Models of Royal Navy ships were made by order of the Navy Board. Little is known about the men who built these models but, thanks to their surviving works, we know how their models were made.
The names of the ship model-makers of the 17th to 19th centuries are mostly lost. However we do know that the model of Dolphin (1731) is associated with John Hancock of Deptford Dockyard.
It is not known whether it was the Master Shipwrights themselves, their subordinates or teams of men who made the models. We know of one professional ship model-maker in the 18th century – Allan Hunt – but there may have been more.
Fine-grained fruit woods were generally used to make ship models because they carve well. Pear is perhaps the most common but, for example, the hull of Britannia (1719) is pine. The skillful use of natural wood colour kept the use of paint to a minimum. Fittings and inlays are often of brass, pewter, ivory and mother-of-pearl with mica, a natural mineral, for the windows and lanterns.
Most of ship models of this period are 1/48th of the size of the ships they represent – ¼ of an inch on the model is equal to one foot on the ship. The same scale was used for drawing plans. Small boat models are often twice this size – ½ inch to one foot (1:24).