Ship Modelling

Model Kits

Q: "How can I built a model - the easy way?"

Um, You know ... Sailing Ships are about the most difficult models - if You take the challenge. Yet, for the vast majority of non-"professionals", some simplifications are needed for the business of model kit selling; and here, sailing ships are selling worst of all model types, because they are so difficult =)

Today, people are used to find model kits in a toy shop or at many other places. This is why - and what make the "true" modellers angry - the theme is regarded as bricolage - which is definitely true on most cases :)

"True" modellers reject model kits! They have their reason for this: the "First League" is rightly proud on the fact that they produce everything by themselves, using only plans, which they also searched or drew themselves! Unfortunately, they are the exeption among the modellers...

Maybe it was around 1920 when some smart business men found out that You could make money by selling kits. Before that time, there were only plans to buy. Modelling was predominated by wooden models of hobby craftsmen. Models were built mostly by seamen.

It remained this way until 1950. Then, plastic (made from oil) became available to preproduce parts for any selling goods, and model kits were a new "business idea". Plastic modelling became very popular. A kit assembly of 10-20 parts was very easy, which promoted the toy markets. More advanced kits of course had more parts, the most advanced, made in the 70s and reproduced over and over, have some thousand (e.g. Hellers´ 1:100 ships or Revells´ USS Constitution 1:96).

Well, hidden behind the scenes, the market for plastic kit producers had been quite rough and unstable, Airfix and Heller are still as famous as ever, but it was a hard struggle for them to survive at all. This business is very small, indeed. To produce high quality kits like Hellers´ sailing ships is quite a considerable investment that meets a very small market, even if those kits are searched for by "specialists" like me...

In the last 5 years another type of modelling was invented: virtual modelling using a PC. Everything real or unreal can be "moulded" using a 3D software. Sometimes You may be able to make a pirate movie on Your own.

Beside these nice "games" there is another application of virtual ship models: the marine archeology is actually using this technology, too. The "Titanic" and the "Bismarck" have been digitally rebuilt for documentation. Those digital models have many advantages: they can be as big as can be, but they take zero space (except on a hardware), You can move You virtual camera through it, and they do not get broken! You can clone one digital ship and built a fleet :) And the models can be shared with others just by copying the digital file :)

Most kit producers come from the U.S. - where else. Revell Germany once was a subsediary of Revell America. But there are some producers in Eastern Europe and Asia, too.

The following producers sell(ed) ship model kits. Unfortunately, sailing ships do not have much market success as cars or planes - it should be clear why: those have only a handfull of parts:)

  1. Plastic Kits
  2. Almost all available kits are based on about 70 injection moulding forms which were produced between 1950 and 1970 - worldwide. Then the boom was over, no more new forms were made, the kits were just re-issued and the forms rented, e.g. to Zvezda, a Russian producer.

    Some kits are "clones", that is, they were re-issued under a new name, altering only a few parts. Heller, Minicraft and Revell have used this "trick"...

    The economic situation of most producers is turbulent, diplomatically spoken. Airfix and Heller have just avoided bancruptcy. We can only hope that this may change to something better ...

    1. Academy (South Korea)
    2. Since 1969 mainly airplane kits. But they have some sailing ships, too ...

      1. Cutty Sark 1:350
      2. Roman Galley 1:72
      3. Whaler New Bedford 1:200

    3. Airfix (U.K.) - Classic Ship Series
    4. One of the first kit producers since 1950. Airfix "Classic Ship" series; not all are available ...

      1. Cutty Sark 1869 1:130
      2. Discoverer
      3. Endeavour Bark
      4. Golden Hind 1:72
      5. HMS Bounty 1:87
      6. HMS Prince 1:180
      7. HMS Victory 1765 1:100 (Heller-Licence)
      8. HMS Victory 1765 1:180
      9. Mayflower 1:96
      10. Revenge
      11. Royal Sovereign 1:144
      12. Wasa 1628 1:144

      The highlight on the Airfix-boxes were the box arts, the paintings of the ships. I would like to know who was the artist ...

    5. Heller (France)
    6. Still the Number One producer of very good quality kits!

      1. Alcyon 1:200
      2. Amerigo Vespucci 1:150
      3. Amphitrite 1:200
      4. Atlantic Star 1:440
      5. Belle Etoile 1:250
      6. Belle Poule 1:200
      7. Bireme Imperator 1:?
      8. Brigantine 1:100
      9. Conquistador 1:90
      10. Corona 1:200
      11. Couronne 1:600
      12. Cutty Sarl 1:500
      13. Drakkar Oseberg 1:60
      14. Eagle 1:600
      15. Épervier 1:200
      16. Fauvette 1:150
      17. Galeone 1:200
      18. Galion Espagnol 1:200
      19. Gladiateur 1:200
      20. Glorieux 1:150 (=Le Superbe!)
      21. Golden Hind 1:150
      22. Gorch Fock 1:150
      23. Guillaume le Conquérant (William the Conqueror) 1:60
      24. HMS Victory 1:100
      25. HMS Victory 1:600
      26. Indomptable (=Le Gladiatuer!)
      27. Mataro 1:?
      28. Mayflower 1:150
      29. Navire Viking Reine Mathilde 1:60
      30. Nina 1:75
      31. Occident 1:100
      32. Pamir 1:150
      33. Passat 1:150
      34. Phenix 1:600
      35. Phenix 1:?
      36. Pinta 1:75
      37. Pourquoi-Pas 1:100
      38. Pourquoi-Pas? 1:400
      39. Preussen 1:150
      40. Reale de France 1:75
      41. Royal Louis 1:200
      42. Saint Louis 1:200 (=La Sirène!)
      43. Santa Maria 1:75 / 1:350
      44. Sirène 1:150
      45. Soleil Royal 1:100
      46. Stella 1:200
      47. Superbe 1:150
      48. Superbe 1:500

      Some kits are clones, with only little changes in the details, like the Glorieux/Superbe 1:150. In the clone kits, there are a small number of different parts indeed, but they share most of the same parts - so Heller can sell more different kits. That is now to make business =)

      The highlight on the Heller-boxes were the box arts, the paintings of the ships. I would like to know who was the artist ...

    7. Minicraft (USA)
    8. Minicraft was founded in the 80s. Mainly airplane kits. The ship series is not only small in numbers, but also heavily cloned: the Gorch-Fock-Class (Gorch Fock, Sagres, USCG Eagle and Mircea) and the Elcano-Class (Esmeralda and Elcano) are made using the same moulding form. Very clever ...

      1. Amerigo Vespucci 1:350
      2. Cutty Sark 1:350

      3. Gorch Fock 1:350
      4. Eagle 1:350
      5. Mircea 1:350
      6. Sagres II 1:350

      7. Esmeralda 1:350
      8. Juan S. de Elcano 1:350

    9. Revell (USA/Germany) - Historic Ships
    10. Revell USA was there since 1943(!). Revell germany began in 1956...

      1. Alexander von Humboldt 1:150
      2. Batavia 1:150
      3. CSS Alabama 1:96 (clone of the USS Kearsage?)
      4. Charles W. Morgan 1:?
      5. Cutty Sark 1:140
      6. Cutty Sark 1:220
      7. Cutty Sark 1:350
      8. Cutty Sark 1:96
      9. Eagle 1:232
      10. English Galleon 1:?
      11. English Man O´War 1:? (clone of the Spanish Galleon?)
      12. Flying Cloud 1:222
      13. Golden Hind 1:?
      14. Gorch Fock 1:253
      15. Gorch Fock 1:350
      16. HMS Beagle 1:96
      17. HMS Bounty 1:110
      18. HMS Victory 1:146
      19. HMS Victory 1:222
      20. Mayflower 1:83
      21. Passat 1:250
      22. Pedro Nunes 1:96 (clone of the Cutty Sark!*)
      23. Peter Pan (fantasy ship after Walt Disney; has some similarities with HMS Prince)
      24. Pirate-Ghostship 1:72
      25. SMS Seeadler 1:232
      26. Santa Maria 1:75 / 1:90
      27. Spanish Galeone (clone of the English Galleon!)
      28. Spanish Galeone 1:?
      29. Stag Hound 1:222
      30. Thermopylae 1:96 (second clone of the Cutty Sark!)
      31. Thermopylae 1:?
      32. USS Constitution 1:196
      33. USS Constitution 1:96
      34. USS Kearsage 1:96 (clone of the CSS Alabama?)
      35. USS United States 1:150
      36. Viking Ship 1:100

      * To clone the "Cutty Sark" as "Thermopylae" and "Pedro Nunes" was of course NOT correct with historic respect! The "Cutty Sark" and the "Thermopylae" were two different ships, in fact they both were rivals on the Tea Races to China. The "Thermopylae" was sold to the Portuguese after her Golden Days, to be used as training ship named "Pedro Nunes" ... OK anyway, they were all clippers, so they had many characteristics in common, so the common modeller would even mix them up, and after all, Revell could sell 3 different clipper kits - that is how to make business =)

    11. Trumpeter (China)
    12. They make very BIIIG kits!

      1. Chinese Junk Chengho 1405-1430 1:60
      2. Mayflower 1:60

    13. Zvezda [Звезда] (Russia)
    14. Found in 1990, today the most important Russian producer.

      1. Amerigo Vespucci 1:350
      2. Conquistadores "San Gabriel" 1:100
      3. English Brigantine 1:100 (ex-Heller!)
      4. Greek Trireme 1:72
      5. Hanse Kog 1:72
      6. Karthago Galley 1:72
      7. Crusader Ship 1:72
      8. Nina 1:100
      9. Roman Trireme 1:72
      10. Steamer Sirius 1:100

  3. Wooden Kits
  4. In the "First League" we have many more choices, and the models require much more effort. The hull is no longer just two halves, but made by hundreds of pieces like the real ship. On the other hand, You can find some woodblock models, which You carve out as needed.

    1. Krick (Germany)
    2. Krick (since 1958) has over 100 sailing ship kits to sell.

    3. OcCre [Ocio Creativo] (Spane)
    4. Ca. 20 sailing ship kits.

    5. Steingräber (Germany?)
    6. Ca. 50 sailing ship kits.

    7. Artesania Latina (Spanien)
    8. Since 1970. Ca. 50 sailing ship kits.

  5. Paper Kits
    1. Fly Model (Poland)
      1. Russian Training Ship Kruzensztern 1:100
      2. Training Ship Towarisch 1:100
      3. Training Ship Amerigo Vespucci 1:100
      4. Yacht America 1:100

    P.S. I compiled this list in 2008. Some few updates may be needed, but essentially, the same models are sold over years.

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