Tag Archives: Douglas Brooks

My Projects Update

While I’ve been working on the Japanese shrine model this past week, I’ve hit a minor snag. What I thought was an adhesive backing on some wood veneer turns out to be simply a lining to keep the thin wood from falling apart. I can’t tell what it is, if it’s a shiny, slick kind of paper, or if it’s plastic. I sent a question about it to my contact at Woody Joe and, in the meantime, I’m testing out how well wood glue adheres to it on some scrap material. One way or the other, I should know tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m finishing up the rigging and final details on the Colonial Schooner Independence model. Mostly, I’m dealing with rope coils now. So, it was quite fortuitous that the latest newsletter from the Midwest Model Shipwrights of Chicago, The Forecastle Report, had a nice article on making rope coils by Bob Filipowski.

I’m also trying to push forward with a rigging project for a friend, and of course there is the HMS Victory model I’ve been working on for the past few years.

On top of all that, I managed to land a very good, short term repair job project for the Bear Creek Visitor Center at Pt. Reyes Station, which is part of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco.

The project is to do some basic repair work to a large and rather unusual model of the Gold Hind built by the late Raymond Akers back in the 1950s. The model is a cutaway that has been designed to display up close against a wall. As such, the model is uniquely made so that the width of the ship has been scaled down. It is designed to be only viewed directly from the side.

Raymond Akers’ Golden Hind model.

I’ll be driving up there in about a week to do some preliminary work. The bulk of the work has to be done on-site at the end of the month, and I’ll be spending a couple days there to get it all done. It’s a nice short-term project that involves mostly small rigging repair and a little cleaning. It’s an honor to be able to work on Mr. Akers’ model, and it will be nice to be doing some work for the National Park Service. It’s especially nice that it’s a pretty self-contained project that won’t last beyond this month.

In the meantime, I’ve been missing doing research, which is really my favorite task in ship modeling. I’m just a researcher at heart. So, I’ve been digging up my Japanese boat resources and doing translations and such, trying to figure out what a good model subject will be. It’s difficult to decide since there is some information available about a lot of different kinds of boats, but not a lot on any one in particular.

The exception are boats that are the subject of Douglas Brooks’ work. The thing about those, is that they are fairly simple boat designs, but have some very fine details. So, I can build small versions of those, but they end up a bit too simple to look at. I could build them in a large scale, like 1/10, but then the details are about nail positions, tenons, mortises, etc., and I’m not very good at those things. I’m better at the larger details, like planks, beams, decking, and other structural details.

Two subjects I’m considering now an Amibune, which is a subject that Douglas Brooks had been studying, so I have access to measurements and some photos. The other is to model the Senzanmaru, which is a Kujirabune, a type of fast whale boat. I can make a generic Kujirabune, but it would be interesting to model the Senzanmaru itself and to paint it like the actual boat.

The Senzanmaru (千山丸) at Tokushima Castle Museum.

I’ve been studying the design of this boat through a book and drawings I purchased from a museum shop in Toba, Japan. Some of the small details I’m still not sure I understand. I could do a smaller scale model, which would overlook some of those details, but I’m tempted to do something large enough, maybe as large as 1/10 scale, that would allow me to try to make an impressive looking model, complete with colorful painting and banners.

For the next couple weeks, at least, I’ll probably continue to gather info on the Senzanmaru and Kujirabune and Amibune, until I find I have enough to do a reasonable build.

In the meantime, I got my Japanese boat models back from the last display in Japantown and have some minor repair work to do. I also have my Kamakura period Umibune back now and can continue working on it. I did managed to finish some important detail on the roof of the main deckhouse, but there are a number of other details I’ll be adding. I’ll write more about that on my wasen modeler site.

Finally, I never sent my article in to Ships in Scale on the building of the paper model of the HMS Alert. I’ll give it another read-through, but last time, I thought I should write a section on paper modeling in general. We’ll see how it feels when I re-read it. If it feels okay, I’ll just go ahead and mail it in, and maybe it will show up in the magazine by the end of the year or early next year. Ω

 

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Douglas Brooks’ Japanese Boatbuilding Class Project

American boatbuilder Douglas brooks recently finished teaching a one-month class on building a traditional Japanese wooden boat at Middlebury College, in Vermont. The subject was a boat that was once used on the Agano River in Niigata Prefecture.

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What an awesome class to be part of! The students did an amazing job. I can only wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to have been part of this experience.

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You can see more photos and description on Douglas Brooks’ blog here. Ω

Back from the NRG Conference

This year’s Nautical Research Guild Conference was held in Mystic, Connecticut, and I managed to go through the aid of my ship modeler friend Jack Lindley and ship modeler distributor Ages of Sail. Jack let me bunk in the spare bed in his room and Ages of Sail flew me out there, so I just paid for basic registration and some expenses. Of course, I had to work much of the conference, which can be a drag. But, it’s better to work at the vendor table at the NRG conference than to miss the whole thing entirely.

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Vendor room and model display

This year, I made sure to take some time out to make it to the talk on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding by Douglas Brooks. If you’ve been on my blog site here, you’re probably already aware of his work and about his book on the subject, which came out only a few months ago. We’ve been in communication for more than a year and I’m the one who connected him with the conference organizers. We’ve been emailing back and forth a little about the content of the talk and what might be of interest to the attendees.

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Japanese boat models brought by Douglas Brooks which were made by his teacher.

While the subject matter is very interesting, neither one of us was sure just how much ship modelers would be interested. But, the talk was very well received. It was truly fascinating and I heard many people telling Douglas that it was the best talk of the conference. In the end, it sounded like a very successful event for him, and he managed to sell quite a few books as well. He was even invited to give his talk to the Mystic Seaport staff the same afternoon.

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Later on, he and I sat down for dinner and had a nice long chat. Turns out that we had to talk about being about the same age, having both lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, both being involved with the San Francisco Maritime National Park and having life connections in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, and of course, both having experiences traveling to Japan, particularly rural Japan. He also had some revealing stories about being a westerner facing bias while trying to study and preserve disappearing Japanese craftsmanship. Some very interesting stuff that he mentions in his book.

Beyond this, the Conference was also attended by fellow ship modelers from the South Bay Model Shipwrights club of Los Altos, CA. It was nice to see their familiar faces there, though I felt bad not being able to spend more time with them. Between working the vendor table all day and trying to spend some time meeting up with people that I only see once a year, at most, I felt like I was ignoring my friends. Hopefully, they understand and spent time getting to know the many other people from around the country that were in attendance.

Finally, I had a nice, but embarrassing moment from the dinner banquet, as they announced the winners of the Photographic Ship Model Competition. The first thing that came up on the screen when they started talking about the winners was my Mary Taylor model. That was just a warm up handing me a blue ribbon, which many people get for their work. The next one was the actual award winner, my Privateer Lively model, which got me a bronze medal in the Journeyman category. This is the lowest of the six awards given in the competition, and I was very honored to receive it, particularly given the tremendous ship modeling skills of the competition and the members in attendance that night.

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New York Pilot Schooner Mary Taylor, 1850. This is a scratch built plank-on-solid-hull model based primarily on plans from BlueJacket.

This is my model of the Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813. It is a scratch-build based on kit plans from the old North River Scale Model company. Maybe I'll enter it finally this year.

This is my model of the Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813. It is a scratch-build based on kit plans from the old North River Scale Model company. Winner of the Bronze Medal in the Journeyman category of this year’s NRG Photographic Ship Model Competition.

After recovering from awkwardly standing at the front, not really knowing how these things went, I finally wandered back to my seat with supportive congratulations from my South Bay friends and the folks at my table. Was nice. Awkward, but nice. And, while still in shock, I saw that Paul Reck, who heads our group, Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights in San Francisco, won the silver medal in the same category. So, we should have a nice celebratory meeting or two in November.

The Conference ended on Saturday and I came home on Sunday. It was a rotten flight set with two separate flight delays, losing my preferred seating assignment, and making back to SFO and hopping aboard the last BART train with literally 3 minutes to spare.

It was a great conference experience, but it’s good to be home and back to ship modeling! Ω

New Book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding

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Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks has studied traditional Japanese boat building from Japanese masters since the mid-1990s. In an attempt to help preserve the art, Mr. Brooks worked through five apprenticeships with aging master boat builders, serving in most cases as their final and only apprentice. Part one of this 320 page hardcover book discussed the characteristics of Japanese traditional boatbuilding, including tools, materials, design, joinery, etc. Part two details his five apprenticeships.

I’ve seen some images of this book and some of the writing and it looks not only gorgeous, but filled with fascinating and valuable details regarding this rapidly disappearing art form. I expect to be ordering my copy almost immediately.

The book is $75 and you will certainly be able to order it from the usual online book sellers. But, I recommend ordering it direct from the author. The price is the same, plus $10 shipping, but Mr. Brooks will personally sign copies. His website order form includes a space to indicate who the book is to be inscribed to. You can buy your copy at Douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com.

Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks in a VPR Interview

If you’ve been on my site here long enough, you’ve probably run across a link or my mention of American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. Recently I started up again, studying his blog writings, his website and any other information I can find on the Internet about his Japanese boat building projects. I’m trying to get some specifics for the construction of a model of a traditional Japanese boat called a Bekabune. This is a small, lightweight boat used in the harvesting of nori (seaweed).

So, while I was going through his website, his blog site and just doing general Internet searches on terms I’ve been trying to learn, I ran across this great recorded radio interview on VPR, a Vermont NPR News Source. In it, Mr. Brooks talks from his workshop about his work to preserve the art of Japanese boat building. It’s a great 6-minute interview.

By the way, it looks like his book about his five apprenticeships in Japan will be coming out this Fall. Look for him to do some book promotions in your area!