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Over 25 years ago I bought my first kit from Corel and now when i look at their line-up basically nothing has changed. Its all the same kits. Caldercraft produced a huge number of New kits in a short period of time... and then just simply stopped. And the situation is quite similar when I look into various of manufacturers, and it really makes me wonder.  How can companies survive without any product development? 

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It cost a lot of time and money for firms to come up with a new kit that will possibly sell enough to allow them to recover their initial investment. Then the marketing kicks in in hopes that the kit becomes a profitable seller. There was a time when three dimensional artwork, in our case models, was the way for youth to keep themselves occupied by challenging them to create something they would be interested in. Now videos and the internet has changed all that and the demand for kits just isn't what it used to be. In fact you are witnessing it here with this reply. I probably spend more time on the internet researching/entertainment then actually building a ship I was looking forward to constructing. As Walter Cronkite would end each news broadcast, 'and that's the way it is".

 

Nothing more permanent then change.

 

Scott

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Remember for Caldercraft (unfortunately) their main focus seems to be RC boats, I suspect there is little incentive to them to develop new kit offerings, and to be fair their current range is pretty extensive, though some kites are definitely showing their age now.  I still find it hard to believe that there is not a classic 74 in 1:64 scale, Caldercraft have been advertising this for years and I suspect will never happen.  

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You also need to understand that those kits made 25-30 years ago would never be good sellers now.  They are just a handful of laser cut parts made from sub par wood. ....  Along with a bunch of wood strips and some bad castings.   Model builders expect a lot more today for their money and they are notoriously frugal.   To give a builder what they expect these days is quite expensive.   It would be very easy and affordable for me to design a new kit like Model Shipways Armed Virginia Sloop.   There are about five laser cut sheets in the entire kit and the instructions are 30 pages long.   It would never sell!!!!   They were basically starter kits with a  bunch of raw wood.

 

avs.jpg

In contrast.....my new kit of the longboat has 26 laser cut pieces and almost no strip wood.....very expensive, with about 100 pages of instruction.   The old kits can now be considered semi scratch in my opinion....especially if you ditch the castings.  Very few parts were laser cut and designed with ease of construction in mind.  And all this for a smallish kit of a longboat.  Folks dont even want to learn to plank anymore.  They want even larger kits to have all of the planking pre-spiled and laser cut......but they only want to spend $250.

 

hullkitparts.jpg

 

Very very different these days to design a kit that will be well-received....Builders have gotten very spoiled.  This leaves very little profit per kit when most builders expect to pay about the same as they did for the AVS with cheap wood.  Design and prototyping takes a whole lot longer now.   At least for anything innovative.   

 

So when you consider that any new kit will cost an old established company around $30,000 to develop.  This is significantly cheaper for newer small companies where the owners are usually also the designers and also work the assembly lines.  I dont have to pay a good designer $50 an hour for about a year and half to design and prototype.  I do it myself and it doesnt cost anything. So the old companies cant afford to spend that much to develop a new innovative kit project.  They are kind of withering away because of that.

 

 

 

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Caldercraft's foray into wooden ship kits was almost entirely due to the efforts of Chris Watton when he was their in-house designer. He also designed the Victory Models line at Amati. We all pretty much know what happened after he left each of those companies. Fortunately for kit builders, he has started up his own company, Vanguard Models, and has things in high gear again with one kit on the market, one well into the prototype stage, and another in the design phase.

 

As Jim pointed out earlier, Syren and Master Korabel are actively bringing out new products, but they are not the only ones by any stretch. Bluejacket, Woody Joe, Marisstella, and OcCre have all trotted out new designs recently (some very interesting ones, too), and there are other, smaller firms putting out new products from time to time, some of them not familiar to those of us in the English-speaking world.

 

Which brings us back around to the original question: How can companies survive without any product development? It really boils down to a question of whether they are selling enough product to stay afloat, and we often lose sight of the fact that companies like Corel sell large numbers of kits in parts of the world that don't participate in English-language forums. Other companies aren't staying afloat (e.g. Euromodels), and lack of innovation probably had something to do with that. Others, like Midwest Products, are still alive and well, but decided their boat kits division wasn't profitable enough.

 

We needn't fret too much. Compared to the days before Caldercraft's Nelson's Navy line came out, we live in a Golden Age of sorts for wooden kit design, with doubtless more good stuff yet to come.

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1 hour ago, Chuck said:

The old kits can now be considered semi scratch in my opinion....especially if you ditch the castings.  Very few parts were laser cut and designed with ease of construction in mind.  And all this for a smallish kit of a longboat.  Folks dont even want to learn to plank anymore.  They want even larger kits to have all of the planking pre-spiled and laser cut......but they only want to spend $250.

So very true! This explains the low "kits bought to kits built" ratio of the old kits. The kit companies "sold the sizzle, not the steak," relying on the seductive lure of box cover photos of professionally nearly-scratch-built versions of the kit contents. There remains a solid market for quality kits like Syren's, especially for the discriminating folks just starting out who want to learn to build quality models, but the four-figure-priced Seventeenth Century floating gingerbread castles marketed to the uninitiated without regard to building up repeat business from those who found trying to build them enjoyable are slowly fading away along with the brick and mortar hobby shops that once sold them.

 

Given all the societal changes wrought by the "digital age," people aren't looking to modeling as a hobby as they once did. I don't see it dying out, but the direction it certainly seems to be going is, IMHO, a positive thing as more and more modelers graduate to scratch building. The commercial end of the market seems to be tending towards parts and materials, and away from boxed kits. Where there seems to be an unfilled market demand today is in the area of plans and instructions to enable potential scratch builders to get over the hump of research, scaling, lofting, and assembly scheduling. Those are among the steepest learning curves in the craft. People want that information spoon-fed to them and will probably pay a good price to buy that if the market (and prices!) for good "how-to-build-it" books are any indication. The good books on the subject have all been in print for decades and demand for new quality titles remains high.

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Well...so the bottom line is that this isnt true at all except for the old companies that havent tried to innovate.   Newer smaller companies have the advantage in many cases....as can be seen with the demise of AL, Euromodel, Mamoli and probably some of the others.......Caldercraft????  Maybe too if they dont start doing anything new.  Although we have dozens and dozens of their kits being built as build logs.  They are still quite popular.

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For what it's worth my opinion is as long as Caldercraft continue with good little kits like Ballahoo, Sherbourne and Pickle the new modellers will still be there and so will Caldercraft as 18th/19th century ships will always be a good draw.

I myself have picked many new skills building Sherbourne  and the help and advice from this site.

Having seen the new and very good offerings from Master Korabel, Marisstella and Vanguard I think the future could be good

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4 hours ago, Dave B said:

What kind of improvements is Dusek making to the Mamoli kits? Better wood and/or instructions or other changes? Nice to hear that in any case. I looked at the website and don't see it described although the photos look nice.

I commented on the Halifax kit back in December.

The kits also include some photo etched brass parts..

 

I have managed to put together the skeleton so far, and it went together very nicely.  I don't see the problems with shape and

fit that I experienced with the old Mamoli kits.

 

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On 7/29/2019 at 3:06 PM, Gregory said:

I have managed to put together the skeleton so far, and it went together very nicely.  I don't see the problems with shape and

fit that I experienced with the old Mamoli kits.

 

Daniel Dusek is trying to rework all their kits and from what I've seen on the build logs, he's doing a great job of it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Vanguard is Chris Wattons's company.  He's dd a lot of work for other companies designing models for them.  Caldercraft is one of them.  He has at least one topic here on MSW discussing his new company and models and the first one is now available.   Use the search feature and plug in Watton and you should find his posts.

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On 7/30/2019 at 5:55 AM, Landlubber Mike said:

Euromodel is out of business?  Looks like their website is still up and running.  

No, but they have struck a technical problem with production of one type of component. They hope to resolve this matter after their month-long summer vacation break.

Pete

Edited by piratepete007
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