Pic 0:    This is how it starts - an inspiring view to any ship modeller!

This workbench (an old dressing table) is about 5' long by 18" deep, and the drawers are very useful for keeping plans, tools, sails etc in. It's covered with a sheet of hardboard for protection against knife cuts, paint and glue. The San Juan is pretty big when you get the masts and yards on, so in fact this bench was only just large enough. You'll also find it helpful to have another large flat area, like a dining table, to spread plans on - because you will spend a long time staring at them!

The list of tools and adhesives you'll need is not finite: it's down to what works best for you. However, I find the following essential:

Quality modelling knife with snap-off blades        PVA woodworking adhesive        Weights 

Comprehensive range of quality abrasive papers from medium sandpaper to finest wet-and-dry        Orbital sander  

Various pliers    Numerous crocodile and bulldog clips       Superglue (cyanoacrylate or 'CA')       Hammer      

Two pairs of fine tweezers          Modeller's electric drill with good selection of drill bits, abrasive wheels and burrs        

Wirecutters       Large half-round woodworking file        Set of small general-purpose files          Set of needle files

Sewing machine (if you're going to put the sails on)      


The kit was supplied by Galaxy Models of Ipswich, Suffolk. Their continuing support was valuable because the kit was not the finest, either in quality or quantity. On several occasions Galaxy supplied replacement parts for ones that were poorly made (especially the metal castings) and other parts were simply insufficient to complete the model. However, we persevered and the extra effort, as always with these things, proved worthwhile in the long run. The pleasure of seeing the finished product instantly outweighs the struggle that went into building it. The moral is: don't take short cuts. Since you'll probably keep a model like this for the rest of your life, if you skimp something now, you'll regret it for ever. In his book 'Historic Ship Models', Wolfram zu Mondfeld mentions four personal qualities that he feels are essential to anyone who wants to build ship models. These are: (1) manual skill (2) self-criticism (3) consistency (4) patience of a very high order. If you have all of these, carry on!

Caution 1: This model took me 18 months of reasonably constant work. The time spent on it per day varied from 0 to 4 hours, but it averaged out at about 40 minutes. This means it's going to be a part of your house and your life for a while, and it's imperative that you have somewhere safe to build it. You will not be able to work on a dining table that has to be cleared for mealtimes. You will not be able to leave it within reach of toddlers or boisterous pets. 

Caution 2: The San Juan is relatively hard to build, so I would not advise it as a first project - I'm glad I cut my teeth on the Cutty Sark and Swift first. Although some parts in this particular kit were sub-standard, Artesania Latina kits are usually much better and come with a useful book of step-by-step photographs. So if you're a first-timer, try a smaller model from their range. It is much better to complete a small model and emerge victorious, than be too ambitious and grind to a halt in despair!

And so to battle...


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