Tag Archives: Bezaisen

Higaki Kaisen Display at San Francisco’s Japan Center

It’s official, my Higaki Kaisen model is now on display in the East Building of the Japan Center Mall in San Francisco’s Japantown. The model is in the window display of Union Bank’s Community Room.

The model is in a case made using a Woody Joe case kit. I made a couple informational displays to go with it. Sorry about the quality of the photo. Shooting through glass in brightly lit open area doesn’t work out so well. Maybe with a polaroid filter – do they make those for iPhone cameras?

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My Higaki Kaisen model in the window display at Union Bank’s Community Room in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The bank administrator was very happy with the display and cleared out all the general promotional bank stuff that’s normally in there. The model will be on display from now until about April 3rd, when SF Cherry Blossom set up takes place and a Japanese doll display goes in. We’ve already discussed the possibility of bringing the model back after some time in May when the display case may become available again.

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The display is right off this open courtyard. What looks like a bridge is actually a stairway.

The only thing is that the model looks awfully lonely in the big display window. We both agreed that there should be two other models to accompany it – the display window is just laid out perfectly for that.

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My model seems sad to be all alone in the big window.

Now, I do have a partially completed Hacchoro model, which will actually be larger than the Higaki Kaisen model since it is at 1/24 scale. I just need to finish it and get another display case. Not sure what to do about the empty third spot. I have the large Sengokubune kit, but it’s unstarted, and there’s no way I can justify taking the time to build it with all these other projects waiting for me.

Woody Joe’s 1/24-scale Yakatabune kit is a possibility as it’s almost identical to the Hacchoro in construction except that instead of all the oars and sails and accompanying details, it just has a deckhouse. That would be a pretty quick build and it would fit the theme very well.

Lastly, because of the low position of the floor of the window display, a friend of mine was suggesting maybe putting in some kind of box stand. I suppose anything would work. Lot of possibilities here. Almost screams for some kind of diorama.

Thinkin’, thinkin’…

 

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Higaki Kaisen in NRG Journal

I got a nice surprise a couple months ago when the editor of the Nautical Research Journal, Paul Fontenoy, asked me to submit a short article on my Higaki Kaisen model. So, a while back, I sent him some photos to use and a very short write-up with some captions to accompany the photos. Then, I got an even nicer surprise when I was told the model would appear on the cover.

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Having been an NRG member/supporter and having long admired the models that have graced the pages of the Journal, this was a really tremendous honor. Now, I’ll have to admit, it really the model subject and the uniqueness of the kit that got the model on the cover and not my artistry or craftsmanship. But, still it’s pretty nice to see it there.

Of course, being that I’ve been advocating Woody Joe kits here, it’s great to get people’s attention this way. I got an extra copy of the issue and sent it Woody Joe and they should be receiving it any time now. I’m sure they’ll be very happy to see their kit receive such attention.

The timing of this article probably couldn’t be any better, as I just submitted the proofs for my Higaki Kaisen kit review article, which will appear in Seaways’ Ships in Scale in the next few weeks. As for my history/build article for Ships in Scale, I’ve been getting pretty distracted with all the projects I’m trying to get done. But, with these articles both out in August/September, I’ll need to get back on it very soon.

But, while I’m mentioning the NRG here, I would like to say that this is a really fine organization, dedicated to ship modeling, and it deserves and needs your support. It’s not all academic and it’s not about being “purists” or anything of the like. The tagline “Advancing Ship Modeling Through Research” is just to say it’s about making better models, it’s about helping the modeler make better models, it’s about getting help to build better models.

Seeing my own model on the cover, I can’t help but wonder when the last time was that a kit build was featured on the cover? Times really do change. So, join the NRG. It’s a great organization, you’ll be supporting a great cause (ship modeling) and you’ll get your quarterly issue of the Journal!

 

Higaki Kaisen – Naming Your Ship

While I finished my Higaki Kaisen kit some time ago now, it recently occurred to me that some builders may have trouble with the Japanese characters for the nobori or the banner at the stern of the ship. The kit provides a blank piece of cloth for this, so if you don’t know how to write in Japanese, what do you do?

Well, maybe this will help. Below, I’ve put a couple names together in Japanese. If all else fails, copy these into your word processor, enlarge them, arrange the characters so that they are oriented vertically and print them out on regular paper. Make the banner out of that and at least you won’t have a blank banner at the stern!

This is the the name of our kit from Woody Joe. It is not a ship name per-se, but it’s more descriptive: Higaki Kaisen – 菱垣廻船

This is the name of the replica ship upon which this kit was based. Naniwa is another name for Osaka: Naniwa Maru – 浪華丸

Any others? Maybe not so imaginitive, but you could use names of local cities. So, how about the name for old Tokyo, Edo: Edo Maru – 江戸丸

I don’t know how symbolic or imaginative coastal transport names got, but you might also just do a google search for your favorite Japanese symbols like the Pine Tree (Matsu), or the crane-tortoise (tsurukame), thunder god (Kaminari), mirror (kagami). If you can find the characters on a website, you can copy them and print them out for your own use.

Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen – More of a Challenge

The last time I wrote about my experiences with Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit, I described the issue of interpreting the Japanese instructions. The main issue there being that some steps in the instructions tell you not to glue certain parts together, and if you’re not aware of them, you’ll run into a few problems.

Well, I can tell you now that there is much more challenge beyond just watching for those key steps. I’m over 80% complete with this model and it’s been weeks since I’ve had to worry about not gluing certain pieces together. Instead, the main challenge of the ship model is cutting and aligning strip woods and laser-cut parts in the construction of the upper works of the ship.

Things slowed down quite a bit as the main effort has been with the final alignment of parts. All those earlier steps where parts were put into place now come to the test – How good a job was done on alignment of the parts in those early steps? Now parts are put into place and the you find out if they fit correctly.

Alignment Issues

In my case, there are some places where I found that parts were not quite where they should have been. In most of those cases, there was nothing terrible that stood out. However, I did end up with a gap when fitting a particular laser-cut piece into place in step 60 (out of 90). This step involved the completion of the upper works at the stern or what might be termed the poop.

Because I didn’t have everything in perfect alignment in an earlier step, I ended up with a slight gap later. This might not have been that noticeable, but I thought it best to fix the issue. There’s nothing that says you have to use the laser cut parts in the kit, so I simply took some of the scrap wood and fashioned a replacement.

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An unsightly gap.

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Alignment of the replacement piece.

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The completed stern.

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The completed stern and deck.

Not Quite According to Instructions

Another place where alignment issues came up was with the inner and outer upper walls, or bulwarks. In many ways the walls are somewhat “free floating” and don’t depend on each other too much, particularly around the main cabin. However in a later step, step 69, your supposed to fit 3mm wide stripwood pieces between them.

In my case, the separation between the walls was close enough to 3mm to work in one spot, but  the other spot where a stripwood piece was to fit, the separation was closer to 4mm. Fortunately, this didn’t affect anything significant, and I was able to use a 4mm wide strip instead.

DSC02232Different width stripwoods to make up for alignment issue.

Overall, I’d say that Just about two-thirds of the way through this kit, it kind of changes from being an assemblage of pre-cut parts, like a plastic kit, to the kinds of work you might normally expect in a wooden ship model kit. There’s a lot of cutting of stripwoods and a lot of time is spent doing a final fitting of railings, trim, etc.

Cabin Roof Configuration

Steps 64 through 67 involve the construction of the main cabin roof or quarter deck. While I cut and fit the beams into place, I decided to hold off on gluing them in or planking until I figure out how I want to display the model. The instructions show an example of how to show off the interior detail, but I’m still thinking about it.

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Cabin roof beams fitted, but not glued in yet.

Painting the Hull

Before continuing, I decided it was time to paint the lower hull. This is not a step described in the kit, but bezaisen seem to have been painted black in a very particular way that doesn’t exactly follow a waterline. I used available drawings and photos of replica ships as my guide.

DSC02244This photo was taken after I completed the outer hull wall and details.

The last thing I’ll mention here is that adding the outer hull walls or bulwarks was extremely satisfying as this is when the ship pretty much looks like a bezaisen. The lattice work of the Higaki Kaisen is very thin and delicate because of the laser etching on the surface. It had to be trimmed very slightly to fit, and took a lot of care to keep from ruining it, requiring a very sharp blade. I used just a light touch of wood glue on the back to make it just tacky enough to hold it.

I’m just about 80% done with the model – getting close! Ω

Douglas Brooks: An American Boat Builder Building Japanese Boats

For those of you who are interested in traditional Japanese boats, and I’m not talking about models, but full-sized “wasen”, I recommend you look into the work of Douglas Brooks. Mr. Brooks is an American boat builder who went to Japan to study with Japanese craftsmen, apprenticing with several of them to learn the traditional art of Japanese boat building. He has written many articles and is coming out with a new book that should be due out later this year covering all five of his apprenticeships.

I’ve had the opportunity to communicate with Mr. Brooks recently and come to find out that he used to work at Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco, where I volunteer along with my fellow colleagues of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights. I’ve also found that we’ve met some of the same folks from Sado Island, where he did at least one of his apprenticeships. And, in communicating with a fellow ship modeler just today, his name came up again. So, it seemed an appropriate time to mention him here.

Douglas Brooks has a great website. Please check it out: Douglas Brooks Boatbuilder – Welcome!

He also has published a book The Tub Boats of Sado Island; A Japanese Craftsman’s Methods. As far as I can tell, this book is only available now directly from him. Ω

Further Thoughts on Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen

I’ve had the Higaki Kaisen kit for close to two months now and I’ve been working on it pretty steadily except for about a 2-week period where I couldn’t due to the holidays and a shoulder problem I had. But, I’ve had a chance to work on it again and develop some more thoughts on the kit itself.

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This is still a really fascinating kit and at about half-way through, it’s still fun and challenging. I’m spending a lot of time now on interior details and I’m finding that the level of challenge seems to be increasing as I get further along in the build. But, my comments on the amount of care and patience needed still hold. You really want to study the illustrations very carefully, and at this stage, you also have to be consulting the plan sheets to check measurements for the deck beams and such.

I’ve had a chance to go over the text in the instructions with someone who can read Japanese and, had they been written in English, I think it wouldn’t make all that much difference. Much of the text is there to remind you to be careful or to watch to make sure you glue a piece on with the correct side up or make sure that you line up the parts along the edge. Most of these things you can get from close study of the illustrations.

Here’s a helpful clue to successful build of this model: There are times when you are not supposed to glue parts together. Of course, this instruction is given in Japanese. However, it is always noted in red and if you can spot the Kanji (Chinese characters), you can “read” these most important instructions. The text to watch for is 接着. These are the characters for “bonding” or “gluing”. If these characters are followed by either of the negative verb endings しない, or しません, then don’t glue the indicated parts. When parts are to be glued together, the characters for gluing (again, that’s 接着) are usually followed by しますor する or simply have no verb ending at all.

So, summing up:

接着しません or 接着しない = Don’t glue together

接着します or 接着する or just plain 接着 = Glue together

This might seem like too much to deal with, but actually there isn’t a tremendous amount of text to follow. There is no separate written paragraphs of instruction, unlike in many Western kits. All the instructions are in simple steps, so there are only a few sentences with each illustration. Also, the text to watch for will be marked in red. Finally, Japanese verbs come at the end of sentences, so they’re pretty easy to locate (plus, the Japanese period is an open circle “。” – easy to spot).

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Above is an example of a piece not to glue into place. In this case, you are just using the piece to aid in getting a proper angle on the cross-beam. I circled the important text in a green dashed line.

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Here is another example where you are instructed not to glue the dowel in place. If you look ahead in the instructions, you will find that you later need to be able to push the dowel out temporarily.

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I include this to remind the builder to look carefully as the text telling you to glue the part is similar to that which tells you not to glue. Proceed slowly, look ahead and study illustrations carefully.

I recommend going through the whole instruction book and searching very carefully through the text before beginning the build. Circle any occurrence of 接着しません or 接着しない to flag them so you’ll clearly catch them later. There really aren’t that many times that you have to avoid gluing parts, but if you miss the call to not glue, you’re going to be trying to pull apart parts at some point. On that matter, I’d also suggest that you glue sparingly. The parts in the kit are pretty light and don’t need much glue to secure them.

Alignment of parts is probably the trickiest part of this build. I’m finding it best to read ahead in the plans, see what parts are in contact with what and do a lot of test fitting. In some cases, I found it best to jump ahead on some small sub-assemblies to make sure they’ll fit into place properly when the time comes to glue them into place.

I’m about half-way through this model and I’ve run into mistakes I’ve made, most of which I was able to fix one way or another. In most cases, I glued where I shouldn’t have, but was able to pop glue joints loose to make corrections. There was one issue with the hull planks where they didn’t come together too well and I ended up having to fill a small gap, but that shouldn’t be too noticeable in the end.

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I’ll post more about the build later. But, I think I’ve pretty well covered the issues you will run into when building this kit. I’m still really enjoying this build a lot. It’s neat to see it come together and the details are nice. This is definitely a kit for the patient and careful, but adventurous modeler. Ω