Model Shipbuilders: Sailing Away With 1,000 Nails

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Model Shipbuilders: Sailing Away With 1,000 Nails

They call themselves "The Boatclub." They are owners of some of the most famous ships ever to sail the seas, boats with names such as Victory, Santa Maria and Endeavour. Their ships, however, are not the real ones. They are wooden models.

The Boatclub consists of about 40 people who enjoy making wooden model sailboats. The club was formed last year on the Internet. Many of the members, while looking through various Web sites, discovered that there were many people like themselves who were mad about making model boats.They began to meet regularly at an art institute run by one member where they could socialize and exchange information about their passion.

Each member spends most of his spare time at a workbench, building a boat that he can never ride. It takes months of hard work to complete a model boat, as well as extreme patience and concentration. Endless sawing, cutting, drilling, filing and sanding is necessary to create a beautiful sailboat.

All the members have much to say about the pleasures of making model boats. Ban Sang-hoon, for instance, is a doctor of oriental medicine who likes to work on model boats whenever he has time. Mr. Ban is so deep into his hobby that he founds it hard to split time between taking care of his patients and working on his boats. He even hired a doctor to assist him in running the clinic so that he could put more time into his hobby. He told his secret method of decorating a sailboat, "Herb medicine is wonderful to dye a canvas with since it adds a nice worn-out touch to it."

Choi Gwang-hyo who used to be a navigation officer said, "A few years ago, I was staying up all night making a sailboat at home. At around dawn, I heard some noises outside, but I was too preoccupied with my work to notice. It turns out some thieves had broken into my house."

The members agreed that they preferred making boats to anything else. Ever since they first set sail on their current course, they rarely go out to meet friends or do much of anything but work on their boats.

These are no simple, children's models. A one-meter boat usually comes with a 10-page blueprint and requires 500 to 1,000 nails. The most common wood used for model sailboats are beech and walnut.

Many of these nautical enthusiasts construct their models from scratch, but even if you build a boat from a ready-made kit, much assembling is needed.

A model boat designed for a skilled assembler takes about 600 hours to complete. If a person spend two hours every day, it would take the better part of a year to make such a boat. Even the simplest model, designed for a beginner, takes about three to four months to assemble.

Most members of the Boatclub use assembling kits imported from European countries, but some enthusiasts design their own boats and make every single part by themselves.

For instance, Kim Nam-su who used to work at a shipbuilding company, left that job and started to produce custom-made model boats last year.

Park Yeong-jong and Lee Jong-Yoon, former colleagues, run an art studio together that designs and produces models of Korean traditional boats.

The two are now selling kits for ships of the Joseon Dynasty such as "Geobukseon," the famed turtle-shaped ships designed by admiral Yi Sun-shin and used to defeat the Japanese navy in 1592.

For more information visit, the Web site at

by Sung Si-yoon

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