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An Introduction to Model Ship Building “Dockyard Style”

Adrian Sorolla

ANCRE – French Naval Archeology Collection, 2020

21X30 cm format, softback, 232 pages

Fully illustrated with color photographs and drawings on heavy gloss paper

46 Euros – Available in English, French, Spanish, Italian

ISBN: 979-10-96873-92-0

Available from ancre.fr



What’s inside (from the author):  

It is obvious that building a plank on frame model has always generated a certain amount of respect within the model ship building community: even from experienced builders.  Taking on the construction of a first planked on frame model from a set of plans seems daunting. No box of pre-cut pieces, no pre-milled to size lumber in required quantity, no pre-made parts: evidently, all this may seem somewhat intimidating.


If being already familiar in building from kits, the concept of building from plans may be considered as the next logical step.  Even if this work may bring us some apprehension, it should not scare us away, as we have already acquired knowledge in model ship building: this is knowledge we can apply through all phases of the construction.


This guide was written to help the modeler through the various stages of construction.  As the title indicates, “An introduction to planked on frame model ship building”, this guide will show us through the process of building our first framed model from plans.  A fairly easy model to build while having fun and being supported by the numerous photos and extensive captions provided to analyze and explain each step.  This guide will introduce the modeler to ship building from plans.


From the first look into the plans, to the completion of the model, which will be a remarkable piece in your collection, this guide covers all phases of the construction.


Although a fairly easy monograph was chosen, the information contained in this guide is such that the explanations can be applied to any other monograph by adapting the advice given and the dimension of the parts needed to whatever project you may take on.


The chapter sequence guides us through the logical construction stages.  The different steps are presented while taking into account the fact that not all modelers are equipped with the same tools to fabricate the parts: varying from hand to highly mechanized power tools.


The choice of lumber, the interpretation of the plans, the use of templates to cut parts, wood working techniques, the use of cutting tools, the choice and purpose of different material (brass, ebony, boxwood, lead, tin, etc.) including the steps to follows, everything to build your model is explained in this guide.


Table of Contents:

Ch. I Choosing the lumber – First look at the plans, axial timbers
Ch. II The frames
Ch. III Axial structure
Ch. IV Frame installation
Ch. V Closing the front and back
Ch. VI Planking the hold
Ch. VII Fitting the hold
Ch. VIII Deck construction -1
Ch. IX Deck construction -2
Ch. X Planking the hull -1, preparation
Ch. XI Planking the hull -2
Ch. XII Deck furnishings and building the forecastle deck
Ch. XIII The quarterdeck and stern
Ch. XIV Notes on masting, ropes and rigging


A few notes from the reviewer:

There are a few things that do need some explanation.  Some of the drawings/photos are in French such as “modelisme d’arsenal” translates literally to "Arsenal modelism" or Dockyard Style.  When  you run into that, a few minutes with Google Translate should give you the meaning.  You will also find he refers to things pretty generally except for examples but they’re not hard to follow and sort out how you want to do it for your specific set of plans.


The Review:

Since you’ve read this far, you know the philosophy and a bit of the contents.   It does fulfill everything it says it is.  This book is about as good as it gets on how-to build a ship using the ANCRE monographs.  I really can’t praise it enough.  I started reading it about an hour after it showed up and literally could not put it down.  It now resides in my workshop for handy reference.   I really wish this book had been around when I started my first POF ship which was French many years ago.


It will take you through selecting the wood, what to expect on the plans, to making and assembling almost everything from start to finish.  For starters, every page has 4 or 5 color photos accompanying the text to illustrate exactly what’s being done. To say it is more detailed than any build log I’ve seen is an understatement.  The written text is crisp and clear which makes understanding a given step easy.


While the book is based on the plans of Le Rochfort by Gerard Delacroix at 1:32 scale, where your model might a different scale or different plans, it’s not too hard to covert the information as the basics apply no matter the plans. 

One nice touch is that it’s pointed out that exotic tools aren’t needed.  For example, he shows a coping saw, a scroll saw and a band saw.  He continues the practice with such things as sanding tools, etc.  Also shown and described are the various building boards/jigs.  The setup and use of the basic tools for cutting and shaping the various pieces are there.  Even how to make trunnels simply and quickly with a model table saw.


While the audience is intended for French ships using ANCRE monographs, the information is useful for making a ship from plans of any other nation but there are major and minor differences in the way various countries did things so take that under consideration.  Also, if you’re using a POB set of frames such as those for La Belle Poule, once you have the backbone built up start with Chapter 4 but do read Chapters 1 through 3 as there is a lot of great information that applies.


I should add that not everything is covered in detail such as the many fittings and rigging details which are in the individual ship’s monograph. However, if you’re interested in building French ships, I recommend as an additional reference  Frolich’s “The Art of Shipmodeling” (also from ANCRE) which goes into the bits and pieces in more depth.  After all, we can’t have too many sources can we?  The more we have, the more we know.


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I have just received mine and although I have only scratched the surface it looks like an excellent book and I’m looking forward to spending much much more time with it

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