Category Archives: Kit Reviews

Shinmei-zukuri Shrine from Woody Joe

I’ve recently found myself spinning my wheels on the ship modeling front. This happens from time to time with my projects when I get a bit overwhelmed or stuck. My scratch model of a Japanese rice field boat, the Gifu Tabune, was one kind of distraction to work on. That took only a couple days, but there was a lot of thinking that went into that build, since it was from scratch, and I’m still learning a lot about Japanese traditional boats. The ideal would be a simple kit, where I can just build it and not spend a lot of time on it or have to put a lot of brain power into it, as I’m in short supply these days.

As it turns out, I’d purchased a collection of simple Woody Joe kits from Zootoyz. If you follow my blog at all, you’re already aware that I am always recommending purchasing from the online Japanese hobby dealer Zootoyz.com for those looking for, among other things, Woody Joe kits, which are not available directly in the U.S.

Shinmei-zukuri Shrine

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Kit Review: Sir Winston Churchill, a Revised Kit from Woody Joe

The sail training schooner Sir Winston Churchill is a beautiful looking 3-masted, steel-hulled schooner that was originally launched in 1996 to compete in the Tall Ships Race. Woody Joe’s revised kit was released in 2015. The model is 1/75-scale and measures 24″ long and just over 20-1/2″ tall.

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Like other Woody Joe kits, the model features plank-on-bulkhead construction, using Woody Joe’s box-frame structure, which is designed to help the modeler more easily achieve good alignment of the parts. The kit features lots of laser-cut wood parts, with a healthy supply of both cast metal and photo-etched brass parts. The only plastic parts in this kit are the lifeboats and rigging blocks.

It no longer surprises me to look inside the box of the Woody Joe kits. Their ship model kits fit well in the box, and everything is plastic bags, so that the box is full, and the bags are so numerous that they provide a certain cushion, keeping items from getting knocked about and damaged in shipping. One sheet of styrofoam fills the remaining space underneath, keeping things from bouncing around in the box.

Small parts are organized into separate bags, with each bag carded and labeled with the part numbers, descriptions (though in Japanese) and quantities in the bag. Small bags are stapled to a cardboard insert that keeps the box nice and neat. A small coardboard tray at one end seems to be a standard packing feature of Woody Joe kits, and contains any loose packages of parts as well as the spools of rigging line.

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The plans consist of 7 sheets of A3 sized paper, 13″ x 19″ each. Six of these sheets are pairs, so that they make up 3 larger drawings. Registration marks are provided, allowing you to align the sheets properly. Some of the older Woody Joe kits have larger sheets, but I expect that there is a  cost-cutting move to these smaller sheets as they can be printed on a large office laser-printer instead of a dedicated plotter. Given the alignment guides, this shouldn’t be a problem for the builder.

There is one oddity, however, in that the models is about 1/4″ too long for the plans. The result is that the top of the jackstaff at the stern is cut off. This is a minor issue, but it’s a little odd to look at. I don’t it will create a hardship for any builders.

Instructions

The instruction book is extremely well illustrated with steps clearly identified, and lots of color drawings and photos. Being that this is a Japanese kit made for the Japanese market, all the text is in Japanese. This may put off many potential builders outside of Japan. However, if you are an experienced ship modelers, you shouldn’t have any trouble with the instructions. That may not be true of complicated kits of non western-style ships like Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit. But, for the schooners, galleons, clipper ships, yachts, and sailing ships and barks that Woody Joe makes, there’s probably nothing out of the average ship modeler’s experience.

Most of the text in the instructions and plans are labels. There are some instructions, but most are pretty simple in nature. If you look at the example below, Step 8 tells you to use a strip of wood to help you determine the correct bevel of the bulkheads. A close-up of a frame edge highlights the beveled edge. In another example, Step 11 shows you to use alignment marks laser-etched onto the bulwarks piece to get the position correct.

Woody Joe does a good job at “dummy-proofing” the process by putting two alignment marks, one for each edge of the bulkhead, so you would have to go to extreme measures to mess up the step.

The same step also shows you to pre-bend the bulwarks piece with a photo illustrating how you can bend it over a curved surface, like a large bottle, to apply the curve. One suggestion though, make sure you dampen the wood before you try to bend it.

Another piece of advice. Look ahead a step or two, particularly when you see red text in the step your on, to make sure it’s telling you not to glue something in place yet. Sometimes, a part, like the deck in this case, is just used temporarily to aid in alignment. If you look at the next step or two, you’ll notice that the part is no longer in place. That’s a good clue that you’re not supposed to glue that part.

Also, in any red text, look for a step number. If you jump to that step, you may see where the part does get glued into place, helping you get a better handle on the big picture.

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Being that this is a model of a steel hulled vessel, Woody Joe’s method of hull construction is particularly well suited. The stern, in particular, requires a stack of laser-cut blocks that you must file to shape. This works just like bread-and-butter style hull construction, with the blocks pre-defining your contours for you, making it very easy to get exactly the right shape.

My steel-hull comment above refers to the fact that with some models, you want the lines of planking to show. But, this method used the stern block un-planked and flush with the hull planking. On a model of a steel-hulled ship, this is a non-issue, as you want a good smooth surface anyway. And the method results in an accurate hull shape.

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On this model, the deck is not planked. Instead, you are provided with a single laser-scribed sheet, with all the deck planking and waterways already marked for you.

 

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Wood

The wood in the kit is made up of at least three types. The frames are made of some type of plywood that resembles birch; the remaining laser-cut parts and most of the strip woods are Hinoki, or Japanese cypress, a very pleasantly aromatic wood that is stiff and slightly brittle when dry, but bends easily when wet; and some structural parts, such as the stern blocks, are a fine-grained, grayish wood called Ho (I don’t know the western equivalent name).

The laser-cut parts are interesting in that there is almost no char. Either a lot of care has gone into the manufacturing of the kits, or the woods used are thin enough or possess some other quality that makes the laser cutting process easier. Probably, it’s a combination of both, as Woody Joe tends to use parts that are a bit thinner than other manufacturers

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All laser-cut sheets are also laser-scribed so that part numbers are clearly identified on the part or next to it. Woody Joe also makes good use of scribed lines to create alignment guides and beveling guides or, in the case of the deck sheet, the outlines of the planking.

Fittings

As I mentioned before, fittings are well packaged and identified. Each pack is carded, includes the part number and quantity. Note that Woody Joe’s quality control is very good, and I’ve yet to hear of missing pieces. But, if the model calls for 20 turnbuckles, as shown below, that’s exactly what you’ll get. There’s no extras thrown in, so make sure not to lose anything, as it’s not going to be very easy to claim that the kit was just missing a piece.

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Those who don’t like plastic, can easily upgrade these few parts using commercially available fittings. My preference for wooden blocks would be for those made by Syren Ship Model Company. Being that this is a 1960’s steel-hulled schooner, perhaps metal blocks such as those sold by BlueJacket Shipcrafters might be more appropriate.

Cast metal parts are plentiful and the castings are of excellent quality. I’ve had someone ask me about them before and I’d send them photos, and after getting the kit, they told me the photos didn’t do justice to the high quality of the castings. They’re very good.
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There’s also a nice sheet of photo-etched brass parts, some turned brass parts, etc.
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Rigging and Sails

The kit includes three sizes of black line for the standing rigging, and one size of tan line for the running rigging. These are provided on plastic spools, so there’s no worry about your line getting tangled and knotted.

The sails are a stiff cloth, possibly, this is pre-stiffened in some way, as the cloth comes rolled, not folded. The material is printed on one side, and the ink used is a beige color, so the lines of the sail are subtle, as they should be.

Weaknesses in the Kit

Really, this is an excellent looking kit. I think the detail is better than the Kanrin Maru kit that was the first Woody Joe kit I’d ever reviewed. I was actually pretty excited by what I could see of this revised kit when it was released, and I haven’t lost any of my enthusiasm for it when I looked it over in detail.

Wood Joe kits are, however, designed to be relatively easy to build, and there are sometimes simplifications that experience ship modelers might not like. But, these seem to be pretty minor in this kit. In fact, some things that I might consider a weakness, are just a matter of personal taste, like the use of a plastic for the blocks and dinghies.

There is really just one weaknesses that I can see in the Woody Joe kit, and that is that the laser-scribed deck sheet is thin and a little delicate, and will require some care to work with, as I’ve discovered in working with the kit. In particular, the deck is weak along the laser scribed planks. If you run into any issues, I recommend reinforcing the deck by gluing some short wood pieces underneath. Just make sure that they don’t interfere with where the deck rests on the framing. You might even want to do this before you run into any issues.

Less of a weakness, and more just a simplification, is that the way the mizzen sail attaches to its mast. The use of mast hoops are shown, but I believe the real ship doesn’t use mast hoops there, because the spreaders on the mast would interfere with the raising and lowering of the sail. Instead, I believe there is some internal track inside the mast to which the sail attaches. I don’t know how a kit manufacturer would design this in a kit thats supposed to be a fairly easy build. Certainly, just using mast hoops is simple.

Another simplification are the yokes on the ship’s squaresail yards. These are simply made from stamped brass in the Woody Joe kit. This is the same thing they do in their other kits as well. I’ve tried to catch a glimpse in photos on the Internet of what these look like on the real schooner, but I’ve had no luck. I’d probably replace this with something that looks a little more realistic, even if it’s not accurate.

Woody Joe versus Billing Boats

The Woody Joe kit’s of scale of 1:75 is the same as the Billing Boats kit of the same ship. I had hoped to find the Billing Boats kit to do a comparison, but it’s been hard to come by. However, I’m pretty familiar with the Billing Boats offerings and their instructions and plans.

Pricewise, the Woody Joe kit lists for ¥30,000. At this time, that’s about $300. The Billing Boats kit, by contrast, lists for $249 at Ages of Sail, which is the U.S. distributor for Billing Boats.

Having seen other Billing Boats kits, the main comment I can make here is that the packaging of the Billing Boats kits doesn’t even come close to the care taken with the Woody Joe kit. Most Billing Boats kits are put in oversized boxes that are sturdy, but leave the parts to slide around inside, often allowing the heavier wooden parts sheets to potentially damage the bags of fittings. I’ve seen this in many cases, where the parts bags get torn in shipping and small parts fall loose in the box and either slip out of the box or end up damaged.

Also, the parts in a Billing Boats kit are usually just all piled into one bag, requiring you to sift through them to find out what’s what, and to make sure you received everything you’re supposed to.

Both the Woody Joe and the Billing Boats kits offer laser-cut wooden parts, stripwoods for planking, dowels for the masts and spars, rigging line, etc. Both offer turned brass fittings, photo etched brass, as well as some plastic parts. But, one difference is that the only plastic parts in the Woody Joe kit are only the blocks and the two dinghies. The Billings Boats kit provides quite a few detail parts in plastic, including the props, cabin doors, fife rails, binnacles, ladders, boat chocks, anchors, etc. Most of these are either cast metal or laser-cut wood in the Woody Joe kit, which certainly adds to the cost.

However, the Billing Boats kit does have the advantage of including one page of instruction in English. You can check the Billing Boats instructions out for yourself, as they have the instructions on their website and you can download them here.

As for the Woody Joe instructions, simply from the images I posted above, you can see that with any experience, you should be able to build this model just from the numerous color photos and illustrations. And comparing the two brands, Billing Boats gives you 9 pages that have a large black and white, labeled instructional photo or diagrams, many of which simply show you where things go, plus 3 pages of illustrations of the included parts. Woody Joe provides 33 pages that are packed with color photos and illustrations.

That said, I actually do like Billing Boats kits. They seem to do a nice job on overall accuracy of the basic structure of the subject. Where they may be a little lacking in detail, they can be enhanced by a good modeler. And, I for one, am the kind of person that will buy a kit and replace the fittings with ones I like better. So, a cheaper, but accurate kit isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But, if your expectations are high for a kit, and you appreciate quality and want something that will build into a beautiful model with a minimum of fuss, the Woody Joe kit is hard to beat.

You might be able to find the kit sold on Ebay or Amazon, but I recommend purchasing from the Japanese online dealer Zootoyz. Prices are reasonable, and service is very good. Ω

 

HMS Mercury in 1/96 Scale – The Next Paper Model Project

Having completed Shipyard’s HMS Alert kit, it just didn’t feel right to not have a paper model to work on. There’s something about the simplicity of paper that is just too darned cool!

Of course, I have plenty of wooden ship model projects, but it’s nice to have a paper model going in the background. As with other background projects I’ve had in the past, there is no rush to get it done. There’s also nothing that says I have to ever get it done. But, having completed the Alert, I can see taking on another kit and carrying it to completion.

Now, I have Shipyard’s Super Modellar Plans (that’s Shipyard’s spelling, by the way, not mine) for the Santa Leocadia, a Spanish 38-gun frigate in 1/72 scale. The “Super” part of that title means that the plans include the laser-cut frames and some other items to give you a start on the model. However, beyond that, it’s really designed as a scratch build project. That’s something that, as a wooden ship modeler, I can probably do. But, I’m really not looking for something that requires a great deal of thought and planning time. I’d rather just go with a kit that I can just follow along and build.

There are the “Laser Cardboard Series” of ship model kits, which are boxed sets and include cast resin figurehead and scrollwork, turned brass cannons, wooden dowels for masts, pre-cut sail cloth, etc. Those kits are really nice and are in a larger 1/72 scale.

However, I already have a paper model kit on hand that I bought more than a year ago. It is Shipyard’s 1/96 scale HMS Mercury kit.

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Like most of the other paper model kits, this one comes with color printed parts that have to be cut out. Also, like most of these kits, the internal framework comes already laser cut, so getting started is very easy (note that HMS Victory and HMS Endeavour are notable exceptions and you have to build-up the framework parts and cut them out before you can assemble them).

The most daunting thing about this kit is the rigging. HMS Alert had only one mast with two yardarms. HMS Mercury is considerably more complex. I considered this, but also have been an admirer of British admiralty models, which show the ships at launch. Such a ship is now fitted out and has no masts and hence no rigging. Instead, poles were erected with large decorative admiralty flags. So, looking at this kit, I thought, what better kit to use for an admiralty style model.

Of course, there’s a long way to go before I come to that fork in the road. By that time, I may just be itching to build the masts and add rigging and sails!

Lots of parts...

Lots of parts!

And even more parts...

Another view of the parts.

In any case, we’re looking here at a 28-gun Enterprize-class sixth-rate frigate. At 1/96 scale, the model, rigged, is about 26 inches long. That’s a pretty small model, really. I know a lot of ship modelers won’t build at that small scale. That’s one of the reasons I’m considering the admiralty-style model.

For those who want an easier model, but like the subject, Shipyard makes a boxed edition of this same model, but it comes with all the parts laser cut, and it’s in a more comfortable 1/72 scale. But, since I’m just a paper model beginner, and it’s a lot more expensive, I figured I’d work on the 1/96 scale paper model kit. It means a lot of cutting of small parts, but there’s no rush.

Here are the first stages of my build, assembling the pre-cut framework…

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That was the easiest part of the kit and took a very short time to get this far. If you’re trying this CUT the parts out, don’t ever try to punch them out or you’ll tear or tweak something out of shape.

The whole thing “dry fits” together very easily. Once everything looks straight and twist-free, then it can be glued together. I used fast drying CA instant glue. You only have to touch it to the parts and it wicks right into the joints. With thicker glue, you risk bumping a piece out of place. So, I save the thicker stuff for other assemblies.

I’ll use Aileen’s Tacky Glue, DAP Weldwood contact cement, Elmer’s white glue, or slow cure CA depending on the application.

After the framework is assembled, the partial inner deck is put in place and the hull “skin” is added. This is the first of the layers that will cover the hull. With more layers, the hull takes on a more naturally smooth shape. Afterwards, the pre-printed deck pieces are cut out and, one of the features that separates the Shipyard kits from most wooden ship model kits, the great cabin  detail begins with the checkerboard pattern floor covering.

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Later, the partitions and knees are built up and put in place to provide interior detail and support for the bulwarks.

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Finally, here’s a glimpse of the instructions that show you what goes where. Note the numbers that indicate how thick each piece must be built up to. It’s all a kind of code with almost no written out text. Mostly, build in general order of the part numbers and put the parts where you see them in the instruction sheets.

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I hope others reading this will find inspiration rather than intimidation. This is actually a very easy building process, it just takes time. So… “Just keep swimming…”, “put one foot in front of the other…”, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!”

 

Bay Area Ship Modelers’ Group Build – Amati’s Swedish Gunboat

It’s not enough that I belong to two long-standing Bay Area ship model clubs, the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights and the South Bay Model Shipwrights, but a couple years back, I got together with a couple local people I met on the ship modeling forums and we started a quarterly get-together that mostly meets at the Naval and Historical Museum in Vallejo, California.

Recently, a couple of us discussed the merits of having us all, or at least a group of us, working on the same kit, but each person with his own model. The idea was that we could better discuss techniques and problem solving if we were all dealing with the same issues at, more or less, the same time.

Being that physical location of the ship model store and distributor Ages of Sail is pretty local to all of us, we decided to go with an fairly simple, inexpensive kit they carry by Amati. Part of the decision was price based and availability of enough for all involved in the project. There were a couple ideas in the running, but we ended up agreeing to work on Amati’s Swedish Gunboat kit, sometimes listed in Italian as Cannoniera Svedese – 1775.

Amati's Swedish Gunboat kit

Amati’s Swedish Gunboat kit

It’s a fairly small model with single plank-on-bulkhead construction, simple armament, a light amount of rigging and sails. The completed model measures just under 14″ in length. Though it’s not actually listed anywhere, according to an email from Amati (and thanks to ship modeler Bill Bunderson for contacting them about it) the scale is roughly 1/50.

Here’s a peek at the components of the kit, which sells for $109 at Ages of Sail.

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Our group bought five of the kits and officially started construction and had our first build meeting just about 2 weeks ago.

Some interesting things about this kit is that it is single planked using beech wood strips. Also, you have to be really good at working with basic drawings as the one sheet of plans is all the instruction you get in the kit. As we’re discovering, if you’ve built ship models before, this seems to be pretty much a non-issue. Of course, it helps to be involved in a group build as you can discuss everything with other group members.

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Looking at half the plans sheet

As for accuracy, there are a few small details that I’m questioning, like the mini capstan located immediately behind the foremast, but as we have been researching the subject on the Internet, much of the design seems to be fairly reasonable.

So far, I would say this is a neat kit of an interesting subject and is working out great as the subject of our group build. Also, the dynamics of everyone working on the same kit is definitely inspiring and I think we’re all learning something from the project.

For one thing, I learned how to create an online forum (it’s a private forum just for this group project) using tools available from my web hosting service, Godaddy.

In terms of history, I knew nothing about Sweden, her Archipelago fleet, her war with Russia, any of her naval engagements or, finally, anything about her gunboats. So, this has been quite enlightening. I don’t know how accurate this kit is. But, it’s been a fun and interesting build, and I’m really glad we decided to do this.

I’ll post updates as we go. Stay tuned!

Writing about the Occre Buccaneer

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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.

Tosa Wasen – Japanese Fishing Boat Kit – A First Look

With the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I’d been home a lot except for one day, Friday. Naturally, that’s the day the postal carrier showed up with the package from Japan. With nobody home to sign for it, I had to wait the extra day to pick up the kit. Fortunately, the Post Offices are still open on Saturdays, so in short order, I had the package.

The kit is not all that heavy, about 1-1/2 pounds, but it’s in a long box. I think this kicked the shipping cost up a bit, which was just about $30. Still, a ship model kit, particularly one this rare, for around $170 total, is not bad. That’s just about what I paid for the Woody Joe Hacchoro and the Yakatabune kits I bought from Zootoyz.

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Having ordered through Amazon Japan, the only seller of the kit did not ship internationally, so I had it sent to someone that then re-shipped it for me from Japan and they didn’t charge me any service fees. He’s done this twice for me and I don’t want to impose on him any further. There are companies specifically set up to forward packages from Japan. I just finished setting up an account with one called Tenso.com. Next time, I’ll try them out.

By the way, it looks like I may have been wrong about this kit being out of production. I thought it was no longer manufactured because the company that makes it, Thermal Studios, primarily makes large model glider kits and doesn’t list the Tosa Wasen kit at all. However, I emailed them about it and if we understood each other correctly, they produce the kit. Perhaps it’s more of a local item since they are apparently close to Tosa, Japan, and seem to have some kind of connection with the Tosa Traditional Boat Society.

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The kit itself is basically made up entirely of several laser cut sheets, plus a small bag with various kinds of parts, some other separate laser cut and milled wooden parts, instruction booklet, plan sheet, and even a sanding block.

 

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The laser cut sheets are made from Sugi (that’s “Sue” plus “Gee” with a hard “G”) or Japanese cedar, just like the real Tosa boats. Sugi is aromatic, though not as strong as the Hinoki used in so many Woody Joe kits. The parts are laser etched with Japanese characters to identify them. This probably makes locating parts a little more time consuming than if they were numbered. But, it’s just a matter of pattern matching.

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The bag of parts contains all the milled wood parts, all short pieces. Also in the parts bag is the metal anchor, the anchor rope, metal rings and fastener. The kit also includes a roll of yellow hobby masking tape, and for some reason, some plastic applicator tips used for applying CA glue.

 

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As expected, the instruction booklet is all in Japanese. The black and white printed book is 26 pages long and includes a parts diagram on the back cover, showing all the laser cut parts on their sheets. The diagram is pretty small and you really need a magnifying glass to read it. But, magnified, the part identifiers all appear to be readable. Instructions are divided up into 41 steps, with each step being clearly illustrated and each looking to be pretty simple steps.

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Time will tell if the Japanese text printed in the booklet is really necessary or if the model can be built solely by the drawings. But, in addition to the booklet, there is also on large plan sheet that gives a nice overview of the boat at full scale, which, by the way, is 1/10 scale.

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Overall, this looks like a really nice kit and it’s not that expensive. An additional bonus is that the  manufacturer, Thermal Studios, created a blog showing photos of the construction steps. This is really nice because it reinforces the written/printed instructions, giving you another view of the steps. Also, using Bing or Google translators, you can view the blog pages in English (or whatever your native language). This isn’t great as the translation can be pretty questionable, but it often helps.

Thermal Studio’s Building a Wasen Blog

Having attended Douglas Brooks‘ talk at the NRG conference this past October, and having been reading through his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, I can say that this kit looks very authentic and true to the way that the traditional Japanese shipwrights would have actually constructed their boats.

This kit would make an ideal study project for someone who is interested in following the work described in Mr. Brooks’ book. Personally, I’ve been planning on scratch building the Urayasu Bekabune that he discusses in his book. I think that building this kit first will help me a long ways towards understanding Japanese boatbuilding so that I can next attempt that scratch project.

 

Mini-Yakatabune kit by Woody Joe – The Finished Model

A little while back, I wrote a post about working on some projects while out of town (What Does a Ship Modeling Fool Do When Out of Town). One of those projects was the Mini-Yakatabune kit from Woody Joe of Japan. Well, I added some finishing touches and finished up the model recently. These were mostly little modifications to the kit, which I though added a little realism.

Keeping in mind the Mini-Yakatabune kit is designed to be easy to build, there are some small details that were left off in the design. Mostly, these are rigging lines that aren’t really necessary, but certainly add realism to the final model. In addition, to make construction easier, in place of very thin and fragile dowels, the kit provides brass rod.

Being used to working with very tiny, fragile parts, I replaced the brass rod with thin wooden dowels that I reduced down to size using a jeweler’s drawplate.

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Drawplate from Byrnes Model Machines.

Close up showing the dowels in place of brass rod.

Close up showing the dowels in place of brass rod. Small rope coil at bow.

I ended up with a long piece of dowel left over and so I just trimmed it to a reasonable length and used it to represent a bamboo pole used to help push the boat along shallow water and at the shore.

The rigging was a little trickier since it’s such a small model, but mostly, the issue is the delicate nature of the model. First off, I coiled up a tiny piece of line and laid it down at the bow. It’s pretty small, so it doesn’t look like much more than a blob. From building the larger Yakatabune model, I was aware of a line used for raising the rudder. As was pointed out to me by another ship modeler who built his kit before I built mine, there is a hole in the rudder, but the instructions show no reason for it. The line then tied at this hole and the ends of the line reach up and tie around the support beam above it.

 

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Again from the larger Woody Joe kits I was aware that in early days, the two pieces of the oar, called a “Ro” in Japanese, had a piece of rope wrapped around the joint. That was a pretty easy addition. The tougher addition was a loop of line tied down to the deck, that went over the handle of the oar. This required me to fashion a loop in the end of a line inserted into a small hole that I drilled into the deck. The loop then slips over the handle that sticks up out of the oar. To reinforce the placing of the oar, I inserted a small piece of brass wire into the oar, which fits down into a small hole I drilled into the oar’s support beam.

Finally, I figured this tiny model is going to get knocked over on someone’s shelf, so I first glues some thin brass rods into the base and drill corresponding holes in the bottom of the model. This keeps the model removable from the base, but it sits securely on the base. I then decided to cut a thin sheet of cherry wood to mount the whole thing on.

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Version 2

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Somehow, I managed to lose the silhouette figure that’s supposed to stand at the oar handle, but the model looks pretty complete as is and I think it will be a very appreciated gift.

As I mentioned before, the basic model kit was essentially completed in a single day. Added details took me a little longer to complete. Overall, this was a really fun kit to build and I found the results to be really nice. I even went so far as to buy two more kits to make into gifts.

Those interested in building the kit, remember that the instructions are in Japanese only. The instructions are very well illustrated and the kit goes together very easily, so the language shouldn’t be an issue. Just remember that any wood that you need to bend needs to be dampened first. Also, there are a lot of very delicate laser-cut parts. Cut away through the tabs that hold the pieces in the sheets, but make sure to remove the knife blade from the sheet before trying to remove the wood from the sheet. Don’t skip steps. And, since these kits are only available from Japan, don’t expect to find/get replacement parts. So, be extra careful not to break or lose anything!

If you’re interested in buying a kit, and if you’ve read this far I really think you should, I recommend ordering from the online hobby dealer Zootoyz.jp. Prices are good, shipping is reasonable, and service is excellent. Ω

An Inside Look at Shipyard’s HMS Wolf Laser Cardboard Kit

Recently, Ages of Sail, the importer I’ve been doing some work for this past year, has gotten in a new shipment of card or paper model kits from Shipyard of Poland. The most recent significant addition is the boxed Laser Cardboard Series kit HMS Wolf, 1752, and I managed to take a look at the product and get some photos so you can get a better look at what’s included in this kit.

First off, HMS Wolf was a snow-rigged brig of war, meaning she carried two square-rigged masts, with an auxiliary mast attached to the back of the mainmast that carries the boom and gaff of the spanker sail. The ship was armed with 10 guns.

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The Shipyard kit is produced in 1/72 scale and measures about 20.5″ long overall. As with all Laser Cardboard Series kits, the boxed kit has all card stock parts laser cut. Colorful hull decorations are nicely printed on high quality paper, but the bulk of the parts are on plain white card stock, so the model must be painted. For that, the manufacturer includes several jars of nice quality acrylic paint and a pair of brushes.

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Parts are neatly stored, while all the instructions, drawings and laser-cut sheets are kept safely underneath.

 

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Blocks are also the same laser-cut blocks that Shipyard sells separately. These are paper and have to be assembled and painted. The low-level relief carvings are laser etched card stock, and look pretty nice. And, of course, the heart of the kit are the several sheets of laser-cut parts. Having been working on a paper model kit where all the parts have to be cut by hand, the sight of these precisely cut and detailed parts just makes me drool.

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But, not all paper modeling is necessarily done in paper. For one thing, wooden dowels are included for making the masts and spars, and a set of cloth sails are included as well, though as with individually available sail set for the their Paper Model series kits, these sails are pre-printed and laser cut, so no cutting or sewing is required. Another big time saver of these boxed edition kits are the pre-made brass cannon and swivel gun barrels, which are not only pre-made, saving time and effort, but they’re beautifully turned from brass.

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One of the big features of the Laser Cardboard Series kits is that low-relief carvings are made from laser-etched card stock, the figurehead and some of the larger carvings are fully 3D rendered in cast resin. Other parts included in the kit are rigging line, wire for making eyebolts and chainplates and such, clear acrylic for the gallery windows, and colorfully printed cloth flags.

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But, maybe the biggest thing that differentiates the boxed kit from its smaller Paper Model Series cousin (HMS Wolf is available as a 1/96-scale pre-printed card model kit where you have to cut all the parts out yourself) is the full-color, 32-page, photo-filled instruction book. This is in addition to the 7 double-sided sheets of drawings.

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The new HMS Wolf kit joins the ranks of Shipyard’s boxed kits, which includes the cutter HMS Alert, Schooner Berbice, French lugger Le Coureur, the Santa Maria, the Dutch built Swedish pinnace Papegojan, and the frigate HMS Mercury. Though about less 40% smaller than the HMS Mercury, HMS Wolf is the second largest of the Shipyard kits. It’s less complicated rig and much lower price point than HMS Mercury should make it a popular kit. Having dabbled in card modeling myself, I can say that this kit is on my definite build list. Ω

New Yakatabune Mini-Kit from Woody Joe

 

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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 Zootoyz.jp. 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

 

 

Ship Model Kits for Kids

One topic I see pop up from time to time in online ship model forums and in ship model club meetings is how to get kids involved in ship modeling. There is a lot of lamenting about how kids today aren’t interested at all and how that paints a bleak future for ship modeling.

I personally am not too worried about getting kids building ship models because, as a kid, I was never interested in ship models. I liked tanks, modern ships, aircraft and rockets. My own dad tried to get me into his area of interest, wooden airplanes. I tried building one on one or two occasions, but it never stuck with me, as much as he tried. Plastic kits were in my blood.

My interest in wooden ship models didn’t take hold until I was in my 30s and was as much a surprise to me as anyone. childhood friends I’d reconnected with were truly surprised by the shift. I’ve looked around and seen that many others also made the leap only in later years. So, it doesn’t surprise me that kids don’t take to it so much. Still, it’s always good to expose kids to ship modeling early, so they can develop an appreciation, even if they don’t take up building right away.

One way to get kids exposed to ship modeling is through really simple models they can build quickly and easily. And, today, I ran across a couple kits on the shelves over at Ages of Sail. At first, the kid kits seemed like crummy little kits that are simplified and uninteresting. But, then I’d realized I was looking at it from an experienced ship modeler’s perspective, and not as someone really looking to get kids building something that they might find fun to build.

These kits by Billing Boats are two of four available kits designed for young builders. They have goofy names, like Lobsy, Tuggy and Jolly, but maybe that’s not a turn-off for the intended audience, which is kids 8 years and older. The most advanced is the Mini-Oseberg, which is for kids 10 and older.

At present, there is only Lobsy and the Mini-Oseberg in stock, so I took those out to look them over. All of the kits are simplified to a flat-bottom design and are of basic sheet-wood construction. There is no planking and detail is very simple, so they really should be easy builds. The completed models are touted as floatable, so kids can play with them when they’re done – Something that I think has a lot of appeal for kids as it gives them more incentive to build it.

Of course, if you’re going to put them in water (well, that is, if you’re KIDS are going to put them in water), it would be best to give them a good sealing coat of some kind. Perhaps sprayed with a good coat of primer that can then be painted over by the kids using some kind of non-toxic acrylic paints. Midwest makes a nice little set that Would work well for this.

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The Lobsy kit looks pretty good actually. It’s very simple in design and gives a kid a chance to glue a little, paint a little, and maybe apply a little wood stain possibly. The hardest part of the build looks to be the adding of the hull sides to the hull bottom. The kit is almost entire thin plywood, which is strong, but stiff. Adult assistance is very likely to be required, at least to teach the child how to soften the wood with water prior to bending, and maybe how to use a building board and nails to help hold the assembly together as it dries.

Beyond that, this might provide a youngster with the opportunity to be creative with the boat’s paint job, etc. For an affordable $13, I think this kit would be ideal for a ship model club to use to introduce kids to ship modeling. I’m going to bring this up with the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights group. Being that our workshop is at the S.F. Maritime National Historic Park, we could easily do some kind of program for kids one day, or maybe over the course of a month.

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The other kit is the Viking ship, the Mini Oseberg, which is somewhat more complicated in that it has a lot more parts, and includes a sail that must be painted and rigged. Accordingly, the age range on that kit is ages 10 and up. But, older kids should love the viking ship with its sides studded with shields, which by the way are injection-molded plastic. The box art shows planking lines, but these don’t come with the kit, as far I could tell without opening up the bag of parts. But the planking should easily be drawn right onto the sheet wood parts.

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The Mini Oseberg kit lists at $20. Certainly the box is bigger and there are more parts, but I don’t know if it’s really as good as value as the Lobsy kit. That probably doesn’t matter so much given how much more appealing the idea of a viking ship with sail probably is to a youngster.

I’m looking forward to seeing the other kits in this lineup, and I’ll post more info about them when I do. In the meantime, these kits aren’t on the Ages of Sail website yet, but you can purchase these kits from their Billing Boat USA site.