The Lumberyard
Up until this point Harold had little to no
contact with other ship modelers. When an ad appeared in the newspaper a ship modeling contest was to be held at the Maritime Museum in Vermillion Ohio, Harold entered the Niagara model. The model won first place, which was the first of many awards Harold would win. After the competitive print shows, Harold found a new and exiting field in ship modeling. At about the same time, Harold found an invitation to join a Washington D.C. based group called the Nautical Research Guild. Joining the guild launched Harold into a career that challenged his artistic talents as well as provided an outlet for his work. The journal opened Harold’s eyes to many possibilities one of these made him think seriously about building plank on frame models rather than carving solid hulls.
Harold’s next model was the Half Moon, which used an unusual construction method. From the waterline up the hull was solid and from the waterline down he drew plans and cut frames which fastened to the upper solid hull. Hull planking was then added from the waterline up. The nameplate included a mini diorama of Henry Hudson trading with the Indians.

From the first model Harold included figures on board each ship as well as a mini dioramas as a nameplate. His next project would be a diorama of a colonial shipyard.

In 1968 Harold M Hahn appeared in the spring issue vol.15 no. 1 of the Nautical Research Guilds journal under introduction of new members listed as artist and model builder. The point where an accomplished, multi talented artist went from etching, watercolors, and drawing to a different medium, model ship building. Harold didn’t just dabble with model ship building he revolutionized it, setting the standard in research and model building, bridging the gap between craft and art. A prolific artist Harold produced a body of work from 1968 to 1984 when he printed his last etching and his last ship model was finished in 1994. Today his work shop and tools have been distributed to family members who can use them. His body of work consists of ship models, research archives, books, etchings, articles, photographs and ship drawings, at the age of 87 Harold still contributes to the art of model ship building.

You might say the Nautical Research Guild was Harold’s home port and where most of his articles appeared over the years. Through the archives of the NRG we can also trace the progression of Harold’s work.

Within months of becoming a member the first short article appeared in the pages of the journal Vol. 15 no. 3 this was a shop note on making moldings for models and notes on making sides for gun carriages.

Harold didn’t miss an issue of the journal and continued to contribute shop notes and articles.


The following summer the NRG conference was held at Mystic Seaport Museum. At the conference he met a fellow who lived on the Ohio Indiana border. Harold went to visit him and after that visit he suggested Harold stop in Toledo Ohio to visit a model builder named Robert Bruckshaw. The Smithsonian has bought four of Bruckshaws models. Authorities at the museum recognized the models as significant in the history of American sailing ships and for their superb quality of craftsmanship. Robert Bruckshaw was one of the few master builders who built admiralty style models. For a number of years after that first meeting Harold made Saturday pilgrimages from Cleveland to Norwalk to visit Bob.

In the spring of 1972 the article A Technique for Building Plank-on Frame Models was published. A query in the journal back in 1969 prompted the mechanical engineer in Harold to come up with an idea to level and hold the frames of a plank-on frame model. The article was the premier of the “Hahn jig” that every scratch model builder is familiar with. The two models in the article were the HANNAH and the SULTANA built for the shipyard diorama. The 1/8 scale models were made of Maple and delicate parts were of Boxwood. Each model contained from 2,500 to 3,000 pieces. Only four models were intended for the shipyard diorama, however a fifth model was added the SIR EDWARD HAWKE which followed in a separate article in the same issue. An editorial note explained the back to back publishing of the two articles “It was originally planned to print the Sir Edward Hawke article in the next issue NRG but it complemented and supplemented Mr. Hahn’s excellent discourse on miniature plank-on frame technique so well that the studies belong together and are so presented.” As Harold stated when he finished the first article on the HANNAH and the SULTANA a set of frame drawings would make the story more meaningful. Rather than rehash the working drawings of the first two models he started fresh with the SIR EDWARD HAWKE.

By the summer of 1972 in the NRG journal an announcement appeared “Western Reserve Nautical Guild is a new group, centering on Cleveland. The officers are: Larry Sperling, Pres Bill Schnabel, Vice Pres Michael Rybicki, sec Dr. Irwin Readerman, treas, Herndon Oliver Press secy. Harold Hahn was the program director. They started with fifty members and boundless enthusiasm, and we wish them the best of fortune.”

Looking back Harold said the club was a bit of a disappointment as most of the members were plastic kit builders and only a few worked in wood. One important thing He did pick up was the use of special carbon steel saw blades tapered on the sides which made cutting thin strips easier. The club lasted only a few years.

The term “Hahnism” has turned up in this generation of model builders. It refers to the reasons why Harold did the thing he did. Mind you Harold Hahn’s work was never intended to be a study of naval architecture nor a thesis on the principals and practices of 18th century ship building. When Harold began his diorama of the colonial shipyard there were no plank-on frame modelers plans or true plank-on-frame kits, only a commercial ploy to produce a plank on frame kit economically, with no consideration to the modeler.

Harold’s work is an artistic and engineering approach to the subject rendering it “workable” by any builder with the perseverance and serious enough to pursue the craft. As a whole, the body of work offers methods and techniques for a model builder to build on. Model shipbuilding is a personalized endeavor and everyone has his or her own ideas on what to do and how to do it. At the other extreme is the so called “purest” or as Bob Bruckshaw called the “arm chair model maker”. These model builders insist on the absolute perfect model in every last detail even if it is unattainable in both research and in the building of the model. Compromise between the engineering and practices of ship construction and the artistic approach to the subject is the common ground to produce a reasonably historically accurate and pleasing work of art.

In 1969 Vol.16 no. 1 Harold submitted another shop note on making eyebolts and ringbolts followed in issue no. 2 on drilling deadeyes in a jig. In this same issue is the first of a long series of full articles this one on Carving figures For Ship models.

Go to PART 3 - Figure Carving

return to Harold Hahn main page

Home | Wood | Ship Kits | Articles | Cannons | Shop On-line | About Us | Videos


6908 Stadium Drive • Brecksville, OH 44141 • 440.526.2173

©2016 The Lumberyard for Model Shipwrights