Tag Archives: Castle Model Kit

Building Woody Joe’s Iwakuni Castle – A Final Report

As much as I thought I’d finish in plenty of time, I ended up slightly side-tracked. Still, I finished with a few days to spare. It has actually been quite a challenge to get it to look halfway decent. I think it turned out okay, but I had to work to get it there.


The final paint job for the roofing was a mixture of black artist’s acrylic with a dab of gray and a dab of blue, followed by a very lightly dry-brushed gray. The kit came with some fake grass and wood-powde dirt for the base. In the end, I didn’t end up using the grass, but did use the dirt. I decided that while the grass would have looked good, it was a bit out of scale. Instead, I glued down a thin layer of “dirt” and after it dried, I used a variety of green, tan, and gray paints to color the ground.


In the end, this turned out to be a fun project and the results are not bad. The castle kit cost less than $200 shipped and provided a lot of hours of challenge beyond what Woody Joe says it should take. I suppose one could skip painting the model and might work faster with some experience on building the castle kits, but I’m still doubtful that it can be done in 30 hours.


Overall, this was a great kit. Will I build another one? Probably some time in the future, though I might try one of the temple kits before I do another castle. But, right now, I’m too far behind on my ship modeling projects to think about it much.

This model is complete and ready to be presented as a gift. I think it will go over quite well! Ω


Building Woody Joe’s Iwakuni Castle – An In-Progress Report

I started building this kit back in December and worked on it off and on, figuring I’d get a jump on it so that it would be ready by the end of February when I planned to give it to someone as a birthday gift. Well, here it is mid-Febraury and I’m working on it a fair amount now and have put in a lot of hours on it already. I haven’t really been keeping track, but my guess is that I passed up that 30 hour build time estimate a good 30 hours ago.

The big effort was really putting all that stone facing on the base of the castle. Admittedly, I overdid it with cutting pieces to fit. Images of the real castle show that the stones are mostly squarish and there was no need for me to try to make any kind of wild variations in sizes or shapes. That probably more than doubled the amount of time it took for that stage. But, I’ll bet a simplified construction would still have taken close to 30 hours to finish the whole base anyway.

Building the basic structure after that has been pretty easy and lots of fun. The next hard part has been making the roofing. Initially, I’d forgotten that the kit includes a set of patterns to guide you through the cutting of the roof pieces. The trick is that the material simulates a tile roof that has a wave pattern across it, so that the roof is made up of parallel troughs that guide water down and off the roof. So, the wood material has a corrugated appearance on one side. This means that it matters when you glue pieces side-to-side, as a trough must be adjacent to a ridge. Two troughs or two ridges butted up against each other will stand out like a sore thumb.

To aid the builder, the top-down views are color-coded so that gray lines represent troughs and yellow lines represent ridges. The roofing patterns provided also show you edge-on views as a reminder. The pink areas are section that are discarded.Iwakuni Castle roof patterns

Note that the corders are generally squared off at the ends. This is because the corners of the roofs on these traditional Japanese structures flare upwards slightly. However, I still haven’t really figured out how the squared-off corners help that. I’ve just been following the instructions as best I can.

The model has a little ways to go yet. The basic structure is done and much of the roofing is done, but even once that is complete, there are details to add and clean-up to do. As you can see from this photo, I’ve painted the walls flat white and mixed gray paint for the roofing. Because the wood roofing materials is very light and porous, the water based acrylics I used soaked right into the wood and caused it to swell and raised the grain right away. Were I to do this again, I’d probably try to use a solvent based paint. Possibly Tamiya brand acrylics since they are alcohol based. Of course, that’s for another time.


I jump ahead a little bit and started preparing the grass material. There’s plenty provided in the kit – certainly enough to cover the whole base with if that’s your goal. The box art shows just a little bit of grass growing at the base of the stone walls, which makes sense and is probably the most realistic.

The grass itself comes in the form of small wood shavings. I wasn’t sure how well it would work to pre-paint this stuff green, but that was the task at hand. I used a 1 oz. paint mixing bottle and poured in a bit of Liquitex green and yellow acrylic paints, added a few drops of water, and poured in some of the wood. I used stick to stir up the mixture well. When it seemed thoroughly mixed, I dumped it all out on a piece of paper towel and let it dry. The results look pretty convincing, but we have yet to see it on the model.


Only a couple weeks left and I’m confident I’ll be able to finish the model up well before my deadline. I’ll post a final update when it’s all done. Ω



Building Woody Joe’s Iwakuni Castle – An Initial Report

Woody Joe may be the only wood ship model kit company in Japan, but their product line extends beyond the maritime realm. I posted an out-of-the-box kit review of their Iwakuni Castle kit some months ago. Since this is a model I’m building for someone’s birthday in February, I had started the kit early, just in case. It’s a good thing too.

Woody Joe’s website indicates approximately 30 hours to build this kit. Well, I think I’ve finally figured out that these are relative values and can’t really be used to determine how much actual time it will take any individual to build. For this model, it’s 30 hours, for another like Matsue Castle, it’s 60 hours. Well, as a guide as to which to buy, maybe it’s best to just figure the Iwakuni Castle model should take half the time that the Matsue Castle takes to build.

As I’ve discovered. The castle model itself is pretty neat and it’s a relatively quick build so far. By far the most difficult part of the build I’ve seen is the base. I don’t mean the nice molded framing and all, but the stonework that the castles all sit atop.

Castle Rocks

To begin with, you build up a structural base and then you cover it with a stonework mosaic facade. The framework for the base itself is easy. Once it goes together it is covered with a very thin plywood onto which the stonework pieces are glued.

The stonework is actually wood that is very old and weathered so that it takes on a stony appearance. The wood comes in these short rectangular strips, 5mm x 30mm. To get the stone effect, you have to cut these up into odd stony shapes.


The trick is that you need to then glue these on and you then end up with gaps between the stones. To minimize the gaps, you have to choose the stone pieces that fit best, or you can cut smaller pieces to fill gaps. Or, if you keep your stones mostly square, you just glue them on and don’t worry too much about the gaps.

As it turns out, I think I’ve been trying too hard to keep the stone bases from looking like brick work. If you look at the real castles, the sometimes do like a bit like brickwork, on a very large scale. I looked at some photos on the Internet of various famous castles and now I’m pretty sure I’m over doing things.


But it’s okay. I think that whatever you end up doing, the stone work looks like stone work. Once you have the castle sitting atop, it pretty well draws the eye away from the stone work and to the castle itself. So, I’m continuing work and progressing slowly, but it’s starting to come together and I actually finished one wall of the base!


I don’t want to change my construction style now. But next time I build a castle, and I can tell you now that there WILL be a next time, I will look closely at the photos on the Internet and try to mimic the actual stonework better. I think construction will actually prove to be easier. Ω

Iwakuni Castle Model from Woody Joe

While it’s not a ship model, I thought it worth mentioning here simply because this is a really neat looking kit. Over the holidays, I was visiting my mother who is 89 this year. She is from Japan and is interested in the Higaki Kaisen model I’m building. Looking at the Woody Joe literature included in the kit, she was surprised to see the selection of temple and castle kits, and was very interested in the castles in particular and wanted one for her 90th birthday.

The Woody Joe description says it takes about 30 hours to build the kit. Given my experience with the Higaki Kaisen, I’d say add about 50% for figuring out the Japanese instructions and extra caution in building it. Still, that’s a LOT less time than building even a basic ship model, so this should be a breeze and a nice change of pace, and Mom wants it, so how could I pass up the chance to build something so cool!

The actual castle was built in the early 1600s in Yamaguchi prefecture, which is at the southern tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island. It appears that the original was not around for very long as it had to be dismantled due to an order by the Shogun limiting the number of castles in each province. There is now a reconstruction of the original keep, which this model kit represents. A nice website called Jcastle has some pictures of the reconstructed keep.

The model is small at 1/150 scale, measuring only about 10-1/2″ by 8-1/2″ and 8″ high. But, it includes a base with nice edge trim and, from the pictures of the completed model, it looks really nice. It’s not nearly as complex a subject as the big castles like Himeji Castle or others, but it still looks pretty, and it lists for about $175 at current exchange rate as compared with something around $450-$550 for the big castles.

Of course, I ordered mine through Zootoyz. Though it’s not on his website, the owner, Mr. Morikawa, was kind enough to do a special order for me. Even so, it didn’t take long before he shipped it out and it was waiting for me when I got home today.


The kit comes in a fairly compact box, but given the small size of the completed model, it wasn’t surprising. Naturally, I opened it immediately to check out the contents. I was actually kind of surprised at how much stuff was inside. There seems to be plenty to keep a person busy for a bit, though construction may be pretty straight forward.


The parts are all in their separate plastic bags and labeled with their contents. As with other kits, the instruction book has a parts list on the first page. But, this time, perhaps because of fewer components, there is just one list of parts. No separate numbering scheme for laser cut parts or wood stock. Instead, of the 60 part names listed, laser cut parts are highlighted in red (pink, really). All part names are in Japanese, but between the part number, dimensions given in the parts list as well as on the individual parts tags, and quantities listed, it looks pretty easy to find what you’re looking for.

There are absolutely no english instructions, but the instructions are very well illustrated and seem pretty clear. There are only 18 construction steps. Contrast that with the Higaki Kaisen kit which has 92. Overall, it looks like it’s pretty much a matter of building a stack of boxes of varying size and cover the faces of them with some detail pieces and adding the roofing sheets and details. Seems very straight forward and looks like there are probably no hidden surprises.


Of the parts in the kit, nearly all are wood, though structural components look to be pre-cut particle board. There are 9 small laser cut sheets, most are less than 10″ long and 2″ wide. The only metal parts are a pair of cast white metal ornamentation pieces that fit at the opposite ends of the top level roof. I don’t know if the actual ornaments (I don’t recall the Japanese term for them) are gold or what, so that’s something I’ll look into.

The dark wood parts come that color in the kit, and it looks like the roofs and some of the walls will need to be painted. From the instructions and the photos, the colors appear to be neutral gray for the roof tops and a warm white for the walls.

I can tell that will be a couple places where I’m going to need some translation. Specifically, there are a couple bags of fine sawdust and coarser wood shavings. I know this is for simulating the dirt around the edges of the caste and it looks like wood shavings are to be dyed green somehow and used to simulate grass as you can see in the Woody Joe photos of the complete model.

Sure, I can simply use model railroader’s techniques, or just figure out a way to dye the coarse shavings on my own, but it would be nice to know what the instructions are telling me. Though perhaps their just saying “figure out a way to dye the coarse shavings on your own…”

I know one thing that’s going to have me researching details about the castle on the Internet, is the printed paper patterns that appear to be used to simulate the barred windows or the shuttered openings of the upper levels of the castle. I’ve never really like sticking colored paper on the model, though judging from the kit photos, they look pretty darned good. So, maybe I just won’t worry about.

In any case, I can tell this is going to be a really fun build. Right now, I need to put it away for the time being and get my other projects going before I get to it. Still, I’m really looking forward to this one. Anyway, it’ll be a good project to take on when I get stuck and need to work on something else for a couple weeks.