The first step, and maybe the most difficult, is choosing which ship to model. It has to be a subject of interest since I’ll be spending the better part of a month intimately involved in research and construction. Whenever I can, I use books or original source material in my research, since these items tend to be more accurate than what is found online. Even though the models are very small, I still strive for accuracy.

I like to use scales that aren’t typically used in ship modeling. For larger ships, I use 1/1500 scale or 125 feet to the inch. Smaller ships, such as Wasp and Pandora, I use 1/1000 which is a little over 83 feet to the inch. Displaying scale on a ship this small tends to get lost in translation, so I depict the scale using the old Imperial measurements. It seems to be a little bit easier for those not involved in model making to understand the size difference this way. Saying “125 feet to the inch” means more to the casual observer than “1/1500”.

The model itself begins with a set of scale drawings, converted to the exact size of the model. All measurements are then taken from these drawings in order to build the ship as accurately as possible.

The ship’s hull is created from Boxwood using the scale drawings and many measurements, the decks are planked with Basswood. The balance of the detail is made from some styrene and Boxwood, but mostly brass. Details such as masts, handrails, and windows are all made from brass. Funnels, gun barrels, ventilators, and capstans are brass and turned on a lathe.

The ships are built in sub-assemblies, with painting in mind. With details this small, handling is a big concern, so the model is built on a temporary wood stand. Once the ship is assembled on the stand, it’s primed and painted. Only after painting is the ship rigged. For the rigging, I use many fine grades of tungsten wire. I put a lot of time into making accurate flags for my models since I feel this is a very important detail that needs to be well executed. Flags add motion and bring the ships to life. My flags are all hand painted on aluminum foil, and shaped as to appear as natural as possible.

I try to create a scene for every ship, whether made fast to a buoy, sailing moody green seas, or ghosting in bright tropical waters on a sunny day. Once I’ve settled on the scene, the sea base is carved from Basswood, painted, and sealed with epoxy resin.

Once the model and sea base are finished, I remove the ship from its temporary stand and carefully attach the ship to the sea base. This is a tricky part of the process since it means handling the ship for the first and last time. Once it’s set in place, a small amount of epoxy resin holds it permanently.

It’s always a bitter-sweet moment when I finish a ship. It does feel good to complete it, but it also leaves an empty spot. I take a few days to decide the next subject, and start the process all over again.


The miniatures ship models


Joseph Levander 

Work Time 

A lot of time 


Various Scratch-built models


Various scale 


Static Naval Modeling


Too many…see the ideation