Should You Build a Boat?
I am fascinated by ships. Maybe it's because I was born by the seaside, but their size, the smell of paint and fuel, and that peculiar mixture of purposefulness and elegance always did the trick for me. Real ships, that is. Ship models? Not so much. That is, until fairly recently.
Part of that lack of fascination can be attributed to small size of the average ship model, I guess. Having spent almost 30 years building 1/35 tanks and vehicles, I just couldn't see how something one tenth this size could possibly be interesting to work with, let alone look at. How wrong I was...
About two years ago I was in the middle of building Roden’s 48th scale OV-1D Mohawk. I had detailed, painted and weathered the cockpit, assembled all the major components, and was now stuck fixing some rather unpleasant seam issues. Ok, that had happened before, and usually I would start doing research for the next build, or actually start construction, to get some variety into my routine. But this time, it was different. Looking through my stash of unbuilt aircraft kits, there was not a single one the jumped at me - at that very moment all I could see was a repetition of wing root filling, sanding joints on drop tanks, and masking canopies. It was time for something entirely different!
Pick your Poison
I decided to revisit my stance towards ship modelling, simply by trying it out. What an unusual approach… When picking my first subject, I had a couple of things in mind:
• Just in case I happened to enjoy it, it had to be in a scale that offers a range of subjects, as I am not a fan of mixing scales within a collection.
• 1/700 doesn't cut it for me.
• Haze Gray and Underway - needed to be US Navy, complementing my collection of US military hardware.
• Something small and manageable for starters. I didn't want to shell out big money in case I couldn't pull it off.
• Interesting, busy appearance - so maybe nothing too slick and modern.
• Something I know a fair bit of history about. WWII Pacific Theater that is.
After a bit of looking around I settled on Trumpeter's USS England in 1/350th scale, a good kit for beginners, as it turned out. It is fairly small, has a low parts count, is reasonably well detailed and leaves enough room for improvements if one wishes to. I decided to keep it simple, just adding some PE railing and elastic rigging material.
I immediately fell in love with the experience. I made a couple of mistakes, sure, but for the first time in quite a while I felt I learnt something new. Researching the names and functions of all the small bits and bobs, working with the rigging material, and trying to come up with a process to weather stuff in small scale gave me lots of satisfaction. So much, in fact, that I ordered the next kit even before the first one was finished.
At the same time I started to discover the wealth of aftermarket available for ship models. PE parts from the likes of Gold Medal Models, Resin pieces so ridiculously small and well detailed I could not believe it, ship plans to download… it was somewhat of a new world for me.
Cool story, bro. But what’s in it for me?
Well, for starters building ships put a couple of things into perspective for me. The sheer delicacy of details forced me to rethink things like speed of building and sub-assemblies. I feel that I became far more secure and efficient with certain aspects of a build, no matter if it is armour or planes. Ship building introduced a level of precision into my work I hardly would have developed otherwise.
But most importantly, the whole journey was an exercise in leaving comfort zones. Airbrushing tiny details free-handed, working with lots of PE, and scratch building whole structures gave me a sense of “I can do it”. I guess it simply took away some of the fears we encounter in our modelling.
Case in point (and finally! The topic of this rambling! Yay!): Building a seascape. I read about various techniques, admired other people’s work, and thought I could never pull it off. Until I simply went and bought some Styrofoam, acrylic paint and gloss medium, pillaged the wife’s cotton supplies, and got to work.
So there you go: My seventh finished ship model, Dragon’s 1/350 USS Chevalier. I used the Eduard PE set, some PE from the spares box, and a couple of scratch-built items. Painted with Lifecolor Acrylics, weathered with oils and Mig panel line washes.
What’s the answer? We need to know!
So, should you build a boat? I guess it depends. If you cannot be bothered with anything floaty, maybe not. If your stash has already reached epic proportions, you might want to hold off for a bit.
But if you have been tinkering with the idea for some time and just were not sure, go for it. Chances are you won’t regret it.
1 additional image. Click to enlarge.