I've put together various plastic and resin model kits, but recently have
been considering looking for a decent wooden sailing ship kit, unsure about
what might be good for me.
I'm curious about the ratings for skill levels I see occassionally, as well
as which kit might be good for display when finished, yet also reasonably
easy for a "first kit".
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
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
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, going with a good plastic
model will make use of your existing skills.
scroll down the headers under Boats, Models,
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
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Molding & Casting (see also Fibreglass etc)
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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
Alan's Hobby, Model & RC Links
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.
- 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
- 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
1. Check out the Seaways Ships in scale website at
is THE website for builders of wooden period ships, IMHO.
2. If you're in the US, buy your kit from Model Expo. They have excellent
prices, and also have a free replacemetn parts policy.
3. Starting with an Italian or Spanish kit will be harder- the instructions
are better in the kits form US and English companies.
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
RC Boater wrote:
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.
also makes excellent kits with accurate
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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