Teeny tiny model ships with heavy loads of history (and one goat)

They may fit in your hand, but the stories they tell are harrowing.

I recently came across a model ship-maker on Instagram with a passion for reducing “big grey monsters” to teeny tiny sizes. Joseph Lavender posts jaw-dropping photographs of his creations, which are almost entirely scratch-built.

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German Guard Ship Heisternest M-3109, 1942. Fun little build I did a while back. The hull, bridge, and funnel are from HP Models (resin), and the rest I scratched or stole from the scraps box. Only a few photos exist of Heisternest in her KM service so I had to approximate some things. The paint scheme is the normal German two-tone RAL 7000, 7001, 7024. The model is about 2 and 1/4 inches or about 57mm. She was originally built as a Filin Class Guard Ship by Ab Chichton in Finland for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1917. She was sold to Poland in 1920 and was renamed ORP Komendant Piłsudski. In '39 the Poles scuttled her but she was subsequently raised by the Germans and commissioned into the KM as Heisternest M 3109. It's not really clear what the Germans used her for. She probably did some fishery protection, training, maybe some minesweeping perhaps as her "M" designation suggests. Contemporary information about her days in the Polish Navy state that she was little more than an armed tugboat and not really suited to any role. Heisternest was destroyed by US bombs in Nantes, France on Sept 16, 1943. #art #artist #artistic #artists #myart #artwork #painting #design #architecture #artist #classical #amazing #craft #antique #vintage #retro #artwork #model #scale #scalemodel #miniature #miniatures #プラモデル #スケールモデル #plasticmodel #plasticmodels #akinteractive #josephlavender #kreigsmarine #german #germany

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As you can see, Joseph also has a penchant for history. To him, these aren’t just tiny ships, but mysteries and tragedies as well. Because I also love a good dose of history with my tiny things, I’ve compiled a list of Joseph’s three models with the most interesting backstories.

#1. The German Battleship Scharnhorst

During WWII, the German Battleship Scharnhorst was among the most successful and the most feared in the German navy. In her home country, she was known as “Lucky Scharnhorst”, and was a source of national pride.


Scharnhorst was sunk on December 26, 1943 by the British in the Battle of the North Cape. British war veteran Norman Scarth, interviewed by BBC in 2011, recalled the ship fighting bitterly until the end, firing the last of its cannons until it sank into darkness. He admitted to still being haunted by the voices of men screaming for help in the water. Scarth’s crew received orders to leave the area immediately due to incoming threats, and in the end, just 36 men were saved out of almost 2,000.

Joseph Lavender’s Scharnhorst, modeled to match its appearance the day it sunk, was made on a 1/2400 scale (what!) with extreme attention to detail.

The casting is from GHQ models, and the masts, rigging, and base were all made by Joseph Lavender.

You can even see a swastika on the edge of the ship.


#2. HMS Montagu

HMS Montagu was a battleship of the British Royal Navy, launched in 1901.

In 1906, the ship was involved in a bizarre accident where in fog, she plowed headfirst into Lundy Island off the coast of England. The navigating officer, having acted on faulty information, believed the ship was 4 miles off the coast. He was in the middle of congratulating himself for a job well-done when he heard the sound of grinding metal and propellers being ripped off. The captain and lieutenant were found guilty of negligence for their roles in losing one of the finest ships in the Royal Navy.

A photo of the crash, courtesy of Submerged

It took two months for Joseph Lavender to recreate the HMS Montagu as she appeared in 1905.

The hull is cast resin from Combrig and the rest of the detail, including the masts and superstrucure, were photo-etched or scratch built by Joseph Lavender.



#3. USS Helena:

The USS Helena was a US Navy gunboat launched in 1896 that served in the Spanish–American War, the Phillippines, and later in China.


She saw some action in the Spanish-American War from her position in Cuban waters, but spent most of her life on diplomatic missions. For me, the most interesting thing about the ship (and I apologize to the navy buffs out there), is the awesome mascot she had. Here is Bill, dressed in a lovely coat adorned with “H” for Helena.

Chief Petty Officer Jack McSherry with Helena’s mascot “Bill” aboard the gunboat in the early  1920s.

Joseph’s 1/700 scale model ship lacks goats, but makes up for this oversight in its stunning detail.

The hull is from Combrig and the detail is Joseph Lavender’s usual photo-etched brass and stainless steel.

He uses the standard white paint scheme common for all pre-WWI American warships.



Joseph Lavender has been turning brass and resin into tiny ships since he was a child, but has become more focused and serious over the last 10 years. And although he still insists on being called a hobbyist, citing professionals like Kostas Katseas for contrast, it’s clear that Joseph is a talented model-builder with lofty goals. He’s currently raising money for new supplies, with which he promises to use his craft to share “funny, strange, mysterious, and tragic tales from the high sea.” If you want to join in the adventure, be sure to follow his instagram account.

Via Submerged and BBC

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