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whats an easier build for a first kit


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Hello,  I am new to this hobby and I'm ready to buy my first kit. I keep going back and forth between the AL 1:48 Surprise and the Model shipways Constitution. I understand none of these would be ideal for a beginner so I've decided to go with which ever one is an "easier" build.  Can anyone recommend one of these for a newbe.

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ya, unfortunatley im to stubborn i have my heart set on one of these. in the end i will probably regret it. I do endless hours of reading and research on model ship building to stand a fighting chance of finishing these kits, but with no hands on experience i dont think it does much good. My mind is so wierd, when i think of one of these kits I get so excited i cant stand it, but then when I think of starting with an entry level model I lose all interest... it's the craziest thing.

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Im sorry about that I realized after I posted it on the other forum this would be a better forum for this question.  I posted here then went to delete it there but it told me I didnt have permission to delete it. I screwed up.

 The main thing that appeals to me is the size I want a big model and the suprise provides that. The Constitution in addition to being big is docked in my hometown. I can see the masts from my home. I have also looked into the caldercraft Victory because of its size, but it looks really tuff to build for me with double planking and many decks. time is no issue for me, even if it takes me 5 years im ok with that. I just dont know what to do. I want to minimize the chance of just giving up on my first build. but at the same time I want a big impressive model. And if those expectations weren't enough I dont want to paint it so all my screw ups would be in full view.

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Spyglass thats brilliant!  that never even crossed my mind.  like somthing that would require the same building technique. for instance if the kit i want is plank on bulkhead. I can have a small plank on bulkhead kit on the side to practice. the Titanic life boat kit comes to mind or maybe somthing with more planking.  that would feel alot less like getting "thrown to the wolves".  Thank you Spyglass for the suggestion, I think im going to do just that.



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Welcome aboard.


I am a newbie as well working to finish my first ship.  Your question caught my eye since I too want to sometime build the 1/48 Surprise or USS Constitution. Both would be on my list.  However, years ago when faced with the same question you asked, I opted to start small and chose the Niagara. I am partial to war ships, and being from north eastern Ohio, it was easy for me to get excited to build a Lake Erie classic.


It is a beautiful ship and I am learning a lot.  It is also about half the price of the other kits, and has yet to overwhelm me.


I feel confident that the skills I have picked up will serve me well for the next project.


Having said that, there are builders on this site that have tackled the Constitution as their first build and seem to be doing fine. There are also a lot of build logs on the Conny, not so much for the Surprise, so you won't be going it alone.


Just my humble opinion. Good Luck and welcome.

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thank you Darrell for the warm welcome and for the insight. I have looked at some build logs on the Niagara and it is a beautiful ship. I know the feeling of loving a ship that is close to home I've been on the Constitution tour many times lol.


Half the price does seem very attractive and I know a smaller build is the smart way to go I just dont get as interested at all when i think of smaller builds right now.  Though I hope that changes


You use the word overwhelm, thats what scares me the most. the thought of sitting in my workshop completely overwhemed and ready to quit. on the other hand just like you said people have built these as first models and acomplished them.  I just hope if I take my sweet time go very slow and take the advice of everyone on this forum I should in theory be ok.  


Makes me wonder how newbe's did without forums and build logs before the internet.


Thanks again


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I can tell you exactly what happened before this forum. I was a big modeler in my younger days, but had never built a wooden planked ship.  In the late 80"s, I purchased Artesania's La Toulonnaise. I never got passed the initial stern and transom construction.  I got lost in the poorly translated instructions and with no help in sight, abandoned the project. This site renewed my interest in ship building, and has given me the courage to re-enter the water.


Good luck with whatever you decide.

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Apparently the bulk of those who buy wood model kits give up once they find how much time it takes to get their heads around the various challenges they come across once they start.


This is the reason why the advice often given is to start with a small kit that has lots of builds on this or any of the other various ship building fora -- that way it's very hard to go wrong, and there's lots of support from others to help you over the difficulties.


So the advice given here to buy both kits sounds pretty good to me as well.


You may well find that once you get your teeth into the smaller build you'll enjoy it far more than you might have thought. A great deal of the fun is just figuring out how to do the next step.


I've only just completed my first build and it's been a joy from start to finish even though I had initially wanted to make a different model when I started. I did set out, though, with the idea that the first model was principally to develop a range of skills and to see whether I would like the hobby.


It also very much depends on your personality. If you are determined to see it through, no matter what difficulties spring up, I would think you'd be able to tackle any model -- especially if you have lots of others building the same model so you can share solutions and advice. I wouldn't worry about achieving 'perfection' -- there's not really any such thing -- as long as you've enjoyed doing it.


It's just that sometimes you have to stick at it through some frustrations until you find that overcoming the frustrations is part of the fun!


Good luck!



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Forgive me, but I did not realize you were from Charlestown. By all means, let it be The Constitution.


Technically, it is not necessarily more complicated than smaller ships.  The basic skills are about the same. It is the volume that gets you.  The Conny has a lot more "stuff" Tony's points are well said. Determination will get you there. 

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There is a modeling group that meets at the Constitution.  [uSS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild]  I'm sure somebody here can give you some help in contacting them.  A physical-presence assistance plan can also be a great help.

Edited by jbshan
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WOW thank you everybody for your thoughts, experiences and warm welcomes, it is very much appreciated. I was on the edge of my seat reading every post!  im going to bite the bullet and purchase the Constitution. I dont care if it takes 10 years it will get built and displayed in my home lol. and when people see it they are going to say  holy cow look at that! did you build that?!?


a modeling group that meets down the street at the Constitution? count me in. I must find out more about that.

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Ahoy Newbie


Boy ,now you want to start out on two of the biggest models that there are? WRONG,do not go there. For your first build these are not even in the same universe that you are in now.


I would recomend the Model Shipways Gunboat Philadelphia 1/24 kit to start out with,and here's why:


First,the odds of you completing it are better than even,while the Surprise and Constitution completion odds are NONE!


Second_ It's a simple flat bottomed shaped hull with a bow and stern shape that you will be able to make and learn from.


Third- It's a large scale that will allow you plenty of room to work on the rigging but still have lots of things to learn and be succesfull   at. That is VERY IMPORTANT for your first build. Learning and success without being so simple as to be boring,which this kit is not.


Fourth -Great kit and instructions and plans and not too expensive.


And most important-You will have fun building it because it will challenge you without defeating you!


Look up our building groups blog at www.woodenshipclass.blogspot.com  and see back in time how our group built our Gunboats. 


You have to crawl before you walk,and this kit will take you along in a very rewarding journey in starting out in ship model building. Do not by the first ship kit you like before you have the learned skills to finish it. I would say that maybe 99-95 % of all first wooden ship kits purchased NEVER GET FINISHED,and end up in disapontment and the fate of the closet top self until they are either sold at a garage sail or thrown out years later.



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I have to say, I picked the Caldercraft Schooner Ballahoo for my first build and sometimes wished I'd gone for something simpler - despite the Ballahoo being a 'beginners' model! :D


We all have moments of high confidence and excitement - when I bought the Ballahoo there was a part of me that was looking at the expensive HMS Pegasus and didn't want to 'waste my time' on a little model I had no great personal love for.


But I'm now incredibly happy I went for the small/cheap option, since there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the steps laid out in front of me which will result in a completed model.


Plus, it's the technique and process of wooden ship building itself that is something you have to explore. For some people, it just doesn't click. And when that happens it's better if happens on a $100 model instead of a $500+ model...

Edited by Cornish_K
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oh man... I still have some thinking to do. Thank you Keith, Keith, and Paul for the input. allthough That wasn't what I wanted to hear I know everyone here is spot on.   I'm going to go research the Pickle, Badger, Supply, the gunboat Philadelphia, and Ballahoo (they should keep me plenty busy today) and hope that one of them grabs my attention. I've seen the Supply around but not to familiar with the others.   This Forum is so great, I never expected to get this many responses.

Thank you Everyone


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Welcome Rob!  I would echo a lot of the folks here that suggest you start with something smaller.  You didn't say whether you have any other modeling experience.  If you did, then you might be able to pull it off if you take your time.  Some people can do that, but I think it's very rare.


I totally get wanting a kit to keep your attention.  When I was looking, I didn't want to get the very beginner level kits.  I thought the Badger hit the sweet spot in terms of having enough complexity to keep me interested, but not too much to be overwhelming.


If you were dead set on one of the two though, I would go with the Constitution as there are a lot more build logs and material out there that can help with the build.


Good luck, and let us know what you pick!



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


Plastic builds:    SB2U-1 Vindicator 1/48  Five Star Yaeyama 1/700  Pit Road Asashio and Akashi 1/700 diorama  Walrus 1/48 and Albatross 1/700  Special Hobby Buffalo 1/32  Eduard Sikorsky JRS-1 1/72  IJN Notoro 1/700  Akitsu Maru 1/700


Completed builds :  Caldercraft Brig Badger   Amati Hannah - Ship in Bottle  Pit Road Hatsuzakura 1/700   Hasegawa Shimakaze 1:350

F4B-4 and P-6E 1/72  Accurate Miniatures F3F-1/F3F-2 1/48  Tamiya F4F-4 Wildcat built as FM-1 1/48  Special Hobby Buffalo 1/48

Citroen 2CV 1/24 - Airfix and Tamiya  Entex Morgan 3-wheeler 1/16


Terminated build:  HMS Lyme (based on Corel Unicorn)  


On the shelf:  Euromodel Friedrich Wilhelm zu Pferde; Caldercraft Victory; too many plastic ship, plane and car kits


Future potential scratch builds:  HMS Lyme (from NMM plans); Le Gros Ventre (from Ancre monographs), Dutch ship from Ab Hoving book, HMS Sussex from McCardle book, Philadelphia gunboat (Smithsonian plans)

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Hi Mike!  Thank for the input. It feels reassuring knowing people get what I'm feeling.  you mention that "sweet spot" of a first build thats not to hard yet keeps your attention. I think I might have hit that sweetness..  I was researching the Supply when I discovered the 1:48 AL bounty.  I didnt expect this but im loving it and thinking about purchasing that now.


I wonder what everybody thought about maybe the Bounty as a first build. It satisfies alot of my wants, it's relatively big at 36", it's in my favorite scale and the whole cut away and seeing all the cargo is so cool to me. Then theres the history with the mutiny. 


Then if I complete that and am happy building ships I can go ahead with the Conny or the Surprise or both.


Thank you everyone


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Hi Rob

Here is my advice

Every model I build I learn something that I could have applied to a previous one.  Now I look at the first two ships I built and think, "Man, I should have used the technique I used on the other".  So if you want the Constitution to be your pride and joy, then you should probably build your skills up with smaller kits.  Experience will make the build more enjoyable and more efficient.  Building wooden display ships is my favorite hobby but very difficult.



"I drank what?" - Socrates


Current Builds:  


Finished Builds: 


Future Builds:        

  • Mamoli Golden Hind
  • Mamoli Black Prince
  • AL Swift


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Deciding on a kit also means buying TOOLS, and lots of TOOLS the more complicated a kit 

Keel clamps Knives scrapers blades cutting mats ETC the list is potentially endless.

When people start into this great hobby of our we develop a fascination for all things sharp

spend carefully there is lots of good advise out here.


Current Build

HM Granado CC

Past builds

 HMS Chatham CC, HM Convulsion CC,  Duke William German Kit, Fair American LSS, The Wright Flyer MS

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thanks Casey,  this forum Has made me realize the Constitution right now isn't a good idea. your point of having the skills to do my pride and joy justice makes alot of sense.  I'm just now trying to get as excited about an easier build :(.  So far I'm loving the AL Bounty. But is that even recommended for beginners?


Hey Andy, I love love love Tools!  can never have enough! though my pockets would disagree. :D


thanks guys


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Build a small open boat first. It'll take you a few months, and you'll get a feel for the skill sets involved in a much larger project without investing so much time and money. Why be in such a hurry? A large ship will take you years anyway; the few months it'll take you to build something simple will never matter in the end, but will really help you prepare. There's no possible downside. If a builder can't delay gratification a few months, they'll never finish a large ship model anyway.

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Check out the NRG article here. Also, see the cautionary tale here. Also #2, use the advanced search feature and the keywords "first build finished" to search the kit build logs for kits that were successfully completed by beginners. These resources will give you a fair idea of what is manageable for a first-time builder.



Chris Coyle
Greer, South Carolina

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

Current builds: Brigantine Phoenix

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If this is a first wooden model ship build, I THINK you are setting yourself up for frustration and eventual discouragement in starting out with either the Constitution or Surprise.  They are bigger which helps in learning the more difficult construction techniques, but very complex and the amount of work, the planking, rigging, detailing and time required is so extensive that it may overwhelm you.


My first model was the Bluenose II by Billings Boats.  It is a plank on bulkhead and  pretty good starter kit; you will learn planking, steaming, what adhesives work best for you and for what purpose, and don't grab a bottle of super glue thinking it is all purpose, it isn't!  My suggestion would be to use something like Tightbond's Woodworkers Glue  (the yellowish stuff); Elmer's makes it too--I think they call it Carpenter's Glue.  Even though the ship is fore-and-aft rigged, you will also learn rigging techniques and tying ratlines. Alternatively, I would also recommend a Model Shipway's Kit because their instructions seem to be better than most other kits, and yes, I know the Bluenose II isn't one of theirs.


When that is finished, you will have a nice looking model that you can be proud of and will probably know if you have the stick too it patience and stamina for a larger very complex model. 


One final suggestion, don't get a first model that requires you to build up the keel and frames; positioning is critical, and you will need experience to do it right; do overs are frustrating, and if you cut some ribs incorrectly, you will not notice until the frame is finished. They probably won't be fixable so have to be removed, remade and possibly re-positioned in a place that has little room for fingers.  My kit came through with the fore and aft keel piece warped, but two pieces of 1/2" 90-degree angle metal from an old Erector set bolted together on each side of the bulkhead solved that quickly and permanently.


Good luck!


Real boat: Island Packet 32 cutter

Ship/Boat models:

Billings Boats "Bluenose II" changed to look more like original

R/C Victoria Sailboat

Mamoli "Yacht America" - abandoned

Bluejacket "Grand Banks Dory" in process

Model Shipways Fishing Smack "Emma C. Berry" in process

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Rob welcome to MSW! I won't repeat to much of what has been said here as they have given you a lot of great advice. Also I am more of the exception rather than the rule when it comes to starting on difficult ships and finishing them. My first ship was the Constitution but it was the 1:96 plastic version by Revell. I built a few plastic ships before switching to wood. My first wood ship was the Rattlesnake by Model Shipways. I did complete the Rattlesnake and I am proud of it being that it was my first wooden ship and I did it largely without any guidance as I did not know of this place yet. However, while it does sit proudly in a case I am not happy with a lot of the way it looks. Particularly my planking job is simply horrid. So while I do not discourage building whatever ship peaks your interests, I do encourage starting with simpler ships and progressing. Even if all you build is one simple ship first, you will gain many valuable skills that you can then apply to a larger build and a smaller one may only take a few months and done vs. a few years and then you have a crappy looking model or burnout.


Something else to consider is double planking. I would actually recommend this for learning. On a plank on bulkhead build, the bulkheads are spaced far apart, much more so than real frames on a ship. This makes it harder to create a smooth curve with your planking as you tend to get flat spots between bulkheads. Also the lack of attachment points makes securing each plank harder. Often this creates a very rough planking job. With a double planking, wood filler and lots of heavy sanding can be applied to smooth out that first layer and create the true shape of the hull. Once that is done, the second planking can then be applied much neater and easier than the first making a beautiful hull that would have been very difficult to achieve otherwise. Plus you get double the practice on planking which is always a benefit! :D


Best of luck to you on whatever you decide to go with. I look forward to following along in your build log.

"A Smooth Sea NEVER made a Skilled Sailor"
- John George Hermanson 



Current Builds - Royal Louis - Mamoli

                    Royal Caroline - Panart

Completed - Wood - Le Soleil Royal - Sergal - Build Log & Gallery

                                           La Couronne - Corel - Build Log & Gallery

                                           Rattlesnake - Model Shipways, HMS Bounty - Constructo

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

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

Member : Nautical Research Guild



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