7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building

If you are wanting to get a few books on model ship building but are not sure which ones will suit you we provide 7 books that have been used by both beginner and more experienced modelers. Some books provide information and guidance on the different skills and techniques needed for wooden ship models. Other books will help you gain some important historical information that links directly to modeling. Some books are published pre internet whilst others are more recent.


Ship Modelling Simplified

By Frank Mastini

Ship Modeling Simplified

What's in Ship Modeling Simplified?

Master model builder Frank Mastini describes the methods he’s developed over 30 years at the workbench to help beginners take their first steps in this hobby. It goes through choosing a kit and setting up a workshop through reading and understanding instructions and on to painting, decorating, and displaying finished models. It does have some shortcuts that help you to plank a hull ‘egg-shell tight’, build and rig complicated mast assemblies, and create sails that look like sails.

This is a good book for beginner modelers who want an overview and guidance on ship modeling (read our full book review). It covers a good range of the different aspects of modeling. It does not go into specific detailed instructions on different techniques which are quite challenging to execute. Many beginner modelers have commented they have kept this book as a general reference for different aspects of ship modeling.  It does have some commentary for scratch building models but does not have details.

Model Ship Building - Complete Beginners Guide

The Complete Beginners Guide to Model Ship Building is over 100 pages of easy to follow instructions and  is the ideal introduction to model ship building & model boat building. Essential modeling information is presented on workshop set-up and safety, essential modeling tools, understanding model ship plans and scale, hull planking for a sharp and bluff bow hull model ship, deck planking, masting & rigging.

This resource is presented with the drawings and illustrations close to the explanatory written text. The drawings are clear, and labelled fully. Its written by an experienced modeler and is very accessible.  The writer has an extensive modeling background with experience in educational design.

This is an exceptional book and is highly recommended for beginners. It is written for the beginner builder and provides easy to understand instructions. It is focused on the ‘how to’ do ship modeling. It’s a great investment and covers all the skills and techniques needed for your hobby.

Ship Modeling from Stem to Stern

By Milton Roth

7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building 1

This book provides a sound guide to every aspect of ship modeling, from how to scale-down plans and what glues and paints to use, to how to build a ship model in a bottle and where to turn for more help. It also talks about the history of ships and model ship building. The information is practical and useful for those seeking some tried and true techniques. There are some coloured plates, drawings and illustrations. It is a book for beginners who are starting out it in the hobby. If you do have some experience and have been away from the hobby it could be a good refresher.

Published pre-internet it is somewhat outdated in presentation. The drawings are not located adjacent to the written text for example.  It also has a strong American focus regarding suppliers and products. The marketplace for model ship building kits and products has grown and changed considerably since its publication with many different manufacturers and suppliers now in the market. Although there are many interesting sites for ship modeling on the world wide web and with online shopping gaining popularity this book can still provide a good starting point for beginning modelers.  

Planking Techniques for Model Ship Builders

By Don Dressel

7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building 2

What’s in Planking Techniques for Model Ship Builders?

Planking is an important aspect of ship modeling. This both provides explanation of a couple of different types of planking procedures. It does have information on the selection of wood, special jigs to assist with construction, tools and glues, tips on the batten, the use of clinker-built planking as a different process, the simple use of push pins when attaching the pins to bulkheads and planking the false deck. It is a handy reference book for planking for both kit and scratch builders.

This book was written in the pre internet era. It’s presentation style is a little dated with paragraphs of text, which can be difficult to understand. The pictures are black and white and some are unclear. The diagrams are captioned with very small text which can be challenging for those with weaker eye sight. Some diagrams are not located near the text. This book would be a handy reference guide for beginners as it does address planking in some detail, which can be a really good starting point.

The Art of Rigging

By George Biddlecombe

7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building 3

What's in Art of Rigging?

This book was written for students in a Naval Academy and is on full scale practice. Model ship builders learn the art in miniature. It is the best manual produced. It is based on work of Captain George Biddlecombe revised and updated from 1848. It has five sections. Terms and phrases, performance operation info, progressive method of rigging, reeving the running rigging and bending the sails. The last part a lot of information is on dimensions and quantities of standing and running rigging

This is for the serious modeler, naval historian and sailing buffs. The book has an older style of presentation and may be challenging to read for some modeling.  Sadly, the figures and diagrams are very small and unclear. This means they may not help you understand the text. They are not always near the content discussed. For those with a fascination in the sea who love historical books and have good eye sight this could make an interesting addition to your reference books.

The Sailor's Word-Book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms (Cambridge Library Collection - Naval and Military History)

By William Henry Smyth, Sir Edward Belcher (Revised by)

7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building 4

What’s in The Sailors Word Book?

Admiral William Henry Smyth (1780-1865) went to sea at an early age, becoming a sailor and surveyor with the East India Company, and later moving to Mediterranean waters. He was an original member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830 and loved to spend his time in scientific adventures.

One of his final projects was a  ‘word-book’ of nautical terminology, which he had been compiling throughout his career. Smyth died before it was published in 1867 and his notes were edited by his family and revised by Sir Edward Belcher (1799-1877). Ranging from technical terminology to sailors’ slang, Smyth’s glossary contains more than 700 pages of definitions, in alphabetical listings. It’s a valuable book for nineteenth-century nautical vocabulary for maritime historians and ship model builders.

Historic Ship Models

By Wolfram zu Mondfield

7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building 5

What's in Historic Ship Models Book?

This book is highly recommended for both scratch and kit builders. It has more than 2500 photographs, detailed diagrams and intricate drawings. Also, it has easy-to-follow plans. Every page is filled with great information for those making model ships. It has rich historical facts about real ships that sailed the oceans from 3000BCE to more recent times.

The information covers every point of ship modelling from thinking about which project to do and which plans to use. It is the ‘what’ of ship modelling. It is not the ‘how to do’ aspects of modelling. It also discusses tips for those on a limited budget. There are 15 pages of nautical terms in 5 languages as well as lists of ship model museums in Europe and America.

 The black and white pictures are clear and the diagrams are clearly labelled as well as being a good size. There is a good section on flags from the maritime world. For building your knowledge about historic model ships this book is highly recommended.

Key Takeaways


The Complete Beginners Guide to Model Ship Building is our top recommendation for beginning modelers. Readily available at Modelers Central and will be your constant companion as you build your model.

Ship Modeling Simplified and Historic Ship Models are the two other good recommendations for people looking for reference books for model ship building. Both these books have been written by people who had extensive modeling experience, and a keen interest in sharing their knowledge with others. They are both practical books offering instruction on modeling techniques in clear, and easy to comprehend ways. 

The Sailors Word book is a very useful resource for understanding terms that can be included in model ship building instructions. It’s also a very interesting resource for building your general nautical knowledge. All other books reviewed will come in handy as you build up your modeling expertise. 

7 Essential Books For Model Ship Building 5

Learn The Art Of Building A Model Ship

Get started in wooden model ship building today

Modelers Central. 2023, All rights reserved.

Get 10% off

your first order

10% off applies only to full-price items. By providing your email address, you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy

Get 10% off

your first order

10% off applies only to full-price items. By providing your email address & mobile number, you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy and consent to receive marketing messages from Modelers Central at the addresses provided. You can unsubscribe at any time by replying STOP.

Get 10% off

your first order

10% off applies only to full-price items. By providing your email address, you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy