Having been a ship modeler for around 30 years now, I have seen many models built and have built many myself. I’ve also spent a lot of time looking at the many available kits of beautiful looking ships of all kinds, and imagining building them. But, after building so many kits, I find the desire to scratch build a model. Now, I have scratch built quite a few models, mostly Japanese traditional boats, but also a few American subjects too, pilot boat, War of 1812 privateer, various hulls, etc. But, it seemed time to take on something more significant.
Now, kits still have the appeal of having already been planned out. Plus, they include all necessary decorative components. And, kits like those produced by Corel, still build into some of the most beautiful models.
Kits can be a bit pricey, requiring a larger up-front investment than scratch building. A scratch build project just requires a set of plans and a supply of wood for making the hull to get started. But, kits pretty much contain the plans, instructions, and all the needed parts, the latter being particularly important on the more ornate ships of the 16th and 17th centuries. Since I’m not really a carver, at least not yet, it’s handy to be able to use kit supplied decoration.
As it turns out, kit plans are available from some of the older manufacturers like Corel, Amati, Mantua/Panart, and they include full-sized drawings of the keel and bulkhead parts. This means that as long as you can cut out your own bulkheads from proper thickness wood, you should be able to supply your own wood and build a model. You just need to make or find the more unique parts such as cannons, carriages, ship’s wheels, decorative moldings and carvings.
There are, of course, blocks, belaying pins, deadeyes, gratings, and such, but those are readily available from online suppliers like Ages of Sail, BlueJacket Shipcrafters, Wooden Model Ship Kit, and others. But, did you know that many manufacturers also make available the decorative fittings used in their kits? Amati Model of Italy even produces plans and fittings sets of a couple ships they don’t currently produce in kit form.
I’ve thought about a number of possible subjects to be built from kit plans. Some of the Amati Victory Models subjects are very appealing, the plans are excellent, and most have fairly limited decorations needed. What decorations are needed, are usually pretty easy to get. In fact, I already have the bomb vessel Granado plans and some of the decorations for it. But, I’m just being drawn to things that are a bit more exotic.
Now, before I decided to go with building from kit plans, I was doing some research on what various plans were available on Xebecs and similar types. The easiest plans to find were those in the multi-volume Souvenirs de Marine, by A. Paris. Quite a few of the classic ship model kit subjects seem to be represented there.
The publication contains plans for one of the classic French 24-gun xebecs, which is the same class of xebec represented by Ancre’s monograph on Le Requin. Incidentally, that same class of xhip is also the subject of a set of model plans from the Association of the Friends of the French National Maritime Museum, or AAMM. I also managed to borrow a set of xebec model plans from the old model ship company Aeropiccola, and those turned out to be of this same 24-gun class as well.
But, I found the drawings of the Misticque in the Souvenirs de Marine books and really liked the look of this ship. Turns out that Misticque was also a type of xebec.
Studying the drawings carefully, I realized that building from these plans was going to take some work, especially since the plans are drawn to the outside of the planking, which would require me to make adjustments based on the expected plank thickness, trimming down the outlines of the bulkheads.
Also, depending on the particular source of the plans copy, scale consistency could be a bit of an issue. I tried to get my copies from the San Francisco Maritime Research Center, but because it was an old, bound volume, they wouldn’t give me a good scan, as it would require them to put stress on the bindings to make a good copy, and they weren’t willing to do that.
It was then that I decided to purchase the Corel plans of the Misticque to check them out. When I got these and went over them, I saw that they looked very good, and I already knew I liked the look of the resulting model. And, since the bulkheads and keel and many other parts were already drawn out to proper sizes, building from these plans would be a lot simpler than building from the Souvenirs de Marine plans .
Now, the Misticque is covered with ornamentation. Eventually, I’d love to get to the point where I’m carving all my ornamentation. But for now, I’d just like to build the model. Fortunately, it turns out that Corel has all the ornamentation fittings available, and they were much cheaper than I’d expected. I went ahead and purchased the parts, and they cost just about $40 plus shipping.
With plans and decorative parts in hand, there wasn’t much to stop me from moving ahead, so I started sorting through my wood for the right thicknesses, and next thing you know, I’m cutting and shaping the parts for the first stages of construction…
I got into one decision making snag regarding the wood that’s visible for the keel and stem, but I’ll get more into the construction details next time.