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.

Below is a copy of one of the images from the instructions. In it, you can see the starboard gate in the lower part of the image (bow is to the right). I drew a red oval to show where the inside bulwarks is just a solid sheet in the kit, with no indication of a gate.

Some modelers might not care, but it just bugged me. My Higaki-kaisen model isn’t plain like this. It has the inside area of the gate defined. You can see the results in the following photo, which also illustrates the main cabin framework assembled in Steps 35 and 36.

The arched facing piece of the main cabin was one of the challenges of this kit. It consists of an arch piece that has 14 tiny laser-cut square holes. The instructions say to cut 2mm long pieces of 1mm x 1mm square strip. It is extremely difficult to cut wood this small without crushing it, and requires a very sharp, very thin blade.

At minimum, you want to make sure you use a fresh blade for this. Myself, I turned to the scalpel with a fresh blade. This is sharper and thinner than an X-Acto type blade, and did a better job. Because it’s still difficult to cut all the pieces exactly the same length, I cut them all a little long. After glueing them into place, I used a fine grit emery board (nail file) to carefully file them down so that they were all the same length.

The next step was to glue the piece to the front of those beams you see installed for the roof of the main cabin. This means that all those beams have to have been made all the same length. This is indicated in the instructions. However, when gluing the face piece into place, what’s not indicated is the exact position of the piece.

Clearly, it has to fit on the ends of the protruding beams, but there’s a bit of leeway here. I ended up consulting the plans sheet to see if it’s shown there. There’s nothing obvious. But, in one side cutaway diagram, you can see the alignment.

Getting this piece to fit properly required a little filing down of the ends, but that wasn’t difficult. Hopefully, in some later step, I won’t discover that I did this all wrong. That’s kind of the trick with this model.

Now, I’ve kind of jumped ahead in my descriptions here, and I should point out the other steps completed. These include finishing the bulwarks at the bow, the addition of the beams at the bow, and the addition of the stern deck. Below is a series of photos showing the added bow detail.

The stern deck piece was also added. This is another of the kits pre-scribed, pre-cut deck pieces. Note that the wide positioning tab at the very end stands out like a sore thumb. I may end up adding a thin strip of wood molding to cover it. The molding wouldn’t be accurate, I think, but it will make the model look better.

Finally, here’s a close-up of the bulwarks gate at the main deck. This would have been all a plain wall of wood. I think it looks much more completed this way. To make it stand out, I slightly recessed the wood where the gate is.

Note the strip of wood that spans the top of the inner bulwarks. I’ll have to scribe the lines of the gate in it, but I don’t even know if the real ship would have had this piece crossing the gate itself. It doesn’t on the Higaki-kaisen kit, and I don’t think it does on the one Kitamae-bune that I visited in Japan.

In any case, the piece is odd in that it is just about the only piece that is not laser cut. Instead, the kit provides patterns for you (on the plan sheet), and a piece of wood, and expects you to cut/file the pieces to shape. This wasn’t a problem, but seemed oddly out of place for this kit.

The last thing to completed at this point was the rudder, which I’ve already done. The instructions have you mounting it, but I don’t want to do that yet, as I have some detailing I want to do to the rudder and to the hull. I feel the rudder will just get in the way, so I’m going to hold off on mounting it for now.

There is, however, the matter of the lifting tackle for the rudder. The kit has you fake the rig for the most part, which is okay, I suppose. The rig was more elaborate on the Higaki-kaisen model, but even that had some noticeable simplifications. If I just follow the instructions on the lifting tackle, I can proceed with the kit without worry. If, however, I want to make it more accurate, with the lines of the tackle tying off on the inside of the model, I’m going to have to make sure I maintain interior access, so I can’t plank over the main cabin.

In any case, I have to say that I’m pretty happy with how the model is turning out, even with some of the early hull construction issues. I’m starting to envision some of the other detailing I’m planning to do and really looking forward to seeing how this all turns out.

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