Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Royal Navy Fireship COMET of 1783 – New Book Release

A Monograph on the Building of the Model by David Antscherl

This book, recently released by Seawatch Books, is another fabulous work by the most excellent and admirable ship modeler and author David Antscherl. I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Antscherl at the 2014 Nautical Research Guild Conference in St. Louis in October and found that he is not only a wonderful author and ship modeler, but he is also a very nice gentleman. I even shared the dinner table with him and with Gilbert McArdle, who wrote the book on building the HMS Sussex, 1693, the book on Building the Yacht Utrecht, and long ago wrote Modeling the USF Constellation.

David Antsherl is also the author of the highly popular Swan series of books. In addition, he and Greg Herbert (author of the 3rd book in the Swan series), run This is a must visit site for those interested in building the fully framed model.


My copy of this book arrived just a few days ago and I didn’t have a chance to read it all, but I did go through it with great interest. The hardbound book is 8-1/2″ x 11″ and 160 pages and includes a separately packaged set of 6 sheets of plans. The book is full of photos and illustrations showing, among other things, the details of construction specific to fireships. 6 pages of color photos show the incredibly beautiful model that Mr. Antscherl is constructing.

Those wishing to build a fully framed model like the model illustrated in the book will need to consult the Swan series of books for such details. This book really covers the details of the fireship in general, but the bulk of the book is about building the details of the Comet.

Whether or not you’re planning on building the fireship Comet, this is a very interesting, informative and inspiring book to have. Ω

AL’s Independence – Hull and Deck Details

Been making slow progress on the Independence, having been spending some extra time on other projects. But now it’s time to stop dragging my feet and to put in the work on this model!

To begin with, I spent a lot of time over the past few weeks making lot of rings, eyebolts, and hooks, so I could start mounting blocks on the model.


I added some ringbolts to the deck for rigging the cannons, but mostly I worked out the locations of the rigging blocks that will be attached to the masts and got those into place.


Note that it’s actually easiest to strop the blocks directly onto the eyebolts and THEN mount them onto the model. Something I kind of forgot in my haste to get these things in place. So, I actually removed some bolts that I’m going to be adding blocks to and I will glue the eyebolts back into place once those are done. I may do the same with some of these as well.

I also made some knees using a rectangular cross-section strip of boxwood that I ran through my router table. I then cut the individual knees from the strip – like cutting slices from a loaf of bread. I used these under the catheads and also under the channels. On a ship as small as this, I don’t know if there really would have been a need for knees under the channels, but I don’t they are out of place, and they add some more visual detail.

I drilled these knees out and used short pieces of blackened wire to simulate bolts. They aren’t actually pinned to the hull as the wire is very short and only for appearance sake, but they make for some easy visual detail.



Another detail that I’d been taking my time planning out were the timberheads that stick up over the cap rail at the bow. I just used boxwood to make these. I had been wrestling with the dimensions, layout and appearance of these and finally settled on what you see here.


These needed to line up with the timberheads that line the bulwarks interior, though you might notice the change in color from the cherry wood at the bulwarks to the boxwood above the cap rail. Were I to do this all again, it would have been easier to have a completely closed, planked bulwarks, or I would have gone with wider timberheads and maybe simple use cherry for these pieces on the cap rail.

In the above photo, you can also see that I’ve added some of the cleats I made earlier. In this case they are mounted at the foot of the catheads.

Deck Pumps

Next thing was that I finally worked out the design of the deck pumps. These are similar to designs shown in Hahn’s book The Colonial Schooner. I looked at photos of pumps with metal yokes, but opted to keep it simple and made mine from wood. But the pump handles are perfectly straight like he shows and because of that, they tend to stick out a bit. Problem was that I couldn’t then situate them where they’d be out of the way, and I ended up having to relocated the ladders about 1/2″ outboard of where I originally placed them.

Since I pinned the ladders to the deck, this left a pin hole. I felt it best to just stick some eyebolts in the holes. They are pretty well out of the way and close enough to the mainmast and main boom that they might actually be useful. Even if unused, they would not look out of the ordinary.

Later I finished up the deadeyes and chainplates and so added the channels into place.

I also decided to follow a lead from Hahn’s work and added an accept plank. I had run across a sale on Peruvian Walnut boards when I went to Rockler woodworking one day and bought one. I’d been looking for uses for this stuff which is very dark. It is also a little on the soft side and the grain is hardly noticeable. I decided to cut a couple planks and shaped them to fit the upper most strakes of the hull, just beneath the cap rail at the quarterdeck.

This gives a nice, rich-toned color accent to the model that’s just a bit of artistic flair. I might also use some on the large, rather plain looking transom to add some interest there.


Lastly, I haven’t been very happy with the look of the stern gallery lights and finally took on the task of ripping them out. I’ll rebuild them with thinner framing material, fewer panes, and I’ll cut and fit a piece of acrylic to back them as well. I just have to remember what I read to glue them up with so that the acrylic isn’t smeared or damaged.

Building Woody Joe’s “Hobikisen” Mini-Kit


As a mini-kit, there is not much of a story to tell about building Woody Joe’s Hobikisen kit. I’ve given an out of the box review already and beyond that, it’s just a matter of several hours spent on building the model over the course of about 10 days. As I mentioned before, I got this and the Utasebune kit through Zootoyz as soon as I found out that the kits were released.

Starting the build was easy and I got through the first half of the 12-page instruction book in a just a couple hours. As with my Higaki Kaisen kit build, I chose to treat the beautifully aromatic Hinoki wood with a wood dye mixture using TransTint wood dyes. A bottle of this stuff is pretty pricey, but it goes a long ways. I have three colors I mixed for the Higaki Kaisen and I used a similar mixture for the Hobikisen.

DSC03594Hinoki is pretty brittle when dry, so don’t try to bend it without wetting it first. It actually doesn’t take much soaking in order for it to become flexible. You can pretty much just dampen the wood.

The laser cut parts don’t take much effort to remove from the sheets. The wood is very thin for this kit. I didn’t measure it, but it can’t be more than 1/32″ thick. In any case, it’s best to cut the wood free of the sheets using a hobby knife.

There aren’t a lot of pieces, so there’s not much chance of losing track of which piece is which. But, some of the laser cut pieces have an identifying letter engraved on them, more or less where they won’t be seen. Actually, one of the bulkhead pieces actually has its part identifier “C” in a very visible location. It’s not very noticeable, but you might want to sand the piece down a little to get rid of the marking. Probably good to wet the piece to let the wood swell and reduce the letter’s visibility first. Then sand it after it’s dry.


Everything is very straight forward. It is a simple build. I actually had the hardest time trying NOT to add additional details to the model. It’s supposed to be a quick build “weekend” kind of kit, after all. Still, I had to monkey around with it, though there is more I could certainly have done.



The hardest part of the build was the sail. This requires embedding brass wire along the each edge and the the center. The wire in the center has to be covered over by a strip of spare sail cloth, so be careful when you cut the sail out to leave long leftover strips intact.


Note that on real Hobikisen, the vertical panels of the sail are separate and the when filled with wind, the real sail has a ruffled pattern to it. To get some degree of this look, the top and bottom edges are formed in a wave pattern. The instruction have you bend the sail edge using a small battery (like a AA cell), but I just use fingers to do it.

As for the rigging lines, there is enough to get the model done, but there’s not a lot to spare, so you’ll want to do your best to use the supplied line efficiently.

Now, as I mentioned, it’s hard for me to build a model straight out of the box without messing with it and adding or changing details. The first thing I ended up doing was to add little wood ledges under the inboard ends of the outriggers, so I could lash the outriggers down. I got the idea from looking at photos of Hobikisen on the Internet.

There are plenty of photos of the modern day Hobikisen on the Internet which, as far as I understand, operate for sightseers to observe on Lake Kasumigaura, Northeast of Tokyo. There are some beautiful photos on the Visit Ibaraki Japan website, to which the nice folks at Woody Joe were kind enough to send me the link.


 Notice in the above photos of the finished model the lashings I added to the outrigger. I also added pins into the provided holes in the stern cross timber.

Next, I noticed that all Hobikisen I found in photos rigged their sails to starboard. The kit has them rigged to port for some reason. I decided this was an easy and safe change, so I went ahead with it. The only problem there is that the kit provides holes on the port side gunwale for securing the sheets of the sail.

As it was, the last change I made with in the way the sheets were secured. On the kit, the gunwale on the port side has holes cut in it, and most of the sheet lines are secured through those holes. On photos of the Hobikisen on the Internet, the sheets were all tied off to a rope that runs between the ends of the outriggers. This is very similar to how the mainsail is secured on the Higaki Kaisen. So, it seemed to be another sensible change.

Given that, I trimmed the width of the gunwales down. I did this mostly because it was easier than filling the laser cut holes in the port side gunwales, and also because I’d never seen these internal rails on a traditional Japanese boat. Without much research to go on, I wasn’t completely at ease with making the changes. But, they seemed to be reasonable and correct as far as I could determine. I could very well be wrong, but not too many people will know if I’m wrong, including myself.

The model was mounted on the provided stand, but the sail makes the model want to fall over onto its starboard side. So, I drilled a pair of 1/16″ holes in the bottom for mounting pins. I fixed the pins into the stand so I could remove the model without having pins sticking out of it.DSC03683

One advantage to this was that I could also set up my Amati Keel Clamper to hold a pair of 1/16″ pins at the proper distance apart and mount the model on it for rigging.


The model was completed in a short time and it was a fun and interesting experience, and I learned something about Hobikisen in the process.





The model kit included three silhouette figures of Japanese fisherman, but I chose not to use them. The fishing technique that made these boats unique was developed early in the Meiji Era around the 1880s. Traditional style boats were in use then, but the figures are modern style figures and you can make out the bill of their baseball caps. So, I decided not to use them, even though they’d provide some clue to the model’s scale.

One thing I could have added, but chose not to, were the rectangular caps that fit over the mortises cut along the edge of the main planks for nails. They’d be made from copper and should be easy enough to cut from adhesive backed copper tape I have on hand. But, if I do that, there are actually a few additional places that were probably covered with a protective copper cap that should be done as well.

For now, I’ll leave it as is. It’s a neat model kit and it’s nice to finish up a quick project in between the big ones. Ω