Every bit of building a model boat is fun. Starting from collecting the pieces and up to watching the final result as it reveals itself, I can safely say it’s one of the most entertaining activities to fill your free time.
There’s a wide variety of tugboat models on the market—for both kids and adults. Some kits are pretty easy to assemble, while others will require some cutting and painting skills.
To choose the best one for your level of expertise, you’ll want to check a couple of reviews first. Otherwise, you may end up with a basic, no-fun kit that’s made for beginners. Here’s a roundup of the best models I found.
1. J Lloyd International 1/72 Coast Guard Tugboat
Coast guard tugboats are the real champs of any sea! You don’t have to go to the harbor to meet one; this Lindberg tugboat kit from J Lloyd is the closest thing to reality. Its level of detail is uncanny, and the final result is visually pleasing if you manage to get the paint right.
The J Lloyd kit needs painting and plastic cement to be finished, and both are sold separately. It’s a bit inconvenient, but most kits on the market are sold without their paint, so it’s no big deal. The kit’s affordability makes up for it.
The tugboat kit is molded well with minimal flash, and it comes with a high-quality deck, superstructure parts, and a heavily cast hull. You also receive a rudder and a propeller. Gluing the main deck with the hull’s two main halves may seem challenging at first, but all it takes is some patience.
If you’re a beginner at boat building, you’ll love the assembly manual that comes with this kit. It’s full of graphic images to show you detailed steps, rather than manuals full of text.
The good thing about the kit is you can update it to your preference. If you want, you can cut the hull to create a waterline display. You may also replace some pieces with modern ones if you want to create a more contemporary look for the boat. Of course, that’s only applicable if you have leftover pieces from other kits.
You may choose the colors you want for your completed model. The instructions give you plenty of options, so your boat will look well-designed in the end. I don’t recommend coloring it on your own; following the manufacturer’s color plan guarantees better results.
The best thing about the J Lloyd kit is its versatility. It’s an easy kit for a beginner, but it’s still fun for experienced builders because it offers multiple updating options.
Some users reported that some parts were unnumbered, and some parts had incorrect numbers. This may be an inconvenience to some users, but in my opinion, it makes the task all the more fun!
2. Revell 05207 Harbour Tug Boat
It’s hard to pass by the Revell tugboat kit and not buy it. Once you see the final result of this one, you’ll fall in love. The company put extra attention on tiny details, resulting in a model that you can use for decorative purposes.
The boat comes with a deck and bridge, giving you the sense of a lifelike harbor. Additionally, you’ll receive three human figures to use on the ship in any manner.
Along with the figures, you’ll receive a display stand to show off your boat after you’re done crafting. Not only that, but there are also waterslide decals. That way, you can live the real experience with the crew and water, except on a much smaller scale, as to be expected.
The boat is scaled to 1:108, which is large enough to show all the details and small enough to decorate your desk or shelf. Upon purchase, you receive 84 parts. Make sure not to let kids near the small parts; they serve as a choking hazard. The models skill level is advanced, so it’s not the ideal pick for beginners.
The detailed assembly instructions that come with the Revell will help you pick the parts and attach them as effortlessly as possible.
Bear in mind that the Revell model needs paint and glue to complete, and they’re not included in the purchase. You may also need some modeling and painting accessories to attach the tiny parts. The company recommends its own Painting Set and Modelling Tools for that purpose.
3. UGEARS Mechanical Wooden 3D Puzzle Model Tugboat Construction Set
Who doesn’t love wooden 3D puzzles? The correct answer is no one! Wooden puzzles are enjoyable to assemble, and they come with their share of challenges. Unlike plastic models, they require no glue. The pieces stick together and fit against each other, going into the holes punched through the wood.
The UGEARS tugboat model is made from laser-cut parts. They come in flat wooden panels; once you extract them, they’ll be ready for use. A number labels each piece to help you find it’s assigned place.
There’s a total of 169 pieces in the tugboat construction kit, which is quite a lot for a beginner. It’s better to get this boat only if you already have some building skills from past kits. And needless to say, it needs to stay away from kids. There are a lot of tiny pieces that serve as choking hazards.
My favorite feature of this mechanical boat is it’s motion once you finish it. It rocks back and forth gently, making it look like it’s in the middle of a sea.
The UGEARS boat is more expensive than plastic kits, but that’s because wooden 3D kits cost more in general. In fact, the UGEARS kit is considered affordable among other wooden options. It makes the perfect balance of detail, usability, and affordability.
4. Occre 61001 Ulysess Tugboat 1:30 Scale Model Kit
The Occre tugboat kit is heaven for experienced builders. There’s no other kit on the market that can match its level of detail, high quality, and final result. That’s why it’s the most expensive kit on my list and one of the most expensive on the market.
The Occre kit will be a fun challenge to assemble. You’ll need to study the instructions well before diving into the process. It requires cutting, gluing, and assembly, so it’s an advanced skill level boat. Plus, you’ll need to do some painting, so it’s better if you have building experience from past kits.
Along with the boats pieces, you receive rudders drive shafts. If you want to turn it into a radio-controlled boat, you can buy the necessary hardware and go for it. Bear in mind that the kit doesn’t include any electronics, though.
The Ulysess model features traditional plank-on-frame construction. The wooden parts are made of fine lime and American walnut woods, ensuring durability and an excellent finish. As for the metal parts, they’re made of top-tier diecast metal and brass. Besides, all the kits pieces come in clear plastic boxes, separated into departments with detachable tops.
Along with the pieces, you receive 1:1 top and side view plans for the model and a detailed instruction manual with full photographs for each step.
The Occre may be too expensive, but I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I had the chance. Its build quality is hard to match, and the final result is an impressive replica of the real ocean Ulysess.
5. Dumas Products, Inc. 1/48 George W. Washburn Tugboat Kit
If you’re willing to put in some extra dollars for your tugboat kit, the Dumas George W. Washburn is worth the thought. It’s based on the real Washburn that launched in 1890, courtesy of the Cornell Steamboat Company.
Around the years of its launching, it was the fastest tugboat in the Hudson River. It’s not present today, much to our dismay, but the model will make you feel as you’ve just gotten out of the Hudson.
Luckily for you, the kit comes with colored decals, so you won’t have to get paint separately. Considering that the previous kits don’t come with paint, I’d say this one is quite a good bargain.
Upon purchase, you receive laser-cut wood parts on a 1/48 scale. The parts are large enough for a novice builder to attach, so no need to worry about the skill level. Additionally, you get a stand to show off your boat when you finish it.
The plank-on-frame construction is pretty sturdy, so you can expect your boat to keep looking good for ages. If you want to make it into a radio-controlled boat, the company recommended adding DUM2373 Running Hardware.
Choosing the best model tugboat kit depends primarily on your skill level, and next comes your preferences and other considerations. My favorite pick out of the list is undoubtedly the Occre 61001 Ulysess Tugboat.