Monthly Archives: October 2014

Two New Mini-Kits from Woody Joe – Hobikisen and Utasebune

As regular visitors to this site know, I’ve quite a bit of interest in ship model kits from the Japanese wooden model manufacturer Woody Joe. They seem to be on a spree, releasing new kits and revising old ones. So far this year, they’ve revised their Hacchoro and Yakatabune ship model kits, released a new 1/350-scale kit of Tokyo Station, and revised their two Cutty Sark model kits (1/100 and 1/80 scales). At the beginning of October, they released two new mini-kits, both “wasen” or traditional Japanese-style boats, the Hobikisen and the Utasebune.

I keep an eye on Woody Joe’s new releases and saw these on their website (, and bought them as soon as they were released. I got them through my friend Kazunori Morikawa, who runs the online hobby store Zootoyz. He doesn’t list any of Woody Joe’s mini-kits on his site, but he can get them.

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These two kits basically feature the same hull, with slight variations. Both hulls are just about 8 inches long, with the completed models measuring around 11-1/2 inches in length. The Hobikisen is the taller of the two at around 11-1/4 inches. The Utasebune is closer to 6 inches tall. The exact scale is not specified, but is somewhere around 1/55 for the Hobikisen and 1/45 for the Utasebune.

The Hobikisen is a type of fishing boat employed on Lake Kasumigaura, which is about 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. It employs a method of side-ways propulsion to drag fishing nets through the water. The Utasebune represents a small boat used in shrimp fishing off the Hokkaido coast, Japan’s northern most major island.

I didn’t know anything about these boats until the Woody Joe kits came along, and I had to do a little bit of Internet research to understand, in particular, why the Hobikisen’s sail is set sideways, and why this doesn’t tip the boat over. But, more on the operational and historical details later. For now, I just want to give a peek at what these kits are about.

As expected, these kits are made from the aromatic Hinoki, Japanese cypress. Each contains 9 to 12 small laser cut sheets of wood, a small number of thin dowels, sail cloth, rigging line, brass wire, and a metallic tape printed with the boat’s name. Each kit also includes a nicely illustrated, 12-page color instruction booklet.


As with all Woody Joe kits, the instructions are in Japanese. But, the parts in the kit are easily identified in the plans with a very clear numbering system and well labeled parts bags. Each laser cut sheet is assigned a number that corresponds with the numbers in the instructions, with each part on the sheet marked with an identifying letter either on or next to the part on the sheet. This is right up with Woody Joe’s excellent standards.



These two new kits are mini-kits. They are designed to take up little space and provide several hours of enjoyable building at a low cost. Both kits sell for under $50: 4,500¥ for the Utasebune and 5,000¥ for the Hobikisen. I don’t know how accurate they are, and they certainly aren’t super detailed, but they give you enough detail to make a very nice model and should make very nice weekend projects.

I started working on the Hobikisen and can tell you that they go together very quickly and the parts fit very well together. I’ll go into more detail on the building of these kits in the near future. For now, if you’re looking for highly detailed challenging builds, these kits may not satisfy you. But, if you’re interested in small models of traditional Japanese workboats, and are looking for something fun and interesting you can build in a matter of days or even hours and for not too much money, these should do nicely. I’m thinking these will also make nice gifts, either as kits or as completed decorative display models for my former taiko or shamisen teachers.


My Hobikisen kit going together.


Sad News – Hobby Mill is closing down

Those of us who have been lucky enough to know about this gem of a service, know that Jeff Hayes has been providing beautifully milled wood to the ship modeling community for many years. I’ve relied on Jeff for supplying strip woods for a number of my projects, and also for supplying wood sets that I’ve purchased from Admiralty Models for their Echo Cross Section project.

It was just announced by Jeff today that he will be shutting down Hobby Mill. With other businesses, shutting down often means that business hasn’t been good enough to support the operation. In the case of Hobby Mill, it’s more about being too successful and of Jeff not having enough time to enjoy life and to build his own ship models. So, like Warner Woods West, who was once a great supplier of strip woods for ship modelers. This is sad news for ship modelers, but Jeff Hayes is a great guy and deserves to enjoy his retirement.

For the rest of us, there is The Lumberyard. Pricier and more limited in operation is Steve Goode’s operation S.H. Goode & Sons. If you only need basswood and cherry, I’ve had very good luck with Northeastern Scale Lumber.

Of course, the ultimate ship modeler’s solution is to develop the capacity to mill  your own wood. You can carry this to varying degrees and can start anywhere from buying logs or chunks of hardwoods where you’ll need to start with a bandsaw, or you can buy small boards of proper thickness that you can just cut strip woods from using a table saw. The latter is of course the easiest route and requires the fewest tools. I recommend the table saw from Byrnes Model Machines. This is the same saw that Hobby Mill uses to cut strip woods. In fact, Jeff Hayes put a very nicely detailed description of how to get the most from the Byrnes table saw on his Hobby Mill website:

I’ll miss Jeff’s great business, but his break is well deserved and maybe we’ll get to see some of his projects now.


I forgot to mention that Jeff will be taking orders through the end of the year. So, if you want something from Hobby Mill, make sure you get your orders in while you still can!

Shipyard’s 1:96-scale HMS Alert 1777, Paper Model Kit – Part III

So, now that I’ve given props to the larger boxed edition HMS Alert kit with all its laser cut parts, I’ll say that I’m having a great time with this small 1:96-scale kit. It’s frickin’ neat! I brought the model as it is now to last month’s meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights, and I think I’ve got a couple people interested in buying the kit, or at least interested in trying a paper model.


One of them became interested after we had a discussion on how this kit might actually be really useful for a ship modeler looking to scratch build a wooden model of the Alert, which seems to be a very popular subject. I’ve even considered doing this, though for now I have the paper kit.

I suppose I should use the term “card model” because I think that’s how most builders refer to these models. I think it does sound a little more sophisticated than calling them paper models. I just use the term “paper model” because that’s what the manufacturer calls them. Probably sounds better in Polish.


Anyway, the idea with using the card model for wood ship modeling is that the planks are pre-spiled and nicely printed out. These might actually serve well as patterns for cutting wooden planks. It seems like all you would have to do is blow up the paper parts to 200% and you’d have templates for a nice 1/4″ scale (1:48) wooden model. So, we may experiment with that idea.

In the meantime,  the lapstrake planking worked out really nicely and goes on very easily. This gives the hull a third layer, with the hull shape getting smoother with each layer.


I ended up painting the hull using paints I bought from Shipyard. These paints are interesting because they seem to use a fairly coarse pigment, at least that’s the way it seems to me, though maybe I’m misinterpreting the finish I’m getting. The reason I say this about the pigments is because of the texture of the finish. Not only is it very flat, but it remains that way even after repeated applications. Also, the texture of the dry, painted surface is rough to the touch.

The paints are fairly transparent, so you can still see the printed lines in the paper, even after a couple applications. This also means that  it takes more coats to cover up problems, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve been going to town on this over the past couple weeks. A bit of a distraction from my other projects, but it can’t be helped – this model is too much fun to build. What’s more, I’ve actually been approached by a fellow ship model club member about buying the completed model from me. It really is that neat!

2014 NRG Conference in St. Louis, MO, Oct 16-18

Next week is the Nautical Research Guild conference. It’s in St. Louis this year and I actually get to go. This will be only the second NRG conference I’ve attended. My first was the one held in the San Francisco Bay Area back in 2011, I think it was. I only made it to that one because it was local. The one in St. Louis will be my first one that’s out of the area, as most of them are. However, I managed to get the trip paid for by the ship model distributor and store Ages of Sail.

As I’ve mentioned before here, I’ve been doing some work helping them out as they’re right down the road in the East Bay in San Lorenzo, CA. I basically told the owner I’d be willing to help him out with the business if he sends me to the conference. He agreed, so I’m flying out of SFO a week from tomorrow. Of course, I’m going to be working there, but it’s a 3-day conference, so I should have plenty of time to meet up with ship modeling friends and acquaintances. I’m told that it shouldn’t be a problem to pop in on a seminar or two, so I’ll target a couple and catch what I can.

The NRG is a good organization and I encourage all ship modelers to support it. You don’t have to be a member to attend, but I believe members receive some kind of discount. You can visit the NRG site for information about the Technical and General sessions and Round Table discussions:

I believe we’re past the date for getting hotel discounts (the event is at the Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel), so you might need to find accommodations to fit your budget, but you should still be able to register for the conference itself.