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Building Your Model Ship Skills

Mar 17, 2008
Well known nineteenth century American clippers are suitable for model building, because they represent an age of splendor, performance and historical significance. Aside from the construction of them, there is a patriotic pride of possession attached to them.

In addition, the research work has been done and made available to the public by the supply houses. All the parts necessary to build these fine ships can be readily obtained, together with detailed plans and information.

Modeling from Scaled Drawings

There are two types of scaled drawings: those that are scaled to fractional dimensions of the original ship and need to be translated into measurements by rule to suit the size of model under construction; this type presents many difficult problems to the modeler and should be avoided when possible.

The other type is based on the dimensions of the model itself, and all parts shown thereon are full sized without any bother with measurements. This type presents simple, straightforward work without confusion because the patterns can be traced direct from the drawings.

There are scores of beautiful clipper ships, windjammers and historical warships from which to make your selection. All are worthwhile; but in this first attempt, it is undoubtedly wise to select unarmed merchant ships because they have no armaments or gunports to jockey with.

Among the three-masted clippers of the nineteenth century are many fine ships to recreate. Ariel, the blue ribband ship, is probably the loveliest and most exclusive. Cutty Sark is a favourite model, but there are so many of them in existence that you might aspire to some other ship. Thermopolae was a grand old ship and would make a beautiful model, but she has little significance to the American modeler. Among the American clippers are many suitable examples of beauty and performance: Young America, Swordfish, Sea Witch, Red Jacket, Flying Fish and Flying Cloud.

My choice of the whole lot would be Flying Cloud, because she had everything worthwhile beauty, grace, performance and historical prominence. Detailed plans of her are available from your supplier, together with scaled parts of her, from rudder pintles to martingale, and from ensign to figurehead.

Flying Cloud

Donald McKay built Flying Cloud at East Boston in 1851. Like most American clippers of that age, she crossed skysails on all masts, her total area of canvas must have exceeded one acre. Under Captain Josiah Perkins she made a record voyage to San Francisco in 89 days. For distance travelled North and South around the Horn 17,597 statute miles, she averaged almost 10 miles an hour. Her best day's run on corrected time was 427.5 miles.

It is likely that this record remains unbroken by any other American ship. For fourteen years she sparkled in the China Seas and around the Horn to San Francisco in the Gold Rush days. It must be taken into account that Flying Cloud began and ended her days under the Stars and Stripes, before the great racing clippers were built after the Suez Canal was opened. She was one of the world's great ships that went about her lawful occasions unconcerned with the encroachments of steam.

At the outbreak of the Civil War she was sold to the English Black Ball Line and plied the Australian run for several years, then descended to the Canadian lumber trade and was gutted by fire in 1873.
You may search through all the suppliers' catalogs and the records of American history but you won't find a more satisfying or rewarding model to build than Flying Cloud. In her heyday she appeared in the passing parade of beautiful ships and shone like Halley's Comet.

No other ship in the glamorous history of American clippers possesses such prestige. Millions know her history. Scores would pay a fat price to own a hand made model of her. Her memory lies deep in New England hearts. Her advent brought pride and admiration to a great nation and her lustre enriched the pages of maritime history with high adventure.

Fortunately every detail of the ship is known and is available to the modeler.

Have fun constructing this model or any other that takes your fancy!
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