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Building a Chinese Junk

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

In order to draw Chinese ships more accurately as part of my Graphic novel, I needed a reference to look at. I decided to build a model from scratch. Here I share my step by step process. Firstly, the model I purchased was the Red Dragon Chinese Junk made by Artesania Latina. Link here:

When it arrived I was so excited I couldn't wait to get started. What's good about this model is that it's not too big or too small. And it's not too expensive either. When you build model ships, you have to make sure you get a plank bender, it makes it easier to bend the plank to shape the body of the ship. Thankfully I looked it up before buying this model. The bender is made by the same manufacturer which is very good. The link to the plank bender is here:

The pieces are laser cut which is very good. And every piece is labelled according to the instruction manual and the piece list. The manual came with coloured photographs which gave you the best visual references to guide you along. I already had other tools to such as pliers, wood glue, sandpaper, and a file. I smothed out every piece with sand paper and began to assemble the pieces and stuck them together with wood glue.

The next stage came the planking where I had to use the plank bender. I gave each one a squeeze after every 5mm on one side. It hurt my hand after a while. After a little I wore a glove which softened the grip. My trouble began when I came across one stage where I had to nail each and every plank to the hull supports. These nails are way too small for my hands. This stage was too fiddly. And even when I hammered the them on to the hull structure, the planks would split. I was NOT going any further like this. I think this process is dumb because it causes damage to the model. I already paid £90 for this model and I wasn't going to go along with an instruction that will damage it.

Nailing the Splitting planks

To solve this problem I setteld for the good old glue gun. This was simpler and faster. It got the job done better.

All excess planks were then cut off with pliers. Once the planking process was finished I sanded the whle this and covered the whole thing with layer upon layer of wood glue to hold everything in place. The next this I did was to give the body a nice coat of paint. I wasn't satisfied with the colour of the body of the ship. So I mixed some coffee and mixed it with PVA glue, and then spread substance by hand. Giving it nice proper wood-like finish.

While the paint dried I decided to work on the sails. But the cloth for them weren't pre-cut. I had to cut them from scratch. So I used tracing paper to draw the shapes and cut them with scissors accordingly. The wooden sticks were so thin I couldn't tell which one was 2mm thin or 3mm. This is where some of the pieces should have come in separate bags. To secure the cloth to the sticks I glued them one using wood glue and then sewed them on.

Then came the stage for the planking of the platforms and the sides. Once again the glue gun came in handy and held everything together.

Now that the whole body was finished, I needed to ad the little details onto the deck such as the masts, the anchor, the rudder, the pulleys etc. But the I came across another problem. All the small pieces were way too small. The holes of the pulleys were to small for thread to pass through. According to the manual I had to use a drill bit with a width of 0.75mm. I was not going to wast money on somthing I was going to use once. This is another issue that could have been resolved by the manufacturer by simply providng the pieces ready made rather than having to customise every single piece by adding a minute detail such as expaning the holes. To solve this problem I used snap buttons as pulleys to hold all the ropes together. For the rope, I used my wn thread because the thread provided wasn't long enough.

The next stage came the adding of the sails. This was the longest step in the process because I could only refer to the photos and even the map that came with box was vague as to where the ropes were meant to go. The best I could do was guess accoring to how likely the rope would be depsite my little knowledge of sailing. It was the best I could do to make it look more believable.

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