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When I was stationed in Italy the USS Little Rock CLG4 had wood decks made of teak, they were brown in color not white. Many of the old sailing ships used Pine for decking which is also brown. So why do modelers use Holly for decks? It is pretty and all but the ship’s boatswain would have hated it.


Jim Rogers


Damn the Torpedoes , Full speed ahead.   Adm David Farragut.

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I think that Holly is closer to the deck colors of at least the Royal Navy as their decks were holystoned (at least once a week) on a frequent basis.  

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

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans                             Triton Cross-Section   

                                                                                                                       USS Constellaton (kit bashed to 1854 Sloop of War  _(Gallery) Build Log

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CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         



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The Teak decks on the Helena and other navy ships were Holy stoned once a week using a concoction of boiler cleaning compound, scouring powder, salt water soap and bleach mixed the evening before in a large galvanized garbage can and left to bubble and burp over night. Shined the can and bleached the decks, sometimes they were almost white. This photo was aboard the USS Helena, CA 75, Port side amidships, compartment behind crewmen was a gun director radar room, above it was a 3" 50 magazine and above that a 3" 50 Gun, 'Mt 34 '. To the right was a deck house with a 5" 38 loading machine on top and the Whaleboat on the left was the duty lifeboat underway. These decks are due for a scrubbing and holy stoning. Blowing BoilerTubes would darken any deck.


Edited by jud
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My guess is that some the 17th - 18th c English model makers used Holly for decks

and/or someone closer to our time who was influential did and it got the

status it has.

NRG member 45 years



HMS Centurion 1732 - 60-gun 4th rate - Navall Timber framing

HMS Beagle 1831 refiit  10-gun brig with a small mizzen - Navall (ish) Timber framing

The U.S. Ex. Ex. 1838-1842
Flying Fish 1838  pilot schooner -  framed - ready for stern timbers
Porpose II  1836  brigantine/brig - framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers
Vincennes  1825  Sloop-of-War  -  timbers assembled, need shaping
Peacock  1828  Sloop-of -War  -  timbers ready for assembly
Sea Gull  1838  pilot schooner -  timbers ready for assembly
Relief  1835  ship - timbers ready for assembly


Portsmouth  1843  Sloop-of-War  -  timbers ready for assembly
Le Commerce de Marseilles  1788   118 cannons - framed

La Renommee 1744 Frigate - framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers


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  • 3 weeks later...

You raise an interesting question, Jim. Holly decks are a model-makers' convention. Another convention that does not reflect 'real' ships is ebony for false keels. Yet another is using black line for standing rigging. These styles were begun by well-known model-makers and then copied by many others. And so it continues. 


Personal taste comes in to play here. Some prefer a stylized look to their models. Others prefer a 'realistic' appearance to their models, including wear and weathering.

You, as the maker, have to please yourself (unless you are building on commission for a client). There are no absolute right or wrongs.

Be sure to sign up for an epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series  http://trafalgar.tv

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  • 1 month later...

To me, holly looks a little too light.  But, I think it really depends on the overall aesthetic you’re trying to achieve.  It certainly works if you’re using it with woods of bright color and no grain (or if you’re using paint).  If using darker colors, or woods with more grain, etc., it might not work as well.



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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Holly also differs in shade. I am using a darker piece for my current model. Originally holly was probably used as a 'design for effect' sort of thing. Using the actual wood miight have the correct colour biut at scale it might appaear far too dark ciompated to what the same wood would have looked like in situ.


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