Monthly Archives: February 2015

Building Woody Joe’s Iwakuni Castle – A Final Report

As much as I thought I’d finish in plenty of time, I ended up slightly side-tracked. Still, I finished with a few days to spare. It has actually been quite a challenge to get it to look halfway decent. I think it turned out okay, but I had to work to get it there.


The final paint job for the roofing was a mixture of black artist’s acrylic with a dab of gray and a dab of blue, followed by a very lightly dry-brushed gray. The kit came with some fake grass and wood-powde dirt for the base. In the end, I didn’t end up using the grass, but did use the dirt. I decided that while the grass would have looked good, it was a bit out of scale. Instead, I glued down a thin layer of “dirt” and after it dried, I used a variety of green, tan, and gray paints to color the ground.


In the end, this turned out to be a fun project and the results are not bad. The castle kit cost less than $200 shipped and provided a lot of hours of challenge beyond what Woody Joe says it should take. I suppose one could skip painting the model and might work faster with some experience on building the castle kits, but I’m still doubtful that it can be done in 30 hours.


Overall, this was a great kit. Will I build another one? Probably some time in the future, though I might try one of the temple kits before I do another castle. But, right now, I’m too far behind on my ship modeling projects to think about it much.

This model is complete and ready to be presented as a gift. I think it will go over quite well! Ω

Paper Model Troubles

I’ve been working with paper models for more than 6 months and I still think they’re a really fun and interesting medium to work in, though I have yet to finish one. The kits from Shipyard of Poland, particularly the kits which provide parts already laser cut, are very high quality kits that are quite different than most paper model kits.

Since I started, I picked up a couple lighthouse kits, which provide all parts laser cut. I’ve also picked up a couple things from GPM, another Polish paper model manufacturer and online supplier, including a laser-cut detail set designed specifically for the one of the Shipyard kits. I’ve also picked up a GPM paper model and I’ve noted the big difference between the kits from these two companies.


All in all, I’ve been enjoying playing around with these, and have found one issue that can stop you in your tracks. I can’t say anything about GPM yet because I haven’t tried building one of their kits, I just have one on-hand. But, so far, the kits from Shipyard’s Paper Model series look first rate.  The problem I ran into recently was with one of their Laser Cut Model series, specifically, the 1/87-scale North Reef Lighthouse kit.okladka

The kit is a fairly detailed lighthouse kit, but during construction I discovered that mine had a couple flaws. One was very minor in that there were supposed to be a number of holes cut to allow insertion of tabs on other pieces. Oddly enough, all the holes were cut except one. It’s as if someone using a CAD program accidentally deleted the object making the slot. But that wasn’t the only flaw. There were supposed to be 16 triangular supports, and there they were all nicely arranged together on the laser-cut sheet all 15… 15? Where was the 16th? There was a nice triangular spot for it in the grid of parts, but that one was missing too.

Well, those were minor issues. As a ship modeler, I’m used to fabricating parts. And that missing hole was easily dealt with – In this case it was simplest to cut off the unused tab. But then I discovered that there were some parts I was missing. I initially figured I had just misplaced the sheet that the parts were on, so later on, I just took out another kit. This was easy enough to do since I was doing this for an online company that carries their products. But, that kit was missing the same sheet.

Okay, a bad batch is understandable, so I contact Shipyard using the contact form on their website some time in early December. I hadn’t heard back from them about the issues in early January, so I sent them two emails using a company email account. That got no reply. Then, suddenly 2 weeks later, I got an email saying that they would get back to me with a reply in a week. Then nothing. I emailed them again a couple weeks later and they said they would reply in 2-3 days. Then again nothing.

So, it has been 2 months and even to representative of a US seller of their kits, their response is pretty bad. This does not bode well, especially after I pointed out that we weren’t ordering anything until I could make recommendations on what to order, and that depended upon their responses to my emails. So, what to do?

Well, overall their kits are good and I’ve only run into this one, albeit nasty, issue. I’ve since personally ordered a replacement kit, the same 1:87-scale North Reef Lighthouse, and it has everything it’s supposed to have. So, I figure there are definitely bad batches out there. I’ve also worked on a 1:72-scale version with the parts all present, plus a 1:72-scale Alcatraz Island Lighthouse (a simpler kit of a SF Bay Area landmark) that’s all good. So, maybe this is just a fluke. Just be prepared to get poor support from Shipyard if you have a problem.


On the positive side, I’ve ordered direct from them on at least four occasions with no problems whatsoever. The orders take no more than maybe 2 weeks to get and they provide a tracking number that will work with USPS once it gets to the States, so it’s easy to follow your package.

Now regarding GPM, I’ve placed two separate orders. The first one took a few weeks, but did eventually arrive and all was well with that one. The second order I placed I am still waiting for and its been over 5 weeks now. There is no tracking number provided by GPM, so I simply have to wait and see. Like I said, the first one arrived with no issues, so I’m still hopeful.

For those of you who don’t want to worry about shipping, Ages of Sail DOES have a number of the Lighthouses from the Laser Cut Model series, plus many of the ships in the Paper Model series. They’ve been running very low on the popular smaller ships, so give them a call if you’re interested in one of those. Also, a lot of this stuff hasn’t made it to their online shop, so again, check with them if you’re looking for something. Ω


Higaki Kaisen Display at San Francisco’s Japan Center

It’s official, my Higaki Kaisen model is now on display in the East Building of the Japan Center Mall in San Francisco’s Japantown. The model is in the window display of Union Bank’s Community Room.

The model is in a case made using a Woody Joe case kit. I made a couple informational displays to go with it. Sorry about the quality of the photo. Shooting through glass in brightly lit open area doesn’t work out so well. Maybe with a polaroid filter – do they make those for iPhone cameras?


My Higaki Kaisen model in the window display at Union Bank’s Community Room in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The bank administrator was very happy with the display and cleared out all the general promotional bank stuff that’s normally in there. The model will be on display from now until about April 3rd, when SF Cherry Blossom set up takes place and a Japanese doll display goes in. We’ve already discussed the possibility of bringing the model back after some time in May when the display case may become available again.


The display is right off this open courtyard. What looks like a bridge is actually a stairway.

The only thing is that the model looks awfully lonely in the big display window. We both agreed that there should be two other models to accompany it – the display window is just laid out perfectly for that.


My model seems sad to be all alone in the big window.

Now, I do have a partially completed Hacchoro model, which will actually be larger than the Higaki Kaisen model since it is at 1/24 scale. I just need to finish it and get another display case. Not sure what to do about the empty third spot. I have the large Sengokubune kit, but it’s unstarted, and there’s no way I can justify taking the time to build it with all these other projects waiting for me.

Woody Joe’s 1/24-scale Yakatabune kit is a possibility as it’s almost identical to the Hacchoro in construction except that instead of all the oars and sails and accompanying details, it just has a deckhouse. That would be a pretty quick build and it would fit the theme very well.

Lastly, because of the low position of the floor of the window display, a friend of mine was suggesting maybe putting in some kind of box stand. I suppose anything would work. Lot of possibilities here. Almost screams for some kind of diorama.

Thinkin’, thinkin’…


My Woody Joe Update for February 2015

The news doesn’t seem to stop here when it comes to Woody Joe and me. I just posted my update on building the Iwakuni Castle kit, which is very close to being done. And, regarding that build, I can honestly say that I’m a ship modeler! By that, I mean that I’m not so good at castle building. It’s turning out okay, and it’s a great kit, but I know that I’d be doing a much better job if I were building a ship.

Speaking of ships, Woody Joe seems to be constantly releasing products. A few weeks ago, I noticed something new on their website. Apparently, they’ve just released a kit of the Japanese built Spanish Galleon San Juan Bautista. I don’t know a whole lot about the history of the ship, but that there is a full-sized replica, and this kit is based on that replica. This is a 1/80-scale plank-on-bulkhead kit that measures just about 28″ long when complete and lists for ¥38,000, which is about $320. Sant Juan Bautista (2)The image here is right off of Woody Joe’s website. But you can find more detailed photos elsewhere on the web. And, that brings me to the next development, Woody Joe has just established a presence on Facebook. So, if you like Woody Joe, go visit their page and give them a Like: Woody Joe on Facebook.

Back to my end of things, I just made arrangements to display my Higaki Kaisen model at the window display of Union Bank’s community room in San Francisco’s Japantown. The display faces into the mall there, so visitors to the mall will be able to see it. The display will run from Friday, February 13th, to probably no than Wednesday, April 1st. I’d like to leave it on display longer, but there are other displays scheduled, particularly for the Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place mid-April. Once it is seen there, I’m hoping the bank manager or mall manager will like it enough to want to display it somewhere more long term. We’ll see how things go in a month or so.

The location isn’t the most ideal, as the mall in split into 2 parts, and the part where the model will be has far fewer attraction. Still, it’s a nice location in that there is another large display case across the courtyard from where the model will be that usually has some traditional Japanese things that the model kind of fits into. Today, I went over to TAP Plastics to pick up some literature display holders and I created a simple one-page write up to accompany the model. I also made a copy of the cover the Nautical Research Journal issue where the model appears. So, I’m hoping to create a nice informational display. I’ll post more once the display is actually up.

On another note, I just finished up a kit review article on Woody Joe’s Charles Royal Yacht kit. The kit has been in production for nearly 7 years now, but it’s still not well known here in the U.S., and it’s a really nice looking kit. I’m also using the article to draw more attention to the Japanese ship model society called The Rope, which uses the kit to teach beginning ship modelers. To this end, I’ve gotten some help from Don Dressel of the Ship Modelers Association (Fullerton, CA) who has in turn put me in touch with Mr. Norio Uriu of The Rope. That group was kind enough to provide some photos of completed models of the Charles Yacht built by their club members.

The Rope is particularly significant to this kit because one of their long time members, now deceased, helped Woody Joe design the kit, and another member created the original carvings used to create the kit’s decorative castings. You’ll just have to read the details when the article is published. An email exchange with the Ships in Scale editors indicated that it might be a relatively quick turn-around from submission to publication this time. So, we’ll see how that goes. I’m sending the article to a couple people to review for me, and then it’s off to the SIS editors.

Building Woody Joe’s Iwakuni Castle – An In-Progress Report

I started building this kit back in December and worked on it off and on, figuring I’d get a jump on it so that it would be ready by the end of February when I planned to give it to someone as a birthday gift. Well, here it is mid-Febraury and I’m working on it a fair amount now and have put in a lot of hours on it already. I haven’t really been keeping track, but my guess is that I passed up that 30 hour build time estimate a good 30 hours ago.

The big effort was really putting all that stone facing on the base of the castle. Admittedly, I overdid it with cutting pieces to fit. Images of the real castle show that the stones are mostly squarish and there was no need for me to try to make any kind of wild variations in sizes or shapes. That probably more than doubled the amount of time it took for that stage. But, I’ll bet a simplified construction would still have taken close to 30 hours to finish the whole base anyway.

Building the basic structure after that has been pretty easy and lots of fun. The next hard part has been making the roofing. Initially, I’d forgotten that the kit includes a set of patterns to guide you through the cutting of the roof pieces. The trick is that the material simulates a tile roof that has a wave pattern across it, so that the roof is made up of parallel troughs that guide water down and off the roof. So, the wood material has a corrugated appearance on one side. This means that it matters when you glue pieces side-to-side, as a trough must be adjacent to a ridge. Two troughs or two ridges butted up against each other will stand out like a sore thumb.

To aid the builder, the top-down views are color-coded so that gray lines represent troughs and yellow lines represent ridges. The roofing patterns provided also show you edge-on views as a reminder. The pink areas are section that are discarded.Iwakuni Castle roof patterns

Note that the corders are generally squared off at the ends. This is because the corners of the roofs on these traditional Japanese structures flare upwards slightly. However, I still haven’t really figured out how the squared-off corners help that. I’ve just been following the instructions as best I can.

The model has a little ways to go yet. The basic structure is done and much of the roofing is done, but even once that is complete, there are details to add and clean-up to do. As you can see from this photo, I’ve painted the walls flat white and mixed gray paint for the roofing. Because the wood roofing materials is very light and porous, the water based acrylics I used soaked right into the wood and caused it to swell and raised the grain right away. Were I to do this again, I’d probably try to use a solvent based paint. Possibly Tamiya brand acrylics since they are alcohol based. Of course, that’s for another time.


I jump ahead a little bit and started preparing the grass material. There’s plenty provided in the kit – certainly enough to cover the whole base with if that’s your goal. The box art shows just a little bit of grass growing at the base of the stone walls, which makes sense and is probably the most realistic.

The grass itself comes in the form of small wood shavings. I wasn’t sure how well it would work to pre-paint this stuff green, but that was the task at hand. I used a 1 oz. paint mixing bottle and poured in a bit of Liquitex green and yellow acrylic paints, added a few drops of water, and poured in some of the wood. I used stick to stir up the mixture well. When it seemed thoroughly mixed, I dumped it all out on a piece of paper towel and let it dry. The results look pretty convincing, but we have yet to see it on the model.


Only a couple weeks left and I’m confident I’ll be able to finish the model up well before my deadline. I’ll post a final update when it’s all done. Ω



Ship Model Kits for Kids

One topic I see pop up from time to time in online ship model forums and in ship model club meetings is how to get kids involved in ship modeling. There is a lot of lamenting about how kids today aren’t interested at all and how that paints a bleak future for ship modeling.

I personally am not too worried about getting kids building ship models because, as a kid, I was never interested in ship models. I liked tanks, modern ships, aircraft and rockets. My own dad tried to get me into his area of interest, wooden airplanes. I tried building one on one or two occasions, but it never stuck with me, as much as he tried. Plastic kits were in my blood.

My interest in wooden ship models didn’t take hold until I was in my 30s and was as much a surprise to me as anyone. childhood friends I’d reconnected with were truly surprised by the shift. I’ve looked around and seen that many others also made the leap only in later years. So, it doesn’t surprise me that kids don’t take to it so much. Still, it’s always good to expose kids to ship modeling early, so they can develop an appreciation, even if they don’t take up building right away.

One way to get kids exposed to ship modeling is through really simple models they can build quickly and easily. And, today, I ran across a couple kits on the shelves over at Ages of Sail. At first, the kid kits seemed like crummy little kits that are simplified and uninteresting. But, then I’d realized I was looking at it from an experienced ship modeler’s perspective, and not as someone really looking to get kids building something that they might find fun to build.

These kits by Billing Boats are two of four available kits designed for young builders. They have goofy names, like Lobsy, Tuggy and Jolly, but maybe that’s not a turn-off for the intended audience, which is kids 8 years and older. The most advanced is the Mini-Oseberg, which is for kids 10 and older.

At present, there is only Lobsy and the Mini-Oseberg in stock, so I took those out to look them over. All of the kits are simplified to a flat-bottom design and are of basic sheet-wood construction. There is no planking and detail is very simple, so they really should be easy builds. The completed models are touted as floatable, so kids can play with them when they’re done – Something that I think has a lot of appeal for kids as it gives them more incentive to build it.

Of course, if you’re going to put them in water (well, that is, if you’re KIDS are going to put them in water), it would be best to give them a good sealing coat of some kind. Perhaps sprayed with a good coat of primer that can then be painted over by the kids using some kind of non-toxic acrylic paints. Midwest makes a nice little set that Would work well for this.


The Lobsy kit looks pretty good actually. It’s very simple in design and gives a kid a chance to glue a little, paint a little, and maybe apply a little wood stain possibly. The hardest part of the build looks to be the adding of the hull sides to the hull bottom. The kit is almost entire thin plywood, which is strong, but stiff. Adult assistance is very likely to be required, at least to teach the child how to soften the wood with water prior to bending, and maybe how to use a building board and nails to help hold the assembly together as it dries.

Beyond that, this might provide a youngster with the opportunity to be creative with the boat’s paint job, etc. For an affordable $13, I think this kit would be ideal for a ship model club to use to introduce kids to ship modeling. I’m going to bring this up with the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights group. Being that our workshop is at the S.F. Maritime National Historic Park, we could easily do some kind of program for kids one day, or maybe over the course of a month.


The other kit is the Viking ship, the Mini Oseberg, which is somewhat more complicated in that it has a lot more parts, and includes a sail that must be painted and rigged. Accordingly, the age range on that kit is ages 10 and up. But, older kids should love the viking ship with its sides studded with shields, which by the way are injection-molded plastic. The box art shows planking lines, but these don’t come with the kit, as far I could tell without opening up the bag of parts. But the planking should easily be drawn right onto the sheet wood parts.



The Mini Oseberg kit lists at $20. Certainly the box is bigger and there are more parts, but I don’t know if it’s really as good as value as the Lobsy kit. That probably doesn’t matter so much given how much more appealing the idea of a viking ship with sail probably is to a youngster.

I’m looking forward to seeing the other kits in this lineup, and I’ll post more info about them when I do. In the meantime, these kits aren’t on the Ages of Sail website yet, but you can purchase these kits from their Billing Boat USA site.