Monthly Archives: March 2016

Coming Soon! The New Ages of Sail Showroom & Model Craft Tool Shop

Hard to imagine a shop in the SF Bay Area just for ship modelers. But, here it is – grand opening soon!

Ages of Sail

Ages of Sail is expanding yet again!


With an increase in the number of product lines we’re carrying, out storage needs got absolutely ridiculous and products had to be warehoused in two separate locations. Luckily, a neighboring space became available earlier this year and Ages of Sail has been busily re-arranging, remodeling and preparing a new physical store right next door to our old location, which is now our warehousing and shipping department.

Things are a bit of a mess as we are still in the process of setting up the new store. But, here are some images of isle after isle ship model kits, tools, fittings, books, accessories,  oh and MORE ship model kits.

Our new space isn’t official open for business yet. But stay tuned for our grand opening announcement. Once we’re all set up, we hope you’ll be able to visit us. But, even if you can’t…

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My Writing Plans – March 2016 Update

Tosa Wasen

IMG_2085For those interested in the Tosa Wasen kit, I’ve basically finished writing my article. I know this wasn’t part of my post back in December when I last wrote about my writing plans. But, now that the model is done and I’ve had a chance to really think about the importance of the kit, I figured it deserved a write up.

In January, I contacted Paul Fontenoy, who is, among other things, the editor of the Nautical Research Journal, so he knows the article is coming. I’ve also had the benefit of getting a read through by Douglas Brooks, who has been a great help to me in better understanding Japanese watercraft.

Now, I just have to take a few better photos of the model and it the article will be ready to send out.

Book Review

book_coverWhen I mentioned the Tosa Wasen article to Paul Fontenoy, he realized that there was no review in the Nautical Research Journal yet of Douglas Brooks’ book Japanese Wooden Boatbuiding. He asked me to write one and I agreed. Having never written a book review or anything of this kind for the Journal, I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out. Also, while I’ve read through various important section of the book, I hadn’t read it cover to cover.

Well, that’s the first thing I had to do, and I’m really glad I did – Not just to be able to write an accurate book review, but also because this is a very interesting book, filled not only with lots of details on building traditional Japanese boats, but with some great narrative of the author’s experiences in Japan, some quite humorous and some quite moving.

I just sent in my draft of the book review. If it doesn’t need revision, it should be appearing in the near future.


DSC04135About a month ago, I finally reached the end of the instruction book in my translation and notes on this kit from Woody Joe. This isn’t an article to be published, but rather something that I’m making available to anyone who’d like to have it. The notes are now available here as a 17-page downloadable PDF file. I’m also sending copies off to Woody Joe and to Zootoyz and they will see if they want to do anything with it.

For the future, I am considering building a more detailed version of the Hacchoro based on the Woody Joe kit, and I may write that up as an article. I managed to recently make contact with someone in Japan who is connected with the modern Hacchoro boats in Yaizu. He’s been sending me some information and, now that I’m planning to make a research trip to Japan, I’m making arrangements to meet him and to see a Hacchoro first-hand.

Higaki Kaisen

DSC02470I’ve been dragging my feet on this simply because I want to include background information, and I want that to be as accurate and as interesting as possible. With the Tosa Wasen article and the Hacchoro notes done, I think it’s time to push this up to the front and get it finished and in print.

The problem is, every time I turn around, I learn more about bezaisen (the general term for this type of ship), and find challenges to my current understanding of the ships. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to see one up close. While I’m making arrangements to see the replica ship Hakusan-Maru in the Fall, that won’t really help me with this article, which I’m ready to send off soon.

This will be going to Seaways’ Ships in Scale, though the amount of background detail I’m putting together is probably better suited to the Nautical Research Journal. I’ve seen other authors split up their material between the two publications, but I don’t think I’m going to go that far.

I’m hoping to see this delayed article get published late this year or early next year. It will definitely be a multi-part article.

Warner Woods West is Closed

I just heard a few weeks ago and confirmed with owner Lloyd Warner that he’s closed up the shop as of January 1st of this year. Long time ship modeler and, until a couple years ago, long time director of the Nautical Research Guild, Lloyd has operated Warner Woods West.

The company sold beautifully made blocks and woods of all varieties when he operated from his home in Souther California. After he relocated to Utah, he discontinued wood sales and concentrated on selling the quality blocks and linen rigging line.


Long time customer might still be able to purchase some of his remaining stock from him, but he’s not producing anything new. It’s sad to see the business close, but nice to know that he’s still around and we may see him at the NRG conference in San Diego this Fall.

Santa Leocadia Paper Model Ship Kit – Just for Fun

Once in a while, you just want to stick something together without being too involved in a project. Sometimes paper models work quite well for this.

This last weekend, I had some time to work on a project, but I just wasn’t in the mood to work on my wood or paper projects. I had a Santa Leocadia Super Modellar Plans set from Shipyard of Poland sitting on my shelf for well over a year. This is really a set of model plans that included the basic hull in the form of a laser-cut paper model kit in 1/72 scale.


However, the kit really stops there. It’s designed to provide the basic hull, but the builder is expected to build the rest using paper, wood or whatever. The hull even requires planking with 1/16″ thick planks. My plan was to build up the model as far as the included parts go and possibly add the parts I got as part of a Santa Leocadia “Super Detail Set” that I bought from GPM, another Polish company. This set includes ships wheel, capstan, gun carriages, ship’s stove, etc.

I figure I can use the model completed that far as a display example of paper ship model kits. We’ll see. My HMS Alert started off this way, but I’m almost done with that one now. So, who knows.

The Santa Loecadia is a 38-gun Spanish Frigate built in 1777.



It’s fun just fitting parts together like this. At this stage, the kit parts don’t have to be glued together, the parts fit tightly enough to stay together. There’s still plenty to do on this kit. It goes together just like all the other Shipyard paper ship model kits. Next is to fit the subdecks and to cover the hull with the first layer of “Sub-Planking”, which is made up strips that fill the space between adjacent frames.

I got my Shipyard product from Ages of Sail. You just have to pay attention to the difference between the Modellar Plans and the Super Modellar Plans. The “Super” versions includes the laser-cut parts in 1/72 scale. These were limited edition products and Ages of Sail has only a few left. However, I’ve seen that these are also available from the Polish manufacturer GPM.

Shipyard’s 1:96-scale HMS Alert 1777, Paper Model Kit – Part VII

I haven’t posted an update on this project for a several months, so figured it was time.

I now have someone who wants the completed model, so that pushed this project up in priority.  Initially, it was more of a test to see what building in paper was like. But, it was so much fun that I kept going with it. Now, it’s close enough to completion to really push to finish it.

I finished building the carriage guns, blackening them and adding breech ropes. For the ropes, I ended up using Morope brand model rope. The main reason for using Morope was simply to test out the product. This model rope certainly looks good, but it does want to unravel quite easily. I found it best to put a drop of CA glue at the point where I want to cut the line. After the CA dries, I cut the line and there’s no unravelling.

The other model rope I was considering was the stuff sold by Syren Ship Model Company. Initially, I avoided this rigging line because for most purposes, the lay of the rope is backwards. It’s all left-hand or S-laid rope. I’ve since changed my mind about the Syren model rope because it’s so nice to work with. It’s stiff, but flexible, doesn’t unravel, and looks great. However, since I already started using Morope, I figured I’d continue with it.


Not so clear photo of the finished cannon on carriage with Morope breeching rope.

For the cannons, I ended up using turned brass barrels sold by Syren Ship Model Company as swivel guns. One of the sizes worked out perfectly for this models small carriage guns. Making the carriages was the hard part. But, there’s only a dozen to get through.

I then had to add eyebolts at the ends of the breech ropes and drill the bulwarks to mount them. The deck is open and so drilling and adding the eyebolts into place wasn’t too bad. But, the model is more delicate than a wooden one, so it required extra care.


HMS Alert in my shipyard with Colonial Schooner in background. All cannons are in place and rigged with breech ropes.

As you can see, the taffrail is pretty well complete. That’s one feature that really made me sweat. Getting those stanchions all in place and then adding the rail and trying to make it run as flat as possible… I’d put off building the rail for a while until I could muster enough nerve to deal with it. Since then, it’s been mostly smooth sailing.


I worked on the sails some time ago. They’re are cloth and purchased as a separate accessory set available from Shipyard. They are pre-printed, but only on one side. Getting the lines of the cloth to show through required lightly tracing them onto the blank side in pencil.

Bolt ropes were glued around the edges using simple white glue. I also added all the small ropes to the two reefing bands on the mainsail.


I’d purchased the masting set from Shipyard too. This just consists of some dowels and a few laser cut cardboard pieces for the cross trees, mast cap, etc.

For blocks, I decided to use some swiss pear blocks I bought from Syren Ship Model Company. They stopped making them rather abruptly and did a big sell-off before I’d had a chance to stock up on more of the sizes I needed. But, this model doesn’t use too many, so I figured I’d go ahead and use them. Anyway, they’re really nice looking blocks. I made up a batch of paper blocks, but I figured I’d use the swiss pear ones while I had them.

Finally, I began the process of rigging by adding the lower deadeyes into place, and rigging the shrouds. As you can see the main boom is also in place. I had to finish up all the details on it first, then decided I’d better add it before too much other rigging gets in the way.

IMG_0618 IMG_0620

I have to now add all the blocks I’ll need on the mast, gaff and yards and sails. Then, I’m going to have to tie the backstays around the mast head so I can finish up adding the main and preventer stays which will lead down to the top of the stem. Really starting to feel like I’m getting into the home stretch on this model.

One interesting thing I’ve discovered is that the deadeyes are really pretty securely attached on this paper model. That was one thing I had concerns about. But, I wire stropped them and then simply bent the bottom of the wire to insert into holes I drilled into the hull, forming the chainplate. A faux chainplate is then glued to the face of the wire.

My Higaki Kaisen Article

Quite some time ago, while I was building my Woody Joe Higaki Kaisen model, I started working on a construction article. It has essentially done for many months, but I’m trying to wrap up the first 1/3 of the article, which essentially talks about the background of the Japanese coastal transports.

I’ve been having some trouble, as there is some conflicting information regarding possible imposed restrictions on Japanese ship building during the Edo period. Most sources indicate the existence of restrictions, but a few scholarly sources say that there’s been no evidence of any restrictions at all. Yet, even in the 1850s report from Perry’s expedition, there is mention of restrictions on the construction of Japanese ships.

Image Extra 3 - 994A9592

Still, not being an academic, it’s hard to get in the middle of this discussion. I don’t want to alienate myself by possibly insulting people who have studied the subject, and some of whom have helped me out. So, what to do?

I sent the article to a Mr. Toshihiko Shibafuji, who was involved in sailing the Naniwa Maru during sea trials conducted before it was placed in the museum in Osaka (now closed). He has been very helpful regarding Japanese traditional boats and is a friend of Douglas Brooks. Shibafuji-san sent his comments back to me along with some technical data on the sailing characteristics of the Naniwa Maru. He also pointed out that the discussion of shipbuilding restrictions is one that even scholars in Japan have disagreements over.

Image courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Research Center

Image courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Research Center

So, I’m going to look over that part of my article and probably do a few rewrites. Perhaps the best thing to write is about the disagreement over this issue.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a number of articles on JSTOR, which is a digital library of academic journals and books. A free account is available, which provides access to the collection. But, downloading articles requires a paid pass. This is generally available through academic institutions and some libraries, but can also be purchased by individuals. I signed up for a one-month pass for just under $20 that allows me to download up to 10 articles.

Using this system has actually been quite helpful. I’ve found some information on shipping during Tokugawa Era Japan, and other articles where references to sengokubune appear and specific information about Higaki Kaisen and Kitamaesen.

I’m not sure how much of this additional information I’ll use in this article. I’ve already been delaying this article for the last year. It’s time to wrap it up! Ω

Billing Boats New Website Today?

Billing Boats kits have been highly regarded in the past as being fairly accurate. They are generally light on finer details, but detail is something that often determines if a kit is simple to build or difficult.



The advantage of kits that skip some details can often be that a more advanced modeler may like adding all the extra details that makes his or her model special, whereas a beginner may just want something that they can finish and will look nice in the end. Both can make good use of the same kit as long as it’s accurate.

But, Billing Boats has had a recent history of being difficult to work with due to changes in company ownership and all. Kits are sometimes hard to get, and replacement parts, nearly impossible. Companies like Ages of Sail and Billing Boats USA (which is not owned by Billing Boats) can fill some of the needs, but they have the same difficulties as customers in getting some things.

But, according to the Billing Boats website, they are going to be uploading a new site, March 1st, 2016. That’s today! I took a look and don’t see anything yet, but at the moment it’s really only 8 pm, February 29th in Europe, so there’s basically another full day at least.

Here’s to hoping we see Billing Boats back in action, and soon!