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How to Begin Model Ship Building

Oct 31, 2007
Assembling model kits is a straightforward job comprising well made parts with detailed instructions; some of them are illustrated and show each stage of assembly clearly.

Assembly of Modern Kits

Your first move is to acquire as many suppliers' catalogs as you can lay hands on. The variety of models that come in package kits seems to be unending. The latest issues range all the way from the Queen Elizabeth to an oyster boat.

Simplified instructions are provided with each kit and all you have to do is to assemble the parts with glue. You can't go wrong, because the sections won't fit except in their proper positions. There is a strange fascination in fitting these parts together which grows on you. No particular tools are needed and no experience is necessary.

However, selection is very important; the end result must be carefully considered at the beginning because nondescript models do not bring the pride of possession that famous, historical ships do. Artists and sculptors select thoroughbred horses for their subject instead of ordinary work horses; so must you select ships that are famous for their racing qualities, historical prestige or beauty.

The famous racing schooner America that brought the "Old Mug" across the Atlantic, is no more difficult to build, and costs no more, than an unknown Great Lakes schooner without even a name on her. Aside from the excitement you derive from building her, the possession of a famous ship model is far more precious. The pride of owning an historical model is very substantial and does not diminish with time.

Some years ago I built two models of the same size one was a lowly bark, unknown to anyone except a few old timers; the other was a famous ship of great historical prominence. Both cost the same in time and materials to build. The famous ship fetched two and a half times the price of the bark because she was a collector's piece.

Selection is so important to the modeler that I have made it applicable to all the other phases of model building. There is not much profit in building models unless you can show them to your friends or exhibit them publicly with pride and satisfaction.

It would probably end in disaster if you started to build your own models or selected square rigged ships until you have acquired a little more knowledge. The most enjoyable part of assembling kits is still ahead of you if you are wise enough to stay within your own limitations until you work yourself out of them.

Fore and Aft Rigged Models

Fore and aft rigged ships are recommended to start with. Modern yachts come into this category, but there are few private yachts that measure up to the historical prestige and fame of the racing schooners. There is of course the famous America. Her history is known all over the world and there is no need to repeat it here. This grand old schooner has everything the modeler could desire. She is over a century old now and her memory will be fresh for centuries to come. Complete information and kits of her are available.

Then there are the two happy warriors that slugged it out in the North Atlantic Bluenose and Gertrude Thebaud. Deep sea fishermen both, they were in a class by themselves, sleek, graceful and very fast. Their radical design and tall spars provide the most beautiful models, and kits are provided in both plastic and wood.

When rigging these models, and many others, use black twine for the standing rigging, viz: all the fixed stays; and white twine for the running rigging, viz: those lines that are movable and run through blocks. This provides a contrast that makes the whole rigging stand out with greater definition. Do not use sails, because sails on a ship out of water are ridiculous and in my opinion create an unnatural picture that spoils the looks of the finest model.

Have fun as you embark on the wonderful hobby of model ship building!
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