How to Build a Half Hull Model

Written by john reinhart
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How to Build a Half Hull Model
Unlike traditional models, a half hull model only shows the hull. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

In the mid-1840s, it was common for clipper ship builders to first make a model of a proposed design. These often were simple half hull models used to show a ship's sheer, or shape under water. The clipper ships have come and gone, but the popularity of the half hull model has remained. The original builders' models are highly sought prizes for antique and nautical collectors. But you can build one of your own. The kind of ship you model is not nearly as important as having a good plan that accurately shows her sheer.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Plan drawing of a ship
  • Block of wood, 2 by 4 inches and 12 inches long
  • Chisels
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper, various grits
  • Pencil
  • Straightedge

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  1. 1

    Draw the ship's profile on the 4-inch side of the wood, so that its length extends along the 12-inch dimension. Include from the plan drawing vertical reference lines along the length of the ship's hull. Position the ship's bow, the front end, at the edge of the wood, and the stern, the ship's rear, inside the other end of the wood.

  2. 2

    Cut the ship's profile out of the wood. This first cut will result in a squared-off version of your ship with flat sides.

  3. 3

    Use the plan to determine where to cut the wood along the planes that extend from the ship's bow and stern to the vertical reference line near the ship's centre. These planes, when removed, will approximate the ship's sheer, or underwater shape.

  4. 4

    Make angular cuts from the bow and stern toward the centre part of the hull to form the ship's rough sheer. These cuts will remove triangular wedges from the lower part of the wood. Redraw the reference lines that were removed during sawing.

  5. 5

    Use sandpaper and chisels to smooth the ship's hull down to the sheer required in your plans. Reference bow-on and stern-on views in the plans to determine the hull's sheer at each reference line. Keep sanding until you achieve that shape.

Tips and warnings

  • Cutting and sanding will remove reference lines. Redraw them as you go to keep the ship's shape.
  • Finish your hull with paint or clear varnish for a professional look.
  • Half hull models often are mounted to a board that is at least as big as the model. Paint a board a dark colour and screw your half hull into it from the backside.

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