A wooden sailing ship, especially one with a planked hull, is a daunting task. I have heard the majority of such kits sold go unfinished.
There are two daunting tasks, hull planking and rigging. Having to do both on your first sailing ship kit is beyond the patience of some people.
I suggest you do a good plastic sailing ship first, to learn and practice rigging skills. Then go to a wooden kit. Get either the big Revell Cutty Sark or Constitution, or one of the larger Heller sailing ship kits. The large Heller kits are top notch and worth the somewhat stiff price.
An alternative if you can find them are older wood kits with a partially CARVED hull. These are obsolete now, but were made by Scientific, one other brand I forget name right now, and most recently by Model Shipways. If you can find one of these older kits somewhere, they are a good way to get started on sailing ship models.
However, if you are already a plastic modeler, go>
and simply scroll down the headers under Boats, Models, e.g. Modelling - Resin,Photoetch,Scale,Paper, Painting, Fonts, FAQ etc.
FAQ re Scale Models - All answers to assembly, detailing, photo etched parts, painting etc. FAQ - Ship Models Paints, Colour Charts, Mix Formulae & Strippers
Molding & Casting (see also Fibreglass etc)
Molding & Casting
Start with a reasonable simple kit as you are more likely to finish it and be better prepared for a complex planking (bending) and rigging later. Make or buy a good flat bed to hold the keel straight whilst gluing the initial planking.
If you decide to do another plastic, Model Expo is clearing out the HMS Victory(2107 pieces) and Le Soleil Royale(2300+ pieces) on one of their special sale web pages for just under $40 each. ME probably has the best pricing too, plus they sell their own line and others too.
and for the super sale page the URL is
then type in Heller or a ship name or just browse. No connection to ME, just a happy customer of numerous purchases from them.
Otherwise, for advice and all the help you could ever want, go to
and click on Communication Center, then join the email list. I've never seen such a wealth of advice and knowledge in one place for wooden ship models.
Why not try the Lindberg (ex-Pyro, IIRC) "Jolly Roger"? (Actually a generic Napoleonic-era French 5th-/6th-rate [30 gun] frigate.) It's cheap ($11.99 @ Hobby Lobby) and looks relatively simple to build.
- A vessel with a simple rig is preferable, such as a cutter or a schooner. This is less important if you have already built some large plastic kits such as the Heller Victory or Soleil Roya of course :)
- A vessel with fine lines, such as a clipper ship or a Bluenose-type schooner is a LOT easier to plank than a bluff-bowed ship like Bounty, Victory, Endeavour etc. Planking a hull in a semi-correct manner is a black art unto itself so it pays to keep it simple in the beginning.
- Get a US or British-made kit (Model Shipways, Caldercraft) rather than an Italian one. It's better to have a user manual that you can actually understand!
- Pick something small enough that you can actually "see" progress as you work. A Victory will take forever to finish and a lot of people lose heart.
I'd recommend a Bluenose kit, even though it's not entirely your favourite kind of subject. It's small enough to finish and the hull shape should plank up quite easily. Stay away from the 1700s ships until you have a finished kit under your belt. Alternatively the smallest Caldercraft kits (Ballahoo, Sherbourne) could be options but the hull shapes of these are a bit less beginner-friendly.
Boy, how true. My latest kit is a Spanish one. The worst Japanese attempt at english translation of kit instructions is far better than the one in this kit. It amazes me that a firm charging this much for kits cannot afford a decent english-speaking editor to review instruction sheet.
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I'll second the good advice above. Midwest provides good value for the money. Model Expo' (Model Shipways kits) are also good and the beginner - intermediate -advanced designations is accurate. Plans are excellent. Bluejacket
also makes excellent kits with accurate difficulty ratings.
Some other comments on some previous comments-especially concerning rigging. The last plastic model I built was an HMS Victory kit many years ago. That was before I had taken up sailing. As complicated as the rigging seemed to be in that kit, I now know that the rigging specified was incorrect -- and only about 1/3 of the amount of string actually involved. After about 30 years of sailing, including on a schooner, I have a good idea of what rigging is all about. That and reading 20 or so books on the subject. Having built some schooner models now, If I live long enough, I'll be willing to tackle a full-rigged merchantman or whaler next -- then, and only then, a man of war. The amount of rigging is incomprehensible to a layman. You can't do the model properly unless you know the vocabulary. About 300 to 400 technical terms and I still have to look some of them up in a special nautical dictionary -- also varies considerably with the period. Both the function and the name changes from century to century and what was called a "carling widget" in the 16th century is something altogether different in the 18th -- depends also on the ship's nationality. Also, I don't see how you can do a proper job of rigging if you don't know how to sail. Now if you just want to build a display model that has lots of string all over the place in an impressive array (to a layman), then all this doesn't matter -- if you're serious and want to build an authentic model, then start with something small and simple -- it will be challenging enough -- and take a few years or decades to build up to everbody's ambition -- a man of war. It is much better to actually finish a model than to join the ranks of the 95% of models that are NEVER finished.
A simple kit, well built and carefully finished is far better than a fancy full-rigged ship with a warped keel, randomly fitting planking, hogged deck, and bedraggled rigging.
Here's my take on it:
Entry Level: never built a wood ship model before, but probably has some experience with plastic models -- techniques just don't translate very well. Relatively simple hull built on formers --probably plank on bulkhead or solid, pre-carved hull. Planking is very simple -- mostly straight runs with little bending required. Simple spars (e.g., a sloop), only two or three sails, probably fore-and-aft rigged. Simple shrouds, one halyard per sail, simple tackle, one sheet per sail. A half dozen blocks. Prepared deck. Only a few colors.
Intermediate: Plank on bulkhead. Precut bulkheads, precut keel, precut planks -- but lots of them. Two or three masts, mostly fore-and-aft rigged, possibly one or two square sails, bowsprit. Maybe 10 to 15 sails with standing rigging to match - About 100 blocks in various sizes. Fair amount of deck furniture (cabins, wheels, hatches, etc.) gratings, some ship's boats, extensive standing rigging, ratlines, ground tackle, winches. Halyards doubled with multi-block purchases, peak and throat halyards, downhauls, leech lines, lots of string. A dozen colors to paint, lots of varnish and stains for natural woods.
Advanced: Plank on bulkhead construction, but double planked. Built-up deck planks. Lots of hatches, gratings, cabins, doors, railings, About 50 to 60 sails with the standing and running rigging to match. Two halyards per sail, two sheets per sail, reefing lines, -- maybe 10 or more pieces of string per sail for a total of 400 to 500 pieces of string and 600 to 800 blocks to be concerned abou. Rat lines on all the shrouds. Some decorative carvings, but not crazy (e.g, 19th century).
Expert: 17th or 18th century man of war. Fully rigged with all the redundant cordage typical of a man of war. Plank on frame with each frame built-up and constructed. Very little paint -- mostly natural woods with stains (e.g., "Admiralty style.) > Double planked (of course), 64 to 120 cannons, each with their own rigging and strings and things -- aboiut 1200 to 1600 blocks in various sizes. 8 or 9 shrouds per mast with separate sets for the main, top and topgallant mast -- all of them ratted to hell and gone. Coppered bottom, planks finished with treenails, Extensive, gilded carvings, nudes, angels, unicorns, all over the transom and the bows. Often, part of the planking is left off so that the extensive internal workings can be seen.
Who considers himself an intermediate level builder and whose next project will be a Viking ship -- Gokstad.
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