My Ship Modeling History
I’ve been building models for as long as I can remember. I started with plastic kits when I was about 7 years old. The very first model I recall ever building was a US Navy A-7 Corsair II. I remember it clearly because it was loaded with bombs on wing pylons. Being only 7 years old when i built it, the model was also covered in gluey fingerprints.
My dad bought me that kit, though I seem to recall my mother having reservations about him buying me models. But he clearly wanted to foster my desire to build, and as soon as I completed one, he got me another.
Though I loved modern warships kits, I didn’t get into sailing ships until some time in my mid teen years. But, I remember a kid down the street showing me a plastic kit of the Cutty Sark he had and also the owner of the local hobby shop working on a plastic USS Constitution in the store. Myself, the first of these kinds of kits was a plastic model of a Spanish Galleon that I got when I was sick with the flu. It was, again, a gift from my Dad to relieve me of the boredom of staying at home. I really enjoyed building the model and found myself building the USS Constitution kit shortly after that. At the time, I didn’t build them all that well, I just wanted them built.
U.S. Revenue Cutter Dallas, 1815
Late high school and into college I didn’t do much building. But, once I was in the work place, I found some time and an itch to work on things. I dabbled with a couple science fiction projects and then somehow got interested in redoing that USS Constitution kit that I built years before. But this time, I thought I’d make a really well done, detailed model.
I was talking with someone at work about it and one of them told me about a gentleman he met who built these beautiful wooden ship models. One day, he brought a catalog that was given to him and it was full of these wooden kits I’d never seen before. Soon, I discovered a local hobby shop that had a model displayed and I’d go over there on my lunch hour and gaze at it day after day. Finally, I broke down and bought the little solid hull kit of the pilot boat Phantom made by Model Shipways.
Pilot Boat Swift, c. 1800
As I started working on it, I fell in love with small woodwork and this little developing gem of a model. That big USS Constitution kit with all it’s bristling guns just sat up on the shelf, partially completed. I never touched it again. I was completely hooked on wooden ship modeling.
That was around 1993, just over 20 years ago now, and there have been periods where I was building and not building. But, in the last few years it has taken on a new life and I’m modeling like crazy. I’ve been scratch building interesting subjects and began my first commissioned project in the Fall of 2012. At about the same time, I submitted my first ship modeling article to Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine which appeared in 3 parts starting with the March/April ’13 issue. That article was about scratch building the pilot boat Mary Taylor.
NY Pilot Boat Mary Taylor, 1850
Since that time, I’ve written three kit reviews for Ships in Scale and proudly saw my first cover photo on the Nautical Research Journal with an accompanying photo spread on my model of the Japanese Higaki Kaisen coastal transport. I’m now working on an article covering the building of the Higaki Kaisen model. I’m hoping to finish that up and submitted to Ships in Scale magazine soon.
Past Ship Model Subjects (roughly in completion order)
- Pilot Boat Phantom, 1868
- U.S. Revenue Cutter Dallas, 1815
- Morgan’s Whaleboat
- Pilot Boat Swift
- Swampscott Dory
- Sharpie Schooner
- Canadian Fishing Schooner Bluenose
- HMS Fair Rosamond
- Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813 (scratch)
- New York Pilot Boat Mary Taylor, 1850 (scratch)
- Commissioned Project: Rigging the San Felipe, 1690
- 18th Century English Longboat
- Japanese Edo Period Higaki Kaisen Coastal Transport
- Japanese Hacchoro, Edo Period Fishing Boat
- Japanese Yakatabune, Edo Period Pleasure Boat
- Commissioned Project: Repairing a Santa Maria model
- Tosa Wasen, Japanese 20′ Traditional Fishing Boat
- HMS Alert, 1777, 1:98-scale paper model
- Gifu Tabune, 1:20-scale Japanese rice field boat (scratch)
- Hozugawa Ayubune, 1:10-scale Japanese river fishing boat (scratch)
- Urayasu Bekabune, 1;10-scale Japanese seaweed harvesting boat (scratch)
- Swedish Gunboat, 1777
- Kamakura period Umi-bune (scratch)
In the Works
- Commissioned Project: Colonial Schooner Independence, 1776
- Commissioned Project: HMS Victory, 1805, 1:78-scale
- Japanese Screw Steamer Kanrin Maru, 1857, 1:75-scale
- Side Paddlewheel Steamer USS Saginaw, 1859 (scratch)
- Yacht America, 1851 (scratch)
- Japanese Edo Period Kitamae-bune Coastal Transport
On the Drawing Board
- Boston Pilot Boat Dancing Feather, 1853 (scratch)
- Privateer Lynx, 1812 (scratch)
- U.S. Naval Schooner Vixen, 1803 (scratch)
- U.S. Brig Washington, 1841 (scratch)
- Building the Higaki Kaisen, Seaways’ Ships in Scale, March/April 2017 (3-part article)
- Tosa Wasen: A Traditional Japanese Twenty-Foot Fishing Boat, Nautical Research Journal, Fall 2016 (Vol. 61, No. 3)
- Higaki Kaisen: A Traditional Japanese Edo-Period Transport, Nautical Research Journal, autumn 2014 (Vol. 59, No. 3)
- Mary Taylor: Predecessor to the Racing Yacht America, Seaways’ Ships in Scale, April/May 2013 (3-part article)
Member of the Nautical Research Guild, Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights (National Park Service Volunteers), the South Bay Model Shipwrights and the Ship Modeler’s Association. Past secretary, past president of the Ventura County Maritime Museum Model Guild.
I’m not really big on the subject of awards. But it was nice for a couple of my models nice to be recognized in the Nautical Research Guild’s Photographic Ship Model Competition in 2015.
- New York Pilot Boat Mary Taylor – Blue Ribbon, Journeyman Division
- Private Armed Schooner Lively – Blue Ribbon and Bronze Medal, Journeyman Division
Are The Plans from A.J. Fisher to Dancing feather good.
Can one build a model with details for a model of around 1 m length with those drawings .
Interested in getting good Plans for this pilot Schooner,
Maybe you know from where.
Best regards, Ville Niskanen,
Modeller from Finland
The pilot schooner Dancing Feather is one of my all time favorite subjects, though I’ve never gotten around to building her. If you can find it, I would recommend checking out Volume 33, no 4 of the Nautical Research Journal, published in 1988. The issue features an article about 3 models of the Dancing Feather that were built by Rob Napier. There is also a drawing of the hull lines of the ship, but not too much on the details. The article itself discusses some of the details of the models and why he changed them over the course of the builds.
To answer your question, I think the A.J. Fisher plans do a good job of detailing the Dancing Feather. I have a set of them myself and they look good. I know that the kit designer discussed the details of the ship with Rob Napier, so there was some collaboration. However, I believe there is some disagreement over the presence/size of the deckhouse and cockpit.
Hope that helps,
Thank you, Clare,
The answer was good so maybe The
A.J.Fisher Plans do The trick with some
pictures found from internet And books.
I regret that American pilot boat models
Are not available in More detailed scale as plank on frame models, I think they Are most graceful Schooners ever built.
Best regards, Ville