View Full Version : Small models of large ships
12th February 2008, 08:59
I have been building model ships for some time now, but have noticed the decline and almost extinction of detailed scratchbuilding of large ships to small scales and wonder why this is. I admire large models very much, but most people simply do not have the space to store them and they take an awful lot of time, expense & effort to build. My latest miniature is approaching completion after about 60 hours work spread over a little more than a month. The total cost of the materials is virtually nil. The greatest expense is the glue and acrylic for the display case. Everything is hand-built & the masts and rigging are 100% metal, being a combination of brass & copper rod & fine copper wire.
12th February 2008, 09:30
I think, as a model ship builder myself of 45 years trials and tribulations, ( and I'm still learning), that what you do, and build, shipbuilder is a true art.
sadly this art is one of many years experience honed to perfection, and with so many manufacturers these days offering kits "that can be built to exhibition standard" so the quotes go on the merchandising, modellers new to the game choose the kit for building.
and there is the added advantage that r/c equipment is so cheep these days that the mass modeller is able to sail their creation as well.
sadly it's this quick fix/build society that we live in that wants the model here and NOW, and the majority of "newby model builders" just don't want to spend years and years honing new skills when they can build from off the shelf!
12th February 2008, 11:01
Although I agree with most of your comments, it still doesn't make complete sense to me. I know people generally want things now, but at my local model club (we have about 60 members), quite a number of them are building kits & can easily spend a year or two on one model without giving it a second thought. One of my main reasons for building miniatures is that I can get on with them & see results in the first couple of days, knowing that it will be finished within three or four weeks. I have little patience & like to get the job "up & running."
Further down this page, there were requests on how to make display cases. As soon as I answered it seemed to kill the discussion stone dead, despite the fact that I currently have an article for all to read on another forum giving a very detailed description of how to build a display case in three or four days at tremendous monetary savings when compared with buying one. I am often asked about various techniques of shipmodelling, but seldom get any follow up to my replies. The "curtain" seems to raise a little when someone shows interest, then falls again as soon as the answer is given!
26th February 2008, 17:21
Hi Bob, I was interested to read your notes and most impressed with your Clan Liner. I have recently completed several models using plans from Bowens marvellous book on Miniature ship building....these are based on a scale of 1 :1200 but I preferred to work to a slightly bigger scale ( 1:850) which is, for me, easier to cope with when manufacturing small items such as life boats ( but golly, still a bit taxing). I have built Clan Macauley. Argentina Star, City of Benares and am currently on with Athlone Castle....all these from Bowen's drawings but I have built other models of various sizes and shapes including a working model of a Type iX U boat, 6ft long. When I say ' working' , it is and it does work but not submerged !!. Where's the thrill in sailing your boat on the lake when you can't see it half the time!!
I would be delighted to know a bit more about your favoured materials, hull timber for example. Bowen has views on this and uses elm which I find hard to work with so I have been using a pine with a very close grain and this has been a treat to shape and sand.
My shipyard is in a small single deck plastic case with about 10 compartments and I would guess that we have more or less the same kit therein.
Looking forward to a signal from you
26th February 2008, 20:26
Thanks for reply. I have known John Bowen for some time (although we have never met) our shipmodelling interests are pretty much the same. The models is "almost" a Clan liner - it is of the Scottish Shire Line, but was built for Clan Line in 1928. They were both closely linked. In 1965, I joined what I thought was Clan Line & remained with them until 1976, but never served in a Clan, being mainly Union-Castle plus one Bowater! Shire Line was still contained within the group at that time.
Wood. I prefer Obeche (obtainable from model shops), medium hard & easy to work. When cutting, smells like the fish dock at Cape Town in the 60s!
For further details, click on Miniature Merchant Ships below.
28th February 2008, 21:42
Thank you for your reply. Yes, agreed obeche does whiff a bit especially when cut with power saw or when sandpapered.
I am sure that all small scale shipbuilders find lifeboat making a bit of a problem....my eyes get strained. I make them from boxwood a la John Bowen but I have experimented with moulding them in various substances. There were no (so far) great successes but epoxy adhesive was probably the most promising. I wondered if you have any thoughts on this.
I was 10 years with BP Oil (then BTC) and Esso from 1952 until '62 and apart from short social visits I never went aboard a cargo ship, which I much regret.
I am sure that intimate knowledge of the cargo ships layout is bound to be helpful when modelling.....or put another way, I am more at home modelling tankers.
29th February 2008, 09:20
Thanks for reply. I find John Bowen's sacles rather too small for me. 100':1" really is small. I prefer 32':1" Cargo ships have more on deck than tankers, but not really all that difficult, more repetitive. Of the few ship modellers around (Scratch, not kit) I find that few seem prepared to tackle tankers because of all the pipes. I only served on one tanker (ALGOL), three months standing by building at Cammell Lairds, then six month sailing (lightering duties off Houston) - didn't like it at all - boring, but I do like the looks of the older tankers & enjoy building them from time to time. Lifeboats, I take the easy way out. I vacuum form the hulls from plasticard. Stick on wire keels & then spray paint with white matt primer. Draw inside large scale, colour it in on computer & shrink it down to required size. Print on self-adhesive white paper (lables) Stick on thin plasticard, cut out & stick in boat. Make grabline on same way in computer & stick on. Look good on a miniature when viewed overall. Some people don't approve & say it is cheating, but it reduces boat construction time from several hours each to several minutes. Most collecters go for this method as they pay less for the finished model & it looks just as good when viewed overall. Anyway, here is one of my tankers, LOUSIANA (USA). I find it sad that the art of model shipbuilding (scratch) has virtually died out in favour of kits.
29th February 2008, 11:06
I have done a couple of Scratchbuilt models, but I prefer to work from kits.
My favourite was "Titanic" in weekly parts. I would love to do it again if ever they republish the magazines. I have been on with Billings "Cutty Sark" for a few years now without too much enthusiasm!!
I have nearly 100 1200 scale models,quite a few Minic which I strip down to bare metal and repaint.
Pic shows Scratchbuilt H.M.S. "Worcester" and above it Brocklebanks "Makrana"
Shipmodelling has been a bit neglected lately as I have been working on a model railway all winter!!
1st March 2008, 15:13
Hi Bob, Thanks for yours of yesterday. Your Texaco tanker is a very fine model and I am particularly drawn to the rigging. Rigging in my scale 1" to 70 ft. can look a bit heavy so opt to leave it off which is a bit daft really because it is something I enjoy doing. The answer is to move up to a larger scale!!
Interested in this lifeboat business ....would you be free to give me a few tips on how you vacuum form the lifeboat hulls. I used to be involved in a firm which vacuum formed oddly shaped cladding panels for the construction industry ... and the vacuum system was quite complicated.
I would like to attach a few pictures of my models and will do so as soon as I get a camera and fathom out how to use it.
1st March 2008, 16:01
As you know the principles of vacuum forming, it is quite easy. I made a small wooden vaccum box about 4 inches cube with a hole in the back to plug in the vaccum cleaner. I open the front, put in my lifeboat shape that is fixed to a piece of thin wood with lots of holes drilled round it. Place sheet of 0.015 plastcard over it, shut lid, heat plasticard (showing through oblong hole in hinged lid) with a hobby type hot air gun for about thirty seconds, switch on vacuum & it forms boat immediately.
Rigging is much easier at small scales. I use fine copper wire & there are no knots. Take hold of a piece of wire with small pliers at each end. Stretch it slightly & then put it down. It is now perfectly straight. Cut off to required length. Pick up with tweezers, dip each end in glue & simply place it in postion.
2nd March 2008, 21:13
Thanks for very useful help on vacuum forming...definitely my next project.
The thinnest copper wire I ever saw and managed to salvage was from an old LP record player . The 4 core instrument wire connecting the stylus to the out put connection....each core consisting of multi strand copper of filament-like fineness. And actually quite difficult to work with.
12th March 2008, 20:22
Re scratch building materials, just wanted to let you know that I accidentally discovered a source of very fine brass wire . I bought a small brass wired suede shoe brush ( cost £1.50 at a cobblers) with intention of making a wheel cleaner for the model locos. The plastic handle has 16 or so separate 'tufts' of wire on the underside and these can be pulled out easily enough. The individual strands a very fine and very springy....stanchions etc come to mind.
13th March 2008, 19:29
Thanks for info. I do use brass wire from time to time, but not long ago, I was able to purchase a huge 2.5 kilo roll of it on a car boot sale for £2!
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