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09 Mar 2017

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Vertical ship making

Having moved to Southbank five years ago, David Lumsden has taken his expertise for making historic model ships to his Whiteman St apartment.

The now retired civil engineer moved to Vue Grande with wife Lynne from their previous home in Blackburn South in 2012 and while he no longer has the space to build large models, vertical living hasn’t deterred him continuing his hobby.

From a very modest desk in the corner of a small spare bedroom, David remarkably crafts intricately detailed historic ships by hand.

His latest creation, a model of the Lady Nelson, which was the first ship to officially enter Port Phillip Bay in 1802, took David five months to complete equating to approximately 1000 hours.

Since creating his first ships from kits in the 1970s, David has since designed and crafted over 100 models and while he said he had no connections with the sea, historic ships associated with Australia had always fascinated him.

“I remember being fascinated with ships for some reason during my childhood and maybe it was just stories about ships, which fascinated me,” he said.

“The story of the people on these ships often fascinated me just as much as the ship itself. You admire a lot of people from this period who sailed these vessels it’s a pretty amazing undertaking.”

His Lady Nelson adds to a long list of model ships he has constructed over the years, which includes the likes of The Investigator (captained by Matthew Flinders), and Melbourne’s famous founding ship The Enterprize.

A number of his creations have ended up in the likes of the Melbourne Museum and private collections both here and abroad. His latest work of art will be displayed at the Churchill Island Heritage Centre.

While there are now a lot of materials and accessories available to model makers in today’s world, it’s the intricate details that David takes the most pride in hand crafting himself.

In the construction of his latest model, David creates everything from the ship’s sliding keels and hull to the tiny cannons and the rigging from scratch using various materials.

And often with limited or no plans of a ship’s design available, David said a lot of his model making involved much interpretation.

“Often you have to just toss a coin and go with whatever they might’ve done,” he said.

“This one in particular I’ve discovered now there are a lot of decisions you have to make because with bits of it all over the hull you end up with three options all of which are viable.”

While his latest ship involved months of long days and late nights, David is already looking forward to his next project – a historical cargo ship.

His knowledge of Australia’s maritime history is seemingly endless and he said overlooking the Yarra River, where the likes of The Enterprize and The Investigator once sailed provided inspiration for his work.

“The hull of The Investigator was stripped down and it went back to England eventually. This hull came back to the Yarra and was used as a coal hulk,” he said.

“Eventually it just rotted into the Yarra so maybe there’s still bits and pieces of it in the bottom of the Yarra!”

“Looking out onto the Yarra it does have a lot of connections with a lot of shipping so it does provide a bit of inspiration.” 

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