Monthly Archives: July 2015

New Yakatabune Mini-Kit from Woody Joe



I’m a bit behind the curve on reporting on this latest mini-kit from Woody Joe. This kit, released in May, joins the two other traditional Japanese boat mini-kits, the Hobikisen and the Utasebune. The Yakatabune (yah-kah-tah-boo-ney) is an Edo period pleasure boat that become a common site on lakes and rivers in the later years of pre-modern Japan. The appearance of these boats coincided with the rise of the merchant class and the accompanying increase in leisure time and disposable income among commoners. The Yakatabune and boatmen would be hired for a day or an evening for taking in the sights at cherry blossom time to view evening fireworks, or maybe just to drink tea or sake and enjoy good company.

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Woody Joe already produces a large, 1/24-scale kit of a Yakatabune, but this one is small and quick to build and costs less that one-third as much as the larger kit. The kit features a large number of laser-cut parts. The design of the hull is nearly identical to the other mini-kits of the series, but the decking, rudder, and deckhouse means there is about 50% more wood in this kit. As with the others, the wood provided is Hinoki (hee-noh-key), a variety of Japanese cypress that is extremely aromatic, and it easy to work with.

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Parts are always well packaged and well labeled in Woody Joe kits.

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Japanese language instructions are extremely easy to follow, thanks to the well illustrated, 12-page, step-by-step guide.

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Laser-cut sheets are clearly numbered, and each part has its own identifier to make locating parts simple.

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Color printed paper is used to cover the shoji screen walls of the deck house and for the lanterns hanging along the side.

Having been building the larger scale Yakatabune kit, it’s clear that this is a simplified model. But, that’s the whole point here. This is a model that can easily be built over a weekend, and results in something that looks nice on the shelf.

The kit is solidly packed into its box, which measures about 9″ x 3-1/2″ x 1-1/4″. The model itself measures about 8-1/4″ long when complete and includes a nice base and brass tape nameplate.

At 5,500 yen, the Mini Yakatabune is the most expensive of the three traditional boat mini-kits. At today’s exchange rate, that works out to about $45. As always, I recommend buying the kit from Prices are good, shipping is extremely fast, and service is great.

For those who want to add a little detail, if you’ve built the larger kit, the details you might add are pretty obvious. There are the beams that protrude from the hull under the side railing, there are the rope wrappings around the sculling oars, the lifting rope on the rudder, and copper caps. But, I think it’s a better kit to be built as-is. A nice simple weekend project that would make a nice gift either as a kit or a completed model.

Personally, I’m a student of the Japanese folk instrument called a shamisen and my teacher would clearly love to have this model on her shelf. She’s been hinting to me, showing her collection of all the different things that her various students have made for her over the years. I think the Mini Yakatabune is going to have to be one of them. Ω




New Book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding



Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks has studied traditional Japanese boat building from Japanese masters since the mid-1990s. In an attempt to help preserve the art, Mr. Brooks worked through five apprenticeships with aging master boat builders, serving in most cases as their final and only apprentice. Part one of this 320 page hardcover book discussed the characteristics of Japanese traditional boatbuilding, including tools, materials, design, joinery, etc. Part two details his five apprenticeships.

I’ve seen some images of this book and some of the writing and it looks not only gorgeous, but filled with fascinating and valuable details regarding this rapidly disappearing art form. I expect to be ordering my copy almost immediately.

The book is $75 and you will certainly be able to order it from the usual online book sellers. But, I recommend ordering it direct from the author. The price is the same, plus $10 shipping, but Mr. Brooks will personally sign copies. His website order form includes a space to indicate who the book is to be inscribed to. You can buy your copy at

AL’s Independence – More Hull Details

Just dawned on me that I should be writing about this model today being that it’s Independence Day here in the USA, so first off:

Happy Independence Day!

And if you don’t celebrate American Independence, well, you can celebrate that I’m finally posting some information about my colonial schooner Independence build!

The first item of major importance is the fact that I’ve finally added scrollwork to the beakhead. Not being too great at carving, I found an adequate substitute in the form of sculpted polymer clay – I used the brand called Sculpey. The clay was rolled very thin and shaped to fit the area of the beakhead. It was then baked in the oven according to the instructions, cooled and then glued into place.

Baked Sculpey isn’t stiff unless you bake it too long. It retains a bit of pliability allowing you to bend it to fit. It can also be cut and carved to take away it’s natural roundness. The particular stuff I used was called Super Sculpey, which comes in many different colors and can be blended together as needed. I played around with a mix until I got something that was close to the color of the boxwood on the model.



The next step at the bow will be to add the head rails, which doesn’t seem as daunting a task now that the scrollwork is done.

Progress was also made at the stern of the ship with new moldings laid in between the gallery lights. To do this I used boxwood strips and made a new scraper, which I’ve learned is pretty easy to do. To make the scraper, I simply took an old single-edged razor blade and use a Dremel with a cut-off wheel inserted, then just ground out a rounded “W” shape in it. The sharp point in the middle cuts a nice line in the center of the molding as the rounded shape rounds-out the beads on either side. You can see the results below.



As you can see, I also added the preventer chains on the rudder. These kind of hang low and I considered pinning them up under the counter so they wouldn’t hang down so far, but it would have limited rudder movement, so I decided to leave it alone.

I completed the quarter gallery rails some time ago, but didn’t post a picture since then, so I’ll do that here. But, I’ve since also cleaned up the hull and given it a final coat of natural finish Watco Danish Wood Oil. This brings out the final color of the model. In particular, the accent strip of Peruvian walnut below the quarterdeck rail now show a nice contrast with the rest of the hull.




From the above image, you can also see that the cannons are now fixed into place. I have yet to add the gun tackle, but the breech ropes have been added and the cannons are permanently fixed in place now.

For the breech ropes, I had been planning to get my rope walk together by now, but I’m still looking for a few parts. My ropewalk is based on plans drawn up by ship modeler Jerry Blair maybe 10 years ago. I’ll write about that whole project at another time. In the meantime, I decided to go with quality model rope. I ordered a selection from Syren Ship Model Company and finally got around to ordering some European made Morope.

I won’t go into a lot of detail on the two. Both are very nice. Syren’s product only comes in S-laid or left-handed twist. Morope is easiest to get in Z-laid or right-handed twist. Though Morope is available with left-handed twist, the order form warns that it may not be in stock and can take a while to get. No matter, most rope is right-hand laid, so I decided to go with the Morope this time except where left-hand twist is called for. Hopefully, different types of material won’t be too much of a problem.

Now, getting back to the cannon breech ropes, those are S-laid, so I used Syren’s rigging line for that and it looks really darned nice on the model. Real turned rope looks so much better than most of the stuff put out by the kit manufacturers.

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For the lashings at the end ends of the ropes, I decided to go for art over authenticity. I chose to use thin black thread, which normally would represent tarred rope. That would have only been done if the lashings were intended to be permanent, which they were not. For this model, it just adds some visual accent.

I was recently part of a discussing on tackle blocks for cannons. It seems that the number of sheaves in the blocks was dependent on the size of the cannon. Larger cannon might have a single block and a double block. But, the guns on the Independence are small, 4 pdrs, so they probably would have used a pair of single blocks for the tackles.

For that, I’m using Swiss pear blocks from Syren Ship Model Company (note that these are no longer offered for sale). More on this later. For now, I’ll end this with a side profile photo of the Independence as she looks now.



And once again,

Happy Independence Day!

Woody Joe’s Yakatabune Kit – New Build Log on MSW

For those interested in following the build of Woody Joe’s 1/24-scale Yakatabune kit, I decided to go ahead and start one on The NRG’s Model Ship World. For those who don’t know, the Yakatabune is a traditional Japanese pleasure boat used on lakes and rivers. They could be hired for a day or evening, allowing a group of passengers to enjoy the gentle rocking of the boat, the sites along the water, view the cherry blossoms, and as a place to simply gather, bring along hired entertainment, drink sake, or whatever.


Here’s an image of a colorized photo I found on the Internet, though I don’t recall where now.

The 1/24-scale Woody Joe kit is available for around $170 shipped. I got mine from Woody Joe calls this a 50-hour build, and that may be pretty close. It’s not a difficult kit.


Visit the build log here: Note that you will note be able to see the images without joining Model Ship World and getting a free account. There is no advertising associated with this site and it is part of the Nautical Research Guild (NRG). There are also advantages in joining, as it grants you automatic associate NRG membership.


Ship Modeler Visits Woody Joe

I recently received an email from my contact at Woody Joe that there was a great deal of excitement when ship modeler Dr. Richard Rubinger and his wife stopped in to visit Woody Joe in Shizuoka, Japan. Richard and I have been in contact for about the last two years, as we both had been building Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit.


Richard and his wife with Woody Joe president, Mr. Tsuneki.


Richard Rubinger with Mr. Tsuneki, left, and Ms. Yukari Gojo, right.

Richard reports being impressed by the computer design that was taking place there. It sounds like he had a very nice chat with the head designer, the company president and their manager, all of who were genuinely happy to meet their visitors and Richard describes them as very gracious. He says he is more of a Woody Joe fan than ever, and highly recommends anyone traveling in the area of Shizuoka, to stop in and say hello.

Simple Planking Clamp from Binder Clips

Binder clips are those handly, spring-steel clips used to hold many pages of paper tightly together. They come in different sizes and for many years I have found them extremely useful as strong clamps.


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Tired of X-Acto Knives? Try a Scalpel

I’ve seen scalpels recommended by ship modelers before, but never really thought to try one until recently. Yes, a scalpel – that scary knife used by surgeons that want to cut you open. It was recommended to me in particular when dealing with paper modeling because scalpel blades are thinner than X-Acto type blades.


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