Kouichi Ohata is a Japanese model builder who lives in the southern end of Mie prefecture, near the Pacific Coast. He runs the family orange orchards, and in his spare time, creates some magnificent works including a large 1/35-scale RC model of the Flower-class corvette H.M.S. Compass Rose, from the film and the book The Cruel Sea.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something I didn’t mention last time was that I had cut a paper pattern for the shiki and rubber-cemented it to the assembled . I then cut the wood to the pattern. Since the plans I have show the lines to the inside of the planking, I left the pice a little long at the aft end, as the bottom extends slightly beyond the transom.
The final pieces are ready for assembly. As on the real boat, the hull planks will be shaped in place. Note that I also cut mortises for the bow plank, which I’m told is called the omote no tate ita. I’m going to have to find the kanji to make sure I know what this really means. The same goes for the transom, or tomo no tate ita, but in other regions is called the todate.
Pieces these parts together in their proper angles presented a challenge. Especially since the hull planks need to be shaped in place on the boat. The real boatbuilders built the boats upright, and used wedges, iron dogs (like big staples), clamps and posts to push and hold things into place.
As a model builder, the best solution was to build this model on a mold, though without gluing or drilling into the model, it would be a challenge to hold everything in place.
I started with a longitudinal pattern, which would give me the angles for the bow and stern planks, as well as the proper curve of the shiki. I marked the only two station lines on the drawings and cut the cross-wise formers to shape based on the patterns I drew earlier.
A scroll saw and bench sander made quick work of the MDF particle board formers, and the station formers were cut up and glued into place. In the meantime, since the bottom has a slight curve to it, I wet the wood a little and used a fixture I made for holding it into place as the wood dried. It was important not to get the wood too wet, just damp, to keep it from dissolving the wood glue, as I only used original Titebond, not one of the more water resistant versions.
In order to hold the transom piece into place, I had to come up with some kind of notched piece that I pinned into place on the centerline former. At the bow, a simple clamp held it into place. The pieces were glue together and held on the temporary former with rubber bands as the glue dried.
Once dried, the tricky part began, as I had to hold a piece of card stock into place well enough for me to trace a rough outline for the hull planks on it. Not being blessed with 4 hands, I decided to try making a fixture to hold the assembly into place.
The base fixture is a simple board with a clamp that’s designed to hold the former securely. It’s nothing more than two pieces of MDF with a small piece at one side that’s the thickness of the centerline former, all glued together and down to a baseboard.
The clamp and the former are drilled through so that I can run a clamping screw through them. I drew registration marks on the pieces to make alignment easier.
The bottom assembly could now be held somewhat securely, allowing me to work on it and transport it without damage.
The next step will be to make the hull planks.