It’s not unusual for Jennifer Hamilton to receive photos of her boat taken by interested bystanders. After all, she and husband James have developed a cult-like following of their blog mvdirona.com, amassing thousands of fans since they started writing about their Nordhavn 52 in 2010. The depth of their online journal is a haven for anyone seeking cruising inspiration or technical insight. They’ve quite literally been to almost every corner of the world, taking serious time to thoroughly explore – and then write about – each destination. A couple years ago, Jennifer was sent a photo of her boat, but she struggled to recognize the background. Where could that picture have been taken? It was a night-time shot of the boat with all its nav and exterior lights on. Squinting at the photo, she did a serious double-take once she figured out that the photo was not of her Dirona, but a model of the boat, a 3D-printed model no less. “It was amazing,” she said. “The detail was 100% accurate.”
The photo was sent to her courtesy of model-maker, Olle Skold. Skold, an application engineer at Stork Drives in Sweden by day, 3D-printed model enthusiast by night, happened upon Jennifer and husband James Hamilton’s popular blog back in 2017. Skold had recently completed a 3D-printed replica of a Combat Boat 90 and in need of fresh inspiration for his next build. One deep-dive of mvdirona.com later, and he knew he had his next muse.
“I was fascinated with the design of this motor yacht,” said Skold, who pored over the pages of the Hamiltons’ hugely extensive blog. “Maybe it was the way it manages to look like a big ship although it’s only 52 feet, [compared to] motor yachts [of] similar size whose main focus is to look fast and luxurious.” Re-creating it would prove to be a considerable endeavor, a labor of love, due to the degree of detail he incorporates into the mini clones.
Skold takes on the job of model-building as seriously and painstakingly as any contractor, engineer (he also has created buildings, cars, trains and bridges) or shipbuilder would producing the real thing: fabricating 3-D drawings from two-dimensional drawings he finds online and importing them into Autodesk Fusion 360 (improvising the hull shape when lacking decent cross-section views).
Dirona herself is a very complex boat so it’s no surprise that her 3D-printed likeness was similarly complex. Add to it Skold’s goal to go beyond merely building a scaled down model of an N52. Rather, he wanted to have a working boat, one that floated and could be maneuvered in water. He found a photo of Dirona at anchor taken at night and mimicked the exact lighting blueprint. He installed electronics, fitted it with a rudder and established a wiring plan. He copied every last detail down to the faux candle on the dinette table.
As with any hobby, Skold had the leisure of working on it as time permitted. Still, a full-time job and young kids at home doesn’t leave much room in the day for hobbying. But Skold tackled Dirona knowing it would be a year(s)-long process. (The process of 3-D printing alone can consume hundreds of hours. He manages this time smartly by setting his printer to run through the night, the job finished when he wakes up the next morning.) Skold is unfazed by this, clearly, judging by the number of projects he has completed in the recent past. In fact, he says that he goes into a project knowing he will lose interest part-way through, and combats this by breaking the process up into four parts: CAD work, printing, assembling and painting/details.
The Dirona project is by far his most complicated undertaking, he said. Printing Dirona’s sections took nearly double the average time required of his other models. Predictably, he took a long break from Dirona though he continued to keep up on the Hamiltons’ blog. He worked other less ambitious builds into his schedule until he read a blog post about the Hamiltons coming to Sweden. In an instant, his resolve to recommence with the N52 model was back. He corresponded with James and Jennifer, sent them images of the progress of the boat, and arranged to meet them. The product was far from its finished state, but the photos he sent Jennifer were enough of a likeness to throw her off.
Skold drove 7 hours round-trip to Trollhattan on the west side of Sweden to climb aboard the real Dirona, meet the Hamiltons and show off the mini Dirona. While just a prototype at the time, the Hamiltons marveled at the resemblance. “We knew what he was building but we had no idea how amazing the end result would be,” Jennifer said. “And not only does it float, it even handles like a big, heavy Nordhavn.”
Returning to Stockholm rejuvenated about his project, Skold resumed with the painstaking process of painting and putting the finishing details together, which unfolded over the course of the next 15 months. On his own blog, depronized.com, he illustrates step by step this incredibly detail-oriented procedure. Each room of the boat compartmentalized and assembled, fitted out with tiny sink faucets, teak-and-holly-esque wood flooring, colored LED lights – all meant to blur the line between facsimile and reality.
Late last month, he posted photos of the nearly-finished (“The deck crane is missing!”) model on his blog, with a James Hamilton-like blow-by-blow of the entire process. He’s yet to seatrial her outside of the test tank (aka the tub in his master bathroom) and will likely wait until the weather warms to do so. Work that still remains notwithstanding, Skold estimates he’s invested around 1,000 man hours over three years’ time in the creation of the miniature Nordhavn. “What makes it most worth it is that the files I have now can be printed again and shared with other model builders, which I will do,” he says. “So unlike traditional model building where it’s just one-off, this work can be re-used in many ways.”
Skold estimates he’s got about 1,500 followers of his social media channels (via his blog and YouTube) – at least one of them a Nordhavn owner, based in Norway – who learned about the project and is using the files to 3D-print his own model. “It’s really fun to share and see what others do with them. A lot of people have more time than me [to dedicate] to details so sometimes…their result exceeds my own prototypes, and that is fantastic to see!”