Machine Tools for Ship Modelers

The Centaur, by craftsman Andrew Green. The model is 1/8″ = 1′ scale (Click on photo for a larger view).

Sherline lathes, milling machines, and shop accessories are the tools you need to help take your modeling skills to the next level. Cannon barrels, winches, gears, shafts, wheels, blocks—ship model details of all kinds can be made to a high degree of precision and repeatability using desktop machine tools. They work just like the full-size lathes and mills that made the original parts, but you don’t need a big shop or experience as a machinist. These are tools that any craftsman can quickly put to use in his or her shop to increase productivity and precision. Sherline offers custom accessories to make virtually any machine shop job possible in miniature. CNC (computer-controlled) lathes and mills are also available.

Sherline machines are made in the USA, and feature precision rolled leadscrews and handwheels graduated in thousandths of an inch (.001”) or hundredths of a millimeter (.01 mm). Money-saving machine and accessory packages are available for the lathe and mill, and complete shop packages are offered too.

Accessory Tools

Reverse Live Center P/N 1192

The reverse live center was designed so our model shipbuilder customers could turn their ship masts. The reverse live center holds the outer diameter of the part on center inside the concave nose. In contrast, our standard live center locates on a center hole that has been drilled in the middle of the part. The reverse live center point is offered in either steel or hardened steel.

Model 4000A 3.5 x 8″ Tabletop Lathe package with chucks shown.
4400-CNC CNC-Ready 3.5″ x 17″ Benchtop Lathe with adjustable zero handwheels

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Standard Equipment Included with Every Lathe

  • Every Sherline lathe comes with a DC motor and speed control, a 2.75″ (70 mm) x 6.0″ (152 mm) crosslide with two T-slots, two-position pulleys, a Kevlar-reinforced drive belt, an 8-foot three-wire power cord, and anti-backlash adjustment on Y-axis leadscrew.
  • Faceplate, lathe dog, two dead centers, two hexagonal keys, tool post, high-speed cutting tool, and instruction booklet.
  • The 4000-series tabletop lathes come with standard 1-5/8″ (41 mm) laser-engraved aluminum handwheels, while the 4400 and 4500-series lathes come with deluxe 2″ (51mm) adjustable zero handwheels. The 4400-series benchtop lathes also include a rocker tool post in place of the standard tool post.


  • Turn, face, bore, drill, ream, polish, cut tapers, and cut both inch and metric threads
  • Milling operations available with the optional Vertical Milling Column

CLICK HERE to see all the Sherline lathe options.

5400 (5410) Mill
5400 Deluxe Tabletop Vertical Milling Machine (12” base)


8580 CNC Mill
8580 Complete CNC 5800 Benchtop Vertical Milling Machine with Computer (18″ base)

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Vertical Milling Machines

Standard Equipment Included with Every Mill

  • Every Sherline mill comes with a DC motor and speed control, a 2.75″ (70 mm) x 13.0″ (330 mm) table with two T-slots,  pulleys, drive belt, three hex keys, Tommy bars, oilers, lead screw cover, and a gib removal tool.
  • The 5000-series tabletop mills come with two standard 1-5/8″ (41 mm) laser engraved aluminum handwheels, and one 2.5″ (65 mm) handwheel, while the 5500, 5400, 2000, and 5800-series mills come with deluxe adjustable zero handwheels. 5400, 2000, and 5800 mills include a 1/4” drill chuck. The 5400 tabletop mills also include a #1291 headstock spacer block.
  • All Sherline mills now include oil reservoirs on the X/Y axes and the Z axis to help keep critical parts lubricated. Another new feature is the brass leadscrew cover that keeps chips off the rear of the Y-axis leadscrew.

Directions of Movement

  • In addition to the primary three axes of movement, known as the “X,” “Y,” and “Z” axes, Sherline Vertical Mill Machines also offer a headstock that can be tilted to either side to mill angled surfaces.
  • The Model 2000 benchtop mill offers four additional directions of movement for those who wish for the ultimate flexibility when it comes to creative setups.
  • The Model 5800 benchtop mill offers three additional directions of movement. The 5800-series benchtop mills have a rigid column base and do not have the base rotation offered by the 2000-series mills.

Vertical Milling Machine Series

Sherline offers mills in the following base sizes: Tabletop Mills-10″ (5000 and 5500 series), 12″ (5400 series); Benchtop Mills 14″ (2000 series), 18″ (5800 series). All milling machines are available with DRO (Digital Readout), CNC-Ready, and full CNC (includes computer) configurations.

CLICK HERE to see all the Sherline mill options.

(Click on the photo for a larger view)
Typical Projects

Coast Guard Ship

Wheels, block and tackle, and many other small fittings were made easier through the use of miniature machine tools.

Builder: Frederick Pope
Ft. Meyers, FL

(Click on the photo for a larger view)

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A cannon is an appropriate project because most people get their start in machining with a lathe, and the first thing many people think of for a lathe project is a cannon. There is something about the handsome combination of wood and brass that makes this a popular first project.

Phil Mattson at work in his nautical models’ shop. Though hard to see in this photo, a Sherline lathe is on the bench behind him (Click on the photo for a larger view).
Museum Quality Ship Model Builders

Phil Mattson

“I have been using my Sherline lathe and milling machine for five years, and they have become an invaluable part of my model shop. The variety of attachments offered makes it possible to accomplish just about any machining operation on a wide range of model work.

The model ships I build are scratch-built and require accurately machined parts (i.e., gears, pulleys, deck guns, winches, portlights, antennas, hinges, etc.). I have machined parts from many different materials, such as aluminum, brass, steel, stainless steel, wood, and plastic, with excellent results. Both machines are solidly built and accurate. I am consistently able to hold tolerances of .001″ and, with care, .0005″.

I highly recommend Sherline machines.”

Phil Mattson, Master Model Builder

(See for information about Phil, and photos of his work.)

Andrew Green is seen at work in his shop applying the planking to his latest ship model hull. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

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Andrew Green

Andrew built and sailed ship models as a child, and now that he has retired, he can spend more time on his hobby of ship model building. Though his ships appear to be virtually museum quality in the level of detail they contain, keep in mind they are made to be put in the water and sailed, not just displayed. They are ballasted, powered by electric motors, and filled with tiny light bulbs that must make them a joy to see on the water at night. He turns his brass deck fittings on a Sherline lathe.

Andrew Green
Halifax, NS, Canada

(See for information about Andrew, and photos of his work.)