Category Archives: Woody Joe

News about Japanese wood kit manufacturer Woody Joe and their products.

Building Woody Joe’s Nihonbashi Bridge Kit

Earlier this year, I decided to take a short break from ship modeling projects and spend a week or so on something fun, but a little different. I have several small kits in my stockpile (what’s in yours?) of miscellaneous Woody Joe kits, including one of the famed Nihonbashi Bridge.

The bridge was originally built in the early Edo period, around 1603. Built in the heart of Edo itself, It was extremely significant, as it was officially the starting point of Japan’s 5 major roads. Yes, all roads lead to Nihonbashi, and the bridge appears in many Japanese woodblock prints.

So, I decided to start the kit, which I purchased from where else but, for about $41 plus shipping. One of the driving factors in building this kit is that it would allow me to exercise some of my basic diorama building skills. After all, there are trees, the bridge itself, the canal, a couple boats, and tiny people. Also, I knew that my 95 year-old mother would love to have it on display in her living room, and her birthday was coming up quickly. So, I needed to get it done.

Actually, I should mention that the kit doesn’t actually include the tiny people, you have to buy them separately. But, you do get to choose from the inexpensive sets of unpainted figures, possibly going blind painting them, or kind of pricey sets of painted figures.

I chose to risk my blurring eyesight and paint the figures myself. Anyway, I used to paint miniature figures in my younger days, and I wanted to see how much of that skill I’d retained… or lost. Also, being that I’ve been specializing in the building of models or wasen, or traditional Japanese boats, I really couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to make my own set of boats for the canal.

Assembly of the bridge structure is pretty straight forward. The columns require a bit of care to make sure they are centered and all aligned. Because the bridge deck comes as 4 separate pieces, I wanted to make sure there were no weird flat spots. So, I used a strip of wood clamped into place in hopes that it would help prevent any flat spots in the surface.

In addition to the bridge, the sides of the canal have to be constructed. The laser-scored stone wall pattern makes construction easy. With the earlier castle kits, these stone patterns have to be created from individually trimmed and glued pieces.

Before actually gluing down the bridge, it’s best to paint the river bottom first. The instructions have you add the bridge, then paint the river bottom. But, it’s tricky to fully paint between the support columns without getting paint on them.

The only issue is that it is necessary to add a little bit of “ground powder” along the edges of the canal to add some texture. When that is glued into place, the bridge should be test fit while the glue is still soft, so the bridge will seat completely flat. It can then be removed right away while the glued ground powder sets.

Alternatively, there is a clear piece of colored plastic to simulate the water that can be purchased. It only costs about $1 – When was the last time you bough a model kit accessory for $1? This allows you to forgo the need to paint the river bottom or to simulate water. However, I’m all for learning how to simulate water well, so I didn’t purchase the plastic accessory.

So, I added the ground powder and I painted the canal bottom and placed the bridge.

After that dried, I used the Woodland Scenics product called Realistic Water. This is a simple product you just pour and let dry overnight. I first poured it into a plastic cup and mixed in several drops of their companion coloring product, Green Moss. This gave the water a nice murky look which you could still see through.

First, I used some masking tape to keep the “water” from flowing out of the canal. Then, I poured a thin layer of the colored Realistic Water. My plan was to add a second, thin layer and set the boats in that second layer.

If you look at the photo from the box art, you’ll notice there are two boats that are very crude looking provided in the kit. They’re not detailed and a bit oversized, but the main focus of the kit is the bridge. So, they add nicely to the atmosphere.

However, being that I’ve been specializing in traditional Japanese boat models, it was not possible for me to leave well enough alone. So, I made a few of my own using something of a bread-and-butter construction method.

It took me a couple tries to make the boats. I initially tried to build planked-up boats, but at this scale it was too difficult, so they ended up partly solid, partly planked. Also, I found that scaling the boats to 1/150 scale resulted in boats that were still a bit too large for the scene, so I had to trim them down by another 10% or so. The finalized boats were then put into the canal.

I considered trying to add some posts for the boats to tied up to, little Edo period docks, and such. But, my knowledge on that aspect is still very lacking. And, since they would have been so tiny, I decided to just leave it alone and leave the boats “drifting” in the water.

I had to have some kind of cargo on some boat, so I rolled up some polymer clay and cut some tiny tawara, or large straw sacks of rice. I filled up one boat and put a stack of them piled up on the ground.

Finally, I finished up the structural scenery by adding a modified version of the little stand (what were they selling next to the bridge) included in the kit. I basically added some little details like the stringers on the roof, and a little shelf on the front and back of the stand.

The pair of cherry blossom trees included in the kit add a nice splash of color to the scene.

Of course, a scene like this isn’t complete without some people. I’d already purchased the figures that are featured on the box cover. These are optional, and not included in the kit.

Woody Joe distributes these figures which are actually produced by a Japanese company called Aurora Model, not to be confused with the old plastic model kit maker.

Three sets of unpainted figures are available for about $12 each. They can be purchased direct from Aurora Model, but they actually turn out to be a little more expensive that way, particularly the shipping. So, I recommend just buying them from Zootoyz.

Each set contains 14-16 unpainted figures. These are extremely tiny at 1/150 scale, so you can also buy pre-painted figures. These come in sets of 8, though a horse figure in one of the sets counts as 3 figures. These painted sets cost about $30 each, but if you have trouble painting REALLY tiny figures, they may be worth the extra cost.

I used to paint miniature figures, so I was ready to take on the challenge and painted the figures with a spray of Tamiya white fine primer. For coloring, I used some Vallejo brand paints. I didn’t have enough colors for some colorful Edo period kimonos and such, so I ended up spending about $80 on a set of paints and a set of washes. Would have been cheaper to just buy a couple sets of painted figures, but what the heck.

It took me a while to get some colors that stood out like those in the box art, but in the end, I was very happy with what I was able to achieve using the new paints.

I glued the various people into their various little sub-scenes and the whole bridge diorama started to come to life.

Finally, I used a piece of thin brass wire to use for the boatman’s sao, or pole.

Finally, I found a nice acrylic case on Amazon from a company called Better Display Cases. Here’s the link to the one I got for this model:

The above case is shown with a protective plastic wrapper still on the base. Overall the quality looks really nice.

Before taking it her house, I made sure the gang at the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights club, to which I belong, got a chance to see this neat kit. So, the model made an appearance at the February meeting.

The model now sits in my mother’s house, next to Woody Joe’s shinmei-zukuri shrine model and the traditional Japanese teahouse model.

If you want to build one of these for yourself, here are some links for the various things you may need.

Nihonbashi Bridge kit:

Optional Diorama Water:

Edo Period Figure sets:

Woodland Scenics Realistic Water:

Woodland Scenics Moss Green Water Tint:


Woody Joe’s USS Susquehanna Now Available!

Here’s some good news for ship modelers, particularly those interested in the early sail-rigged steamers. Woody Joe has just released their new U.S.S. Susquehanna kit. This is one of the famous “Black Ships” that were party of Matthew Perry’s squadron to open trade with Japan in 1853.

The 1/120-scale laser-cut kit measures just about 34″ long when completed. The cost is about $400 plus shipping. That makes it one of the pricier kits, but it is also one of the few kits available anywhere of an American paddlewheel steamer.

When I get caught up on projects a bit, I’d really love to build this. The kit, like many Woody Joe kits, is designed to be easy to build. They list it as 190 hours construction time, which is in comparison to 200 hours for their big Cutty Sark kit and 100 hours for their Sir Winston Churchill kit.

I’ve found Woody Joe kits to be accurate, but leaving room for the builder to upgrade the kit by adding details beyond what’s provided in the kit. Of course, you will need to deal with instructions that are only available in Japanese. But, the instructions are extremely well illustrated, and pretty easy to follow, and there is actually very little text or need for it. But, if you have a smart phone, the use of the Google Translate app will help you make sure you don’t miss anything.

You’ll probably find the kit on Amazon or Ebay. But, as always, I recommend the Japanese online shop for service and support. Here’s a direct link to the kit on their site:

At the moment, I’ve noticed that the product does not appear on the original site, but does appear on the newer “wooden products only” site (accessible from the Zootoyz home page). But, just click on the direct link above and it will get you there.


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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Buying and Building Japanese Wooden Model Kits

I’ve been getting a couple emails from a Japanese friend who sells kits internationally. He’s been a bit dismayed lately, as marketing to North America and Europe opens up some new issues for Japanese products, particularly with builders who lose parts or mess up their builds.

Woody Joe kits have lots of parts, well organized into bags and well labeled. Photo of a Japanese pagoda kit.

He goes out of his way to work with the customer to get parts from the manufacturer. But, some customers upon learning they need to pay for replacement parts (as opposed to parts that are missing or faulty), suggest that either he or Woody Joe is practicing poor customer service. But, this is how things are done in Japan.

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Woody Joe’s New USS Susquehanna Kit in the Works

I just saw an exciting post on Woody Joe’s Facebook page today. Woody Joe is developing a new 1/120-scale wooden model kit of the USS Susquehanna, one of the famous kurofune or black ships of Commodore Perry’s squadron that sailed into Edo Bay in 1853 and 1854 to force a trade treaty with Japan.

These are photos posted on Facebook by Woody Joe of their prototype. There are many details that need to be worked out yet, so there is no word yet on pricing or availability. But, it is clearly a plank-on-bulkhead kit of the 3-masted barque-rigged paddlewheel steam frigate. At 1/120 scale, the model will measure about 34″ long.

Again, no price is set yet. But, based on their kits of similar size and detail, my guess is that it will run somewhere around 45,000¥ or about $400. We’ll see how close I come to the actual total. This kit appears to rely on more photo-etched brass than past kits, which can add a lot to a kit’s cost.

There’s a general lack of mid 19th-Century steamship model kits. This will join their own Kanrin Maru kit to help fill that gap. I, for one, am really looking forward to the release of this kit. But, I guess I should finish my own Kanrin Maru build before I get started on this one. So, it’s just as well that it’s not quite ready for release yet. will have the kit for sale as soon as it becomes available. I’ll make sure to post an update as soon as I find out more. Ω

Building the Kanrin Maru – Japan’s First Screw Steamer – Part 2

Planking the hull of the Kanrin Maru is pretty easy. The ship has a sharp bow and the run of the planks is easy, needing little bending. You might be tempted to taper the planks at the bow, but that’s not what the instructions have you do. And, if you do, you may very well run out of planking material. If you want to more authentic planking, you’ll need to supply your own additional planking material.

I chose to build the hull straight from the kit at this point, so I simply laid the planks as is, starting at the bulwarks and working towards the keel. Hinoki, or Japanese cedar, is the material used for much of the kit, and it’s a bit brittle when dry. To bend or twist planks, the wood doesn’t need to be soaked, just wet. But little bending or twisting is required for this model.

As the model is intended for painting, the planks stop abruptly at the stern bulkhead. Here, the stern shape is provided in the form of a stack of thick pieces that have to be filed down to shape.

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Building the Kanrin Maru – Japan’s First Screw Steamer

It’s been just about three years since I last wrote about researching the Kanrin Maru, and I really haven’t done much about it lately, but I did start construction of the 1/75-scale model based on the kit from the Japanese wooden model kit manufacturer, Woody Joe. The model is being constructed with modifications based on my research.

I started construction long ago on this model, but set it aside for other, higher priority projects. Recently, I realized that I don’t have any models on permanent display anywhere. My only models on display are my Japanese traditional wooden boat models that I put on display in San Francisco’s Japantown a couple times a year.

There is a possibility that I could build this model and have it on display at the Mare Island Museum, where they have an existing display dedicated to the Kanrin Maru’s 1860 diplomatic mission to San Francisco.

Woody Joe’s 1/75-scale Kanrin Maru kit.

The Build Plan

The hull of the Woody Joe kit is very close to the line drawings I acquired of the ship, so it’s an excellent start to building what should be a pretty accurate model. There are a few details of the kit that I will change or am considering changing:

  • The planking and shape of the hull at the bulwarks
  • The presence of a winch above the propeller well in the kit
  • The shape of the hawse pipes from the kit
  • The location of the hawse pipes on the deck of the kit
  • The armament
  • The location and configuration of the ship’s wheel
  • The size of the turnbuckles provided in the kit
  • The configuration of the fore-and-aft sails
  • The presence of mast wooldings in the kit
  • The presence of a mizzen mast top in the kit
  • The absence of coal loading ports in the kit
  • Miscellaneous small details

I’ll deal with these as the build progresses. Continue reading

Building Woody Joe’s Horyu-ji Temple Five-Story Pagoda – Part 3

With the construction of the base of the temple completed, I proceeded to paint the completed assembly using smokey beige satin-finish Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover spray paint. I also decided to go forward with construction of the mounting base. This was actually from Step 27 in the instructions, but I had the parts out and didn’t see any reason not to go ahead with this assembly.

The base of the pagoda painted a stoney gray color. If I wanted to get more authentic, I would have painted it earlier in construction and masked off areas to create different shading for the different stone blocks.

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Japanese Diorama Products Now Available from Zootoyz

Just saw that the online Japanese hobby store,, has just added Woody Joe diorama products.

[Note: This was announced on Zootoyz’s Facebook page, but there is currently no link on the website itself. Until the site’s navigation is updated, here’s a link to the new products:]

This line of products includes sakura, cherry blossom trees, Japanese pines, cypress trees, box trees, cedar trees, generic broadleaf and conifer trees and other vegetation. There are also bags of ground cover for simulating grass, dirt, and gravel.

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King Khufu’s Solar Boat – Woody Joe Kit – Model Built by Don Dressel

Several years ago, Woody Joe came out with a unique wooden model kit of the Solar Barge of Khufu, also known as Cheops, King of Egypt from 2589 B.C. to 2566 B.C. The ship was buried with King Khufu, and intended for use in the afterlife. It measures 143 feet long and is one of the most well preserved, largest and oldest vessel ever discovered.

Woody Joe produces this 1/72-scale kit, making heavy use of laser-cut wooden parts. It’s a beautifully designed kit, with the model measuring around 23″ long when complete.

It’s designed to be fairly easy to build, though of course the instructions are in Japanese. Mr. Dressel reported that he did have some difficulty interpreting some of the instructions until he downloaded the Google Translate app on his iPad.

Zootoyz, an excellent online seller featuring Woody Joe kits, lists the kit as a Level 2 kit on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult. Woody Joe suggests that completion of the kit should take about 25 hours, which makes it one of their quicker builds.

The kit has a list price of ¥22,000, which is around $200. And, with Zootoyz new wooden model online shop and it’s introductory discount extended through the end of June, the price comes down to $184 plus shipping.

For more information about King Khufu, see this Wikipedia entry:

Or for info specifically about the solar boat, there is this one:

Mr. Dressel says he will be displaying his model at the upcoming 2018 NRG conference in Las Vegas, which is just a few months away.