In this post, I list some of the best wooden ship model kits that have been released through the years, and narrow them down by experience level.
Some Experience: Some experience with 1 vessel, or a similar model in another discipline (i.e. wooden airplanes, etc.)
Experienced: Successfully built a few vessels.
Highly Experienced: Completely comfortable with wooden ship building. Difficulty is not a factor, and you have the confidence and skill level to take on anything (based on extensive experience).
Before getting to my top picks, I wanted to preface it with 2 things:
1. If you don’t have a ton of experience, then I highly recommend that you get a copy of Frank Mastini’s book called “Ship Modeling Simplified”. It covers everything from choosing the right kit, setting up a workshop, understanding complex instructions, painting, and much more. It will make it a lot easier for you to build a high quality ship model and reduce mistakes throughout the process.
2. Also, if you’re just getting into wooden model ship building, then you should check out Model Ship World, which is the go to forum/resource for model ship builders to exchange tips and advice with each other, share build logs, and more.
With that in mind, let’s get to it!
Caldercraft HM Schooner Ballahoo
Length: 20.5 inches, Height: 12.6 inches
For more photos of Caldercraft’s HM Schooner Ballahoo, check out this photo gallery, which was created by a member from the Model Ship World online forum.
Well designed kit with clear and detailed step by step instructions
This ship is also known as the Fish class, and it was built in Bermuda during the Napoleonic war. Back in the day, shipbuilders in Bermuda were known for making extremely fast vessels (by using strong wood that did not weigh much).
The kit contains (1) four 12 pdr brass cannons, (2) double plank on bulkhead construction, (3) CNC cut walnut cut parts for visible structures and fittings (4) Black, natural hemp meant for rigging
The USS constitution was launched in 1797 by the US Navy. It was named by George Washington and the fittings were put together by Paul Revere. This tall ship was most famously used in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. During the War of 1812, the USS Constitution beat 5 british ships in battle: HMS Guerriere, Pictou, Cyane, Java, and Levant.
One of the USS constitution’s nicknames is “Old Ironsides”, because when cannons hit it during the War of 1812, they bounced off the hull of the ship, and the crew jokingly announced it’s made of iron (even though it was made of strong oak and pine).
A model builder posted some questions (see here) about the HM Brig Supply in Model Ship World, the go-to forum on model ship building. He mentioned that it’s his first build, and raised some solid questions that you may also have down the line if you end up going with this kit.
Experienced (Successfully Built a Few Vessels, Relatively Confident)
Mantua Royal Caroline 1749
Length: 32.5 inches, Height: 24 inches
A modeler posted his build log (see here) in the Model Ship World forum, so you can get a good feel for what this project would entail.
Comprehensive instructions included, 7 sheets of plans.
Double plank on frame construction. Wooden parts are cut impeccably. 5 and 6 mm poplar keel and bulkheads make a strong hull. Photo etched brass and gilded cast metal. High quality fittings.
The Royal Caroline ship was built at Deptford Dockyard and launched in January of 1750. It was used for voyages by several members of the royal family through the years. It was also used in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars for fleet reviews.
A ship modeler generously shared some of his personal experience (see here) when building Caldercraft’s HMS Mars kit, and you may find it useful if you decide to go with this model. This is just another useful resource from the Model Ship World online forum, and if you’re a serious hobbyist, then I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.
Many premium hardwoods and metals included in the kit.
The Russian Brig was an Imperial Russian Navy ship that first launched in May of 1820. It is well remembered in history for being attacked by 2 Turkish ships in 1829 and surviving due to the skills, experience, and heroism of Lieutenant-Commander Alexander Kazarsky.
As I mentioned earlier, the kits below are meant for those who are completely comfortable with wooden ship building, and are looking for a challenge. Modelers at this level should have the confidence to take on anything (based on extensive experience), and difficulty is not a factor.
Click here to read historical info about the HMS Vanguard, which is well known for being the lead ship in the Spanish Armada during the XVII century. When this historic ship went down in 1705, it had several tons of gold aboard.
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