Now is the time I find out how I did in the earlier steps of construction. The biggest challenge of kits with laser-cut parts, particularly hull planking, is that if you don’t get it exactly right, you end up with gaps or parts that don’t fit quite right. Even worse, it’s a sign that something else is off and may cause you more problems down the road. You just have to consider it a challenge.
So, the next steps involve adding bulwarks pieces that contains holes for all the beams. These nicely aligns all the beams. There are two pieces for each side of the hull that fit together end-to-end, with a neat, pre-cut scarf joint betweent. The diagram in the instructions, makes it look like you’re supposed to glue the pieces together, so you have one full-length piece for each side, but don’t do it. You’ll have problems fitting the pieces into place over the beam ends and, in the process, the glue joint at the scarf will likely pop loose. As with all hull planks and such, it’s always a good idea to wet the pieces and bend them to shape prior to installation.
Another tricky part about installing these pieces is that they need to fit flat against the first bulwarks sheets that were installed earlier. Not a big deal except at the stem, where the glue joint between the stem and the very thin bulwarks sheet is pretty weak. If you apply any pressure while trying to get things to fit, this glue joint may fail. I’d suggest using a heavier bead of glue, but I believe this area inside the model will be visible when completed, and the glue will probably show up well.
I don’t have a good photo of this step, so I used a later photo and added arrows to illustrate the position of these pieces.
More lower hull planking goes on after this, which is pretty straight forward, but then the planking stops, incomplete, while the main beams are installed. Beams have to be cut to length, and installation seems pretty easy, as long as the holes in the bulwarks layers line up correctly. This shouldn’t be a problem since the position of those pieces rely on fixed beam ends built into the model’s bulkheads.
On top of the beams rests the dai, which is the base of the outer bulwarks fence, which will be added later.
So, this is the moment of truth. In building Woody Joe’s Higakikaisen kit a few years ago, a type of coastal transport very similar to this one, I had a bit of trouble with gaps in the hull. There were only a couple, and they weren’t serious. But, this Kitamaebune kit is another matter. I ended up with several slivers of gaps all along the hull planking, but worse was discovering that my laser-cut planks ended up too short.
Now, I should point out that if I had built the hull the way it was intended, I would probably have had fewer slivers of gaps, and the planking that came out too short would probably have been just fine.
The problem, I believe, stems from the fact that, unlike with the Higakikaisen kit, this kit doesn’t have a bulkhead or former up close to the bow. As a result, my hull curves outward too much, when it should have been more of a straight run into the stem.
Of course, being a ship modeler, I’m accustomed to things being a little out of place or a part not fitting, etc. Fortunately, there is enough scrap material to reproduce the laser-cut part, making it long enough to fill the gap. So, problem solved.
As for the issue of the bow not being correct on my model, will it cause problems later on? I don’t know. I’ve looked ahead in the build, and I don’t THINK it’s going to be a further problem.
As for those sliver gaps, the main problem this causes is the leaking of light coming through the hull. I’ve dealt with this by running strips of scrap wood along the inside of these seams, wherever I could see light coming through. I could certainly have used filler, but I’ve found this doesn’t look very good when dealing with wood that I have treated with dye, and the extra wood effectively strengthens the slightly delicate hull.
The solution isn’t very pretty when viewed from inside the model. But, this is not the Higakikaisen kit, so none of the interior will be visible. All these additions may not have been necessary as there might not be any light getting into the inside of the model, but I’m pretty sure there will be some light leaking inside and I don’t want that to make any gaps visible.
I’ll be painting the lower part of the hull, as was traditional, and that will help further with any planking misalignment or gaps.
Detailing the Model
Now, somewhere along the line, doing of this extra work, I started thinking about other “fixes” for the model. Specifically, adding some of the details that I’ve sen on the reconstruction kitamaebune, Hakusan-maru, which I visited on Sado Island in 2016, as well as in photos I’ve seen of the similar ships Naniwa-maru (a higakikaisen), and Michinoku-maru.
I’ll get into this more as I go. But, the one detail piece I have already added is a strip that runs along the bottom edge of the side planks, right above the chine formed with the bottom planks. This narrow strip was about 2.5mm wide and 1mm thick and runs from the stem all the way to the stern.
On the Hakusan-maru, this strip actually stop short of what one might call the tail-section, and forms a nice curved molding. However, I believe it does continue on the Michinoku-maru.
But, the real detail will be in the form of all the iron fastenings and copper mortise coverings on the ship. Woody Joe provides photo-etched copper sheet with some of the larger copper coverings, but I’m thinking about using a more tarnished look like in the Hakusan-maru photos. I’ll have to work out how to do this.
Also, there are some keyed fasteners that come through the hull in certain places, particularly at the stern, so I’ll be looking at these as well.