Have Fun Building Model Ships

A well-finished, well-crafted model ship has a lot to offer. When done correctly, the art, history, and craft all combine to create a statement piece that will look fantastic no matter where you display it. And if you’re searching for a model ship to assemble but don’t know where to begin, model shipbuilding has a worldwide following.

Model ship kits range in difficulty from those suitable for a beginner to those suitable for an expert builder. They range in size from small scale with few pieces to kits with more than a thousand pieces that can take months to complete. There are kits available for model builders of all skill levels.

But which ship should you construct? And where do you start? Continue reading for tips on how to have fun while building model ships—a hobby that will benefit you!

What Kinds of Ships Are Available as Kits?

Every type of ship and boat has been turned into a model kit. These model kits aren’t all created equal. Some might be more historically correct than others, while others may be more accurate in scale.

The level of detail can vary greatly between models. Many kits might not get the finer details, so they are not included. This can be discouraging if you thought you bought a kit with finer points.

Here is a list of many types of ships made into model kits.

  • Carriers
  • Submarines
  • Age of sail ships
  • WW1 Warships
  • WW2 Warships
  • Post-WW2 Warships
  • Civilian Ships
  • Pirate ships
  • PT boat kits
  • Civilian Work Boats
  • Coast Guard
  • Pleasure Craft

This is a long roster, but it does not include all the ships made into model kits. There are a few other types not listed here that you can find on some websites and stores offering ship and boat model kits.


Model Ships Are Available in What Scales?

The most commonly used Imperial measurement scales for model ship construction are 1:12, 1:48, 1:24, 1:360, 1:240, and up to 1:1200, American and British sizes for harbor and ship models. The Airfix model company once produced this scale. The standard Metric measurement scales for model ship building are 1:5, 1:20, 1:10, 1:50, 1:200, 1:100, and 1:500.

A model ship’s scale represents the real physical model ship in full size. The scale model attempts to replicate the details of the full-size ship as closely as possible. The scale ratio refers to the proportions of the model to the original.

Sometimes, you may build a model on a larger or a smaller scale, depending on the circumstances. A small model snap-together kit for the beginner or a huge special built model with very intricate detail and more than a thousand parts are examples of this.

While the scales listed are the standard scales, other Imperial scales employed in ship models include 1:36, 1:96, and 1:76, together with Metric scales such as 1:75 and 1:60.

A model with a 1:12 scale will have significantly more fine detail than a smaller scale model with a 1:240 scale.

What Materials Are Used to Make Model Ships?

a close up of a person’s hand holding a small model ship

For many years, wooden ships were among the most popular kits. These kits are almost certainly made of solid wood and consist of two pieces of wood connected by a vertical slab or seam. Plastic molded ships have grown in popularity following World War II. In Europe, paper kits are common.

There is a long history of ancient boat and ship models discovered throughout the Mediterranean, particularly in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Phoenicia. These models have taught us much about seafaring’s economic and social importance and early seafaring technology.

These historical models were created using various materials such as wood, lead, bronze, and clay, to name a few.

Today, ship model kits are made of four main materials: wood, paper, plastic, and metal.

Wooden Kits

These kits are most likely made of solid wood and consist of two pieces of wood joined by a vertical seam or wood slabs stacked one on top of the other. This significantly reduces the amount of carving required, but decent skills are needed to produce an accurate hull form.

A hull made from thin wood blocks glued with either a horizontal seam that you can build into deck design or a vertical seam is a variation of the bread and butter construction technique. This reduces the amount of carving needed, but creating a proper hull form still requires great skill.

Plastic Kits

Plastic molded ships have grown in popularity following World War II. Plastic ship kits are available in resin or injected styrene models.

Plastic kits are the least costly ship kits and are primarily used by level one and level two modelers who are just getting started in this hobby. They may include water-slide or stick-on decals, special colored paints, turned metal replacement, and gun barrels to make them more authentic.


Airfix, Frog, Revell, and Pyro were among the early plastic model kit ship manufacturers. Tamiya Hasegawa, Imai, and several other companies have recently joined them. These model kit manufacturers’ focus has shifted over the years to include not only beginner model builders but also expert and intermediate builders.

Paper Kits

Paper kits are popular in Europe. These are preprinted building kits that come in a variety of scales.

Even though the ship construction process with paper is simple compared to other types, it can still be difficult. These ship kits are also suitable for beginners, who can progress to higher levels after mastering the complexities of ship modeling.

As previously stated, these kits are popular not only in Europe but also in Japan and Russia. Paper model kits are typically not packaged in a box but in a booklet or a file you can download from the internet and print at home.

In Europe, preprinted paper model kits in various scale sizes are available. These kits may appear simple but still introduce the builder to numerous challenges. These ship kits are ideal for beginners to practice their skills before progressing to more difficult levels.

Metal Kits

The final type of kit is made of metal, usually cast lead or similar alloys. However, sheet tin, steel, and aluminum brass are less commonly used. This category will also encompass the Metal Earth kits, which are becoming increasingly popular.