Kit Review: Kanrin Maru by Woody Joe – Part 2

In Part 1 of my Kanrin Maru kit review, I provided an overview of the kit. Here, I’ll try to go into depth on some of the details. But, let me start by talking about the identification of parts, which is going to be of particular interest for those who don’t know any Japanese.

The first page inside the instruction book is a parts list. As I mentioned before, parts are numbered and color coded. All laser cut wooden parts have a number with a pink background (doesn’t show up well in the photo below), stripwoods and other non-laser cut woods are numbered with a white background, all metal parts are numbered with a blue background, and miscellaneous parts including rigging and plastic parts are nunbered with a white background.

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The parts list includes short descriptions, but if you don’t know Japanese, obviously, they’re not going to help a lot. However, the numbering/lettering in the descriptions themselves and the size measurements can help you decipher the part. For instance, part #1 has A~D in the description. This means that there are four parts in this group, so it should be a little easier to identify them.

Each of the part bags are nicely numbered to identify the contents. Below is an example of one of the packs of metal parts. As you can see, they are part numbers 14, 15 and 16, as identified on the card. The backs of the cards describe the parts in Japanese, but also list the quantities of each part in the bag.

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Similarly, the laser cut wooden parts have numbers burned into them directly. On parts where any lettering or numbering may be visible on the model, the identifiers are burned onto the sheet next to them instead. Because of this, it’s advisable to only remove parts as they are needed.

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An Example of Locating Parts

So, just to be clear, here’s how you might put this into use. Starting with the plans, you identify the part you will need. It is number 31 with a white background. This indicates a wooden piece that is a strip wood, not laser cut.

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Looking this up, we can see that the piece in the parts bag is a 476mm long piece,2mm thick by 20mm wide.

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Perusing the parts, we find the bag containing parts 30, 31 an 32. If we flip the attached card over, we see the descriptions and how many of each part is in the bag. In this case, there is a single piece.

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A Second Example

In another example, we are working on the screw lifting mechanism in a later Step. We see that we need part 15, which looks like a winch head and it looks like there are a couple of them needed here. We also note the blue background, which indicates that this is a metal part and we know from earlier inspection that all the metal parts are staples to three cardboard strips to help keep things organized.

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Knowing the part number and what the part looks like, we can locate it in its bag. The card on the bag also tells us that there are 4 pieces of this type, which should further help to identify the part if we’re unsure.

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Strip Woods

The kit contains 4 packages of strip woods for a total of 7 sizes. I’m not sure exactly what kind of woods are used for the most part, but the quality seems fine. The one wood I recognize instantly from it’s aroma is a variety of Japanese Cypress called Hinoki. If you know the scent of this wood, you probably love it. If so, you’re going to love Woody Joe kits, just because of their use of Hinoki.

For those of you not familiar with this wonderfully aromatic wood, it is used to make traditional Japanese baths, has fungicidal qualities and the aroma is considered to have certain health benefits. All I know is that the wood smells heavenly. It is used for the hull planking, so if you want some serious aroma therapy, you’re going to love building this model.

As for quantity of wood in the kit. There isn’t an abundance of it. In fact, there is just about enough to build the kit if you follow the directions correctly. If not, and say you decide to try to taper the hull planking or stray in some other way with the planking, you risk running out.

Laser Cut Parts

As I mentioned previously, there are a LOT of laser cut parts in this kit and the quality of the laser cutting seems very good. So much laser cutting has been done that there are very few items that need to be built up from scratch. This is almost the exact opposite of the early American solid hull ship model kits where you were given some combination of strip wood, sheet wood and solid block and expected to recreate a deck house or skylight, for instance.

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With this kit, Woody Joe has made things very simple for the builder, and there is very little that you actually need a knife for except to remove the laser cut parts from their sheets.

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One thing I’ve discovered on these precut wooden parts is that they generally very thin and delicate, and some of the wood in the kit seems a little on the brittle side. So, you want to be extra careful. Even the bulkhead pieces that form the framework of the ship are only 3mm thick and the smaller parts are easy to break.

Plastic

Probably the least attractive aspect of this kit is the use of plastic for ship’s boats and for blocks. It’s certainly not unheard of. Other manufacturers have used plastic parts here and there, particularly on more modern types of vessels where the full-sized parts are plastic or fiberglass. But, I think many ship modelers, including myself, tend to prefer their models be entirely from wood and metal, though it may be a silly bias.

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For those who find the plastic parts undesirable, replacing the blocks is a very simple matter. Replacing the ship’s boats requires a little more searching to get the right sized replacements, but it’s still a pretty simple matter. At 2-7/8” long, the boats come out to about 16’ long and 4-1/2” wide, which seems a bit on the small side anyway, particularly in comparison with the boat outlines drawn on the museum plans. But, I’ll talk about scale and differences from the plans a little later on.

Replacement Parts

Probably the biggest drawback to buying a Woody Joe kit at this time is what happens when you lose or break a piece. I suspect that missing pieces is not a big issue with this company’s products when you look at how the kit is packaged, the heavy use of laser cut parts, which come in sheets, and the high organization of the contents. But, if you break a piece, you will probably find it simplest to try to recreate the piece rather than trying to get a replacement piece shipped to you from Japan.

I contacted Woody Joe about some parts and they referred me back to the store I purchased from. On the plus side, the store manager where I bought the kit was very helpful and told me to send him the page number where the part appears and he would determine the part for replacement by Woody Joe. Of course, there is still the matter of international shipping, but we didn’t get into that.

The best course is just to be very careful with your parts – take extra care not to break or lose parts. On the laser cut parts, don’t punch them out from the sheet, cut them carefully and only as you need them so as to avoid losing any.

The Plans

I probably should have brought this up at the start of the article, but better late than never. The plans look very clear. There are two large sheets, one of which is printed on both sides.

Plan 1: Profile view that shows standing rigging and some other small rigging details. Insets at the top of the page shows a belaying plan and turnbuckle detail.

Plan 2: This plan view has drawings of all the masts and yard and shows details of the mast tops, locations of blocks and so on.

Plan 3: This plan shows the deck layout, locations of the bulkheads and mast steps and  such.

The one thing that is notably missing is a drawing of the laser cut parts sheets. That kind of detail is nice to have if you have to remake a damaged or lost piece. Given the  likely difficulty, length of time, and potential cost of getting a replacement part, this is a feature that I really wish were provided.

All that said though, of all the kits I’ve built that include the laser cut parts drawings, I’ve never once had to use them to re-make a part. So, maybe that’s a feature that is just more a security blanket than something really useful.

Accuracy and Scale

Now we get to the actual design of the ship model. How accurate and authentic is the kit and the plans? How is the scale accuracy?

I’ve done what research I can, but the information I’ve been able to get has been fairly limited. I did manage to located and obtain plans from the Prince Hendrick Museum in Rotterdam. But, the plans that were sent to me are only a portion of what are actually available. It was difficult enough to get the plans I got. Trying to get more help from the museum staff has been next to impossible for me. Plus, the plans I obtained cost about $200 by the time all was said and done, and this project doesn’t currently warrant additional expenses.

In any case, comparing the model plans to the plans I obtained from Holland, the hull looks to be quite accurate from what I can tell. Many of the deck features, like the windlass, the deck house and stack are also spot on. This isn’t surprising as I’m told the designer of the kit used original plans.

There are some variations in the exact positions of skylights, companionways and such, and I’m not sure why. I suspect it may have mostly to do with the addition of the ship’s wheel. But this differences looks to be pretty minor and it looks to be simple enough to adjust the locations of these features.

There are a few things that stood out to me. The first of those is that the masts seem a lot thicker than those on the Holland plans, about 25% thicker. I’m not sure if this would be a problem for anyone, especially since they look fine on the model, but the fore and main masts in the kit are about 5/16” in diameter, whereas the Holland plans show them at about 1/4”.

The Details

Overall, the small details on the model are a bit on the light side. The kit doesn’t show jackstays or stuns’l booms, and the yard arm truss is very simply made from a piece of brass. There is no cannon rigging, simple eyelets are used for hawse pipes, there are no cleats, kevils or bollards, and so on.

But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just makes this a simpler kit. It should be a fairly easier build which, aside from the language issue, should make it suitable for, say, the advanced beginner.

Those who want more detail can easily add these yourselves. I’m personally planning on building the kit with added details and hopefully will end up with an article that I’ll submit to Seaways’ Ships in Scale in the near future.

Summary

I really like the Woody Joe Kanrin Maru kit. It looks to be an easy build that provides a pretty accurate frameworks from which to detail a very nice model. The subject is unique and interesting and its history is culturally and politically significant. It also represents that fascinating period where steam power was just getting started and many ships had both sail and steam. At a 1/75 scale, it builds to a respectable size of just over 32” long and 19” high. Language is an issue, but not much of a barrier given the pictorial instructions and well organized and numbered parts. A little pricier because it’s an imported kit, but looks to be a fun build.

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