It all depends on who you ask. Its a term that is bandied about these days, but
like the old saying goes, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
. It's a very
First, the general classifications:
Ship Model Classifications
Scratch-Built Model: Model built entirely from scratch materials by the builder
with no commercially fabricated parts except cordage, chain and belaying pins.
Modified Scratch-Built Model: Model built from scratch, but supplemented by the
use of some commercially fabricated accessories.
Modified Kit Model: Model built from materials provided in commercial kit,
supplemented by other commercially fabricated parts or by scratch-built parts.
Kit Model: Model built entirely from materials provided in commercial kits.
Sub Categories: Model built and/or displayed in any of the following methods:
Antique Waterline Cross Section Cut-Away Exposed Interior Sailing
Half Hull Rare Materials Diorama Power Mechanized Builders' Model
Extreme Miniature Ship-in- a- Bottle Shadowbox Americana Folk Art.
Decorative Pond Model Production Other
(Categories provided by The Mariners' Museum Model Ship Craftsmen Competition,
and by Mystic Seaport Museum; as prepared by R. Michael Wall, 1980)
Classes of Models:
The level of detail and craftsmanship of model ships can range from crude
"primitives" to more detailed models that achieve true museum quality. Most of
the people that see a model really don't see the minor errors.
Ship models are proliferating on the Internet in ever growing numbers, and all
claim to be of the highest "museum quality
". The old saying "you get what you
" holds true in most instances. The price of a model does generally
reflect the quality of the workmanship and level of fidelity. But it takes some
practice to judge which models are worth their price. This is difficult with
only photographs to go by, but a trained eye can tell spot critical differences.
Look at photographs carefully. Quality models show faithfulness to the original
Some experienced model-makers build their models from kits (bashed to the point
that they are nearly scratch built). Novice model-makers discover the world of
model making through kits. These construction kits contain everything necessary
for building the model. All components, whether wood, brass or other materials
should be designed and manufactured using sophisticated technology. But some
kits are lacking in detail, and some manufacturers provide kits of factious
Kits generally divided between Beginner
, or Advanced kits
standard division is between up to six skill levels.
Skill Level 1
kits can be built without prior building experience, using simple
hand tools. Some parts in Skill Level 1 kits require cutting and fitting.
Skill Level 2
kits require slightly more skill and some prior experience using
hand tools. Some parts in Skill Level 2 require cutting, fitting and shaping.
Skill Level 3
kits are intended for the person having some prior building
experience building wooden boats. Skill Level 3 kits contain parts that require
cutting, fitting, shaping and fabricating.
Skill Level 4
kits are intended for experienced modelers. Kits in this series
feature plank-on-frame construction. Before building a Skill Level 4 kit,
modelers generally construct a Skill Level 3 Apprentice kit.
Skill Level 5
- Experienced period ship builder.
Skill Level 6
- Expert period ship builder
The term "museum quality
" is sometimes used to describe a model which, in the
speaker's opinion, is an example of superior work. "Museum quality" is a
subjective appraisal with no official definition within the museum community.
The following are some elements associated with this term.
Workmanship should be in accordance, in every respect, with the best
model-building practices. Hulls should be smooth, fair, and symmetrical; without
blemishes, sap pockets, or tool marks, and should be scraped and sand-papered to
smooth surface. Machined parts should bear no tool marks. Castings should bear
no visible mold marks. In no case should glue alone be deemed sufficient to hold
deck houses, fittings, or other appurtenances in place. Mechanical fastenings
such as screws and pins should be used in addition to adhesives.
Models should consist of the whole exterior of the vessel from keel and
appendages to the top of the highest fitting.
Running and standing rigging should be represented. Windlasses should be wound
with appropriate line. Large windows should be indicated on the model by clear
acrylic plastic. Ports should be transparent, and should have a hole bored
behind them to give an appearance of depth. Gun turrets should have the openings
in face plates required for elevation of the guns. Where required, gun shrouds
should be represented.
Small boats should be mounted on davits or otherwise as actually carried and
should show all details, motors, and equipment. If represented with weather
covers, gripes and all fastenings visible are to be shown. Landing craft and
whale boats should be without covers and should show all exposed details and
Propellers should be cast in bronze. If another material is used it shall first
be copper plated and then brass plated. Fittings and accessories shall be of
metal or other suitable material which will permanently hold its shape and will
not deteriorate from temperature, humidity, light or chemical reaction with
other parts, paint, or the atmosphere. Lead or lead-bearing compounds are not
suitable for any component. No ferrous materials shall be used.
Painting of models shall receive careful attention. Special care shall be given
to select compatible paints that demonstrate the best resistance to color
changes, cracking, peeling, and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. All
parts of the model shall have a surface treatment representing the appearance of
the actual vessel if reduced in scale.
What makes a 'museum quality
' ship model?
In the words of professional marine model artist Rob Napier, "a good ship model
must give a compelling impression of the actual vessel.
" Although a subjective
perception, experience and study of the three-dimensional elements of accurate
models develops a strong impression of authentic naval architecture. Models
speak a technical language - much like the written alphabet - based on
scrupulous research. Nathaniel Herreshoff once said, "A poorly made ship model
is nothing but a lie that deceives the eye.
A good ship model is skillfully crafted with suitable materials and constructed
according to authentic maritime research and /or plans. The typical ship model
from the Great Age of Sail (18 the & 19 the centuries) have four primary
characteristics, all of which need to be consistent in craftsmanship quality:
hull construction, paint work or finishing, metal smithing and rigging. As these
characteristics are surveyed and interact, the model should provide the required
"compelling impression of the actual ship.
From an aesthetic standpoint, a finely crafted and artistically presented ship
model, like a fine painting, has a convincing presence or "aura.
Remember, the three most important things that make for a successful modeler are
patience, patience, and yet more patience. It is supposed to be a hobby, not a
Most Museums really don't have a strict standard for we call 'Museum Quality'.
They go on a model by model basis. In other words, if they like what they see,
they like what they see. As the lady in the Art Gallery said, 'I don't know art,
but I know what I like'
To quote the Ship Modelers FAQ:
'A museum quality ship model is whatever a museum director accepts for a museum collection'
See, crystal clear!
What to Build?,
Scratch Building Criteria, and
American Marine Model
Some Museum Director may just consider this a Museum Quality Model (The SS
Modeler - Jack Moffett - on what to do with all those extra parts collected over the years!
This article was from a reply to a post made by Doug J, What exactly does Museum Quality' mean?