How to Build a Model Aircraft Carrier

Updated July 20, 2017

When it comes to building a scale model of the most powerful warship ever made, the aircraft carrier, you have two options. One is to purchase and assemble a pre-cut model, using the included instructions. This is the best option for novice modelers or people who don't want to make a huge time commitment. The second option is to scratch-build. If you seek a long-term project requiring extensive research and design, this is the way to go. Before jumping into scratch building, gain experience with pre-cut models. When ready, proceed to building a model carrier from scratch.

Assemble your research. Gather pictures, statistics, technical information, and anything that describes the particular aircraft carrier that you want to build. Create a file for all of your information. Don't forget to research the types of aeroplanes you will need to build.

Determine the scale of your model (how big it will be). Use a scale converter such as the one cited in the article Resources. Since you probably won't have exact measurements for every piece of your aircraft carrier, the scale will be used mostly to determine hull and flight deck size. You can also use it for determining the scale of the aeroplanes, which will have known measurements. For masts, the carrier's island, and deck structures you can determine the size based upon their relationship to the known scales.

Draw up your plans. These can be elaborate blueprints, or hand-drawn on notebook paper. They must include all of the measurements for each piece that will go onto your model and a fairly accurate drawing that shows where they will go. They should also include the colour and type of paint you will use based upon the colour schemes in the research material you have collected.

Create full-sized templates from thick poster board or Bristol board using the measurements from your plans. Fit these together to make sure your measurements are correct.

Mark the cut lines on your Balsa wood using your templates as guides. Starting with the hull, then the flight deck, cut out the hull pieces, glue them together and sand them. Sand the flight deck, but don't glue it to the hull. These larger pieces are the easiest to cut and fit, and will give you a reference platform for assembling the smaller pieces.

Mark and cut the midsized pieces such as the island, elevators, and other flight deck structures. Assemble and sand them. Keep these pieces as simple as possible at this point. Later you will add detail to them. Don't glue them in place yet.

Mark the detail pieces such as antennae, railing, catwalks and hatches. Cut them out using a craft knife. It is best to leave a little extra wood around the edges so you can shape them with the knife and sandpaper for proper fit. Paint them, then attach them to their proper places. At this point you should also cut out and assemble your aeroplanes.

Paint each piece according to the colour scheme in your plans. More than any other step, this one will affect how your model appears, so make sure you take time and pay close attention to detail.

Glue all of the pieces together, then touch up any areas that need work. Add paint effects such as rust, dirt, or peeling paint. If you will be applying a finish, now is the time to do it.


Alternatively, you can buy small pre-made plastic aeroplane models if you can find some that are to scale with your ship. Enamel paint is best for modelling.

Things You'll Need

  • Modelling tool kit
  • Model paints and brushes
  • Thick poster board
  • Balsa wood
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About the Author

Jeff Miller is a Saint Petersburg, Florida-based writer who has written fiction and published informational articles about literature on the Internet since 2009. He has an Associate of Arts from Saint Petersburg College and is currently a graphic design student at Pinellas Technical Education Center.