Tag Archives: Downloadable

Model Shipbuilding Book a Trip Back to Childhood

Model Shipbuilding Book for Boys

Kick-starts Life-long Hobby

It’s time for a trip back to childhood.

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My favorite page from Boy’s Book of Model Boats

Back in the early 1960s, my grade school library in Flint, Michigan wasn’t the most up-to-date. It had one book on model boats. It was Boys’ Book of Model Boats by Raymond Francis Yates, published in 1920 by The Century Co.

I checked that book out week after week, and read it front-to-back, back-to-front, middle-to-ends and any other way possible. My favorite part was (being a child in a state surrounded by the Great Lakes) the chapter on building an electric lake freighter.

I didn’t have access to a saw, but I found some 2x4s in the garage that had been cut with stake-like pointed ends. I stacked them, nailed them together, and found other bits of wood from which to make the freighter superstructure and funnel. I even found some small nails and string to model the stanchions and railings surrounding the bow and stern on real freighters I’d seen.

Excited to launch my new “scale” model of an actual lake freighter, I insisted we take the two-foot long chunk of lumber with nails sticking out of it with us on our trip to our summer cottage. My mother, however, drew the line at letting me carry a potentially dangerous weapon on my lap during the two-hour car ride. She made me put it behind the seats in the cargo compartment of our Buick station wagon.

When we arrived, I immediately changed into my swimming trunks, and insisted we go swimming. I carried my model carefully down the trail through the woods that led to the lake. Casting aside towel and sandals, I dashed into the cold water almost to my waist, and carefully set my lake freighter model in the water.

Imagining a band playing a John Philip Sousa march appropriate for the launching of such an impressive vessel, I carefully let go of the model.

And it promptly capsized.

I never did get that darn thing to float right, but I kept it on a shelf in my room for years.

I had not thought of that first attempt at ship modeling for years. Then, while scouring the internet for ship modeling info, I found a digitized copy of none other than Boys’ Book of Model Boats by Raymond Francis Yates!
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Learn Prototype Shipbuilding Practices with Downloadable Book

The Elements of Wood Ship Construction

By William Henry Curtis

An important source of information to ship model builders

There’s nothing like going back to the source material to learn about a subject, and TheModelShipwright.com is offering a free PDF download of The Elements of Wood Ship Construction, by William Henry Curtis, published in 1919 for the Education and Training Section of the Emergency Fleet Corporation.

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The Elements of Wood Ship Construction


“It is intended for the use of carpenters and others, who, though skilled in their work, lack the detail knowledge of ships necessary for the efficient performance of their work in the yard,” according to the preface.

Beginning with Keels, stems and stern posts, the book moves through frames, inboard hull details, deck details, and explains planking, erections and joiner work with copious illustration.

When the U.S. entered World War I, the United States Shipping Board’s Emergency Fleet Corporation realized the need for a quickly-built supply of cargo ships that could combat the Germans’ uboat fleet predations on shipping by simply building them faster than they could sink them.

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Illustration of Stern Framing from The Elements of Wood Ship Construction

With a large number of shipyards along the East Coast still building wooden boats, the EFC came up with a series of designs that could take advantage of the available technology to crank out wooden steamships. But there were not a sufficient number of trained shipwrights, so the EFC also developed a number of books to acclimate non-nautical carpenters, plumbers, and pipe-fitters to the specific needs of the shipbuilding industry.

The original books are long out of print, and usually can only be found in academic libraries, but Google and archive.org have digitized some of them so the knowledge they contain can still be available.  They are an invaluable resource to the model shipwright who wants to understand not only how prototype wooden ships were built, but why they were built that way.
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