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What are some good books... ?

What you will consider a "good book" depends GREATLY upon the period and style of modeling you do -- a book on plastic submarines will prove of little use if you are researching ships of ancient Egypt.

Instead, the following list(s) are by general topic. Prices, where shown, indicate the book is currently in print. these are the LIST price; such books are frequently available for much less in "remainder" book sales or as used books.

NOTE - Some of these books are available on-line; clickable links are provided to those.


The Neophyte Shipmodeller's Jackstay
George F. Campbell
Softbound, 62 pages ($8.99) Probably the best basic introduction to wooden shipmodeling.
Ship Modeler's Shop Notes
Nautical Research Guild
Softbound, 216 pages, ($19.95) Practical book for all ship modelers; a compilation of shipmodeling articles from the Nautical Research Journal.
Planking the Built-Up Ship Model
Jim Roberts
Softbound, 38 pages ($6.99) Probably the best readily-available basic introduction to planking.


The Ship Model Builder's Assistant
Charles G. Davis
Softbound, 288 pages ($6.95) Detailed descriptions and drawings of masts, rigging, and major fittings of American clippers and packets.
the Built-Up Ship Model
Charles G. Davis
Softbound, 256 pages ($6.95) A detailed guide to building a ship model, in this case the brig Lexington (American, 1775).
Plank-on Frame Models
Harold A Underhill
Brown, Son, and Ferguson, 1960. Two volume set detailing the building and rigging of the Brigantine Leon.
Modeling the Brig Irene
E. W. Petrejus
N. V. Uitgeversmasschappi "Ed Esch", Holland, 1970.
Boat Modeling the Easy Way A Scratch Builder's Guide
Harold H. "Dynamite" Payson
Paperback, 195 pages, illustrations, photographs, 8 1/2 x 11 ($19.95)
ISBN 0-87742-320-2
Boat Modeling with Dynamite Payson - A Step-by-step Guide to Building Models of Small Craft
Harold H. "Dynamite" Payson
Paperback, 182 pages, 280 illustrations, 8 1/2 x 11, ($19.95)
Ship Modeling from Scratch - Tips and Techniques for Building Without Kits
Edwin B. Leaf
Paperback, 184 pages, drawings, 7 3/8 x 9 1/8 ($17.95)
ISBN 0-87742-389-X
Building Plank-on-Frame Ship Models
Ron McCarthy
8vo, 192 pages, illustrated, Conway Maritime Press, London, 1994 ($34.95)
Shipbuilding in Miniature
Donald McNarry
New York, Arco 1983
ISBN 0-668-05800-5
Ships in Miniature
Lloyd McCaffery
Cedarsburg, Phoenix Publications 1988
ISBN 0-9615021-3-4
Building Warship Models
P. C. Coker
313 pages, illustrated
R. L. Briant Company
Columbia, South Carolina, 1974
ISBN 0-914432-01-X


Navy Board Ship Models, 1650-1750
John Franklin
Hardbound, 192 pages, 150 photos, 16 color plates($36.95) Survey of dockyard models, their construction and function.
Shipcarver's Handbook
Jay S. Hanna
Hardcover, 108 pages, 7 1/8 x 10 (17.95)
ISBN 0-937822-14-0
Design and lettering, set-up and carving techniques, woods, tool sharpening, finishing and gold leafing (full-size modern practice).
Ashley Book of Knots
Clifford W. Ashley
Hardcover, 610 pages 8 3/4 x 11 1/4 ($50.00)
ISBN 0-385-04025-4
Standard reference work on knots, splicing, etc.


The Rigging of Ships in the Days of the Spritsail Topmast, 1600-1720
R. C. Anderson
Conway Maritime Press, England, 1984.
The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815
Brian Lavery
Conway Maritime Press, England, 1987.
Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War 1625-1860
James Lees
Conway Maritime Press, England, 1984.
The Construction and Fitting of the English Man-of-War 1650-1850
Peter Goodwin
Conway Maritime Press, England, 1987.
Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier
Harold A. Underhill
Brown, Son, and Ferguson, Scotland, 1946.
The Americal Fishing Schooners 1825-1935
Howard I. Chapelle
W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1973. Covers all aspects of the "Gloucester" fishing schooners and their fittings.


Old Ironsides - The Rise, Decline and Resurrection of the USS Constitution
Thomas C. Gillmer
Hardcover, 239 pages, photographs, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 ($24.95)
ISBN 0-87742-346-6
Die Kieler Hansekogge, der Nachbau eines historischen Segelschiffes von 1380
Baykowski, U.
RKE-Verlag, Kiel 1991
The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships
C. Nepean Longridge
Model & Allied Publications, England, 1955. Primarily concerned with building a model of H.M.S. Victory, but lots of useful information on Napoleonic War practices.
Conway's History of the Ship, The Age of the Galley originally published by Brassey's (UK) ltd. 1995.
Published in the US/Canada by the Naval Institute Press, 1995.
ISBN 1-55750-024-X.
There are some good articles, with enough reconstructed detail to use as a basis for modeling bronze age-sixteenth century galleys (mostly warships).
The Anatomy of the Ship series of books Each volume covers a specific vessel (list $32.95 each) The Aircraft Carrier Intrepid
The Aircraft Carrier Victorious
The Type VII U-Boat
The Liner Queen Mary
The 20-Gun Ship Blandford
The Battlecruiser Hood
The Flower Class Corvette Agassiz
The Submarine Alliance
The Cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni
The Susan Constant, 1607
The Battleship Yamato
The Armed Transport Bounty
The Royal Yacht Caroline, 1749
The Bomb Vessel Granado, 1742
The Destroyer Campbeltown
The Type XXI U-Boat
The Ships of Christopher Columbus
The Escort Carrier Gambier Bay
The Battleship Dreadnought
The 74-Gun Ship Bellona
The Frigate Diana
The 100-Gun Ship Victory
The 32-Gun Frigate Essex
The Battleship Warspite
The Cruiser "Belfast"
The Fairmile "D" Motor Torpedo Boat
The Destroyer Escort England
The Destroyer The Sullivans
The 24-Gun Frigate Pandora, 1779
The Four Masted Barque Lawhill
HMS Beagle Survey Ship Extraordinary, 1820-1870
The Heavy Cruiser Takao
The Schooner Bertha L. Downs
Captain Cook's Endeavour
The Cutter Alert, 1777
The Battleship Fuso
Navi Veneziane - catalogo illustrato dei piani di costruzione (Venetian Ships - an illustrated catalogue of draughts) by Gilberto Penz, with Italian/English text LINT, (c) 2000. ISBN 88-8190-103-X. The cost, printed on the cover, was 62,000 lire, or 32,02 euros. This is a wonderful book, chock full of plans of all manner of ships, including galleys, feluccas, gunboats and ships of the line from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Many have details of hull and/or deck planking, internal fittings and armament. The level of detail and accuracy of many draughts is equal to that of Chapman. It was very interesting to compare Venetian practices with those of England, France and the other maritime powers. {Dan Pariser}

Great Lakes vessels

There's a dearth of info on Great Lakes vessels. (Indeed, there's probably more books written about Great Lakes shipwrecks than there are about the boats themselves.)

I know that AJ Fisher has for decades produced detailed plans (and a few kits) of such Great Lakes schooners, including Challenge and Lucia A. Simpson. I'd think that Simpson might be taken as typical of Great Lakes schooners in their late 19th century heyday.

Here are some of the books available on Great Lakes vessels. Most are picture books, some tabulate the history of the ship with a picture or two, some are history. None give a Chapelle-level description of the vessels themselves (and Chapelle only devotes a few pages to the Great Lakes in his The History Of American Sailing Ships.

  • Freighters of Manitowoc: The Story of Great Lakes Freight Carrying Vessels Built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin by Tom Wenstadt,
  • Maritime Manitowoc: 1847-1947 (WI) (Images of America) by The Wisconsin Maritime Museum.
    (There are a number of very interesting and very local picture books now being offered in this "Images of America" series, including S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Car Ferry and S.S. City of Midland 41. The series concentrates on amateur photography from the early-mid 20th century.)
  • Commercial Ships on the Great Lakes: A Photo Gallery by Franz Von Riedel
  • Tugboats of the Great Lakes: A Photo Gallery by Franz Von Riedel
  • Great Lakes Ships We Remember (volumes I-III) by Peter Van Der Linden
  • Ships of the Great Lakes: 300 Years of Navigation by James P. Barry
  • Ships of the Great Lakes in Miniature by John Heinz
  • Warships of the Great Lakes 1754-1834 by Robert Malcomson (does a nice job, reproduces some Brit and Chapelle plans)
  • The Great Lakes Car Ferries by George Woodman Hilton (This is a great book on the subject, now back in print).
  • I haven't seen this one, but it looks interesting: Schooner Passage: Sailing Ships and the Lake Michigan Frontier by Theodore J. Karamanski
{Doug Simpkin}
Here is another I did not see on the list of books in an answer.
Schooners Robert Shipley/Fred Addis Great Lakes Album Series Vanwell Publishing Limmited St. Catharines, Ontario. 64pages.

I personally think the prices listed are kind of high. Probably it will no longer be printed. But the book is filled with many old pictures of working sail and has a good bit of history and explanation of the life and trade included. These ships in no way are beautiful and graceful New England fishing schooner, but are hard used working vessels.
{Mike Villiers}

Good reference for old surviving ships

International Register of Historic Ships
Norman J. Brouwer
Naval Institute Press (Orig. Anthony Nelson, Ltd., 1985)
ISBN 0-87021-306-7
This is a fascinating read for those of us who like this stuff. All the vessels we've talked about here are described, as well as semiintact clipper ships in Argentina and an 1868 monitor, guns in place, used as a graffiti-covered breakwater in Melbourne.
{Phil Gustafson}

The following reviews are from John Berg:

The 20-Gun Ship Blandford
Peter Goodwin
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1988 Hardback, 119 pages, 9.5 inches high by 10.5. $36.95 Drawings, plans, model photos
ISBN 0-87021-058-0.
Provides superb graphics. The Blandford, while not quite the size of the HMS Surprise, a 5th rate like the Surprise and gives the detailed drawings of the ship's hull, deck arrangement, and rigging. Invaluable to modelers, too.
The Bomb Vessel Granado 1742
Peter Goodwin
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1989 Hardback, 125 pages, 9.5 inches high by 10.5. $36.95 Many drawings, plans, model photos.
ISBN 0-87021-178-1.
Useful to both the scratch-build modeler and the reader of Forester who wants to know more about the bomb vessel. Provides insights about Jack Aubrey's first command, the Sophie, since the Granado is also a 14 gun, brig-sloop with a quarterdeck and stern windows. [See also page 6, col. c.]
Captain Cook's Endeavour
Karl Heinz Marquardt
Anatomy of the Ship Series, 138 pages, hardback, 224 illustrations, $36.95. The Endeavour, made eternally famous by Captain Cook's first voyage on her in 1768-71, was chosen by Cook because of her strong construction. The author describes her build and rig based on information found in the Endeavour's journals, a mine of previously unused, primary-source information.
The Armed Transport Bounty
John Mckay, USNI
1989, 120 pages, many photos, drawings, plans, and detailed sketches, $36.95. A member of the Anatomy of the Ship series with the usual superb graphics. Thanks to a reproduction built in Australia, the book has many photos as well. Patrick O'Brian uses the Anatomy of the Ship books and models to visualize action about ships.
The Schooner Bertha L. Downs
Basil Greenhill and Sam Manning
1995, hardback, 128 pages, 250 Illustrations. 9.5 by 10.25 inches The Anatomy of the Ship Series, Naval Institute Press
ISBN 1-55750-790-2
The North American schooner Bertha L. Downs was one of the many large four-, five-, and six-masted schooners built on the banks of the Kennebeck River at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. These huge wooden vessels were almost universally employed in the coastal trade, chiefly taking coal from Virginia to New England. Contains superb drawings and much new material about the life of the vessel.

Bertha L. Downs was launched in 1908 and after ten years in the lumber and coal trade was sold to Danish owners, renamed the Atlas, and like a number of her contemporaries made a profitable living through the 1920s and 30s. She was finally broken up in 1950 in Germany having spent forty-two years working under five flags.

Close cousins to the Anatomy of a Ship series is the Conway Ship Types series. Excellent large graphics and superb research.

The Bomb Vessel, Shore Bombardment Ships of the Age of Sail
Chris Ware
1995, hardback, 128 pages, 100 illustrations, 10.75 by 10.75 inches Conway Ship Type Series, $38.95. In the Horatio Hornblower stories, the bomb vessel represented a specialization of the warship into a floating siege engine carrying huge shell-firing mortars for the purpose of bombarding stationary targets.
The Heavy Frigate, Eighteen-pounder Frigates: Volume 1, 1778-1800
Robert Gardiner
1995, hardback, 128 pages, 80 illustrations, 10.75 by 10.75 inches Conway Ship Type Series, $38.95. The first of two volumes specifically devoted to the large single-decked cruising ships armed with 18-pounder guns. First introduce during the American Revolution, the frigates grew rapidly in size, number, importance and becoming the typical frigate of the Nelson era that we read about Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey Maturin series.
C. Nepean Longridge

[Not in the format of the Anatomy series but a superb reference on the Victory and written specifically for the modeler of HMS Victory: large foldout drawings.]

1956, hardback, 283 pages, 7.5 by 9.75 inches Naval Institute Press
ISBN 0-87021-077-7
A truly splendid reference. By creating this book for the serious model builder of the HMS Victory, Longridge packed an immense amount of detail about Nelsonian ships in general and the Victory in particular. A Patrick O'Brian fan will "see" more clearly the action described after reviewing the hundreds of illustrations, the scores of clear photographs, and the detailed plans, many which foldout to the size of 4 and 6 pages in area, in this book. What is a truck, why catharpings, where's the kevel, how the channels are supported, what's the location of the spirketting, and the purpose of the limber passage.

One photograph shows the wardroom as a bright, attractive room with officer cabins on either side. Another photograph of the ship's entry port reminded me of the entry way into aircraft carriers which have gangways leading into the side rather than to the weather deck. It made clearer the image of the many at anchor receptions described by O'Brian and Forester. One incongruous photograph shows WWII damage suffered by the Victory from a German aircraft bomb. For the modeler, everything is included in this one book, hull, standing rigging, running rigging, modeling tips, and construction of special tools and jigs. The immense index contains over 1200 entries.

The following (British books) reviews are from Mike Taylor:

The Masting And Rigging Of
English Ships Of War 1625-1860

Jimmy Lees
ISBN0 85177 136 X
Out of a possible 80 odd books in my collection, I suppose the most valuable to me is this. Without it I could not have built my HMS Falmouth of 1813 and my present project, HMS Havik of 17 something or other. Jim's endless knowledge of the subject oozes from every page and the quality of the drawings is just perfection to be seen. The tables are a boon to those who have purchased NMM Admiralty drawings, only to find there is no masting or rigging plan, as accurate measurements can be gleaned from them. It's a bit of hard work doing the calculus, but hey, if it were that simple, everyone would have one. I did compile a spreadsheet in Excel for my Havik so all I had to do was enter the length and breadth in two cells and the numbers crunched in a split second to give me all the spar dimensions for that boat.
The Chatham Directory of
Inshore Craft - Traditional
Working Vessels of the
British Isles

Jimmy Lees
Chatham Publishing
ISBN 1 86176 029 9
However, probably the most pictorial and factual research work that has almost one complete line drawing on every page is this book. This book ain't cheap at around $50 US or 35 quid UK, but it has every boat or stick of wood that ever floated off shore in this Kingdom of mine and is a sheer goldmine of unbridled information.
Breaking down the cost of the book is done simply at about 2 bucks a drawing plus a lot of the research is done for one plus a photo, maybe two thrown in, which looking at that way, the book is indeed dirt cheap.
Modelling Thames Sailing Barges
Ewart Freeston & Bernard Kent
ISBN 0 85177 091 6
Aother book in the collection that has been invaluable to me; it sadly been out of print for years. This is, as it's title suggests, all about modelling Thames barges, which are by far the most popularly modelled class of boat presently in the UK. In it there are drawings and photos of everything one needs to know about these craft and a decent model can be built from it and there is a two page sheer and deck plan of the barge "Kathleen", which gives a very clear idea of the general deck arrangement to build a model from. This deck arrangement was typical of the type so almost any barge can be built from this drawing.
A Handbook of Sailing Barges
F.S. Cooper & John Chancellor
Adlard Coles
ISBN 0 229 64232 2
My final book is a small work. This book is the barge skipper's "Bible" and goes into almost everything on these fine craft. Even the different house flags, or 'bobs' as they are known, are covered in the work. This I work believe is still in print, although my reprint copy is dated as 1989.
I won't bore the pants off you all by listing the other 70 odd something books in my collection, as each has an intrinsic value in it's own right and was well worth the trek to save for and get, suffice to say that these four books listed above have given me many hours, if not weeks, of serine pleasure.

The following is from Clayton A. Feldman, MD:

A Personal Research Library:

Anglo-American Sailing Vessels of the Eighteenth Century (With Commentary)

The problem confronting beginning and intermediate ship modelers is quite straight forward: For both, the major pitfall is error compounding error. Increasing awareness of this negative process tends to be followed by frustration, wheel-spinning attempts at ongoing correction and finally exasperation and dropping-out. The problem often results from the limited availability of readily accessible guidance. This in turn leads to poor choice of subjects for modeling and rather random, undirected library building. Without at least a purpose-built library (and better yet, some form of mentoring in addition), failure to understand the limits of one's personal knowledge rapidly puts the modeler into the unfortunate state described above, precluding accurate and effective work. What then can be done to prevent such talent-wasting scenarios from developing?

If one could control the entry point into ship modeling for the beginner, the job would be relatively easy. One would select a simple, quality kit -- a sloop or schooner from a quality manufacturer and one book, probably George Campbell's A Neophyte Ship Modeler's Jackstay, as the starting package.

This would permit the beginner to get the look and feel of the hobby with a bit of guidance and see if it appealed to him. If it did, he would then be encouraged to purchase a bit more advanced kit, together with a small library consisting of (in this author's opinion) one book and two articles. The book is the Merritt Edson-edited Ship Modeler's Shop Notes; in it are excellent chapters on research and ship selection for modeling as well as innumerable articles on construction, tools and processes.

The two recommended articles are Charles O. McDonald's Books as a Key to Modeling Success (Nautical Research Journal, Vol.31, No.1, pp 17-36) and Peter Sorlien's article Before the Chips Fly, A Few Thoughts to Guide the New Ship Modeler (Scale Woodcraft, No.6, 1986, pp 23-29). The first article is a master book collector's personal guide to library building for ship modeling and nautical research. It philosophically suggests that the library builder is well-served by sticking to one general era and not many different types of vessels and by rather ruthlessly limiting his library to that era and type. The second article is a general introduction and guide to the selection of kits, the understanding of the basic research process and the general philosophy of proper ship modeling.

This second ship modeling project and its associated library expansion would start the process of converting the hobbyist into a sort of scholar craftsman. From here on, or perhaps after a couple of more kit models, it would be all library building and scratch modeling or serious kit bashing, with the personal library being the primary source for the basic research.

It should be noted that the library suggestions above and those to follow form a basic library only for mid-late eighteenth century small and medium-sized Anglo-American vessels, the author's personal area of interest. Other times and places require different libraries and a bit of research before beginning book purchases. One must also realize that much of the information for these smaller vessels is interpreted and derived from the primary source material for larger vessels, thereby expanding the library somewhat beyond that which seems 'ruthlessly' related to the small vessels themselves. In any event, here we go:

First: The Ruthless TWO BOOK Library:

  1. Chapelle, Howard I., The Search for Speed Under Sail, W.W. Norton Co. Inc., New York, 1983.
  2. Petrejus, E.W., Building the Brig-of-War Irene. "De Esch", Holland, 1970.
Outrageous, you say? Not at all. At least half of all the interesting smaller American vessels of the era are found well-drawn and described in this particular Chapelle work. They are interesting because they were fast and therefore were used in interesting applications, mostly as privateers and smugglers. Although Chapelle's text is almost totally undocumented, for which he has come under revisionist historian attack recently, he is extremely detailed, generally authoritative, a marvelous draftsman and a most adequate source of information gathering-type basic research. Serious research, however, can never end with Chapelle.

The Petrejus book is practically a single volume encyclopedia. It contains historical research, magnificent engravings and prints, contemporary (always remember, in academic historical parlance, contemporary means at the time of the historical period under study, not modern times (e.g., then, not now) construction techniques, rigging and fitting data, spar tables and very detailed modeling techniques all in one. Applied specifically to the modeling of a Dutch revision of an early nineteenth century English brig, it applies quite generally to our era and type and is a very good source for further library research.

And Then: The Compleat (almost) Two Foot Library:

A fairly complete plans source, historical database, and modern and contemporary practices reference library can be had by the addition of another fifteen books to those previously described. Carefully placed notes about the house prior to birthdays and holidays can greatly assist in the speed of acquisition. The books are:

  1. Steel, David, Elements of Mastmaking, Sailmaking and Rigging (1794), Sweetman Reprint, Largo, Fla.,1983.
  2. Lever, D'arcy, The Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor. (1819), Sweetman Reprint, New York, 1963.
  3. Steel, David, The Elements and Practice of Naval Architecture, 1805. Sim Comfort Reprint, London, 1977.
  4. Chapman, F.H., Architectura Navalis Mercatoria, 1768, Sweetman Reprint, New York, 1967.
  5. Gill, Claude S. (editor), The Old Wooden Walls: Their Construction, Equipment, etc. Being an abridged edition of FALCONER'S Celebrated Marine Dictionary. W&G Foyle, Ltd., London, 1930.
  6. Millar, John F., Early American Ships. Thirteen Colonies Press, Williamsburg, Va., 1986.
  7. Chapelle, Howard I., The History of the American Sailing Navy, W.W. Norton Co. Inc., New York, 1949.
  8. Chapelle, Howard I., The History of American Sailing Ships, W.W. Norton Co. Inc., New York, 1935.
  9. MacGregor, David R., Fast Sailing Ships, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1988.
  10. MacGregor, David R., Merchant Sailing Ships 1775-1815, Argus Books, Ltd., Watford, Herts, England, 1980.
  11. Lees, James, The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War, 1625-1860, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1984.
  12. Goodwin, Peter, The English Man of War, 1650-1850, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1987.
  13. Lavery, Brian, The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War, 1600-1815, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1987.
  14. Harland, John and Meyers, Mark, Seamanship in the Age of Sail, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1985.
  15. Howard, Dr. Frank, Sailing Ships of War, 1400-1860, Mayflower Books, New York, 1979.
Most of these books are still in print or in re-print editions. The Gill Falconer, or one of the other Falconer reprints, will have to be sought out in a nautical used book store. Lacking rich and generous relatives, one may have to find a library for accessing Steel's Naval Architecture.

With these volumes added to our historical research and plans sources, we complete the basic documentation of American naval and private vessels. The two additional books from Chapelle contain extensive historical and naval architectural data and scores of the best drafts of American vessels ever drawn. The Chapman book is the single most valuable collection of contemporary plans, unfortunately few of which could be considered American. They are, however, essentially generic types, divided by nautical design and use, by (European) nation of origin and by size. Chapman also has very nice sail plan drawings.

A very enjoyable American vessels scrapbook, the Millar book has over two hundred copied and/or reconstructed drawings of colonial and Revolutionary era American vessels available for perusal, together with brief historical summaries of the lives of the vessels. It is often a good place to begin one's search for a choice of modeling projects. The two MacGregor contributions are the scholarly delineation of the English side of our era's smaller vessels as the Chapelle works are for the American side. To these books must be added the basic primary contemporary sources on rigging and spar-making (Steel and Lever), the general mini-encyclopedia of eighteenth century naval architecture (Falconer), and the not-to-be-done-without (but very expensive) Steel's Naval Architecture, the only primary source available for actual dimensions and scantlings (the size of the smaller timbers) for the smaller vessels. This latter listing is actually a pair of books, the reference book itself and a magnificent over-size folio of large scale engravings of interesting ships of the era.

The modern standard compendium of masting and rigging is Lee's book, that for construction is Goodwin's and for fittings, Lavery. The Harland-Meyers book provides a great many otherwise missing details by both describing and sketching a great many processes showing how the ship and its equipment were actually used. Frank Howard provides a general overview of the era in a very good book (Sailing Ships of War), which misses being a great book only by lacking an index.

New books for the research library are appearing at a rapid rate, and the would-be library builder must often decide within a fairly short span of time whether or not to buy, as single edition production runs are common. In the past few years alone, we have seen Brian Lavery's two books on the ships of the line, a whole slew of Conway Publishing volumes in the Anatomy of the Ship series, the magnificent Jean Boudriot series on a wide variety of French vessels of this era, Franklin's book on Navy Board models, and a modest number of reprints of eighteenth and early nineteenth century reference books -- Steel, Falconer, Sutherland, Fincham and others, if you want names to look for. Most of these books are available from the book shops and mail order hobby suppliers who advertise in Seaways' Ships in Scale.

Although these suggestions are mainly for a reference library, one would be remiss in not mentioning at least a few books that deal largely with model construction techniques. Of course much valuable construction information is available in the Edson and Petrejus volumes mentioned above. Ship Modeler's Shop Notes is useful for models of all types, with information on built-up lift models as well as plank-on- frame. It also is crammed with time-proven techniques for block and spar making, casting metal fittings, making rope, painting, coppering and just about everything else the modeler needs to know. Modeling the Brig of War Irene is similarly useful and broad-based. The hull technique described is the lift method of solid hull building, but the fitting, finishing, spar making, etc. techniques are universal in application and the details are especially useful for smaller-than-ship- of-the-line vessels.

For plank-on-frame modelers there are two additional recommendations, the old favorite The Built-Up Ship Model by Charles Davis and the very well received fairly recent work of Harold Hahn, The Colonial Schooner. The former is fifty years old, written in a charming style, and full of very useful construction and research data hints the size of gunports, the height of sills, the weight of anchors, etc. It is also full of anachronisms and is itself based on an error of identification, Davis having substituted an English brig of the turn of the century for the American Revolutionary War converted merchant brig Lexington. The hull construction techniques are universal and very easy to understand and the drawings are wonderful.

Hahn's work has turned his slightly simplified style of P-O-F building, admittedly a model maker's convention rather than an exact reproduction of contemporary practice, into the middle-of-the-road standard. Widely used by modelers, this technique, using several jigs for building the frames and a unique fixture for holding the frames upside down in place during construction, provides for excellent continuity of form and alignment of frames as the hull is built.

I picked up a new paperback (magazine size) book last week called:

The Painters Guide to World War Two Naval Camouflage

by Patrick Hreachmack. It is published by Clash of Arms Publishers, so as you might guess it is for 1/2400, 1/1200, up to 1/700 ships. While not a substitute for the Floating Drydock books, it covers, the US, British and Commonwealth, German, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Floquil, Humbrol, and MM paint lines. Notes on deck colors, aircraft colors, and other tidbits are covered. As an example, Japanese ships colors depended on the shipyard where they were built or repaired.

There are of course a lot of side views of camouflage schemes. On the down side, since it is written for war gamers it covers lots of schemes for ships not produced in plastic (3 pages of Tribal class destroyers) and omits popular plastic ships (Rodney, P of W,....). It also notes FAA a/c as gray on top, which in that scale I guess XDSG and Slate gray would look like ...gray. OTOH, the last 4 pages contain an extensive list of references. At, $18.95 it isn't cheap, but it a good starter book.
{Bob Sigman}

The late Dana L. McCalip said:

I have been following the thread on the "beginner" and what is needed to help him or her in the development of their ship model building hobby.

As far as I am concerned the answer is patience, perseverance and having access to a well-rounded library. This latter point on the library is of paramount importance and something that cannot be taken too lightly. I can speak from experience on this as I have been in the ship modeling game as a hobby and semi-professionally for the past forty years. You cannot expect to build high quality models unless you know how to check and verify accuracy and authenticity and to do that you must have a hard copy database from which to operate. The Internet and e-mail list may in the future fill the void if ship lore and naval construction books were abandoned; but it cannot do it now nor in the near future.

Considering this I have recommended a list of ten basic books for beginners new to the ship modeling hobby. Naturally, this list is purely subjective and will possibly not have the complete support of other experienced ship modeling list members. It is however based on past experience and is part of my current library that consists of over three hundred volumes on the subject.

Here they are. I have tried to rank them in order of importance to the beginner:

  • Campbell, George F. - The Neophyte Ship Models Jackstay
  • Mondfeld, Wolfram zu - Historic Ship Models
  • Nautical Research Guild - Ship Modeler's Shop Notes Manual
  • Petrejus, E. W. - Irene
  • Lees, James - The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War 1625-1860
  • Underhill, Harold - Sailing Ship Rigs and Rigging
  • Underhill, Harold - Masting and Rigging the Clippership and Ocean Carrier
  • Davis, Charles G. - Ship Model Builder's Assistant
  • Hahn, Harold - Colonial Ship Models
  • Davis, Charles G. - The Built Up Ship Model
All of these books are in print and when examined collectively would provide an excellent foundation for any ship modeling/maritime library. The first two books listed could almost stand by themselves temporarily while one gets their feet on the ground.
{Dana McCalip}
There are several book out there to choose from.
  • THE ART OF RIGGING by George Biddlecombe
  • THE LORE OF SHIPS by Nordbok
  • SHIP MODELS FROM KITS by Colin Riches
  • SHIP MODLERS SHOP NOTES by Nautical Research Guild
  • THE SEARCH FOR SPEED UNDER SAIL 1700-1855 Howard I. Chapelle
  • THE AMERICAN SAILING SCHOONERS 1823-1935 by Howard I. Chapelle
  • THE HISTORY OF SAILING SHIPS vols 1 and 2 by Howard I. Chapelle
This is just a few of them. There are many more to choose from depending upon what era you wish to choose from
{David dgbot}
I must agree with others, this depends what ship model you are building. In my rather small collection I have:
  • Ship Modellers Ship Notes
  • American Sailing Ships
  • Historic Ship Models
  • The Anatomy of Nelsons Ships
  • The Anatomy of 100 Gun Ship, Victory
  • The Cutty Sark
  • Sailing Ships Rig and Rigging
  • Ships in Scale magazine
  • Model Boat Magazine UK
  • Knots,
  • plus others regarding ships, history etc.
The first three fit any type of ship being built. a good idea is start at your local libary and have a look if you can before the $$$ are handed over.
{Wendy Thompson}
The books you'll want to own are a very personal matter. As list members have been correctly saying, the titles you purchase should be determined by what you want to do with your modeling. A book that's "perfect" for one model builder may be "a waste of money" for another. Nevertheless, a few of the inexpensive general-purpose books are well worth the money.

One of the best buys these days is Monfeld's Historic Ship Models. That, at least, is my opinion. It's true, the book's full of inaccuracies and much of it has actually been lifted ("stolen"?) from other sources, but the pictures and diagrams it contains make it well worth the $20 or so that it sells for. Thumbing through its pages will give you a good idea of what our kind of model building is all about. There are, of course, other titles that fall into this introductory category. They've been mentioned by others.

Some books that are "musts" for every model builder's library are a poor investment during the early stages of your model building career. In this category I'd include titles such as James Lees' The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War. When I bought my copy a few years ago, it was too esoteric (and expensive!) to be valuable to me. Over the years, however, it's become one of my most valuable books. The importance of a book will change with your modeling experience!

Books that have been favorites of mine right from the start -- and continue to be volumes that I return to with pleasure over and over -- are Harold Underhill's Plank-on-Frame Models and Scale Masting & Rigging, volumes I&II. Reading Underhill is like visiting an experienced model building friend who's explaining how he did what he did. He clarifies his explanations with superb sketches (and lousy photographs!). I don't know how many times I've read -- and reread -- his various chapters. Nevertheless, Underhill's volumes have their shortcomings, too. For example, his chapter on building clinker-built models and little ships boats probably scares people away from a process that's not at all difficult.

And, finally, remember that a book that's important to you may be almost useless to another modelbuilder. Example: For me, Eric McKee's Working Boats of Britain, Their Shape and Purpose remains a gold mine of information for my kind of model building. Nevertheless, it's hardly a volume I'd recommend to others -- unless they share my interests.

Over the years, I've bought almost all of my out-of-print books from Dave Roach at Pier Books in New York. He's always quoted me fair prices, accurately described what he had to offer, and packed the books carefully for shipment to me in Germany. All in all, in terms of my experience, a first-class operation. I've found it wise to allow my book seller to know my tastes and interests. Dave, for example, will ask me if I'm interested in a particular volume that has come into his hands. That's a nice service!

Finally, I'd suggest that you mention a book that interests you (one at a time) on this list. Ask what others think of it. You'll be pleased with the response you get -- and find the information most helpful. That's what I do. Works great.
{Doc Klein}

Many books are available on Google Book Search. For example, searching using "ship model", I found 8,400 books listed; most can be partially or fully downloaded!
{John O. Kopf}
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