How to Support a Model Ship While Building it

Written by sean kotz
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How to Support a Model Ship While Building it
Model ships like this one must be supported from below and on both sides while building is underway. (maquette de voilier sur fond blanc image by Unclesam from

Due to the shape of ship hulls, it is difficult to keep a model ship in an upright position while you are building it. The trick is to keep it from rolling on its sides while you apply parts or paint. Commercially available hobby vices or ship cradles exist, but there are homemade solutions to this problem that can cost little to nothing depending on what you have around the house. And since many ship models come with display cradles, there is also an easy method for making use of this during the building process as well.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Masking tape or poster tack
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton cloth
  • Cotton hand towels
  • Wire coat hangers
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Large rubber bands
  • Pine square 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • 1/4-inch dowel rods
  • Drill with 1/4-inch bit
  • Hacksaw or razor saw
  • Sandpaper

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    Display Cradle Method

  1. 1

    Assemble the display cradle that came with your ship with cyanoacrylate, or "CA," glue but do not prime or paint.

  2. 2

    Roll thin strips of masking tape into tubes so that the sticky side is out.

  3. 3

    Apply the masking tape rolls to the arms of the display cradle in small amounts at key points. Poster tack may be used here as an alternative.

  4. 4

    Rest the ship in the cradle while working.

  5. 5

    Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a cotton cloth and clean off any tackiness left behind after completing the model.

    Rolled Towel Method

  1. 1

    Collect a number of dish rags and hand towels.

  2. 2

    Unclasp the top of a wire coat hanger and bend the metal until it is reasonably straight using pliers, then cut off the ends with wire cutters.

  3. 3

    Roll a towel or dishcloth tightly around one end of the coat hanger and wrap with three evenly spaced rubber bands to hold the roll in place.

  4. 4

    Bend the coat hanger at the point it protrudes from the towel into a 90 degree angle.

  5. 5

    Bend another 90 degree angle in the coat hanger 3 to 5 inches from the other bend so that the wire forms a U shape.

  6. 6

    Wrap another towel around the second arm of the U-shaped wire and secure with rubber bands.

  7. 7

    Trim away excess wire and add more towels if necessary to support your ship hull while building.

    Adjustable Peg Board Method

  1. 1

    Cut a square of pine board at least 6 inches on all sides. The board should be 1/2-inch thick at minimum.

  2. 2

    Create a grid on the face of the board using a ruler and pencil by marking 1-inch wide lines across it in both directions.

  3. 3

    Drill a 1/4-inch hole into the board at each intersecting line point all the way through the board.

  4. 4

    Cut or clip a number of 1/4-inch diameter dowel rods in various lengths. You can use 1-inch, 2-inch and 3-inch long pegs to handle most projects.

  5. 5

    Insert the pegs into the holes to support the ship's hull while building. Sand if necessary to adjust the fit.

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