Profile Photo
Boris Rakic
72 articles

Should You Build a Boat?

June 25, 2017 · in Ships · · 15 Comments

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 , 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 , 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 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.

15 responses

  1. What a post! Informative, helpful, and motivational. All topped off with a beautiful build. If you have the time it'd be great to hear how you made the water - I'm particularly impressed by the swell, which adds a lot to the realism.
    Great build - thanks for sharing, Boris.

  2. Beautiful build and motivating narrative; great base. Thank you for the article.

  3. Excellent!
    Great build, great paint- and rigging job.
    Great so see another ship builder. We aren't too many.
    Great seascape too. You obviously know something about waves and how they behave around ships that are underway.
    Please post some more of your ships here.

  4. Everybody already said what I was gonna say (and ask). So there! 🙂

  5. Yes, please post your other ship builds!

  6. Thank you guys! David, I'm thinking about writing an article on how I made the seascape. Might take a while as I would have to clear the bench first. Let me know if you guys would be interested in a tutorial-ish article.
    Ulf, I hear you, buddy! Although I got the impression that ship building became more popular lately. Who knows, maybe it is the next big thing 🙂
    Anyway, I will try to post the odd ship over the next couple of weeks. Thanks again!

  7. Boris, I'd love you to post a tutorial on this. I think your interpretation of depth and form is far better than what I've seen on YouTube; the swell, colouring, and general texture are as real as I have seen.
    I'm currently working on a double hellcat diorama (I, too, am struggling with figures but sticking with it). My next build is a ship and I'm hoping to start my first article next weekend, so a lesson would be timely.

  8. Boris you have really captured the mood on this one,the sea looks so real and the build,a great master at work,thanks for sharing

  9. Where can I sign-up for the seascape tutorial?

  10. Boris, nice work and a wonderful write up. I don't do ships but I do enjoy good models, and this is nice, Well done !

  11. Yes, build a ship.

  12. That seascape is wonderful. The model's not too bad either!

  13. Absolutely stunning! The model is impressive by itself, but combined with the seascape we have something special.

  14. Profile Photo
    said on June 26, 2017

    Great work on both ship and seascape. Great article altogether thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply