Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How to build a 1:1200th-scale merchant ship from scratch

This is one of the easiest scratch-build projects I have undertaken in years. The raw materials were basswood strip and dowel, and the tools used were a razor saw, a modelling knife, a pencil and ruler, an emery board and paper, a drill bit held in a pin vice, and PVA glue.

The hull was cut from a piece of 0.50"/12.50mm x 0.25"/6.25mm basswood strip that was approximately 3.50"/ mm long. The forecastle (0.375"/9.50mm long), poop (0.375"/9.50mm long), and central superstructure (0.50"/12.50mm long) were cut from 0.50"/12.50mm x 0.0625"/1.50mm basswood strip, and the bridge was a section of 0.50"/12.50mm x 0.25"/6.25mm basswood strip approximately 0.25"/ mm long.

These were then glued in place.

Once the glue was dry (I left mine for two hours), I used the razor saw to cut the basic shape for the model's pointed bow and rounded stern.

Using the emery paper and board I then carefully sanded the bow so the shape was more streamlined and the stern was rounded off. I also sanded the sides of the ship to ensure that any slight overhangs at the bow, stern, or middle were removed.

I then glued the bridge structure into place.

Once the glue was dry (I left mine for two hours), I used a hand-held 0.125"/3.0mm drill (in a pin vice) to drill a hole for the funnel.

The funnel was made from a short length of 0.125"/3.0mm basswood dowel, and once this was cut and the ends sanded flat, it was glued into place.

I used the same basic method to create a number of different styles of merchant ship. This was achieved by using different hull, forecastle, poop, and central superstructure lengths and funnel heights.

The wooden surface of these models will be sealed using a coat of PVA glue. Once that is dry the models will then be painted in appropriate colour schemes.

A PDF version of this blog entry will be added to the 'How to ...' page of this blog in the very near future.


  1. Don't forget to mention where you get the basswood strip and dowel from... :o)

  2. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    I get mine from Hobbycraft ... but it is available from other model and hobby supply shops as well.

    All the best,