Modeling in Paper

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but recently I’ve been helping out the folks at Ages of Sail get some things straightened out, working on their eCommerce site, fixing their print ads, working on marketing and product support and such. In the process, I ran across a line of products that has been somewhat in the background and I’d never taken notice of before, Paper model kits from a Polish company called Shipyard.

There is apparently a whole world of ship modeling (and, of course, modeling things other than ships) using the medium of paper instead of wood. I’m not sure exactly why, but I found this really fascinating and was intrigued with the idea of fashioning parts from paper. While relatively little known in the U.S., paper models are apparently quite big in Eastern Europe.

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I understand there are many paper model manufacturers and you can get started making paper models using patterns you can download for free from some sources, though the free subjects I’ve seen so far are mostly WWII ships and not really much of the sailing variety. But, the Shipyard products include a wide range of sailing ships from the small French Lugger Le Coureur up to British 100-gun ship HMS Victory. They also include light houses and dock-side scenes.

In general, parts are printed on full-color sheets, usually of very high quality paper. The parts must be cut out with a very sharp knife or razor blade, glue to cardboard to achieve the appropriate thickness. By cardboard, we’re talking Bristol board or Poster board here, not corrugated cardboard. Usually, this leaves a white edge, so a little paint is required to match the color of the printed part. Parts are glued together as with any model, only the parts are made from paper. I’m sure there are many specific

For a while, I found Shipyard’s product line really confusing, but I spent some time going through the kits. Then, I found their website, which can be accessed in Polish, German or English. I think I finally understand the lineup now.

Essentially, there are four product lines: Paper Model Kits, Laser Cardboard Kits, Laser Cut Kits, and Modellar Plans (Modellar is not a typo, it’s how it’s spelled on Shipyard’s site and on their products). The titles are a bit confusing, but the breakdown is like this:

  • Paper Model Kits: This is the basic paper model book with all the parts printed in it, in color. These books are mostly complete. You will have to build-up the thickness of many or most parts by gluing to cardboard (like Bristol board, not corrugated cardboard) or multiple sheets of paper.
  • Laser Cardboard Kits: These are complete kits and include major structural parts that are already of appropriate thickness and laser-cut, which will save a lot of time and effort. These kits also include brass fittings for cannons, eyebolts and such. Also, includes dowels for the masts and yards, plus paints and brush. I’m not sure, but I think they also include some 3D features like figureheads where appropriate. I think that is what makes the Laser Cardboard Kit of HMS Mercury relatively expensive compared with the other kits. These kits are all 1/72-scale from what I can tell, which makes them larger than their Paper Model Kit counterparts.
  • Laser Cut Models: These appear to all be lighthouses, dockside buildings and other small buildings. No ships. One thing that might catch a buyer by surprise is that the Quay Port kits show ships at port side, but they don’t actually include them – you have to buy them separately from the selection of Laser Cardboard Kits. The Paper Model Kits are the wrong scale, so beware. In any case, these sets contain all the properly sized paper parts laser cut. They will need to be painted.
  • Modellar Plans: There are actually two categories of these: Modellar Plans and Super Modellar Plans. Both contain full sets of drawings that are suitable for scratch building a ship model in either paper or wood. I’ve looked closely at these with a wood ship modeler’s eye and they have all the necessary lines to build solid hull, plank on bulkhead or what have you. The Super Modellar Plans seem to have been a limited product run, but include the structural parts already laser-cut. There are no other parts besides those for the hull’s basic structure, so you’re going to have to do a lot of scratch-work. But, the details are all in the plans.

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Modellar Plans

I’m really intrigued by these products and am anxious to try something in paper. I ordered an HMS Alert, 1777, a cutter that is well known among ship modelers and the subject of one of the Anatomy of a Ship books. It’s 1/96-scale, so it’s small. Ordered direct from Poland, it was only about $23 and shipping was about $12, so it wasn’t a big investment. I’ll try it out and if I screw it up, $35 isn’t too terrible a loss.

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For those who don’t want to deal with ordering direct from Poland, currency conversion or overseas shipping, Ages of Sail has some of the items available. They’re priced higher than the direct sales prices, but you’ll be dealing with an outfit in the U.S. and there are several products in stock and more on their way as I write this Ω.

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