This is just a short update on the Kitamaebune build.
I added a couple pieces to the transom to simulate the plank that seems to show up on every benzaisen model or image I’ve seen.
In the above image, the red arrows point to the plank that I’m referring to. The blue arrow points to the very tip of the side planking at the stern. The piece in the Woody Joe kit is truncated close to where the dashed blue line is, and actually a bit lower than that, really.
Now is the time I find out how I did in the earlier steps of construction. The biggest challenge of kits with laser-cut parts, particularly hull planking, is that if you don’t get it exactly right, you end up with gaps or parts that don’t fit quite right. Even worse, it’s a sign that something else is off and may cause you more problems down the road. You just have to consider it a challenge.
So, the next steps involve adding bulwarks pieces that contains holes for all the beams. These nicely aligns all the beams. There are two pieces for each side of the hull that fit together end-to-end, with a neat, pre-cut scarf joint betweent. The diagram in the instructions, makes it look like you’re supposed to glue the pieces together, so you have one full-length piece for each side, but don’t do it. You’ll have problems fitting the pieces into place over the beam ends and, in the process, the glue joint at the scarf will likely pop loose. As with all hull planks and such, it’s always a good idea to wet the pieces and bend them to shape prior to installation.
Another tricky part about installing these pieces is that they need to fit flat against the first bulwarks sheets that were installed earlier. Not a big deal except at the stem, where the glue joint between the stem and the very thin bulwarks sheet is pretty weak. If you apply any pressure while trying to get things to fit, this glue joint may fail. I’d suggest using a heavier bead of glue, but I believe this area inside the model will be visible when completed, and the glue will probably show up well.
I don’t have a good photo of this step, so I used a later photo and added arrows to illustrate the position of these pieces.
Work on the drawings of the Tenma-zukuri chabune continues. Over the past months, I’ve been making changes to my drawings of this wasen that I found in the the Funakagami. 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.
Also, if you look at the near side of the boat, particularly the bottom, it doesn’t appear to show any inward curvature. This threw me initially, as this is, again, pretty unusual. It’s not impossible, as the hozugawa boat I built doesn’t have any inward curvature at the stern either. But, looking more closely, at the far side, you can clearly detect inward curvature at the stern. The lack of curvature had bothered some people, so I’m glad I could spot some in the image to justify it on my drawings.
Work continues on the Kitamaebune kit from Woody Joe. This 1/72-scale laser-cut kit is the simplified cousin to their earlier Higaki-Kaisen kit. The Kitamaebune is a northern port coastal transport used extensive in the Edo period. Because they sailed on the stormier Sea of Japan, they were a bit beefier than the Higaki-Kaisen, which journeyed along the Pacific coast between Osaka and Edo.
At this stage, the model is shown with a bulwarks sheet test fit into place.
Overall, I’ve found that while this build is less time consuming than the Higaki-Kaisen kit, it has its challenges, even with simplified construction.
It’s been well over a month since I last posted my progress on the Kobaya-bune. And, while it doesn’t look much different, I did complete the deck planks and gave the hull a couple coats of gloss polyurethane, in an attempt to simulate the lacquer used on the real vessel.
I must have put on thick coats, because the surface has been tacky for a while. It doesn’t help that the weather is a little on the damp and cool side. No matter, I’m not really prepared for the next step, which is to add the decoration, as well as the metal mortise covers, etc.
In the last year or so, I’ve been working a lot on some wasen model scratch builds. There are the Hozugawa Ayubune, the Urayasu Bekabune, and others. In the meantime, my pile of Woody Joe kits keeps growing. So, I decided it’s time to get another one of these kits done. Luckily, Woody Joe kits are relatively quick builds.
The Kitamaebune or Kitamaesen kit is listed by Woody Joe as taking about 70 hours to build. Compare that to their more complex Higakikaisen kit, which takes about 50% longer to build. I spent about 3 months on that kit.
The Kitamaebune seems like it will take considerably less time to build the basic kit. But, this is the first bezaisen I’ve built since visiting Japan in 2016. There are a lot of details I managed to see up close on the Hakusan Maru, the bezaisen replica on Sado Island. So, I may put some extra work and time into this. Continue reading →
I just heard the sad news that the Hacchoro organization, which operates a pair of these replica bonito fishing boats, is shutting down. It was only a matter of time. When I visited Yaizu in 2016 and was given the opportunity to look over the boats up close, it was clear that they were deteriorating. I was told at that time that when the boats were no longer useable that they would not be rebuilt or replaced. To my knowledge, these are the largest wasen that were still in operation. I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to see them up close before they were gone for good. The Hacchoro measured 13-meters long, or just over 42 feet. The name literally means “8 oars”. These boats could also be rigged with three masts and sails when the winds were favorable. They vessels were used for bonito fishing and each carried as many as a dozen fishermen. The boats would travel to the fishing grounds and use a pole and line method for catching fish.
For more information about these boats of Yaizu, check out my post:
If you’re interested in building the kit, I’m considering doing a new build of an “upgraded” version of the kit, using my the notes I took on my 2016 visit to Yaizu, in addition to some other materials I’ve collected.
The Hacchoro replica boats were built with much enthusiasm and fanfare in the mid-to-late 90’s. Now, more than 20 years later, they are out of service. It’s not unexpected. Boats of this type were made for harsh use and not intended to last a long time. Much research was done to re-create them in the first place, and that work is not lost. Perhaps the Hacchoro will be back again one day, if only for a time. Ω
Back in March of this year, I was digging through the images of the wasen recorded in the Funakagami. This, as you might recall, is a book put together in 1802 to identify the different boat types in use on the waterways of Edo for tax collection purposes.
There was an excellent short article that appeared in issue number 82 of The Rope News about a talk given in 2014 by Mr. Iinuma, who was the curatorial director of the Museum of Maritime Science in Tokyo. The talk focussed on the Funakagami and the boats described in it. Here’s a link to it if you haven’t seen it: The Rope News, No. 82
I’ve been looking over the 33 boats shown in the book, trying to find a subject that I felt I could model. Unfortunately, I’ve found no technical drawings for any of these boats. But, there was one that piqued my interest, as it’s name became more meaningful as my Japanese language skills improved. That boat was the Tenma-zukuri Chabune. Continue reading →
A couple weeks ago, I reached a dilemma about the kobaya’s paint scheme. I’m trying to stay as true as I can to the 1868 notes by Armand Paris. He describes the lower hull, hanging beams and rail stanchions as painted in red lacquer. He then describes the interior deck area as being all painted a “blood red”.
This suggests two different shades of red, and there’s only one model I’ve seen that displays two shades. It is a model of the large gozabune Tenchi-maru, which was kept in use right up to the beginning of the Meiji restoration, 1868. From what I can tell, the model was part of the Tokyo Maritime Science Museum. Since the main museum is closed, I don’t know what the status is of this model.
But, since my kobaya also was apparently in use up until the start of the Meiji restoration, it might makes sense that dark red was common for the decks of these state ships, with red and black lacquered exteriors.
Model of the famous gozabune Tenchi-maru. Note the dark red deck areas, with the lighter red color for the hull.
I brought my Kamakura period sea boat to the Nautical Research Guild Conference, which was held this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had some last minute work to complete, but finished in time for the model display.
Kamakura Period Sea Boat (鎌倉時代の海船) at the 2018 Nautical Research Guild Conference.
Preparing it for the display took a bit of last minute work. I hadn’t put the remaining oars on until I was actually in the hotel the night before. The reason for the delay was mostly due to my taking the model to the October meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights. Carrying around of model of this nature, or any nature I suppose, has certain hazzards associated with it. I had taken the model to the meeting of the South Bay Model Shipwrights the night before with no problems whatsoever.