Tag Archives: Japanese Boat Models

My Next Japanese Boat Models Display Next Month

For those of you in the Bay Area in March and interested in models of traditional Japanese watercraft, I’m setting up my first display of 2018 next month. The models will be in the display window of Union Bank’s community room, located inside the Japan Center’s East Mall, from March 1st through March 31st, 2018.

Models will include kit build models from Woody Joe and Thermal Studio, as well as four scratch built models, two of which will be brand new to the display.

Here’s my original post on wasenmodeler.com: https://wasenmodeler.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/my-next-wasen-model-display-march-1st-31st-2018/

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Building a Gozabune (Kobaya) from Paris Plans – Part 1

My latest Japanese boat model project is a 1/32-scale model of a Shōgunke Gozabune – a state yacht belonging to the Shōgun. The model is based on measurements taken by a French officer in the 1860s and published in a French, multi-volume book of drawings of watercraft from around the world and through history, called Souvenirs de Marine, first published in the 1880s.

There is a model based on these drawings in the French national maritime museum.

Wasen Modeler

Kobaya-bune, or simply, kobaya, is a term for a type of military-style traditional Japanese vessel that was fast and maneuverable. The size of the boats labeled kobaya, which translates literally to “small, fast,” seem to vary widely. I have seen boats called kobaya that had as few as 6 oars, and larger ones that had 24 or more oars, but my access to details on these warcraft is limited.

The largest warships were called atakebune. They were big, slow, lumbering craft with a castle-like structure atop. The mid-sized warships were called sekibune, and sometimes called hayabune, or fast boats, ostensibly because they were faster than atakebune. War boats smaller than this seem to have all been classed as kobaya.

During the Tokugawa period (A.K.A. Edo period), which began in 1603, Daimyo were forbidden to have atakebune. During the time of relative peace, the smaller warships, most…

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Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Final

My first completed scratch build of a Japanese traditional wooden boat or wasen. This was a simple design that’s ideal for a first scratch build. While I’ve started scratch building other Japanese wasen subjects, this was the most straightforward to take to completion.

The project had it’s beginnings back in May of this year, when I started creating drawings for the building of the model. I started cutting some wood for it in June, but it didn’t really go anywhere until I developed the former for it in mid-October. Then, in mid-November, I got serious with it and decided to take it to completion. Finished December 3rd.

Wasen Modeler

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…

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Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Part 5

The Ayubune model is close to complete. Here’s the hull planking getting details and going on in part 5 of the build. The result is officially a boat!

Wasen Modeler

Progress continues with my 1/10-scale model of the 15-shaku boat used on the Hozu river, northwest of Kyoto. I’m 6 months into the build, but I have certainly not spent a great deal of time in actual construction. Mostly, I’ve been contemplating how I was going to accomplish each task of the build. Things are progressing quickly now.

Ayubune model with former clamped to the baseboard fixture

With the new fixture holding things in place, I taped a piece of cardstock into place to trace the shape of the hull planking. I rough marked the outlines of the bottom, bow plank, and transom on it. The planking will be cut oversized, so getting the exact shape isn’t really necessary, except to make sure that the wood I cut is large enough, but not too wasteful of my limited wood supply.

Next, I cut four straight strips of 3mm sugi

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Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale – Part 3

If you’re interested in modeling non-western boats, you might be interested in this 1/10-scale ayubune I’m building from scratch, based on research done by Douglas Brooks. This is a very simple small boat made for fishing and navigating the rapids of the hozu river.

Check out his blog on building one in Japan, back in 2014:
http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/search?q=ayubune

Note that this is not one of the subjects of his book.

Wasen Modeler

Counting up all the major planks, transom, and beams, this Ayubune model will be made up of only 17 pieces:

  • Shiki (bottom) – 3 pieces
  • Omote no tate ita (bow plank)
  • Todate (transom)
  • Tana (hull planks) – 4 pieces, 2 on each side
  • Omoteamaose (bow platform)
  • Tsunatsuke (lit. rope attachment) – Bow beam
  • Omote no funabari (forward beam) – 3 pieces
  • Tomo no funabari (aft beam)
  • Tomoamaose (stern platform)
  • Transom Strake

In addition to these, I made patterns in paper for obtaining the proper angle for the lay of the hull planking. I have yet to decide at this point just how I’m going to fix the hull planks to that angle. But, there’s time before that needs to be deal with.

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Building the Kamakura Period Umi-Bune, Part 6

A project update for those interested in a large 12th century Japanese boat.

Wasen Modeler

As I mentioned in my last post on this model, I’d been wrestling with the configuration of the roofs. The 1/20-scale museum model that I often see reference on the web, differs from Professor Ishii’s 3-view illustration that I’ve mostly been basing construction on. Those drawings are more of a match to the early scroll paintings. Oddly enough, none of the models I’ve seen match them exactly. Is it possible that the builders had access to more updated information? Or did they just decide that the Ishii-san was wrong? But, then what about the scroll paintings? Are they simply written off as being wrong?

As you can see in the photo below, which was taken at a ship model club meeting, I initially made flat roofs panels. If I could justify them, they would certainly be the simplest to construct.

Flat roof panel initially constructed is seen in foreground.

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Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale

One of two new ship modeling projects of Japanese subjects – A small river fishing boat called an Ayubune that follows the work of boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. The second project will be introduced shortly. Stay tuned!

Wasen Modeler

There are a lot of potential wasen subjects to model, but good plans are difficult to come by. Also, when decent drawings are found, it’s often difficult to find or to understand the details of the subject. I’ve been toying with a lot of different possible model building subjects, but would usually run into some issue that kept me from pursuing it further.

Recently, I sort of re-discovered a subject that I seem to have overlooked before. It is a boat that Douglas Brooks wrote about in past blogs from about 3 years ago, when he was building a boat in Kameoka, Japan, which is about 16 miles west of Kyoto. There, he built a Hozugawa Ayubune, a type of simple fishing boat that was used on the Hozu river.

15 shaku Ayubune built by Douglas Brooks in Kameoka, Japan, in 2014. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

The boat is a…

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Wasen Display 6.0

The latest display of Japanese boat models takes place through the end of March. Check it out if you’re in the area and haven’t seen the models yet.

Wasen Modeler

The sixth display of wasen models is now set up at the Japan Center Mall in the window of the Union Bank Community Room inside the East Mall building. The display will be up through the end of March and features the same models as before, but with the addition of my Kamakura Period Sea Boat or Umi-bune. Though the Umi-bune model is not quite complete, I figured it was far enough along for public display as an “in progress” model.

The display then consists of the Hacchoro, Higaki Kaisen, Yakatabune, Tosa wasen, and the Umi-bune. The main change in the display is the use of new folding pedestals I made. This makes transportation easier, as the new pedestals take much less room in my car.

My hope for future displays is to have a model of a Kitamaebune, which is very similar in appearance to the Higaki Kaisen, and to…

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Buying the Tosa Wasen Kit

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If you’re looking to buy the kit, there is good news! There is a faster, less expensive method than trying to get it through Amazon-Japan where I got mine. I found out that manufacturer will sell direct to the USA for a very good price. To buy from the manufacturer,  send an email to the company: info@thermal-kobo.jp. For buyers from other countries. I don’t know what his policy is, but you can always ask.

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Price for the kit is 13,000 Yen. Shipping is via EMS (A Chinese Express Mail Service that ends with a USPS delivery) for 2,400 Yen. Payment has to be via Paypal, sending to the email address above.

This is a really good price. Makes the whole thing with express shipping only about $150. I went ahead and ordered a second kit.

The only thing that I’m not so sure about is that the kit is shipped in its own box, but wrapped with a bubblewrap bag. It’s a long box, so it seems like it would be easy to bend in half. But, I received the first kit this way and it was delivered just fine. Then again, I generally have good experiences with the US Postal Service here.

It looks like I might have been their first international sale of this kit, as the owner posted a picture of the kit shipping out to the USA on their Facebook page.

When you order one, please feel free to mention where you heard about it. Ω

Speaking at the 2016 NRG Conference

Having been involved in Ship Modeling for more than 20 years, I’ve been a big admirer of the Nautical Research Guild and the work of its impressive membership. There have been so many great modelers involved in the Guild, I feel honored to be speaking together in a combined talk with boatbuilder Douglas Brooks at the opening talk of this year’s conference in San Diego. Douglas Brooks will be reprising his talk at last year’s conference on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, while I’ll be adding the element of modeling them.

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Douglas Brooks speaking at the 2015 NRG Conference in Mystic, CT.

Granted, my portion of the talk will the shorter segment. In the 15 minutes or so that I’ll have, I’ll only be able to scratch the surface of the subject, mostly talking about resources available to those who are interested in building a traditional Japanese boat. Pretty much, just enough to give folks a nudge toward attempting one.

The other part of my participation at the conference came as something of a surprise as I was told just last month that I was scheduled to do one of the round table sessions. These are 20-minute sessions that takes place simultaneously with 4 other sessions. People attend the session of their choice, and after 20 minutes, people then switch to another table. So, basically, I have a 20-minute demo, repeated a total of 4 times (with one 20-minute break).

Having no idea what I was expected to do, I’d considered a couple possibilities. The first thing that actually came to mind that I thought would work out, was to demo some of the details of paper modeling. Having completed only 1 paper model made it seem a bit odd, but I don’t think anyone else has done it, and I actually did have some interesting techniques to show.

But, talking with Kurt Van Dahm, the NRG Chairman, and others, it seemed that the idea was to give me more time to talk about modeling Japanese boats. So, I’ll be talking a mix of building Japanese kits and building from scratch. It seems a bit odd to me, as talking about kits seems a bit like a sales pitch. The only thing preventing it from being a complete conflict of interest, seeing as how I’ve done some work for Ages of Sail, is that Ages of Sail doesn’t currently carry any of the kits I’ll be talking about. And, my most highly recommended kit, the Tosa Wasen, will only be available direct from the manufacturer.

Bekabune model gifted to me from the Urayasu Museum.

Bekabune model given to me by the curator of the Urayasu Museum.

In any case, I’ll bring my in-progress Urayasu Bekabune models and a small supply of Japanese woods for people to sample themselves, giving them a chance to sand, cut and bend them. Show a couple in-progress kits, talk about how to read the Japanese language plans, etc. A 20-minute discussion should go by pretty quick, then repeat it three more times.

I really hope it won’t end up being the lamest NRG round table discussion in history, and people will find it interesting and useful. Wish me luck!