There are about 20 wooden model ship kit manufacturers throughout the world. It can be challenging to determine who’s kit will suit the model ship builder the best because of all the variables involved. The idea is to match up the kit manufacturer with the needs and wants of the builder so at the end of the day, the ship model builder has an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.
Cast Your Anchor has been in the model ship supply business for 7 years and been ship modelers for over 30 years. Over this time we have formed opinions on model ship kit manufacturers either through direct experience or from listening to our customers relate their experiences. We have summarized our findings below for 10 of the ship model manufacturers.
We provide the history and background of the manufacturer, location of their factory, the North American distributorship channel, their tendency when it comes to the kit skill level requirements and of course their rating.
The distributorship channel is most important when considering after sales service. Direct contact between the retailer and the manufacturer is usually best but not in all cases. The tendency for manufacturers to build kits aimed at a certain builder skill level is very important when it comes to the instructions that are provided in the kit. Entry level kit instructions generally assume that the model builder will require guidance with ship model building techniques in addition to specific instructions related to the vessel construction.
Rating 1 -10: 1-3 Poor, 3-7 Good, 8-10 Excellent. All categories are considered equally rated because there are alternative options the builder can exercise should there be an issue in any one of the categories.
Skill Level Tendency – Some manufacturers tend to lean towards a specific builder’s skill level in their kits. Other manufacturers have a good variety of kits to suit all levels of skills. Skill Level Tendency: E – Entry Level, I – Intermediate Level, A – Ambitious Level.
Availability – Ranges from always in stock to fulfillment within a few weeks or months. Availability can be adversely affected by the distribution network of the manufacturer. If the manufacturer allows for direct buying the availability tends to be quite high.
Types of Vessels Available – The two areas looked at were era of the vessel and the vessel type. Some manufacturers have a limited range while others have offerings in almost all categories. One manufacturer has vessel types that are unique to what other manufacturers have to offer.
Historical Accuracy – The accuracy of a model ranges from barely recognizable to reasonably accurate. Detailed information of many vessels is not available which leaves for a fair bit of interpretation. When it comes to paint colours some manufacturers don’t even try to recognize the true colours of the vessel.
Detailing – Some kits are highly detailed while others have minimum deck fittings. The accuracy of the detailing in terms of the era of the ship as well as the materials used at the time that the ship sailed is also considered.
Instructions – Good accurate instructions that if need be have been properly translated from the host language as well as detailed instructions on the techniques of model ship making range not just from one manufacturer to another but between the skill levels of the kits. Novice kits tend to be more explicit with regards to modeling techniques than advanced kits.
Design – This refers to part fit. Precut bulkheads and all parts that are laser cut should fit reasonably accurately without too much modification. Also there are some kits with inherent design flaws that result in misshaped lines of the vessel.
Parts and Fittings – The fittings should be accurate, to scale and made of high quality materials depending on what the parts is.
Completeness of the Kit – The builder should not have to purchase anything outside of the kit unless there is a desire to augment the fittings or parts in order to improve on the historical accuracy. There should be enough wood and rigging material so that extra material does not need to be purchased.
Price – The manufacturer should produce a range of products at different price points.
Overall Value for Money – This refers to the combination of quality, price and product that the manufacturer has assembled in order to the give the builder a positive overall experience regardless of his skill level.
After Sales Service – This refers to being able to obtain extra parts or responses to customer questions concerning the build. Manufacturer’s who have set up distribution channels tend to give fairly poor after sales service.
Amati: Overall Score 7.27 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “I”. Strength is availability of kits and after sales service. Weakness is instructions.
Established in Italy in 1879, Amati moved quickly from printed fretwork models to the model ship line. For over 120 years, Amati, thanks to the collaboration with designers and craftsmen, offers to the modelers the best products and the modern technology. Nowadays customers can rely on a large and varied choice of models from the most beautiful and famous America’s Cup, to historical sailing ships, and world-wide known motor boats and submarines. Thanks to the high quality of items, detailed construction plans, the product’s originality and the constant introduction of new designs, Amati is a world leader in the wooden ship model hobby. Retailer is serviced direct or through distributors in Canada and the US.
Artesania Latina: Overall Score 7.27 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “I”. Strength is price and overall value for money. Weakness is after sales service and parts and fittings.
Artesania Latina began its journey in 1970 in Barcelona Spain. In 1979, 80% of revenues came from outside Spain and their products were known and recognized in 40 countries on five continents. A key aspect in the evolution of the company has always been innovation. In 1994, Artesania Latina released a second family of products, basically but not exclusively for women and in 2001, they opened an office in Hong Kong focused on strategic positioning in emerging markets. In the 34 years of activity, Artesania Latina has continued to evolve in line with the needs of the market every day, year after year, with a passion for the hobby attracting thousands of friends around the world. Retailer is serviced through a distributor in the US.
Billings Boats: Overall Score 6.73 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “I”. Strength is availability of kits, types of vessels available and completeness of kit. Weakness is after sales service, price and instructions.
In the early 50s Ed Billing, a former RAF pilot during WWII, was working as an Architect in the town of Esbjerg in Denmark. His wife was running a Hobby shop called Vestjydsk Hobby and Mr. Billing was proudly displaying his build up model of a Danish Fishing Boat. At that time there were no actual model boat kits around, from which you could make a boat. One day a Danish magazine saw this beautiful model in the window of the Hobby Shop and were very interested in buying 50 “build ups” of this Fishing Boat for a competition the upcoming summer. Mr. Billing was very keen on the idea, but it was a huge undertaking making 50 models, so he came up with the idea to make the model as a kit, exactly the same way you would build a real ship. This was when the concept “plank-on-frame” was invented by Mr. Billing, which is now used by all model boat manufacturers around the world. Up until 1958 the kits were produced under the name “VHT” Vestjydsk Hobby Teknik, but this changed as Mr. Billings products became known outside Denmark. During the 60s, 70s and 80s the kits were improved, and gradually made easier for consumers to build. The frames were precut or die cut, and in the 60s ABS-hulls were introduced for the people that wanted to go out sail with RC. In 1989/90 the first laser cut machine was brought in, and everything became easier to produce, but also to make for the model builder. August 2008 was the 50th Anniversary of the Billing Boats brand name. Retailer is serviced through distributors in Canada and the US.
Bluejacket: Overall Score 6.73 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “E”. Strength is instructions and after sales service. Weakness is types of vessels available and detailing.
BlueJacket Shipcrafters, Inc., located in the United States, has been in continuous operation since 1905. In 1905, Horace E. Boucher, a French-born naval architect with the U.S. Navy Department and head of the Navy’s model shop in Washington, founded the model company that bore his name. Boucher’s models were prized by museums all over the country-more than 40 are in the Smithsonian alone. His innovative idea of mass producing cast fittings and selling kits to the general public started a new industry in the United States and helped turn what had been the art of a few craftsmen into a hobby enjoyed by thousands. The company name was changed to BlueJacket Shipcrafters after Boucher’s death. Bluejacket strives to manufacture the finest and most historically accurate wooden model ships in the world. Retailer is serviced direct or through distributors in the US.
Constructo: Score 7.64 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “I”. Strength is price and overall value for money. Weakness is after sales service and design.
Founded in 1942, Constructo wooden model ships was a pioneer in its field. Constructo, a well-established Spanish toy and games manufacturer, added wooden ship kits to its line only a few short years ago. The kits are of high quality, with accurately cut laser parts. Constructo produces high quality kits for children.
Corel: Overall score 6.36 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “A”. Strength is historical accuracy, parts and fittings and completeness of kits. Weakness is instructions and after sales service.
Corel, located in Milan Italy has been making model kits for period and modern ships since 1971, and enthusiasts will know about their high quality. The company pride themselves in the manufacture of some of the highest quality model boat kits available to the modeler with the best plans in the business. Corel are also able to supply very high quality fittings and materials to model boat
builders. Retailer is serviced through a distributor in the US.
Dumas: Overall score 7.36 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “E”. Strength is types of vessels available and after sales service. Weakness is price and overall value for money.
Al Dumas started marine model boat kits in Milwaukee, WI in 1946. These kits were made of balsa wood with parts printed on the wood for modelers to cut out. About 1980, Dumas moved to its present location at 909 E 17th St. Most of the boats are not only beautiful on display, but they can also be run with electric or gas power and radio control. Dumas line of model boats is most encompassing. Dumas has an exclusive license to manufacture Chris-Craft mahogany runabouts and pleasure craft. Retailer is serviced direct or through distributors in the US.
Mamoli: Overall score 6.36 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “A”. Strength is in detailing, parts and fittings and completeness of kits. Weakness is availability, price and after sales service.
Besides its normal commercial activity, the firm has established a “Naval Modeling Department” for the production of period ship kits. The models presented, which from the structural point of view are of an extremely advanced conception, are the logical continuation of a line begun more than 20 years ago by the designer Luigi Volonté, whose long experience allowed him to personally set up and follow a production, which was regard as one of the best, both for the facility of construction and the clearness of the plans, which are full of perspective drawings and fully described in four languages. Retailer is serviced through one distributor in the US.
Mantua: Overall score 6.09 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “A”. Strength is in detailing, parts and fittings and completeness of kits. Weakness is availability, instructions, price and after sales service.
Mantua Model, located in the ancient town Mantova, Italy, has built its reputation on the ultimate in large, elaborately detailed ship model kits. Mantua Model Group (includes Sergal and Panart) have been producing period model boat kits since after the war and were the first company to innovate and use the cutting ability of laser beams to produce very accurate and high quality products. Designed for the experienced modeler, most use a combination of photo-etched brass and cast or machined bronze fittings. Several feature solid bronze ornamentation cast one piece at a time by the lost wax method. Retailer is serviced through one distributor in the US.
Midwest Models: Overall score 7.36 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “E”. Strength is instructions, completeness of kits and after sales service. Weakness is price, types of vessels available and detailing.
In 1952, friends combined their passions for model airplanes to develop a thriving business dedicated to providing high quality products to enthusiasts around the world. More than 50 years later, Midwest’s product line and distribution have grown and changed, but its passion for quality has remained steadfast. Today, Midwest Products is a leading supplier worldwide of quality raw materials, accessories and kits to distributors and retailers. People use our products for leisure, educational and professional pursuits, from model airplanes and boats to architectural and educational projects. Retailer is serviced direct or through distributors in Canada and the US.
Model Shipways: Overall score 7.36 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “I”. Strength is instructions and after sales service. Weakness is historical accuracy and price.
Model Shipways (A Division of Model Expo), in continuous operation since 1946, is the oldest ship model factory in America. As a leading manufacturer and provider of historically accurate and authentic model kits and precision tools, Model Expo serves more than 40,000 customers and hobby stores throughout the world. Model Expo was founded in 1976 and partners with over 40 companies worldwide to include Italy, Spain, Europe, and China. Retailer is serviced through a distributors in the US.
Occre: Overall score 5.64 out of 10. Skill Level Tendency “A”. Strength is historical accuracy and completeness of kit. Weakness is availability of kits, instructions and after sales service.
Above all else, OcCre (Ocio Creativo) is a brand whose potential for development is based on its highly integrated team of people, capable of creating products of excellent design and creativity. OcCre is a fairly new company with a manufacturing facility in Spain. Retailer is serviced through a distributor in the US.
Cast Your Anchor continually looks for the best fit between the ship model builder and the ship model kit manufacturer. Should you wish to comment on this article or would like more information, please contact Cast Your Anchor at [email protected].