Published: 11th August 2021
This English teacher from Coimbatore is building ship models that look just like the real deal. Ready to sail?
Queenthunk Amalanathan is an English teacher who took to ship modelling after a tragic incident. We find out how he turned his passion into a lucrative business
When Queenthunk Amalanathan got the opportunity to join the National Cadet Corps (NCC) during his days at The American College in Madurai, he took it up as a challenge, without knowing that it would become a boon. With the demise of his beloved mother, Amalanathan knew that he needed something else to channel his grief. He stumbled upon ship modelling competitions at the NCC and immediately showed interest. Today, the 29-year-old English teacher at Coimbatore's Navy Children's School has his ship models adorning various museums in the country and the homes of several of his patrons.
Amalanathan says that during his college days he would go to the NCC grounds to practice daily and there he would also try his hand at ship modelling. "It became a hobby and soon turned into a passion. While teaching at the school is something I do to sustain my family, ship modelling is where my passion lies," he says. "Even after college, I knew I wanted to keep this art alive. I would save money whenever I could to buy balsa wood and practice creating models," adds Amalanathan.
And that's how he decided to turn his art into a self-sustaining project. Amalanathan has now managed to transform his hobby into a lucrative business with each handcrafted model, which is always built to scale, selling upwards of Rs 15,000. It all began when he started posting pictures of his creations on Facebook and that's where he got his first order from an aero sports company to recreate the INS Vikramaditya to scale to a length of four feet. "It was a challenge as I had never done something so large and so intricate. Moreover, no blueprints were available at the time," says Amalanathan. Soon, word spread and Amalanathan became busy with orders from across the country to create boats and navy ships for his various customers.
Ship modelling is a traditional form of art that began when shipbuilding also began. Archaeologists have found ship models from ancient Greek and Egyptian civilisations that have helped them ascertain the importance of seafaring
While he doesn't have an exact count of the number of models he has created, Amalanathan says it can be anywhere between 40 and 50 since his training days at the NCC. The pandemic, he says, has given him additional time to practice and develop his craft further. "I got a lot of time to work on paid projects and could deliver more models to my customers. This helped me a lot," says Amalanathan. Most of what Amalanathan builds is naval warships with the exception of the civilian boats he makes here and there.
Queenthunk with the INS Vikramaditya model
So, how does he go about it? "When I was at the NCC, I would get access to blueprints to make the ship models. However, as a civilian, I only have Google at my disposal," says Amalanathan. After observing the photos of the ship from multiple angles, Amalanathan decides what scale he wants to use to fit the requirement. "It can be something like 1 to 100, which means that 1 foot on the model is equivalent to 100 feet on the actual ship. Everything has to be in accordance to that," explains Amalanathan. It's no wonder that he takes around a month and a half to even three months to finish one model, based on the intricacies.
Over the years, Amalanathan has also managed to improvise. "Sometimes, people ask whether I can make them remote-controlled boat models. As I don't have technical education, I had to depend on YouTube to learn how to make one work. After much trial and error, where I even lost a few models to fire and water, I finally got the hang of it," says a delighted Amalanathan.