One topic I see pop up from time to time in online ship model forums and in ship model club meetings is how to get kids involved in ship modeling. There is a lot of lamenting about how kids today aren’t interested at all and how that paints a bleak future for ship modeling.
I personally am not too worried about getting kids building ship models because, as a kid, I was never interested in ship models. I liked tanks, modern ships, aircraft and rockets. My own dad tried to get me into his area of interest, wooden airplanes. I tried building one on one or two occasions, but it never stuck with me, as much as he tried. Plastic kits were in my blood.
My interest in wooden ship models didn’t take hold until I was in my 30s and was as much a surprise to me as anyone. childhood friends I’d reconnected with were truly surprised by the shift. I’ve looked around and seen that many others also made the leap only in later years. So, it doesn’t surprise me that kids don’t take to it so much. Still, it’s always good to expose kids to ship modeling early, so they can develop an appreciation, even if they don’t take up building right away.
One way to get kids exposed to ship modeling is through really simple models they can build quickly and easily. And, today, I ran across a couple kits on the shelves over at Ages of Sail. At first, the kid kits seemed like crummy little kits that are simplified and uninteresting. But, then I’d realized I was looking at it from an experienced ship modeler’s perspective, and not as someone really looking to get kids building something that they might find fun to build.
These kits by Billing Boats are two of four available kits designed for young builders. They have goofy names, like Lobsy, Tuggy and Jolly, but maybe that’s not a turn-off for the intended audience, which is kids 8 years and older. The most advanced is the Mini-Oseberg, which is for kids 10 and older.
At present, there is only Lobsy and the Mini-Oseberg in stock, so I took those out to look them over. All of the kits are simplified to a flat-bottom design and are of basic sheet-wood construction. There is no planking and detail is very simple, so they really should be easy builds. The completed models are touted as floatable, so kids can play with them when they’re done – Something that I think has a lot of appeal for kids as it gives them more incentive to build it.
Of course, if you’re going to put them in water (well, that is, if you’re KIDS are going to put them in water), it would be best to give them a good sealing coat of some kind. Perhaps sprayed with a good coat of primer that can then be painted over by the kids using some kind of non-toxic acrylic paints. Midwest makes a nice little set that Would work well for this.
The Lobsy kit looks pretty good actually. It’s very simple in design and gives a kid a chance to glue a little, paint a little, and maybe apply a little wood stain possibly. The hardest part of the build looks to be the adding of the hull sides to the hull bottom. The kit is almost entire thin plywood, which is strong, but stiff. Adult assistance is very likely to be required, at least to teach the child how to soften the wood with water prior to bending, and maybe how to use a building board and nails to help hold the assembly together as it dries.
Beyond that, this might provide a youngster with the opportunity to be creative with the boat’s paint job, etc. For an affordable $13, I think this kit would be ideal for a ship model club to use to introduce kids to ship modeling. I’m going to bring this up with the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights group. Being that our workshop is at the S.F. Maritime National Historic Park, we could easily do some kind of program for kids one day, or maybe over the course of a month.
The other kit is the Viking ship, the Mini Oseberg, which is somewhat more complicated in that it has a lot more parts, and includes a sail that must be painted and rigged. Accordingly, the age range on that kit is ages 10 and up. But, older kids should love the viking ship with its sides studded with shields, which by the way are injection-molded plastic. The box art shows planking lines, but these don’t come with the kit, as far I could tell without opening up the bag of parts. But the planking should easily be drawn right onto the sheet wood parts.
The Mini Oseberg kit lists at $20. Certainly the box is bigger and there are more parts, but I don’t know if it’s really as good as value as the Lobsy kit. That probably doesn’t matter so much given how much more appealing the idea of a viking ship with sail probably is to a youngster.
I’m looking forward to seeing the other kits in this lineup, and I’ll post more info about them when I do. In the meantime, these kits aren’t on the Ages of Sail website yet, but you can purchase these kits from their Billing Boat USA site.