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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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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