Category Archives: My General Blog

Shipmodeling during the COVID-19 crisis

When I started to compose this post, people in my area were voluntarily staying home and practicing social distancing. Events across the Bay Area were being canceled, and, being part of a Japanese music and dance performing group, we were particularly affected by this, as we are quickly approaching Cherry Blossom season, our busiest time of the year.

But that was a whole week ago, before the Bay Area shelter in place order was given and then more recently, the statewide order. The cancelation of all these events seems trivial now as everyone is forced to mostly stay at home. Other states are also issuing similar orders, so we’re almost all facing the same situation.

I hope everyone out there stays safe and healthy and, if you’re getting bored at home, there’s always ship modeling.

I see that Model Expo is closed down due to the coronavirus now. But, Ages of Sail has a huge inventory of ship model kits, fittings, and supplies, and is still shipping, but they’ve closed their show room in San Lorenzo, CA, so orders are only by mail. For those looking for specific kits, particularly the more popular ones, I understand that they will become increasingly difficult to find, as shipments out of Europe are heavily affected.

For me, I have a backlog of projects, that I hope to be able to work on, now that work is so slow. For the blog here, I’m going to finish up the Dana next. Also, there is Woody Joe’s Kitamaebune model that I’ve been posting on the companion site that is pretty far along now, and some other loose ends that need attending to, which I’d like to deal with before long.

Hopefully, we’ll all get through these times and get back to work, but why not have a little fun with some ship modeling in the meantime?


This is a Battle of Trafalgar Diorama???

I’m usually writing to promote ship modeling and products made for ship modelers. After all, the more promotion of the subject and more support for the manufacturers, the more interesting projects we’ll find to build. So, I was looking at some of the offerings by the Spanish wooden model company, Disar. They make some okay stuff, and recently, I’ve noticed some much nicer products coming from them.

The kits they produce seem to have decent wood with fittings stored in compartmentalized plastic box that is actually useful, long after the model is complete. Their instructions are pretty complete and in step-by-step photos style, and many of the subjects they produce are fairly unique – not just another HMS Victory or Bounty, etc.

I started looking through their downloadable product catalog for some information on them, and for those of you interested in buying their kits, they don’t sell them on their website, but you can get them from Ages of Sail and elsewhere. But, it was while looking through their catalog that I found something that made me laugh.

I found a diorama kit labeled The Battle of Trafalgar. The famous battle that saw the victory of the British fleet, but the death of Admiral Lord Nelson. the battle saw lines of French and Spanish 3-decker warships cut by the British lines. The classic, epic battle of sailors fighting from behind wooden floating fortresses. So, I’m not sure that this is a very good representation of that famous battle…


In addition, they offered The Battle of the Nile diorama. Again, a famous battle which saw a victorious  British fleet was commanded by Nelson. But, again, I’m not sure who thought this was a good representation of that battle either…

Now, it might have happened, but I can’t understand the point of a ship’s boat battling with an enemy ship’s boat while the massive warships were engaged in battle. I mean, if you were in this scene, and you sank or captured the other ship’s boat, who would really care? It wouldn’t have affected the overall battle in any way, except maybe preventing the enemy from pickup up their own survivors from the sea.

I guess it’s an interesting product for someone, but I would recommend not trying to link it to one of these major battles. I think what’s best about it is the idea it suggests of putting a small boat model into a diorama. It’s a neat idea and dioramas are always fun to look at. Ω


2019 Wooden Boat Festival Follow-Up

I recently got back from the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington, and it was a very long drive, so I’ve been spending some time recovering and not blogging. It was a great experience though, with a very supportive event staff and many, many appreciative visitors. The event took place over three days in September by the Northwest Maritime Center, and has apparently been going on every year since 1977.

I made the long drive up from home, staying overnight at my sister’s home in Shelton, Washington. From the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a 14-hour drive in my car loaded with models of Japanese traditional boats, plus tools and supplies to demonstrate model construction. Luckily, everything arrived safely.

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Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, Sept 6-8, 2019

The Port Townsend Wooden Boat festival is coming up this weekend, and I’m headed up to Washington state tomorrow for a long, long drive, to display a number of models of Japanese traditional boats the whole weekend inside the boat shop.

I’ll also be demoing construction of 1/20 and 1/10 scale models of a rice field boat from the area of Himi, a small town in western Toyama prefecture on the Japan Sea coast. I’ll be working on some other models too, since I’ll be there for three days.

Here’s a link to some of the info on the Himi rice field boat that boatbuilder Douglas Brooks built for the Himi museum:

Mr. Brooks held a workshop in Port Towsend last week in which students spent several days learning to build a Japanese-style river boat using traditional tools and techniques. That boat will be on display at the festival, and there will be a small shinto ceremony followed by a boat launching ceremony on Sunday, preceded by a taiko drum performance by Seatle-based group, School of Taiko.

At the boat launching, your’s truly has been roped into leading a lively mast-raising song (yes, not a sail raising song – we’re talking Japanese here) called Hobashira Okoshi Ondo with some call and answer audience participation. Hopefully, I won’t screw it up, but you never know… 🤨

For details on the festival, check out the following link:

If you’re in the area and have a chance to visit the festival, please stop by and say hello! Ω

Building Woody Joe’s Horyu-ji Temple Five-Story Pagoda – Part 4

Being primarily a ship modeler, I set this project aside for a while. Part of the problem was that I’d discovered that I was missing one small set 4 parts, all the same. There are a lot of parts in this kit and they are well packaged and labeled, but it took a while to go through and check and re-check and then to figure out exactly how the part was shaped and how it fit on the model.

The pieces are parts of the lower roof and cover the corner joints. Outwardly, they just look like simple wood strips, but they need to be groved on the underside in order to sit down on those corner joints. Also, they need to be thicker than the other roof boards to allow for the groove.

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My Latest Tool Addition – Cameo 3 Vinyl Cutter

Last week, I received a new addition to my ship modeling tools. This one is a little more specialized that many that I have. It’s a Silhouette Cameo 3 vinyl cutting machine.

The unit is software controlled, and connects to a computer, in my case, a Mac. The software is a free download from the maker’s website and it’s actually a bit more sophisticated than I expected. Upgraded versions of the software, called Silhouette Studio, provide more specialized features, including the ability to import files from other programs, such as Adobe Illustrator and others.

These desktop vinyl cutters are basically the size of a computer printer and are essentially glorified plotters (if you remember those), with a blade mounted instead of a pen. It is capable of cutting vinyl, paper, cardboard, and various other similar materials.

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Preventing Glue Spills

Last week, I got fed up with knocking over little bottles of CA glue and finally tried to do something about it.

I’ve been using these small 1/2 oz. bottles of BSI brand cyanoacrylate glue (i.e. super glue), and I’ve found that they are very easy to knock over. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that I find the vapor inside the bottles seem to be very sensitive to heat, and expand easily when warmed. If left open, the resulting pressure increase manages to push the glue out and into a puddle on the workbench.

One thing I started to do was to keep the glues in the base of a small compartmentalized parts box. This works, but you have to keep the parts box nearby at all times when using the glue.

Recently, I left a bottle out on the bench and didn’t realize that I’d knocked it over. When I noticed it, it was too late and there was a hard puddle of thick CA glue on the bench top. So, I thought I’d try something different. I cut some small rectangles of some acrylic I had on hand and used some 3M double-sided tape to stick them onto the bottoms of the glue bottles.

You can see in the above photo that I can tip by the bottle a ways now without it knocking over. Of course, if I do manage to knock it over, the bottle will be tipped down at an angle, so that might empty the bottle completely. Still, I’m willing to risk that, as any glue spills are bad and I’m hoping this will help in eliminating them.

If you have any better ideas, please let me know. Ω


Sailing Bark Uniòn in San Francisco, April 26-28

The Peruvian 4-masted bark Uniòn will be sailing into San Francisco harbor early Friday morning to dock at Pier 17 where it will be open to visitors all weekend. The steel-hulled ship measures 378-feet overall and is reportedly the largest sailing ship in Latin America. It’s a relatively new vessel, having been commissioned just over 3 years ago.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the ship will be open for visitors on Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

You can read the Chronicle’s article on the ship here. There are some great photos from the ship’s San Diego visit in a blog here. For facts about the ship, check out the Wikipedia entry. Ω

Clare’s Pre-Springtime Update

It’s not officially Spring for another month, but after quite a bit of rainy weather, it’s a sunny day and the birds are happily flitting around the trees in the back yard, and my cat, Sierra, is eying them with glee. While I’m dreading the discovery of feathers all over the house, I thought it was time to provide an update on all the goings on in my ship modeling world.

HMS Victory and Clipper Ship rigging are still dragging along. Actually, these have both been at a standstill for a while due mostly to my work schedule and workspace constraints. But, they do progress a little in small spurts. I expect to be putting more effort into those shortly.

In the meantime, my Japanese boat display has one more week to run at the display window of the Union Bank’s community room in the Japan Center East Mall. I’m not so keen on all those models coming back home as I’ve kind of grown accustomed to having the extra space here.

Since my update last Spring, I’ve completed my Kamakura period trade boat and have partially completed a Kobaya, a small row galley of the Shōgun’s government, and have been developing drawings and models of a Tenma-zukuri chabune, a small cargo lighter. Being a follower of the work of boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, I’ve also tinkered with a 1/10-scale model of a Sado Island “tub boat”. These are all scratch projects. On the kit side of the world of Japanese traditional boats is the Woody Joe kit of the Kitamaebune, which you’ve probably seen posts about recently. Continue reading

At the 2018 NRG Conference

The 2018 Nautical Research Guild Conference is in progress and I’ve been here manning a vendor table for Ages of Sail. I’m not thrilled with being in Las Vegas, just not my thing, but I’ve managed to get by. The event is being held at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino, and located on the second floor.

The event is lightly attended, but the those here seem to be enjoying the talks and workshop round tables. There are only two other vendors here besides Ages of Sail, so the table gets extra attention. Makes time pass more quickly.

Sherline lathe demonstration

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