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Building modern and historical model ships is a popular hobby. If you enjoy the hobby, you might like to learn more about the history of ship model-building and the types that are available. There’s a lot more for hobbyists to choose from than the tedious ship in the bottle.
The earliest models were built by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians and other civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeologists have learned a great deal about these different cultures from the models, many of which were discovered in tombs.
That they were found in the tombs of pharaohs and other important individuals indicates that boat building and seafaring was important to the civilizations, both economically and socially.
The ancient model ships that have been discovered were constructed of a variety of different materials, but wood was the most common choice.
Archaeologists cannot be sure of the specific purpose of these historical model ships or the builder’s intention for each individual example. In addition to their use as burials, it is believed that some were used as household decorations or toys. Some of the model ships that have been found in Greece were used as lamps or drinking cups.
Model galleons began to appear in Europe by the 12th century AD. Some surviving examples were kept in churches where they were used in ceremonies to bless ships and the ship’s crew. They were also used as offerings to give thanks for a successful voyage, a practice that continued among Catholics until the 19th century. More on model galleons.
The types discovered range from small wooden crafts to large model battle ships. In addition to wood, bronze, lead and clay were also used to build the models. One style of Greek warship that was historically popular for model-builders and continues to be popular today is called the hemiolia.
The hemiolia was long, slim and lightweight. It was powered by rowers seated in the hull of the ship. It was valued for its speed and was used primarily for short trips.
Both historically and today, the scale of the models has ranged from 1:6000 to 1:25 and even larger. The smaller models are used in gaming, while the largest ones are sometimes used in training facilities. For example, model cruise ships on the scale of 1:25 are used at a pilot-age school in France on a man-made lake designed to simulate natural conditions and give new pilots experience before they take over a real ship.
Building model sail boats is another popular hobby that has been around for a long time. Model yachting is a slightly different hobby, in that the models are operated by remote control or with computer programs. Yacht-building clubs have been around for many years in Great Britain, Ireland, the U.S. and a few other countries. The clubs typically hold regattas on an annual basis.
Building model submarines is a relatively new pastime, as submarines were only in wide use during modern times. Like the powered yacht models, submarine models are often powered by remote control.
Although tedious, there is nothing wrong with the ship in a bottle. It’s a slightly different hobby, as the ship is not always built to scale, something important to model-builders. The ship in a bottle is actually a kind of puzzle, one of the “impossible bottle” puzzles.
The ships can be built outside the bottles, raising the masts after the hull is inserted. The hull must be small enough to fit into the bottle’s opening. An alternative is to use special tools with long handles and build the ship inside of the bottle.
Hobbyists usually tend to prefer one sub-category or another, such as building only historical model ships or only galleons. But if you get tired of one category, at least you know there are many others to choose from.
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