Monthly Archives: March 2015

Woody Joe’s Hacchoro Kit Finished

I recently completed the Hacchoro kit that I picked up last Summer. The final model is pretty big since it’s at 1/24th scale. It is based on the kit manufactured by Woody Joe of Japan with very little modification. You can see my review of the kit here.

The model went together very quickly and it was a very easy build as ship models go. It finished to a length of about 24″ and will make a very nice display piece in the home. It looks great up on the shelf with the sails and simple rigging and with the added detail of the oars. These are sculling oars, so they sweep back along the hull, giving the boat a very definite Japanese look of some kind of sea creature.

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Basic details I modified were that I stitched the vertical seams in the sails on the sewing machine, reduced the width of the rudder, mounted the forward sail (Yaho) high and the midships sail (Nakaho) low to create an appearance closer to the Hacchoro I see in photos on the Internet. I also added rope coils at all the halliards.


It wasn’t exactly on my schedule of model projects, but I started it late last year with the intention of putting together my own construction guide. I had set it aside because of the need to get other things done. Then when an opportunity to display the Higaki Kaisen in San Francisco’s Japantown came up. The large display window and small size of that model motivated me to get the Hacchoro model done to add to that display. Construction was quick, but it did end up taking longer than anticipated. I’ve since added it to the Japantown display, but the display is only until April 3rd. That’s just over 2 weeks on display. Still, it’s better than leaving the Higaki Kaisen by itself. My hope is that after other scheduled displays are completed that I can put the Higaki Kaisen and Hacchoro back on display. But more about that at another time.


Higaki Kaisen on display at Union Bank’s Community Room window in the Japan Center Mall.


Hacchoro on display at Union Bank’s Community Room window in the Japan Center Mall.

Some details that I didn’t include that I think should be there are anchors (Japanese anchors look like grappling hooks and boats usually carry several of them), a decorative tassel that hangs from the stem (I might still add one if I can make one that looks any good), a small paddle for maneuvering (this is a traditional paddle with a T-bar at the top), also maybe a water bucket and ladle. Also, this particular model doesn’t show the square notches in the planks where the iron nails were driven in and covered over with putty. On this boat, these would certainly have appeared on the transom and on the upper plank along the stem, looking like short dashed lines. Anyway, I’ll be saving these for a future model. This model was a lot of fun to build and I can almost guarantee that there will be another one in the near future. The design is simple enough that perhaps I’ll try scratch-building one by then.

Question: What’s wrong with this picture? 

If you look at the photos of my Hacchoro model, you may realize that there is one terrible flaw. In my rush to get the project done and added to the display at the bank, I managed to mount the sails upside down! Two ways you can tell this. First, if you recognize the Tokugawa mon or family crest, it’s inverted. Second, the sails on this boat are different from most Western craft in that the sails are wider at the top than on the bottom. That is, they’re supposed to be wider at the top than on the bottom. On my model, they’re wider on the bottom.

I don’t attribute this at all to the instructions being in Japanese as there are plenty of photos that show the sails mounted the other way. I just should have paid closer attention.

FYI, I WILL be redoing the sails and rigging as soon as I get the model back from the bank at the end of the coming week. It’s a drag that I let this happen, but given the relatively simple rig, it won’t really take all that long to fix.


The Hacchoro with corrected sails!

AL’s Independence – Masts and Spars

Progress has been slow on the Independence, as I just have too many diversions. But, it continues and I’ve completed work on shaping and basic detailing of the spars last month.

Now, if I were building this model from scratch, I would be working from a set of plans that I trust. Were this the Halifax, for instance, I’d probably be building this from Harold Hahn plans. I would be taking measurements off those plans and trying to stick to rules of proportions for shaping the spars. Since this is based on an Artesania Latina kit, and the size and proportions of the objects on the plans are questionable, I struggle a bit, then end up shaping things by eye. That is, I’ll try to start with spars that look right to me and then shape they so that they look right. I don’t really measure here except to keep them symmetrical or to just verify the exact shape I’m seeing.

As with everything in this kit, I didn’t use the provided dowels. Instead, I have some pear wood on hand for those spars that will be died black, and I have some beech wood for those that will remain natural in finish. It doesn’t have to be this way, but I decided that the main boom will be the only spar with natural finish for its full length. The yards and gaffs will all be dyed black the same as the other black wood on this model, using Fiebing’s black leather dye.


I don’t know if I’ll necessarily build a model this way in the future as pear wood is a bit “bendy” and it doesn’t seem quite as stable as I’d like. But, rigged, I think it will be fine on this model. Certainly, the beech wood is stiff and strong, so I don’t see any issues there.

In all cases, I started with square stock wood, usually that way because I just cut it from sheets I have on hand. I try to use a small plane to take the square cross section down to octagonal and beyond. But then I chuck the piece into the end of an electric drill and use 100 or 150 grit sandpaper to sand it round. I’ll add an appropriate taper by eyeballing it, switching to maybe 220 grit sand paper to finish the sanding.

For the masts, I ran into an issue with my paint-free plan. The dye works well on pear wood, but not so well on other wood. Also, It was important for the dye not to bleed, so I tried a new approach. I made the area of the mast doublings out of pear wood, with the natural sections of the mast in beech wood. I drilled out the beech wood dowel using a center drill bit on my lathe and then turned a piece of beech wood down so that it had a peg to fit into the hole. In the process of putting them together, I’d ruined of the first of the mast dowels. So, I redid them with a piece of reinforcing brass rod inserted for strength.




I made the decision a while back to rig this schooner with both fore and aft square topsails instead of just the fore topsail as provided in the kit. That topsail is also quite broad and I’m using Hahn’s Halifax drawings to get a better looking topsail size, which are noticeably narrow and look much nicer, I think.

For detailing the boom and gaffs, I added the jaws at the throats and I simulated iron bolts using stainless steel pins blackened with Caswell’s Stainless Steel Blackener, which I’ve found works really well on real stainless steel and it worked great on these pins. For the iron bands with wrap and secure the jaws to the spar, I went the old fashion method and cut some very thin strips of black construction paper and glued it in place with some Elmer’s white glue. Worked beautifully without the need for brass soldering.

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In order to maintain some progress momentum, I also started adding blocks to the mast tops. For this, I went back and forth a bit as to what brand of blocks to use, but ended up settling on Swiss Pear blocks from Syren Ship Model Company. These are really beautiful blocks and they looked even nicer after I treated them with some Watco Danish wood oil. I used Natural, which just brought out the nice color of the pear wood.


The one thing that I’m not entirely happy with regarding Syren’s blocks are that the sizes go from 1/8″ to 3/32″ with nothing in between. This might not seem like an issue, but I find that there’s a pretty big visual difference between these two sizes. These two are roughly 3mm and 4mm. Now, blocks from Warner Woods West come in 3mm, 3.5mm and 4mm, which really provides a nice gradual transition in sizes, but not Syren. I’ve mentioned this to the owner, Chuck Passaro, who is also an incredibly talented ship modeler, but he claims that there hasn’t been any demand and there are plenty of other products that needed his attention.

For this reason, I actually upped some of the the block sizes I used in order to avoid what I felt was a visual discrepancy, relying more on 4mm blocks where I would have otherwise used 3.5mm blocks.


April Bay Area Ship Model Meetings

Ship Modeler’s Quarterly (more of less) Meet-Up

April 4th marks the next gathering of the Ship Modeler’s Meet-Up in Vallejo. We’ve gotten RSVPs from most of our members, though sadly one of our favorites, Andy Poulo, won’t be able to attend. Also, one of our newest members, Bart…, heck, I just realized I don’t even know his last name! Well, he indicated that he might not be able to make it either. But, we potentially have at least one more new attendee that I met when I was in Ages of Sail and maybe two.

In any case, the meeting is a the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum on Marin Street at 10am. RSVP is requested and the only request for attendance is that you try to bring something or a piece of something that you’re working on.

IPMS Show, San Jose

While it’s not a ship modeling event, this competition and show of the local chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society should be a fun event to visit. Entries are not restricted by material or subject, so wood ship modelers can enter their models. This year, Ages of Sail, the ship model hobby distributor in San Lorenzo will have a table in the Vendor area, and ship modeling will be represented by the South Bay Model Shipwrights club. Details about the event and how to enter your models can be found on the website of the local IPMS Chapter, the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers.

South Bay Model Shipwrights Meeting

As usual, the South Bay Model Shipwrights will be meeting on the third Friday of the month, that’s Friday, April 17th, at 7:00pm at the Los Altos Library.

Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights Meeting

Finally, the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights will be meeting on the third Saturday of the month, Saturday, April 18th, at 9:30am aboard the Ferryboat Eureka in the San Francisco Maritime National Park. To avoid being charged for ship exhibits admission, just let the rangers know you’re there for the ship model meeting. Note that the gate doesn’t officially open until 9:30am and that most members start to gather a little early, just let yourself through the park entrance and close the gate behind you.

Steam and R/C from Japan

Do you like real miniature steam engines? Do you like R/C boats or would you like R/C boats if you  could operate one with a real steam engine?

Good news if you answered yes to the above! Ages of Sail just became a distributor for steam engine and boat kits from Saito Manufacturing. This company has been selling aircraft engines and parts in the US for some time, but Ages of Sail is now importing their boats and steam kits.


I’ve only recently looked into these steam engines and they look absolutely awesome. For someone who is not into R/C models, I could easily be swayed to build R/C if I could incorporate these engines. They aren’t cheap, but they are incredibly cool, or hot as the case may be.

The boat kits require specific engines and the engines require a boiler and a water tank. Options include pressure gauges and the use of smoke oil, etc.

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The shipment only just arrived this week, so it will take a little time for the staff to sort through the products, get them priced and on their website, but this is very exciting. Can’t wait to see people operating these on the water!

Watch for them on