About catopower

Ship modeling since 1993.

Japanese Boat Models Display 7.0

Just last week, on a rainy March 1st morning, I packed up my car with stands, posters, models, signs, and accessories, and drove 2 hours through traffic to set up the latest and largest Japanese boat models display yet. 7 models in all are on display in the window of the Union Bank community room in the Japan Center Mall from now through the end of March.

This year, Woody Joe’s Hacchoro, Higaki Kaisen, and Yakatabune are prominently featured, along with Thermal Studios’ Tosa Wasen, and my scratch built Hozugawa Ayubune, Urayasu Bekabune and Kamakura period Umibune.

Just over half of these models are based on kits, mostly from Woody Joe. And, if your interested in building one of these wonderful kits, of course, I always recommend Zootoyz.jp as your source for Woody Joe, and other kits. Here is some information on the models in this display – click on their titles to go to a website where you can purchase the kits. Continue reading


Japanese Article about Douglas Brooks

Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who you should know all about if you follow this blog, has been teaching Japanese boatbuilding techniques in his classes at Middlebury College in Vermont.

This article appeared recently in Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s three largest newspapers. I can’t easily read much Japanese, but this article mentions the pool launching of the Hozugawa Ayubune that the class built.

This is the same type of boat I recently modeled, based on information I got from Mr. Brooks. The boat shown here that his students built was a 6.5 meter boat, or a little over 21 shaku. My model, in comparison, is about 4.5 meters, or 15 shaku.

The class at Middlebury College actually built two boats during the semester. In addition to the Ayubune, they built a rice field boat, or tabune, from Niigata prefecture. You can read more about the student built boats on Douglas Brooks’s blog here: http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/2018/02/launching.html



Mr. Kazuyoshi Fujiwara’s Wasen Models

While I have been in touch with boatbuilder Douglas Brooks by email for close to 3 years, we met at the Nautical Research Guild’s annual conference in Mystic, CT, in the Fall of 2016, where he gave a talk on Japanese traditional boatbuilding and his apprenticeships.

At the conference, he had a pair of models that were built by his teacher in Japan, Mr. Fujiwara. These were beautifully made and I’ve been inspired by them.

The smaller one is a chokibune, an Edo period water taxi, built at 1/15 scale. The larger is a tenmasen, a cargo lighter, also Edo period, used for carrying goods to and from the large coastal transports, commonly called sengokubune. The tenmasen model is built at 1/10 scale.

The construction of the chokibune is described in detail in Douglas Brooks’s book, but the tenmasen was built by he and his teacher after he completed his apprenticeship and only a few photos of it appear in his book. But, the tenmasen is a fairly simple design, and should be easy to construct, and there are other similar wasen found in the funakagami.

I’m hoping to score some information from Mr. Brooks, but I don’t know how much he has in the way of notes and photos. Keeping my fingers crossed. Ω

My Next Wasen Model Display, March 1st – 31st , 2018

I may be no Yukio Nakayama, but I will have my own wasen model display coming up again in Japantown, San Francisco, in the display window of Union Bank’s community room inside the Japan Center’s East Mall.

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Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Part 2

It took me a long while before I had any hull planking in place, as I considered ways to work on the model with no frames. I also wanted try to figure out a way to build the model as closely as I could to the way the Japanese boatbuilders did it, which is upright, and not on a mold. So, my model actually sat for quite a while.

When I went to Japan, in September of 2016, and visited the museum in Urayasu, I saw that the model builders there had made a special L-shaped fixture that the model rested on with the stem supported by the leg of the “L”.

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Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Part 1

The Urayasu bekabune was my first foray into scratch building a model of a traditional Japanese boat or wasen. I chose the subject because of my contact with American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who has been studying Japanese boatbuilding methods from Japanese master boat builders for more than a 15 years. This particular boat was the subject of Brooks’s second apprenticeship. He had made some preliminary drawings and made available to me in exchange for some help I provided in getting him signed on as a guest speaker at the Nautical Research Guild conference in Mystic, Connecticut, in 2015.

Bekabune appears to be a term used in multiple regions, generally referring to a small structured-hull boat built with thin planks. The origin and exact meaning of the term is unknown, though there are some ideas that the term refers to the sound of water hitting against the relatively thin planking of this boat.

Those interested in getting more information on this boat should check out the section on it on Douglas Brooks’s website. And, I highly recommend purchasing his book Traditional Japanese Boatbuilding, which provides a tremendous amount of background on the subject, and it details Brooks’s five apprenticeships with Japanese master boatbuilders, including his work on the Urayasu bekabune. The book is also written in a style that makes it a joy to read.

book_cover Continue reading

Building a Gozabune (Kobaya) from Paris Plans – Part 1

Kobaya-bune (小早船), or simply, kobaya , is a term for a type of military-style traditional Japanese vessel that was fast and maneuverable. The size of the boats labeled kobaya, which translates literally to “small, fast,” seem to vary widely. I have seen boats called kobaya that had as few as 6 oars, and larger ones that had 24 or more oars, but my access to details on these warcraft is limited.

The largest warships were called atakebune. They were big, slow, lumbering craft with a castle-like structure atop. The mid-sized warships were called sekibune, and sometimes called hayabune, or fast boats, ostensibly because they were faster than atakebune. War boats smaller than this seem to have all been classed as kobaya.

During the Tokugawa period (A.K.A. Edo period), which began in 1603, daimyo were forbidden to have atakebune. During the time of relative peace, the smaller warships, most commonly sekibune, were turned into gozabune (御座船), highly ornate and brightly painted vessels used by daimyo and their clans for ceremonial and other official purposes.

A gozabune of the Hachisuka clan of Tokushima prefecture.

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This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on 木造和船 中山幸雄の世界:
御先船 麒麟丸(御召小早三十二挺立) ? 小早 住吉丸(御供小早三十挺立)   箱型八挺立川船 ? 引御船無屋形二十挺立 ? 八挺立押送型船 ? 三挺立御鳥船 ? 八挺立小碇船・大碇船 ? 八挺立水伝馬船 ? 十挺立御供船 ? 十二挺立伝馬船 ? 十四挺立箱型船

Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Final

This is the completion of my 1/10-scale model of the 15-shaku ayubune. This began with the cutting of the beams. I made the smallest beam at the bow, called the tsunatsuke, 1.5-sun square. The other two main beams I made 3-sun wide and 2.5-sun thick. I didn’t have any sugi of the necessary thickness, so I had to use two pieces glued together. I put the seam on the side of the beam in hopes that would make it less visible.

I used the beams as a guide to help me size the cutouts in the hull, which I cut with my Japanese Hishika, Super Fine Cut Saw, that I got from Zootoyz. It worked really well for this.

I found a supplier with the exact same saw in the U.S., but the cost for the saw was more than what Zootoyz charges, even when you add the international shipping. The one thing with this saw is that it cuts so easily, you have to be careful not to cut too much. For the final trimming of the notches, I used a scalpel.

First, I notched out the hull for the bow platform, called the omoteamaose, and the stern platform, called the tomoamaose. These were the easiest to deal with, since they are at the ends of the boat. So, I dealt with these first.

It was simple enough to add the omoteamase using a 3mm wood. I pre-cut the piece to roughly the correct size by inserting the piece into place and tracing out the extents in pencil. I could then glue the piece into place and sand away any excess using a large sanding block. Continue reading

Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Part 5

Progress continues with my 1/10-scale model of the 15-shaku boat used on the Hozu river, northwest of Kyoto. I’m 6 months into the build, but I have certainly not spent a great deal of time in actual construction. Mostly, I’ve been contemplating how I was going to accomplish each task of the build. Things are progressing quickly now.

Ayubune model with former clamped to the baseboard fixture

With the new fixture holding things in place, I taped a piece of cardstock into place to trace the shape of the hull planking. I rough marked the outlines of the bottom, bow plank, and transom on it. The planking will be cut oversized, so getting the exact shape isn’t really necessary, except to make sure that the wood I cut is large enough, but not too wasteful of my limited wood supply.

Next, I cut four straight strips of 3mm sugi on my table saw about 1 shaku wide and 16.5 shaku long. There are two hull planks on each side of the boat, but unlike many other wasen designs, the planks fit flush together, so the sides of the boat are perfectly flat. So I glued up the planks into two side-by-side pairs.

When the glue was dry, I traced the pattern outlines onto the planking in pencil and then cut them out a little oversized to allow for errors in measurement. The main issue here was that I wanted the row of mortises, which I will later cut into the hull planks, to be fairly level with the hull bottom and also low enough so that the plugs stay well below the top edge of the shaped plank.

In this photo of an Ayubune, you can see the row of mortises in the upper plank on the right side of the boat. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

With the hull planks rough-cut, I marked out locations for the nail mortises. I set these 7 sun apart, 1 sun from the plank seam. The mortises are trapezoidal, like the ones I cut for the shiki, or bottom, and 3 sun long.

Locations and extents of the mortises were marked first.

The full outlines of each mortise was then drawn.

Both sides are shown here. The one in front has had the mortises cut. I will cut these a little deeper so that the plugs will seat better.

Plugs shaped and inserted using the method explained in a previous post.

Showing some of the plugs glued into place. The tools used in cutting the mortises are above.

The plugs, trimmed and cleaned up.

When all the mortises were cut, plugged, and everything was dry and cleaned up, it was time to glue the hull planks into place. The first thing to do was to test fit them into place to make sure I didn’t screw anything up and that everything will fit correctly. This required that I remove the former from the base, though there were probably ways I could have come up with to hold the planks against the former while it was on the base. As it was, I ended up using spring clamps and rubber bands.

I had to pre-bend the planks to minimize the number of bands and clamps needed. This was a little iffy, since I used Titebond to glue the mortise plugs and to glue the planks together. Original Titebond is not waterproof and it’s not particularly water resistant, but I like to use it as it’s easy to clean up.

Also, before gluing the planks into place, I realized that the bow of my model was too wide and needed to be narrowed, so I sanded it down before proceeding. During the process, it popped loose from the model, but this only made it easier to shape. Afterwards, I glued it back into place.

It took a little while before I was confident that the alignment of the planks would be okay, but then I went ahead and glued up the planks.

Once the glue was dry, I could remove the former. I had a few issues where I didn’t have a good glue joint, so I had to re-glue some seams. At this stage, it’s a little delicate, so a little care has to taken with the model.

Next, I’ll be trimming away excess and adding details.