Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Final

At the bow was the first challenge of cutting a small square hole for the small beam at the bow. I made sure my chisel was good and sharp and lightly cut the shape, little by little. Too much pressure can chip or split the wood, particularly on the back side of the cut, so this took a lot of care.

With the first hole cut to size, the alignment of the opposite hole was aided by running the beam into place to see where it lined up. It was then cut in the same manner.

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Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Part 4

With the uwadana (ウワダナ) cut to shape, there was still the process of giving them a perfect fit, so there’d be no gaps between the planking. In real Japanese boatbuilding, according to Douglas Brooks, this would involve sawing in the seam in a process called suri-awase. In my case, it’s mostly sanding where the planks touch, until the planks touch all along the length of the seam.

To make sure I was consistent on aligning the planks, I drew a small pencil mark to register the proper positions.


Once I was satisfied that the fit was good, I glued and clamped the planks into place. I used yellow carpenters glue. I know instant CA glue would be easier, but it will soak into the Japanese cedar too easily. And, since I’m not going to be applying any wood finish, the glued wood would stand out like a sore thumb.

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Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Part 3

After shaping the transom, or todate, and completing the test fitting, I glued the lower planks, or kajiki into place, using Original Titebond wood glue for gluing everything together. I prefer this glue, as it sets up quickly, and is easily cleaned up with water. Also, Japanese cedar shows CA glue stains very easily, where yellow carpenter’s glue does not. Everything was held in place with clamps and rubber bands, as I described in my previous post.

It was critical at this stage too make sure that the stem was perfectly straight, as the pressure from the clamping can impart a twist. The stem extension of the framework mold helped out a lot here, giving something to which I could clamp the stem, or miyoshi.

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Japanese Article about Douglas Brooks

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

 

 

Mr. Kazuyoshi Fujiwara’s Wasen Models

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

Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Part 2

It took me a long while before I had any hull planking in place, as I considered ways to work on the model with no frames. I also wanted try to figure out a way to build the model as closely as I could to the way the Japanese boatbuilders did it, which is upright, and not on a mold. So, my model actually sat for quite a while.

When I went to Japan, in September of 2016, and visited the museum in Urayasu, I saw that the model builders there had made a special L-shaped fixture that the model rested on with the stem supported by the leg of the “L”.

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Building the Urayasu Bekabune Model – Part 1

The Urayasu bekabune was my first foray into scratch building a model of a traditional Japanese boat or wasen. I chose the subject because of my contact with American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who has been studying Japanese boatbuilding methods from Japanese master boat builders for more than a 15 years. This particular boat was the subject of Brooks’s second apprenticeship. He had made some preliminary drawings and made available to me in exchange for some help I provided in getting him signed on as a guest speaker at the Nautical Research Guild conference in Mystic, Connecticut, in 2015.

Bekabune appears to be a term used in multiple regions, generally referring to a small structured-hull boat built with thin planks. The origin and exact meaning of the term is unknown, though there are some ideas that the term refers to the sound of water hitting against the relatively thin planking of this boat.

Those interested in getting more information on this boat should check out the section on it on Douglas Brooks’s website. And, I highly recommend purchasing his book Traditional Japanese Boatbuilding, which provides a tremendous amount of background on the subject, and it details Brooks’s five apprenticeships with Japanese master boatbuilders, including his work on the Urayasu bekabune. The book is also written in a style that makes it a joy to read.

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Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Final

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

Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Part 5

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.

Ayubune model with former clamped to the baseboard fixture

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.

In this photo of an Ayubune, you can see the row of mortises in the upper plank on the right side of the boat. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

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.

Locations and extents of the mortises were marked first.

The full outlines of each mortise was then drawn.

Both sides are shown here. The one in front has had the mortises cut. I will cut these a little deeper so that the plugs will seat better.

Plugs shaped and inserted using the method explained in a previous post.

Showing some of the plugs glued into place. The tools used in cutting the mortises are above.

The plugs, trimmed and cleaned up.

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.

Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Part 4

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.

Shiki with pattern, and cut to shape, with extension at the aft end

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.

My traditional boatbuilder’s workshop diorama, showing a bekabune under construction

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.

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Ayubune model with former clamped to the baseboard fixture

The next step will be to make the hull planks.