Building one-off models to sell

shipbuilder

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I have started this as an offshoot from "Copyright" because Gemma brought it up in "Copyright!" This is something I know quite a lot about. Having grown weary of life at sea (31 years), I took voluntary redundancy in late 1992 at the age of 48. I took up model shipbuilding and writing full time. That was 25 years ago now, and it was a successful move, and I have never been unemployed or on benefits of any kind! There are, however, some unpalatable truths that must be accepted in order to make a success of it. The first is to accept the fact that if a "serious" collector wants to purchase a model, he does not want a kit, however good! He wants something that no-one else, or very few others have. Cutty Sark, Bounty, Victory, Titanic, Constitution etc have been modelled to death - it is as simple as that! Size and transport is another factor. To transport a large model, even in the same country can be very expensive, and transit insurance is usually "phoney," in the fact that most couriers will only pay out on cost of materials. Therefore, if the model is squashed flat, you get a few pounds or dollars fro the materials, but nothing from the many hours of work lost. If a model is damaged, the cry often goes up from the courier "insufficient packaging!" I got around this by building miniatures, and building them fast! At one time, I could produce about 14 models a year. I use acrylic for the display cases because of its strength. I built models of the obscure, or semi obscure, and chose merchant ships because they are more colourful and attractive than warships and the plans are more readily available, often in books. And, most importantly. they are more collectable. I have been retired from this sort of thing for a number of years now, and only build what I feel like. Shortly after completion, someone usually sees them on my blog, and purchases them. I do not advertise models specifically - they sell of their own accord. At the moment, I am completely sold out, and am currently working on the 270th ship model since I started counting in October 1992. The model below, the tiny schooner Mary Sinclair, took 28 hours to build. I timed the work on a stopwatch, and if I stopped for any reason, I stopped the watch. It sold for £400! The work was spread over a couple of weeks. I wrote for Model Shipwright for a number of years until they ceased publication, and am continually writing short to medium sized downloads ranging from free of charge to a few pounds each. These are very popular, and the few modellers who have taken up this form of ship modelling have generally been very successful with it. But generally, the modeller decides that they could never do anything like this, and there the matter rests - despite the fact that it is actually fare easier than using conventional methods.
Food for thought - but I doubt if many modellers will follow it up!
Bob
Here is a utube presentation of my models (All sold) https://youtu.be/oUm3A3tXDc4
 

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GemmaJF

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Thanks Bob, very informative article.

Having slept on the thoughts I was having a think this could be a way for me to go.

I am in semi-retirement (at 50) due to hubby's ill heath. Though new to ships, I have 40 years of modeling experience. I stumbled on ship modeling really from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but it makes a lot of sense. In the past I modeled plastic and RC aircraft. There is little display value with them and the larger aircraft are just difficult to store etc. I have a lot of support from the family to build ships as a lasting record of my modeling which I find very touching.

I have a drive to keep all the skills alive that I have developed down the years, design in CAD, CNC etc, general engineering, problem solving, well one doesn't just stop thinking because one is no longer running a business!

My main interest area is researching and recreating pirate ships, difficult challenge due to lack of direct information, but that is just the sort of thing that I like, bit of a detective story, a bit of lateral thinking rather than just copying existing plans. Most of the current models are guesses and I really think I could take that up a notch. There is a big difference between, "we don't have a plan, well use this old model out of the range and put a jolly roger on it, nobody will know the difference", to using all the current research and having a proper stab at recreating a particular ship.

Regarding the transport, I would be happy to deliver the ships within the UK personally. I have lots of ideas for display cases, so setting these up at the buyers home and delivering the ship could be part of the service.


In the end I am just enjoying ship modeling, there are at least 3 or 4 kits I would like to make, though I know eventually I will get bored with doing kits. I have already 3 potential projects where there is no kit, or no kit even remotely representative. So my thoughts are to develop those projects and showcase the resulting ships, if they sell they do.

I have to think what the next 20 or so years of my life will be focused around and I could have a problem just filling the house with ship models, there is only room for a few, so it would be good to cultivate some form of commercial interest in others I make. So thanks very much for the food for thought. :text-thankyouyellow:
 

shipbuilder

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Delivering models yourself adds to the cost though. Not only in petrol, and cost of meals whilst away, but in time that could be used building models. For a number of years, I have used UPS and they have never broken or lost anything. I have developed my own style of display cases and they don't take all that long to build. One hour veneering and assembling the base quadrant. Two hours the next day cutting and fitting the four acrylic side panels and cutting and edging the base (working though the open to to get a perfect fit. Then putting the top on. about 1 1/2 hours on the third day to edge the corners in veneer, and make the external green felt base underneath it. The French polishing can be done at any old time as work on the model proceeds. I don't know how much customers would be prepared to pay for a pirate ship - probably not much, but I may be wrong. Some time ago, I sold a model of the cargo ship Clan Mactaggart for £400. Years later, it turned up in a London auction house (Charles Miller Ltd) where it sold for about £3,800! I also find a free Google blog very useful, and also a Facebook group.
Bob
 

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GemmaJF

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The pirate ships may be a bit of a niche, but I've seen a few sell for big money, to members of the production team of Pirate's of the Caribbean for example! It is one of those things where there is a sort of underlying wider interest which is difficult to judge. I can see it as potentially there is no interest at all, or one could be pleasantly surprised. There is a market out there for plenty of toyish wooden pirate ship models, it is exploring whether there is a top end to the market I guess, and there is only one way to find out. ;-)
 

shipbuilder

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I just looked up pirate ship models on Ebay. The cheapest being 99p and the most expensive £536.61! One supposed pirate ship just looked like a 74 gun ship-of-the line to me. I doubt if any pirate carried 74 guns :lol: Black Pearl was $350 and was 37 inches long, so that would probably take some time and energy to build, so I would say the builder will not be making much selling them at that price!
Bob
 

GemmaJF

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I just took a look myself at ebay.

Typical sales talk is to present the 'apparent' pirate ship then name as many pirates from the golden age as possible, that had no historical connections at all with anything like the ship for sale.

This is big name wooden kit produces I am talking about, not stuff being sold for children to play with.

Captain Kidd, big name, sailed in the Adventure Galley, this was an unusually long and fast ship for its time, with sweep ports, ... it is also known she had a sister ship the Charles Galley that plenty is known about... (or that is one thought, some think the Adventure Galley was a re-fit of an old ship, others a new build, but along the same lines) ...but what do we get to represent Captain Kidd's ship... ... nothing that looks remotely like this:


Charles Galley, image public domain



I do seriously wonder though if it is only me that notices these things or even cares!
 

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GemmaJF

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Out of interest, I've been doing some sleuthing on the Adventure Galley and came up with a very interesting discovery.

The Charles Galley was built in 1677 - some 18 years before the Adventure Galley. So one could say they can not be the same design etc.

But researching the Charles Galley it seems her history ends with her being rebuilt in 1693 at Woolwich. After that I can find no references to this ship.

Two years later in 1695, the Adventure Galley leaves nearby Deptford, one year later in 1696 the 'Kidd consortium' purchase her for the well known venture.

So I get to thinking, when the Adventure Galley is being built,

1. The Charles Galley is available to examine at nearby Woolwich

2. The Adventure Galley could in fact, be the Charles Galley.

Much more research to do, but I think that is what makes all this so interesting. Subjects that seem almost too far lost in the past have documented connections that become very interesting to ponder. :D

Adding to the mystery it is also known the Adventure Galley pretty much fell to pieces in the end. Badly built as has been presumed by some authors? Or simply a much older ship than anyone had ever realized before...
 

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I've now found some evidence the Charles Galley did leave Woolwich with her identity intact, there is evidence she was rebuilt again at Deptford in 1710, being renamed the HMS Torrington in 1729.

Still fascinating though to see that she could have been a prototype for the Adventure Galley and I need to do much more digging around on the link between these two ships. It is just way too striking that authors always quote the Charles Galley as fitting the description of the Adventure Galley, somehow they are closely linked and a bit of researching has them at virtually the same place at the same time. :D

Does anyone know what 'rebuild' of one of these ships would have involved?

I think if she was down to the bare bones the Charles Galley could have been examined closely and measured to produce the Adventure Galley, perhaps large components could have been manufactured in pairs for both ships, one for the rebuild, one for the new ship.
 

shipwright101

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there is that one area between the "one off" and the mass production kit. It is the "reproduction" go here and see who Harold Hahn was

http://www.dlumberyard.com/haroldhahn.html

then go here and these models are "reproductions" of Hahn's original, each model notes "built from Hahn's plans" note the price starts at $5,000.00 and up

http://fiddlersgreenmodelships.com/5000-00-and-up-models-for-sale/

so I can cut almost every timber for a reproduction model in miniature scale in other words produce a one off kit which is really not a kit because it will take some skill to built, all I did was provide a cutting service. a 6 inch reproduction of Hahn's Halifax would be quite a model.

fears of the old school
exquisite work done on a keyboard and the push of a button.
never happen! because to build a miniature reproduction of a Hahn model takes a lot of skill. getting laser cut parts is only a rough start.
 

shipwright101

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Does anyone know what 'rebuild' of one of these ships would have involved?

that could be anything from just using the hull shape and rebuilding the upper structure to replacing some rotted timbers.
 

GemmaJF

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Thanks so it could have been at Woolwich for some considerable time while the work was done. Has to be worth contacting some of the current researchers and asking if they ever spotted the coincidence of the Charles Galley being at Woolwich while the Adventure Galley was being built at Deptford. One way to get 'sister' ships, but built 18 years apart. :D
 

shipwright101

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Still fascinating though to see that she could have been a prototype for the Adventure Galley and I need to do much more digging around on the link between these two ships. It is just way too striking that authors always quote the Charles Galley as fitting the description of the Adventure Galley, somehow they are closely linked and a bit of researching has them at virtually the same place at the same time. :D

I think if she was down to the bare bones the Charles Galley could have been examined closely and measured to produce the Adventure Galley, perhaps large components could have been manufactured in pairs for both ships, one for the rebuild, one for the new ship.


I do not think there was a link between the AG and the CG because the AG was a private built and owned merchant vessel hired as an armed transport for the navy. The CG was a naval designed and built ship built in a naval yard. The CG was built to the lines of the Dunkirt privateers and the first frigate design
 

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It's the similarity of the designs that suggests the link. The contemporary descriptions of the Adventure Galley suggest it is a sort of hybrid ship, as if it is not very 'typical' of the time. The description has been picked up by many authors as very similar to the Charles Galley.

Then it turns out that the Charles Galley is in Woolwich for a rebuild, right at the time the Adventure Galley is built just down the road at Deptford.

This is just a wiki cut and paste, regarding the AG but it is verified by my other research:

She had been launched on 4 December 1695 from Captain William Castle's dockyard in Deptford on the outskirts of London.[3] Her design combined sails and oars, an unusual combination for warships at that time, that incorporated three ship-rigged masts and two banks of oars.

This is also a description of the Charles Galley. So is it only coincidence that the CG is at Woolwich while the AG is built a few miles down the road at Deptford, or was it a case that the AG was built with direct reference to the CG?

It could be verified perhaps with purchase orders etc. It is speculative, but coincidences are not always so coincidental. Two ships fitting the same description, both somewhat unusual, and one is built right when the other is being rebuilt just a few miles away.

As far as I know exactly why the AG is built originally is not established, some sources stating it was a new build for the Navy (supporting the potential copying of the CG), others that it was a merchant ship in for conversion. I am convinced though it was not built to order for the Kidd consortium, as the evidence is they purchased it a year after its launch.

Just adding to this, there was some difficulty designing these ships with sweeps that were also pierced for cannon, the sweeps had to be in the right place for the draught of the ship, then there were considerations of the oarsman being accommodated while they rowed, whilst at the same time allowing the gunners to work and ship to be sailed. It does tempt one to think it may have been more prudent to copy an existing successful design, than start from scratch when building such a ship.
 

shipwright101

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As far as I know exactly why the AG is built originally is not established, some sources stating it was a new build for the Navy (supporting the potential copying of the CG), others that it was a merchant ship in for conversion. I am convinced though it was not built to order for the Kidd consortium, as the evidence is they purchased it a year after its launch.

I checked David Lyons (curator of the National Maritime Museum) list of all the ships of the Royal Navy 1688-1860 the Adventure Gally 1696-1699 is not listed as a Royal Navy built ship nor it is listed as a naval ship at all. Checking further the Adventure is listed under miscellaneous unregistered and hired vessels. So you can rule out a new build for the navy

She had been launched on 4 December 1695 from Captain William Castle's dockyard in Deptford on the outskirts of London. Her design combined sails and oars, an unusual combination for warships at that time, that incorporated three ship-rigged masts and two banks of oars.

I don't know this I am just guessing but I do not think private yards build "warships" unless they were contracted by the admiralty. There is no known contract for the private building of the Adventure Gally between the navy and Captain William Castle so it must of been built as a private merchant ship or a privateer which could most likely be the case.

A privateer was a private person or ship that engaged in maritime warfare under a commission of war. The commission, also known as a letter of marque, empowered the person to carry on all forms of hostility permissible at sea by the usages of war, including attacking foreign vessels during wartime and taking them as prizes.
 

GemmaJF

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Thanks, some vital info there! Built as a privateer does make a lot of sense, she seems to have been built specifically as a 'pirate' hunter, fast and well armed, the sweeps to allow her to close in calm conditions.

It does now make me wonder what sort of relationship a private dockyard had with the nearby naval dockyards, one would image not a great one unless under contract with the recorded 'stiffness' of the Navy Board in the early Eighteenth century. I can still see a strong link with the idea that the design of the CG was in someway a direct influence in the building of the AG, but I need to find some evidence, else it is pure conjecture.
 

shipwright101

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As far as I know exactly why the AG is built originally is not established, some sources stating it was a new build for the Navy (supporting the potential copying of the CG), others that it was a merchant ship in for conversion. I am convinced though it was not built to order for the Kidd consortium, as the evidence is they purchased it a year after its launch.

it was a common practice in private yards to "build on speculation" which was to build a hull and hope it is sold then once sold the ship is finished to the specifications of the new owner. So the Adventure could very well have been built, sat on the stocks and sold a year later.
 

GemmaJF

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I think I found one reference that suggests the Navy hired her before the Kidd Consortium bought her.

But a speculative build does sound interesting, particularly if it was a speculative 'copy' of what appears to have been a very successful ship in the dockyards just down the road!
 

shipwright101

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it was long believed many of the early war ships built in north America were built with the design and influence of british built ships. Little known fact all tradesman and shipwrights were banned from coming to north America because the admiralty did not want their designs copied. so there were very few British owned yards in north America most were Dutch and French. the Brits or English (don't know if those are one in the same) anyhow the navy was very protective of their ship building.

back in 1719 the "establishments" which were the rules of the admiralty for ship building fixed dimensions, timbering sizes and design of all naval ships which made innovation almost impossible. Naval historians call this period "technical stagnation and administrative torpor." so to copy a design from a private yard or the other way around was not likely.

is it that the term England includes everything under English rule and British just the country of England? I wonder because a master shipwright William Bell was employed to built the fleet on the lakes in 1812. He was Irish but English
 

shipwright101

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the tern "rebuild" back around 1719 allowed master shipwrights a little design freedom and actually "little" is the term. They were not allowed to stray to far from the strict letter of the established rules.
what was usually done was to add extra upper works that is higher bulwarks and maybe a longer quarter deck. In extreme cases extra gunports were added to the lower deck making this cruiser class ship from 20 guns to 24.

sounds to me like this strict rules of todays model ship community was started by the British way back in the early days. so it is your fault :D
 

GemmaJF

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The England vs Britain thing is easy to clear up.

England was and is a separate country.

In 1707 'The Kingdom of Great Britain' came into being on the 1st of May.

This was a political union of England (which already included Wales) and Scotland

So it happened right in the target era, correctly before the 1st of May 1707 we would be talking about 'English' ships at Deptford and Woolwich, after 1st of may 1707 we can refer to them as 'British'

Got to love history. :D (In fact I had no interest in history at school or any other time, only since I got interested in ships!)


I have absolutely no surprise it is all our fault, most things are!

It is the 'strictness' of design that is at the heart of what I am trying to do. There were no massive innovations at this time. So not having a plan of a particular ship, does not seem like such a bad thing. If one can find plans of similar ships and understand what link they may have had with the subject ship, that does not have a plan, they won't be all that different. ;-)

It is also why the French were running rings around the English/British Navy ships, the French ships were faster and better designed, it took a while for us to learn from our mistakes and developments mostly came about by copying the lines of captured French ships. So strangely studying any development of English/British ships at this time, mostly revolves around looking at plans that may have been taken from captured French ships and seeing how their designs were then incorporated.
 
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