Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 11

Sailmaking is at somewhat of a standstill, as I’m experimenting with different techniques for representing the large sails of the kitamaebune in 1/72 scale. There are number of possible things I can try,, including simply stitching the seams as one might do for a western ship’s sails, but I’m still hoping I can show some of the characteristics of the Japanese sails.This is something of a long term process, so in the meantime, I decided to move ahead with some of the other model details.

One of my sail making attempts still being tested and considered.

It had occurred to me that might make the most sense to go ahead and build the various components of the main stay. It took me a while to figure out this is called the Hazuo in Japanese.

Dealing with the stay, or hazuo, requires making/rigging four different parts. Here’s the section of the instructions that deal with this.

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 10

I’m now in the final stages of the building of Woody Joe’s Kitamaebune model kit. I’m working on the sails and rigging and dealing with a few small remaining details.

The kit sails are very nice, and have the sail seams and lacings printed on them. From a normal viewing distance, they look great, and I’ve gotten compliments from those who glanced at them and thought I’d stitched them. But, I’m going to need a main sail as well as one at the bow and I want them to match. The only way to do that is to make them both.

The big issue is that I’d love to be able to detail the Japanese-style sails, which are made of separate panels that are laced together. The design is such that the sails are effectively self-reefing, so that they spill the wind when it gusts. This design is more apparent on sails of smaller vessels, and I don’t know if the lacing between all of the panels are that way, or just between the four large groups of panels. But, you can see the idea in a pair of photos from ModelShipWorld member marcjp, who lives in Osaka, Japan, and took these photos of the museum ship Naniwa Maru.

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 9

I’ve finally made significant progress, though most of it doesn’t really show, as so much is in the small details – the simulated copper coverings are finally done!

This took me a while as I kept thinking I was done. Then, I’d think some more and realize there was some other feature I wanted to add. I’d no sooner finish that, than realize I really should add yet another feature. This cycle has repeated itself many times, but I think it’s over now, and I can put that equipment away.

The next item I decided is pretty straight forward and related to the vinyl “coppering” details. Often times, the coastal transports, known generally as bezaisen, are shown with nail heads in the bulwarks fences. Adding these at this scale may be a mistake, but I’ve started down the road – No turning back now. I drilled out all the necessary holes which will be plugged with some 22 gauge copper wire. I intend to blacken the wire using liver of sulfur.


Holes were drilled out and I started the process of making copper “nails”. The heads have to be flat, so I filed the end of the wire and then cut the “nail” off.


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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 8

More and More Copper Details…

This project stalled a bit while I was adding the copper coverings detail, which I’ve actually been making using brown permanent adhesive vinyl that I laid out and cut using my Silhouette Cameo 3 machine. The slow down is simply due to the amount of small details I’ve been feeling I need to make.

As I’ve written earlier, I reproduced the kit-provided shiny copper pieces with vinyl ones using the Cameo’s feature called PixScan, which allows me to use a specially marked mat on which the parts are placed and to take a photo of the them. This gets imported into the Silhouette Studio software and I am able to recreate the parts from the photo.

Part of the process is automated, but it works much better for larger objects. The small parts in this kit require that I do a lot of editing to sharpen up and straighten up the cut lines.

Woody Joe product image of the completed Kitamaebune kit.

In addition to those parts, I’ve been studying my photos of the Hakusan Maru, the kitamaebune on Sado Island, to figure out what other copper plates I need to make. There are a LOT of copper coverings on these ships, so the project seemed a bit overwhelming. Each part had to be measured on the model, which does not correspond exactly to this particular ship, and drawn in the Silhouette Studio software. Then, the Cameo cutter was set up with a piece of the same brown colored vinyl on a light adhesive cutting mat, loaded up, cut, unloaded, vinyl removed from the mat, mat put away to keep it clean (more like keeping it from getting too dirty). Finally, the pieces are carefully applied to the model.

Stern of the Hakusan Maru on Sado Island showing all the copper plates and the iron work on the rudder.

Bow of the Hakusan Maru on Sado Island showing lots of small copper plates on the real ship.

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 7

The Tenmasen

This Woody Joe kit does not include a tenmasen, which is the small ship’s boat used for transferring crew and cargo to and from the ship, but neither did their Higaki-kaisen kit. The tenmasen is normally carried across the deck, atop the kappa, which is the small forward cabin where ropes and sails are stored. They are used by the Higaki-kaisen as well as the Kitamaebune.


Image from a Tokyo Maritime Science Museum book on bezaisen such as the Higaki Kaisen and Kitamaebune. Note the tenmasen forward of the open main deck.

Up to now, all the tenmasen I’ve seen illustrated have been pretty heavily constructed boats, propelled using one or two ro, or sculling oars. In contrast, the tenmasen recorded in the Paris illustrations is very wide and flat, appears somewhat lightweight, with a shallow draft, and is equipped with a pair of sculling oars, as well as 10 paddles, which are used much like western-style oars.

Tenmasen reconstruction at the Hakusan-maru Museum on Sado Island.

Tenmasen reconstruction at the Hakusan-maru Museum on Sado Island.

Tenmasen from Paris’s Souvenirs de Marine

The large number of paddles, or kai, that appears on the Paris drawing would seem to suggest that this boat was used to ferry crew to and from shore, as it would take at least 10 oarsmen to operate – the bulk of a ship’s crew.

The large sculling oar could have been used to steer. This boat would probably have been quite fast used this way. Using just the sculling oars, cargo could have been placed on the wide deck, and one or two oarsmen could have handled the boat.

Given that the only actual plans or measurements I have for a tenmasen are the Paris drawings, and the only actual 19th century evidence of tenmasen construction for a kitamaebune, I am fashioning mine from the Paris drawings.

I had to adjust my tenmasen somewhat to fit the model, as the tenmasen in the Paris drawings was over 36 feet long. It would stick out beyond the sides of the ship, but I’ve seen pictures of models of bezaisen with boats that did just that. Particularly when placed on top of the kappa. I settled for a 5% reduction in overall size, to reduce the length just a little. This still makes it about a 34 foot boat.

I tried a few different methods for building the boat, but at 5.75″ long, it was hard to build it in traditional wasen fashion. So, I ended up compromising, and carving the lower hull from lifts made of hinoki. This simplified the construction process greatly. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the construction process, as it was so experimental, and I was determined to keep building until I had something workable.

It wasn’t until I had gotten this far that I saw how shallow and wide this boat is.

This boat’s shallow draft is certainly made up for by is broad beam, so I expect it was able to carry a decent load of cargo. Its shallow draft must have allowed it to easily reach locations without the need for port facilities – ideal for a trade ship buying and selling goods on its trip up and down the coast.


The boat fits well on the kitamaebune, but I will need to make some kind of modification fo the ship to allow the boat to be tied down.

I have some details now to add to the tenmasen, including nail detail, loops for paddles (kai), and mounts for the sculling oars (ro).

More Details

In the meantime, I’m back to working on more copper plate (vinyl) details, with some custom pieces I’m now adding. Also, there are various tiny details I’m adding as I go, even though I’ve had to temporarily remove some details to make room for others. Unfortunately, I can’t really explain what some of the added details are, as I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the parts they were added to. But, I can share a couple photos.

One easy to describe detail is included in the kit. That is the sagari, which is a large, hanging tassel that serves a function similar to a figurehead on western-style ships.

On the Hakusan-maru, the sagari is a lot smaller.

But, if you look at the one mounted on the Michinoku-maru, a larger kitamaebune reconstruction that actually operated on the ocean for a time, it’s a bit closer in size.

Still bigger on my kitamaebune model, but I’m satisfied with it. I have noted the rope that runs around the sagari on both reconstructions. That’s something I want to add.

So, the next stage is to finish up the small details. I’m almost done with the application of vinyl details. Then, I’ll proceed with adding some little things to finish up the hull before I move on to detailing the sail and maybe adding a light mast at the bow.


Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 6

Details, Details…

Hull construction is done on the Kitamaebune, the rudder has been added, and it’s time to turn my attention to the small details.

The kit, like all of the larger Woody Joe wasen model kits, includes a sheet of photo-etched copper, which covers many of the beam ends and such. But, while these pieces cover all the major features, there are many more, smaller details on the real ships that aren’t dealt with in this or the Higaki Kaisen kit.

I took these photos of the Hakusanmaru on Sado Island in 2016. In them, you can see all the brown colored copper coverings as well as the black iron bands and fasteners.

I considered trying to make these details in copper, but it wouldn’t match the copper in the kit, which actually appears to be some kind of copper alloy, as it doesn’t tarnish like regular copper. The solution I came up with, was to use brown colored adhesive vinyl. So, it was time to re-introduce my vinyl cutting machine, the Cameo Silhouette 3.

Here’s a link to the blog post where I used the Cameo to make the ornamentation on my Kobaya model:

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 5

Last week, I displayed my collection of Japanese traditional boat models at the big Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington, and I managed to sell my Higaki kaisen and Gifu tabune models to visitors to the show.

My now sold Higaki kaisen model at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

But, that leaves my collection of wasen models without a flagship sengokubune. And, with a Japanese boat models display in Japantown coming up next month, it’s become that much more important for me to finish the Kitamaebune kit. So, now that I’m back home, I’ve been putting greater effort on this model.

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 4

After some early troubles with the hull construction, the model has been coming along very nicely. With the addition of the outer bulwarks fences, I began my next modification of this kit. The main deck of the sengokubune (the common term for this type of ship) has a pair of gates which are removed to allow easier loading and off-loading of cargo. On this kit, the inboard part of the bulwarks is a solid sheet of wood, with no indication of such a gate. So, I took my Japanese razor saw and cut openings for the gates.

I then lined the base of these opening with a sill of sorts, and then used the cutaway sections and glued them into place so that they were more clearly gates. Completing the outside of the bulwarks fence, I decided to add one strip of molding just above the main rail as a continuation of the one on the gate. You can see this in the photo below. The left arrow shows the one on the gate, which is part of the kit. The three arrows on the right point out the strip that I added. It’s not necessary, but further differentiates my model from others. Continue reading

Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 3b

This is just a short update on the Kitamaebune build.

I added a couple pieces to the transom to simulate the plank that seems to show up on every benzaisen model or image I’ve seen.

In the above image, the red arrows point to the plank that I’m referring to. The blue arrow points to the very tip of the side planking at the stern. The piece in the Woody Joe kit is truncated close to where the dashed blue line is, and actually a bit lower than that, really.

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 3

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.

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