Author Archives: catopower

About catopower

Ship modeling since 1993.


First off, before anyone asks, I AM a wood ship model builder first and foremost. I know that question may come up, because I’ve been posting a lot about paper models.

Well, I just think they’re so darned neat! I can’t help but be intrigued by them. But, they haven’t replaced my love for wooden ship models. So, don’t think I’m changing this site. I just think the paper models should be more popular than they are.

Heck, how many wooden ship models can be built on a card table in your living room without all the dust, wood shavings, splinters, etc. And with the local heat wave we’ve been having here in California, it’s too hot to work in the garage, where I can make a lot of dust and noise, working on my wooden models.

Anyway, as the North American distributor for Shipyard products, Ages of Sail has TONS of Shipyard kits and many of the accessories, so I’m trying to find a way to help get the word out and generate some interest.

So, I found myself registering an account on and found some great stuff there. They have a lot of everything being built there, including ships. Most ships are steel navy, and those that are of the sailing variety are often scratch builds. But, there are some Shipyard sailing ship builds here and there.

Here you can see that I stole a copy of their picture of the week. I know nothing about the model, so if you want to know more about it, be sure to visit their site. I think you can read the threads even if you’re not a registered user.

I signed up many months ago, but finally posted some photos of my Crowdy Head Lighthouse and HMS Alert models there. Hope to see some more Shipyard related activity there.

Last night, I had a chat via Facebook with Tomek Kliszynski of Shipyard, discussing ways to help him get more visibility for his products in the North American market, since they’re already doing well in the European market. Don’t know if I can help him much, but I will certainly build some more of their kits!

HMS Mercury in 1/96 Scale – The Build, Part 2

I’m not a paper/card modeler, but after building Shipyard’s paper model of HMS Alert, I enjoyed the project so much that I tinkered with a couple other subjects. I have two of them at the moment, and like with my ship modeling scratch build projects, I start on a few different ones until one of them stands out and calls to me to be taken to completion. That’s actually how HMS Alert came to be. I had no particular plans to complete the model initially – it was just a tinkering project.

Now, one of my current paper model tinkering projects is  Shipyard’s 1/96-scale HMS Mercury paper model kit. The ship is a 28-gun Enterprize-class sixth-rate frigate. As I mentioned before, there is a 1/72-scale boxed version where all the parts are laser-cut instead of printed, but that kit is around $500. Mine is about $35 at the North American distributor for Shipyard products, Ages of Sail.

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Links Fixed on

If you’ve been exploring my links here in the past month or so, you may have noticed that my site has been having some problems. I consolidated my web hosting accounts and, in the process, broke my site. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t working until fairly recently.

Today I managed to figure out what was wrong, and I’ve been updating my links. By the time you read this post, it should all be back to normal. Of course, I still have some updating to do to my current projects, but those are normal updates rather that fixes.

For those who are curious about this kind of thing. That site was created and is still maintained using an old piece of Apple software called iWeb. Surprisingly, this long unsupported application still runs fine on current Mac operating systems. Unless I decide to change the format of that site, I’ll probably keep using it as long as it works.

Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale

One of two new ship modeling projects of Japanese subjects – A small river fishing boat called an Ayubune that follows the work of boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. The second project will be introduced shortly. Stay tuned!

Wasen Modeler

There are a lot of potential wasen subjects to model, but good plans are difficult to come by. Also, when decent drawings are found, it’s often difficult to find or to understand the details of the subject. I’ve been toying with a lot of different possible model building subjects, but would usually run into some issue that kept me from pursuing it further.

Recently, I sort of re-discovered a subject that I seem to have overlooked before. It is a boat that Douglas Brooks wrote about in past blogs from about 3 years ago, when he was building a boat in Kameoka, Japan, which is about 16 miles west of Kyoto. There, he built a Hozugawa Ayubune, a type of simple fishing boat that was used on the Hozu river.

15 shaku Ayubune built by Douglas Brooks in Kameoka, Japan, in 2014. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

The boat is a…

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Photos from the Golden Hind Repair

I was just sent some photos taken last Friday during the final stages of my repair work on Raymond Aker’s Golden Hind model. The model is on display at the Bear Valley Visitor Center of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

The repair work is done – yes, I finally finished a ship model related project – and the model is back in its display, with a new, more colorful backdrop.

All photos are courtesy of the National Park Service.

Repairing the Golden Hind

A couple months ago, fellow ship modeler Ed Von Der Porten (you might have read his articles in Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine), got me lined up with some work for the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The job entailed doing some light repair work to the large Golden Hind model on display at the Bear Valley Visitor Center at Pt. Reyes Station. I’ve done some various repair work before, but this is the first work done at the a museum level. We worked out the details and the work too place over the past couple weeks, with the bulk of the work done on-site.

The model is one of the Golden Hind, built by Raymond Aker back in the 1950s. The model is HUGE, built at 1:12 scale. I don’t know the specifics of how long it took him to build the model, but it’s not an ordinary model, it’s a cut-away, showing all the interior and structural details.


Raymond Aker was an artist and there are many signs of that in this model. The first thing that’s noticeable is the use of forced perspective to make the viewer feel a lot closer to the model, almost as if one was on the deck. It’s quite a visual experience and must have required an enormous amount of planning.

While the mainmast is normal in all respects, the features of the fore and mizzen masts are purposely distorted. Below is a photo of the mizzen crow’s nest. You can see that the mast cap is skewed and also the tenon. Not only that, but if you could see the squared sections of the mast, like the heel of the mizzen topmast, you’d see that was distorted too. Even the positions of the shrouds are slightly moved.

You can also tell that the builder was an artist when you look at some of the painted details inside the ship, like the stern chaser, which is a painted cardboard cutout. All of the figures on the model are made the same way, and clearly painted using watercolors with very nice shading and highlighting.

When you look at the ladders, you’ll notice false shadows painted below each step. Also, in the above photo, you can see how the upper deck shows bright red bulwarks, which are much more subdued in the shadows of the deck below.

There is, of course, much more to see about this model, and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend taking a drive out to Pt. Reyes Station. It’s a nice drive, and there lovely scenery and hiking out there. The model itself is in the Bear Valley Visitor Center inside the theater.

As for the repair work, it’s all done, mostly some small rigging repairs, such as the spritsail sling, fore lower yard starboard lift, the fore topsail bowlines, mizzen parrals, etc. Also, the thread holding the bolt ropes to the sails is very fragile and has come off in many places, so I did some work on those.

Working on a model for a museum presented some new challenges for me. First, was doing all the work on-site, second, was that the model was so large, it had to sit on the floor, and I did most all of the work standing, lastly, due to strict standards of preservation, I had to do all the work wearing gloves. That’s something I’ve never done before, and it took some getting used to.

As it turns out, it wasn’t all that bad. Working with small parts in particular, I discovered that I never dropped any small parts while wearing gloves. And, as any ship modeler out there knows,  dropping parts is one of the most frustrating occurrences in ship modeling, as parts dropped are often never found again. I may just have to try using gloves more often.

The only problem with these surgical gloves is that my hands get sweaty. Fortunately, I had some very thin cotton gloves I could wear inside these, and that helped out a lot.

The model is very narrow. It’s designed to be viewed directly from the side, and forced perspective is used to give it the illusion of depth.


The model is now done, and around 4pm yesterday, we lifted her back onto her display cabinet, and the acrylic panels were put back into place. There is also a new backdrop that seems to really bring out the color on the model and really makes it pop. This is a neat model. Go see it if you can. Ω

Shipyard’s Online Store is Back

Good news for paper modelers. Shipyard, the Polish manufacturer of paper sailing ship and lighthouse model kits has re-established it’s online store.

Since the North American distributor, Ages of Sail, has expanded the number of Shipyard products it carries and lists on it’s online store, this may not be all that significant. But, it does provide another channel for acquiring the Shipyard kits. Of course, you’ll have to deal with prices in Zloty and shipping from Poland, and I tried using their site and couldn’t get past some shipping address errors, but I’m sure that will be fixed soon enough.

For those who specifically want to use Shipyard’s laser-cut paper blocks and deadeyes, this is a good way to get them, as they are the one class of items that is not carried by Ages of Sail. For my own models, I’ve used commercially available wooden blocks, but it’s just a matter of personal preference.


It’s always nice to have more sources for products. The other source I’ve found useful is the Polish company GPM, which sells some Shipyard products, as well as some unique laser-cut accessory items for Shipyard kits. You can find them at Ω

Building Woody Joe’s Shinmei-zukuri Shrine – Part VIII / Completion

This is the final installment of the building of Woody Joe’s Shinmei-zukuri jinjya or Shinmei-zukuri shrine kit. The final four steps are mostly really simple and quick, though Step 10, which is the construction of the fence, involves more wood cutting than any other step of the kit. Still, I figured I should wrap up the build with one posting.

The appearance of the model, going into the final steps of construction..

Step 9 << Torii Installation>>

Next will be the assembly of the torii, or the gate that, as Wikipedia describes it, marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. The instructions are very simple here. The Japanese text says to build the torii according to the full sized drawing shown, and the Japanese text in red in the box on the left simply identifies the full-sized drawing.

Building the torii requires the ends of the two wood dowel pieces numbered Part 19 be sanded at a slight angle. Part 20, a 1.5mm x 4mm strip also has to be cut to fit. The Japanese text in here simply says to cut Part 20.

There is no order of assembly given in the instructions, but I found that sanding or filing the ends of the dowels first worked best. After that, I glued the dowels into place making sure that they whole thing looked symmetrical. Next, it was a simple matter to cut a short segment of Part 20 to center underneath the cross piece. Finally, the lower cross piece could be cut a little overly long and carefully trimmed and sanded to fit into place.

Step 10 << Assembling the Fence >>

The fence surrounding the shrine grounds is the first and only step in this kit that requires cutting a significant number of pieces of wood.

The Japanese text at the top of the step reads:

(Part) 21 Glue the wallboard and join.
(Part) 22 Cut it according to the plate and bond it at 16 mm intervals.

The first line is referring to Part 21, which are flat pieces of a darker (not hinoki) wood, 90 mm long and 28mm wide, that the instructions are calling fence boards. Part 22 is a set of long 1mm x 2mm strips that have to be cut to length.

There are three fence sections that the plan labels A, B, and C. Section A requires two full size pieces of Part 21, and one Part 21 piece to be cut to a length of 55mm. I glued up each of the fence sections first, then added full lengths of Part 22 as the fence caps.

The Japanese text accompanying the image close-up in the lower left corner says to  “Install centered,” referring the fence cap’s position. I found it necessary to cut the fence cap of section A so that it overhung the fence by about 1mm at each end.

When gluing the fence post strips into place. They only go on one side of the fence, and the post stick out a little beyond the fence cap. In most cases, gluing the posts into place was pretty easy. They are spaced 16mm apart. Note this in not the center-to-center distance, but the distance between the edges of the posts.

I started by placing posts to straddle the seems between adjoining fence boards. Then, it was a simple matter to place the remaining posts, with these as starting points.

With section C, which is only a single fence board, there’s no convenient starting point for the first post, more so because there’s an even number of posts on it, meaning no center post. So, it was necessary to calculate a position for the first post. It wasn’t difficult, because if you work it out, you’d see that the edges of the outer most posts should be exactly 17mm from the edge of the fence board – picture an imaginary 2mm wide fence post straddling the edge, as happens on the other fence sections, and it makes perfect sense.

I glued the ends of the sections B and C to section A, but trimmed 0.5 mm off their fence caps first, to allow for the slight overhang of section A’s fence cap. Makes more sense when you actually go to put them together. In any case, after the glue dried, I cut lengths of Part 16, which is a 2mm x 2mm strip, to fit into the corners of the fence for strength.

Step 11 << Assembling the Decorative Stand >>

Many of the larger Woody Joe architectural models include a simple base, and the Shinmei-zukuri shrine kit is no exception. The base consist of two baseboards and four pre-cut pieces of edge molding. The two baseboard pieces are glued together to form one large board, and this is then covered with what is essentially just a sheet of sandpaper,

The Japanese text here was the hardest I found to translate. The basic gist is to glue the paper on the baseboard pieces, Part 25, and turn the piece over and use a knife to trim away any excess. The decorative frame, made from Part 24, is hinoki (Japanese cypress). When assembling the frame, sand any mismatch.

I glued the frame together and sanded the edges of the baseboard until it fit just right. It didn’t take much sanding to get a perfect fit.

I didn’t clean up the corners, but may do that later, as I don’t intend to glue down the components onto the base at this time.

Step 12 <<Completion>>

With the previous steps complete, the only construction item left is to “fluff” the tree branches a bit. The branches seem to be a thin wire covered by some kind of greenery material . The tree is then inserted into the base. Clearly, these are intended to be decorative trees as there is no attempt by the manufacturer to hid the twisted wire nature of the the trunks. But, that is generally the style of Woody Joe kits.

Finally, the completed components are arranged on the display base. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t make any attempt to glue the items down. The wide bases of the torii and trees keep them from easily falling over. At some point, I may go ahead and glue them down in some fashion.

Here are some photos of the completed Shinmei-zukuri shrine kit.

This was a really fun project, and it really went pretty quickly. I would have finished a lot sooner had I not documented the steps here. If you’re interested in building this or other Woody Joe kits, as I have stated many times, I highly recommend ordering from Zootoyz. Prices are reasonable, shipping charges are fair, and you’ll get great service.

For me, it’s on to the next project (or back to an ongoing one)! Ω

Higaki Kaisen Article Part 2

Wasen Modeler

Yesterday, I received the latest Ships in Scale, the May/June 2017 issue containing part 2 of my Higaki Kaisen build article.

I’m kind of relieved to see this one. While the first part of the article discussed the background of these ships in detail, it didn’t talk at all about the kit. The problem was that seeing the model, some people would certainly be tempted to go out and buy the kit without knowing more about it, and if they didn’t read the article and the editorial on it in the previous issue, they might not have noticed that the instructions are only in Japanese, which is partly the motivation for writing the article. So, now that it’s out, I feel a lot more comfortable about it the article series.

This issue includes my list of what to watch out for in the building of the kit, including which steps contain…

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Building Woody Joe’s Shinmei-zukuri Shrine – Part VII

Coming into the last 1/3rd of the build, things are speeding up a bit as steps seem to be getting simpler. As a result, this time, I’m covering both step 7 and step 8.

Step 7 << Katsuogi Installation>>

I haven’t been able to figure out what the word katsuogi means in this context. It translates to bonito, a kind of fish. In this case, it refers to these tapered logs that decorate the top of the shrine. Now, perhaps they represent fish in some way, but according to this Wikipedia entry, they are indeed called katsuogi and are purely decorative.

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