A Lost Craft

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 09:45
Years ago, there were a fair number of books on the market describing how to make small model ships, but today, no-one seems interested. For years, I have felt myself to be a lone shipmodel builder of this fascinating type of model. I began building miniatures in the early 1970s when I was still at sea & they were more convenient, but I got hooked on them & after leaving the sea, never went back to large ones. Kits seem to dominate the model-building world these days & I wonder how long it will be before all the old skills are lost. Here are a few of my recent ones - all miniatures & no shop-bought parts in them.
None of these models remain in my posession - I don't take private commissions - it is just a hobby. When they are complete, I just pack them off to a maritime auction house & let them get rid of them. Would like to keep them all really, but the house is not big enough. I am currently working on number 230 since I started counting when I left the sea in late 1992.
Bob

G0SLP
13th October 2008, 10:28
Years ago, there were a fair number of books on the market describing how to make small model ships, but today, no-one seems interested. For years, I have felt myself to be a lone shipmodel builder of this fascinating type of model. I began building miniatures in the early 1970s when I was still at sea & they were more convenient, but I got hooked on them & after leaving the sea, never went back to large ones. Kits seem to dominate the model-building world these days & I wonder how long it will be before all the old skills are lost. Here are a few of my recent ones - all miniatures & no shop-bought parts in them.
None of these models remain in my posession - I don't take private commissions - it is just a hobby. When they are complete, I just pack them off to a maritime auction house & let them get rid of them. Would like to keep them all really, but the house is not big enough. I am currently working on number 230 since I started counting when I left the sea in late 1992.
Bob

Bob, it's sadly not just ship modelling that suffers.

My own 'building' hobby, model railways, is suffering the same fate. Kits and the high quality of ready-to-run models and infrastructure parts now available are in the ascendancy. Add to that the slow but steady decline of suppliers due to retirement of proprietors & the lack of their 'reliefs', as it were, doesn't help.

The modern attitude of the 'instant' society is another factor. No-one, it seems, is prepared to put in the time and effort to create things such as models.

Sad, but there it is.

Best regards,
Mark

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 10:47
Hi Mark,
You are quite right - same in all fields of modelling. I don't have much problem with materials, because I use anything that comes to hand. Lack of competition also helps me when it comes to the sales because the demand for them seems to be insatiable & in the 16 years since I left the sea, everything I have sent to London has sold. I often feel it would be good to exchange notes & ideas with other miniaturists, but I never seem to come across any. It will be interesting to see what effect (if any) the current recession will have on the next sale later this month.
Bob

hasse neren
13th October 2008, 10:54
Bob, your models are looking great, i wish that you have saved your models and a bigger house and made it to a museum of a great and skilled model builder and his art, you!
Thanks for posting this beauties, Hasse.

Doctor Robert
13th October 2008, 11:05
Hello Bob,
as an amateur striving for your kind of perfection, I find your thread makes sad reading. I guess that sheer 'speed of existence' today is to blame. so different from the mindset of a couple of decades back and well beyond the notions of careful handwork. But on a slightly different tack, I can never undrstand the apparent lack of interest in the romantic old world of ships compared with the old world of railways. (sorry Mark!) It must surely be that railways are closer to everyone's experience, and ships more remote - unless of course you sailed in them! Now every TOm Dick and Harriet throng the decks of countless 'Cruise Containers' - but who the hell would ever want to preserve such uglies as models? Just look at your Framlington Court or City of Bombay - what gems!
So envy your skill and patience Bob.
AB.

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 12:36
Thanks for replies. The skill has to be developed over time, but I was very happy with even my first miniatures. As for patience - never had much of that. You may be interested to hear how long it took to build the illustrated models. I time all the work by stopwatch & if I stop for any reason, the watch is stopped. These times are rounded to the nearest hour:
CITY OF BOMBAY 71 hours
PREUSSEN 119 hours
FRAMLINGTON COURT 44 hours
FRANCE 99 hours
So - you can see that they don't take all that long. More interesting is the fact that whatever I condsider to be the best, usually has the lesser interest shown in it (by other modelmakers).
FRAMLINGTON COURT above, that I considered to be just a simple, casual construction has, so far, got the most views, whilst the most magnificent production (in my opinion), the PREUSSEN, has the least views.

Although I build the models & display cases, I leave the painting of the seas to my wife.

Bob

K urgess
13th October 2008, 12:57
In today's world, Bob, at 20 per hour for skilled labour Preussen comes out at 2,380-00 plus materials.
Not really an incentive for your average "youf" to take up the skill, unfortunately, when such prices won't be realised.
Framlington Court comes out at 880.
With the state of today's economy I suppose prices will be depressed so the return could well be less than 5 per hour which is below the minimum wage.
The number of views must be down to us steam and motor ship lovers. Although I love sailing ships give me an old steamer any day. (Thumb)

Cheers
Kris

Ian6
13th October 2008, 13:13
Beautiful models, I admire your skill. When at school I made a couple of ship models from scratch - including HMS 'Pickle', the WW2 minesweeper, not Nelson's messenger - but not to your standard.

On a related theme I wonder what future artists will paint. Sailing ships, although almost extinct these days, still predominate in marine art with the steam (and motor) ships of our memories following. It is hard to imagine a future marine artist rejoicing in a container ship painting (unless the proud owners commissioned it). Or will the next generation see the current floating apartment blocks as graceful? If so I dread to think what is coming next.
Ian

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 14:15
Kris,
Neither PREUSSEN nor FRAMLINGTON COURT went for anything like the amounts you give. The reason for that was that I sold PREUSSEN privately & was given what I was asked for it (I never had the courage to ask for very high sums). FRAMLINGTON COURT went for a fair price via a standard (not marine) auction house in Scotland shortly after Christie's of London (who had sold my models for 15 years) had axed their maritime sales without warning last year. At that time, I was stuck because the EEC Distance Selling Rules that they are now enforcing, would no longer permit me to sell privately via my own website (See Miniature Merchant Ships, below) or Ebay or the internet unless I complied with a whole host of rules that left me, the builder & seller with no rights at all - so I quit! Earlier this year, a new maritime auction (formed by former head of Christie's maritime) opened in London & invited me to submit & the first sale was a monumental success! So I can now carry on.
Actually, at the London sales, I have often come up with profits (after deductions) in the teens of s per hour & on occasion have topped the 20 per hour mark. But I often get one or two disappointing results, the worst case a few years ago bringing me 1/2p per hour profit. Cost of materials is negligible. Highest cost is 1.66 per square foot for display case acrylic & the plasticine for the sea.
The ups & downs make it all more interesting.
I actually build more steam & motor ships than sailing vessels. Just posted two of each to see what reaction was.
Bob

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 14:52
Here are four more - look - no sails!
Bob

BA204259
13th October 2008, 15:06
Bob

Don't suppose you have a photo of one of my old ships that you made a model of some years ago? I refer of course to the old samboat "Samloyal", later to become South American Saint Line's "St Helena"? I know we share a common interest in the name!

K urgess
13th October 2008, 15:46
Trouble is your models always fill me with envy, Bob.
I keep thinking I must have a go at that but I have a list of things as long as your arm of thing I "must have a go at".
Retirement is no holiday. [=P]
You can understand why today's generation don't want to carry on the craft when there are "easier" ways of earning money.
I have been heartened to see the number of young faces interested in stone masonry during various programs about our cathedrals etc. It seems that craft may survive.

Cheers
Kris

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 16:00
Thanks for replies. I am now on the brink of "retirement" myself, having less than 6 months to go to 65. Tax allowances leapt up this morning as it apparently counts during the 65th year & don't have to actually wait for birthday.

ST. HELENA - No sooner said than done - here you are. This was one of my great successes. I only had a little time for the sales deadline, so chose a Liberty for ease of build. It took 39 hours & went for 998 at Christie's, London in 2001.

Bob

K urgess
13th October 2008, 16:15
Nice return on that last one, Bob.
Don't ever try to sell them in East Yorkshire though.
That sort of price is usually reserved for museum quality builder's models of trawlers.

RGascoyne
13th October 2008, 16:16
Bob:
As always, you models are magnificent and one of these days when the markets recovery and I can retire, I must try to emulate at least a portion of your skills. Best wishes from a past shipmate.......RG

BA204259
13th October 2008, 16:28
ST. HELENA - No sooner said than done - here you are. This was one of my great successes. I only had a little time for the sales deadline, so chose a Liberty for ease of build. It took 39 hours & went for 998 at Christie's, London in 2001.

Bob

Thanks Bob, much appreciated. Worth every penny, just wish I had it!!

jerome morris
13th October 2008, 18:49
Bob, Your plight is the same on this side of the pond. Young kid's have no interest in history, especially maritime history.
I've been building models for the past 40 years, and I'm 46.
It breaks my heart when a customer comes in with there kid(s) in tow.
They give a quick look and Ho Hum...can we go now kind of look.
They will probably text message there friends about this guy that plays with little boats! Sad Sad Sad!

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 18:59
Thanks for further replies. I suppose it is the computer that has caused all this & goodness knows where it will end up. I can't imagine not making anything, doesn't really matter what it is. Yesterday I was building a radio, day before that repairing roof slates. I see of the last lot above that I posted, the tanker LOUISIANA has most views. Tankers are not very popular & don't normally go well, but I like to build them occasionally as the pipework makes a change from deck fittings on cargo ships. Other tankers I have built include BRITISH ENDURANCE, SAN ALBERTO, BOSUN BIRD (Ex ESSO DOVER) & GULFBIRD.
Bob

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 20:19
This post has been very interesting to me as I look at the number of views of each model. I see that the ASAMA MARU seems to be the least popular, but of all the ones above, this one is the only one that topped the 1,000 mark at Christie's. I was delighted of course, but I was a bit dismayed to see the model re-appear some time later on an American gallery website valued in excess of $5,000! Such is life!
Today, I have been developing "blue fingers" pressing blue plasticine into a sea base for my current construction & generating heaps of dust smoothing the hull. The "sea" has now been handed over to my wife for painting & finishing. Day off tomorrow - pleasant morning in town visting the twice-weekly giant car boot sale on the market (Preston, Lancs) & doing whatever we feel like in afternoon.
Bob

jerome morris
13th October 2008, 21:28
Bob, Have you written a book on your ship modeling? I know I've seen an article on the tanker Louisiana, possibly in a issue of Model Shipwright?
Love your work!

Shipbuilder
13th October 2008, 22:23
Hi Jerome,
I have written regularly for MODEL SHIPWRIGHT for some years now & LOUSIANA appeared in it some time back. I recently turned down an offer of a contract to write a book on the subject because book writing involves an awful lot of work, with deadlines & lots of hassle etc & usually takes several years to come out anyway. I had a part-autobiography published a couple of years ago by a Scottish publisher. It had been rejected on a regular basis for a number of years by most of the mainstream maritime publishers with the usual excuse "no-one is interested in personal reminiscences about boats these days!" Despite this, it has virtually sold out now. I have never understood why so many maritime publishers keep pumping out books on TITANIC, CUTTY SARK, BOUNTY & VICTORY & then wonder why they don't sell very well - could be that folk are fed up of exhausted subjects. Anyway, although I have no complaints about the publisher of my book, they did a fine job, it has really put me off going through the whole procedure again with a modelmaking book. It is article writing only for me these days, pay is exceptional.
I also stick to obscure & semi-obscure subjects as I find them more interesting & apparently so do collectors.
Bob