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  1. 1:120 USS Susquehanna WoodyJOE Available from WoodyJOE for ¥ 43,000 (approx. $400/£335) USS Susquehanna, a sidewheel steam frigate, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Susquehanna River, which rises in Lake Otsego in central New York and flows across Pennsylvania and the northeast corner of Maryland emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. Her keel was laid down by the New York Navy Yard in 1847. She was launched on 5 April 1850 and was commissioned on 24 December 1850, Captain John H. Aulick in command. After completing her trials, which she began in January 1851, the side-wheel frigate sailed on 8 June for the Far East to become flagship of the East India Squadron under the command of Commodore John H. Aulick. Aulick's orders included instructions to visit Japan and negotiate a treaty opening diplomatic relations with that country. After presenting demands and an official letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Japanese government on 14 July, the American warships departed on 17 July. On 12 February 1854, Susquehanna returned with the squadron to Japan as part of Perry's show of force, resulting in the signing of the Convention of Kanagawa on 31 March 1854. During the American Civil War, the ship was assigned to the Atlantic Blockading Squadron and sailed for Hampton Roads. Late in August, Susquehanna participated in the joint Army-Navy expedition to Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, which captured Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras on 29 August. During September, she captured two British schooners: Argonaut on 13 September and Prince Alfred on 28 September. In the same month, she also took two Confederate schooners as well: San Juan on 28 September and Baltimore the following day. Following the end of the American Civil War, Susquehanna brought American delegates to Veracruz bay in Mexico during the destruction of the Second Mexican Empire in order to open up relations with the United States backed Mexican president Benito Juárez. When the Susquehanna found out that the acting imperial ruler Maximilian I of Mexico had decided not to abdicate, the ship turned around to head home 1866. The ship ended her active service as flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron. Decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 14 January 1868, Susquehanna was laid up until she was sold for scrapping on 27 September 1883 to E. Stannard of New York City. The kit This is the very latest release from Japanese company, WoodyJOE. For those of you with Facebook, WoodyJOE has shown some of the development of this kit over the last months, with their finished model designed to show a finished ship on one side and the construction on the other…presumably for model fair display purposes. The box itself is sort of average in size for a model with these dimensions, but it is certainly heavy! Packed into an attractive but generic nautical-themed box, a product label for Susquehanna is affixed to the lid in a way that it looks printed on. Upon opening the box, the first thing to check out is the colour-printed instruction manual. This 32-page, stapled booklet breaks the construction down into 36 stages, but most of those have many sub-stages, effectively creating well over 200-300 sequences. Rigging illustrations are supplied too, and they are beautifully clear to understand. Photo annotation also refers to the specific part number, whether it be strip wood, sheet parts or metal elements. A full parts list is supplied at the beginning of the manual, as well as suggested paints etc. All of this is in Japanese though, befitting a kit that’s probably aimed for their home market. A series of sheet plans is included for just about everything you will need, such as hull profiles, fitting positions, masting etc. WoodyJOE kindly popped the Tamiya gearbox unit into my sample. This isn’t a standard part in this kit, but it is of course designed to specifically fit this unit, should you wish to purchase it extra. As with Tamiya products, you are expected to build this itself, and it is supplied as a mini-kit, complete with electric motor and a small tube of grease for lubrication. Another item to be purchased separately is this battery box. A relatively inexpensive item costing only a £/$ or so. Now, onto the various fittings. These have been supplied stapled to two sheets of card and certainly keeps everything neat and in order. Each packet of parts is also neatly labelled (in Japanese). Here you will find that parts are generally cast in white metal, but with very good definition in the most part. There are a few lines on the cannon that look like an original 3D-printed master wasn’t fully cleaned up, but this is easy to deal with. Instead of white metal, WoodyJOE have opted to include the belaying pins as cast-brass items which must be removed from their casting block and cleaned up prior to installation. Other bagged items include wire, ferrules, varying chain sizes, pins, rigging pins, etc. A number of parts in this kit are labelled in the same fashion as those on the card sheet but are bagged instead. This is where you will find spools of rigging cord that are clearly numbered in reference to the rigging drawings. Ughhhhh!! I really don’t like these! Here are the plastic rigging blocks. For me, there’s only one place to store these. However, if they don’t bother you, then they are actually very nicely moulded, but you will need to paint them appropriately. Plastic also features on the ship’s launches, with the basic hulls being supplied. These are painted though, and will be fitted out with timber, so it’s not a deal-breaker. The mouldings are also superb. You will find numerous timber elements also individually bagged and labelled too, clearly referencing their use within the instruction manual. This applies to the various lengths and diameters of dowel and strip. A quick look at these shows the superior quality of all timber. Some of the finest I’ve seen in a kit. Another sheet of card has several packages stapled to it that contain various sheets of laser-cut timber parts. Notice parts here for the launches, mast tops, cannon bases, channels. A second and third packet of laser-cut parts contains the clearly identifiable paddle wheels and stern rails amongst other parts that are spread over numerous sheets. Now we come onto the sheet materials, with this first sheet containing the parts for the stern. Note the engraved bevel marks to help you shape these properly. A large sheet of high-quality ply contains the hull bulkheads. In my opinion, there should be more of these, especially on a single-planked model. Laser cutting is excellent. An equally large sheet holds other key hull components. Here, as well as more bulkheads, you can see the false keel and long ply parts that will further help align the bulkheads and provide further rigidity. It will come as no surprise to see that there are a few sheets of photo-etch (PE) parts in this release. These contain everything from gratings to deck structure elements, and also those large gun swivel mount circles that you see at both bow and stern areas of the ship. Conclusion Of course, this is such an unusual subject to tackle and in many ways has some unusual construction techniques that aren’t typically seen in today’s kits, such as the stern that is built up from slices. It would have been good to see the Tamiya gearbox kit added as standard, as it’s generally a very low-cost item to purchase by itself (around £11 at time of writing), but of course, not all modellers would want to use this anyway. Personally, I think this model is aimed at those with some experience, and I wouldn’t recommend a single-planked hull for anyone without the prerequisite skillset to tackle it. As the bulkheads are perhaps spaced a little too far apart for my liking, you’ll need to ensure that you don’t create any sag between them when planking, giving an uneven finish to the hull. Another thing I would have liked to have seen would be copper plates supplied for the lower hull instead of notes on painting it in that colour. Even a roll of self-adhesive copper tape would’ve been a nice touch. A real oddity is the inclusion of plastic rigging blocks. This is probably my biggest single gripe with this kit, and I guarantee those will be thrown away and replaced with something more suitable in timber, possibly from Master Korabel. Now, that’s the gripes out of the way, and in no way do I want you to think that this isn’t a lovely kit to look at. It genuinely is. At 862mm long, it’s certainly not a small model, despite the 1:120 scale, and it definitely has to be the best thought out model I’ve seen in ages with regards to material identification and presentation. Everything is designed to make the modeller’s life as easy as possible. The drawings are also excellent, as well as the photographic instruction manual. Of course, all text is in Japanese, which does sort of indicate that their primary market is Japan. There are ways of translating this, such as with smartphone apps that will translate the image when you hover your phone camera over. With regard to the instruction manual stages, I do think many of them are fairly self-explanatory anyway. But…the smartphone translator app is free! In all, a high-quality package with excellent timber and some very nice fittings. The whole lot will build up into an outstanding finished model that is most certainly very different from your regular sail ships. If you get the chance to get one, I doubt you’d be disappointed. My sincere thanks to WoodyJOE for sending this new release out for review here on Model Ship World. To purchase directly, click the link at the top of the article.
  2. Imai is no longer producing kits. But you can luck up and find now and again. Here is one such kit. Imai of Japan 1/80 scale. That works out to a hull over 51" long. The kit is made up of wood, plastic, brass and white metal. The instructions are in Japanese but the drawings are easy to follow and one can spend the time to translate. This is the largest wood kit Imai produced in this series of kits.

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