Constructing a model of a ship. By Giulio Porta. October 2008

This is my first model of this genre of models. Because I'm very new at ship building I don't pretend to teach anyone the "correct" way of building the model of a ship or a particular ship for that matter, but at the same time I'm not totally clueless either. I have been looking at boats and ships since I was a kid, I'm quite a rower. Even though I found a number of ship plans on the Internet, I could not find a tutorial that would take you through a step by step comprehensive construction of ship's model. Therefore I have based this exercise on what I have seen, observed, and studied about ships and boats over the years. My cousin Giordano Baroni is an expert model builder, his models won 1st place, twice, at the international maritime model building competition and show in Catania, Sicily.

As far as I understand ship model building, there are two ways you it can be approached: one is the ship yard method, a method very similar to the way traditional wooden ships are built, the other is the kit approach where the model is built out of pieces of plywood cut from stencils and fitted together. For this model I opted for the shipyard method.

This photo represent the semi finished model. as it is on October 2008. Here below is the model's construction history.

The keel

The ship's keel is my starting point, like it is in the construction of most ships. The keel is the ship's back bone.

I have cut the shape of the keel from a discarded piece of 2" x 8" pressure treated southern pine, not the best kind of wood for this project, but that's all I have. I'm relaying on some scraps that have been laying around my back yard.

I'm using a hand saw because I don't have anything else at the moment, I need new blades for both my jig saw and the band saw I have at work. Not the best way of doing this job, but it will work, the hand saw is new and sharp.

It took me about 15' to cut the shape.

This keel is twice a thick as it should be in scale.

Aside from the keel being a bit thick, it also does not follow any specific traditional design.

Keep in mind that I'm not working from plans or templates like all model ship builders do. Why? I don't have any specific plans as yet, but I have look at some plans, as well as at some models that my cousin Giordano Baroni build, therefore I'm not working completely in the dark.

Even though this is not a model of any particular ship, its construction will give me a good idea of the routines that I will have to go through, and what kind of new tool I may need to acquire before I get serious and model a specific ship.
The ribs

I'm proud of my first rib, which was cut out of a board, in a real ship ribs are not made out from one piece of wood.

Ribs sit on the keel, in a sense like human ribs sit on the backbone. I'm still working on the terminology of the ship's components.

In a ship each rib is different from the other, but this difference may vary according to the shape and the design of the ship.

This model will have 11 ribs, but boats can have a as few as 5, a ship may have several dozens. All this is relative to the ship's length and its design.



Because this is my first model, I have taken some liberties, traditional model builders may not agree with the way I'm going about doing things here.


Most of the ribs are in place, I did cut them with a jig saw from pine boards, they are rather beefy.

As far as understand ship, I know that they must be strong, light, and flexible.

I'm also making some braces to be placed in between the ribs, aside from giving lateral support to the ribs, the braces will allow the ship to be divided into vertical compartments.









I've added the braces, and extended the keel, the original keel wasn't the right shape. I am almost ready for the planking, the skin of the ship.

The ship is made out of 3 different kinds of wood, you can see that under artificial light.

July 9, 2008








July 16

One side of the of the ship's planking is finished, this is something I could not do all at once, as the large clamp I'm using gets in the way of the next row. I did use some brads bent so to keep the plank in place until the glue did dry, I'll try to illustrate that when I'll do the other side.

The wood will not be painted, therefore there will be some sanding to do
July 18

Even though the deck is not complete, I couldn't resist in adding the rail.

Speaking of the deck, I want to be able to look down into the ship's bowel at the same time I need a better definition for deck's areas to walk from stern to bow.

The rail is made from straight pieces of wood that once glued on their vertical posts they were sculpted into a curve. For the "sculpting" I use riffle files.

The rail looks somewhat beefy, but its shape will be much thinner once I'm done with sculpting.
Every piece is glued together I use brad nails to keep the wood in place until the glue dries.

I'm almost finished with the boarding, it was more difficult than what I expected. I need to plan my next model differently, the shape of the ribs is key to a better hull.

July 24

The overall shape is good, I'm pleased with it, but I did have gaps in between the boards which I had to patch, I used glue and sawdust for the patching.

The glue and sawdust mixture is pressed into the spacing in between boards, later the excess will be filed off with a rasp and riffle files, that does make a lot of saw dust that I could use as fertilizer or in later projects.

The bulk of this project is almost complete. But complete is a relative term, there are a lot of small details that need to be addressed.

The type of sail rigging that I have adopted can be referred to as Latin Sail, a type of sail rigging that was common in Mediterranean boats.

The sail itself is not in place as yet, that will be made out of canvas. What you see here is just the giant boom or spar and the pulleys which moves it up and down.

This is all for now, I'll keep you posted concerning this model's future developments........soon.