I want to buy a wood ship kit. What are the differences among the brands?!

People regularly ask me about the quality of the various wood ship kits I sell and I’d like share some experiences here. First, I want to make it clear that these notes are related to comments I’ve received from my own clients and not just from my own experience. Also, it’s important that you know that I have no financial stake in any of the brands that I sell. This means my comments are about as objective as I can make them.

Before getting into the details, I want people to know that I am always looking for new manufacturers to represent. I am especially looking for builders of cool tools like CNC routers, laser-cutters, and 3D printers.

So, let’ get back to some of the brands I sell. I’ll compare the following:
-Billings Boats

Each company has its advantages and disadvantages and I won’t say one is better than the other as the quality of the kits is directly related to the prices that you need to pay for each. However, I will mention what my clients say about each.

The features that I look for, in no particular order, are:
-Quality of wood
-Quality of the packaging
-Quality of the instructions
-Subject matter
-Quantity of parts
-Customer service from the manufacturer

So, let’s get going.

This is currently my favorite product. I like the idea of learning about the real thing as well as learning how to build models. The plans alone in these kits are works of art. Seriously, one could frame some of the plans that come with these models.

Euromodel kits are not for beginners. For a time I was thinking of starting either the Royal William or the friedrich but I realized that I just don’t have the skills or the space to take on such a project. Also, I love to sell these kits and if I started one, who would be there to sell and package kits? Who would be there to answer your questions?

Apart from the plans, the lead parts are absolutely lovely and the wood included in the kit is top rate. The packaging is also good and sturdy and each kit comes inside a shipping package.

Anyone who has built two or three ship kits can probably attack one of these kits but I don’t recommend them to the beginner. It would be more satisfying to work on a kit with limited potential first. What I mean by that is that there is so much information included in the plans and instructions that anyone who would start an Euromodel kit would be tempted to add more and more detail to the kit. One can just keep going and never get to the end. Starting with more limited plans and kits mean you can get to the end of a kit and learn what details are important and what details can be left out.

This is my next favorite brand on account of the weight to price ration. There are plenty of parts in these kits! I’m not a big fan of rigging but I love working with wood. There are two kits in the line that have huge hulls and small rigs, HMS Endeavour, and Mary Rose. Of course, there are other, much bigger, ships, but they also include a huge amount of rigging. I have to say the Jotika HMS Victory, at 1:72 scale, is my best seller.

The Amati kits are a work of art coming out of the box. Every part is lovely, the packaging is wonderful, and the instructions are very good.

However, here we get to plans that are what I call “build by numbers”. Pretty well everything is clearly defined and all details of the model are in the kit. The instructions and plans stick exactly with the job at hand and don’t give ideas to add detail.

These are excellent first kits and are also excellent kits if you don’t mind doing your own research in order to add detail.

These are “build by numbers” kits as well but are less pretty coming out of the box than Amati. Also, the fact that none of the parts are cut on a laser is disappointing. The bulkheads are not perfectly symmetrical and need work.

On the other hand, these are the kinds of kits you can leave for a while and get back to without missing a beat. The instructions are clear and you can get back to where you were very quickly. The numbering is pretty well in order of assembly, meaning you can build the kit without too much planning ahead. As long as you read the instructions carefully, and measure three or four times before cutting, you’ll be fine.

I’m not as impressed with the decorations on these kits but, on the other hand, they can be installed right out of the box and look good. The Euromodel lead parts absolutely need to be painted.

I like the Corel line as it has a nice variety of subjects and I have many projects ongoing at the same time. These models don’t tax the mind as much as Euromodel or Jotika but they still allow you to relax with a good model when you feel like it.

This is another interesting Italian brand and the nice thing about these models is that the bulkheads are laser-cut, meaning they will fit really nicely and help you work through the technical parts of a model.

I find the boxes strange, though, because they come in odd sizes that make it very hard to ship them across the world.

Billings Boats:
This is my least expensive brand and the quality matches the price. These are single-plank kits and are weak on quantity of parts. The boxes are huge so you get excited when the kit shows up at the door but you are disappointed when you open the box.

Cheaper kits are not easier to build. In fact, I am pretty sure it’s the other way around.

So, overall, if you were starting to build scale model wood ship kits, I’d look at Amati, Corel, and Jotika first, with Mamoli next. If, on the other hand, you were an experienced builder, I’d say Corel and Mamoli are easy builds, while Jotika is more interesting.

Once you have some experience, tools, and confidence, you must, absolutely must, build a Euromodel kit.

Life’s Good.

Rick Shousha

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