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Korean turtle ship by MSzwarc - FINISHED - Young Modelers - 1:100, kitbashed

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I was attracted to this kit because of my interest in feudal Japan. Kits or plans of Japanese ships and boats of this time period are difficult to find, and while the turtle ship is Korean, it was used to fight the Japanese during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea during 1592-1598. Although a little bit of research showed me that there is little contemporary historical evidence showing how a turtle ship was built, or what one might have looked like, I also discovered that several "replicas" have been built in Korea, and the Young Modeler's kit is somewhat similar to those. With those shortcomings in mind, I purchased this kit on eBay for a few dollars about 3 years ago, thinking I might do a bit of kit bashing, and build a model of one of the speculative replicas. The kit was put on the shelf while I worked on other models, and then I drifted away from modeling for a couple years. When I found myself wanting to build again, I knew I didn't want to build large ship models, having, before my hiatus, found a liking for building large scale boats and miniature ships. I was trying to decide whether or not to sell the turtle ship kit, and ended up starting work on the kit.

The woods used in the kit are red pine, yellow pine, cherry, and a lovely wood called agadis. The laser cutting and engraving are very crisp. The rigging line is nice quality, as are the cannons. The brass plates and nails intended for use as armor, while well made, are grossly out of scale, and give the model the appearance of being a decorative novelty, as do the colorful silk tassels. They won't be used. The sails are unusable: crudely made, and much narrower than those on the photo of the finished model on the box, and those shown in the general arrangement drawings. The dragon's head and demon's face are resin castings, and while the demon's face is nicely cast, the dragon's head has many flaws, and will be very difficult to clean up properly. There are no actual plans, but rather a couple of full-sized general arrangement drawings showing where the various parts go. The instructions include an English translation, but require careful reading (for me, at any rate) to understand what is being said.

I've decided to build the kit as a model of the "replica" housed at the War Memorial in Seoul. This will require a few structural changes in the tail area and the area on the roof around the masts, as well as changes in the armor. New sails will have to be made, and a new dragon's head sculpted, and iron-work details added. The hull of the replica in the museum appears to be planked using a half lap joint, whereas the kit hull is clinker-built. To avoid a complete re-engineering of the kit, I've decided to build the hull per the kit design.

Here is the completed hull:






Edited by MSzwarc
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The deck is a pretty straightforward assembly, requiring the addition of beams to the underside, and a grooved edging that will hold the superstructure walls. The grooves are pre-cut in the stock, necessitating the addition of a small filler piece in each end of the bow and stern pieces. The shear strakes of the hull must also be notched to accept the beams on the underside of the deck.




The tail structure adds to the visual interest of the model, but, in my opinion, the kit is poorly engineered in this area, with each of the tail fins being a single laser-cut piece butted to the hull, and requiring quite a bit of carving and bending to shape them properly and make them appear as part of the hull structure, and not an afterthought. I added some details to the tail structure to make it look more like the replica in the War Memorial.


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Shields up! The "shield plates", as the instructions call them, are now in place, and the trim pieces have been  added. I found it easier to use my own order of construction, rather than follow the directions. It's quite a juggling act to get the two side pieces bent to the proper curve and into the grooves in the deck edging and corner posts. I left the bulkheads loose until after I had the trim pieces applied so that I could sand the trim flush with the top of the shield plate.





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I've installed the oars and cannons, which need to be in place before the roof gets planked over. Unfortunately, the oars will make handling the model for the remaining work a lot trickier.




The next step is to build the structure around the masts. This is where I make a major departure from the kit design, since I am trying to build model as close to the replica at the Seoul War Memorial as I can within the limitations of the kit. So, instead of this:


I'm aiming for this:


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I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday studying the several photos of the War Memorial turtle ship from various angles that I have collected, and I feel that I finally have a good understanding of how the hatches around the masts are constructed. I began work today on the framework for the hatches and the mast support channels.



Here is a comparison with the War Memorial replica:


There appear to be 5 hatch covers(blue arrow) over each of the hatches to the rear of the mast support channels. The structure at the aft end of each of the hatches(yellow arrow) appears to be a roller. The masts could be lowered and unshipped by pulling them aft over the rollers. I'm not sure what the odd structures immediately in front of the rollers are(red arrow), but they are not fixed as they appear in different positions along the length of the hatches in different photos. The hatches to the port and starboard of the central hatches will be added after the roof is planked.    


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Haven't had much time for modeling over the past week, but I made a little progress. I realized that the roof planking method called for in the instructions would be unsatisfactory for the finished look I'm aiming for in this build. First, the instructions call for planking the roof as if it were a cylinder rather than barrel-shaped, and second, the planking is set on top of the shield caps, and is thus visible from the edges:


While these shortcomings would mostly be hidden by the large, overlapping brass tiles provided in the kit, I will be using smaller, paper tiles arranged with no overlap, but rather with gaps between the tiles allowing the roof planking to show through:


To remedy this situation, I decided to cut a rabbet into the shield cap at the bow and stern, which also necessitated the removal of part of the longerons used to support the mast hatches:


I placed the first planks alongside the mast hatches, and then filled in the planking between them:



My prediction that the oars would be a problem proved true, as I've already knocked a few of them loose while working on the planking, but they must be installed before the roof is planked.

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I managed to get a little work done here and there during the holidays, and have completed the woodworking on the model, with the exception of the masts.


The flagstaff is shown in place here, but it will be removed while the iron work details and armor plates are added.


Adding ironwork details is the next step. The only details supplied with the kit are ring bolts and corner brackets. The kit ring bolts are too large, so I made the smaller ones on the left as replacements.


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I got all the corner brackets and ring bolts attached.


The remaining iron work and the armor tiles on the roof will be made of paper. I used a sheet of black Canson Mi Tientes artists paper. The "front side of this paper has a regular texture, but the "back" side has only a faint, random texture. I rubbed a 4B graphite stick on the back side, and then rubbed the graphite in with a piece of felt. Then I brushed two coats of Rust-all solution over the graphite to give just a hint of rusty sheen to the paper. Finally, I coated the textured side of the paper with fish glue, and allowed it to dry. The fish glue can be re-activated with water, and so will make it much easier to apply the tiles and iron work.

I realized that making tiles to the scale used on the Seoul War Memorial turtle ship would require 800-900 tiles-- quite a cutting job! I decided that I needed a hexagonal punch to make the job manageable. I didn't have any hex tubing on hand, but I had round brass tubing, and I drove a piece of it over the end of an allen wrench, and ended up with a serviceable punch that will cut tiles just slightly larger than I was aiming for. Here are the punch and some cut tiles. The shiny black tiles on the left are showing the fish glue on the back of the tiles, while the tiles on the right show the face of the tiles. I didn't include a ruler in the photo, but the tiles measure 7/32" from edge to edge.


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Well, life's interruptions have finally abated a bit, and I was able to begin mounting the armor tiles on the roof. The photo shows the first 100 tiles along with the iron edging strips. The gap in the edging and tiles at the bow is where the dragon's head will eventually be mounted. Partial tiles will eventually fill in the uncovered areas along the edges.


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I finally finished tiling the roof. The tile layout is not quite square to the centerline, but it's done-- more than 650 full and partial tiles. There will be fewer spikes to install because there are pathways that are spike free.


I decided to work on the masts and sails next, and then on the dragon's head. I want to get everything fitted and ready to install before I deal with the spikes. The yards and battens on the replica are bamboo, whereas the kit supplies dowels to make these parts. I wanted the appearance of bamboo poles on my model, so I tried to duplicate the look of bamboo with the dowels. In the photo below, on the left is a dowel. Next the dowel has been scored to show the nodes of the bamboo. Then the dowel has been lightly sanded between the nodes to give a little shape to the "bamboo", and the end has been hollowed out. The shaped dowel is then painted, and finally, a brown wash is applied to bring out the nodes.


Below is a comparison between the plain dowel and the finished "bamboo".


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Thanks for the comments. Carl, the interior on the 1:100 scale model isn't detailed, and so isn't visible after the roof is put on. The 1:65 scale model that Wim mentioned, however, has a detailed interior, and can be built with half the roof left off so the interior can be viewed.

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Still chipping away at the remaining work. I decided to do the sails out of paper, since I thought fabric would be inappropriate for the 1:100scale of this model. I used white tissue paper sprayed with thinned ocher acrylic paint, and then sprayed with a matte finish. I cut the paper into strips and glued the strips together to simulate the seams in the sails. I cut oversized strips for the tabling at the edge of the sails, glued it in place, and then cut the sails to final size through the tabling.


The dragon's head was next. Here are dragon's heads from two different replicas, along with the casting included in the kit.


I wasn't happy with the kit's dragon head, so I decided to resculpt it with the mouth open, showing the smoke port, and with more antler-like horns as in the replica heads. First, I ground off the dragon's ears and horns, and then drilled up through the base for an armature rod. Then I cut the head at the jaw line, and reassembled the pieces on the armature with the mouth properly opened.


Finally, I rebuilt the features a bit at a time using Magic Sculpt, an epoxy sculpting putty. The finished dragon head:


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Jan, the paper used for the tiles is Canson Mi Tientes-- and paper used for artwork. The black color is in the paper itself, and is permanent. I rubbed the surface of the black paper with graphite, also permanent, to achieve the iron-gray color. While I plan to paint the dragon's head and the demon's face that attaches to the bow, the woodwork on the model has been finished with Minwax natural wood finish, so there's no more finishing to do around the tile work.

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I'm still poking along at a tortoise's pace yahoo_happy.gif on the turtle ship. I finally finished rigging the sails, each one constructed of over 100 pieces of wood, paper, and thread. Aside from positioning the sails on the model, and belaying the ends of 8 ropes, the rigging is finished. The rigging thread supplied with the kit is nice quality, but stiff, so it's going to take a bit of work to try to get it to hang naturally on the model.


I added the structures to the tops of the masts that are visible on the replica in the museum in Seoul. They appear to function somewhat like crosstrees, and provide a shoulder for the halyard block. The long structure on the foremast just below the finial is used as a hoisting point to raise the masts.


I painted the dragon head and the "ghost mask" as the instructions call it. While both are painted brown with red eyes and white fangs on the ship in the Seoul museum, I decided to take a bit of artistic license, and paint mine with a little more color. The ghost mask was base-coated with flat emerald green acrylic, dry-brushed with Mediterranean blue, and then coated with a blue-green wash. Finally, the eyes were painted with a metallic gold lacquer, and the high spots of the mask were dry brushed with the lacquer. The same procedure was used on the dragon head, but obviously with different colors.


I finished the flag, as well. The kit-supplied flag is black cloth printed in gold. Since I used paper for the sails, it made sense to do the flag in paper, too. I drew the Chinese character for "turtle" in white ink on both sides of a piece of black paper, and then used strips of paper to hang the flag on its arm.


All that remains to be done are the spikes, the anchor, and final assembly.


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