“What’s a good kit for a beginning ship modeler?”
That’s a question that gets asked a lot here. The answer can depend on a number of things, such as the builder’s experience with other model kits, plastic or wood. Some people come to ship modeling with a woodworking background, some are youngsters who want to try it out or have a parent/grandparent wanting to start them off. Others are recently retired and have always wanted to build a ship model.
Whatever your situation, here is one recommendation that will probably work for many. Amati Model makes a series of 1/80-scale America’s Cup boat kits. These are the J-boats, the classic racers from the early 20th century that were fast but also elegant.
Shamrock V, 1930 Challenger
Rainbow, 1934 Defender
Amati makes several different types of America’s Cup kits, but their 1/80-scale kits in particular are ideal for the beginning ship modeler. The models are about 18” long and around 27” tall when completed and will look very nice, displayed on any bookcase or mantle.
There are actually two different lines of America’s Cup kits in 1/80-scale. There are the pre-carved hull kits and then there are the planked-on-bulkhead kits with tools included.
The two different lines of kits are virtually the same except for the hulls and the inclusion of some simple tools in the plank-on-bulkhead kits.
In both cases, the kits require the builder to plank the decks using thin veneer strips included in the kit. This is a little more of a challenge that some kits because the planks follow the curve of the hull instead of laying in straight lines, parallel with the centerline of the boat.
The deck details should be the fun part of the build, making the skylights and hatches, adding the steering wheel, the brass safety railing along the edge of the deck, winches, etc. The parts are all provided as laser-cut wood, photo-etched brass, or other metal parts. There is just enough detail here to be challenging and fun, and this is when the boat starts to come to life.
These racers had pretty simple rigging compared to the old square-rigged ships, giving the builder an opportunity to get the taste of working with some rigging without getting overwhelmed. Sails are included in the kit and require no sewing, just a little need and thread work to lace them to the lace them into place.
The large mast and boom present a basic challenge that is actually quite different from most sailing ships. This is because of the more modern nature of these boats. But, that will make for a nice simple challenge.
Pre-carved hull of the Enterprise. This one is actually from the older resin hull kits that Amati used to produce, but the wood hulls look exactly the same.
Going back to the hull itself, the two lines of kits give you a very nice option here. The pre-carved hulls are almost ready to go, right out of the box, and are the quickest and easiest way to have a completed model.
The plank-on-bulkhead hulls offer a bit more challenge since you have to build up the hull frame and then plank over it, but the shape of these hulls are far easier to plank that the apple-bowed hulls of the 18th Century. So, unless you’re looking for quickest finish, this is a great way to go. The extra challenge will start you on the path, better preparing you for your next ship modeling challenge.
Hull construction of the Rainbow. Image is right from the detailed kit instructions. You may notice the Italian text. Don’t worry, an English language booklet translates all the instructions clearly.
In either case, you’re going to need to finish the hull with a nice paint job, or possibly, in the case of the planked model, by giving it a clear coat to show off your fancy woodwork.
In the end, you’ll have something you’ll be proud to display in your home, in fairly short order. The relatively low price, ease of construction, and finished beauty should make this a great first kit for you or someone you know. Even an experienced ship modeler will enjoy one of these.
Buying a Kit
Ages of Sail has the full selection of these kits. Buy just the kit, or as part of a combo set that includes glues and a recommended book on ship modeling.
Pre-Carved Hull Kits:
1700/50 Endeavour, 1934 Challenger
1700/51 Rainbow, 1934 Defender
1700/52 Enterprise, 1930 Defender
1700/53 Shamrock V, 1930 Challenger
1700/54 Ranger, 1937 Defender
Plank-on-Bulkhead Kits with Tools:
1700/10 Endeavour, 1934 Challenger
1700/11 Rainbow, 1934 Defender
Watch our blog for a detailed look at Amati’s 1/80-scale plank-on-bulkhead Rainbow, 1934 Defender kit, coming soon! Ω