Building a Himi Tenma in 1/10 Scale – Part 6 (Final)

One of the features of this model is something that appears on many Japanese wooden boats, and dealing with it has been on my mind since this project began. I’m talking about the mooring bits, called the kanzashi. On this boat, they are tapered square posts with a faceted knob at the end.

On the real boat, these were made of honiki, but for a 1/10 scale model, I decided to use a harder wood that I have on hand, some Castello boxwood, which I use in ship modeling all the time, as there is no grain, has a nice tan color, and carves beautifully.

As it turned out, these were pretty easy to make. So much so that I made a pair and decided they were too short and quickly made another pair.

These were large enough that, rather than trying to carve a post to fix them into the mooring beam, I drilled them out and inserted very small birch dowels. These then fit easily and securely into holes drilled into the mooring beam.

The final stage was to lash the mooring beam down to the bow beam directly underneath it. This I did using some excess rigging line from a completed Woody Joe kit. I took about 6 turns around the beams and then wrapped around the waist of the lashing and tied off. I then secured the knot with a little glue and trimmed off the excess line. This holds the mooring beam very securely.

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Building a Himi Tenma in 1/10 Scale – Part 5

Since we’re still under the stay-at-home order and I have time, I’m plowing ahead with the Himi Tenma. I did manage to get some measurements from Douglas Brooks, but mostly, to verify that my beams are fairly close. Not all exactly like the boat built last Fall, but close enough for this project.

With the beams, or funabari, in place, I went ahead and added the decks at the bow and stern. I don’t recall off hand what the term is for the stern deck, but the bow deck is called the kappa. I fit both decks by first making a templates that I cut to fit as best I could in place of the planks.

I cut three planks to make up each of the decks. For the stern deck, I installed a simple strip of wood onto the transom, or todate, to serve as a shelf for the lower plank ends. That wasn’t necessary at the bow, due to the shape of that deck, which held the planks in place better.

The aft deck turned out well, but I realized later that the bow deck angles downward too much, and is probably smaller on the actual boat. But, it looks fine and I don’t really think there’s any need to redo it.

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Building a Himi Tenma in 1/10 Scale – Part 4

I started working on planking the hull of the Himi Tenma shortly after my last post. The first thing to do was to cut a cardboard template to the approximate shape of the hull plank.

This was done by taping a piece of cardboard into place on the model. The bottom edge was traced with a pencil onto the cardboard. The shape at the bow was approximated, and the stern end was cut off a little bit long. The top edge was derived by marking the top edge at the ends of the model. I then used a thin wood batten to create a fair curve and traced that shape onto the cardboard template. The template really does not need to be very accurate. It just has to be big enough to work, and a bit oversized is best.

The template can now be used to help select the wood. I try to be efficient as possible and  find a way to get two planks out of the smallest sheet of wood that will work, since the wood I’m using is hard to come by.

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Building a Himi Tenma in 1/10 Scale – Part 3

I’m making decent progress on the Himi Tenmasen model and am now working on the kanjiki planks. These are the bottom planks located either side of the heavy, central bottom plank, called the chyou. As I mentioned before, my model will have two kanjiki planks on each side, much like in the tenma drawings, though the boat built last fall actually only used one plank per side. But, this way allows me more efficient use of my wood supply, and if I screw up a plank, I lose less wood. And, while it means more mortises to cut, it also means there is more detail on the model.

Measurements of mortises given are at full size.

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Building a Himi Tenma in 1/10 Scale – Part 2

Reviewing photos of the Himi Tenma that Douglas Brooks worked on last Fall, I’ve been comparing them with the drawings from the Himi City Museum. There are a number of differences which I’ve marked on a copy of the drawings.

Modified copy of the Tenma drawings provided by the Himi City Museum, shown here with permission of the Himi City Museum.

To match the Himi Tenma built last Fall, the features that I’ve marked with red arrows will need to be omitted from my model. The blue rectangles represent the approximate size and location of beams which will need to be added to the model.

Photo showing the positioning of the overlapping frames. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

In addition, the other main difference is that if you look at the frames in the drawing, they are offset so that the starboard frames aren’t directly across from the port side frames. However, in the boat built last Fall, the tops of the frames actually sit directly across from each other, but since the frames still overlap one another, they are canted slightly. For now, I’m just making a mental note of these things, and will deal with them when the time comes.

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“Fune” Build by Alexandru Gurau

Years ago, ship modeler Alexandru Gurau of Canada had been building a model of a bezaisen, an Edo period coastal transport, based on drawings recorded by French lieutenant Armand Paris, and recorded in the book Souvenirs de Marine.

I was particularly impressed by Mr. Gurau’s work, as the information contained in the Paris drawings are a bit difficult to follow on their own. My own experience with the building a model from Paris drawings resulted in my own Kobaya project. In that particular case, I had discovered that the drawings may have been somewhat incomplete as they were based on vessels that were no longer in use and seemed to be missing features. I believe that problem was unique to that particular vessel, and the other Japanese boats recorded in the book appear complete. Still, not always easy to decipher all the information needed. Not to mention that the note contained in the drawings are handwritten in French.

Still, for the larger subjects in particular, like Mr. Gurau’s Fune model, It just seems difficult to wrap one’s head around the details due to the unusual nature of the hulls of these coastal transports – unusual to the western eye, anyway.

Scan of what Paris describes simply as “Fune”, recorded at Kobe, Japan, in 1868.

The Mr. Gurau’s model was mostly completed in 2013-2014, but he recently updated some things, which brought the model back to my attention. His dealing with the sails of the vessel have given me new inspiration to complete the sails of my own kitamaebune model, which is based on a kit from Woody Joe.

His build photos are available to view on his personal ship modeling website here:

He also documented the build on The Nautical Research Guild’s Model Ship World (MSW) online forum here:

The one thing to note on the MSW forum’s topic title and first entries say that the model is built at 1/50 scale, but it appears that his model was actually built in 1/100 scale.

In any case, it’s nicely done and worth checking out. Ω

Building a Himi Tenma in 1/10 Scale – Part 1

You might recall that In the Fall of 2019, boat builder Douglas Brooks had developed a project together with Nina Noah of an organization called The Apprenticeshop, to go to Japan and build two traditional Japanese boats with two different Japanese boat builders.

I wrote about modeling the first of the two boats, the Niigata Honryousen, which he had built with Mr. Nakaichi Nakagawa and Nina Noah. But, it’s the second of the two boats that was the main subject of the project. The second boat was the Himi Tenmasen.

Photo by Ben Meader

The Himi Tenmasen, or Himi Tenma, was built by Douglas Brooks and Nina Noah, under the guidance of Mr. Mitsuaki Bansho, a Japanese boatbuilder who was the only one of five brothers to follow in his father’s trade, who was also a boatbuilder. After his father’s passing, Bansho-san primarily built fiberglass boats, but in the past 20 years, he began building boats in traditional Japanese fashion for museums.

The Himi Tenmasen is a typical small boat that was used in fishing and as a general workboat. Similar types were used to ferry cargo and passengers between larger ships and the shore.

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Building Woody Joe’s Nihonbashi Bridge Kit

While this is about building a bridge model kit, it wouldn’t be complete without wasen on the canal below. The bridge model kit was the easy part – scratch building tiny wasen was much more difficult. But, admittedly, painting the tiny figures was probably the hardest part of the making of this neat little diorama from Woody Joe.

Ship Modeler

Earlier this year, I decided to take a short break from ship modeling projects and spend a week or so on something fun, but a little different. I have several small kits in my stockpile (what’s in yours?) of miscellaneous Woody Joe kits, including one of the famed Nihonbashi Bridge.

The bridge was originally built in the early Edo period, around 1603. Built in the heart of Edo itself, It was extremely significant, as it was officially the starting point of Japan’s 5 major roads. Yes, all roads lead to Nihonbashi, and the bridge appears in many Japanese woodblock prints.

So, I decided to start the kit, which I purchased from where else but, for about $41 plus shipping. One of the driving factors in building this kit is that it would allow me to exercise some of my basic diorama building skills. After all, there are trees, the…

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Japanese Boat Model in Western Art

A fellow ship modeler sent me a photo he took at a Tissot exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco recently. Jacques Joseph Tissot was a French painter who is famous for his  biblical paintings as well as his paintings of fashionably dressed women of everyday life in France and England. Fortunately, his works are all in the public domain, so I can comfortable share it here.

One painting in particular is called Young Women Looking at Japanese Objects, which he painted in 1869, shortly after the opening of Japan to trade. It depicts two young ladies looking at a large model of a gozabune, a kind of royal yacht used by the Japanese Daimyo in their local travel.

It’s not a very good view of the model, but a closer look shows some detail, which is nice to see. There even appears to be a small figure standing in the opening at the stern.

Of interest to me is the fact that this is a painting of model as it appeared in 1869. It is not unlike other models I’ve seen, probably about 1/20 scale. I specifically note that the rudder and oars are all painted red, and the ceremonial banners and there are several ceremonial banners and poles flying at the stern.

There appears to be a banner flying forward and above the tall deck houses, but it is partially obscured, and I don’t have enough knowledge to identify the crest displayed on it.

I can’t help but wonder what ever became of the model…

2020 New Year’s Explosion of Wasen Model Projects

I’m constantly studying and reviewing information about various types of wasen, or traditional Japanese boats, that I could possibly model. Sometimes it takes a long time, searching for information in books and on the Internet, until I have enough knowledge, drawings, and photos to get started on something.

I spend time researching and studying subjects based on what information I can find. Often, following a lead that takes me to some other website, or maybe suggests the availability of a book that might be useful. In all cases, I travel up an information stream that eventually just dries up. Then, hunting around, I find some information on a different subject, often repetitive, but sometimes providing some information on an altogether different subject.

So, I end up with all these incomplete branches of study. When interest and clues lead to a discovery, or when it just feels like I have enough information and probably won’t find a whole lot more, a project is born. I gather together the information, create drawings or scale existing ones, and start making templates for hull construction.

But, more often, I sit on a potential project, waiting for more information – waiting to decide if I really do have enough information and to decide if I have enough understanding to successfully build a model from what I have. Sometimes, a project is simple enough that I decide I can get started. Sometimes, the potential model size or the details leave me hesitant about how I want to proceed. So, several potential projects sit on my desk and on my computer, waiting for the inspiration to start it.

Well, it seems that the new year has created a lot of inspiration and there are several potential projects to take up. The inspiration has fired off on several of these all at once. Plus, I’ve been tasked with a couple in addition. So, in addition to finishing up the Woody Joe Kitamaebune kit, and adding some more details to my Kobaya from Paris drawings. The following have sprung to life:

Himi Tenmasen – I’ve been tasked with building a model of the small boat that Douglas Brooks and students built with Mr. Mitsuaki Bansho in Toyama prefecture. Originally, the plan was to build two of these for him, but for budgetary reasons, that’s been scaled back to one, plus a Honryousen model (see below).

Honryousen – This project to model a Niigata kawabune is a fallback from plans to build a second Himi Tenmasen for Douglas Brooks. But, in actuality, it would have happened anyway. It’s a pretty simple subject and should be quick to build. The original was built with Mr. Nakaichi Nakagawa.

Senzan maru – This is one of the more ambitious of the projects which I now feel has to see the light of day. This Edo period whaleboat-type craft was owned by the Hachisuka clan of Tokushima prefecture. It is a particularly important project, as it was made possibly by my Japan research trip back in 2016, for which I received a lot of support from friends and family. For this project, I have a book and drawings published by the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science.

Tonegawa Takasebune – One of the great mysteries to me has been the details of this important river cargo transport of old Edo. There’s much mentioned about these boats which carried food and bulk goods down river to the bustling metropolis of the Japanese capital, but it’s been difficult to find enough technical details to feel comfortable taking on a build of this type. But, the design is actually pretty simple, so I feel there’s no reason to wait on this one any longer.

1/20-scale Hozugawa Kudaribune – I’ve modeled this boat in smaller scale and it’s a beautiful boat. I was planning on sending the 1/40-scale version off as a gift. And, while that gifting is on hold at the moment, I still don’t want to be without a model of this boat, so I’m just scaling up what it did before, but with maybe some adjusted details.

Sekobune – A chaser-type whaleboat is particularly significant right now, as a number of my fellow NRG (Nautical Research Guild) members attended a conference held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts. As it turns out there is a beautiful model of a Japanese whaleboat on display there that was brought there by one of my Japanese contacts. I was sent many photos of this model by friends in the NRG and offers of assistance from my Japanese contact, who happens to be the curator of the whaling museum in Japan. With a set of plans in hand, this project is calling for me, but at what scale?


So, it does all seem to be happening at once. But, that’s not a terrible thing. At least I don’t feel stuck. The Honryou will likely be the first started and finished, since it is such a simple design – It basically only has 5 planks, a beam and some boards that make up a seat. Now, I just have to get some measures for it. Ω