My First Wasen Scratch Builds

I’ve just about come to the end of the available wasen model kits, having built the higaki kaisen, hacchoro, yakatabune, mini-yakatabune, and mini-hobikisen kits from Woody Joe, plus the Tosa wasen kit from Thermal Studio. There are still a couple kits I haven’t gotten to yet, but now that I’ve had a chance to see a number of models, replicas, and actual examples in Japan, it seemed like it was time to take what I’ve learned and chart a new direction.

I decided to begin with the Urayasu bekabune, which was the subject of one of Douglas Brooks’s apprenticeships. I’ll post the details about this shortly. But, I want to mention that it has been a bit of a struggle for me at times because I’ve never scratch built any of this type or scale before. Also, I’m trying to build this model as close as I can to the way the actual boatbuilders built the full-sized boats. This has led to some issues that I’ve had a difficult time resolving.

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Certainly, I’m not going to be using tiny flat nails to fasten the planks together, but I do want to simulate the mortises. Also, with no internal framing, I’ve had to work out methods for getting the angles of the hull correct, as well as shaping the planks and getting a decent fit between them.

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bekabune and itasebune models at the Urayasu Museum

So, in the meantime, I’ve been interested in larger ships, but detailed information there is tough with anything except 19th century bezaisen. I’ve been curious about the smaller godairikisen, which carried goods along shorter, nearer to shore routes. Also, there are the warships of the Sengoku or Warring States, period. But, these are complicated designs, and decent drawings are few.

But, there is one vessel design that I’ve found interesting, and I’ve seen models of it in museum photos. There is also a decent drawing in the books of Professor Kenji Ishii. The boat is a Kamakura period umi-bune, or sea boat.

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Kamakura period umi-bune model. Photo by Douglas Brooks.

This was a trade boat used in the late 12th and 13th centuries on large rivers and inland seas. The ship’s hull is a semi-structured type, which is based around a dugout log to which hull planks are added, allowing the ship to sit deeper in the water and to carry a larger cargo.

I’ve decided to experiment with scratch building the Kamakura period ship, as I think I can tackle the subject. So, I’ll be posting updates on this model as well. Stay tuned.

 

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