Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding Book by Douglas Brooks

Last week, I broke down and bought my copy of this new book directly from the author’s website. That’s a nice way to get it as more money goes directly to supporting Mr. Brooks’ efforts. The hardbound book, published by Floating World Editions, is 320-pages, all in English, in a roughly 9″ x 11″ format.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

My copy arrived today and, naturally, all my ship modeling efforts and other tasks have come to a complete standstill as I read through it. This is an absolutely beautiful book, full of information about the subject.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

I was thumbing through it and had to stop and read through the section on the “ro“, which is the Japanese sculling oar. The author goes into a fair amount of detail on its construction and how it actually works in practice, based on his own experiences using it. He provides some very enjoyable narrative of his first experience using the ro on a rental boat on a lake in Japan, or rather, his experiences trying to rent the traditional boat from the owner, who probably had to rescue too many foreigners who couldn’t figure out how to use the ro.

The book is filled with lots of information on tools and methods used by traditional Japanese boat builders, and details each of the author’s five apprenticeships. The book is well illustrated, and is full of photographs and drawings showing some of the finer details of the traditional construction methods, with many measurements provided.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

Ship modelers and boatbuilders should be aware that this is not a construction manual. Though there are nice profile drawings of the subjects, there are no fold-out plans. The author may eventually publish plans separately, but I don’t have any information about cost or what the timetable might be for releasing them. However, even a set of plans would not cover the the details of the traditional construction methods that he describes in this book.


Photo courtesy of KAZI Publications.

For modelers building some of the available kits of traditional Japanese boats, this book will provide a solid understanding of the true construction and features of these boats. For those who might be scratch-building models based on some of the commonly available drawings, such as those in the classic Souvenirs de Marine, this book will also help you with some of the features of traditional Japanese boats that aren’t shown in overview drawings.

For those who are just interested in woodworking and in Japanese traditions, this book is a fascinating read, giving you a real sense of a disappearing art form. It will also give you some hope that people like Mr. Brooks and his own students will help to keep the art alive.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

My hope is that it will generate more interest in subject and help to not only inspire more traditional Japanese boat builders, but also help to keep struggling museums open in Japan, when so many of them have closed due to a lack of funding.

While the book is available from the usual online sellers, Buy Here to support the author, or support your local bookstore and tell them to carry it or at least to order it for you. If you do order direct from the author, you will not only be supporting his research efforts, you will also get a signed copy, with the option to have it personally inscribed. Ω


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