What is in a Wooden Model Ship Kit?

Ever Wondered What Actually is a Wooden Model Ship Kit? Wonder No More! We Breakdown the Different Components of What You Can Expect to Find in a Wooden Model Ship Kit.

Wooden Model Ship Kit Contents

The contents of the wooden model ship kit can be separated into the following main categories:

–          Plans & Instructions

–          Parts & Fittings

–          Timbers

–          Laser cut plywood sheets

When you open the kit box check the contents carefully & systematically. Identify the above main content categories. Do not open any of the plastic bags or containers with parts and fittings in them at this point — if you do there is a high probability some will be lost. We’ll now discuss each of these categories in some detail.

Instructions & Plans

The next step is to carefully and fully examine the plans and read the instructions thoroughly. This is a most important step before starting to build the model. Resist the temptation to start building the model before fully reading the instructions and examining the plans.

For foreign kits the written instructions are multi-lingual. Instructions are usually presented in Italian, Spanish, German, French and English. There are times however when there is a loss of clarity and meaning in the translation from the original language of the manufacturer to English. This can be confusing and frustrating at times especially for the new modeller.

The written instructions in a kit can also vary significantly in detail and ease of understanding. There are times when the writer of the instructions assumes a certain level of understanding of model building. For the new modeller starting out this can also prove to be confusing and frustrating. It can also lead to poor modelling techniques and habits.

To assist in the interpretation of the written instructions cast your eyes over the plans while following the written instructions. Carefully relate the figures referred to in the written instructions with those on the plans. Make notes on both the plans and written instructions that relate to each other so you don’t forget the link.

Parts & Fittings

The parts & model ship fittings of a kit will include deadeyes, blocks, rigging cords, decorations, chain straps, cannons, belaying pins, mast heels, mast caps, pumps, winch, capstan and no doubt many more items.

If you are starting out you may not be familiar with all these terms. It can be confusing, however take your time. Again refer back to the plans and written instructions to assist you in identifying the parts. All the parts & fittings supplied in a kit will be in small plastic containers or bags. Fully familiarise yourself with all the parts & fittings. The parts will be numbered on the plans and listed in the parts list.

Carefully & methodically match the parts with the plans and parts list. If you can’t identify a part that is listed in the parts list with that shown on the plans do not immediately jump to the conclusion that the part is missing from the kit. Be systematic in how you go about checking the parts & fittings against the parts list presented in the instructions  – employ a process of elimination. Many modellers have been deeply embarrassed when claiming that a part is missing only to have it easily identified in the kit by the retailer or manufacturer.

To start the checking process collect a number of small glass or plastic containers. These will be used later to store the parts and fittings after checking against the parts list. Open the kit box and separate the various parts and fittings. Do not take them out of the base of the box. For each part or fitting count them into the lid. Once completed refer to the parts list in the instructions to identify the quantity of that particular part. If the correct quantity has been supplied tick this item off as correct. Be careful as some parts have to be made by the modeller from the stock of timber supplied in the kit.

As you progress compile a list of any parts you think are missing. It is wise to recheck as some small parts are easily missed and may still be in their original container or you may not have identified the part correctly. It is reiterated— do not immediately jump to the conclusion that the part is missing. The kit manufacturers have quality control systems in place to ensure the kits contents are correct. However mistakes do happen. Should you find a missing part or fitting after carefully checking & rechecking, contact the retailer immediately for a replacement.


In this section we will deal with the more common timbers supplied in a kit. The modeling timbers supplied in a kit will fall into three main categories—planking, construction and dowels.

As previously mentioned when checking the timbers note that some parts will need to be made by the modeler from the stock of timber supplied. This is not always made clear in the instructions or plans.

Planking timbers will consist of the first & second layer of planks and the deck planks. The first layer of planking is usually a limewood or basswood. Both types of timber are fine grained and white/cream in colour. When used as the first layer of planking limewood and basswood provide strength to the hull and a solid base on which to lay the second layer of planking. As the first layer of planking these timbers are usually 1.5mm to 2mm in thickness and between 4mm to 6mm in width.

The second layer of planking is usually a veneer (0.5mm or 0.6mm thickness) decorative timber such as walnut, mahogany (sapelle), teak or tanganika. Walnut can vary in colour from tan to very dark brown. Mahogany is a deep red colour when varnished. The grain is noticeable which can look out of scale. Teak has a dark brown colour and is oily to the touch. The grain is usually straight and can have a rather coarse texture. Tanganika is a light tan colour and has a consistent grain.

For the deck planking silver ash veneer can be used. The colour of silver ash can vary from white to pale yellow. When used for deck planking the light colour gives a good simulation effect of a scrubbed and sun bleached deck.

Construction timbers are used on a model for deck fittings and furniture such as catheads, cap rails, belaying pin rails and wales to name a few. The timbers will  consist of a variety of sizes and lengths. Typical timbers used include walnut, mahogany, beech, cherry or tanganika. A range of timber variety is usually provided to allow contrasting colours and textures to be presented.

 Dowels are used for the masts, yards and spars on a model. Lime wood, ramin and sitka spruce are used as dowels. Ramin and spruce have a straight and fine grain and finish well when varnished.

Laser Cut Plywood

The most common plywood in imported kits is poplar which is light coloured and very easy to cut and work. Another plywood used is hoop pine which is softer than most others and fairly inexpensive.

Plywood is used for the keel, bulkhead frames, false deck of the kit and for a number o