Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Good Beginning Ship Model Kit – Amati’s America’s Cup Kits

I just wrote this up for Ages of Sail. These really are nice looking kits at a good price. I know many people who go into ship modeling have square riggers in mind. But, this is a good way to get introduced to wooden ship model building without getting overwhelmed. Plus, it’s a relatively quick build. A successful first build is key to the making of a ship modeler and this seems like a good way to get there. Instructions are in Italian, but a booklet containing all the English language instruction is included.

Ages of Sail

“What’s a good kit for a beginning ship modeler?”

That’s a question that gets asked a lot here. The answer can depend on a number of things, such as the builder’s experience with other model kits, plastic or wood. Some people come to ship modeling with a woodworking background, some are youngsters who want to try it out or have a parent/grandparent wanting to start them off. Others are recently retired and have always wanted to build a ship model.

Whatever your situation, here is one recommendation that will probably work for many. Amati Model makes a series of 1/80-scale America’s Cup boat kits. These are the J-boats, the classic racers from the early 20th century that were fast but also elegant.

Shamrock V, 1930 Challenger Shamrock V, 1930 Challenger

Rainbow, 1934 Defender Rainbow, 1934 Defender

Amati makes several different types of America’s Cup kits, but their 1/80-scale kits in particular are ideal for the beginning ship modeler…

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Building the Tosa Wasen – part 5

Continuing with the detailing now starting with the bow and stern decks.

The bow deck required installation of support beams. The beams are provided pre-cut, but the ends needed to be tapered to fit snugly against the hull planking.
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The deck itself is made up of two pre-cut pieces of cedar.
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The stern deck is made up of 5 pre-cut boards, but the pieces are of different widths. The instructions don’t show you, but the plans provide the labels, so you can locate the needed pieces. You don’t have to read Japanese, but you do have to match the characters on the plans with those on the parts.

To those familiar with Japanese, the labels are all in the phonetic alphabet known as Katakana. In this case, the parts are:

ウカイ

ウカロ

ウカハ

ウカニ

ウカホ

These characters don’t actually mean anything here – They’re basically no different than labeling parts as A1, C2, etc. Most of the parts in the kit are identified this way.

Something else to note is that the pieces aren’t necessarily placed on the sheets in any order. Efficiency of material was very obviously given precedence here, so related parts may be separated  quite a bit. You can see this by how these deck pieces are located on the laser-cut sheet.

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The deck parts were glued up and I then placed them on the hull and traced the edge onto them using a pencil. This was then trimmed by knife and sanded to fit the hull. As I mentioned before, trimming Japanese cedar with a knife can be quite tricky as the wood is soft and the grain is hard, so the knife catches the grain and wants to follow it, so extra care is required.

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One thing you’ll notice is that the part labels are etched onto each part, so you have to either hide the labels or sand them off. Or, you could always just ignore them. They’re not that easy to see unless you’re looking closely. In this case, I just glued the boards so that the labels will all be on the underside of the deck.

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Adding the Rail

We’ve now come to the stage on the Tosa Wasen model where I became a bit confused about the next step of construction. It involves installing a rail, and I suppose that it may simply be a matter of getting accustomed to traditional Japanese building methods which, as far as I can tell, this kit seems to follow quite closely.

The first problem I ran into was that the ends of the long rail pieces that have to be added first. These are notched to fit to the beams at the bow and stern, but the pieces are too long to fit. So, the notch at one end can be used, but the other end has to be cut to deepen the notch.

More than this, where on a western style ship, we’re accustomed to installing framing and then attaching the rail onto that, with Japanese boats, the process is reversed. The rail is installed to only a few attachment points first, then the supports are added afterwards. This is something that I’ve seen in hull construction of Japanese boats too. The hull planks are edge fastened and bent/clamped into place in the process, and the framing is installed afterwards – Lessons in traditional Japanese boatbuilding!

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Of course, this isn’t limited to the Japanese or Asian ship/boat building. Thinking back, I recall local ship modeler and marine archaeologist Ed Von der Porten (he’s written a number of articles that have appeared in Ships in Scale) talk about modeling a Basque whaler and about how frames were added after the planking process had begun.

Anyway, I finally worked it out in my head, and the rail construction progressed.

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I completed construction of the rail, adding the pieces that make up the underside. With these in place, it’s a much stronger structure.

To fit the pieces into place, I had to soak the cedar pieces a little bit to impart a slight bend or twist here and there. I took the shortcut of wrapping the pieces with a wet paper towel and putting them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This was just enough to do the trick.

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Along the underside of the rail on the upper hull planks there is a laser-scribed line to help position the underside pieces of the rail.

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The pieces glued and clamped into place
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After the rail was completed, I went ahead and added the stem and other hull details, including a thick strake located on the upper hull planking, just underneath the recently completed rail.

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You may notice that the stem is lighter than the rest of the hull. Like the stern beam, the stem is make of Hinoki or Japanese Cypress instead of Sugi, Japanese Cedar.

Painting the Hull Bottom

Next, it was time to paint the bottom of the hull. The finish of the hull bottoms changed a bit over time. But, what we see as common for the Edo period would be black paint. The kit actually included a roll of narrow yellow masking tape from 3M which worked very well. For paint, I used a model paint sold by Caldercraft as part of their Admiraly Colors line.

There was no particular reason I used this other than to test the paint out. For all other wasen models I’ve built, I used artist’s acrylics Mars Black from Liquitex. In fact, the result using the Caldercraft paint was just a bit shinier than I would have preferred, but it came out fine. I keep trying other hobby paint brands and often end up just coming back to the artist’s acrylics.

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While I was at it, I went ahead and added the splash rail, which sits on the bow deck. The joint where the two piece meet and also the bottoms of the pieces had to be beveled to fit properly.

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Finally, I built the well area. This was pretty straightforward, though I did start to run into little discrepancies in parts alignment, which is going to happen on kits with pre-cut parts. Also, a reminder that it’s REALLY easy to over sand the kit’s Japanese cedar.

The bottom of the boat will be comprised of covered compartments. So, beams and ledges will be added to seat the deck boards / compartment covers. The well section is the tallest compartment.

Here, I’m adjusting the position of the ledge that I’m gluing into place on one of the well partitions. I used wood from the sheet of deck covers as a guide for exact positioning of the ledge. This assures that the deck covers will be flush with the tops of the partitions.
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Here’s the completed well area. Note the ledges glued to the hull.

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Before the deck covers can be added, beams and more ledges have to be added. I’ll cover this next time, along with the covers for the bow and stern holds, making the “Ro”, which is the Japanese name for the long sculling oar, and the final accessories such as the anchor and the bailer, etc. The next installment should see the completion of our Tosa Wasen.

My Writing Plans

Those of you who are interested in Woody Joe kits in particular, you might like to know that I’m working on a few writing projects now.

 

Higaki Kaisen

DSC02470For quite some time, I’ve had an article in the works on building Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen. The big hang up for me has been detailing the background of the vessel and making sure that my Japanese history is correct. Nothing worse than invalidating your work with shoddy research. Fortunately, I have some great human resources that have been extremely helpful. In addition, I’ve been piecing together many pieces from the Internet to create for myself a better understanding of Japanese coastal transports.

The target is Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine, which published my kit review of the Higaki Kaisen, among other things. So, this will be a good follow-up to that article. From the size of this article, I expect it would come out in 3-4 parts.

The article is basically done, but I need to review and do some fine tuning. Then, it’s off for review. Probably, this will be submitted to the editors at Ships in Scale sometime in January. After that, it’s usually many months before it sees print. Maybe Summer time.

 

Sir Winston Churchill

SWchurchill

Woody Joe recently released an update to their British sail training schooner kit and it’s a beautiful kit that looks to be both detailed and quite buildable. I received the kit from Woody Joe and started writing about it immediately. However, I’m considering that the article this time would be much more interesting to readers as an article about building the kit, not just reviewing it.

I’m not quite sure yet. I’ve written three out-of-the-box review articles in Ships in Scale on Woody Joe kits. I’ve tried to make each article a little different in flavor, focusing on reading Japanese characters in one article, discussing the Japanese ship model society The Rope in another, and historical information and construction issues to watch out for in the third.

I don’t know what kind of “extra” I could give the new article, so maybe it should be about building it. There might be some other ideas that I’m going to have to bat around for a bit. For one, Billing Boats makes a kit of the same ship in exactly the same scale, and it would be nice to see how the two compare. But, there are two problems I run into with that. First, I need the Billing Boats kit, and second, being that I’m doing some work for the U.S. importer of Billing Boats products, there then comes a conflict of interests. Especially if the Woody Joe kit puts the Billing Boats kit to shame.

But, the problem with making this a build article is that, I then have yet another project to build, with no article possible until the model is complete. And, I know I have too many projects already and putting off other projects that I want to get to, or need to get back to.

 

Hacchoro Build Notes

DSC04135If you recall, I built Woody Joe’s kit of the 8-oared fishing boat some time back. As I went along, I translated the instructions as best I could and recorded them. They’re not complete, but I’m now shoring up the missing translation parts. In addition, I’ve written up my own introduction on the kit and adding some of my own personal notes.

I’m not sure where the Hacchoro document is going, but I did promise I would send my own translations to Woody Joe and to Zootoyz. They may use them in some way. My goal is to make a complete document that could potentially be made available to builders of the kit, either directly by Woody Joe and Zootoyz, or as a download from this site.

This one is pretty close to being done, depending on how much time I set aside from model building. But, I have a couple friends building the kit now who I’m sure would like to see the notes done in time for them to use. We’ll see how it goes. Ω

Writing about the Occre Buccaneer

buccaneer

For those who might be interested in finding out more about kits from the Spanish ship model kit manufacturer Occre, check out my out-of-the-box kit review on Ages of Sail’s blog site. It’s a look at one of their more recent kits, the Buccanner, a fictional pirate ship from the late 16th or early 17th centuries.

While I’ve never built one, Occre kits look like nice basic kits. They’re similar in many ways to Artesania Latina kits, but as far as I’ve seen, their instructions are pretty consistent and the plans are very good. Parts quality is on the decorative side, but that’s just the style.

If you’re interested in the kit, you can buy it at Ages of Sail. Or, check out the kit details here.

Building the Tosa Wasen – part 4

Last time, I left off with the basic hull completed. Now comes the detailing.

A pair of beams are provide which are attached directly on top of the upper hull planks. These are first tapered from underneath so that at the ends they are reduced to half thickness. The fore beam referred to here as the ツノ or Tsuno (tsue-no), and the stern beam is the オオトコ or Otoko (oh-toe-koh). The heavy stern beam in particular is a common feature of traditional Japanese boats as it is used to mount the rudder on some boats, and usually bears the seat for the sculling oar.

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One thing you might note about these beams is that the parts are made from a lighter colored wood. True to the original boat, instead of the Japanese Cedar used for the hull planks, these parts were usually made out of Hinoki (Japanese Cypress) because its greater density and strength.

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At this time, there are some extension pieces located at the midships frames (I was calling them beam initially, but now they’re built-up high enough to call them frames or bulkheads). I don’t know what it’s called yet, but this boat has an extended rail outside of the hull and these pieces are the central supports for it.

These small pieces initially had a lot of char from the laser cutting on top and bottom. I was as careful as I could be to not take off too much material. But, the cedar is relatively soft and it sands a little too easily here. But, I seemed to manage okay and essentially got the char off.

By the way, something interesting about that space between the frames that you see in the photo. In the center portion of the hull bottom, there are a few holes. I believe that this might have served as some kind of “live well” that must fill with water through those holes. There are in fact, two sets of holes. Near the forward bulkhead, there are two smaller holes in the bottom, and I believe these open into a smaller, separate section that might have been for storing bait. I’ll report on this at another time after i’ve collected some facts.

So, next step was to add the upper and lower slotted beams, which will hold removable doors to allow access into the bow and stern storage compartments. The ends of the beams had to be sanded down to fit nicely in place.

 

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A special template is provided to make sure that the beams are properly aligned. One side of the template is used for the bow and the other side is used for the stern. The angles are different enough so that it’s pretty obvious which side is used for which end of the boat. You don’t need to read Japanese to figure that much out.

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One of the issues I ran into was that the tops of the upper hull planks weren’t perfectly aligned. So, I made an extra effort to make sure the gap between the upper and lower beams was consistent.

After the stern pieces were done, I assembled the floor of the bow storage compartment. Interestingly enough, the two pieces that make up the floor aren’t two symmetrical halves. In fact the joint between the two doesn’t even run parallel to the centerline of the ship. You can see what I mean when you look at the photo.

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I’ll cover the completion of the holds next time. The next step is to add the deck beams to the bow compartment and then the add the bow and stern decks.

 

Building the Tosa Wasen – part 3

With the lower planks in place, there are next two support beams that were glued in place. Like the pair of lower support beams that the lower planks lock into, these upper support beams are notched so that they fit into holes in the upper planks. When the glue on those beams was drying, the upper planks were cleaned up the leading edges were tapered the same way as the lower planks. The lower planks were then glued to the support beams described above.

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As with the lower planks, the upper planks were then initially glued only at the transom and at the stem. Fitting the planks was fairly easy at the stern, but was a bit harder at the bow. There, the planks are hard to seat tightly against the stem since there is some overlap between the upper and lower planks.

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This definitely took a lot of hand pressure and the use of medium CA glue since I couldn’t get a clamp onto the bow. I just had to hold the planks tight as long as possible until the glue set. At the stern, the planks were much easier to glue. But, I did run into one self-created problem that was actually less of a problem than I’d realized.

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The stern edge of the transom should have been lined up with the edge of the notch where you see the rubber bands in the above photo. I cheated a little in order to fix the problem by trimming the leading edge of the notch, effectively moving the notch forward. A beam is supposed to fit precisely into this notch, so I had to sand the stern edge of the planks just enough so the size of that notch was retained.

But, as it turns out, the top of the transom gets sanded flush with the top of the planks and later the whole section gets covered with planks right up agains that beam anyway, so you wouldn’t have been able to tell that the transom didn’t touch the edge of the beam, unless you looked up at it from underneath the boat.

With the planks secured in place, I then ran a thin bead of CA glue all along the inside of the joint between the upper and lower planks. Lots of clamps made sure that the planks were held properly together until the glue set.IMG_0263

After a while, it was safe to then remove the temporary strong-back, which was a nice and satisfying milestone in the build.

IMG_0267With that, the basic hull is complete and we have something that now looks like a boat. There is still the outer stem to add as well as some stern trim that protects the ends of the planks, but aside from that, it’s pretty much time to start detailing.

 

Repairing the Santa Maria

One of the projects I’ve had for some time now is the repair of an old model of the Santa Maria for a client. The model was built in the 1920s or 30s by his grandfather and was not kept in a case, so it had been affected by ages of dirt buildup. Worse, the model had fallen and the whole thing was something of a mess.

 

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I took on the project last year, along with the other projects I’ve been working on. But, it’s finally near completion. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here on the work I did on it. Just wanted to share the kinds of things that come up for a ship modeler and something that has been occupying a portion of my time.

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My goal with this model, was to keep as much of the original builder’s work as possible. That meant that it was more important to repair broken parts than to replace them. Also, if there was something on the model that wasn’t entirely correct, making it more correct was not a priority. Getting it back into good shape was.

As you can see from the photos, it’s a lot cleaner, but there are still a lot of loose lines yet to be belayed. Also, I have a few parts I’d removed early, such as swivel guns, to keep them from getting lost or snagging the rigging.

With this project near to completion, I’m looking forward to having it behind me and getting back to the Colonial Schooner…

 

Oops!

And speaking of the Colonial Schooner and ship model repairs, I had a bit of an accident a couple weeks ago and was putting the Santa Maria back on the top of one of a pair of free-standing bookcases. I was trying to avoid some things on the floor and lost my balance and went crashing into the book case.

I made a desparate and, if I do say so myself, valiant attempt to protect the Santa Maria model, which I was struggling to hold safely as I went crashing to the floor. Some of the rigging did get damaged, but fortunately, it was all minor stuff and within a day I was caught up with where I was before the accident. Oh, and no broken bones, just scraped my shin a bit.

Unfortunately, the lower shelf of the book case suffered and when I looked for the Colonial Schooner model on the top shelf, it was gone! I found it laying on it’s side on a box on the other side of the bookcase. I was amazed that it didn’t suffer as much damage as it could have. Basically, some rigging got loosened and the jib boom got tweaked, splitting the bowsprit cap. But, other than that, the model was still in good shape. So, more repair work for a little while yet… Ω

 

 

Building the Tosa Wasen – Part 2

The next stage of the build is the hull planking.

On a traditional Japanese boat, there are basically only 4 planks, 2 on each side, with the upper planks making a nearly vertical surface. The kit refers to the lower planks as カジキ or Kajiki and the upper planks as タナ or Tana. The term Kajiki is the same term used for the lower planking on the Bekabune as described in Brooks’ book and blog. And in fact, the Tosa term for the upper plank, Tana, is related to that of the Bekabune, which is the compound word Uwa-Tana, but run together the “T” becomes a “D” sound and becomes Uwadana.

Diagrams in the kit show that the leading edge of the lower planks need to be tapered. There are measurements shown in the instructions, but the exactly shape of the tapered area is not precisely defined. It ended up being a matter of getting something to look like the shape shown in the diagram – a shape that reminds me of the tip of a samurai sword.

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After tapering the leading edge of the planks, it’s then a matter of fitting the planks on. The laser-cut planks have square openings that line up with square tabs that protrude from the central beams on the model. These are actually located slightly aft of center, but they are at the widest point of the boat.

I found that mating the planks to those notches was a pretty tight fit, but it was good that the fit was snug, as this helps hold things together while gluing. I glued the planks to these notched frames first and let that dry, which seems to be how the instructions want you to do it. Next, the planks were fit to the transom and glued only at the transom.

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From what I could tell, it seemed that the top of the planks should be kept low against the frames, so that the planks ended up sticking up above the frames by only a small amount at the stern. On the forward half of the boat, the planks seemed to mostly line up with the top of the frames.

The planks were then glued to the stem, which is called the Miyoshi (mee-yoh-shee). The planks had to be positioned so that the very forward edges were flush with or just barely past the stem. After the glue dried, the rest of the planking was glued to the bottom and the frames using medium CA and the applicator tips supplied in the kit. Those, by the way, were a perfect fit for ZAP brand glue bottles.

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I found it a bit of a struggle to hold the boat while trying to glue the lower planks into place. The strong-back in the center is only glued in at the top and bottom of the transom and the stem, so it’s very flexy. It took a while to learn to hold the whole thing while bending the planks and gluing them into place.

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I should also mention that the kit never has you soak any of the planking. It’s long and thin enough that it flexes pretty easily. I suppose it might have made sense, as a ship modeler, to try to pre-bend the planks. But, it certainly wasn’t necessary and I managed without soaking or pre-bending the planks.

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I left the whole thing to dry and then came back and sanded the upper edges of the lower planks. When dealing with the upper planks, the will overlap the edges of the lower planks, and to make a good bonding surface, or watertight surface in the case of the real boat, the outer edge at the top of the lower plank has to be sanded roughly vertical.

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On the real boat, iron nails would be drive into the bottom edge of the upper plank and into this flat edge of the lower plank. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.

 

The model is just about ready to receive the upper planks or the Uwadana.

Building the Tosa Wasen – Part 1

The build begins with the floor piece. There are apparently different regional names for this and I don’t know what the name is in the Tosa region. The term カワラ, or Kawara, is shown a lot for it in the instructions, so I assume that’s the regional term in Tosa. I’ll have to send an inquiry about these things at some point.

The first step in the kit is to bevel the bottom edge of the kawara. To aid in this, there are laser scribed lines. Interestingly enough, the sheet with this part is actually scribed on both sides. I’ve never seen that in a model kit. This means that the manufacturer had to register the wood and the laser in some way so that the cuts on one side line up with those on the other side.

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Something interesting about working with the Japanese cedar. Where those dark lines in the grain show, that’s where the wood is more dense. When carving, you have to be aware of that because those lines are harder to cut through than the lighter colored wood in between. These dark lines are also harder for the laser to cut through. So, if you look in those etched trapezoidal holes, you can see lines of wood that line up perfectly with the grain. I started to trim out those ridges in the cut-outs. There aren’t that many really, so I’ll probably continue with that as I go.

The other issue with those lines is that they can make the laser scribed lines very hard to follow. Woody Joe uses laser scribing to mark the beveling lines on their kits too, but they use light color Hinoki, so I ‘ve never had to deal with hard to see scribed lines before.

The next thing is to partially cut through the Kawara at the dashed line.

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This is where the bottom of the boat angles upwards. In his book Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, Douglas Brooks describes this as Kirimage (kee-ree-mah-gay), or “cut bending”. I don’t know about the Tosa boats, but the Aomori boat he worked on used a technique like this, though there’s more to it.

In my case, I thought this was a good opportunity to bring out my Japanese hobby saw, which is a very thin pull-type saw. The problem was that it was too thin. It cut nicely, but didn’t leave room for the piece to bend upward. So, I pulled out my old razor saw and I cut the line several times, holding the blade at different angles, so that it would cut more of a V-groove.

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With that done, I could add the floor frames. These are permanent frames, thought a long strong-back piece serves as a temporary alignment guide. This was interesting because so many Japanese boats are frameless, or close to it. At some point I’ll look into this further. On the real boat, these may have been added after the planks were in place.

There was a fair amount of char on the edges of these and all the other wood pieces. The kit includes a large flat sanding block that made clean-up of these parts pretty easy. I did notice that there was a fair amount of smudging on the wood faces though. I cleaned these up as best I could. I used the sanding block, but tried to keep working very lightly.

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I test fit the stem to how it was all going to work. The stem is made up of an inner piece and an outer one. The outer stem gets added later, but the inner one goes on next. I wanted to make sure I understood the design before continuing.

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First, I had to made sure the strong-back was properly aligned. The main issue was to keep it centered and perpendicular to the Kawara. The piece is also to be spot glued at the very ends to keep it in place until it is removed in a later step.

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Here’s where I’m at now. Steps 1 through 6 have been completed. I have only to bevel the stern most frame and the transom to complete step 7, then comes the lower planking. Japanese boats use very wide planks that are often very thick. On the Tosa wasen, the planks appear to be as much at 18″ wide.

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I went ahead and started prepping the lower planks. Where I am cutting in the photo, the laser does not completely cut the dark lines of the wood, so I have to go over this with the X-Acto a few times on each side to cut the pieces free.