There are many types of materials that can be used to build model ships, and the choice of material depends on the craftsperson. The most common materials are wood, plastic and metal however a craftsperson versed in another medium such as glass could construct a model using sheets or even bits of glass. The choice of materials is up to the individual. To build a model ship it is first necessary to determine the scale of the reproduction because this will dictate the correct amount of materials no matter what that choice may be.
To build a model ship using wood it is necessary to decide on the design of the ship because this will determine the type of wood to be used. Hardwoods such as Walnut can be carved but are harder to cut and bend into certain shapes such as hull strips or decking. Softer woods such as Pear or Balsa are not recommended for carving since they possess minimum density which lends itself to breakage under strain. However these lighter woods are easier to cut and can be sized into more intricate shapes such as rail cleats and the helm wheel.
A wooden model hull begins with the keel and this piece can be sized by scaling from a set of plans. Matching the exact configuration is important to maintain authenticity. Once the keel has been carved or cut and shaped the hull ribs can be scaled and made to suit the hull configuration. Once the hull skeleton is assembled the decking strips can be made to scale using the same procedure. When selecting a wood for the hull plating or deck stripping one must consider the bending strength or tolerance of the material. The ships accessory items such as masts, railings and bowsprit can be fabricated using the most practical wood for the particular piece. The actual assembly of the model ship can be accomplished using glue and pin or wire nails. Be sure to pre-drill small pieces before nailing to avoid splitting at the ends. Dock lines, hauling lines and sails can be made from any material of choice or duplicated in any number of ways simply by visiting stores or shops that carry twine and cloth.
Plastic model ships come in kits and the parts are pre-formed to suit the scale of the model. The independent pieces are bonded together with a chemical adhesive that actually melts the plastic when applied. The pieces must be joined immediately after the adhesive is applied and held in place for a few second until the adhesive bond dries completely. Excess adhesive can then be trimmed away using a pen knife or other razor type blade. Since the pieces are pre-formed plastic model ships are much quicker and easier to build than wooden models and as such, can be assembled in a lot less time.
Building model ships using metal requires the same initial evaluations to determine the amount of materials needed. Specifically the design of the ship and the scale of the model. Cutting and sizing metal is done using shears, welding or cutting torches and assembly can be by any number of commonly practiced techniques.
The primary consideration when building model ships is authenticity and the closer one adheres to the design the more brilliant the model ship will be.