For Beginners -- A Cautionary Tale

96 posts in this topic

As a beginner to boat building, I am finding several things here, the first is that finding a website like this may be the most important thing after making the leap into this hobby. I personally rate every model I build into two categories, difficulty based on the kit and difficulty based on the instructions.


I am currently working on 2 boats, the first made by Latina, I have experience with them I knew that my first boat would be easiest based on the quality of wood and the instructions are top notch, the titanic life boat is planked with bass wood, this threw me back, I became determined to accomplish this this way.


The second boat is made by Occre, the kit is easy enough, say level 2, the instructions are level 4, it's just pictures.


Now the biggest problem I've found in modeling is the terms, these terms make asking questions very difficult, in stagecoaches, water wheels, train cars the terms have been reused so many times over the years that it is very difficult to get advice or answers to the simplest things.


I know I am preaching to the quire here, no one could possibly be prepared for what it's like to watch glue and paint dry, there is no instant gratification in this.

mtaylor, EJ_L, Elijah and 1 other like this

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I can relate to your story William. I have been into many different branches of woodworking from turning,furniture,marquetry, carving, etc. and I have enjoyed them all and I always finish my projects, but I cannot keep my enthusiasm up long enough to master any one area. This has been somewhat frustrating, but after 20 years of this I finally decided that I will never master any one part of the craft because at heart I am more interested in exploring new disciplines to keep my motivation up and also to learn about the history and culture related to those subjects. Of course I have managed to keep this within the general woodworking area, especially since I am tooled up for that and have many transferable skills. My point is that I think it helps to understand the dynamic of your motivation in order to keep your work satisfying.

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Quite a different story for me..

I started at the age of 6 or 8. Never had any money or kits around at that time.

Only plastic kits of aircraft were the rage with kids.

A local fisherman who made models from wood he found washed up on the beach was his local supplier.

This guy had a wicked eye for ships lines and shapes. He would carve the models from the drift wood that had been drying over several years with very little tools and drawings.

Nothing is a failure in his eyes as it is art in his style.


The first thing I made out of wood was a raft. Very basic with bamboo canes as the timber.

The next one was a rowing boat made from a plug that my tutor had made a few years earlier.

This one was made using candle wax to release the glue. Two straps of planks a day...

After that I started making my own designs. What was pleasing to my eyes was the shape and style.


I take breaks from my ship modeling... last time I did any was some 5 months ago. Now summer is over will finish my Korean ship.


Many people fail to compleate there model due to very poor instructions. And to poor quality of the kit contents.

There are some excellent posts and help on beginners choice of kit here on this forum.


What I am trying to say is.. Don't care what other people think of your ship or boat. We all have got to learn to use our hands and head together.

For begginers... post it and you Will get the help.

Don't compare your work with other people's. ... It's your ship/boat.

Ask before you proceed if you don't understand what the instruction are trying to say.


Enough of my ranting and trying to put the world to right.


Regards Antony.

Elijah, probablynot, EJ_L and 3 others like this

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hey I resemble all those remarks abt in over my head etc and still doing it lol. to be honest I have been designing and building planes for over 35 yrs and have built all 3 sister ships of revell's the President United States and Constitution even a few radio control hydros.


But I feel I have the modeling experience to overcome the obsticles. as many have noticed I started cad drawing a few projects here then stopped them. it isn't that I cant do them but I started them before I took the time to actually read instead of looking at pictures the various build threads and to ask a ton of dumb questions. now I finally ordered the Admiralty swan class as my first POF and I think I am raring to go with it. a lot of the stuff  i was having problems with on reading plans like the bevels etc just a couple days ago popped the light bulb in my head and I actually understand them now. I attribute that to years of plane modeling and drafting that once i asked the questions and let it soak in while looking at build threads and then seeing what i was being explained helped.


So what I am saying here is that anyone with some experience can start a project but don't make my mistakes and not read builds. read them not just look at pictures then ask questions then go back to build logs and read them until you actually see what the answer was telling you. all before you  make your first piece of sawdust. and don't forget to check out all the tools tips and jigs you might want to make while waiting on the right plan for you.



EJ_L, mtaylor, jud and 1 other like this

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I am guilty of doing exactly what most of you have warned begginers to not to - picking hard kits to built. Started a few Polish Shipyard paper sailing ships ( i was mesmerized and obviously wanted to try) failing misserably, but learned a great deal. With paper its easy, i build from copy (original kept for retirement) so printing replacement is easy. For the wooden kits i went for deagostini victory. Thats my current build. I have sodomised the hull, but have managed to rectify most of the offending bits up to one: the hull is twisted. Not badly but its there. That i cannot fix as i would have to start again and frankly, i cannot be bothered. This kit is for learning. I spen only about GBP200 to get it so it doesnt bother me. As a side build i picked 18century long boat... and that is a mistake. Even though its well documented kit, has been finished plenty times i cannot get further than starting to plank. Its too flimsy for me. So put that aside, the whole experience also depends on how big your fingers are :)

mtaylor, EJ_L and Ryland Craze like this

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I started building plastic airplane models as a kid. I wish I had all of them back now so I could attend to some very important attention to detail. I get it now.

Anyway, I have been building scratch built models for about 25 years. My first was a sunfish. This was particularly easy and a great introduction as the boat is basically flat.  I used photos and measurements from a family sunfish. Even though it was generally easy  - and I would recommend this as a starting point for a model virgin- there were some challenges in the project. I needed to learn some simple metal bending and shaping to get the pintles gudgeons and cleats.

Since then I have learned that I like to build from scratch.  I have begun a few kits, but find I like to figure things out for myself. 

 So I think that part of what beginners need to assess is: do they want to do a kit or scratch build. Both choices require a learning new skills.  Both can be enjoyable and rewarding.

As far as unfinished projects - I don't worry. It seems to me that often the stopping of  project is you mind needing to think things through.  An example.  I discovered the Sonder class boats that competed off of Marblehead Massachusetts in up until the 1930's. I had seen an article in Woodenboat magazine about the building of 2 new boats.  I wanted to build one.  

In the first year, I made the plans. Left them fora year. I needed to think about the right materials.  When I began the work, I got the hull and deck completed in about 5 weeks.  I left the project for a bit - partly because I was very happy with how it looked at that point.  It took me a year or so to come across the right wood for the spars. I completed the boat all the way to being able to step the mast. BUT......  I could not figure out how to make the masthead fitting for the backstay.  I worked and was not satisfied for a month on various solutions.  At that point I became frustrated. Most of you know the negative impact of frustration. I put the boat down and did not touch it for 2 years. Yes, I periodically looked at it, and thought about it.  I figure my brain needed to work it out. Which it did. One day, I just sat down and made the part, and finished the model a week later. My mind just needed the time to mull it over.   This has happened to me on multiple occasions.  Typically it is due to learning a new skill or approach. I get to a level of frustration that I need to back away and left my brain settle.


So, my advice is don't worry about unfinished models ( I currently have 4 ). They will come together when you are ready.  Work on a couple, learn new skills and new things and then you will be able to apply them to older unfinished models. 


Remember,   We all basically got into this hobby for the challenge and fun of making something.  I can only hope that my future models will look as good as the ones I see and appreciate  here. 



Current build:  Akbar a boat yard tug

In Process: Sandbagger

In process: 14 foot catboat

On Hold:  Nobska  the last steamship to operate Cape Cod and Islands

Completed: Catboat Flash

Completed:  Herreshoff NY 30

Completed: Rhodes 19 ( Oday version)

Completed: Sonderclass Fima

Completed: Maine Shrimp Boat

Completed: Palmer Scott Woodpussy

Completed: Fantail launch



mtaylor, EJ_L and Mahuna like this

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