Category Archives: Product Review

My Newest Ancre Books Acquisition – Le Coureur Monograph

I’m exited that my newest purchase from French publisher Ancre Books (Ancre.fr) 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.

Continue reading

Advertisement

An OcCre Part Kit Order

It was just about a month ago that I found myself in the middle of ship modeling withdrawals, as I had to take a break due to a family emergency. As I mentioned in recent posts, a Shipyard paper model kit got me through most of it. But, one thing that helped was splurging a little and making another ship modeling purchase. So, it was the purchase of a “Part Kit” from OcCre of Spain that filled that need.

74-gun Spanish ship of the line Montañes by OcCre

Now, I don’t really need another ship model kit. I have a stack of projects, some underway, and many un-started kits in my closet stash – I’m sure every ship modeler who reads this is familiar and has his or her own. But, I’m always looking for good blogging materials – interesting stuff to write about. Anyway, that’s my excuse, or one of many excuses I use in justifying kit purchases. That one will work for now.

Continue reading

My Newest Book Acquisition – The Greenwich Hospital Barge of 1832

I’m something of a collector of ship modeling books – Well, of kits and tools and supplies too, for that matter. But, the books provide the most inspiration and learning, so they’re particularly important. Plus, they’re a nice distraction from time to time. And, you never know, maybe I’ll actually build the subject matter of the book at some point.

Today, my copy of David Antscherl’s book, The Greenwich Hospital barge of 1832, and methods of building open boats, arrived in the mail.

Many of us are familiar with David Antscherl’s other works on the excellent Swan-class sloop series and his book on the Fireship Comet and others, all published by Seawatch Books. He’s so prolific that I can’t keep up with his publications. But, this book was, frankly, the least expensive, and of a very different kind of subject, so I thought I’d go ahead and get it.

The subject is a Thames River ceremonial barge that, if I understand correctly, belonged to the Greenwich Hospital and would primarily have been used by the Mayor of the Hospital as a kind of river limousine.

The book is also about building small open boats. The Hospital Barge is one that is clinker-built in 1/48 scale, but the book also goes into the construction of a “plug” and a method for using it to build ship’s boats. A carvel-built hull is used for the example there.

It’s a small book, but a very nice one – 86 pages printed in full color, plus it includes a pair of 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets of plans for the Hospital Barge.

You can find more photos and description, or order your copy from Seawatch Books. Ω

 

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.

SWchurchill

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.

img_0323

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.

img_0325

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.

img_0327

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.

 

img_0328

 

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

img_0335

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.

img_0331

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.
SWchurchill buhinnaiyou metal

 

There’s also a nice sheet of photo-etched brass parts, some turned brass parts, etc.
img_0338

img_0332

 

img_0329

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

 

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.

IMG_1403

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.

IMG_1387

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

 

IMG_1389

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.

IMG_1406

IMG_1405

IMG_1407

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.

IMG_1390

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.

IMG_1391

IMG_1408

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.

IMG_1402

IMG_1394

 

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

Galley Washington, 1776 – New Plans from the NRG

I received a nice surprise in the mail today when a set of plans I ordered from the Nautical Research Guild showed up. I kind of splurged for my own birthday this year and got these plans and a few other things that I’ll write about in a future post.

The Washington was a galley built by General Arnold for service on the Lake Champlain in 1776. Because the prevailing winds on the lake blew along the length of the lake, she and her 3 sister ships were lateen rigged for the superior performance when sailing close to the wind.

post-2-0-56727000-1430925167_thumb.jpg.opt356x267o0,0s356x267

These are VERY nice plans. They are model plans and designed for the construction of a 1/4″ scale plank-on-frame model. All the frames are drawn out, taking up 4 of the 10 sheets of plans. The details are nicely done and overall, the set of plans is top notch.

The NRG did managed to disappoint in one area. There are no standard plan views necessary to scratch-build the model in your own style. These are strictly plank-on-frame plans. There is also no sail plan.

But, given that the ship was lateen rigged, the latter issue shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though it’s harder to find detailed information on this type of rig than for the more conventional square rig or schooner rig. So, some additional planning would be required for the addition of sails.

As for the missing plan views, since Howard Chapelle already drew up the hull lines and includes them in his book The History of American Sailing Ships, they can be ordered easily enough from the Smithsonian for $25, which includes handling/processing charges.

In any case, it’s a really nice set of drawings that include all the frames, a framing jig, details of the keel, deadwood, stem pieces, beams, and internal features and more. I’m really excited to get these plans. This might finally be my entry to plank-on-frame ship modeling.

One interesting feature of the Washington and her sister ships is that they had some really wild selection of cannons – a result of having to use whatever ordnance was available. As a result, the Washington had a pair of 18 pdr cannons, a pair of 12s, a pair of 9s, four 4s, a 2 pdr, and eight swivels, though these plans don’t show the 2 pdr. I’ll guess I’ll have to read the monograph to learn more about this.

The monograph, by the way, is a free download from the NRG website. It too is a beautiful piece of work. All this was done, by the way, by Jeff Staudt, who also created the Bomb Vessel Granado Cross Section plans that are sold by the Model Ship Builder site.

Anyway, the 10-sheet set of plans is $65, plus $10 shipping in the US. They are copyright stamped in red with a unique identification number. A personalized letter of permission to copy for personal use is included, which references the identification number. If you get a set, and you’re an NRG member, be sure to contact the NRG office for a $15 coupon code before ordering. If you’re not a member, I highly recommend joining up!

A Super Fine-Cut Japanese Hobby Saw – Hishika Industries

Several months ago, I made a purchase from Zootoyz, which is my usual source for Woody Joe kits. When I received the package, I’d discovered that the owner, Mr. Kazunori Morikawa, sent me something to try out: A Japanese hobby saw.

Now, I’m familiar with the concept of Japanese saws, but never tried one out before. The main difference between western saws and Japanese saws is that western saws cut as you push them away from you, while Japanese saws cut as you pull them towards you. “So, what,” You might ask?

Well, a saw that cuts when you push has to be very stiff, meaning it usually has to be harder and heavier to keep from flexing too much as you push. The cut line also has a tendency to wander if you’re not careful, since the user has to keep the line of force in line with the point of contact and to keep that line consistent across the cut.

Cutting on the pull actually draws the cutting line straight between the point of contact and the line of force, so there is no wandering of the cut line and the blade can be lighter and thinner. When I tried out the little Japanese saw, which is closest in competition with razor saws, I found that the cuts were extremely straight. Certainly straighter than I’ve ever gotten free-hand with a razor saw.

l_fullsizerender-3

The Japanese saw, besides cutting on the pull, also has very long and narrow teeth, and I found that it cuts with amazingly few strokes. Plus, the cut was so smooth, it didn’t requite any cleanup afterwards.

The blade on this saw is very thin at only 0.1mm. It’s the thinnest saw that I’m personally aware of. Because of its thinness, it would probably have a lot more flex except for the stiffener along the back of the blade, which razor saws also have. This limits the depth of cut of this saw to about 1/2″, which should be plenty for most ship modeling tasks.

FullSizeRender-2

The saw has a very lightweight wood handle. Were it made here in the U.S., it would probably have a heavier hardwood handle, if for no other reason than to suggest that it’s not cheaply made. But, for a hobby saw, it seems to do the trick.

This saw is comes from Hishika Industry and is listed as their “Super Fine Cut Saw” and it certainly lives up to the name. If you’re familiar with Japanese tools, you’ll know they don’t come cheap. Zootoyz made arrangements to order the saw after Kazunori and I had some discussions about the value of the saw. It was a bit of an investment for him, I believe, and I’m feeling a little responsible for him carrying them. So, I hope readers will be inspired to buy one from his website. This saw, at the current exchange rate is about $22, and can get yours direct from Zootoyz.jp here:

http://www.zootoyz.jp/contents/en-us/d141_HISHIKA_Super_Fine_Cut_Saw_.html

If you are in the U.S. and interested in getting one, but have trouble with the Zootoyz website or if the shipping ends up too much, contact me here. Maybe I can work one into a group order or just piggyback one next time I order something from Japan, which is all too frequently…

 

Amati “Arrow” American Gunboat kit

Ages of Sail

Looking for a nice ship model that’s not too big, not too difficult, but gives you a taste of planking, cannons, rigging and sails? Consider this model of a War of 1812 galley gunboat. Amati’s offering is historically significant, technically accurate, and includes nice quality wood and fittings.

A drawing of this design appears in the book History of the American Sailing Navy, by naval architect and historian Howard I Chapelle. This model appears to be true to these drawings, down to it’s forward mounted cannon and stern mounted carronade, so this appears to be a very accurate representation of a galley gunboat whose design shows a mediterranean influence.

The frames and other wooden parts in this kit are laser cut. There is no balsa, basswood or limewood in this kit. All strips for planking the hull and deck are of nice quality walnut and beech. The hull is double-planked, allowing the…

View original post 338 more words

The Royal Navy Fireship COMET of 1783 – New Book Release

A Monograph on the Building of the Model by David Antscherl

This book, recently released by Seawatch Books, is another fabulous work by the most excellent and admirable ship modeler and author David Antscherl. I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Antscherl at the 2014 Nautical Research Guild Conference in St. Louis in October and found that he is not only a wonderful author and ship modeler, but he is also a very nice gentleman. I even shared the dinner table with him and with Gilbert McArdle, who wrote the book on building the HMS Sussex, 1693, the book on Building the Yacht Utrecht, and long ago wrote Modeling the USF Constellation.

David Antsherl is also the author of the highly popular Swan series of books. In addition, he and Greg Herbert (author of the 3rd book in the Swan series), run admiraltymodels.com. This is a must visit site for those interested in building the fully framed model.

COMET_Cover

My copy of this book arrived just a few days ago and I didn’t have a chance to read it all, but I did go through it with great interest. The hardbound book is 8-1/2″ x 11″ and 160 pages and includes a separately packaged set of 6 sheets of plans. The book is full of photos and illustrations showing, among other things, the details of construction specific to fireships. 6 pages of color photos show the incredibly beautiful model that Mr. Antscherl is constructing.

Those wishing to build a fully framed model like the model illustrated in the book will need to consult the Swan series of books for such details. This book really covers the details of the fireship in general, but the bulk of the book is about building the details of the Comet.

Whether or not you’re planning on building the fireship Comet, this is a very interesting, informative and inspiring book to have. Ω

Two New Mini-Kits from Woody Joe – Hobikisen and Utasebune

As regular visitors to this site know, I’ve quite a bit of interest in ship model kits from the Japanese wooden model manufacturer Woody Joe. They seem to be on a spree, releasing new kits and revising old ones. So far this year, they’ve revised their Hacchoro and Yakatabune ship model kits, released a new 1/350-scale kit of Tokyo Station, and revised their two Cutty Sark model kits (1/100 and 1/80 scales). At the beginning of October, they released two new mini-kits, both “wasen” or traditional Japanese-style boats, the Hobikisen and the Utasebune.

I keep an eye on Woody Joe’s new releases and saw these on their website (http://www.woodyjoe.com), and bought them as soon as they were released. I got them through my friend Kazunori Morikawa, who runs the online hobby store Zootoyz. He doesn’t list any of Woody Joe’s mini-kits on his site, but he can get them.

DSC03566 DSC03571

These two kits basically feature the same hull, with slight variations. Both hulls are just about 8 inches long, with the completed models measuring around 11-1/2 inches in length. The Hobikisen is the taller of the two at around 11-1/4 inches. The Utasebune is closer to 6 inches tall. The exact scale is not specified, but is somewhere around 1/55 for the Hobikisen and 1/45 for the Utasebune.

The Hobikisen is a type of fishing boat employed on Lake Kasumigaura, which is about 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. It employs a method of side-ways propulsion to drag fishing nets through the water. The Utasebune represents a small boat used in shrimp fishing off the Hokkaido coast, Japan’s northern most major island.

I didn’t know anything about these boats until the Woody Joe kits came along, and I had to do a little bit of Internet research to understand, in particular, why the Hobikisen’s sail is set sideways, and why this doesn’t tip the boat over. But, more on the operational and historical details later. For now, I just want to give a peek at what these kits are about.

As expected, these kits are made from the aromatic Hinoki, Japanese cypress. Each contains 9 to 12 small laser cut sheets of wood, a small number of thin dowels, sail cloth, rigging line, brass wire, and a metallic tape printed with the boat’s name. Each kit also includes a nicely illustrated, 12-page color instruction booklet.

DSC03576

As with all Woody Joe kits, the instructions are in Japanese. But, the parts in the kit are easily identified in the plans with a very clear numbering system and well labeled parts bags. Each laser cut sheet is assigned a number that corresponds with the numbers in the instructions, with each part on the sheet marked with an identifying letter either on or next to the part on the sheet. This is right up with Woody Joe’s excellent standards.

DSC03577

DSC03579

These two new kits are mini-kits. They are designed to take up little space and provide several hours of enjoyable building at a low cost. Both kits sell for under $50: 4,500¥ for the Utasebune and 5,000¥ for the Hobikisen. I don’t know how accurate they are, and they certainly aren’t super detailed, but they give you enough detail to make a very nice model and should make very nice weekend projects.

I started working on the Hobikisen and can tell you that they go together very quickly and the parts fit very well together. I’ll go into more detail on the building of these kits in the near future. For now, if you’re looking for highly detailed challenging builds, these kits may not satisfy you. But, if you’re interested in small models of traditional Japanese workboats, and are looking for something fun and interesting you can build in a matter of days or even hours and for not too much money, these should do nicely. I’m thinking these will also make nice gifts, either as kits or as completed decorative display models for my former taiko or shamisen teachers.

DSC03618

My Hobikisen kit going together.