Often, I’ll pick a project based on the materials I already have available.

After I finished the set of vintage whale bookends, I still had two angle brackets left over. And because I was pretty happy with how the whale turned out, I decided to take a crack at a set modeled after the Titanic for my nephew.

The first step was looking at pictures and schematics of the ship so I could get a basic idea of what I wanted to shape. I wanted to make my piece stylized and not hyper-realistic (a) because I’m not that talented, and (b) because it was a gift meant for a five-year old, and if it happened to get knocked over or dropped accidentally, I wanted to make sure some hair-thin piece of railing or something wouldn’t shoot off of it, leaving it impossible to fix. So the goal was to make it solid, while still recognizable, with a bit of vintage charm.

There were a lot of pictures I used at different times while working on it, but this picture was my go-to reference.


As with all projects, I started out with a block of wood and a pencil. And squirt guns.


Again, just a 1 ¾” x 3 ½” x 10″ piece of basswood (I don’t know the dimensions of the squirt guns).

I cut the block in half with a circular saw, and used a jigsaw to take off about ¾ of an inch from the top of both halves, as well as shape the bow. The blade on my jigsaw wasn’t long enough to cut all the way through, so I made two cuts, one on the bottom and one on the top, for each side. The end product was a little uneven, but I knew I could fix most imperfections while sanding.


I also used some spare pieces of basswood carving blocks to lay out the deck and smokestacks. I had some wooden dowels left over from a long forgotten project to use as masts. No idea what type of wood they are, but I’m sure I just got them from a craft store.

With everything laid out, the real work began. Using my knife to shape the deck pieces, round the smokestacks, and carve out the stern.

The stern, and especially the rudder, was a pain, partly due to the shape, partly because I was carving directly into the end grain.

After shaping it out, I went to town on it with 120 grit sandpaper.

Before and after sanding.

To glue the deck pieces and smokestacks, I had to improvise a bit. I don’t actually own any c-clamps, so I glued the pieces on and stacked books on them overnight to dry.


This process alone took two days.

This is where things got a little crazy. I decided that while I didn’t want to get super detailed, it was missing something. I got the idea to add railings and little embellishments here and there on the deck. In the spirit of using found materials, I rummaged through my kitchen pantry and found toothpicks. After cutting off the points with my carving knife and laying them on the deck, I was happy with how they looked. Twenty-seven toothpicks and twice as many dabs of wood glue later, I had this:


I also decided, after trying and failing to just glue the flat end of the masts onto the deck, that I needed to actually seat them. Luckily, I had a drill bit the same diameter of my dowels (5/16). I rounded the dowels with sandpaper and glued them into the deck.


And there you have it. The only thing left to do was glue the masts and paint.

So began the process of taping, painting, removing tape, re-taping, painting, re-removing, painting, re-re-taping, paint, re-re-removing tape, and covering myself in tape and rolling around on the floor, because I apparently love it so much.

I used acrylic paints on most of it. For the masts, I didn’t have any brown acrylic, so I ended up using some horrendous brown semi-gloss enamel on the masts. I lightly sanded them afterward to give them a more streaked, wood-grain look.

I opted not to finish it in any kind of urethane, because I wanted to make it look as vintage as possible. I considered giving it a coat of polycrylic as a protective measure, but ultimately decided against it.

After painting, all that was left to do was screw on the angle brackets.

Again, I was pretty happy with the end result. The final product, while not perfect, was pretty much exactly what I set out to make. I was nervous that I missed the mark, and that my nephew wasn’t going to know that it was the Titanic, or that he wouldn’t like it because it had some fatal historical inaccuracy (seriously, had I not been making it for him, I would have consulted him on it), but come Christmas, when he opened it, he was stoked. For that reason alone, I can call this one a small victory.


Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment and let me know.