Category Archives: My General Blog

The Rope: Photo Gallery of the 42nd Exhibition 2017

The Japanese ship model society, The Rope, has a marvelous website that includes a Gallery of photos of each of their annual exhibitions for the last 8 years and beyond. If you’re a ship modeler, you’ll find some wonderfully inspiring work. But, beware, you might also see some models that will destroy your ego, make you crawl into a corner, and want to take up knitting.

Here’s a link to the 42nd Exhibition held earlier this year:展示会作品集/第42回展-2017年/第42回展-1-4/#42-03

If you don’t read Japanese, you can find links to other exhibitions, download copies of their newsletter on their English language section here:


New Tool Additions – Mini Block Plane and Carving Chisels

I don’t really write about tools much. I know a lot more about ship models than tools. But, I  acquired a few new tools that I thought I’d share here.

Miniature Block Plane

A few weeks ago, I was looking through a Lee Valley Tools catalog. They’re a Canadian based manufacturer and retailer of woodworking and wood restoration hardware. I get their catalog periodically after a fellow ship modeler recommended one of their products.

One thing that I’ve been trying to do more in ship modeling is using a plane in shaping square stock for masts and spars. But, regular hand planes seem overly large and bulky. There are razor planes made for hobbyists, but they are pretty low quality and I haven’t found them to be very useful in ship modeling work. Then, I spotted some miniature planes in the Lee Valley Tools catalog and decided to order one.

This is a miniature block plane from their own Veritas® line of tools. How miniature is it? Continue reading

My First Youtube Video

Yesterday, I created my first Youtube video, and I really like the way it turned out. It’s not about ship modeling, but it IS about a project that I posted about on this site. Also, it’s not exactly a movie, it’s more of a slide show, but it’s a start. The subject is the construction of the recently completed Japanese shrine kit that I got from Woody Joe (purchased from earlier this year.

It turns out that it was easy to use Youtube’s video editor. It was almost identical to the way Apple’s iMovie software, which I’m quite familiar with.

The slideshow I made isn’t perfect, but it makes the build look really good being presented with cross-fades to a nice musical score.

Hopefully, people are okay with the music. I personally get really sick of those modern canned scores that are most common with these Youtube videos. I did use one of the stock music scores, but, being particularly sensitive to them, I spent a LONG time listening to different pieces. It’s a bit limiting, looking for music that will fit a shinto shrine project. But, I think the music works okay. At least it has the sound of some Shakuhachi, Koto and Shamisen.

I promise this won’t be my last effort. This has inspired me to look at other projects to see what I have enough decent photos of that would be interesting to see in a similar slideshow format. Most of those look to be the Japanese models I’ve built in the last few years.

In the future, maybe I’ll try to do an actual video, but I usually find those boring, so it will be a major effort for me if I do try it.

Anyway, I’d be happy to hear from anyone with suggestions. Please check it out.

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.

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

My Projects Update

While I’ve been working on the Japanese shrine model this past week, I’ve hit a minor snag. What I thought was an adhesive backing on some wood veneer turns out to be simply a lining to keep the thin wood from falling apart. I can’t tell what it is, if it’s a shiny, slick kind of paper, or if it’s plastic. I sent a question about it to my contact at Woody Joe and, in the meantime, I’m testing out how well wood glue adheres to it on some scrap material. One way or the other, I should know tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m finishing up the rigging and final details on the Colonial Schooner Independence model. Mostly, I’m dealing with rope coils now. So, it was quite fortuitous that the latest newsletter from the Midwest Model Shipwrights of Chicago, The Forecastle Report, had a nice article on making rope coils by Bob Filipowski.

I’m also trying to push forward with a rigging project for a friend, and of course there is the HMS Victory model I’ve been working on for the past few years.

On top of all that, I managed to land a very good, short term repair job project for the Bear Creek Visitor Center at Pt. Reyes Station, which is part of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco.

The project is to do some basic repair work to a large and rather unusual model of the Gold Hind built by the late Raymond Akers back in the 1950s. The model is a cutaway that has been designed to display up close against a wall. As such, the model is uniquely made so that the width of the ship has been scaled down. It is designed to be only viewed directly from the side.

Raymond Akers’ Golden Hind model.

I’ll be driving up there in about a week to do some preliminary work. The bulk of the work has to be done on-site at the end of the month, and I’ll be spending a couple days there to get it all done. It’s a nice short-term project that involves mostly small rigging repair and a little cleaning. It’s an honor to be able to work on Mr. Akers’ model, and it will be nice to be doing some work for the National Park Service. It’s especially nice that it’s a pretty self-contained project that won’t last beyond this month.

In the meantime, I’ve been missing doing research, which is really my favorite task in ship modeling. I’m just a researcher at heart. So, I’ve been digging up my Japanese boat resources and doing translations and such, trying to figure out what a good model subject will be. It’s difficult to decide since there is some information available about a lot of different kinds of boats, but not a lot on any one in particular.

The exception are boats that are the subject of Douglas Brooks’ work. The thing about those, is that they are fairly simple boat designs, but have some very fine details. So, I can build small versions of those, but they end up a bit too simple to look at. I could build them in a large scale, like 1/10, but then the details are about nail positions, tenons, mortises, etc., and I’m not very good at those things. I’m better at the larger details, like planks, beams, decking, and other structural details.

Two subjects I’m considering now an Amibune, which is a subject that Douglas Brooks had been studying, so I have access to measurements and some photos. The other is to model the Senzanmaru, which is a Kujirabune, a type of fast whale boat. I can make a generic Kujirabune, but it would be interesting to model the Senzanmaru itself and to paint it like the actual boat.

The Senzanmaru (千山丸) at Tokushima Castle Museum.

I’ve been studying the design of this boat through a book and drawings I purchased from a museum shop in Toba, Japan. Some of the small details I’m still not sure I understand. I could do a smaller scale model, which would overlook some of those details, but I’m tempted to do something large enough, maybe as large as 1/10 scale, that would allow me to try to make an impressive looking model, complete with colorful painting and banners.

For the next couple weeks, at least, I’ll probably continue to gather info on the Senzanmaru and Kujirabune and Amibune, until I find I have enough to do a reasonable build.

In the meantime, I got my Japanese boat models back from the last display in Japantown and have some minor repair work to do. I also have my Kamakura period Umibune back now and can continue working on it. I did managed to finish some important detail on the roof of the main deckhouse, but there are a number of other details I’ll be adding. I’ll write more about that on my wasen modeler site.

Finally, I never sent my article in to Ships in Scale on the building of the paper model of the HMS Alert. I’ll give it another read-through, but last time, I thought I should write a section on paper modeling in general. We’ll see how it feels when I re-read it. If it feels okay, I’ll just go ahead and mail it in, and maybe it will show up in the magazine by the end of the year or early next year. Ω


Changes to this Site

My apologies to those who follow this blog site or make periodic visits. You’re probably wondering why everything is so screwey. Things keep moving, titles keep changing, menus are all different or missing…

Well, I decided that it’s time to do some reorganizing and Spring cleaning. Part of this was prompted by the need to add a new menu so that I could separate any non-ship model related work, like the Shinmei-zukuri shrine kit I recently started to build. Plus, there are 3 other non-ship model kits in the closet and one completed castle I wrote about a couple years ago.

Also, I discovered that there have been some problems with this site, again brought to light when I started that shrine model kit. For some reason, it was showing up in my ship modeling news, even though I specifically have it categorized as a non-ship model. There are other issues that I’m starting to butt up against with this WordPress site. Though I have to say that this system has really made it relatively easy to manage a website like this.

Obviously, I still have some studying to do to better understand all the functions, but I’m very happy with it. I’ve been using the free version too, but I think that’s going to have to change so I can get some help from the WordPress staff on some issues. They helped me on another site I work on and they were a great help. As a bonus, the occasional unrelated ads that you see here should also disappear.

In any case, please bear with me as I do some reorganizing here. If you want to provide any feedback on the site and its organization, please feel free. Let me know what you think. Just use the comments feature on any page to send your thoughts. They won’t appear on the site, but I’ll get them.

Thank you!

New Japanese Models Distraction

This week was like Christmas here, as a shipment of Japanese wooden model kits arrived from Zootoyz, my recommended Japanese online hobby dealer. Four model kits came, and none of them are ship model kits. I decided I needed some nice gift ideas, so I found a number of Woody Joe kits that I can build and present as gifts to my Japanese music teacher, and my family and friends.

I have a lot of ship modeling projects to work on, so I don’t expect to spend a lot of time working on these right away. But, half of these are very simple mini-architectural kits that Woody Joe lists as taking about 8 hours to complete. Perfect for a small weekend distraction!

Teahouse Mini-Architecture Kit

Continue reading