Best Model Ship Kits for Beginner, Advanced & Kid Modelers

A wooden model ship with masts, sails, and rigging on a black background.

It is SO frustrating when you open up a long-awaited model ship kit only to find that it’s cheaply made, parts are misshapen, or perhaps worst of all, some critical pieces are missing entirely!

I’ve been down that road a few times, and I confess, I got mad – every time. Good money down the drain and no fun project to work on. UGGH!

Since those bad experiences, I’ve built several that actually live up to the hype and I’ve spent many hours searching for ships I’d like to build in the future that will actually meet or exceed my expectations. 

In the following, I’ve listed the ships I’ve found so far to be above average and of quality craftsmanship in a variety of different styles and materials.

Pressed for time? 

Right of the bat, for quality and a realistic look, I’d say to go for the Queen Anne’s Revenge model.

For a more challenging build, the USS Iowa is the way to go.

For kids, definitely the 3D Wooden Puzzle Ship.

Model Ship Kits for Beginners

Building model ships is a wonderfully rewarding hobby, but starting can be challenging.

Many beginners start with highly advanced models that are difficult to put together, so they get discouraged and never try again.

Don’t let that be you! Here are a few of the best model ship kits for beginners. 

Best Overall: Queen Anne’s Revenge Sailboat

3D Puzzle for Adults Moveable LED Pirate Ship...

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The Queen Anne’s Revenge is an iconic ship, captained by the famous pirate Blackbeard, and this model does it justice.

3D illustrated instructions help guide you through step by step, so this is a good choice for beginners.

Warm LED lights contrast beautifully with the deep black ship itself. Once finished, you can open up the hull for an incredibly detailed interior. 

Pros:

  • 3D illustrated instructions.
  • LED lights.
  • Upgraded materials for a realistic look.
  • Famous pirate ship.

Cons:

  • Paper and EPS foam board are flimsier than plastic or wood.
  • Pricey.

Revell SnapTite Black Diamond Pirate Ship Model Kit

Revell SnapTite The Black Diamond Pirate Ship...

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This model ship is sturdy plastic and very affordable. While the quality isn’t as high as the Queen Anne model, it’s a great model for beginners.

The assembly is easy with parts that snap in place, and the steps are not too complicated. 

The model is fashioned after the famous pirate ship, the Black Diamond. It’s a fun conversation piece for a first model ship!

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Easy snap-in-place fastenings.
  • Sturdy plastic. 

Cons:

  • Somewhat cheaply made.
  • It may not hold together well over time.

Beginner/Intermediate: USS Iowa Big Battleship Plastic Model Kit

USS Iowa Big Battleship Plastic Model Kit 1/535...

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This model is perfect for hobbyists who are just starting but ready for a more intermediate challenge.

It’s also great to do with kids aged 14 and up or on your own if you’re into a more modern ship.

The USS Iowa model is very affordable and shows excellent attention to detail.

You will need a kit with glue, paints, and basic modeling tools. (I use this one.)

Pros:

  • Modern battleship with a unique look.
  • Good for ages 14+.
  • Low price.

Cons:

  • Materials can be a bit flimsy.

CubicFun The San Felipe Model Ship Kits 3D Puzzle

CubicFun The San Felipe Model Ship Kits 3D Puzzle...

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If you’re looking for a classic ship, The San Felipe model might be the perfect place to start.

The model includes detailed instructions but requires a more intermediate skill level.

The materials are paper and EPS foam board, so no tools are needed. A completed ship measures 25.59 x 7.09 x 22.05 inches and includes intricate color and detail.

Pros:

  • Colorful, intricate design.
  • Detailed instructions.
  • Classic model ship.

Cons:

  • A little more expensive than others.
  • Might be too complex for beginners.

Wooden Ship Kits for Beginners

If you’re all about quality materials and longevity, wooden ship kits might be the choice for you.

Working with wood adds a sense of authenticity and genuine craftsmanship to the whole experience.

While they’re pricier than paper or plastic models, the final products are sleek and picture perfect.

Best Starter Kit: Model Shipways Longboat Wood Model Kit

Model Expo Model Shipways Longboat Wood Model Kit...

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This wooden ship kit is ideal for beginners who are willing to take on a challenge.

The parts are intricate and small, so be sure you have the right tools on hand before you start. Approach with patience!

The replica recreates the longboat in exquisite detail and contains 20 pages of illustrated instructions.

As an added bonus, you’ll also learn about longboats as you build. 

Pros:

  • Not too expensive.
  • Quality materials.
  • Intricately detailed.

Cons:

  • Parts are tiny.
  • Not for first-time beginners.

Model Shipways 18th Century Armed Longboat

Model Shipways MS1460 18th Century Armed Longboat...

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Another product by Model Shipways, this longboat is similar to the one above but about twice the size – and a slightly higher price point. 

The materials are wood, brass, and cast metal, which gives the finished product a beautifully realistic look.

If you’re somewhat new to model ships, be sure to pace yourself.

Pros:

  • Large model.
  • Creates a beautiful replica longboat.
  • High-quality materials.

Cons:

  • Complex construction might be challenging for beginners.

Hands Craft Sailing Ship DIY 3D Wooden Puzzle Model Kit

Hands Craft Sailing Ship DIY 3D Wooden Puzzle...

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This wooden model ship is practically an art piece!

A whimsical design and a puzzle-focused approach make this a perfect project to do with kids. It’s also quite affordable.

The laser-cut wood pieces have smoothly sanded edges for safety, and the materials are all 100% eco-friendly.

You don’t need any glue or tools to put this together, which is excellent for beginners.

Assembly takes as little as one hour, and this is appropriate for kids aged 14 and up.

Pros:

  • Very affordable.
  • Artistic design.
  • Easy assembly.
  • No extra tools are needed.

Cons:

  • Pieces are fragile.

Plastic Ship Kits

While plastic ship kits may not seem as elegant as wooden ones, they are a good deal sturdier.

You’ll also find more modern designs like aircraft carriers and battleships. They come in various price ranges, but most are quite affordable.

See a few of our top picks below. 

Beginner Level: Tamiya Fletcher Class Destroyer

Tamiya Models Fletcher Class Destroyer

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While this model is not suitable for younger kids, it is a good starter for older kids or adults.

The Fletcher Class Destroyer is one of the best ships from WWII, making this an excellent gift for WWII enthusiasts.

While the model includes intricate color and detailing, the building process is not too complex, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. 

Pros:

  • Low cost.
  • Good quality and detail.
  • Famous historic WWII Destroyer.
  • Straightforward assembly.

Cons:

  • Fairly small.

Advanced Level: Tamiya US Battleship New Jersey BB-62

Tamiya Models US Battleship New Jersey BB-62 Model...

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Ready for more complicated models? Try this Tamiya model of the classic BB-62 US Battleship. 

The set includes pieces with exquisite detail, including deck fittings, a weapons suite, helicopters, doors, and more. It looks like a real battleship. 

Of course, with such detail the assembly requires some advanced skill, and the painting is somewhat intricate.

Give yourself a couple of weeks to finish this one!

Pros:

  • Extremely detailed.
  • High-quality model and materials.
  • Historic battleship.
  • Large, imposing display when finished.

Cons:

  • Quite pricey.

Expert Level: Revell Pirate Ship Plastic Model Kit

Revell of Germany Pirate Ship Plastic Model Kit

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This magnificent model ship is on the more expensive end, but for a good reason.

The finished product is an intricately detailed model, from the overall size and presentation down to each material’s quality.

This model ship is an excellent step for hobbyists who want to work on genuinely complex projects but may not be ready to take on expert-level wooden kits. 

Pros:

  • Exquisite details.
  • Quality materials and craftsmanship.
  • Impressive display.
  • Historical accuracy.

Cons:

  • Instructions are difficult.

Pirate Ship Kits

Listen. We all love a pirate story – and the center of every pirate story is the pirate ship! Pirate ships are always a trendy model.

While we have a few samples above, let’s dig into comparing the best in pirate ship kits. 

Best Overall: HMS Victory Vessel Ship Sailboat Model Kit

CubicFun 3D Puzzles Large HMS Victory Vessel Ship...

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This gorgeous model ship is an excellent gift for friends or family, and the difficulty is right between a beginner and intermediate level.

With numbered parts and detailed illustrated instructions, this piece is a challenge to assemble but not overwhelming. 

The final product is striking in color and detail and quite large, at 22.4 x 8.3 x 18.1 inches. 

Pros:

  • Good price.
  • Beautiful finished product.
  • Detailed instructions.
  • Packet on the history of the vessel included.

Cons:

  • Paper and EPS foam boards are flimsier than plastic or wood.

Advanced: Captain’s Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl Ship

ZVEZDA 9037 - Captain's Jack Sparrow Ship 'BLACK...

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Who isn’t a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean? This model is a fabulously detailed replica of the ship from the famous movie franchise. 

The all-black color is especially striking, and the level of intricacy and attention to detail make this a stand-out model.

But of course, that also means it’s pretty tricky to put together. If you’re ready for a real challenge, this might be the ship for you.

Pros:

  • Intricately detailed replica.
  • Striking black color.
  • Popular subject matter.
  • Quality materials.

Cons:

  • Pricier than other options.
  • Paint and glue are sold separately.

Metal Ship: ICONX Black Pearl Ship Black

Fascinations Metal Earth ICONX Black Pearl Ship...

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The one metal ship that made this list, this model kit is another replica of the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean.

The metal gives it quite an edge and makes it a nice piece to decorate your home or office – very sleek and sexy.

The ICONX Black Pearl Ship is a much smaller model than most on this list, measuring 5.75 x 1.75 x 4.5 inches.

But it’s relatively easy to assemble with detailed instructions. Great for adults and older kids alike.

Pros:

  • Sleek design.
  • Metal is reasonably sturdy.
  • Highly detailed.
  • Affordable price.

Cons:

  • Metal is more challenging to assemble than wood, paper, or plastic.
  • Small.

Related Questions:

If you’re still looking for more information about model ship kits, we have the answers to some common questions below!

Do Model Ships Float?

No. Model ships are made for display and are not sealed to keep out water. They also aren’t waterproof unless they are plastic.

Who Makes the Best Wooden Model Ship Kits? 

Model Shipways is known for its wooden model ship kits. See our list for a few of their best models. 

How Do You Display a Model Ship?

If you want to display your model ship long term, you should purchase a glass or acrylic case with a top.

This case will protect your model from collecting dust over time – which is nearly impossible to clean.

For a little extra pizzazz, make sure you have some special lighting on it.

Wrapping It Up

For me personally, the WOW factor of the Queen Anne’s Revenge is hard to beat. The interior details are a huge plus and the lights really make it pop.

As your skills improve and you’re ready for a serious challenge, I have zero qualms in recommending the Revell Pirate Ship.

Revell has been around since the 1940s and is a leading name in the world of models. The detail on the ship is amazing and the paint guide takes away the guesswork.

Will it test your skills and patience? Absolutely.

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.

Last update on 2021-09-25 at 22:38 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API