The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Philip Warren

Added to museum: 3/12/12

The Matchstick Fleet

Although this project has been ongoing since 1948, in 2012 Mr. Warren's fleet of ships made from matchsticks caught the world's attention as e-mails including photos of his ships went viral on the internet. We felt the viewers of our museum would also enjoy seeing this massive undertaking and have received Mr. Warren's permission to reproduce here some of his photos and his story.


In 1989, Philip Warren had the honour of supplying models, through The Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, of the minehunter H.M.S. Bronington and the Frigate Minerva to HRH Princess of Wales and a model of the frigate Campbeltown to HRH Prince Andrew. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Over 450 modern warships modeled using only matchsticks and match boxes.

by Philip Warren

The Matchstick Fleet consists of over four hundred and fifty model warships made from only matchsticks and wooden matchboxes to a scale of 1:300. This unique collection of models represents almost every major class of warship in service with the world’s navies since 1945. They range from the last of the Second World War battleships to the nuclear powered submarines and the largest aircraft carriers that will continue into the 21st century.

The largest number of ships are those of the Royal Navy and include variations within the same class of ship; for example, 7 of the Leander class frigates. Commonwealth ships are also included. The ships of the US Navy are also numerous, including 4 of the giant super carriers, 2 battleships and a series of cruisers illustrating the change from guns to missiles in the second half of the 20th century. A total of 60 US ships have been modeled thus far.

The huge cold war Soviet fleet is represented by ships of various types and sizes from Krivak frigates to the giant missile cruiser Kirov. European Navies are also well represented by ships from France Holland, Italy, Spain and Germany. About 50 ships from navies other than Great Britain and the USA are included.

Naval Aviation has been an important factor in this period and is represented by over 800 aircraft of all types, also made from only matchsticks and matchboxes to complete the display.

The first model was constructed in 1948, although this model was quite crude by later standards. The basic method of construction had been established, as well as the materials to be used for the whole collection. This technique has been improved and refined over half a century of model making, but the basic system and materials used have never changed throughout the years to achieve the present high standard of finished model.

Construction is limited to simple tools and techniques that have been polished over the years. The only thing hampering future construction is the lack of availability of wooden match boxes. (Click on either photo to view a slightly larger image.)

The model consists of a framework of matchsticks covered on the sides and decks by the wood from matchboxes. The same material is used to construct superstructure, gun turrets, missile launchers and radar aerials. Many of these items move, rotate and elevate on matchstick spindles. No other materials are used in the construction of the models—even ships railing, anchor chains and the finest detail is made from matchwood.

A model in progress showing the method of construction. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

The method of construction is very simple but extremely flexible allowing easy modification at an early stage of build or even after the model has been finished. This allows for changes in the real ships to be replicated with ease, thus keeping the fleet up to date.

The aircraft that compliment the display are made in the same way and to the same scale as the ships. Over 1200 aircraft have been built and the present display includes over 800 aircraft. They range from the veteran biplane the Swordfish to the very latest supersonic jets and once again include moving parts—the wings on the F14 Tomcat actually swing and helicopter rotors fold and revolve, just like the real thing.

The finishing touch comes with the painting. This is all done by hand. The squadron markings on the aircraft and all the lettering is done without the use of any transfers or stencils.

The fleet is built with an incredibly simple set of tools, nothing more than a razor blade, a steel straight edge, sandpaper, and a hatpin for burning holes. Older models have been improved and updated many times and it is impossible to pick out the older ships, particularly as they have not been built in any historical sequence. For example, the WW2 Battleship King George V was not modeled until 1990.

The full display is an illustration of naval development since WW2. The models have been displayed for many local and national charities. Very few of the collection have been disposed of over the years and the making of the Fleet has remained a genuine hobby with no commercial aspect at all.

Mr. Warren has modeled every class of warship in the Royal Navy built since 1945 plus over 60 other ships from the US navy and 50 from other navies around the world.

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 The Fleet by the Numbers

450 = Number of ships modeled

1,200 = Number of Aircraft modeled

1,500 = number of matchsticks used in an average size ship

2 months = Time to build an average size ship

5,000/200 = Number of matchsticks and number of match boxes used to make a larger ship

1 Year = Time needed to build a large ship

650,000 = Total number of matchsticks used to build the whole fleet

For further information concerning the Fleet and possible future displays Mr. Warren can be contacted at (01258) 454776.

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Articles and Videos on the Internet

• An article on Mr. Warren's fleet can be found at

• A YouTube video of the fleet on display can be found at

• An article documenting ships and also the many aircraft Phil has built can be found at


Here are several examples of the ships in Philip Warren's fleet:

(Click on photos to view larger images.)

(Left) USS Winston Churchill

(Right) USS Arleigh Burke

(Top) USS Roark

(Middle) USS Nimitz

(Bottom) USS O. H. Perry

(Left) USS North Carolina

(Right) HMS Scorpion

The Scorpion was Philip's very first model. There are 50 years between the building of these two ships.

HMS King George V

(Left) HMS Bicester

(Middle) Richelieu (French Navy)

(Top Right) HMS Matchless (Ironically enough, made from matches...)

(Left) Kirov (Soviet Navy)

(Right) HMS Dorsetshire

(Top) HMS Gambia

(Middle) HMS Belfast

(Bottom) HMS Swiftsure


(Top) HMS Darling

(Middle) HMS Cornwall

(Bottom) HMS Portland

(Clockwise from upper left) HMS Sir Kay, HMS Echo, HMS Sir Tristrum, HMS Severn, HMS Clyde

(Lower left to upper right) Submarine waterline models HMS Dreadnaught, HMS Astute, HMS Vigilant, HMS Resolution

(Left) Battleship USS New Jersey

(Right) HMS Glory

(Top Left to Bottom Right) HMS Mendip, HMS Implacable, HMS Bicester

HMS Tracker

(Top) HMS Ocean

(Bottom) HMS Illustrious

(Lower Left) HMS Loch Lomond

(Middle) HMS Albion

(Upper Right) Sir Bedivere

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New Submissions Welcomed

If you have additional information on a project or builder shown on this site that your would like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome new contributions. Please see our page at for a submission form and guidelines for submitting descriptive copy and photos for a new project.

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