of the newcomers to MSW have a similar experience with model ships. They come brimming with pluck and determination, convinced that they can build a Constitution or Victory. In most instances, these bright-eyed neophytes wind up like the over-zealous new P-51 owner -- dead. Well, unlike the pilot, the would-be modelers are probably still alive, but their dreams of nice model ships have certainly gone to a better place.

 

Now, before I go any further, allow me to make a few things perfectly clear. Am I saying that a new modeler should never attempt a complicated model or that newcomers never finish such models? No, I'm not saying that. There are a few modelers who have attempted such projects and completed them, so it is certainly possible. But those modelers are very few in number. And we don't have any rules about what kind of model you can or can't build around here. If you absolutely, positively have to have a crack at a three-decker or frigate, then have at it. We'll be glad to help you along the way. But just be aware ahead of time how much of a challenge you are getting yourself into.

 

Let me throw some numbers at you to illustrate my point. One of my jobs here at MSW is to comb through old build logs and edit the titles of completed builds to show that the model has been finished (it makes searching for finished models easier). Obviously, as I sift through the builds I find many unfinished ones. On just one page that I was recently checking, I found twelve unfinished build logs started by first-time builders. In ten of those build logs, the new builder never made it past completing the hull of his ship. In the other two, the builder never started the model at all. Nine of those twelve modelers are no longer active on this site. I did not include among those twelve modelers any who gave a life-got-in-the-way reason for suspending their build. They're simply twelve modelers who eagerly started their project and then, usually quite early on, just gave up and quietly disappeared without giving any reasons why.

 

Those twelve builds all had one thing in common: each modeler had chosen a model that posed significant challenges for a first-time builder. Some of those models would have been a challenge even for a skilled builder. Simply put, they doomed their attempt at modeling by choosing a model that was over their head.

 

All of us ship modelers know how real the temptation is to skip an entry-level model and go straight for lots of guns and lots of sails. But here's the whole point I want to make: seriously think twice about caving into that temptation. The evidence speaks for itself - literally hundreds of abandoned build logs begun by modelers who bit off more than they could chew. Many of them not only abandoned their build, they also gave up on the hobby entirely.

 

It didn't have to be that way. Making a good start by honestly appraising your skill level and deciding to go with a simple first model is one of the surest ways to success in this hobby. Most true beginner models -- those actually designed for beginners and not merely labeled as such -- don't require a lot of money, time, or expensive tools. In a few weeks you'll know if this hobby is for you without having gotten yourself worked up over a model you couldn't realistically complete. And you know, most of us here enjoy watching the progress on a relatively 'easy' model, like a small sailboat, just as much as we enjoy watching the progress on an HMS Victory -- especially when we see those models being finished and proudly displayed.

 

And you know what? Success breeds further success. 

 

For more information on choosing a first model, check out the NRG modeling resources page.

 

Choose wisely, enjoy the journey, and I look forward to seeing you complete your first build log.

 

Respectfully,

Chris


  • probablynot, Gregor, mtaylor and 36 others like this

Chris Coyle
Greenville, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco


#2
EJ_L

EJ_L
  • Members
  • 1,074 posts
  • LocationWichita, Ks

This has always been a tough decision whit model building in general. My first ship build was the Constitution. It was Revell's plastic 1:96 scale kit. Granted I had been modeling for about 15 years at that point so I was not new to model building, nor complicated builds. I do admit though that there were times when I thought I had bit off more than I could chew with that kit. Even with the kits two piece hull and very good instructions, it is still a very daunting kit to someone who had never built a ship before and maybe more than I should have undertaken. That being said, it came out beautiful two years later and sits proudly in my dad's house as it was him I built it for.

 

Now that being said, I was not interested in building other ships at the time. That one was undertaken as a gift for my dad as he was not able to finish his model of the Constitution and it had become too badly damaged to salvage. Had I started building a simpler ship but without the motivation to build it other than "this looks fun" I may not have wanted to push through to completion when I hit those hard places. I learned a lot on that first build and every time I managed to struggle my way through to completion of a part I would (and still do) sit back and admire it for a long time. This is where my love of ship building was born. Seeing that majestic ship come together and knowing that I made that happen created a love of this hobby and filled that void that other models were not able to do.

 

I know my story is in the minority of first time ship builders. I also know that models are put on hold for many reasons other than burnout. My dad's had to stop because he had me, was going to college, working 2 jobs and then my mom died. He has built models since but never had the time to complete his Constitution before the ship got ruined. A friend of mine from the Navy has a great model railroad layout that never got completed since he was constantly getting deployed and now is getting ready to retire and move so he has to disassemble it. Just recently my own build has stopped as I found out last week my dog of 11 years has cancer, no way to fix it and we had to put him down yesterday. My wife and I are still devastated over this loss.

 

I think it is wise of us as a community of experienced builders to encourage first timers to choose easier kits as it is a shame to see so many unfinished builds out there. However, I do not think we should discourage them if they choose to take on a harder one to start. Instead, be sure to constantly follow their builds and try to offer help and suggestions on how to get through those tough areas when they are reached. We do not always know what outside circumstances may cause a build to stop.


  • Vince P., CaptainSteve, jud and 4 others like this

"Anchors Aweigh"

-E.J.

 

Current Builds - La Couronne - Corel &  Le Soleil Royal - Sergal

Completed - Wood - Rattlesnake - Model Shipways, HMS Bounty - Constructo

                      Plastic - USS Constitution - Revel (twice), Cutty Sark.

Unfinished - Plastic - HMS Victory - Heller, Sea Witch.

Member : Nautical Research Guild

 

 


#3
mtaylor

mtaylor

    Bilge Rat

  • SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR
  • 14,221 posts
  • LocationMedford, OR

Jud,

 

You and Chris raise valid points.   There are those who start a build log, realize they're in way over their heads and give up.  There are others, who start a log, realize they're in way over their heads and the put that log on hold and get a simpler kit.    One of the topics over the years has been about the number of models, unfinished, sitting in an attic or basement because the builder didn't know how to do what was needed.   

 

There's two articles in the article database that explain "how to select a kit" and "what to expect in a kit".  They've been offered many time to new members.   Both articles have great advice.

 

Going from plastic to wood is a big step.  Similar to going from replacing some items on your car to building one from the ground up.   Same principles, just different skill set needed.

 

In my case, my first ship was Wasa (from Billings).  I opened the kit, read the directions such that they are, and put it away.  I went to the hobby shop and bought a simple battle station and AL's Scottish Maid.    I learned. It's humbling to realize you don't know how to do things.   When those two models wiere done, I did the Wasa.  

 

We here at MSW have also seen the same thing in scratchbuilding.  Look at the logs of models never finished.   Even the starters like the Triton cross-section.   

 

It's tough call on things in this hobby.   MSW is based on the premise that everyone wants everyone else to succeed also.  Mutual support.   Sometimes, the advice may seem harsh, but it's voices of experience that give it. And they give it in context of "how to learn".  Some new builders do carry on and turn out a nice model but they are usually reading other logs and listening to those who have built the model.  And most would tell you, they should have started with something easier.   

 

My apologies for being long winded.


  • Gregor, coxswain, Vince P. and 16 others like this

Mark

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me


Current Build:

Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0

Past Builds:
Triton Cross-Section
USS Constellaton (kit bashed to 1854 Sloop of War (Gallery) Build Log
Wasa (Gallery)


Member of the Nautical Research Guild


#4
skipper1947

skipper1947
  • Members
  • 157 posts
  • LocationWashington, USA

I think it is common among many (myself included), to get all enthusiastic about a new hobby, then; when the new-car-smell is gone, to loose interest. It is nothing to do with the hobby itself, just human nature.  Witness that boat sitting among the weeds in the back yard, or that guitar gathering dust in the corner (I am guilty of both, as well as others I can't recall at the moment).

 

Sometimes, you just have to try a bunch of different hobbies that strike your fancy, hoping you find one that sticks. One suggestion I would make- is to not make a build log on your first project, just read what others are doing, and ask questions.

 

Of course, I could be mistaken. :)

Skip


  • mtaylor, coxswain, robin b and 6 others like this

#5
vaddoc

vaddoc
  • Members
  • 250 posts
  • LocationCambridge, UK

I think that the biggest problem is not just the complexity of the built but the time needed to invest. In my first two boats, on some days I could spent 7 hours building. Now, with work and familly commitments increasing I struggle to find any time at all and I am sure my current project will take years to complete. But it is a good idea to have a built log, I find it very motivating.  


  • mtaylor, CaptainSteve, hexnut and 3 others like this

#6
ccoyle

ccoyle

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 1,222 posts
  • LocationGreenville, South Carolina

Jud, I think you misunderstand my motivation for starting this thread. I'm not trying to 'judge' anyone, and I'm not saying a beginner can't complete a complex model (we've all seen it done). But in the pages of MSW 2.0, its predecessor MSW 1.0, the old Dry Dock Models forum, and the anecdotal evidence provided by manufacturers, we have overwhelming evidence that newbies regularly attempt more model than they are capable of handling. We don't send first-time skiers to the black diamond runs, and we don't let first-year medical students do heart transplants -- the same principle applies to ship models: try something commensurate with one's skills. I'm really not trying to turn people away -- I'm trying to help them make a choice of first model that will increase their chance of staying in the hobby. Success breeds more success. And haven't we all read about the much-bemoaned demise of the hobby? Hundreds (quite literally) of people quitting their attempts at building certainly doesn't alleviate that problem.


  • probablynot, mtaylor, robin b and 14 others like this

Chris Coyle
Greenville, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco


#7
xander

xander
  • Members
  • 9 posts
  • LocationUK
I have built two or three model boats, probably with lots of mistakes, and I certainly consider myself a beginner.
I have completed these models only by reading members builds on this site and trying to learn from them.
However I firmly believe that if a model is classified as suitable for a beginner then the instructions and plans should reflect this. In my limited experience this is definitely not the case. Instructions are very sparse and the plans very complicated.
If manufacturers say a model is for beginners then instructions and plans should be written with the beginner in mind. If that was the case then maybe more models would be completed and more people would carry on with this hobby.
  • mtaylor, Vince P., popeye the sailor and 9 others like this

#8
genericDave

genericDave
  • Members
  • 117 posts
  • LocationAustin, TX

Certainly there are many factors (time, ability, etc) that contribute to whether one will 'stick with' this hobby, and many of those can't be quantified until you get going.  But I do agree that the choice of kit can sometimes be a 'make or break' decision.

 

I really, really want to build the Syren.  But I think it is just a little beyond my reach at the moment, so I'm picking something else for my next build.

 

I'm still new to this - I picked up ship building about 9 months ago.  For my first build, I chose the Phantom - solid hull.  This meant no hull or deck planking, no square rigging, and no gunports or guns to build.  I chose it so that I could focus on basic skills - reading plans, cutting/sanding/shaping, and rigging.  I made a lot of mistakes.  For my second build, I'm building the Bluenose.  This adds basic POB stuff (keel, bulkheads, etc), hull and deck planking, more detail.  But I chose this particular ship because the hull is painted - my first attempt at hull planking is likely to turn out a little 'less than great', so I can learn hull planking but still use wood filler and paint to end up with a good build.

 

I was tempted to jump right into the Syren next (even had it in my shopping cart on the Model Expo site at one point), but I decided to do another build before I take that plunge, to get some experience with square rigging and gunports.

 

If you're getting into the hobby for the long haul, it doesn't hurt to spend some time working your way up.  You learn valuable skills that will pay off when you finally get to that 'big build'.  You also get a great sense of accomplishment from having successfully completed something (and that is much easier to reach with a 'beginner build').

 

All that being said, you have to be interested in the ship you are building.  It has to catch your eye.  If honestly nothing catches your eye except the Constitution, you might as well try.  Better to try something and have it fizzle out than to not try at all.  But if a first time builder is willing to start small, I do think it will pay off in the end.


  • mtaylor, ccoyle, CaptainSteve and 8 others like this

Dave

genericDave

 

Current Build: Model Shipways Bluenose 1:64

Completed Builds: Model Shipways Phantom 1:96


#9
mtaylor

mtaylor

    Bilge Rat

  • SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR
  • 14,221 posts
  • LocationMedford, OR

Dave,

 

We have had some relatively new builders do the Syren.  Chuck did an excellent practicum/instruction booklet which I think is still available on the Model Expo site for download.   It's not a beginner kit but the instructions do go a long way in helping the builder visualize the build as you go.

 

I'm very much on the fence about recommending this one, only because it has a lot of repetitive tasks... guns, masts, rigging, etc.  


  • Canute, Landlocked123, skipper1947 and 3 others like this

Mark

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me


Current Build:

Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0

Past Builds:
Triton Cross-Section
USS Constellaton (kit bashed to 1854 Sloop of War (Gallery) Build Log
Wasa (Gallery)


Member of the Nautical Research Guild


#10
cdogg

cdogg
  • Members
  • 471 posts
  • LocationSavage, Minnesota, USA
I have a theory that may apply to Chris's post. When I started building my first log, I came to conclusion that my boat will never look as good as most of the builds on this site no matter what I did at the time. This led me to find myself at times thinking, "If I do this, I'll never be able to post the pics on MSW". Now that I have four kits under my belt I feel a lot better about posting to build logs. Unfortunately I do not have the time these days like I did 4 years ago to work on my builds. My Scotland Kit is over two years old now, still trying to get one whole day to sit down and get going on it.

These people may have finished their boats but chose not to continue the log because they felt it wasn't good enough to share. Some of the people on this forum are 30 plus year veterans at this hobby and they make such beautiful ships that it may drive away novices from posting.

Who knows where these build logs have gone, just saying my theory could be valid along with people just losing interest.
  • mtaylor, src, CaptainSteve and 8 others like this

Casey

 

"I drank what?" - Socrates

 

Current Builds:  

                                  

Finished Builds: 

 

Future Builds:        

  • Mamoli Golden Hind
  • Mamoli Black Prince
  • AL Swift
     

 


#11
src

src

    Captain Chaos

  • Members
  • 1,846 posts

I found the email receipt for my Enterprise......2009!! :o There have been a lot of reasons why its taken so long; health, end of a relationship, a death, start of another relationship, work. The big one for me is I cant leave well enough alone and have to keep fiddling with things. Then there is that short attention span.

 

As far as why others fail to finish? I suspect there are as many reasons why builds and build logs are abandoned as there are builders; time, money (tools) skills, poor instructions, overestimation of how long it will take etc etc. Keeping up a build log takes time and effort. By the time I have taken and edited pictures, written a post, edited and re-edited (Gods of Spell Check I thank you) it could be an hour or more. thats an hour that could be spent building. I imagine some decide its more effort than it is worth to them.

 

When it comes to helping others pick a first build all we can do is give anecdotal advice and hope they listen. When they (ME?) dont then give as much advice and encouragement as possible. I know I most likely would not continued with out all the advice and encouragement I recieve(d)

 

Sam


Edited by src, 23 June 2016 - 02:53 AM.

  • probablynot, cog, mtaylor and 8 others like this

Current Build Constructo Enterprise

 

Ship Modeling

Noun

a long-term mental disorder involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings and a masochistic need to obsessively rebuild items regardless of the naked eyes ability to see the difference.


#12
vaddoc

vaddoc
  • Members
  • 250 posts
  • LocationCambridge, UK

And building a simple boat first and progressively taking on more complex projects allows one to gradually buy the truckloads of necessary and "nice to have" stuff without the admiral realising the cost. Also, one can gradually expand and occupy space in the house that otherwise would be point blank denied.


  • mtaylor, gjdale, src and 7 others like this

#13
tkay11

tkay11
  • Members
  • 1,134 posts
  • LocationKentish Town, London, UK
There have been quite a few who have given up on even those kits labelled as simple. I'm not sure that there is an even simpler kit for them. It may be more that the hobby is just not for them.

Tony
  • mtaylor, Elijah, Canute and 3 others like this

===
First build: Caldercraft HM Cutter Sherbourne 1763 FINISHED

2nd and current build: Triton cross-section


#14
SpyGlass

SpyGlass
  • Members
  • 1,351 posts

A few points.

Check the SIZE of the finished build.  Many kits when completed area  lot bigger than you think and even before completion need a fair amount of space.

 

You can look too closely at what you are doing - my most admired build was cobbled together at speed ( well 4 months) I wouldnt put pics of it on here and I have done much  better work. But its the one that I show off !!

 

Never assume the aim is to finish !  The "journey" is all and the hours getting a teeny piece of wood just right is so relaxing in itself.

 

On this site here will always be someone who does it better than you but also there is also someone who may be learning from you .

 

Personally I do regret the shortage of simple solid hulled kits of a reasonable standard for youngsters to " build along with grand dad"  and for grandad to start off with !!


  • trippwj, probablynot, mtaylor and 7 others like this

#15
Malcolm G

Malcolm G
  • Members
  • 26 posts
  • LocationNew Plymouth New Zealand

In 1987 I brought Artesania Latina's Endeavour. It was well beyond my ability and knowledge. No internet to help back then of course. It ended up in the parts bin one third poorly built. 25 yrs later I started Caldercraft's Mars. Nice kit. I'm rigging it at the moment. With this forum's resources I've had no  problems I could not solve or fix. I'll finish it.

 

My ambition is to build Chris Watton's Victory (if it is ever released), as a retirement project. But I know I'll have to get a few builds under my belt before I buy a kit like that.

 

I support the moderator's advice.  If I had started with a smaller less complicated build in 1987 I may have had a house full of finished model ships by now. 

 

Anyway that's my view. I'm pleased to have returned to the hobby.. I'll post a picture when the Mars is finished.  I think I'm just too slow at present with working full time to do a build log justice.   

 

Malcolm 


  • mtaylor, Elijah, Canute and 3 others like this

#16
Laurence_B

Laurence_B
  • Members
  • 29 posts

My first-time attempt was a model of Artesania's  Hannah and I got into a real mess when it came to the planking.The model was,and still is abandoned.Undaunted,my next attempt was Scottish Maid,which was much more successful,though it still needs one or two finishing touches to the rigging.I found the hull much easier to plank (both first and second planking) with its 'clipper' lines.

Currently I am building Mamoli's Yacht Mary,which proved rather tricky to plank,but I have now completed the hull,and have made a start on the mast,spars and rigging.

The advice given above is very good-pick a simple model for starters,and one that is fairly easy to plank-not too many tight curves or excessive sheer.

And finally - good luck!!


Edited by Laurence_B, 23 June 2016 - 02:28 PM.

  • mtaylor, coxswain, Elijah and 4 others like this

#17
skipper1947

skipper1947
  • Members
  • 157 posts
  • LocationWashington, USA


These people may have finished their boats but chose not to continue the log because they felt it wasn't good enough to share. Some of the people on this forum are 30 plus year veterans at this hobby and they make such beautiful ships that it may drive away novices from posting.

 

Heck, I have been building models (with breaks) for about 60 years, I still can't build anything to compare with the beautiful models seen in here. (I maintain those plastic WWII kits built as a kid, are legitimate models, and not sticky lumps of glue).

 

Skip


  • mtaylor, src, Elijah and 3 others like this

#18
Jack12477

Jack12477

    Hard water sailor

  • Members
  • 1,343 posts
  • LocationSaugerties, Mid-Hudson Valley/Catskill Region, NY

I have to agree with Skip - I too have been building models for over 60 (with starts and stops) both plastic and wood - some Military Armor and some wooden ships.  And I too am not as good as many of the modelers I see here but so what. I'm learning !


  • mtaylor, src, Elijah and 4 others like this

Jack
 
"No one is as smart as all of us"
---------------------------------------------

Current build: MS Willie L Bennett
Completed build log(s): MS 18th Century Longboat , AL Marie Jeanne
Gallery: AL Swift , AL Armed Virginia Sloop, AL Santisima Trinidad Captain's Launch , 18th Century Longboat , AL Marie Jeanne
In dry-dock: AL 1798 US Constellation,  MS Picket Boat,  Dumas Donzi Z65 Tournament Fisherman (R/C)

Other: 1912 Hudson River Ice Yacht Manhasset - RESTORATION - Scale = Full Size, Relief Carving for Model Ships


#19
CharlieZardoz

CharlieZardoz
  • Members
  • 792 posts
  • LocationQueens New York

I think Tony is correct. You have to account that a portion of people who get into ship modeling (even if they have longed to build one for years, decades, blah) give it a go and just decide it's not for them. There's a certain masochism ... -er discipline ;) that comes from doing detailed work which includes model ships that not everyone is cut out for. Seeing the list posted, yes a few were Connie's, one Bounty yeah but some were beginners kits, two Sultana's and one Armed Virginia Sloop which should be good starting points. So I think maybe including those on your list Chris may be part of the confusion here since those models were definitely the correct choice just the builders lost interest which is going to happen no matter how much or little the builders in question listen to the wisdom of experience. :)


  • mtaylor, tkay11, Elijah and 4 others like this

#20
cdogg

cdogg
  • Members
  • 471 posts
  • LocationSavage, Minnesota, USA

This is a good topic, I have thought about it a lot over the past few years.


  • mtaylor, Elijah, Canute and 1 other like this

Casey

 

"I drank what?" - Socrates

 

Current Builds:  

                                  

Finished Builds: 

 

Future Builds:        

  • Mamoli Golden Hind
  • Mamoli Black Prince
  • AL Swift
     

 





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Welcome GUEST to the Model Ship World Community.
Please LOGIN or REGISTER to use all of our feautures.