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New to ship modelling? But what do you build first?

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Hi all,

 

With an expanding membership base, we thought there a need to make a post which could help people make that critical first choice of what model to build. 

Picture this.....you are either browsing the internet at one of the MANY wonderful sites which sell model ship kits, or you have just entered a nicely stocked model shop......with a LARGE fist full of dollars (apologies to Clint Eastwood there, so that includes dollars, pounds/euros etc etc). NOW, the problem is that you have never built a model ship before, but you have dreamt of having a beautiful model of the San Felipe, HMS Victory, San Juan Nepomuceno, Amerigo Vespucci, HMS Diana etc. Anything bristling with cannon or dripping in gold embellishments. You have even chosen the spot in your house where she will be housed. You now think you are one step from realizing that dream. Simple....just build it

"Can't be that hard, can it?" 
"I used to make plastic models." 


Here's where we interject. There are several types of modeller/modeller-to-be in our world. We will try to pitch this article at everyone, and with a common mid-ground. Building model ships is a learning curve that will never end during your time as a model shipwright. How you approach that learning curve is entirely up to you. You may want to take things gradually, but you may decide that you want to be challenged. The latter is 'ok' if you have some experience of model woodworking/engineering, but its not an approach that we would advise for a newcomer. 

There are countless basements and attics around the world which are monuments to unfinished projects/ shattered dreams of that wonderful first project, the First Rate Man 'o' War. Let's try to avoid that scenario now. We want newcomers to feel fulfilled by their newly finished model and ready to accept another challenge in what will, hopefully, be a lifetime of extremely rewarding model making. 

Now, back to that first model. What should I build? This depend upon what type of vessel you like. 

Here are the types of models that we would advise as a first build for those with limited/no modelling experience or have built other model varieties such as wooden airplanes etc. These lists are by no means exhaustive, and will tend to be limited to manufacturers with which we have had experience, with a few exceptions. 

No experience 
Any Artesania Latina Weekend Kit (Viking longboat etc) 
Artesania Latina's Mare Nostrum, Bremen, Jolie Brise
Models with preformed hulls made from compressed fibre (again, AL produce a variety of these)

Midwest Products Level 1 or 2 (e.g. skiff, Chesapeake Bay flattie)

Beginner kits from BlueJacket Shipcrafters (e.g. Optimist dinghy, Yankee Hero)

Please make sure that at this level, any planked model you choose has a double planked hull.
Model Shipways' Willie Bennett


Personally, we would recommend NO Billings kit in this category due to issues with quality and clarity of instructions. 
We would also recommend NO Corel kit in this category due to most models being aimed at people with at least some experience. 

Some experience, or experience of other model disciplines 
Mantua's Model kits of President, Golden Star
Artesania Latina's San Francisco(II), Santa Maria, Independence, Harvey, HMS Supply, Mayflower, Scottish Maid, Virginia, Swift 
Amati's Santa Maria, Elizabethan Galleon, Lady Nelson, Chinese Junk 
Caldercraft's HM Schooner Ballahoo, HM Cutter Sherbourne, HM Brig Supply 
Model Shipways' Bluenose 
Corel's Shenadoah, Chesapeake Sloop, Scotland Baltic Ketch, Leida 
Mamoli's Constitution Cross Section 

Please make sure that at this level, any model you choose has a double planked hull 

Modellers with experience of several vessels and successful completion 
Mantua's Royal Caroline, La Couronne, Jamaica, HMS Racehorse 
Artesania's San Juan Nepomuceno 
Caldercraft's H.M. Bomb Vessel Granado, HMS Cruiser, HMS Snake, HMS Jalouse, HMS Mars, HM Yacht Chatham, HM Mortar Vessel Convulsion 
Corel's Le Tonnant, Le Mirage, Vasa, La Couronne
Amati's Revenge 1577, Russian Brig Mercury, HMS Pegasus
Syren Model Ship Company's Queen Anne Royal Barge

Experienced Modellers 
At this stage, almost any model could be attempted. Such models would include those such as: 
Mantua's Sovereign Of The Seas, HMS Victory, Amerigo Vespucci, San Felipe, Soleil Royal 
Caldercraft's HMS Agamemnon, HMS Victory, HMS Diana
Amati's HMS Vanguard (and future HMS Victory)

Anything above this level, as with some of the kits mentioned for experienced modellers, we're sure those modellers will know without us writing endless lists of models. The reason for putting them here is to illustrate to newcomers that these are not the sort of model that you should be aiming for when you begin to build ships/boats. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are countless dozens of other models which could be recommended to newcomers. If you have any models you would like adding to the list, then feel free to add your experiences to this topic.

We want newcomers to our hobby to enjoy their modelling and progress to the highest level which they can attain to. Only this way will our hobby continue to flourish in the way it has done over the last 20 years. The advent of kit production techniques such as brass etching, 3-axis CNC routing, etc, means that producing a relatively good model with only a modicum of experience is now within your reach. 

If you have any questions, then our team, as well as our fellow MSW members, will be only too happy to answer and guide you. Our aim is to encourage your enjoyment and skill. 

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Good idea.  As a member of this forum for many years, at long long last I am setting up for my first scratchbuild model, and will be tackling David Antscherl's Hayling Hoy.  The book arrived yesterday, it looks a super little vessel to start with.

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I'm a little surprised you didn't mention any of Bluejacket's entry-level kits. The first kit I successfully completed many years ago was the Grand Banks dory. As well, I think some of the easier solid-hull kits, like Yankee Hero are a good choice for those with little or no experience.

 

Cheers -

John

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5 hours ago, jhearl said:

I'm a little surprised you didn't mention any of Bluejacket's entry-level kits. The first kit I successfully completed many years ago was the Grand Banks dory. As well, I think some of the easier solid-hull kits, like Yankee Hero are a good choice for those with little or no experience.

 

Cheers -

John

If you can send me an amendment for specific areas, I'll post it into the topic.

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On 7/19/2018 at 1:09 PM, MSW said:

but you may decide that you want to be challenged. The latter is 'ok' if you have some experience of model woodworking/engineering

I understand and believe it is good to promote the hobby (wooden ship building). I however do not believe that this hobby is for everyone. Many disappointments are awaiting those who are not up to it. Very sorry to say this :(

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18 minutes ago, Y.T. said:

I understand and believe it is good to promote the hobby (wooden ship building). I however do not believe that this hobby is for everyone. Many disappointments are awaiting those who are not up to it. Very sorry to say this :(

I think it's expectations are the problem.  This site goes along way to dispelling them.  One sees a box or a model and thinks "no big deal" and buys the kit.  Upon opening the box.. "surprise!!!!" it's nothing but sticks, some lazer or stamped cut wood and string.  I found that out the hard way before there was an MSW.  I still would have bought my first kit (Billing's Vasa) but also some starter kits.  Also, the real value of MSW to someone starting out is the information here.  You can look over the builds, the reviews, etc. and get a pretty good idea of what you're getting yourself into.

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My first wooden model was HMS Badger from Caldercraft. Except for the quality of the wood (that almost put me off the whole shipmodel thing) the kit was a wonderful entry to wood ship building. The instructions are step by step all the way. The rigging part took you from start point, up to this block, down to that block and behind this line down to belaying point.... I still take a glance at these instructions when I do the rigging on models where rigging instructions are just a bunch of red lines on a drawing...

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20 hours ago, Y.T. said:

I understand and believe it is good to promote the hobby (wooden ship building). I however do not believe that this hobby is for everyone. Many disappointments are awaiting those who are not up to it. Very sorry to say this :(

 

That is very true. I hope this topic will help those that do have an inkling of what is before them.

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On 21/07/2018 at 9:44 PM, James H said:

If you can send me an amendment for specific areas, I'll post it into the topic.

I’d propose adding the Caldercraft Pickle to the ‘No experience’ category. It seems to be working for me as an introductory kit.

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    I wonder how many people take advice like this, versus they have to touch the hot stove before they listen.  (ouch, that IS hot!!!)  I have spoken on this topic often, so it is close to my heart.  I usually see "Yeah, I hear you, but that doesn't apply to me."  Far be it from me to judge.  An old friend of mine built a fully rigged, quite detailed miniature of HMS VICTORY as his second model.  For some it DOESN't apply to them.  Most it does.

 

    I hope that those who disregard this and get the complicated model, only to 'touch the stove' don't get discouraged.  Instead, I hope they have the wisdom to set that project aside and get a simple starter kit to learn on.

 

OTHER WORDS OF WISDOM FOR NEWBIES:

1.  You can never have too many clamps.

2.  Alcohol is your friend.  It helps you unglue previously screwed up glued up parts so you can try again.  (Including ALL the planking from one model...just saying.)  :default_wallbash:

3.  Magnification and light are also your friends.

4.  If you get frustrated or tired, set it aside and come back to it later.

5.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edited by Chuck Seiler

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As an old tech writer, I'd add <B>5B.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AGAIN AND FOLLOW THEM THIS TIME!"  You'd be surprised at how many people read tech manuals over,toss it aside, and then wonder why they blew up the equipment.

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35 minutes ago, Chuck Seiler said:

  

2.  Alcohol is your friend.  It helps you unglue previously screwed up glued up parts so you can try again.  (Including ALL the planking from one model...just saying.)  :default_wallbash:

Does rum work for this? Asking for a friend.
 

On 7/19/2018 at 12:19 PM, Neill said:

Good idea.  As a member of this forum for many years, at long long last I am setting up for my first scratchbuild model, and will be tackling David Antscherl's Hayling Hoy.  The book arrived yesterday, it looks a super little vessel to start with.

I made this jump a little too early, had to take a few steps back and regroup.

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Sorry for my disagreement.... but I advise Scotch Whiskey!😉

 

 

Anyway you guys, I really enjoyed your conversation about "what do you build first".

 

Here is my own beginners story:

 

 The pattern I followed was succesful but actualy  I followed it unitentionally.

 

Without reallising it by the time , I went up,  through the road of history. I just followed boat building  through time: 500 BC first build, 350 BC second and so on... 10th century  AC and now lastly  a 17th century build.

 

First build 2015 Bireme by Amati 450bc. Finished with succes (beginners succes)(here in gallery)

 

Second build 2016 "Olkas".Thats an ancient greek trade ship (350bc). I got it as a gift in a box without label.There was a drawing in greek and it was a kit for the "Kyrenia Ship" found in Cyprus sea back in the 60s.I modified it to a more general variation and made  out of the Kyrenia model a typical variation of olkas (the greek trade ship of that era)(here in gallery)

 

Third 2017, was the well known  Drakkar (viking ship) apr. 9-10th century AC  from Amati. Worked and finished it it with more than a few modificatios. (here in Gallery)

 

And now lastly (started March 2017) Artesanias Hermione.... (build log available here in MSW)

 

So in this way the challenge had a porortionality,  based on the actual shipbuilding historical development through time.

 

Ofcourse a lot of reading was nescesary. Also I got a lot of help through friends here in our MSW Blog. 

 

Tools were purchased through the needs of each model,  but also alongside my maturing skills and expirience.

 

Lastly I dont know if it really helped me the fact that I studied and had some expirience as a mechanical enginner.

 

Never the less I rather believe that wooden model ship building needs mainly two ingredients: "passion and patience".

 

ok guys thats my contribution to your enjoyable discussion

 

Christos

 

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To me the number 1 golden rule is: build a subject you are interested in.

 

Doesn't matter the kit level difficulty. If you are inspired, and invested in your particular vessel you will turn out a fine model.

 

You will study her more, learn more techniques to complete unknown processes, and most importantly, she wont be an abandoned project.

 

My first model was Amati Santa Maria. I was, and still remain, a Columbus freak. I had zero idea of building a wooden ship, but I was in never any doubt that once I got that kit I was never going to let my hero down by ditching her mid build.

 

Sure, my version isn't the best build of her going around, however, I did finish her, and along the way picked up many, ok 1000's, of tips that have since helped me produce other more complex models.

 

Had I not chosen a vessel I was so emotionally invested in I doubt I would have completed her, and hence any builds since.

 

So, for me, its 100% about a subject you are passionate about. Who cares if you buy Caldercraft Victory and it takes you 20 years to finish her? If you love her you will. And that should be the aim of anyone who begins this journey.

 

Cheers

 

Chris

 

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Remember that we had to compile this list aiming at the average modeller who may never have built in wood.

 

Some modellers will take to the hobby like a duck to water, whilst others may not. Then there is always the unknown factor about a newcomer being used to working in wood before they make their first ship. The list is like a line of best fit, and will generally apply, but may not have applied to you personally. It's simply a guide.

 

We will doubtless lose many to this hobby because their first project was too ambitious and they crashed and burned. It does happen, in every hobby. You generally still need to walk before you can run. Many newcomers will need something simple and not that 20yr HMS Victory project which could last 6 months and sap their enthusiasm.

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One of the other reasons beginning modelers become discouraged is the length of time required to finish even a simple model.  Most of us have built a number of plastic kits, either as a kid or an adult.  Unfortunately, that leads to an expectation of accomplishment in a short period of time.  To us, a quick model means completion in less than a year!

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Just a suggested addition to the list of kits for people with a little experience, The Model Shipways kit the skipjack "Willie Bennett".  Great kit that is not to hard to build and has really clear, easy to follow instructions.

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1 minute ago, grsjax said:

Just a suggested addition to the list of kits for people with a little experience, The Model Shipways kit the skipjack "Willie Bennett".  Great kit that is not to hard to build and has really clear, easy .o follow instructions.

Cheers. I'll add it.

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Go through the build logs 

Find a small single masted ship you like, that way you will have a lot of advise and pictures ready to help you through 

The learning curve is not to steep your last plank will be your best as you have got over the gluing your fingers together stage hopefully 

Rigging is frustrating but very rewarding 

Just enjoy and you will be well rewarded 

I sold my 4th model for $2800 dollars it cost me around $800 in kit, paints, tools, and display case plus a hundreds of hour of my spare time  but I still have a smile on my face 

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Hi all, first off,

I am still building, but have recently moved into a new flat. Two months ago, seems like longer. Sorting the move, moving in, decorating and furnishing,sorting bills and utilities. Before you know it four months has gone with no modelling. But that is the beauty  of this hobby after a break you soon get back into it. 10 months to retirement so am keeping my main model till then. In the mean time I am building the AL Marina II.

 

Anyway i digress: This is a good thread and some great advice, as always from members of this forum. Good call with Billings, they have some great models let down by instructions and also fittings in plastic, real downside to their kits.

 

My first wooden kit was the Cutty Sark. Cant remember the kit manufacturer. It was not a beginner kit but was a joy to build.

It's a good question of where do you start. My own view is that a beginner kit can actually be harder than a mid range or over kit to build. I find that a beginner kit has so many small and cumbersome parts that it becomes frustrating to build. Whereas a mid level kit is a good size and the parts especially the fittings are easier to handle.

 

A good place to start if you have never built a wooden model, and I realise this may sound silly is with the AL Heritage kits. I have the printing press and London telephone box. They are simple to build. but they also have a decent bit of woodwork required to build. IE cutting out, measuring up and adding a few fittings. They also don't require a lot of tools, just the basic modelling tools. If you can't get on with these kits and find you give up and find building in wood a challenge then you have not lost a lot of money. On the other hand when completed you will have some nice models and can then move onto wooden ship modelling with confidence.

 

Another big no-no is not to go out and spend a few hundred pounds on tools, paints and other equipment, especially powered tools only to give up after a few weeks and everything gets skipped out of frustration.

 

The most important thing to remember is that no matter which level model you choose you will be participating in a wonderful hobby that will keep you occupied for years to come and on completion of your first ship, you will always enjoy. When I got back into wooden kit building after a gap of around 30 years I gave up on at least five kits because I found them too small a scale but with perseverance I found the perfect kit for me in the Amerigo Vespucci, and I look forward to carrying on with this build come my retirement. And of course there is this forum where you will always get plenty of good advice and tons of encouragement from its members.

Below is my model station finally set up in my new flat.

 

DSC_7375.JPG

DSC_7401.JPG

Edited by Paul Jarman

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I was young and naive when i started my first kit... HMS Victory... dont do the same mistake as I. Even through you might build it, its not impossible. But why wasting a kit like that when you dont have any experience?Its better that u save it for later and make a perfect model. U dont want to remake it once finished. 

 

HMS Snake is a Good beginners model if u som 4 something more advanced. 

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I have been building wood model ships now for ten years. All successfully completed too. I have completed The Endeavour, Santa Maria, river boat Mississippi, The Roche, Sovereign of the Sea, Stage Coach for a bit of a change, and finally the Titanic which is currently in the build process.

 

This is the way I approached my first build and every build after. I read the manual or instructions not once but twice through. I then go through every part and mark the part with the part number so I know it is a complete kit. Some of the kits have taken 12 months to complete while others 2 years. You have to have patience and not rush through.

 

You need good modelling tools but does not have to cost the earth. You will need pvc glue and super glue, lots of masking tape, wood filler, paint to finally add colour to your model, sandpaper, a vice is very handy as well. These are all the add ons that don't come with a kit.

 

For bending wood I never used the plank bender tool. I soaked the wood in water and used masking tape and a jar to bend to the shape I wanted. It may take a day or two but it is worth it.

 

It is also a very good idea to build a working frame for your model for steadiness. Makes life a bit easier.  Just because one part of your model is drying you can't jump ahead and do something else or you could find that you will be redoing that part. You can while waiting is put smaller parts together in readiness of adding later.

 

Titanic - Billings boats. The instructions are horrendous.  No written information but half pictures and you basically use your imagination. After all the years I have been building, these instructions can be quite baffling and looking on internet helps. So, it is slow and steady and I will finish it.

 

Anyway, just thought I would add my experiences and hope it helps others.

 

Jenny

Melbourne, Australia

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Hi all.  I am a new member as of today so still finding my way around what looks like a great site.    I did lots of modelling in younger years and some about 10 years ago but never a wooden ship.  Approaching retirement I am now thinking of adding this to my hobbies.  This is a really helpful post but I am still wary of what to try first.  I am an engineer by profession so quite technically and practically minded.  I also work on traditional woodland crafts as a hobby.  I want some challenging enough to feel it was worth it, not too expensive as to waste money (up to £150ish) and of the warship 18th century genre.  It sounds like double planking is advisable.  San Francisco II has caught my eye and I am thinking I should maybe take a closer look at that one.  Any help would be really welcome.  Many Thanks.

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3 hours ago, Steve Greenfield said:

Hi all.  I am a new member as of today so still finding my way around what looks like a great site.    I did lots of modelling in younger years and some about 10 years ago but never a wooden ship.  Approaching retirement I am now thinking of adding this to my hobbies.  This is a really helpful post but I am still wary of what to try first.  I am an engineer by profession so quite technically and practically minded.  I also work on traditional woodland crafts as a hobby.  I want some challenging enough to feel it was worth it, not too expensive as to waste money (up to £150ish) and of the warship 18th century genre.  It sounds like double planking is advisable.  San Francisco II has caught my eye and I am thinking I should maybe take a closer look at that one.  Any help would be really welcome.  Many Thanks.

Hello Steve,

 

It’s a great hobby, and very therapeutic. I started when I was just over 30yrs old, but I’ve had some time out, with me only just getting back into it again as I approach 50. I was also am engineer before I moved into education. 

 

Personally, I think that if you are engineer-minded, can take care and thought with your modelling, then Vanguard Models ‘HM Cutter Alert’ would be a perfect kit. It’s been designed by the best in the hobby….Chris Watton, and he’s a member of MSW also. He’s designed models for Caldercraft, Amati etc. in his time. Check out my review…..and yes, the model is double-plank. Also 18th Century.

 

 

To purchase this kit, click this link:

 

https://vanguardmodels.com/h-m-armed-cutter-alertstatic-2 

 

There are two versions….one at £160 and one at £180. Take a look, but this looks to be in your price range.

 

San Francisco II is by Artesania Latina. The company recently went defunct too, and I know the quality of their materials isn’t very good, and certainly not on par with what we expect today.

 

I’d love to see you create a build log so we can follow along.

 

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2 hours ago, James H said:

Hello Steve,

 

It’s a great hobby, and very therapeutic. I started when I was just over 30yrs old, but I’ve had some time out, with me only just getting back into it again as I approach 50. I was also am engineer before I moved into education. 

 

Personally, I think that if you are engineer-minded, can take care and thought with your modelling, then Vanguard Models ‘HM Cutter Alert’ would be a perfect kit. It’s been designed by the best in the hobby….Chris Watton, and he’s a member of MSW also. He’s designed models for Caldercraft, Amati etc. in his time. Check out my review…..and yes, the model is double-plank. Also 18th Century.

 

 

To purchase this kit, click this link:

 

https://vanguardmodels.com/h-m-armed-cutter-alertstatic-2 

 

There are two versions….one at £160 and one at £180. Take a look, but this looks to be in your price range.

 

San Francisco II is by Artesania Latina. The company recently went defunct too, and I know the quality of their materials isn’t very good, and certainly not on par with what we expect today.

 

I’d love to see you create a build log so we can follow along.

 

I’m really glad to hear this recommendation as I’m planning on picking this up for my second build and first planning endeavor.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Steve Greenfield said:

... San Francisco II has caught my eye and I am thinking I should maybe take a closer look at that one.  Any help would be really welcome.  Many Thanks.

This model from AL company is a good start. This was my 1st one. I learned lots on it. Difficulty was it is just one layer of planking. No way doing any mistake on the hull. I did good on this though.

...Strange. I was looking for my San Francisco 2 log. It was posted here about 2 years ago. It does not exist on this forum anymore. Moderators, if you have time, I wonder why?...

Never mind. I had changed my ID name. This is why... Here is a job I had done on San Francisco 2:

 

image.png.d8f19ea31c04854680ae2829aaf3137c.png

 

 

Edited by Y.T.

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