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Best sailing ship kits?

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  • Member since
    November, 2005
Best sailing ship kits?
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, February 27, 2006 11:01 AM
My experience with sailing ships has so far been limited to Revell and Revell AG.

I love building them but I go crazy with parts that won't fit (pins too fat,slots too narrow), missing holes, mis-labeled part numbers, instructions out of sequence,etc.etc.etc.

Are there any manufacturers out there which make better quality kits? I'm willing to pay more if necessary.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, February 27, 2006 12:02 PM

We've discussed this problem several times in the Forum.  If you scroll down the posts for two or three months you'll find references to lots of specific kits - and complaints about warped and/or ill-fitting parts come up pretty frequently.

Part of the problem, I think, is that so many of the sailing ship kits currently on the market are so old.  Revell used to be the almost-undisputed leader in that phase of the hobby; the U.S. branch of the company hasn't released a genuinely new sailing ship kit since 1973.  (That's more than half the company's life.  Revell has been out of the sailing ship business longer than it was in it.)  The most recent Airfix sailing ships date from the very early eighties, and I believe (though I might be mistaken about this) the last new Heller sailing ship was H.M.S. Victory, which was released in about 1978.  The sailing ship line from Lindberg consists entirely of reissues.  A few of them appeared originally under the Lindberg label in the sixties, but most are old Pyro kits from the early fifties.  And so it goes.  Many of the problems with poorly-fitting and warped parts probably stem from the age of the molds - and the fact that the manufacturers take so little interest in them.

Back in the seventies a Japanese company called Imai made a small range of sailing ship kits that were really nice.  In conjunction with the hoopla over the 1976 "Tall Ships" race, Imai made a series of waterline sail training ships on 1/350 scale.  They were simple kits, but generally well designed and reasonably accurate.  Shortly thereafter Imai started releasing bigger sailing ship kits.  They were on quite a few different scales, but generally between eighteen and thirty inches long.  The range included the U.S.S. Susquehanna, the French auxiliary steam-powered ship of the line Napoleon,  reconstructions of the Golden Hind and Santa Maria, the U.S.C.G.C. Eagle, the Cutty Sark, two enormous Japanese sail training ships, and several others that I've forgotten.  If I had to give the title "best" to a range of sailing ship kits, this probably would be it.  They were intended for relatively inexperienced modelers, but combined high-quality moldings, good fit, and better-than-reasonable accuracy.  (Any plastic sailing ship kit is bound to have some weaknesses in that regard.  Such things as blocks, deadeyes, and upper yards and masts just don't lend themselves to reproduction by injection molding.  But Imai always approached those problems intelligently, and did a pretty good job of solving them.)  I've said more than once in this Forum that the Imai 1/125 Cutty Sark is the most accurate rendition of that ship in kit form, plastic, wood, or otherwise.  I can't recall that anybody's disagreed with me on that point.

Imai, unfortunately, went out of business about twenty years ago.  Some (probably most, actually) of the Imai sailing ships have reappeared over the years under the labels of other manufacturers.  Most of the 1/350 sail training ships are currently in the Academy catalog, and Aoshima recently has reissued the Cutty Sark, Napoleon, Susquehanna, and the Japanese training ships.  (Some of the others may be available in Aoshima boxes too.)  Unfortunately the Aoshima prices are pretty staggering.  And I haven't seen the inside of any of  the Aoshima boxes.  The old Imai kits were notable for, among other things, their unusually thick, precisely-formed and beautifully fitting hull halves.  Whether Aoshima has duplicated that technology I don't know.

Plastic sailing ship modelers (all 25 or 30 of us) are watching with great interest the behavior of the Russian manufacturer Zvezda.  Most of its ship models so far have been re-releases of old Heller kits, but a month or two ago Zvezda released a 1/72 scale medieval cog.  That one really excited me - first, because the appearance of any new plastic sailing ship kit is a rare event, and second, because a cog is such a fine project for newcomers to the hobby.  I haven't seen the Zvezda cog in the flesh yet, but a couple of Forum members have reported that it's an excellent kit.

I'm afraid this is a pretty depressing post.  There are a fair number of good kits out there.  The very best of the Revell, Airfix, and Heller ranges are outstanding products.  But that problem of aging molds does seem to be a real one. 

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
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  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Monday, February 27, 2006 2:55 PM
 jim miller wrote:
My experience with sailing ships has so far been limited to Revell and Revell AG.

I love building them but I go crazy with parts that won't fit (pins too fat,slots too narrow), missing holes, mis-labeled part numbers, instructions out of sequence,etc.etc.etc.

Are there any manufacturers out there which make better quality kits? I'm willing to pay more if necessary.



I have built a model from just about all the plastic manufactures, and I cannot say that one is "better" in quality over the other for sailing ships.  This subject is a small one, and many of the molds are getting past their prime, so for fit, they all need some mechanical ability, thought, and patience to build.  The same goes with mis-labled part numbers and illedgible instructions.  Many of these kits have changed owners several times, many of the owners were from different countries and re-wrote their instructions in native languages and made / added parts to the kits and modified the molds, hence why part numbers and instructions do not always match.



                              

  • Member since
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  • From: istanbul/Turkey
Posted by kapudan_emir_effendi on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 9:12 AM
Apart from1/96 and 1/100 ships of Revell and Heller already mentioned by Prof. Tilley, I think Revell's box scale sailers are all very well done, mostly accurate (I speak only of "original" ships, not the horribly inaccurate ones made by cosmetic changes on first edition hulls. Best example is the HMS Beagle). Heller's 1/150 scale ships are almost all perfect along with their small brittany fishing boats and 1/200 La Belle Poule frigate.
Don't surrender the ship !
MJH
  • Member since
    April, 2005
  • From: Melbourne, Australia
Posted by MJH on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 4:19 PM
I will, of course, back jtilley's remarks about IMAI to the hilt - definitely the best in my view.  It's still surprisingly easy to obtain the range through eBay, especially the Santa Maria, Greek Warship, Roman Warship, Chinese Junk, Galeass and Nippon Maru (I'm talking about the large versions here).  Things like the Susquehanna and Cutty Sark are somewhat rarer, and the former is in big demand.  I found the Aoshima prices were not as bad as first feared but availability is more problemmatical.

My experience with Revell was similar to Jim's, they're a bit cavalier about the basics at times.  Heller, I have sworn off altogether after the twisted and distorted mess I found in several boxes, a ship, a car and a helicopter.  It seems to me they make the parts too thin and possibly remove them from the moulds while still not fully set.

Michael

!

  • Member since
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  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 5:02 PM
The problems you just described about Heller kits are what I found with the latest releases I bought from Revell and Airfix as well.  The last 1/96 Constitution I bought was almost like a vaccum form kit.  The flash was so thick I would have had to cut out most of the parts.  The same with an Airfix Wasa I had.  Needless to say, I sent them back and bought older releases second hand.

I have a lot of old Heller kits, and although the spars are thin, they are nicely modled kits, but a new release of the Santa Maria I obtained at a hobby shop was really poor with flash and sink holes.

Like I said earlier, we are plagued with really old, well used molds which are ancient compared with molds used in airplane, car, and armor kits.

Scott

                              

MJH
  • Member since
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  • From: Melbourne, Australia
Posted by MJH on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 8:58 PM
Remember that Airfix kits are now produced at the Heller facility - 'nuff said!

!

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Posted by Gerarddm on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 11:00 PM
For real accuracy you have to go wood. Model Shipways, Mantua, etc.
Gerard> WA State Current: 1/700 What-If Railgun Battlecruiser 1/700 Admiralty COURAGEOUS battlecruiser
  • Member since
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  • From: Nashotah, WI
Posted by Glamdring on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 11:14 PM

 scottrc wrote:

Like I said earlier, we are plagued with really old, well used molds which are ancient compared with molds used in airplane, car, and armor kits.

 

That must mean we are the best of the best when it comes to modeling!  Big Smile [:D]

Robert And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Badge of Fame and/or Shame

  • Member since
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  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 8:52 AM
 Glamdring wrote:

 scottrc wrote:

Like I said earlier, we are plagued with really old, well used molds which are ancient compared with molds used in airplane, car, and armor kits.

 

That must mean we are the best of the best when it comes to modeling!  Big Smile [:D]



Aw shucks, we are just patient and are eager for challengeSmile [:)]


                              

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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 10:01 AM

I concur with all the above posts - with one partial exception.  I can't agree that wood sailing ship kits are categorically more accurate than plastic ones.

I've been a fan of Model Shipways for about forty years; that company has made some first-class products during that time.  Recent changes of ownership have changed the character of Model Shipways products somewhat, but they're still pretty good.  I have reservations about the design of several of them, but they all have the potential to be made into serious scale models.  I'm also enthusiastic about a couple of other wood kit companies, Bluejacket in the U.S. and Calder (aka Jotika) in England.  And the recent rebirth of the grand old American company A.J. Fisher is great news.

The problem is that so much of the wood ship kit market is dominated by firms located in continental Europe - the ones that make plank-on-bulkhead kits with elaborate ornamentation.  I think it's safe to say that serious scale ship modelers in general have an extremely low opinion of companies like Corel, Artesania Latina, Mantua, Mamoli, etc.  Their kits do vary in quality quite a bit, but in general they're characterized by dubious (or non-existent) research, lousy plans, inferior materials, out-of-scale fittings, and irrational construction methods.  The models they produce do not, unless modified almost beyond recognition, meet any reasonable definition of the term "scale model."  In fact I've wondered more than once whether the people running those companies know what a scale ship model is.

I've ranted about this subject elsewhere in the Forum, and I suspect the membership his tired of hearing my views on it.  If my opinions seem harsh, though, here's a link to an article that goes further:  http://www.naut-res-guild.org/piracy2.htm

Dr. McDonald wrote that piece more than twenty years ago, but his comments, unfortunately, are just as valid today.  (One small exception:  the kits he identifies as Sergal are now sold under the Mantua label.)

An excellent example of what he and I are talking about is the huge number of H.M.S. Victory kits on the market.  Just about every one of those continental p-o-b companies makes one; they cost hundreds of dollars, and are promoted as being "precise replicas" of the real ship.  But none of them makes any attempt to reproduce the pattern of the hull planking correctly.  The Heller and Revell plastic Victory kits do.  (I'm not sure about the 1/72 one from Calder - which by all accounts is a superb kit.)  I'm reliably informed that one of those continental Victory kits doesn't even have a steering wheel.

There's no question that some wood kits are more accurate replicas of sailing vessels than some plastic kits.  I'll go further than that:  most of the plastic sailing ship kits on the market, in terms of scale fidelity, are junk.  But most of the wood sailing ship kits on the market are worse.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

MJH
  • Member since
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  • From: Melbourne, Australia
Posted by MJH on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 7:17 PM
That's a pretty damning condemnation of the industry.  I don't have the experience to comment authoritatively but I don't doubt it's true for a moment.

Why is that?  OK, some ships don't exist any more, such as Santa Maria, and the kits can only be based on what information is available or conjectured and that, to me, is acceptable.  But that doesn't explain the Victory kits, to take the most obvious example - the actual ship is sitting there, it can be walked through, measured, photographed, studied.   Cutty Sark, ditto.

Perhaps they just don't care.

!

  • Member since
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 10:17 PM

MJH's mention of the Cutty Sark reminds me of an amusing experience I had in a hobby shop in about 1978.  I had just bought the Imai Cutty Sark, and was oohing and aahing over the quality of it.  The shop proprietor said, "well, if you're interested in the Cutty Sark, wait till you see this."  He reached under the counter and, with a great flourish, produced a set of cast-metal trailboards, complete with "carved" detail, that had been made by one of those Italian companies.  They were out of proportion, the "carvings" only vaguely resembled the real thing, and they had what I can only describe as a generally chunky appearance utterly at odds with the ship's character.  The price - for just the trailboards - was in the neighborhood of $20.00 (1978 dollars, that is).  I offered the opinion that the trailboards in the Imai plastic kit looked far more realistic - and, for that matter, so did the ones in the Revell kit.  The hobby shop owner and several customers looked at me as though I'd come from some other planet.

The interesting thing about this conversation was the venue.  It took place at Maritime Models of Greenwich.  Everybody present had walked past the real Cutty Sark in order to get there.

I don't think there's any simple explanation for why those companies get away with what they're doing - and have been doing for several decades.  Apparently there's a considerable market for "ship models" that, as Charlie McDonald put it in his article, have that elaborate, cute, antique-ish look (or whatever it is), whether they bear any resemblance to real ships or not.  I suspect that the people running the companies indeed don't care.  (Why should they?  People are buying the things.)  And it's pretty obvious that they also don't know.

All one has to do is read the descriptions of some of those kits on the Model Expo website to see that the people responsible have no idea what they're talking about.  I particularly like the one that's described as "Ben Franklin's Privateer!"  A paragraph of impressive-sounding prose explains that Benjamin Franklin bought this ship in 1795, while he was serving as American minister to France, and commissioned her as a privateer against the British during the Wars of the French Revolution.  Nice story - except that Franklin returned to the U.S. in 1785 and died in 1790, long before Britain and France went to war. 

To each his (or her) own; if people want to spend their money and time buying and building those ... things ... it's not for me to argue.  What bothers me more than anything else about the situation, though, is that - as anybody who's ever worked in a hobby shop can tell you - those continental p-o-b kits drive far more people out of the hobby than they bring into it.  Anybody who sells such kits knows that the vast majority of them never get finished.  (Admittedly the vast of model kits in general never get finished - but continental European sailing ships are the worst offenders by far.)  Most of the innocent souls who buy them are beginners, and the poor materials, awful plans, and shoddy construction methods defeat them.  A person who's shelled out several hundred dollars for the privilege of having an experience like that is highly unlikely to become a repeat customer.

I probably should emphasize again that generalities are always unfair - and I certainly don't pretend to have looked at every kit produced by any of those companies.  But when people ask me for suggestions on how to get into ship modeling, I always say:  if your primary interest is in historical accuracy, get a good plastic kit.  (Preferably a small ship on a large scale - though at the moment few plastic kits meet those criteria.)  If your primary interest lies in working with wood, buy something from either Calder (if you can afford it), Model Shipways, A.J. Fisher, or Bluejacket.  But stay away from those continental companies.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

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Posted by Gerarddm on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 10:30 PM
Well, yes... I shouldn't have mentioned Mantua, sorry. Mamoli, maybe ( I have been working on and off on their Puritan America's Cup Defender and it seems pretty good). Calder, definitely. Model Shipways, still, aside from abortions like that Ben Franklin Privateer. But you can go to the bank on anything touched by Lankford, Ronnenberg, etc.
Gerard> WA State Current: 1/700 What-If Railgun Battlecruiser 1/700 Admiralty COURAGEOUS battlecruiser
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 11:10 PM

I need to make a clarification.  Model Expo owns Model Shipways (or maybe it's the other way around), but Model Expo also sells the products of several other companies.  That "Ben Franklin Privateer" is not a Model Shipways kit; it's made by Mamoli.  Here's the link: 

http://www.modelexpoonline.com

Under "Featured Kit Manufacturers," click on "C. Mamoli," than on "Black Prince."

Mamoli, in addition to not bothering to look up the lifespan of Ben Franklin, apparently doesn't know when the American Revolution took place.  The description doesn't look quite as silly if we replace "1795" with "1779."  Here's a footnote from Nathan Miller's history of the American Revolution at sea, Sea of Glory (p. 368):  "[Benjamin Franklin] quietly commissioned three small cutters - the Black Prince, Black Princess, and Fearnot - as privateers and gave them the mission of capturing British seamen to be exhanged for hapless Americans held in Forton and Old Mill Prisons.  The cutters were active for about a year, from mid-1779 to mid-1780 - and captured 114 enemy vessels...."  So a vessel named Black Prince was in fact associated with Ben Franklin.  I haven't done any research on the subject (it's told in detail in the book Ben Franklin's Privateers, by William Bell Clark), but I question whether that Mamoli kit bears any resemblance to the real vessel.  The kit looks like an early-nineteenth-century Baltimore clipper-schooner, not an eighteenth-century cutter.

Early in this thread Kapudan referred to one of the most disreputable stunts ever perpetrated by a plastic kit manufacturer:  Revell's alleged H.M.S. Beagle.  It's nothing more or less than a slightly-modified reissue of the same company's H.M.S. Bounty.  (In reality those two ships resembled each other only in that each of them had a hull, a deck, and three masts.)  The Mamoli catalog also contains an H.M.S. Beagle - and it's ludicrously obvious that it's a copy of the Revell kit.  Mamoli's "research" consisted of buying a Revell "Beagle" and copying it.  (There's just no way that two manufacturers could think up such a scam independently.)  The only question is:  did the people at Mamoli know how little resemblance the Revell kit bore to the real Beagle?  Maybe not.

The Bounty and the Beagle existed about 40 years apart.  I find myself wondering:  what would happen if a model airplane company modified a few pieces of its B-17 kit and sold it as a B-47?  (Hey, man - they're both airplanes, they're both bombers, they're both American, and most folks won't know the difference.)

I'm not in a position to condemn all Mamoli products.  I'm sure they vary greatly in quality, as all manufacturers' do.  The Puritan may be fine; the picture of it on the Model Expo site certainly looks better than either the privateer or the "Beagle."  And I agree completely about the kits designed by Erik Ronnberg and Ben Lankford - two of the very best.  Mr. Lankford's book, How To Build First-Rate Ship Models From Kits, is a fine introduction to the hobby.  It's especially interesting to see how he deals with the issue of continental p-o-b kits - in a book published and distributed by Model Expo.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
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  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Friday, March 03, 2006 8:49 AM

Not to get off the subject, but we are bringing up some really interesting discussion about the marketing concept of model sailing ships.

Selling period ships to the public is a lot like reporting the news.  We can either tell the facts, dates, and exact details of what had happened, which to the general public, would cause them to turn the channel to something more exciting than watching paint dry, or we can put some "fluff" into the subject to get the "wow" factor which I like to call the Bikini Clad Weather Girl approach.

For a global model manufacture to make money selling sailing ship kits, they have to appeal to the general audience.  Hence why I think many of the wooden and plastic manufacturers do this approach with their nicely organized, well detailed boxes and creative descriptions about ships that end up to resemble that of a Hollywood pirate movie than the real subject.

Why is that?  Well, many of us were brought up in a society of glamour and glitz, and lets face it, how exciting is it for an average person, yes, us ship modelers are above the average person, to see a model of a 17th century British Barque or Brig, in their dull natural wood and weather canvas attire vs. a 14th century Spanish Galleon with about two tons of gold gild on it and sails that are six time too large and have brightly painted pictures of crosses, dragons, and birds?

I had a personal experience with this issue of the model equivalent of "History vs. Hollywood".  I was invited to exhibit in a show some years ago where I displayed three models that I had done.  One was my first accurate attempt with the 1/96 Constitution, another was the Cuttysark built to as accurate as I could portray in my youthfulness, and the third one was the Revell Spanish Galleon, a poster child model that I think was the base for what the European model manufactures base many of their current subjects off of, which was painted bright gold, fire red, had gold running rigging, silk sails, hand painted shields, crests, and a large eagle in the Mainsail, and was adorned with more costume jewelry and golden gild than an Elvis Impersonator.

To the modelers, my Constitution and Cuttysark got praise, both constructive and destructive criticism, and acceptance where as the Galleon was almost laughed out of the exhibit.  However, part of the exhibit featured a viewer’s vote, where visitors would drop pennies into a box in front each entry of the exhibit.  To all of our shock, the "Golden Goose" as we called it,  won by a shocking margin.  The general public was impressed by fiction rather than by reality.

The Phoenix in my signature was done with far more artistic license then for historical accuracy.  I found that during the years that I was building to sell, people didn't care if I spent two years researching and a thousand dollars on research materials to get the color of the gun carriages as historical accurate as possible, they just wanted to see a "sailing ship" that reminded them of the one they saw on the cinema screen during the Saturday Matinee.  They didn't want a dull colored ochre and red ornamental piece; they wanted hulls of bronze mixed with iridescent blues and greens.

 The colors, shape of the hull, and material of the sails might not be accurate, but one thing I am very picky about is my craftsmanship and accuracy of the rig.  This is where I feel a sailing ship would either look like a cheap whore or a thousand dollar call girl.  And this analogy holds some truth in the difference between some plastic and wood kits verses other plastic and wood kits.

Some Revell, Airfix, Heller, Corell, Model Shipways, and all the others we have mentioned and know about wear Grey wool sweaters and are great kits for the purist, but some look pretty good in a bikini too.

 Scott





                              

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  • From: San Diego
Posted by jgonzales on Friday, March 03, 2006 11:04 AM

Scott,

Thanks for the post. As modelers, we grow each time we build, we learn a new trick, a new technique, and we gain an ever-increasing appreciation of the beauty of our subject and our craft. I would be thrilled to see a great model of a brig. We carry our growth on to the next project; we build better models as we grow.I love squinting my eyes and looking down the spar deck of the model I just built and comparing in my mind's eye what the real thing might have looked like from this view with what I have just built. I'm sure that most any modeler of any subject has similar experience.

Most non-modelers cannot have the same sort of appreciation that modelers do, because they do not have the same concept of the importance of scale and accuracy. A few years ago, my uncle showed me a wooden model nearly four feet long. It had around 10 smart brass cannon protruding from each side, and was built of beautiful mahogany, stained not painted. It had intricate brass and carved wood decorations. But it resembled no ship that ever sailed, nor could have. All the braces ran from the yardarms down to pins on the bulwarks. There was a lateen sail on the mizzenmast, and a long boom protruding from the high poop deck to which the sheet was rigged. The nameplate: "USS Constitution". I'm sure my uncle spent a couple of hundred at least on it. He thought it was a beautiful model. I, being polite, held my tongue.

That model turned my stomach but it did not make my blood boil like some of the pre-built models I see on e-bay, touted to have been carefully constructed from the original plans, being sold for hundreds of dollars, but to varying degrees quite inaccurate. I do not mind inaccurate models being sold as decorations (some of these are indeed beautiful) as long as they do not make specific claims to being accurate. It is when that claim is being made falsely, and someone is making a lot of money off of it, that I get nudged into a foul mood. The inaccuracies of the continental model kits pale in comparison to many of these - just do a "USS Constitution" or "HMS Victory" search on e-bay or google. As you said, the rigging makes or breaks a sailing ship model. What surprises me is that someone can spend a great number of hours generating an intricately rigged ship, but not bother to get it right - see the many models with braces running straight down from the yardarms to the pinrails. Why not spend a little more time to get it right to begin with? Why do they get to sell their stuff for hundreds, and I have to spend hundreds to get it right?

Still, who am I to complain? (sour grapes...) People will buy what they like. I just want to feel good about what I've built; my standards are a builder's standards, not a buyer's. And while my work certainly pales in comparison to what others have built and are building, I am secure in the knowledge that what I don't like about what I've done this time around is food for my next build.

flame off. forgive the long post

Jose Gonzales

Jose Gonzales San Diego, CA
  • Member since
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  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Friday, March 03, 2006 11:57 AM
Jose,
You have made some excellent points that support modelers who are artisans who like to build both artistic and accurate models.  Due to those "direct marketing" scams called "accurate" models that we see on the auction sites and on the backs of magazines being sold by the Franklin Mint, the general public are getting far less than what they realize, and we as modelers are getting a poor rendition of what we believe, and work hard for, and that is recognition as artistsans, craftmen, and researchers.  And this recognition may not come just from others, but from the modelers own self as he sees a bunch of mass produced shlock being compared to the crafts that he builds.

Even the worse accurate wood or plastic model kit, when put together by a modeler who's heart and interest captivated the build,  cannot come close to being as bad off as some of those "replicas" that you talked about.

Scott



                              

  • Member since
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  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, March 03, 2006 12:33 PM

Scottrc and jgonzales make a number of excellent points.  I guess what bothers me isn't so much the fact that those ... things ... are on the market as the deception with which they're being marketed.  People are encouraged to buy a Corel, Amati, Artesania Latina, Mantua, or Mamoli kit on the assumption that the application of reasonable skill to the contents of the box, according to the instructions, will produce a reasonably accurate reproduction of a real ship.  In most cases (again - there undoubtedly are exceptions), it won't. 

If people want to buy "wood ship models" from the Franklin Mint and put them on their mantels, that's their business.  But there are two other aspects of the situation that really bother me.  One is the fact that those expensive continental p-o-b kits drive so many potential modelers out of the hobby.  The other is the ridiculous, irrational snobbery that the people who do build them all-too-frequently adopt toward plastic kits.  (If I start ranting about that one I may not be able to stop until my nose gets forcibly remodeled.)

There's certainly a place for "models" that only generally represent real objects.  A reasonable parallel exists in the model railroad business.  Over the past eighty or ninety years, millions of people have derived vast amounts of pleasure and satisfaction from Lionel trains.  They're fun, and they look neat.  Surely no rational adult believes that a Lionel 0-27 steam locomotive or box car, or a piece of Lionel 3-rail track, is a scale replica of the real thing.  Everybody understands that the primary function of such merchandise is not to represent real railroad equipment, but to provide sturdy, operating, fun toys - in the best sense of the word - for people of all ages.  Every model railroader understands the conceptual difference between a Lionel 0-27 steam engine and one of those maginificently detailed HO ones.  And every model railroader I know is saddened by the thought that Lionel may be on the verge of going out of business.  The company's demise would be a bad thing for the hobby.

If a similar situation existed in ship modeling, I wouldn't complain.  But those continental p-o-b kits aren't being marketed to kids and their parents; they're being marketed to well-heeled adults.  Few of the intended purchasers seem to understand that a ship model built from one of those kits is likely to resemble a real ship just about as much as a Lionel steam engine resembles a real steam engine.  (Whether the manufacturers themselves know it is an interesting question. They're notorious for their refusal to talk to serious scale modelers.  I suspect many of the people running the firms don't know what scale modeling is.)  The things get promoted as scale models of real ships - which they aren't. 

The bottom line, unfortunately, is that the problem is there and shows no sign of going away.  When Charlie McDonald's article appeared in the Nautical Research Journal, more than twenty years ago, there was a brief flurry of supporting protest from members of the NRG, who screamed, hollered, and wrote letters to the editors of magazines deriding the continental p-o-b kits.  To my knowledge that wave of indignation produced no reaction whatsoever from the manufacturers or the distributors. 

Today I think I see some faint signs that serious scale ship model kits may - just may - be enjoying a small increase in popularity.  (One of the most promising signs is the popularity of this forum - to the point that barbarians like Jeff Herne are complaining that the sailing ship enthusiasts are trying to take it over.  Sorry, Jeff.)  I'd like to think that the overall community of hobbyists is about to see the light, and demand that Mantua, Mamoli, Artesania Latina, et al either mend their devious ways or (preferably) go out of business.  Realistically speaking, though, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    January, 2003
Posted by devinj on Friday, March 03, 2006 4:06 PM

Concerning available plastic kits, has anyone actually seen an Aoshima Susquehanna yet?  I've been wanting to pick up that kit in the IMAI or Monogram incarnation for years, and I wonder/hope that the new Aoshima release is up to par.

-Devin

MJH
  • Member since
    April, 2005
  • From: Melbourne, Australia
Posted by MJH on Friday, March 03, 2006 5:20 PM
Scottrc's comments about getting the public to vote for 'best in show' are spot on - it'll be big, bright and colourful every time.  You can display the most accurate and period Victory on which the builder has lavished a fair proportion of what's left of his life, a military diorama so life-like you can almost hear the rifle shots or a Sopwith Camel with hand-stitched fabric wings alongside a 1:8 Model T Hot-Rod built straight from the box with nothing added but a pretty paint scheme, and the latter will win every time.

Fortunately these 'competitions' are usually just a means of levering a donation from the viewers and a prize/trophy, if offered, is regarde (by most) as meaningless.

What is equally frustrating is to have a member of the great unwashed inspect and admire a beautifully built and finished model on the show table, then look up at you and ask "Is that a die-cast?".  I find myself gripping edge of the chair firmly until I can overcome the primeval urge to go for his throat!  One thing I've discovered from this is that if you want to sell a model built from a plastic kit, especially ships, you can't go wrong if you add a little weight.  It seems to me that the popularity of die-cast 'models' these days is due in no small measure to the feeling of substance and value-for-money their weight seems to impart to the impressionable.

This discussion has been useful, while I didn't think the Artesania, et al, kits were all that good I never realised they were quite so bad.  I've often picked one up and wondered if it's worth doing.  Likewise many of the plastic offerings.  I'm not a stickler for absolute accuracy and I'm usually happy if a model kit captures what I see as the 'spirit' of the subject, but to pass a Bounty off as a Beagle....that's just no on.

!

MJH
  • Member since
    April, 2005
  • From: Melbourne, Australia
Posted by MJH on Friday, March 03, 2006 5:26 PM
 devinj wrote:

Concerning available plastic kits, has anyone actually seen an Aoshima Susquehanna yet?  I've been wanting to pick up that kit in the IMAI or Monogram incarnation for years, and I wonder/hope that the new Aoshima release is up to par.

-Devin



I wish I could say.  I've been debating purchasing the Aoshima sight unseen for a while, considering the difficulty of winning one on eBay, but it's an unkown, and not inexpensive, quantity.

!

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