IJN Fumizuki (1902)

Completed in August 2010.
Primarily paper.
1/87th scale.

For my fourth build, Admiralty Shipyards will be constructing the Imperial Japanese torpedo boat Fumizuki. After the botched near-disaster that was the Infanta Maria Teresa, I've learned my lesson about way (way!) too big projects, and this model will be vastly smaller. To writ, the pencil-shaped, barely 260 ton Fumizuki in real life was just 190 feet long and 18 feet wide. I'm going to build her in 1/87th scale, which is "HO scale", a standard, world-wide scale for model railroads. As to why I'm using this scale, it's because I hope to man this ship with crewmen and the variety available in HO scale is staggering (versus other scales where figures are both rare and expensive). Thus, the finished model will be just 665 millimeters long and a mere 65 millimeters wide (for you Anglos, that's a hair over 26 inches long and a mere 2 and a half inches wide).

A little bit about the Fumizuki to set the scene. The Fumizuki was originally a Russian torpedo boat built in 1902. Named Sil'nyi, she was at Russia's Port Arthur base in China during the Russo-Japanese War. When Russia capitulated in late 1904, the ship's crew scuttled her to prevent her capture. They didn't do a good job of that however, though the shallowness of the port's roadstead didn't help, and the Japanese were able to refloat her in 1905. Recommissioned as the Fumizuki in 1906, she served the Japanese Navy until 1913 when she was decommissioned and removed from the navy list. She was perhaps sent to the breakers that the same year, though another source hints she might have been sold to a civilian merchant company of some sort.

My reference material for this boat is fairly extensive, including some nicely detailed line drawings and a surprising amount of period photographs. It helps that the Fumizuki had 26 other sister ships (still in the Russian Navy) that were photographed occasionally.

Why the Fumizuki? Eh, who knows? I think the reason I'm attracted to her is that she's virtually unknown. Hours of searching on the internet have provided me just the barest facts of her 11 year existence. Of her last seven years with the Japanese I can find only two lines of text giving the year commissioned and the year decommissioned, with absolutely no details about what she did between those dates. I consider this a bit of an insult to the literally hundreds of Japanese sailors who served aboard her for those years, and maybe by building this model I can honor them just a smidge. A fairly nebulous motivation, I know, but I need some reason to continue :) .

BTW, if you try and google "Fumizuki", you will find a ton of information on a later Fumizuki, a much larger fleet destroyer from the 1920s that fought in WWII. This is the one you are looking for...

Fumizuki Build Day One:

For this build I will be using almost exclusively paper cardstock, which I purchased this morning at Wal-mart for $3.77 for a pack of 150 sheets. Paper modeling has a long history in America, and even longer in Europe, though I was unaware of this until a month ago, but this is my first attempt with paper. It also will hopefully remove the danger to the baby from eating the little chunks of plastic/metal/wood that I have been leaving on the floor from my other projects. Step one is to trace out deck plan and cut out of paper. Had to use three pieces taped together as it's 26 inches long. The shape of the hull is accurate to scale, as I have some pretty good line drawings of the hull plan that I have scaled up.

Then I traced and cut out bulkheads out of paper, these will help hold up the hull as the weight increases. Made a long double-thickness bulkhead running down the centerline, and notched it at regular intervals to put transverse bulkheads. Glued them all down on the bottom of the deck with plain white Elmer's glue.

Then I cut an identical deck out of paper and glued it down on the top, creating a sandwich of sorts. I realized almost immediately (but too late) that I should have held off gluing this top piece down until I had the sides on. I tend to work in a hurry and that's not always a good thing...

Once all that was glued and trimmed up, I could start with the hull sides. In real life, the Fumizuki had a slightly tumblehome hull shape, especially towards the bow, but that's a little beyond my abilities at this point so I just made it a flat-sided beam. Cut strips of paper 1 inch wide and laid them along the sides, which turned out to be more of a challenge (next time I'll do the sides first before I glue the top down). Next I laid a thin 2mm strip of paper all along the edges for a combing. Then built the "turtleback" on the bow, which was a fairly common design feature on these older torpedo boats. It's just a curved piece of paper with a bulkhead on the end. In real life, this turtleback helped the notoriously shallow draft ship handle rough seas.

Next I built and placed the cupola behind the turtleback and cut out a notch for the door. This was where the captain commanded and the helmsman steered the boat (I'll add a wheel later). Just a strip of card wrapped in a circle and glued. On top of this is a round platform for the 75mm gun. As it's going to hold some weight I made it double thick. And finally along the sides I put a pair of breakwaters, which served to channel water away from the bridge and away from the side guns.

Next I built the four smallish funnels. After laying square bases, I wrapped card around a dowel rod to get the proper shape and glued them together. I then added bands around the top and bottom and glued them down on the bases. I'll add steam pipes and rigging to them later (when I figure out how to...).

And finally I made circular bases for the two torpedo tubes and glued them down on the deck. And with that I'm done for tonight. All of what I did on this page took a grand total of two and a half hours, which is pretty awesome. If I had been using wood or plastic, the same amount of work might have taken three days, so I'm really liking paper right now!

Fumizuki Build Day Two:

Second working day and adding details as fast as I can! Including the aft platform, right on the poop deck, a circle where the 47mm gun sits. Unsure what it's covered with, wood or metal grate, as none of my pictures are clear enough. The aft most platform seems to sit up a few feet, most certainly to keep the crew from getting entangled in the steering gear/chains. Added two companionways, boxy structures that covered the staircases down into the interior spaces. Built them by making single-piece patterns and folding them like a packing box. A bit of tape and a spot of glue and you have a quick and easy square. Added some doors, hatches later.

More details added, including bases for the engine vents and some support rails on the turtleback. Plus assorted storage bins, binnacles, searchlights, chain ports, capstans, anchor beds, and rubbing strakes, amongst other doodads and widgets. I found a little bag of lollipop sticks at Wal-mart, these are helpful. This ship has numerous cowl vents scattered about the deck, venting hot air from engineering spaces and the galley, and feeding fresh air into the crew quarters. I used simple soda straws cut into segments and glued together to make them, worked out pretty well.

Added the two single torpedo tubes next. These are just rolled-up paper with some widgets glued on for details, crude but effective. In real life these were the ship's main offensive weapons, launching 15inch diameter Whitehead torpedoes out to a range of a few thousand yards. In real combat encounters, however, these complicated torpedoes rarely worked and were more of a threat than a promise, so to speak. Next I constructed the ship's 75mm gun, which sits upon the round platform over the conning tower. Just a combination of paper bits, rods and a cardstock gun shield. There will eventually be a metal railing around the platform, and maybe some more bits to the gun, but it works for now.

And lastly for today I made 20 hull portholes out of copper wire, using the standard method of wrapping it around a rod and snipping out circles. Also used that method, with a larger rod, to make the coaling hatches and oil tank rings for the deck, as well as a few doodads for details.

All for today!

Fumizuki Build Day Three:

Painting day today! Japanese torpedo boats of this era (1906-1913) followed the British Royal Navy's painting conventions. For the Fumizuki, this means a Flat Black hull, Light Gray turtleback and hull strakes, Flat Black funnels and superstructure, and Reddish Brown decks. The decks were not wood, but a type of no-slip linoleum that the sun turned this color after a few years. A few bits were red or white, but overall the ship has a black/gray side profile. In real life, this would help her avoid detection, being so low to the waterline and dark like the sea, she could sneak up on targets to close enough ranges where her torpedoes could be used. For my painting, I'll be using plain old Apple Barrel brand acrylic paints from Wal-mart, ones I already had in my supply box from earlier models. The cardstock painted nicely, very nicely, in fact, though I wonder about wrinkling as time goes by (probably not much). After painting (and re-painting, and re-re-painting...), I finished up with some colored pencils I've had for years in my junk drawer. This worked out fabulously as a yellow pencil rubbed lightly against the edges of the dark portholes and a silver pencil scraped across the corners and straights of the black and gray deckhouses made them pop out amazingly well.

And with that, I think I'm done with the Fumizuki for now. This was just a first attempt with paper just to see if I liked the medium and if it was easier than wood or plastic. In all respects, I have found that paper is superior to other mediums in almost all ways. It's vastly cheaper, extremely easy to work with, and I'm not cutting my fingers on sharp plastic edges or getting splinters. Did I mention it was cheaper? In fact, the entire build cost me a grand total of $8.77 for paper and some Elmer's Glue (I had the paint already). So, the point is, I think I'll be making paper models from here on out (hopefully). Here are some final photos of the build...

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