Monday, August 3, 2015

Plastic vs. Wooden Models

This, my first post on this blog, is bound to rankle a few.
I've been building model ships long enough to say that I am fairly comfortable with technique and material. More than anything else, I am an adamant researcher. Perhaps more than anything else I do, I care about how my ships are going to look, regardless of whether or not they are two or three dimensional. I've worked in a variety of materials, and am comfortable working in many mediums.
Which is why what I am about to say is bound to rankle.
If I have to build a kit, I prefer plastic ones over wood. 
Quelle horreur!
Certainly, most wooden kits can be built to represent the prototypes admirably. It depends upon the skill of the modeler, certainly, but many so called beginner's kits can be built up into lovely models. 
However, the question is, do they represent the vessel being modeled?
This is where I have problems. 
Too many of the wooden kits out there are poorly researched. For instance, I've seen models of caravels with wheels. Not likely; the great age of the caravel was ending about the same time ship's wheels started coming into use, the late 17th century. I've seen all manner of vessels purporting to be this or that ship, and be completely wrong. With the interest of late in pirates and various scallywags of the sea, the number of these ships has gone accordingly up. Many of them are simply relabeled large man-o'-war (something some plastic companies are guilty of as well), something these buccaneers sometimes simply wouldn't have. 
Scales are all over the place. If you can afford to by and build a few models, you'd probably like them to be in the same scale, for the sake of comparison. Too many are in scales that leave one scratching their head. 
Then there is the price. 
Often, these models are very expensive, and I question their value. 
This isn't to say that all wooden kits are bad. There are some very well researched kits out there, and truly remarkable models can be made from them (Caldercraft, Billings, and JoTiKa immediately spring to mind). But too many of them are simply not well thought out.
Certainly, there are many (a great many) plastic models that are horrific, poorly researched, poorly designed, I could go on. But, from experience, I can tell you I have seen a plastic model of the clipper Cutty Sark that was far and away superior to any wooden model of the same I had ever seen, barring examples in museums (and even then, there have been exceptions). 
Soon, I am going to put together a table of the various Santa Maria kits out there and the interpretation they representative. A couple of those plastic kits are truly beautiful and look superb when in the hands of a talented builder, and are superior to many of the wooden versions, again with exceptions. It comes down to what you want; a scale replica of a ship, or a lovely display piece that might not be grounded in reality, and probably set you back quite a bit.

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