For anyone considering buying a model from Seacraft Gallery, we know it’s important to understand how we build a model. To help make sure you know what you are buying, we’ve put together a list of the preparations that we undertake when building any model we produce. So, how do we go about building our models?

Getting started

To start with, we work with our team to get the wood and timbers needed seasoned and then kiln-dried. This helps us make sure that all woods we use are of the correct standard, with only premium natural woods grown from tropical countries used throughout. We also go through an in-depth research of the ship itself, making sure we have all the information we need. From size, specifications, and photos for referencing to the shape and profile, we go through every phase of the ship building process. Once we get through this vital phase, we’ll start building the keel, the bulkheads and the gunwales. This is vital to help ensure we get the perfect shape and structure to the ship itself.

Building the hull

Now that we have a solid starting point, we make sure that all planks are cut and bent to the ideal shape. This is done to match the shape of the hull, with the planks then glued to the bulkhead with precision. The hull of the ship is a mixture of various strips of wood glued together. We follow the same kind of planking process used when building real-life ships. Once this is done, we carry out a detailed and thorough glue and epoxy process, pouring this evenly into the inside of the ship hull. We use the best wood glue so that it’s built to be last, free from splitting and other forms of damage. Then, we sand the hull down repeatedly, so it retains a fully smooth and finished surface. This is a time-consuming process, and arguably the most time-intensive part of our journey. However, it’s the path we need to take to help produce the best results time after time! We then laser-cut the desk to ensure it imitates the deck of a real-life ship. Once we do this, we start putting in place vital building details. For example, the ship stern section – including the admiral cabin and chart house – will be included. We’ll also include the bow section, which always has the beak-head, the bow spirit {bowsprit}, and the bow spirit yard.

Taking the next step

At this phase, we’ll then start going through various building sections. For example, all gun holes are now drilled into the side of the ship. The hull is then painted with several coats of clear and/or solid colour for the right finish. Once we complete this phase, we’ll go through the process of decking, including deck details such as lanterns, boat davits, ship wheels, life boats, staircases, and skylights. It’s these little features that help to breathe so much life and realism into our projects. We’ll also put up the crow’s nest and the yard arms. We then go through the thorough and time-consuming process of rigging. Usually, this is also a large investment of our time. It can take a few days to complete to the standard that we feel is most suitable. This means that you can then add in the sails; sails which are hand-stitched and seasoned to make it look lifelike and realistic.

Completing the project

Once we finish this side of the project, we’ll move onto the vital finishing touches. From finishing up with some brass sculptures and ornaments to ensuring the ship is historically accurate, we’ll carry out every phase with the utmost precision and care. Once we’ve completed these key parts, we can prepare the sip to be sent out to you in our bespoke and secured packaging. This is the essential step, as it’s the difference between arriving to you in fine condition or in a thousand pieces. We take the time to make sure it’s tied up into a sturdy, secure wooden crate. It’s then picked inside a heavy duty carton box, complete with cushioning for total protection. You’ll also receive a full history of your ship on arrival so that you can read all about the vessel you’ve just acquired!

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There’s a lot to love about a well-crafted, well finished model ship. The art, the history, the craft – all of these elements, when done right, combine to give you a statement piece that will look incredible no matter where you display it. But what ship should you build? And where do you begin? Read on for part one of our beginner tips on how to build model ships!

Choosing your model ship

Before you set sail on your ship building journey, there are a few factors to consider when choosing your vessel:

  • Difficulty level – Truth be told, model ships are on the harder end of the scale model difficulty scale. Take into account your own experience, and review the ship you’re looking to build. If you are willing to learn, starting with a smaller, less detailed ship can be a great way to hone your craft before building something trickier.
  • Scale and size – Larger ships often have more detail, and give you a more accurate representation of the real ship, whereas smaller scales can generally be built more easily and displayed in more places. Before you build, you will also need to ensure you have the bench space for your finished model.
  • Instructions – While scratch building a model ship is achievable and commendable, if you’re new to this type of model you’ll need a detailed set of instructions for each stage of the process. Check these before you start, and get a feel for the project as a whole.

Tools for model ship building

Every great ship builder uses a variety of tools for their craft, and model ship building is no different. Here are some of the most common tools you’ll need for your ship building project:

  • Hobby knife with spare blades
  • Pliers
  • Needle files
  • Ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Sandpaper and/or sanding blocks
  • Hammer
  • Mitre box
  • Pin vice
  • Plane
  • Plank bender
  • Planking screws

Now that you’ve chosen your scale model ship, it’s time for the fun to begin. Below are a few of the key steps needed to build model ships.

Reviewing your model pieces

This should go without saying, but it’s important when starting any model building project to check that you have everything you should have. Lay out the pieces, and check they match what is listed in your build instructions. Now’s a great time to also confirm the tools you are going to need moving forward.

Building your model ship frame

Start by building the ship’s frame, as this will give you the body of your model. From this body, you can add all the other major components to bring your model ship to life. Here are some quick tips for building a scale model ship frame:

  • Insert your bulkhead frames into your keel – the long piece which runs the length of your model ship. The keel will have slots where you can insert the bulkheads.
  • Check that everything is firmly in place before applying glue.
  • Use sandpaper or sanding blocks to level off any parts that are out of alignment with the other pieces.

Image of ModelSpace 1:70 scale Soleil Royal model, as part of a blog about how to build scale model ships.

Levelling your model ship’s bulkheads

Before laying down any planks, you need to ensure that they will lay straight and even across each of the bulkheads. Here are a few key steps to check that your model ship bulkheads are level:

  • Lay your first plank across the bulkheads to check the bevel.
  • Take note of any spaces between the plank and bulkheads.
  • File or sand down any problem bulkheads so that the first plank lays flat and even across all of them. You want them to have full, thick contact, not just a thin edge.
  • Check each side of your bulkheads.
  • If you file or sand down any bulkhead too far, you can add thin wood pieces to remedy this later.
  • Recheck before proceeding – this is one of the most important steps in building a satisfactory scale model ship.

Adding your model ship’s first planks

Now that your bulkheads are aligned and you have checked that the planks will lay flat, you can start adding them to the frame. By the end of this step you will have the hull, and a better feel for how your model ship will look. Here are some tips for laying model ship planks correctly:

  • Following the provided instructions, take extra time placing and affixing your first plank. This will help you determine the placement of each plank that follows.
  • Place your planks in pairs, as this will help keep them level and aligned evenly.
  • For additional flexibility, you can soak your planks in water before placement.
  • Remember that your planks will run the full length of the model ship, fore to aft.

Image of ModelSpace 1:84 scale HMS Victory model, as part of a blog about how to build scale model ships. Thus concludes part one of our guide for how to build model ships. By now you should have gotten a good feel for the build, the pieces, the overall instructions, and a first glimpse at how it will all come together. If you’re ready to keep building, check out part two now!

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