Building a scale superyacht model: From commission to display
Last updated: 11/04/2017
With the level of detail achievable by today’s marine model makers, scale superyacht models can be built as intricately as the superyachts that they replicate, making them fascinating additions to any owner’s home, shipyard office or boat show display.
An exciting time for the commissioning superyacht owner or shipyard, the imitation asset often comes months before the superyacht herself, building the excitement for her delivery.
With such great responsibility, Yachting Pages follows along the scale model-making process of Dubois’ 58m sloop rig ‘Ngoni’, with Chris Conlon, marine models department head and project manager at Amalgam Modelmaking Ltd.
Building the scale superyacht model of S/Y Ngoni
“The brief here is for a 1:60 scale model of the 58m Dubois sloop rig S/Y Ngoni, measuring in at approximately one metre for display at the 2016 Monaco Yacht Show. She is a full hull, stub mast with medium level of detail, meaning she needs no handrails or rigging.”
Designing the model
“The modelling process begins once the final design details and detailed sketches have been submitted by the client. The images above are screen-grabs from the original 3D CAD model sent to us by Dubois. From these, we began the project by editing the 3D CAD and overlaying the 2D General Arrangement drawings (GA’s). This allows us to collect the data to machine out the various components that come together to make the model. We use a programme called Rhino, which is a very versatile piece of software.”
The build gets underway
“Once we are happy with the data, the CNC machine, which is essentially a large cutter, is used to remove the unnecessary material from a large block of dense foam. Below left we see one half of the upper portion of the hull being machined on its side.
“Two halves of the upper portion are then glued together along the centre line, positioned accurately and placed back into the CNC machine to add in the deck levels and step detail. This lower portion of the hull, usually from the boot stripe down (pictured below right), is machined as one piece, with location points for keels and rudders pocketed out accurately.
“The foam model board is still quite rough at this point and needs fine finishing by hand, using various grades of abrasives and sand paper.”
Model design specifics
“We knew from the outset that this model was to be displayed at the 2016 Monaco Yacht Show, and would probably travel a lot thereafter, so strength and robustness had to be ‘built in’ to the model wherever possible.
“Over the years, we have learned what does and doesn’t work when it comes to materials and methods of manufacturing. A good example of this is the base that this model is displayed upon – not only does it have to support the model and its Perspex cover, but it’s also the part of the model that must take the most abuse when it is transported to, and in and around the show.
“Many bases have been bumped around and damaged and have ultimately had to be replaced, so we have been making welded steel frames in house (pictured above left) which are coated using a very tough exterior product that is ‘baked on’. The ability to work with metals in this way means that we can build in strength in more unorthodox ways.
“For this model, we designed the base so that there were no extra stanchions supporting the model, with all support instead holding through the keel. This gives the illusion that the model is balancing on a knife edge, so nothing detracts from the lines of the yacht.”
The finer details
“In these images below, we can see that the superstructure has now been constructed – again using a CNC machined model board. The outer hull has also been sanded and sprayed with a primer paint, and will be sanded again until we are satisfied that the surface is smooth, and more importantly symmetrical.
“Other details such as rudders, winches, seats and consoles have been 3D-printed and prepped for painting at this stage. The decking detail is laser cut from maple veneer, which has the planking line etched in.”
The final fit
“Here we can start to see the final painted parts coming together for the final fit: The mast and the boom have now been made and are ready to be fixed down. The below images show the model with the deck layer stuck down, with some of the deck equipment stuck down in the final position. The model is now also fixed to the base, which has been coated and has a sheet of steel on top for a reflective finish.”
“Below are more images of the final fit underway with one of our most experienced model makers, Mike Quarry. Mike’s expertise is in the model engineering and metalwork side of things. He was responsible for many things, including shaping the keel from solid steel, and making the mast and boom, all of which had to be strong and secure so that they did not move or break when in transit.”
The finished model
“Here is the finished item – some five weeks later. Once on display, it will be presented with a high-quality Perspex cover to keep out fingers and dust. Again this was manufactured in-house by our engineer John, as we like to keep the manufacture in house so that we can control the quality, precision and timescale. This keeps costs as low as possible for the client, and minimises hold-ups should a deadline be critical.”
The model making team at Amalgam
Russ ‘Rusty’ Harper – Model maker
“Rusty is one of our model makers, and his role on this project included making the superstructure, and executing the specialist paint finishes on many of the parts.”
Anthony ‘Ant’ Newbury – Model maker
“Ant is another one of our model makers, and his roles on this project included 3D and 2D CAD editing, CNC machining construction and finishing of the hull, deck planks and deck furniture, as well as the final build.”
Mike ‘Mike Q’ Quarry – Model maker
“Mike Q was the mastermind behind the load-bearing keel idea, and he helped in fabricating the mast, which is not as simple as it might seem, working together with Ant on the final build.”
John ‘JP’ Powell – Engineer/fabricator
“JP is our engineer and fabricator, helping to weld the steel frame for the base and the metal keel, cutting in the nice reflective layer on top of the model base and making the Perspex cover.”
Chris Conlon – Project manager/marine models department head
“That’s me - I’m taking the picture. In this project I did not get to do as much making as I would like, but I did ensure that the team had all the information they needed, liaising with the client and worrying about things like time, money and the colour of the paint.
“I was responsible for taking all of the photos of the build, driving the model to the client and taking the glory in the absence of the team! I also work to generate as much publicity and media attention as possible for the model with my photos!”
Duration of build: Approx. five weeks
Total time of build: Approx. 300 man hours
The real 58m S/Y Ngoni is scheduled for delivery in Spring 2017.