For much of human history, the boat or ship was the most technologically-advanced means of travel. For a young person who had likely never traveled farther than he or she could walk, the idea of the ship was one of freedom. Because of this interest in ships, model boats have existed for almost as long as boats, and have often been used to test boat designs; they have also just as commonly been toys for children.
The first known model ships were created about 3200 B.C. in Egypt. These model ships were used to test the design of ships. These were among the first sail ships and it took another 500 years before the designs for these ships began to appear in other parts of the world, along with their models.
Model ships have been vital in understanding the real ships used by many of these ancient societies. The Greeks liked model ships that were cast in many different materials, including wood, metal and clay. They could serve as tools or toys, depending on their design, and are often the best examples for archeologists of the full-sized ships that were used.
As the complexity of ships increased, so did the complexity of ship models. In Europe, models could be found in churches where people would pray over them in order to help protect those who were in the ships' real counterparts. Admiralty models, built for the Royal Navy, also became more common in the 18th and 19th centuries, and showed proposed warship designs in great detail, including sail rigging, ropes and more.
The first armature model kits appeared in the early 1900s. As plastic became available, it often replaced wood as the popular choice, especially for kits that depict modern ships, as plastic allows for almost anyone to afford to build far more complex ship models than in the past.
Model ships have existed throughout much of human history, and as long as ships remain some of the largest -- and most impressive -- machines ever created, the fascination with them and desire to touch even a small version of them is likely to remain strong.
Model makers should be familiar with the types of wood used in model ships. If you aren't, take some time to read up on them.
Learn how to make a model Viking ship with simple supplies, easy instructions and some helpful hints from our useful guide.