Japanese Boats Theme at the 2019 Wooden Boat Festival

I’ve stepped in it this time… Having agreed to participate in this year’s Wooden Boat Festival with a display of Japanese boat models, I just learned today that they are making this year’s theme “Japanese Boat Building”, specifically mentioning, among other things, Japanese Boat Models.

This morning, I received an email from Douglas Brooks, who encouraged me to participate. He sent me a link to the following blog post that was recently published by the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington.

Japanese Boat Building theme at 2019 Wooden Boat Festival

So, it looks like I’m in it as I’ll be the only builder of Japanese boat models there. I think I need to learn to be more confident about my knowledge of both the models and of Japanese boat building and to realize that I have a certain, if limited, expertise on the subject.

I’ll be bringing several of my models to the show, but will try to focus on my scratch projects. I do have my Hozugawabune, Bekabune, Kamakura period trade boat, and a mostly finished Kobaya. Also, I should have a completed Tenma-zukuri chabune and a miniature Hozugawa kudari bune, or river tour boat, that I recently started, but more on that later.

I’ll have a table set up for the models, but will also be demonstrating my Japanese boat building techniques at various times throughout the festival. That should give me two full months in which to refine my techniques!

Douglas is also trying to get me to sing a song at their boat launching ceremony that takes place on the last day of the event. I think he’s determined to make it happen. I also think I’m going to be urged to bring a shamisen too (3-stringed fretless lute played with a plectrum), and to play some music some time during the 3-day event, though I’m not really much of a soloist.

I would try to just stick to displaying my models, but he has gone out of his way to get me involved in the event and the event organizers have even arranged for a place for me to stay, so I think I’d better do what I can. And, who knows, maybe I’ll be “discovered” as a new Japanese music talent. Ω

Advertisements

Douglas Brooks Ukaibune Tour

I just recently heard from boatbuilder Douglas Brooks that he is back in Japan again on a 7-week mission. This time, his goal is to travel to as many sites he can, where ukaibune, or cormorant fishing boats, are used. His trip began on October 30th and he’ll be traveling through Japan, with a brief stop in China to see the boats used there.

An Ukaibune built by Mr. Nasu.

As you may recall, cormorant fishing is an old method where fisherman used trained birds, cormorants, to fish in rivers. In Japan, the birds are called ukai, and the boats used in cormorant fishing are called ukaibune. Last year, Mr. Brooks documented construction of an ukaibune in Gifu prefecture with 85-year old traditional Japanese boatbuilder Seiichi Nasu. That boat was launched at the Ukai Museum in Gifu City in July 2017.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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”.

Continue reading

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.

book_cover Continue reading

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