Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, Sept 6-8, 2019

Ship Modeler

The Port Townsend Wooden Boat festival is coming up this weekend, and I’m headed up to Washington state tomorrow for a long, long drive, to display a number of models of Japanese traditional boats the whole weekend inside the boat shop.

I’ll also be demoing construction of 1/20 and 1/10 scale models of a rice field boat from the area of Himi, a small town in western Toyama prefecture on the Japan Sea coast. I’ll be working on some other models too, since I’ll be there for three days.

Here’s a link to some of the info on the Himi rice field boat that boatbuilder Douglas Brooks built for the Himi museum: http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/zutta-tenma.html

Mr. Brooks held a workshop in Port Towsend last week in which students spent several days learning to build a Japanese-style river boat using traditional tools and techniques. That boat will be on display at the festival, and there will be a…

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 4

Uwakoberi, Koberi, and Iron Nails

So, with the koberi in place, I added the small deck at the bow and the ōtoko at the stern. I’m trying to find out the term for these small decks, which are more like steps. On the Hozugawa boats, the small deck at the bow is called omote-amaose. But, that’s an entirely different region, so I expect the term in Tokyo/Edo would be something quite different.

I also added the uwakoberi, which is what in the west, one would refer to as the gunwale or caprail. Each was made from a single piece of wood, wide enough to cover the edges of the hull planking and rub rail. I made mine a little wider, so that there is a slight overhang on the inboard side.

On tenmasen, the uwakoberi could be quite wide, serving as a walkway for the boatmen. I wanted to keep true to the Funakagami print, so I didn’t go too wide on this. Also, I had a hard enough time putting a bend in the wood. Any wider would have just made this task more difficult.

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Wasen Models in Miniature – A Hozugawa Downriver Boat

After completing the Hozu river diorama and showing photos to people, I got back some very good comments that led me to think about making a gift shop sized model of a large Hozugawa kudari boat, or downriver boat. These boats are fiberglass now, but they are based on a wooden boat that the river tour company commissioned many years back by the last boat builder of the region.

My Hozu river diorama

Douglas Brooks was kind enough to share a drawing of the boat that he obtained in Japan. I worked out the measurements, and the boat comes out to about 33 feet in length. Figuring a nice sized desktop model should be no more than about 10 or 11 inches long, that would put it at about 1/40 scale. That’s actually not that miniature, but for a boat of this type, it’s certainly miniature enough. Plus, it’s large enough scale to allow me to show some planking detail and maybe forgo the fastenings detail.

A modern fiberglass (FRP) version of the Hozugawa kudari boat.

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 3

Construction of the model continues as I’ve been working out how I want to tackle some of the details on this 1/20-scale model. The major issues to deal with are the copper mortise covers and other copper detailing as well as the detailing of iron nails used to fasten the koberi, or rub rail, plus wire nails used to fasten the uwakoberi, or the caprails. Some of this is quite simple.

Below, I’ve posted a photo of Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata’s Tenma-zukuri chabune. He has been helpful in the adjusting of the design of the drawings and has completed a model based on the drawings.

His model is built at 1/10 scale. I may eventually build one at this scale, but for now, I’m happy building mine in 1/20 scale, and I’m considering building other wasen of the Funakagami in 1/20 scale also. It saves on space!

Photo of Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata’s 1/10-scale Tenma-zukuri chabune based on my plans, with a few modifications and added details.

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A Mention in The Rope Newsletter

About a year ago now, there was a little write-up done on me and my work in the english language newsletter of the Japanese model ship society, The Rope.

I posted this entry on my ship modeling blog site, but realized today that I hadn’t shared it on Wasenmodeler. Much of the reason for mentioning me in the newsletter is due to my fascination for traditionl Japanese watercraft, so I figured I really should be posting something about it here.

Ship Modeler

It’s nice when you don’t have to toot your own horn because somebody else does it for you. In the latest edition of The Rope News, which is the newsletter of the Japanese ship model society in Tokyo, my friend Norio Uriu, who is the Director of International Relations for the group, did a nice little write up on me and my work on Japanese traditional boats.

I was introduced to Norio-san through ship modeler Don Dressel of the Ship Modelers Association of Fullerton, California. Don and I both built models of Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit and we exchanged a few emails about building Woody Joe kits. I built some of the other Japanese traditional boat kits, and he built a Japanese pagoda and Woody Joe’s Egyptian Sun Ship kit.

Having Norio-san as a contact in Japan, we made arrangements to meet for dinner one evening in Tokyo…

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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

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

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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