I occasionally field ship modeling questions for the ship model shop Ages of Sail and for Billing Boats USA. Recently, a couple questions came up about the construction of the plastic-hull Billing Boats kits. These kits feature vacuum formed hull and/or deckhouse parts.
Now, I’ve never built one of these kits, but I understand the theory. Up to this point, the only vacuum formed parts I’ve ever dealt with are the sails in some of the plastic sailing ship model kits. So, I felt I should have a little more experience.
There are currently four beginning kits from Billing Boats that feature vacuum formed hulls, and I thought it would be good to do one of these, since this will also give me some perspective on how well suited one of these kits really is for the beginning ship modeler. Two of these available kits are rescue lifeboats and two are fishing boats. It was the Danish, ketch-rigged fishing boat “Dana,” which seemed most appropriate to me.
I picked up the kit from Billing Boats USA, which is not to be confused with Billing Boats of Denmark. Billing Boats USA is actually the North American distributorship, which is owned and operated by Ages of Sail. The boat is a 1:60-scale model that should measure about 15.4″ long and 13.4″ high when completed. It lists for $69, which makes it one of the most affordable model ship or boat kits around.
I don’t have any photos of the kit contents. But, there’s nothing very revealing there for a basic kit, except to know that the boat comes in two major plastic parts, one for the hull and one for the deck, with the basic deck structures molded into the plastic. Besides this, the kit includes a small bundle of wood, a roll of sail cloth, a mixed bag of plastic, metal, and wood fittings, some brass wire, a flag sheet, decal sheet, and small sheet of thin laser-cut plywood, a two-side plans sheet, a sheet of sail patterns, and an instruction booklet.
As with most Billing Boats kits, the instructions have very limited about of written direction, but what is given is written in 8 languages, including Danish, German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Most instruction comes in the way of exploded diagrams that identify which parts go where. Parts are numbered, and a multi-language chart in the back lists each part, with quantity and description.
Most people unfamiliar with this style of instruction will probably think that they are insufficient to complete a build. There is some interpretation needed by the builder, but in my experience, the basic information is there.
There is one thing I found particularly lacking, which is the identification of the model’s paint colors. The colors are labeled in the diagrams with a number inside the inverted triangles. In ‘Step H’ that I’ve shown above, the colors 1 and 17 are indicated, but there is nothing to identify what these colors are. As it turns out, these numbers correspond to the Billing Boats Paint color numbers. These paints are available from the Billing Boats USA website or Ages of Sail.
The paints used in this kit are:
1 – Gloss White
3 – Emerald Green
5 – Tan
11 – Black
17 – Clear Gloss Coat
36 – Mahogany Stain
In any case, I went ahead and started on the hull of the kit by gluing the main pieces together.
At this stage, it doesn’t look like much, and a new builder might feel a bit disappointed by the appearance of the components. I know when I first got into ship modeling, I felt a tinge of disappointment when I looked at what I got in a kit. But, little did I fully understand how much a model builder does to bring some pieces of wood, or in the case, some pieces of plastic, to life. But, that’s basically what this build is all about: How do you get from some vacuum formed plastic to a nice looking fishing boat?
I’d actually jumped the gun a bit and though it would make sense to give the hull and deck a white overcoat, using Billing Boats paints (the solvent-based U.S. version). I discovered two things in the process. First, my airbrush skills are sadly lacking, particularly my airbrush cleaning skills, leading to some spatter and other cleanup I’ll need to do. Second, I still have to glue a rub rail and other components to the hull and should do that before painting.
Mostly, my concern is that I think I’ll need to paint the bulwarks and deck cabin walls before I start doing any work to the deck, which apparently does get planked. It will also be a challenge to figure out how to do clean, straight planking around the already existing deck structures.
Anyway, I went ahead and glued the hull parts together using contact cement, as called for in the instructions. I also added the wooden extension piece for the rudder and prop mount, which completed the basic hull shape.
This extension piece comes on the small laser-cut sheet that’s included in the kit that has several large pieces of the cabin tops, the boom and gaff jaws, etc. I had to cut and file this piece a bit until it made a close fit with the hull, then I used some thick CA glue to secure it.
That’s all I’ll say about the build at this point. If you want to take a look at someone else’s build log, where they converted this kit for RC operation, check out the following link:
Also, as luck would have it, the latest issue of Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine just showed up in the main, and, lo and behold, someone just wrote a simple review and mini-build log of the kit. It’s in the Spring 2018 edition. If you’re interested in buying a copy or subscribing, simply go to Seaways.com.