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Kaiyuan Temple from Cafmodel by RichieG

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This is a build log of the Kaiyuan Temple from Cafmodel. It is a 1/75 scale wooden model of an ancient Chinese building from the late Tang Dynasty (as per the website). People here may be familiar with Cafmodel from Tom's excellent wooden ship models, but I presume that these ancient building models were produced at some earlier time.

The model comes with a 53 page instruction book with nice drawings and Chinese language instructions. My plan is to translate those with some computer translation program, but the pictures alone give a pretty good idea of what to do. I have put photos of a few representative pages.

There 13 sheets of 10x12 inch plywood of various thicknesses with laser cut pieces. They are labeled A-N (there is no sheet labeled 'I'). I have a picture of a few of them here. There is also a piece of plywood labeled 'Z' which has some dowels of various lengths and diameters laid into cutouts, and some laser cut diagrams that are labeled in both Chinese and English (see photo).

I think everything looks like good quality. The laser cuts are very precise and accurate, and there is no significant burns on the back sides of the plywood.

Tom was very helpful in ordering the model, and even went to the trouble to send me about 10 pages of the instruction book by private message before I ordered the kit. It gave me time to try to find a good way to translate the Chinese. I will try to put my best effort at English translation into this log in order to save other English speaking modelers from having to reinvent that particular wheel.









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my translation of the text in the second photo above is as follows: (be kind, I know that there are mistakes, but I'm starting to get the idea)


Assembly instructions: use a small knife to remove the member from the plate , be careful not to damage the member , pay attention to remember the positive member when picking up
Reverse side : this model needs to be bonded , please use woodworking glue bonding ; part of the components need to be properly processed , please in the assembly before processing, use tools such as knives, knives, sandpaper, etc. as instructed in the instructions.
The model is divided into three parts: one-story house, waist Baling, two-story house, roof, three parts can be separated , set up the model
When careful not to stick.
When assembling the model, you can choose to cover all the tiles, or you can choose one or two sides without tiles , while installing only part
It reveals the internal structure of the building.
Plate consists of A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H, J,
K, L, M,N, Z total of 14 components ,
Attention? no !。

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The parts are all labeled by the letter corresponding to the sheet they are on, and a number, so it should be easy to find the correct part. Step one appears to be to glue parts H1 and J1 together, and then glue part C1 on top of those. There is mention to align the holes in part C1 with the lasered circles marks on part H1, but to make sure not to get glue in the holes. Then 3 parts C14 and part C15 are glued onto the edges of those after the back sides are beveled at 45 degrees. Also, the red circle is in the lower right corner of the page is meant to indicate the front of the building.





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I've completed the steps on page one, which produces a flat square composed of three layers of plywood and 4 pieces on the edges to hide the endgrain. The edge pieces have what look like bricks laser-etched onto the surface, and one edge of the square (which is the front) has a different design (which will allow for the steps to be glued on later). Note: the top piece is bigger than the two under it, and rides over the 4 edge pieces.

On page 2, the text says to round over 12 pieces (column 1) and 4 pieces (column 2) to match the contour of piece C6. Glue all 16 columns into the holes on the top of the base, with the 4 column 2 pieces in the corners. Make sure by checking from multiple angles that the columns are perpendicular to the base.


My note: the column 2 pieces are about a millimeter longer than the column 1 pieces, so be careful not to mix them up! I have glued one of the column 1's in place, and will leave it here for the night. Tomorrow, I'll finish rounding off the rest of the columns and glue them in, and then proceed to page 3!





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Thanks, Egilman and Popeye. And the Chinese language is definitely an added layer. The automated translations are sometimes tough to make sense of, but so far I think I get the idea. This model gets much more complicated as you get further into it, so I have to just forge ahead and hope for the best. I should have some pictures of the progress by the end of the day. (I think my plan will be to put a page of the manual up, then my best guess at translation, and then the photos of what I put together.)

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All 16 of the columns are in, and I made them as perpendicular as I could. Again, a reminder that the 4 pieces called "column 2" are almost imperceptibly longer than the "column 1" pieces, and they belong in the 4 corners. The next page (shown below) says to file a 45 degree bevel into the six E1 pieces and then laminate them onto the D5, making 3 pieces that are 3 layers each, with the bevel facing in and a groove along what will be the top of the piece (as piece D5 is shorter than pieces E1). These are then to be slid in between the columns as shown in the picture. In red text, it says something like 'don't force these pieces in. if they don't fit, it means you haven't grinded the bevel enough."

I have photos of my attempt to bevel the E1, the 3-layer E1-D5-E1 with bevels showing, and the piece in place between the columns. From the top view, you might be able to see that there is a groove between the outer layers (where the D5 is shorter than the E1's). This is all work that I think will be completely hidden in the finished model, but we're starting to put up the outer walls. So far, I find this to be a well thought out and well produced model, and I'd recommend it to others.






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My understanding of these kits, (if I read the translation correctly) is they are constructed in exactly the same way the real deal is, except that in the real deal there are no nails or glues used..... The parts just stack and are interlocked together making them very flexible, enough so to withstand the severe earthquakes that frequent that area of China....


Amazing construction techniques..... (but it's best to glue the kits together according to the manufacturer)


This is fascinating.....

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The three center panels on the sides and back are in. The next page has similar instructions about beveling the corners of 6 more wall pieces at 45 degrees, and there is a laser etched mark to help file or sand to the right point. (One thing I've noticed is that with repetition, things go a lot faster. It felt like it took a half hour to bevel the first piece, but now I can do it in about 60 or 70 seconds: 30 swipes on the file, and then another 10 on the sandpaper.)

The difference in these pieces is that they get a double bevel on one side, and that side goes on the inside corner (as I hope can be seen from the view from above.) They describe pieces that are in group A and group B; these are mirror-images of each other, and some care must be taken to keep track of how they will fit into the corners. I don't think it mentioned whether or not to glue these pieces in place, but I will hold off on glue until a later stage. (They stay in place pretty well just by the way the pieces are shaped; if what Egilman says is true, (and I think if seems to be so), I may try to limit the use of glue unless it really seems to need it.

Now that the side and back walls are up, the next step is to build the front walls and the front doors. I should be able to get that done by tomorrow.





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agreed, the pieces do interlock in a clever way. I was planning to try to do one page of instructions per day, but today, I find myself having finished 4 pages. (I want to finish before Christmas if possible, so it can be given as a gift; 53 pages and 65 days to go. The deadline should add a little excitement to what may otherwise have been a rather dull log.)

Page 6 describes beveling and laminating the three front panels, which are much like the side and back panels, except that they have cutouts for doors. The two panels on the right and left are mirror-images of each other, and the important thing to notice is that, as before the double bevel goes on the inside right and left corner of the building. Also, the laser etching should face the front. There are 2 small blocks that go in a cutout on each panel (they are called H3 for the side panels, and L2 for the center panel). I glued these in place (they go right over a laser etched spot on the base), and glued them to the panels, so these panels are currently glued in place. (The ones on the side and back are just slotted into place for now.)

Pages 8 and 9 are all about placing the 4 inner walls in place. The back and side walls are identical, and the front one has cutouts for the doors. They all need to have 45 degree bevels on the sides, and a less sever angle bevel on the top (which is marked by a laser-etched line.)

The warning text in red on pages 8 and top of 9 is the same admonition not to force the pieces in place. If they don't slide in easy, they haven't been beveled enough! However, there's a new red warning at the bottom of page 9 which says, as far as I can tell, that "when this step is completed , the same size as the inner side of each of the four slots is 112.7 mm; if the difference between this size is too large, conditions that may result in Part 2 not being able to fit into Part 1".

I have a picture of the front three panels glued in place with the blocks and the laser etching facing forward.

The next picture is a kind of blurry picture from above showing the inner walls in place. There is a better picture showing a corner from above just to show how the beveled surfaces all meet together. And one picture showing the inside walls with the laser-etched bricks along the bottom of the walls.CIMG6894.thumb.JPG.24cc785ecf9d8a1dcb87f1783d85ecea.JPGCIMG6897.thumb.JPG.c63a4982a53403f158d1d0e3354c599f.JPG








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I have a picture of a ruler above: it's just to show that the measurement from the inside of the grooves is pretty close to 112.7 mm, as the red warning text suggested that it should be. (I'd call it 113 mm, but that's close enough.

Page 10 and 11 have m putting the outer layer on all four walls. There are 2 identical rectangular pieces for the sides, and there is one for the back and another for the front that are trapezoids, with the bottom about 3 mm longer than the top (see the picture above where I've put a side piece into the opening for the back piece.) It doesn't make sense to me that the front and back are trapezoids, as the building is all square and right angles. I've sanded the back 45 degree bevel into most of the 4 pieces, (and the top bevel as well), but I've reached out to Tom from Cafmodel to see if he has any insight into the shape of the front and back walls before proceeding to gluing everything together.

While I'm waiting on that, I've decided to proceed to pages 13-15 which show the construction of the stairs that will go from the first to the second level. It's pretty straightforward: laminate two pieces for each side, and then glue the steps in between. There are about 20 steps; I've put in the bottom 8, and I'll try to finish it tomorrow. Aside from a few other small pieces, that will finish the first level of the building.


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I think I understand the outside walls situation better now: the side walls are slightly canted inwards at the top (perhaps for stability during those pesky earthquakes that egilman mentioned.) It makes it a little tough to fit the corners exactly, but it's pretty close if you finesse it a bit. I did install the front doors (the two side doors are closed, and the center door is glued in the open position.) I've also finished the stairs, and those are to be glued in place into the little cutouts in the base; I haven't glued them, but just stuck them in there. I'll lock it in when I see how they're to fit into the upper level. That pretty much completes part 1 (of 3).

I have the next 2 pages of the instructions here: They say to creat 1 45 degree bevel that is half thickness in both the top and bottom of the slots (better described in the diagram.) These parts are actually pretty small, and it turns out that my file can create both bevels at the same time if I slip it into the slot and gradually tilt it to 45 degrees as I file. You do have to be careful of the pieces that are labeled a and b (they are generally mirror images of each other, and can be mixed up if you don't think of it.) I've glued the first four pieces onto the square piece, and the small supports (they all go directly over laser etched lines, so there's no question as to where to put them.) There are a couple of photos that are from the next page, but it's basically the same idea: create those tiny bevels, and then slot the pieces together to form the square. There are a few extra pieces that look like a ladder, but I don't know what they're purpose actually is. Those pieces then slot right onto the pieces that were glued to the square platform. There is a hole in the platform which is where the stairs will eventually come through.









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I have 2 more pages of instruction here: they explain how to get to the pictures in the previous post. Most of it is just slotting together pieces or gluing pieces together in a straightforward way. I do want to show some pictures of the beveling process that I used for the pieces in the previous post. I did mention that I used a file to work on both surfaces at the same time, and I have three pictures that show the piece with the laser mark showing where to bevel to, then one picture with the file in position, and a picture after filing is done.

Also, I wanted to explain a little more about the L4 pieces. The text says to file the ends from above and below to half thickness, and to round over all the edges. These pieces then fit into a empty space in the F1 and E5 pieces. I have a picture of 2 L4's in position; one have been shaped and one hasn't, just to show what the shaping does. (The pictures often come up in a different order than I upload them, so I apologize if the picture order is confusing.)










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Wonderful work, the Diagonal cuts are for the bridge beams that support the corners of the platform/roof... Ingenious methods of construction from way back in the past...


6 hours ago, RichieG said:

(The pictures often come up in a different order than I upload them, so I apologize if the picture order is confusing.)

Upload them one at a time, then they are in the attachment section in order you put them in, only takes a few seconds longer and when they are uploaded as an attachment in the section, clicking on one individually will place it in the spot in the text section the cursor is sitting at.... In this way it is easy to comment each separate image if you want to....

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I really appreciate the help on posting pictures; I'm going to try doing that here.

The next page of instruction is about adding more of those 'ladder' pieces (A16 and A17, 4 each) nearer to the center of this ceiling piece. They go in at an angle, and it's a little tough to tell exactly what angle, but I think it fits best one way. Then there are 4 pieces that will go around the outside edge of the ceiling; they have some of those same 45 degree bevels what will ultimately form a slot for some diagonal support pieces. These pieces are lamiated into two layers, and some cap-shaped pieces are glued at the end of some of the slots to act as a stop. Once the outside edge pieces are slotted and glued in, the 4 diagonal pieces are slotted into the preciously made bevels to firm up the whole structure. I have the three pages of instruction here; I'll post the photos of what I put together into the next post.


Edited by RichieG
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The first two pictures are meant to show the 2 layer lamination of the side pieces. There are 2 versions of this piece, and 2 of each version (for a total of 4 pieces), and care must be taken to make sure they are assembled correctly. The third picture has two of the edge pieces in place; the fourth has all four in there. In the fourth and fifth pictures, you can also see 2 of the diagonal pieces inserted (from above, and from an oblique view). They took a little jockeying to get in place; it helped to run the file through the slots once everything was assembled to make the slots nice and straight and wide enough. That's the bulk of the work on the ceiling side of this piece. (There are a few small square supports that will be added to the inner and outer ends of the diagonal supports, and then this piece is meant to seat on top of the base with all the details facing down. It may be either glued or left free to be disassembled later; I think it only makes sense to leave it free, or else all that detail on the ceiling will be virtually impossible to see.) The next part is to work on the other side of this piece, which will be the floor of the second level of the building. I hope to get that going by Thursday (2 days from now.)

The page/days til Christmas count sits at 31 pages to go, and 59 days left. It's going to be tight, I think.






Edited by RichieG
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I have all four diagonal supports in (as seen in the first 2 pictures.) Also, if you look carefully, there are the small square supports in the 4 outside corners, and well as 4 square supports in the 4 corners of the inside square. Once this is put together, it sits on top of the base, as in the third picture, but without glue (so that you can take it apart and admire the detail of the ceiling.)

The next two pages of instruction show the assembly of the small square supports from 2 pieces each, and how the top piece will look on top of the base. The rest of page 24 is devoted to putting dowels vertically into precut holes, kind of like we did on the base way back in the beginning.  (Just another warning to be careful about the different length of dowel, as some of them are very close in size. There are 4 column  3's, 8 column 4's, and 4 column 5's which are all different lengths and go in different spots. The red warning says to make sure the dowels are all pushed in as far as they can go. They go all the way through the base and sit on top of some of the pieces of the ceiling underneath.)CIMG6944.thumb.JPG.fd1df054d93ebcf66cf6e4a27ba539e7.JPGCIMG6945.thumb.JPG.e80186c62ef9102fc790c7316feca87b.JPGCIMG6946.thumb.JPG.8aa0d6949f6f99f96896a4f849a49e9d.JPGCIMG6947.thumb.JPG.7a69df34a2447599757df7d80f54014f.JPGCIMG6949.thumb.JPG.5ebd150e0b569e40a08c04bbdbbbf8cf.JPG

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I have the next two pages of instructions here. Page 25 shows the support columns installed, as well as 4 additional columns that are thinner (3 mm diameter) and taller that surround the central hole in the floor. There is a railing that is installed around the central hole which consists of 4 laser parts and 4 dowels cut to length that form the hand rail. Then 4 pieces with mortises fit together to form a square which is glued on top of the 4 thin dowels. A similar 3 sided railing is made around the top of the stairs. I have completed all of this, and have some photos of the details.

Page 26 shows the installations of the handrail around the stairs, and then the preparation and installation of the walls of the second level. It it necessary to bevel the A14a and A14b pieces to 45 degrees on the sides (like the walls of the lower level), and then laminate them on top of the more solid F4 and E7 pieces. Note: the A14a and b differ in that they are a little higher on the outside edge than on the inside edge (again, mirror images of each other), and you have to make sure to put then in the right place. I have placed (but not glued yet) the first three pieces that form one of the 4 walls, and I will continue to forge ahead and make the rest probably next week.

Things I did wrong: if you look at the hand railing around the central hole, you might see that I used the 3mm dowel (instead of the 2mm dowel) for two of the four pieces by mistake. I noticed this after the glue had dried, and it was too hard to get them out, so I left it that way. Also, (and this doesn't show up in the photos), I put two of the 4 railing pieces in backwards, meaning that a tiny laser mark that is just below the hand rail (which can be seen in the illustration in the instructions) is facing toward the hole instead of away from the hole. Again, I left it that way because the glue had dried, and it is very difficult to tell, anyway. It just makes me learn that I have to be careful, and go slow, and double and triple check everything.


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I've managed to get all 12 of the wall pieces on the second floor beveled and glued into place. The next page (page 27) is about putting a railing around the balcony of the second floor, and then some pieces that will ultimately support the roof just below the balcony. I have a picture that shows the railing in place, but I haven't put the support pieces in yet.

The next page starts with cutting slots into some 3mm dowels so that they can fit together at right angles to each other. There is a more detailed picture of the slots with above and side views laser etched into one of the plywood boards, and I took a picture of that detail. I'm not particularly good at thinking in three dimensions, so it took me a while to figure out how to do it. This application could apply to other projects, so I'll just spend a minute detailing my approach.

I divide the process into 4 steps:

1) file the bevel onto the end of the dowel. I goes to half thickness at the end, and tapers to zero just in front of the slots.

2) it turns out that my file is just about exactly as wide as the slot needs to be, so using the side of the file, I made a slot that is half of the dowel diamter. Depending if this is a 'bottom' or a 'top' piece, the slot will either be on the same or opposite side as the bevel.

3) file a slot on each side that is one quarter of the diameter of the dowel. (this leaves one half diameter of residual material behind in the center of the dowel.)

4) file the 45 degree bevels into the front and back of the side slots on both sides.

I think it helps to make them in pairs that will fit together and test fit them as you make them to get the depths deep enough (but not too deep). I made on pair, and they fit together pretty tight.

After making 4 pairs of these, they will fit on top of the support pieces, and act as support pieces for the rafters. (This is shown pretty clearly in the pictures in the instruction manual.)CIMG6967.thumb.JPG.32753a94db643db81e139b3bba4d09ef.JPGCIMG6969.thumb.JPG.bd6d6ecc07fb24c601b27ab4bdc21d1a.JPGCIMG6971.thumb.JPG.fcaf2fb50e3949c3e5bea1294138e87e.JPGCIMG6972.thumb.JPG.b530aaaa2391915bedceb0489e6223cc.JPG

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think I've managed to finish all the steps on the pages that I've uploaded in previous posts.

This involved the C12 and C13 pieces which then support the 3mm dowels (which will eventually support the rafters). When I put the dowels in, it was clear that they were higher at the outside edges than in the middle, so I tried to even things out by filing down the supports in the corners. At some point, it occurred to me that the edges were supposed to be higher, and I built them back up. CIMG6974.thumb.JPG.1ec0668f78d9a2f75d1f97e1b9ede7af.JPGCIMG6975.thumb.JPG.670e9014503a7b244a581db63a3358ad.JPG


The corner pieces with the dragon heads on the ends were laminated and glued into position. I can see that my work was not consistent in that these pieces fit a bit differently in each corner, but I just tried to get a constant angle so that they would support the roof symmetrically.


The next page of instruction is all about putting in the 2mm dowels which will then support the roof. I believe that the text says to make the 2mm dowels 37.5 mm long, and have them stick out past the 3mm dowels by 11.4mm. Also, if there is a support column in the way, make the 2mm dowels shorter as necessary.CIMG6977.thumb.JPG.65c4ab623a64700dd3eb669cd2a7ddd9.JPG


There is also a laser etched full size picture (figure 5) of how to assemble 8 dowels into a unit to fit into the corners. (This must be done 8 times.) CIMG6978.thumb.JPG.189632b9084ce92fff87c51e766414fb.JPG


I have taken a picture of the model to show how the 2mm dowels will fit into the grooves that were precut into pieces from an earlier stage. Also, you can see where the support columns will necessitate making some of the dowels shorter, as they won't be able to stick as far under the second floor.CIMG6980.thumb.JPG.f5c61a226f4767a7436d7529c9507da2.JPG

I expect this process will take a while, so if you don't hear from me, it's just that I'm picking away at it slowly.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I've slowed down somewhat since my initial push on this project, but I have been continuing to pick away at it. I put in all of the dowels on one side:CIMG6982.thumb.JPG.4cec3463d8655ed51337db66fd7880d0.JPG

(On the second one from the left, I have glued on a piece that is from the next page of instructions just to see how it fits. Eventually, each of these dowels will get one of those glued on top of it.)

This is a photo that shows how the dowels fit into the grooves that were precut into some of the pieces from an earlier step (compare to the last picture from the previous post):

CIMG6983.thumb.JPG.5435218eda527021a5b492b3ee57218e.JPGYou can see that some of them needed to be cut shorter when they lined up with the support columns.

I did find that making the 8-dowel corner pieces is somewhat painstaking; I have made two of them so far (8 will be needed at this level, and 8 more on the upper level. I have a picture of one of these next to the laser-etched illustration:CIMG6981.thumb.JPG.8b4a64daeebc78c9d477c174ea4acd9f.JPG

and a photo of one of them placed (but not yet glued) into place:CIMG6985.thumb.JPG.4b327dcc77bc3e379009f4da13c72160.JPG

(I have given up on the idea of giving this as a christmas present this year, as there is no way that I can finish it in time. However, I did find a nice baby yoda doll that will suffice, thereby giving me another whole year to finish this model.)

Edited by RichieG
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