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.