Building the DNB Maru – A Niigata Honryousen – Part 4

I’m going to keep this posting short, as it’s kind of a major milestone, with the finishing of the boat’s basic hull shape.

The full-sized honryousen completed and on the water. Photo by Benjamin Meader.

With the hull planks, locally called hoteita (ho-tey-ee-tah), glued into place, the bottom edges of the hull planks were easy to trim, as they just had to be flush with the bottom. For the top edge, I had some measurements to go by, and I used thin strips of wood to use as battens, clamping them into place along the inside of the hull. The top edges of the battens marked the top edges of the hull planks.

With the battens clamped in place, I made adjustments to the height at various locations along the hull. But, the most important thing was to make sure it was a fair curve, Once satisfied with the curves, I marked the hull planks with a pencil line drawn along the top edge of the battens, then started the process of whittling the wood down to that line.

I used a large hobby knife to trim away the bulk of the excess, paying close attention to the wood grain, which wood would split along. When most of the wood was trimmed away, I then used the mini-block plane to do the fine shaping. A little final go with a sanding block cleans up any little variation.

The mostly final curve of the hull. In front of the model, you can see my Japanese squares marked in shaku/sun instead of feet/inches. Also, there’s the miniature block plane I used for the fine trimming.

The next steps of the major construction issues are the addition of the single beam of the boat, and the blocks that fit at each end of the boat. The beams are called funabari, but I don’t know the term for the blocks at the ends of the boat yet. Looking into that now.

These parts are made from a lighter-colored wood on the real boat, though I’m not sure of the exact species. For my model, I’ll use hinoki, which I now have a small supply of.

Building the DNB Maru – A Niigata Honryousen – Part 3

Planking the hull is a somewhat tricky process. There are no frames to glue to, so clamps are next to useless, except to hold the former in place. Also, this is an open boat that, like the full-sized boats, will have no finish on it. It’s too small to nail together, so the hull will be held together with wood glue.

CA, or instant glue, will stain the bare wood. If I were to apply a finish on the completed model, I might be able to get away with using CA. But, with unfinished wood, it will mar the model’s appearance. To keep it looking as clean as possible, I’m using yellow carpenter’s glue, which cleans up with water. The only issue is that the parts will need to be held together while the glue sets.

Since I can’t use clamps, tape is being used to hold the planks in place while the glue dries. For this, I’m using low-tack painter’s tape.

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Building the DNB Maru – A Niigata Honryousen – Part 2

Construction of the Honryousen model began with gluing patterns to the wood for the shiki, or hull bottom, and the ottate, which I am told is an informal local term for the bow and transom planks. From an earlier build of a kawabune (riverboat), I learned that the common formal term for the bow plank is omote no tateita and the term for the transom plank is the tomo no tateita.

Honyousen side profile I created in Adobe Illustrator

Patterns were simply printed on large format paper and glued to the wood using rubber cement. This stuff sticks well enough and rubs off pretty cleanly after it has dried.

When I started this project, I wasn’t sure if I needed to build a former for it, like I have for all the other scratch built wasen models I’ve made. The former serves as a temporary backbone and framework that wood hull parts can be clamped to while gluing into place. Instead, I thought I might be able to hold the parts together and band them into position using clamps and such, much like the real boats are constructed.

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Building the DNB Maru – A Niigata Honryousen

In 2019, boat builder Douglas Brooks had developed a project together with an organization called The Apprenticeshop, to go to Japan and build two traditional Japanese boats with two different Japanese boat builders.

The two boats were a Niigata kawabune called a honryousen built with Mr. Nakaichi Nakagawa, and a Himi Tenmasen, built with Mr. Mitsuaki Bansho.

Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

The Honryousen, or simply Honryou, is a riverboat built in a style called itaawase, which simply means “plank joined”. That the term refers to a boat built entirely of planks, including the bow and stern – basically one with no cutwater. While not exclusive to Niigata prefecture, this was very common on the rivers there.

The Honryousen that Douglas Brooks built with Mr. Nakagawa was dubbed “DNB Maru”, named for Douglas, and the two people from the Apprenticeshop that came with him to Japan, Nina Noah and Ben Meader.

If you would like to read about the two projects and view a couple videos, I recommend visiting the Apprenticeshop blog here: https://apprenticeshop.org/blog/2019/11/3/week-1-in-japan-building-the-nouninawase Continue reading