“It was unforgettable,” describes Queenthunk Amalanathan F (Amal). He is talking about the miniature model of INS Vikramaditya, the flagship of the Indian Navy, which he built from scratch for the Aerospace Museum at Konni in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The warship, which he handcrafted in balsa wood, has an overall length of four feet, and is complete with 22 decks, and carries aircraft and helicopters just like the original model. “It’s a scratch model where every single part is built manually without using any templates of ship modelling kits. Originally named Baku, and then Admiral Gorshkov it was a former USSR carrier vessel that served in the Soviet Navy. Later, it was upgraded as a brand new ship. There were no blueprints or photographs available then. I had to read up a lot,” he recalls.
Amal’s passion for ship modelling runs deep. “Did you know this craft is as old as shipbuilding? The miniatures of real ships serve various purposes. The oldest ship model can be found at the burial tombs in Egypt dating back to 2000 BC. A number of Greek era ships were destroyed completely, but somehow one ship model survived and is now displayed at a museum in Germany. In India, particularly in Visakhapatnam, ship models were carved on stones. In the earliest centuries, they were used to check hydrostatics, hydrodynamics and stability of real ships. It allows visualising a ship’s behaviour and other physical characteristics before the commencement of construction. This was before the days of 3D models or computer simulation.”
- INS Delhi, the lead ship of her class, a guided-missile destroyer. He built it as a part of the Republic Day camp in Delhi. While a ship model takes about three months to build, this one was finished in 72 hours.
- Doll ship, which he modelled on the lines of INS Tarangini, a sail training ship for the Indian Navy. It won a gold and now graces a museum in Delhi.
Amal, who teaches English at National Model School in Coimbatore, says ship modelling helped him cope with his mother’s death while he was studying at the American College in Madurai. “It helped me stay focussed,” he says. The 27-year-old learnt the craft when he was in the Naval Unit of NCC.
Amal says one of his favourite ships is INS Veer, the lead ship of her class that served in the Indian Navy. “It played a crucial role in the destruction of the Karachi Harbour.” I am building INS Trishul, which is a frigate. I also have a model of INS Kavaratti, an anti-submarine warfare corvette that served in the Indian Navy. It’s a rare model of a vessel that is equipped to fight nuclear, chemical and biological wars. Modern warships are divided into categories like aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes…”
Over the last nine years, he has built a fleet of 30 models. “There are working models too. Some sail ships and sail boats are under construction. It’s an expensive hobby. People often buy plastic models that are available on Amazon for a cheaper rate,” he admits.
He has constructed a Cruiser he calls Beatrice. “It’s a mock design inspired from the American cruiser Ticonderoga and another Russian cruiser. I added missiles, two main guns. It also has surface-to-air missiles below the deck.”
Ship modelling is tough.“It is not just about research. One has to acquire skills to cut, drill, sculpt and detail. One also has to collect as many photographs as possible and be able to follow the blueprint and the steps just the way it was done when the original was built.”
Amal is willing to offer hands-on training to students. “ While aero-modelling has caught on in a big way, ship building is still to catch up. I want to change this. There is immense scope as they can also land a job as ship modelling inspector in the State Government. It’s a great way to unwind too,” he adds.
Besides Naval ships, Amal has built satellite and rocket miniatures of the PSLV, Chandrayaan I and II, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Eagle Moon Lander and Saturn V rocket. “I used plastic foam sheets for these models. It is the best alternative for balsa.”
His dream is to build a navy ship of the Chola dynasty. “The Chola empire ruled over the entire coastal Asia. I am looking for information regarding the size and shape of those magnificent vessels. There are no drawings available. If I do find some information, I want to build an exact replica and donate it to the Tanjore Museum.”
To know more, call him 99526-47879 or email him [email protected]
You can also visit his YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYf9IBfQh-8&t=190s