About catopower

Ship modeling since 1993.

Japanese Boats Theme at the 2019 Wooden Boat Festival

I’ve stepped in it this time… Having agreed to participate in this year’s Wooden Boat Festival with a display of Japanese boat models, I just learned today that they are making this year’s theme “Japanese Boat Building”, specifically mentioning, among other things, Japanese Boat Models.

This morning, I received an email from Douglas Brooks, who encouraged me to participate. He sent me a link to the following blog post that was recently published by the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington.

Japanese Boat Building theme at 2019 Wooden Boat Festival

So, it looks like I’m in it as I’ll be the only builder of Japanese boat models there. I think I need to learn to be more confident about my knowledge of both the models and of Japanese boat building and to realize that I have a certain, if limited, expertise on the subject.

I’ll be bringing several of my models to the show, but will try to focus on my scratch projects. I do have my Hozugawabune, Bekabune, Kamakura period trade boat, and a mostly finished Kobaya. Also, I should have a completed Tenma-zukuri chabune and a miniature Hozugawa kudari bune, or river tour boat, that I recently started, but more on that later.

I’ll have a table set up for the models, but will also be demonstrating my Japanese boat building techniques at various times throughout the festival. That should give me two full months in which to refine my techniques!

Douglas is also trying to get me to sing a song at their boat launching ceremony that takes place on the last day of the event. I think he’s determined to make it happen. I also think I’m going to be urged to bring a shamisen too (3-stringed fretless lute played with a plectrum), and to play some music some time during the 3-day event, though I’m not really much of a soloist.

I would try to just stick to displaying my models, but he has gone out of his way to get me involved in the event and the event organizers have even arranged for a place for me to stay, so I think I’d better do what I can. And, who knows, maybe I’ll be “discovered” as a new Japanese music talent. Ω

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the building of a tenma-zukuri chabune from the Funakagami, and I stated that I was working on my model, but didn’t actually talk about building the model. The fact is that I wasn’t sure about what scale to build it at, given that a 1/10-scale model would end up being a little over two feet long, and I’m running low on space to display or store my models. So, I started a 1/20-scale model to see how I’d feel about the smaller scale.

I began by making a temporary internal frame. This would allow me to build the shiki, or bottom, and add the miyoshi, or stem, and the todate, or transom, at the proper angles. The same goes for the tana, or hull planks.

The longitudinal member of the framework is shaped directly from a copy of my plan drawing. The cross pieces are located at positions of the funabari, or beams, and are shaped according to my drawings.

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Hozu River Diorama

Something I’ve been working on over the past many months, somewhat off and on, is a mini diorama. I think I was inspired by Woody Joe’s release of the first of their 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō series, the Nihonbashi Bridge. That model depicts the famous Edo period bridge that was the eastern end of the Tōkaidō and Nakasendō roads that connected Edo to Kyōto, and is made to be a diorama with a pair of flowering cherry trees and a pair of small boats on the river.

Seeing this, I thought about the Japanese river boats I was familiar with. Having completed a boat from the Hozu river, its simple designed seemed a natural choice for a small diorama. The idea was also fed by the numerous available pictures of the large sightseeing boats that take tourists down the scenic river route.

Never having made a diorama of any type, I did my research and planning, did several experiments with materials and paints, and came up with what I thought was fairly decent for a first effort.

The diorama depicts a pair of Edo period boatmen traveling through a portion of the rapids on the Hozu river on a 24-foot riverboat, sometimes called an Ayubune, named for a popular kind of fish that they would catch from these boats.

The initial challenge was getting the water to look right. The rocks turned out to be very easy to make using inexpensive sheets of insulating foam. The stoney texture was simple the result of cutting the foam with a knife.

The making of the boat was the easiest part of the whole display. I just scaled down the drawings I had and cut the parts and put it together. It’s a very simple boat design. And, at this scale, the details of a larger model would not really be visible, so I was able to omit them.

The two figures turned out to be the greatest challenge. I’ve fashioned individual figures before, but it’s not a skill I possess yet. Right now, it takes a lot of work for me to get something that passes as humanoid. Then, to try to make it look like they’re wearing Japanese traditional garb took another step. Painting helped make this work, and I’ve done a lot of miniature painting in my younger days, so that I think made a big difference.

The diorama isn’t perfect. For one thing, the type of tree seen here is, I believe, all wrong. Most trees on the river banks are smaller and straighter, but I just used whatever I could find that would work, settling on the myriad of tree making kits available to the model railroad hobbyist.

The water was also problematic as the stuff I used for making the choppy waves, again a product made for model railroad enthusiasts, results in a horrific amount of shrinkage. The diorama is okay for now, but I can’t help but wonder what it will look like in another five years.

It’s nice to have this display done, and I’d like to do a more serene “cherry blossom viewing on the river” diorama in the future. For this, I purchased some trees made by Woody Joe, which should look more correct. However, I’d love to work on the skill of making model trees from scratch. But, another time, maybe. Ω

Building a Gozabune (Kobaya) from Paris Plans – Part 12

Work on the Kobaya is moving forward again. While coming up with a way to deal with the decorative patterns on the hull has held me up, I did have some ideas. But, the best I could think to do required the use of a new tool, and it took me a while to bight the bullet and buy it.

Note the pattern of the chain of hexagons and what look like little sunbursts in the Paris drawings.

The solution I came up with was to either create a mask for painting or possibly for the application of gold leaf, or to simply cut a pattern that was itself gold leafed. This probably sounds more complicated than it turned out to be. The central part of the solution turned out to be the use of a vinyl cutter, like those used in scrapbooking.
After looking at a few of the leading models, I finally made the leap and bought a Silhouette Cameo 3. I found one for about $200 online and spent another $150 or so on materials and accessories.
The closest competitor to this was the Cricket Maker, but it was more expensive and the drawing software was only usable online, requiring an internet connection to use. Having Internet is not an issue, but requiring it to use my own hardware or even to create drawings was not an idea I like supporting.
I was able to test out Silhouette’s drawing software for the Cameo, which was available as a free download from their website. That allowed me to determine that I would at least be able to create drawings of the things I needed it to cut.

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Rice Glue?

Someone on the ship modeler’s forum Model Ship World recently posted a link to an article about making rice glue. This is an interesting idea as it is completely natural and reversible, plus it is apparently ph balanced as well, meaning that it won’t chemically attack the glued materials over time.

http://islandblacksmith.ca/2015/10/making-sokui-rice-paste-glue/

I don’t have any plans to switch to it instead of the off-the-shelf commercially available glues, but it does get me to thinking about building something with it. What could be more Japanese than a wasen model built with Japanese woods held together with rice glue?

My Latest Tool Addition – Cameo 3 Vinyl Cutter

A new vinyl cutter is allowing me to move forward on my Gozabune model.

Ship Modeler

Last week, I received a new addition to my ship modeling tools. This one is a little more specialized that many that I have. It’s a Silhouette Cameo 3 vinyl cutting machine.

The unit is software controlled, and connects to a computer, in my case, a Mac. The software is a free download from the maker’s website and it’s actually a bit more sophisticated than I expected. Upgraded versions of the software, called Silhouette Studio, provide more specialized features, including the ability to import files from other programs, such as Adobe Illustrator and others.

These desktop vinyl cutters are basically the size of a computer printer and are essentially glorified plotters (if you remember those), with a blade mounted instead of a pen. It is capable of cutting vinyl, paper, cardboard, and various other similar materials.

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 1

I completed what I believe is a good final draft of the Tenma-zukuri Chabune from the Funakagami, and I’m now working on my model. However, it appears that I am already late to my own game. Model builder Kouichi Ohata has already completed his model in 1/10 scale, and he’s done a beautiful job with the boat as well as with all the added details!

Kouichi Ohata’s model

With the help of fellow modeler Kouichi Ohata and my mentor Douglas Brooks, I’ve gone through several revisions of the plans – seven major ones, so far.

Tenma-zukuri chabune, from the Funakagami.

The biggest difficult has been in analyzing the single wood-block print of this type. Compared to other boats in the Funakagami, this one has a very flat bottom, showing no real rise at the stern, which may be possible, but it’s really throwing people, as it seems very unusual for a Japanese style boat. Continue reading

Building a Gozabune (Kobaya) from Paris Plans – Part 11

A yakata for the kobaya?
I’ve been looking at the yakata, or deck cabins, on the paintings of kobaya. Also, there is one from a larger gozabune that was removed and restored and on display at the museum at Kumamoto Castle. I’ve been in touch with ship modeling colleagues in Japan and they told me that it is from a ship called the Naminashi-maru (波奈之丸).

The restored yakata from the Naminashi-maru at the museum of Kumamoto Castle.

I’m still very confused about the dimensions. To me it looks very low, but I’m told the lower level is 1.7 to 2 meters high on the inside. Part of this, I assume is because the floor is below deck level, which is the case on my kobayabune.
To aid in design of the yakata, I’ve fitted a removable cardboard structure. This gives me a sense of size and appearance. I can’t really add the structure without the attendant framework over the whole ship for an awning.
I drew in some outlines for sliding doors and a railing atop the structure. Apparently, the passengers would also sit atop the structure. I’m not sure how they would climb up, but I’m assuming it would be with a “leg up” from one of the attendant samurai on the deck.

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Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 4

After some early troubles with the hull construction, the model has been coming along very nicely. With the addition of the outer bulwarks fences, I began my next modification of this kit. The main deck of the sengokubune (the common term for this type of ship) has a pair of gates which are removed to allow easier loading and off-loading of cargo. On this kit, the inboard part of the bulwarks is a solid sheet of wood, with no indication of such a gate. So, I took my Japanese razor saw and cut openings for the gates.

I then lined the base of these opening with a sill of sorts, and then used the cutaway sections and glued them into place so that they were more clearly gates. Completing the outside of the bulwarks fence, I decided to add one strip of molding just above the main rail as a continuation of the one on the gate. You can see this in the photo below. The left arrow shows the one on the gate, which is part of the kit. The three arrows on the right point out the strip that I added. It’s not necessary, but further differentiates my model from others. Continue reading

Wasen Models at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festivalis a big annual event up in Washington state for lovers of wooden boats, and I believe it’s one of the largest events of its type in the world. Now, I’m not personally a big wooden boat enthusiast, so I never had any intention on going, but it looks like I’ll be displaying my Japanese boat models there this Fall.

This is all coming about with the suggestion of Douglas Brooks, who will be doing a Japanese boat building workshop just prior to the festival. The organizers want to make something of an event out of the completion of the boat.

Douglas had the idea that the organizers would be interested in some Japanese boat related displays, which they are. They offered a table and to look for some accommodations for me, so it looks like I’ll be making the drive up there at the end of August with a car load of models and display paraphernalia.

Of course, now I want to make sure I have some more interesting models available, so I put in a little time again on the new Woody Joe Kitamae-bune kit and the colorful Kobaya model, and I’ll have some progress reports on both of those sometime in the next week or so. But, I can’t help but feeling that I need more on display there, so who knows what subjects I’ll end up attacking in coming months.

If you’re planning on attending, watch for updates on where I will be and what days and times I’ll be manning my table. It’s a 3-day event, and I’ll probably be dying if I can’t take a break from my table regularly.