Category Archives: My General Blog

Displaying Models at the Showcase of Miniatures

This weekend is the annual Good Sam Showcase of Miniatures, an event organized primarily for doll house enthusiasts. But, as the overall theme is “miniatures”, the organizers were happy to include ship models and boat models. The event takes place at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose on Saturday and Sunday, October 8th and 9th. Those interested should visit their website at This year, the South Bay Model Shipwrights club is participating, and I brought some models for display.

For this exhibit, I brought my Mary Taylor model, a 1/72 scale Japanese boats display, a 1/10 scale Japanese fishing boat, and a 1/24 scale Japanese pleasure boat. I also brought in the South Bay Model Shipwrights club’s Drakkar Viking Ship, which was a group build. I didn’t participate in its construction, but the model was on display at Ages of Sail, and I made arrangements to pick it up and bring it to the show.

My 1/64-scale scratch-built Mary Taylor and the club built Drakkar Viking Ship.

I participated one time before, back in 2013, where I brought my 1/64-scale scratch-built Mary Taylor model, along with an under-construction English longboat. This time, I thought the Japanese boat models might be of interest to the visitors, particularly the larger scale ones, which are very close to common dollhouse scales.

The ship and boat models display at the 2013 Showcase

The Yakatabune model, in particular, is in 1/24 scale, a.k.a. 1/2″ scale, which puts it right at a popular dollhouse scale. This model event sports an interior, with a table, floor cushions, and musical instrument laid out inside the tatami-room floor.

The even larger scale Tosa wasen model, is 1/10-scale, which is actually larger than the largest of the common dollhouse scales of 1/12 or 1″ scale. But, the extras and the large details will, I hope, appeal to the dollhouse crowd.

I brought the 1/72-scale models of the Tonegawa Takasebune and the Utasebune as I’ve had them on my shelf together under a single acrylic cover, and they were the first models I thought to bring, due to their easy portability and small display space.

Two other club members are bringing models for the club display. Looking back at my photos, I kind of feel like I’m hogging all the display space. Then again, these are all models that I’ve built myself, and I’ve been itching to get some of my Japanese subjects out on display again, so this was my chance.

This is a short display, and I’ll have to collect them all tomorrow. It’s about an hour drive for me each way to San Jose, plus the hotel charged me $5 just so I could unload my car (and another $5 when I go to pick them up), but it was good to put them out in front of the public again. I hope I get the opportunity to do something similar again soon. Ω


Wowed by Shipyard’s Laser-Cut Card Models

At this point in my build of Shipyard’s 1/72-scale laser-cut card model of the 10-gun snow-rigged sloop of war HMS Wolf, I’m behind on keeping my build log up to date. But, I can’t let that get in the way here. Here’s the thing, I am so in awe of how incredible this kit is, that I have to state, categorically, that I’m absolutely building not only the Papegojan kit I have, but the HMS Alert kit, and the Le Coureur kit, and that I’m absolutely going to find the money to buy and build the HMS Mercury kit.

Shipyard’s 1/72-scale HMS Mercury, laser-cut kit.

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Exchange Rates: Great Time to Buy Kits from Japan

If inflation and econimics have been getting to you, there’s one positive aspect of it all right now if you’re in the U.S. and have any interest at all in Woody Joe kits, or any other Japanese products for that matter: The exchange rate of the dollar vs. the yen is the highest it’s been in 20 years.

Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen

Just last year, the exchange rate was ¥105 to the dollar. As of today, July 30, 2022, the exchange rate is ¥133 to the dollar. That’s like getting close to 27% off on your orders from Japan. This makes it a great time to buy the Woody Joe kit you’ve been thinking about.

For example, Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit, illustrated above, sells for ¥28,000 on (actually a little less after the online shop’s standard discount). Last year, the price was about $267. Right now, it’s about $210. Of course, shipping costs are high, so that’s an important consideration, but the exchange rate should help to make up for that.

If you buy from Japan, you should shop from whatever vendor you’re most comfortable with, but as always, I highly recommend the Zootoyz web shop, as service is excellent, shipping is quick, and the owner is a great guy: This is a great source for Woody Joe kits

Tosa Wasen kit from Thermal Studio

Of course, Woody Joe kits aren’t the only products you might want to be buying from Japan, but they are what I know. Also, among my past projects is an excellent kit from Thermal Studio in Japan, a 1/10 scale model of a traditional Japanese boat. It lists for ¥17,600 or about $133. You can see my post about purchasing the kit from 2016 here:

Hope this works out to be an opportunity for some of you readers to try out one of these kits. Feel free to leave a reply here if you end up getting one of these kits or have any questions. Ω

Shipmodeler Ed Von der Porten Mention

About a week ago, I ran across an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the Manila galleons. It war of particular interest because the article by Carl Nolte mentions ship modeler and friend, the late Ed Von der Porten. The article included a nice photo of Ed displaying his then-under-construction model of the San Juan, a Basque whale ship, which is very similar to the Manila galleons. You can read the full content of the SF Chronicle article here.

The exact whereabouts of the now completed model are presently unknown to me, or the other members of the South Bay Model Shipwrights club, but it was last known to be on display at the  Sonoma County Museum. I’m hoping it’s still there, so I can see it again.

I did manage to get a nice photo of the model as it was displayed. The photo was taken by Ken Lum, who is currently the  vice-president of the South Bay Model Shipwrights club.

Photo courtesy of Ken Lum.

I dug around further and found a couple photos of my own of Ed and his San Juan model, including a nice close-up I took at one of the club South Bay Club Meetings.

We lost Ed in 2018, but he and his work are not forgotten, so it was nice to see the mention of him in the SF Chronicle article. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing to some follow-up work to see if I can locate his San Juan model. Ω


UV Light to Spot Glue Smears

Here’s something that I’ve found really useful that was posted on ModelShipWorld recently by a ship modeler that goes by the screen name “bridgman”. But, as he pointed out, the original tip was published in the May/April 2022 edition of Fine Woodworking magazine.

Turns out that you can easily spot smudges of wood glue, such as Titebond, by using an inexpensive UV flashlight. I happened to get a little UV penlight flashlight in a UV cure glue set I bought off of Amazon earlier in the year for around $20, so I tried it out on Titebond and Elmer’s yellow carpenter’s glue, and it works, sure enough!

As an illustration, I looked one of my Japanese boat models. Now, there is a suspicious spot on the side of the hull, visible in normal light. It’s actually not that noticeable. But what if I went to apply a wood finish? If there’s glue there at that spot, it’s going to block any finish from penetrating into the wood.

Now, under UV light, the glue shows up very clearly. But, also notice where I placed the red arrow, that there’s another small spot that I didn’t notice before, and is pretty much invisible in normal lighting.

So, it turns out this little UV flashlight that just uses a pair of AAA batteries is going to get a lot more use than curing glue. It even has an adjustable focus beam.

I can’t say I won’t have any more glue spots on my model. But, at least I have a fighting chance to get rid of them all now! Ω

Dorade Repair

My repair of the little Dorade model is finally done. I’ve let the owner know and we’ll arrange to get it to him, hopefully sometime in the next week or so. It’s turned out to be a very pretty model, and I’m really happy with the rigging, particularly the standing rigging, which I think I’ve mentioned before is made from braided silver-gray nylon fishing line.

By the way, if you didn’t catch this before, while this is a repair job I’m doing, I’m not in the repair business. This is just something I thought I’d try taking on. It was fun, and it’s an interesting boat. But, I’m not in the repair business, so please don’t ask me to fix a model for you. I have a lot of projects of my own that I’d like to be working on.

About yacht models, I don’t really deal with yacht models much, so this was kind of different for me. I’m not normally big on yachts, but after this, I may have to look into building one myself.

Besides the obvious, old-time classic yachts, like the 1851 yacht America, there are a number of America’s Cup boat kits available. Amati makes many in 1/80, 1/50, and 1/35 scales. There are various other kits of classic yachts as well, like the Puritan or the Britannia. But, Amati actual does make a large scale model of the Dorade.

Amati’s Dorade kit comes with a pre-formed ABS plastic hull, simplifying construction greatly. It also makes it a great kit for R/C operation. At 1/20 scale, the model is just under 34″ long.

Amati Model’s 1/20-scale Dorade kit

We’ll see. I’ve also got a yacht modeler who’s been trying to get me to build a yacht model from scratch, and he’s provided me with drawings and notes he’s collected over the years on certain subjects. After this project, who knows?

I’ll have to dig through the list of some of the yachts he’s got drawings of and see if something there is particularly appealing, but I’ve got other things to finish up first. Next up, I think I’m going to get the sails mounted on the American galley gunboat model. Stay tuned… Ω



Projects Update for Spring 2022

I have to apologize, as I haven’t been writing very much about ship modeling projects lately. With tax season, rent increases at home, more work demands, and better weather, my ship modeling progress has slowed recently. But, I’ve also not been writing about some short term ship modeling work I’ve been involved with recently, the first of which is a rigging repair job I took on. The subject is a small scale model of the yacht Dorade.

Having said that this is a repair, I also want to point out that I’m really not in the business of model repair, so please don’t ask! I get enough of those requests already. This was kind of a special case.

The Yacht Dorade

The Dorade is an internationally famous yacht built by Sparkman & Stevens back in 1929-1930. This Dorade model ended up being a chew toy for the owner’s cat. The rigging itself and the hull are mostly in very good shape. Unfortunately, the masts were very chewed up, and there was no way I could fill the holes and scars cleanly. Since the model was originally purchased by the owner’s late father, it has some sentimental value. So, they were willing to have it repaired, even though it meant redoing the rigging.

The model is not an award winning miniature, but it has some interesting features. The standing rigging was done in what looks like clear monofilament fishing line, and the turnbuckles were simulated with metal tubing that looks like aluminum. The line is clearly out of scale, but being made from clear material, it actually works, visually.

I tried to replicate the use of same kind of line and tubing for turnbuckles, but just couldn’t get the same arrangement to work out, so I used some gray/silver braided nylon fishing line. Scale-wise, it’s better, but a little hard to work with.

Anyway, this isn’t really meant as a detailed report on the repair – more to inform what I’ve been up to. I expect to have the work completed in another week or so.

Monterey Salmon Fishing Boat, c.1910

The Dorade isn’t the only outside project that’s been occupying my time. Some months ago, I was asked by the curator of a small museum in Monterey, if I or someone I knew could build a model of a small salmon fishing boat, as depicted in a photo he sent me. I really wanted to work on the project for him, as I’m very interested in supporting his work and that of the museum. Also, he has been supportive of my work on the study and model construction of traditional Japanese boats. But, I just felt like I’ve been stretched too thin, and ended up asking Paul Reck, a veteran modeler of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights club, if he was interested in taking on the project. He said he was interested, but he wanted me to work on it with him. Well, co-working on a project should be easier than doing it all myself.

The model will be that of a small fishing boat that was owned by one of the many migrant Japanese fisherman that moved to the Monterey area around 1900. As I said, the model is based on a photo I was provided with by Tim Thomas, the curator at the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Heritage Hall and Museum.

With no drawings of the boat available, it’s been quite a challenge. A lot of information has to be derived from this single photo. Paul Reck has drawn up a plan for the hull and has been working on it. So far, I’ve mostly been consulting with him (sometimes arguing) on the various details and measures. The model will be a small one, to include the launch cradle. At 1/24 scale, the boat model will end up at just about 13″ in length. I’ll be decking it and doing many of the small details soon enough. But, being a small, simple boat, with no rigging, this should be completed relatively quickly.

Other Current Projects

The sail re-do for the American Galley Gunboat model is done, and they just need to be mounted, so I can finish rigging the model. I don’t think I’ll add oars, not even stowed. There are just too many required, and it would end up overwhelming the appearance of the model. So, once the last of the rigging goes on, and I get a flag mounted, the model will be done. That’s coming up quickly. Probably as soon as I get the Dorade done.

The Ogura pond boat, if you’ve been following my Japanese boat model building is held up at the construction of the bow end of the boat. The construction style of the boat is very unfamiliar to me, and I’ve had a bit of a time trying to figure out how to properly build and attach the bow. It will happen fairly soon though. Then, I can deal with detailing the model and finishing it up.

The Atakebune model, another Japanese vessel and Woody Joe kit, is the next project that should be finished up soon. I have had to set this one aside as I deal with finishing up the Dorade and the American Gunboat models. With those done, my focus will be on this and the pond boat. What basically needs to be finished on the Atakebune are a few details on the yagura, or box structure, the completion of the stern area of the lower hull, and then the detailing of the various copper coverings and possibly the addition of gold/brass ornamentation.

There’s also a good chance that I will continue to add some details to the model over time. So, it may be a long while before I actually call it done and put it away for good.

Finally, there are three other projects I’ve got in mind to get to work on, but I’m going to keep quiet on these until I’ve cleared out three of the projects I’ve mention. That won’t actually be too far away, so stay tuned to hear more in the next month or so. Ω

Building a Kit Without the Kit – Corel’s Misticque

Having been a ship modeler for around 30 years now, I have seen many models built and have built many myself. I’ve also spent a lot of time looking at the many available kits of beautiful looking ships of all kinds, and imagining building them. But, after building so many kits, I find the desire to scratch build a model. Now, I have scratch built quite a few models, mostly Japanese traditional boats, but also a few American subjects too, pilot boat, War of 1812 privateer, various hulls, etc. But, it seemed time to take on something more significant.

Now, kits still have the appeal of having already been planned out. Plus, they include all necessary decorative components. And, kits like those produced by Corel, still build into some of the most beautiful models.

Corel’s French Xebec Misticque, 1750

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My Newest Ancre Books Acquisition – Le Coureur Monograph

I’m exited that my newest purchase from French publisher Ancre Books ( arrived at the end of last week. I have other Ancre monographs, but this particular subject is simple enough that an actual model constructed from these plans might actually see the light of day here.

I was finally in a position to make the purchase, so in the middle of last month, I placed my order. Also, I’ve had to wait for a long time for this english language version to be released. It’s been out for a while now, but when it was released, buying it just wasn’t in the stars for me. Now, it is.

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February 9, 2022

Rigging the Amati Arrow Gunboat

I have to be honest. Aside from the Bremen Cog model that I completed about a year ago, I haven’t really done much rigging. My heart just hasn’t been into it. I’ve always loved researching model subjects and hull construction and detailing. But, when it comes to belaying lines to cleats and seizing lines around blocks and all, my mind just gets tangled in all the ropes.

With Japanese boat models, there’s very little of that, and maybe that’s why I’ve done so much work on them over the past few years. But, now I’m at the rigging stage of my Amati Arrow Gunboat kit. I thought, given the size and type of boat, that rigging would be pretty simple. But, it’s far more complicated than I would have ever expected.

It seems that just about every line on this model, save for a bobstay at the bow, is running rigging. Which means that all the lines have to get belayed somewhere. But, the model has 54 cleats, and from what I can tell, all but about 6 will need to be used.

This past week, I’ve just been working on rigging the backstays that support the masts, and that alone uses 24 cleats. I managed to get a little over half way through this task, before it wore me out.

I suppose I’ve become something of a rigging wimp…


Meanwhile, the Atakebune

While rigging may be getting me down a bit this week, I seem to be taking modifications of the Atakebunbe model, the Japanese 16th century battleship, in stride. I’ve gone ahead and removed the stern section of the box structure. Luckily, I’ve been using Original Titebond wood glue, which can be soften by soaking with water. So, this actually didn’t take a great deal of work, and I managed to free up most of the parts without breaking anything.

Meanwhile, I’m working on the roofing of the castle structure. Below, you can see the rounded roof that was included in the kit, which no longer spans the length of the extended structure. More on these later.

And, so that you can see how much of the castle structure is now done, here’s a pic of that.


A Little Sick

Now, I would probably have made more progress on the Atakebune model if it weren’t for the fact that I came down with stomach cramps and unpleasant other attendant symptoms last night, which continued today. It’s not actually that bad, but periodically painful and otherwise unpleasant.

Handed Down Projects

On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to mention that back in 2013, a ship modeling friend and colleague passed along two of his larger projects to me shortly before he succumbed to cancer. He hadn’t gotten very far along on either one, and I’ve kept them in storage for the time being.

The ship modeler’s name was John Nash, and he passed away on October 13, 2013. He was a member of both the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights, as well as the South Bay Model Shipwrights, and he was always very supportive of my ship modeling work and skills. I always figured that if I completed the models, it would really be a join project between him and me, and it gives me a way to remember and honor him.

It’s hard to imagine it’s been more than 8 years. But, I finally got myself organized to get his kits out again. Last year, I did a little bit of cleanup on one of them. Then, last month, I decided to redo some of the hull planking, which was only barely started and to reshape the bow blocks. The kit is Mantua Panart’s Spanish warship San Felipe, one of their most popular, large kits.

I haven’t done much to the model. Just took off the lower two planking strakes at the bow and started filing the bow block, which were left too bluff. I’ll also need to bevel the bulkheads and possibly add some kind of support or filler blocks between them. In the meantime, I covered the stem with tape to help protect it from stray bumps with the file.

Now the fact hasn’t been lost on me that this is a full-rigged ship with lots of shrouds and ratlines, and I just got through complaining about rigging. However, I’ve rigged a San Felipe model before and quite enjoyed it.

Anyway, who knows? I’m not trying to finish it, just to work on it in my spare time. It’s a potentially beautiful model when properly built. But, yes, I understand that the history of this ship is questionable. There’s a good post about it here:

At this point in life, I don’t really care about the accuracy of historic details. This kit makes a beautiful model. What’s more, it’s the original kit, before the manufacturer started pre-printing deck planking and all.

I found a photo on the Internet of a completed model that was posted on Interestingly enough, I know the builder, Andy Poulo. He’s one of the people who attended many of the first ship model meetings I set up at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum starting in 2013.

Anyway, I’ll post more about this project over time.


Ship Model Meetings

Having just mentioned the museum in Vallejo, last week I contact the museum’s new Director and cleared the way to hold some ship model meetings again there. I started some meetings back in 2013, with our last one in 2019. I think it’s time to see what the old gang is up to now. Sadly, we lost one member a couple years ago, and I’m beginning to think that Andy Poulo, may also be gone. Still, it’s important to try to reconnect with those who are here, and I know at least three of us are still building ship models.

Also, with Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights still not meeting in person, it may lead some new ship modelers to join my ship model meeting in Vallejo. It’s always nice when there are at least 5 or 6 active ship modelers. Ω