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Working Faster and More Efficiently

Slow Speed Faster Efficiency Efficiently

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Hi folks,

I have a confession to make. I build slowly. REALLY slowly. I read build logs from some of you guys and you pump out 4-5 ships before I finish copper plating a hull. This is mainly because I am very pedantic, if I see someone has done a better job at anything on the model, I will redo my own work...thus I progress very slowly. I cannot bear to see something I have made knowing it is inferior to something else I have seen.


One of the main problems I find with building quickly is painting. I make a part, prime it, then paint it, often taking 2-3 coats and having to wait for each coat to dry. I try to parallelise my work, working on different parts while the paint dries...but it doesn't seem to help a huge amount. 


So, what tips,tricks and black voodoo does everyone have to increase build rate, whilst maintaining top notch quality?


I have anther hobby, which is growing coral reef aquariums. They have a saying in the reefing hobby - nothing good ever happens fast. Do you think this applies to model ship building?

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The short answer: quality takes time. Speed means cutting corners.

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Speed=mistakes=expense=disappointment. Someone on this site has a signature with the caption something like 'if you have got to hurry, it ain't a hobby'. I really like this quote, it is very appropriate to model building. I've built 10 models over the past 30 years or so. Some take longer than others - HMS Victory took me over 20 years to finally complete. I will say that after building a few models, you do pick up a few tricks that may speed up the process or give better results, but that is just a matter of practise and research - particularly from this site :) I can relate to your comment about being pedantic, I think most model builders are - nature of the beast - if something is not correct on your model you are likely to spend the rest of your life seeing the mistake rather than the rest of the model, no matter how good it is :( So my advice is to work at your own pace and if in doubt ask questions before plunging in - there are some very talented members of this forum who are only too happy to share.


Edited by hornet, 02 January 2017 - 06:23 AM.

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Current Build: - Caldercraft - HMAV Bounty


Completed Ship Builds:

                                     Caldercraft - HM Brig Supply (In Gallery)

                                     Aeropiccola - Golden Hind

                                                        - Constitution

                                     Clipper Seawitch (maker unknown - too long ago to remember!)

                                     Corel - Victory

                                     Modeller's Shipyard - A Schooner of Port Jackson - In Gallery

                                                                      - Brig `Perseverance' - In Gallery

                                                                      - Cutter `Mermaid'- In Gallery

                                                                      - Sirius Longboat (bashed) - In Gallery

                                                                      - Sloop Norfolk - In Gallery

                                      Completed Cannon:   - French 18th Century Naval Cannon

                                                                      - Napoleonic 12 pound field piece

                                                                      - English 18th Century Carronade

                                       On the shelf awaiting construction: - Caldercraft  - HM Bark Endeavour 


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I agree 100% with Hornet, but would also love to know more about your other reef building hobby? could be some great ideas for shipwreck builds etc. there!

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Go at your own rate,and do not compare  your rate or quality to others. It's  a hobby,which means you are to enjoy yourself and have fun.


Lets face it" everyone is your superior" meaning all of us have our sweet spot in talents,either god given or learned. And others are always better than you in some things. Model building like other works made by hand can bring out vast differences in how our final results look when set next to each other.

Celebrate others mastery,and learn from how they do it,which will make yours even better in the long run.


If you treat it like a race or work-you will end up not doing your best work and end up being unhappy or even hating what you are doing because of the self induced stress.


You will only do your best when you are not pushing the rate at which you are building.



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Blue Ensign

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So true Keith, therein lies the road to madness, on that basis I doubt I would make any progress at all.


There are so many fellow modellers on this site whose work I admire and whose standards I could never reach, but I take what I see and use it in my own efforts. My philosophy is do your own thing and enjoy the little triumphs and improvements you make as your experience and skill grows.



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Greg the peg leg sailor

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G'day all
Rebuild is my greatest fault. I might build something 5 times until I'm happy. And after about 6 months I always say to myself 'that's not good enough, do it again '.
It's a never ending spiral!
But it is what we all do, I guess.
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"Nothing is impossible, it's only what limitations that you put on yourself make it seems impossible! "


Current log : The Royal Yacht Royal Caroline 1749 1:32 by Greg Ashwood:...



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I am also very slow (for a variety of reasons, including lots of travelling and diversions into non-ship activitiies ...), but rarely make something more than once. Most of the time I have already invested so much time that I simply can't get my mind around to do something again. However, by doing things slowly and deliberately, I seem to get things reasonly right in the first attempt  B) 

I gather the only way to speed up processes is to organise repetitive processes into batch production, i.e. don't finish parts one by one, but perform the same operation on all the respective parts. If the they have to be identical, this also helps them to become identical. On a similar tack, one may want to do similar operations on many different parts at a time. This will help to reduce preparation and set-up times, if really can schedule and plan the work. I also typically leave all paint-work to the very end, if possible, so that I can clean the working area before and have to set it up for painting only once (as I don't have different work-stations for this). In addition, fumbling parts during various fitting and re-fitting operations may damage the paint-work and it may get dusty in between.

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panta rhei - Everything is in flux



M-et-M-72.jpg  Banner-AKHS-72.jpg  Banner-AAMM-72.jpg  ImagoOrbis-72.jpg


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Silkjc – I think a lot about this, too.  I don’t have much time to build, which causes very slow progress.  I agree with Druxey that quality takes time.  I’ve had the chance to watch some master modelers like Druxey do things, and although they do it much faster and better than I do, it is still time consuming. 


That having been said, there are many tricks and strategies to ensuring the time gets spent on these tasks and not on things where extra time doesn’t contribute to quality.  I think this is one of the best new questions that has been posted in a while.


I haven’t ever thought about this in any organized way, so this is going to come out as stream of consciousness, but I’m hoping this will be helpful as a start.  Unfortunately, as I look at my list, most are more common sense than anything that qualifies as a trick.




I work infrequently.  I used to forget where I had left off and what I need to do next.  Time spent sorting this out does not improve quality.  I started writing down where I left off and what to do next.


Complicated set-ups- I started making extra pieces when I needed to do complicated setups.  It wastes a little bit of material, but saves a bunch of time if I make a mistake.  When I was making my anchor stock wales this week, I cut 4 pieces, even though I just needed 2.  Also allowed me to have different grain patterns on the different pieces, so improved quality.




I finally have a space where I can leave my projects out.  Not having to set up every time makes  a big difference.


Keeping space neat and putting tools away.  It was a hard habit for me to learn, but spending time figuring out where I left tools does not improve quality.




I replaced my hardware store chisels with Veritas once a few years ago.  They sharpen up better and hold their edge longer.  Again, another area which both improves speed (less time spent sharpening) and improves quality (better cutting edge).


Power vs hand tools.  Power tools are way faster for a lot of tasks and for many applications, not less precise.  Drilling hundreds of treenail holes with a pin vise will not improve quality, and will take a ton of time.


Which power tool?  I posted a few weeks ago about upgrading from a Preac to a Byrnes thickness sander.  I don’t expect the piece of wood will look any different at the end, but If I can get the piece of wood to the right thickness sooner, quality won’t be affected, and I can do more modelling in the few hours a week I have to spend on it.




Paints – one of the things silkjc mentioned was drying time.  I don’t paint my ships, but do paint plastic airplanes.  I switched to Al-Clad primer for my last model.  It is lacquer based, so I can sand and spray color within a few hours.  It comes airbrush ready, so I don’t need to thin.  I needed to buy a vapor mask, but it has really helped move the progress along.  It also flows better than the prior primer I used, and improved quality.


I'm not ready to give up milling my own wood, which is time consuming but therapeutic for me. If I really got pressed for time, I could order milled wood from someplace like Crown Timberyard – would definitely not compromise quality, and would move the project along faster.




There is some incredible work on this site in areas buried deep in the model that will never be visible.  To me, these are areas to learn on, not areas to make perfect.   



I started my cross section as a chance to learn techniques for building a fully framed ship.  It has turned from a planned one year exercise into something half done after 3 years.  No question that I am glad I took it on, and have learned a huge amount.   I need to keep reminding myself that the goal is to try new things and learn new techniques for the next project, not to have this be perfect.  I’m not compromising too much, but the different between ‘good enough’ and ‘perfect’ is not the difference between inadequate and adequate quality, just differences in degree of quality.  Most of the imperfections (and there are a ton of them) aren’t that obvious, and all represent good learning that I can live with.  When I started being satisfied after the first or second redo and not taking it to the third or fourth, progress started happening


Not working while tired - I work overnight several nights each month.  Getting into my workshop is something I look forward to, and I get to come home early after call, making going into the workshop very tempting.  It also results in the worst work I have ever done.  These times are much spent on MSW.

Given my time constraints, I also have to prioritize whether to build or spend time on the computer.  Losing two sets of build logs, first when dry dock models went down, then in the MSW crash a few years ago tempered my enthusiasm for spending a lot of time posting, and made it easier for me to divert the time to the workshop.  (The ‘like’ button has been tremendously helpful).  Your post really resonated with me, which is why this is the longest post I’ve written since the MSW crash a few years ago.


Reassurances that quality takes time are really important, but it would be great if people could add some of the tricks they have learned to achieve their quality more efficiently.


Best wishes for the new year.



Edited by davec, 02 January 2017 - 01:14 PM.

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Current build:

Echo Cross Section


Completed builds:

1/48 Scratchbuilt Hannah from Hahn plans

1/64 Kitbashed Rattlesnake from Bob Hunt practicum

1/64 Brig Supply


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davec has given a very thoughtful and wise response to your query. One can only add incremental advice. In regard to planning I would offer that you should plan ahead. Often one can get into a "do over or do around" scenario if the process and sequence is not planned out. Even with practicums this can happen. Also I would further add that at times if sub assemblies can be made up in advance, even though one is not at this stage, it can move things along without compromise of quality.

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I agree 100% with Hornet, but would also love to know more about your other reef building hobby? could be some great ideas for shipwreck builds etc. there!


Hi vossy thanks for the interest. Unfortunately these two hobbies do not blend well, just as real ships and real reefs do not! Here is a shot of not my tank, which I think is a good representation of what a lot of those in the hobby are trying to achieve:


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Back on topic, and thanks everyone especially davec who gave a very thoughtful response.


I really like the idea of writing down what was next, as I am sure we all know much of our time is spent working out what to do rather than actually doing it. Since I build sporadically in bursts this may help with the ramp up/down time which makes that quick 30min modelling session after work impossible.


I also find having the right tool for the job greatly improves work speed and quality. I know the masters of old did not need a rotary tool or mill to produce superb quality, but i'm sure they'd have loved to have them if it was an option! So yes, for those who are not 'geared up' with a shop setup and ready to go...if you want to build faster and better get the right tool for the job. 



Wood quality - This has not been touched on yet and I think it is very important. On my first build I started with a kit, a thing I will never do again. By the end of the build I was basically sratch building everything to improve quality..however this was very difficult given the quality and grain of the wood provided in the kits. Common woods (walnut) have a very large grain, making fine detail work and carving difficult and less rewarding. So in future I will be buying better quality wood.

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Hand Tools vs. Power

Regarding using a pin vise for treenailing. I quickly realised if I was not over-zealous I could produce similar quality at a much faster rate using a small 10$ engraving drill from a local electrical shop (Jaycar). This tool is now my dedicated treenailing drill. Just be careful and slightly undersize the drill bit (due to high speed and angulation you'll oversize the hole)


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Reference Material Journal

As I trawl the internet, I often see others working on the same or similar ships who have added features to their build which I really like. These may be years away from where I am at in the build, meaning by the time I get to that stage I would have long forgotten about adding that feature. To solve this I have created a word document and folder in which I dump any build notes or images sorted into sections for future or current reference. I shamelessly have stolen many of your little gems and spirited them away for future use.


This document (for the HMS Bounty) I am working on contains images from build logs on websites which have since disappeared, or logs which I have long lost, including from foreign languages forums.


I like to think that having this document ready to go means I won't forget anything I later wished I had added. Thus improving my final build quality. It helps prevent endless rebuild, which I mentioned as one of my vices earlier.

Edited by Silkjc, 03 January 2017 - 06:57 AM.

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Ulises Victoria

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I used to have this in my signature: "There aren't but two options: do it fast or do it right"


I think this summarizes my point of view. I really don't care about speeding up my builds. I am in no hurry. I enjoy the trip as much as the end of it.


Still, I think the part I like the most in a build, is starting one. :)

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If you want something you've never had, 

you have to do something you've never done.



Current Project Build Log: French Vessel Royal Louis 1780. 1/90 Scale by Mamoli. 120 Cannons

Last finished projectRoyal Ship Vasa 1628 


Future projects already in my stash:  Panart: San Felipe 1/75  (most likely my next project);

                                                         Artesanía Latina: HMS Surprise 1/48;

                                                         OcCre: Santísima Trinidad 1/90.


My Wish List: Soleil Royale. Sovereign of the Seas. Amati 1/64 Victory (if it ever comes out :) )


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What a great topic and responses.  I think you are on the right road Silkjc.  


My Dad often remarked: "I do good work, I just wish I could do more of it."  


Since you are in for the fun of this great hobby, then you are essentially building to your standards.  Your standards will grow as you look at your results -we all can do better.  Only you can balance speed with quality.  As you gain more experience and learn more from this and other forums, your bag of tricks and your bag of tools will improve.  So will your speed while maintaining the level of quality of your choice.


That choice can be self limiting.  At one extreme, you may decide that you can never achieve the results of some of the masters on this forum and just sell the shop and sit in front of the TV.  Would that be fun?  No, so you can decide to learn and to upgrade your work, to challenge yourself to do better.  Speed will come as you gain experience.  


Yes, there are many 'tricks' and procedures, many glues and paints and chemicals to learn about, many properties of wood, plastics, metals and textiles.  The build logs herein are an excellent area to learn.    As others have said, the journey is worth the effort.  


I have been modeling ships and planes for many decades and I still have MUCH to learn.  One of the biggest challenges for me is carving in the round, so I am reading and studying and tooling up.  Now, I just need to kick my butt into action, waste some wood and do it again and again until the carving looks decent.  


Be patient, be diligent, and above all, have fun.                                Duff 

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Love your current signature.  Great quote.



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Current Builds Litchfield (50) 1730, Effie M. Morrissey  

I can explain it to you but I can't comprehend it for you - Ed Koch, former NYC mayor



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Some more 2 cents. My new wife gave me a German kit of the tall ship from 1840, Agilis, 1:60, in 1967. I built the hull but was stymied with the rigging. This project was carried around for about 46 years, at which time I started working again. What a great help the Internet and NRG are. 


My progress is pretty slow for (1) studying the reasons for and the actual operations for various items such as binnacle, ship's bell, catheads, bowsprit functions and bracing, anchor management, fife rails, and more, (2) studying actual rigging of current ships and how it works on Youtube, (3) reading first person accounts of sailing such as 2 Years Before the Mast, 5 Years before the Mast, several others, Patrick O'Brien series, etc.,, (4) downsizing my woodworking skills from furniture and people sized work to 1:60 scale, (5) getting all the little tools and learning how to use them, (6) getting lighting set up for my fading eyes, (7) learning how deck furniture was used including animal pens, boats, capstan uses, and just living on board as a home for 3 years at a time, (8) fixing egregious errors that improve my model more than damage it, and (9) attending meetings of the Rocky Mountain Shipwrights Club for insight and advice. 


In spite of all this, I am still having fun. It must be said that the more I work on the model, the farther from any museum it gets. The result is moving down from an inspiring model to a decorative item to a component of my son's railroad setup, to maybe even a toy for the grand kids. 


I am taking most of the time it takes including pauses to make tools and jigs to accomplish something. I am building lots of skills but may run out of time to build another model in my years left or not. There is about 750 hours into this and the hull and yards and deck furniture are about ready. I will assemble them, finish with paint and varnish, and move on to rigging. 


My next project will be a Viking longboat or perhaps a ship King Solomon used to move ceders from Lebanon to his temple. 


Anyway, these are some of my thoughts on speed of working. Like somebody said, if you have to hurry is it still a hobby? Don't think so. 

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Sometimes things fall into place, and it flows easily. Other times you take days to get some minor thing done, which would normally take you an hour or so. The main thing is, that it is still a hobby. You should enjoy it at the pace you feel comfortable with. Speed is like in a car variable, so it isn't strange to take your time. I have a build on hold, because I don't see how to continue with it ... I'll eventually pick it up again.


I just started a new project, and the pace is like a snail :) I'll get there in the end ... at a flexible pace, my pace, because I want to enjoy the ride myself

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Dolphyn [Corel] 1:68, Higaki Kaisen [Woody Joe] 1:72
Kit Plastic

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Landlubber Mike

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For me, I find that I'm more efficient if I have larger blocks of time to model - for example, one three-hour block versus three one-hour blocks.  I find it takes me some time to get rolling, particularly if I want to work on things in another room to watch football or something and need to set up.  Once I'm in the groove, I find I move along much faster.  If I only have a small block of time, I'll use it to either do research, plan ahead, or do something relatively easy like laying planks, doing finishing sanding, something repetitive like treenails, etc.


This hobby has always been more about the journey than the destination for me.  I don't think my wife would be happy with models all over the house, so taking my time is good for harmony in the homestead.  Plus, I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I'd rather spend the time making the best, or as close to the best, model I can - quality over quantity.

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Current builds:  Amati/Victory Pegasus  MS Charles W. Morgan  Euromodel La Renommèe


Completed builds :  Caldercraft Brig Badger   Amati Hannah - Ship in Bottle


Terminated build:  HMS Lyme (based on Corel Unicorn)  


On the shelf:  Euromodel Friedrich Wilhelm zu Pferde


Future scratch builds:  HMS Lyme (from NMM plans); Le Gros Ventre (from Ancre monographs)

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