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Gondorian Longboats
A hobby building guide
By Neldoreth
Aug 30th, 2005

To use the templates, print out the image scaled to fit an 8.5 by 11 inch page. Once printed out, photocopy the page at 120% of its original size. Cut the templates out, clue them to some thin card for sturdiness and you are ready to go. Get the longship templates here.


There were a number of reasons why I chose this design for my Gondorian fleet. Primarily I wanted to stick to the history of Middle earth and Numenor as much as I could. Secondarily I wanted to retain the realism of the movies; the imagery and designs of the movies could have convincingly come from history. So I started with some consideration of the race of men that I was building the boats for.

The Numenoreans were great farers of the sea for centuries. This can be seen with a brief look at the history of Numenor and its ultimate fall, and the subsequent creation of Arnor and Gondor.

Numenor was an awesome empire of men, gifted to them by the elves for their allegiance in the first age. It was an island of great beauty and magnificence and housed the most glorious empire of men in any age.

It was their great advancement and military might that brought Numenor to its end. Their abilities at sea, along with their seduction by Sauron, lead them to attempt to reach the shores of the undying lands... Once reached Numenor was swallowed and the hosts of men were destroyed. Only Elendil and his sons escaped in their great ships, with these they created the realms of Gondor and Arnor in Middle Earth.

Considering that the Numenoreans were the first group of humans to build boats that could sail to the undying lands, I looked to history for a similar example. I considered Columbus and his large vessels and the fleets that crossed the ocean to the New World, but they didn't convince me; they were backed by brutal, money grubbing regimes who were on a mission for gold and cared nothing about the adventure. Furthermore they were way too late historically; due to the Raomanesque style of the Gondorians and the Saxon like style of the Rohirrim the whole Columbus expedition would be about 500 years later.

Clearly they are the
Longboat Types!

Having failed with Columbus I thought to myself 'Who else made it accross the Atlantic?' Of course, the Vikings jumped to mind. As I thought about it more it all began to fit together. The vikings were brutal, but they were also adventurers. They plied the unknown, built ships of amazing technology, desinged for speed and agility and also the ability to fare all types of weather (even if they were not made for comfort). They were also vessels made for carrying armies into battle. Finally they were around when the Saxons were and they only missed the Romans by a few hundred years!

I imagined Ar-Pharaz˘n, the last king of Numenor, landing on the shores of the undying lands with a fleet of hundreds of longboats and I was sold. It also seemed to make sense that centuries later they would still be using them for their navies; the men of Numenor began to steadily dwindle from the time Numenor was lost, so surely their ocean technology would not progress in such times when all their efforts were dedicated to their wars upon the lands of Middle Earth. This would give their enemies, the Corsairs of Umbar, the advantage on the seas that would ultimately lead to the army of the dead showdown prior to the Battle of Pelennor fields.

Finally, with the image of the boat used by the elves in the movie when Gandalf, Frodo, Elrond and Galadriel were taken to the undying lands, along with the shields on Games Workshop's latest contribution to the free peoples, Knights of Dol Amroth, I was completely decided.


  • 0.5mm foam core
  • Balsa wood
  • Thin cardboard (cereal boxes work best)
  • White glue (PVA glue)
  • Bamboo skewers (Kebab Sticks)
  • 1/4" dowel
  • Thin string
  • Large sewing needle
  • Sharp hobby knife
  • Scissors
  • The templates provided in this article!
  • Dark brown paint
  • Light brown paint
  • Cream coloured construction paper

Step One:

The first thing I always do when doing a hobby project such as this is make some templates. I do it just in case I want to go back and make another one later, or if I want to share the project schematics with others. It just saves so much work!

Having slaved over drawing the templates free-hand.... I decided to provide them with this article for your convenience. There are two different ship types that use most of the same templates.

So, print out the template pages, use PVA glue or a glue stick to fix them on to some thick but solid cardboard (not the stuff with ridges inside). Once the glue is dry cut out the shapes and you will have a great set of templates to help speedily build your Gondorian fleet!

Step Two: The base of the boat

Here is the cut out of the floor board. Note that the prow and stern beams are already attached. See below for details

Decide which ship you would like to build; I included templates for two different types of ships. The first ship is intended to be short and wide. This ship was typically used for transport of goods such as animals, furs, slaves and so on. I thought having one of these would make some great scenarios based around capturing the supply ship! The second ship is a war ship; they were meant to be very fast and so were long and thin. Despite their seeming skinnyness they are quite menacing on the gaming table!

If you decide to make the transport vessel use the wider and shorter floor template, if you go with the longboat use the long, narrow template.

Carefully trace the floor template onto a sheet of thin foam core. You will quickly notice that the template makes up only half of the vessel's floor. You will have to trace one side, turn the template around and trace the other; this should give you the entire floor outline.

Using a sharp hobby knife cut out the floor of the boat. Do your best to make the cut as straight as possible to facilitate the easy attachment of the gunwales (the walls of the boat) of the boat later on.

Step Three: The prow and stern beams

Here is the prow of a mighy warship

Use the prow and stern templates to trace the prow and stern beams on a piece of 0.5mm thick balsa wood. Foam core will work for this as well if you have no thick balsa or don't want to be bothered to deal with it. I used balsa for the prow and stern beams because I wanted to carve some designs into them, it also provides the wood grain texture!

Cut the prow/stern beam slots

I provided two different prow/stern beam designs because I used the shorter one on my transport vessels; they would have been used to do the hard work and so would not have been as nicely decorated. The more decorated beams are more typical on warships. But don't be afraid to mix and match, or create your own template from the shorter one with a design that you would like! Perhaps the tree of Gondor or a swan!

Use a sharp hobby knife to cut out the beams and (optionally) carve some designs. Once this is done go back to the floor board of the boat an cut out a slot at each end to slide the prow and stern beam into. Use your recently cut beams to trace the slot so as to make sure that they will fit properly. Once the slot is cut, put some glue on the sides of the beam near the bottom and slide it in. Now you have to wait for the glue to completely dry, so finish off the goblins that you have been meaning to paint for years in the mean time ;)

Step Four: Add the gunwales

Now that the prow and stern beams are firmly in place it is time to attach the gunwales to the boat. Use the template to cut out the front gunwale of the boat. Remember you will need four front gunwales for each boat. I tend to use packaging cardboard as it is typically cheap (as in, it is a good way to make up for all of the packaging waste!).

So first you must decide how you are attaching your details... Please read Step Five before attaching the gunwales if you want to save youself some headaches (I wish I had!).

At this point you can attach them the to sides of the foam core floor cut out. I attached them with PVA glue. To hold them in place I used sharp tacks; great for keeping them in place and easy to remove once the glue is dry. To attach run some glue along the side of the foam core and up the prow and stern beams. Place the gunwale in a desirable position (so that it ends at about the middle of the prow beam) and tack it into place (don't try to tack it to the prow and stern beams! just the floor of the boat). Be sure to tack any parts that are not flush against the foam core.

This was taken after the glue had dried and the tacks were removed. Note the wheat free waffles!

At this point you will likely notice that the fore and aft gunwhales are not quite long enough to actually cover the entire side of the boat. It is at this point that you must cut out a few pieces of thin card that are the same height as the straight parts of the for and aft gunwales. You will have to gauge the size related to the length you still need to cover. I left this out on purpose; there is no way to tell exactly where the fore and aft gunwales will be placed before hand as even a few milimeters in either direction could create a problem.

Step Five: Add the details

At this point there are a few details you should add. The most important being the beams of wood that run along the gunwales and the floor or the boat. There are a few different ways to do this and it is really up to personal preference to finally decide which.

A simple way is to take a ball point pen and score the inside and outside of the gunwales along with the floor. This will produce the look of beams, but it will be fairly clean and crisp, but it is extremely easy. If you want to do this it is very important that you score these things before attaching the gunwales... It will save many headaches....

A second way to do this is to cut out another set of templates and slice them into strips and then glue them onto the floor and gunwales. This takes a bit more work but can produce a nice ragged feel. It also creates higher ridges which are easier to pick out with hilights.

I used a mix of the two methods. For the insides of the gunwales I used the scoring method. For the outsides of the gunwales and the floor I cut out strips for the beams. You can see the scoring on the inside of the gunwales as well as the floor and outside gunwales in the picture below.

The thicker the card used for the beam pattern, the more pronounced the beams will look.

Step Six: The Mast

This is possibly the most difficult part of the project. But don't give up now, it isn't that hard! The first thing I did was cut the mast from the 1/4" dowel. The hard part is fixing it to the boat.

Ideally one would want to have a removable mast; with too many masts and rigging it is very difficult to get boats snuggled up close enough to facilitate the inevitable boarding action. That being said, the first boat I did (the transport boat) has a mast that will remain in place long after the boat has fallen apart :)

To permanently fix the mast to the deck I cut out a small square of foam core, and then some thin card of the same size. I used a hole punch (which turned out to be the same size as the dowel!) to put a hole in the center of the card and then used that hole as a template to cut a similar hole in the foam card. I finally glued the card to the foam card, and then glued it to the floor in the center of the boat with the card facing up. But this was not enough to reliably hold the mast.

The second thing I did was to add a cross beam made of thick balsa wood. I cut a hole in the center of this and then glued it to the gunwales. At this point I decided to pin the mast into place, but I could have, with a little more effort, made it removable. You can see the finished mast construction below.

The mast is firmly supported at the base and then by the cross beam.

With the warships I went the extra mile to make sure the masts were removable (they were after all made for battleing on the seas!). I did this using the same method as for the fixed mast, with a few additions and subtractions.

The first thing I did was put two layers of hole-punched card on top of the foam card. This would strengthen the hole for the constant removal and replacement that would be inevitable.

The second thing I did was leave the pin out of the cross beam :) I also placed the mast pole into the cross beam and glued some extra peices of balsa around it while being careful not to glue the mast itself. I pushed these pieces as close to the mast as possible to make the slot hold the pole very tightly... Will it work in the long run? Who knows, but I hope so :| Below is a picture of the *almost* final design. I actually ended up using the hole punched card on the cross beam as well which really helped to hold the mast tightly.

The mast is firmly supported at the base and then by the cross beam.

To actually make the mast into a sail rigging I cut the sharp tip off two bamboo skewers and pinned them to the mast in what looked like the perfect position to hold the sail; One near the top and one near the bottom. I don't know the measurements, I typically do things like this by eye. Remember though to leave enough room near the bottom to facilitate easy gaming! I solidified the join with some PVA glue and made sure they set at right angles to the mast.

Step Seven: Finishing Touches

It is time to add the sail and the rigging... But first, painting is advised! I primed the ship black, put a liberal coat of dark brown paint and then hilighted with some light brown by drybrushing... I was a little sloppy, but it could be done to great affect!

To add the sail I eye-balled the sale height and then cut out a square about 1cm shorter that the bamboo skewers (to leave 0.5cm on either side) and about 5cm longer than the distance between the bamboo skewers to give the sail that 'bulged due to wind' affect. I then market it with diamonds... Why you might ask? Well, I looked to the viking example again and learned that the way large sails were made was by stitching small diamond shaped leather lined cotton pieces together. Apparently it was quite the process and the sail typically cost more than the boat itself! But you could easily leave off the diamond pattern and put a tree of gondor or a swan if you like!

I fixed the sail to the mast with some thin string to retain the realism. I basically sewed it on using a large needle! I then added the rigging by threading the string through the gunwales. Be careful! If you have removable masts you can't tie the rigging! I put some hooks onto the gunwales with balsa that I could attach and remove rigging with.

To finish it all off you should make some oars; oars and sails make for a versatile ship! Using round tooth picks, cut out a number of tear drop shaped card board buts and glue them to the end of the tooth pick. Make about 20 of these (at least for the warship, the transport ships tend not to use oars primarily and so eight will do) and you are done!

Your Gondorians are now ready to be boarded by the foul minions of Sauron! (Note the orc captain with the skull on his head!)

The orcs celebrate the capture of the Gondorian transport boat with a little music!

A full view of the Gondorian transport boat. It might look good to put a flag on the top of the mast!

A view of the completed longboat with some oars and the mast removed. Note the lack of sail... It should be added after painting to make things easier.