Concept to Reality

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Research (1 of 2) pointer
Design stages
Building the hull
Deck details and masts
Rigging and Sails
Shipping
Maintenance

Researching a Vessel

Historical research is often the first step in building a custom ship model. Sometimes drawings of the vessel have survived; this may be particularly true for Navy ships, not so much for merchant vessels. Depending how far back in time we go, the information becomes sparse and much harder to find, if there's even anything to be found!

Image of old ship drawing

A variety of artwork such as carvings, etchings, paintings and even surviving models may sometimes be our best and only source of information for vessels of the 16th century and earlier.

Image of nautical painting

Photographs do not appear until the latter half of the nineteenth century. For all intents and purposes no photographs of vessels exist from before the late 1850's. Of course the color scheme is hard to discern from the shades of grey in black and white photographs.

Photo of ship

Contemporary paintings can give us very valuable information if we keep in mind that the artist may have used a bit of artistic license. Quite often paintings of the same vessel show her quite differently. Sometimes this can be contributed to the ship's configuration and paint scheme changing over time, sometimes it can not. Even after Naval paint schemes became somewhat standardised, a captain's preference often played a role in the selection of paints and colors.

Image of drawing

It is this gathering of bits and pieces of evidence and information that starts to define an outline of what the ship should or could have looked like. An image of the model is starting to develop.

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Concept, content & Design: The Art of Age of Sail