Tag Archives: Japanese Boat Models

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!

Japanese Boats Display in Japantown (v 4.0)

Last week, I spent an entire afternoon in San Francisco setting up my latest display of models of Japanese traditional boats in the Japan Center Mall in San Francisco. This is the largest display I’ve done, which is now up to 5 models. It’s probably about as large as it will get as I can’t imagine that I can possibly cram any more into my car. And, given that I live about an hour’s drive outside the city (or two hours in bad traffic), I’m not likely going to be making two trips to set it up. But, the size is actually pretty good now.

Since I’m doing some fundraising to go to Japan this Fall to do some more first-hand research on Japanese watercraft (don’t forget to check out my gofundme page), I’m taking the opportunity to really get some attention for this display. As with those people involved in the fine arts, I’ve made up an announcement card that I’m having printed up that I will be sending to various friends and people that  I think will be interested in it and possibly interested in helping me out (as well as those who have already done so). In addition, I’ve made a simple email announcement photo that I’ve been sending to people.

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My email announcement card

If you’re already familiar with the last couple displays, you will see two new models added, a simple Japanese traditional boat shop display and the Tosa wasen model. Both are a nice, big 1/10 scale, so the details are better for a window display like this.

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The 1/10-scale Tosa Wasen is the newest boat model added to the display.

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This is my simple model of an Urayasu boat workshop, showing some of the aspects of traditional Japanese boatbuilding. Under construction is a Bekabune, a seaweed gathering boat that was once used on Tokyo Bay. The model still needs a few additions – a work in progress.

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The Hacchoro and the Urayasu boat workshop with their scale boatmen silhouettes. The Hacchoro is one of the boats I will be focussing my attention on while researching in Japan this Fall.

You may notice in that display window photos that I’ve created little silhouette boatmen to provide scale reference for each model. This was a last minute effort, though I’ve been thinking about it for months. I finally sat down and scoured the Internet and found photos of boatmen dressed in traditional outfits on someone’s blog photos. I took the best one and did some Photoshop work to turn him into a silhouette, which I scaled to the needed sizes, printed them, and mounted them on cardboard.

There are, of course, things to do differently next time, which I’ve already noted. The boat workshop display should probably be on some kind of a riser, like the other models, there is enough room to put up another large, hanging photo board, and there’s room for at least one more model, using the tall stand I introduced in this display. I suppose I could consider staggering them a little too.

That tall stand, by the way, is actually a better stand for me to use because it’s simple two boards hinged together. This makes them foldable and they take up a lot less space in my car. I’m seriously thinking about replacing the box pedestals on the other models with short folding stands, which would allow me to carry more stuff in my car. And, actually, if I build models without sails, I might be able to fit one or two more in that car. Of course, that means building more models and I’m pretty far behind on other projects as it is. We’ll see… Ω

 

Building the Tosa Wasen – Part 6

The next step in construction of the Tosa Wasen kit is the addition of the deck boards.

This part of the build turned out to be a lot tricker than I’d expected. This is an area where you really want to take your time, and it’s easy to want to rush through it. The deck boards serve as a deck to walk (or sit) on and work on, but they are also designed to be removable, allowing the fisherman access to storage space under the deck. This allows the deck to be kept clear and free of clutter, making for a tidy looking boat.

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Beam supports glued into place. The beams are sanded to fit, but I left them unglued, so they’ll remain removable. Ledges are then cut to length and glued to the beams for the deck boards to rest upon.

The deck boards themselves are rather interesting in that they are made so that almost no two are alike. Each one can only fit in one location, with the possible exception of the boards that cover the live wells in the center of the boat. But, given that there are many boards, it would seem to be something of a puzzle trying to figure out which one fits where. To make the positioning more obvious, there are two lines scribed into the top of the boards.

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The lines form a sort of an arrowhead with the point at the front of the forward most board, and each compartment has a 3 or more deck boards covering it, with its own arrowhead pattern scribed on it. This makes for a quick recognition of the order of the deck boards and also makes it easier to keep from mixing them up, kind of the way a picture is printed on jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Note that one deck board of each set has a square notch cut into one edge that serves as a finger hole to make it easier to pull up the boards. This also makes it easier to pull up the boards on the model using a paperclip or other small tool.

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Live wells with holes in the bottom of the boat, open to the sea. The large one is for the catch, the small one is for bait.

The kit supplies the deck boards as laser-cut pieces, which look they’d make it easy to put them into place. However, in order to allow some variation between models, these parts are cut over-sized, so they have to be sanded to fit. This turned out to be a far trickier than I’d expected, as the Japanese cedar is pretty soft, and really wanted to avoid small gaps between boards. In fact, I used every scrap piece of cedar that I could find in the kit in order to finish the deck boards.

If you’re building this kit, Proceed Very Carefully here.

The next step was to scribe the patterns into the deck boards. I found it easiest to take each group of deck boards which are part of the same pattern set and marking the endpoints on the first and last board, then scribing them all together as a group. I lined them up against a straight edge to keep them in alignment (each set of boards has at least one straight side).

This was pretty much the last of the difficult work. There is one more step that was a little tricky, but in a completely different way, and that was the next step. For those following along with the kit instructions, this is step 33. This involves the construction of the covers for the cargo compartments in the bow and the stern of the boat. If you haven’t built the model kit yet, I would consider doing this work in steps 17 and 18 before the compartments are decked over. It seems it would just be a lot easier.

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I’m not positive why the kit has you build the compartment covers at this stage instead of earlier in the build. Possibly, it’s because the real boat might be built in the order shown in the kit. That would be okay, except that trying to reach in with your finger and thumb to get the covers into place without knocking parts into the compartments is pretty difficult.

The kit includes a small pair of wooden tweezers that you’re instructed to build for handling those compartment doors. In the long run, these will be necessary in order to be able to remove or replace these doors without damaging the soft wood.

Completing the Rail

I jumped ahead just a little bit with the compartment covers since I was kind of on a roll with the trickier stuff. So, afterwards, I went back to deal with the rail supports. These are tapered blocks that are added to the rail after it has been constructed. By constructing the rails first, the nice fair curve has already been established and doesn’t need to be engineered into the design. Afterward, the support blocks were added to give the structure more rigidity.

You can see the support blocks of the rail in the photo below, and also in the second photo shown above.

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Finishing Details

The last steps of the Tosa Wasen kit involve adding the finishing details. These included the rail supports, oar, ringbolts, anchor, oar and some fisherman’s accessories.

Dealing with the details on the boat first required drilling some 2mm holes to accommodate the ringbolts, etc.

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Ringbolt and the pin for the sculling oar added to the stern beam.

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Ringbolt and, for lack of better term, “belaying pins”, which are mounted on the bow beam.

The kit includes some accessories that I jumped ahead and worked on because they looked fun and interesting. Specifically, there are two wooden seats, a small hand-paddle, and a bailer for scooping water out of the boat.

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The laser-cut pieces are designed to create nice box joints between all the parts, and as with everything else, the parts go together in a perfect fit. This is true of the bailer as well as the seats. The hand-paddle, called a Tekaki, was the only item here that required any shaping. Everthing else just went together and took a little sanding to soften the edges just a bit.

Afterwards, if you don’t want to display them on deck, they fit quite neatly in the storage spaces below the deck.

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The Sculling Oar

The boat, like most traditional Japanese boats, is propelled by a long, rearward facing sculling oar called a “Ro”. The sculling oar in this kit makes an accurate representation of a Japanese sculling oar. The plans show the cross-section of the oar at different points along its length, and the scale is large enough for people to see the shape detail.

The oar comes in two main pieces where were milled, not laser-cut, from Japanese magnolia, or “Ho”. This is kind of a grayish colored wood with a fairly fine grain that is harder than the cedar or cypress in the kit.

I varied a bit from the kit design here in that the kit included a tiny screw and nut to fasten the parts together. This is how the real Ro are made today and for the last 100 years or so. But, going for the Edo period look, I decided to wrap them together with rope instead.

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The anchor is the last item of this build. Not sure how they form this, but it seems like a piece of cast acrylic. It’s just a ted flexy, but has a good shape to it. It comes a little too thick, so it required some sanding to get it to look a bit more like the photos in the instructions. I ended up speeding up the process by using my belt sander. The part held up well and didn’t melt, so this worked out pretty well.

The anchor’s shape has a bit of taper, so it’s thinner at the top than at the bottom. At the base, there is a hole from a cross piece, making it look something like a grappling hook.

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The hardest part was tying the knots. I tried translating the text with Bing Translate, but all I got was a Japanese name for the knot. However, Google Translate came up with “Bowline”, which made life much easier. Basically, there’s a bowline at the base, a pair of half hitches, and the a separate rope ties the anchor cable to the eye of the anchor. The cable is then fastened to the ringbolt on the stem using a bowline.

A short piece of the supplied rope for the anchor cable was needed for the loop that secures the sculling oar. When not in use, that loop of rope stores away nicely under the deck.

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The finished project turned out beautifully. I used a coat of natural stain to finish it off and seal the wood. According to the label on the Minwax can, it seals, so that should help the longevity of the model as well as bring out some of the color of the wood.

I’ll eventually build a case for the model. With not masts, a cased Tosa Wasen model will fit easily in the bookcase. My Wasen Display is still running at the bank in San Francisco’s Japantown, but I have plenty to do with other projects, so I won’t worry about adding this model until Wasen Model Display 4.0 maybe in the Summer.

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Again, this is a great model kit for those interested in traditional Japanese boats. Email info@thermal-kobo.jp for ordering information. For now, the kit has a very low price – about $130 shipped by express service, payable using Paypal. If you would, tell them I sent you. Ω

Building the Tosa Wasen – part 5

Continuing with the detailing now starting with the bow and stern decks.

The bow deck required installation of support beams. The beams are provided pre-cut, but the ends needed to be tapered to fit snugly against the hull planking.
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The deck itself is made up of two pre-cut pieces of cedar.
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The stern deck is made up of 5 pre-cut boards, but the pieces are of different widths. The instructions don’t show you, but the plans provide the labels, so you can locate the needed pieces. You don’t have to read Japanese, but you do have to match the characters on the plans with those on the parts.

To those familiar with Japanese, the labels are all in the phonetic alphabet known as Katakana. In this case, the parts are:

ウカイ

ウカロ

ウカハ

ウカニ

ウカホ

These characters don’t actually mean anything here – They’re basically no different than labeling parts as A1, C2, etc. Most of the parts in the kit are identified this way.

Something else to note is that the pieces aren’t necessarily placed on the sheets in any order. Efficiency of material was very obviously given precedence here, so related parts may be separated  quite a bit. You can see this by how these deck pieces are located on the laser-cut sheet.

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The deck parts were glued up and I then placed them on the hull and traced the edge onto them using a pencil. This was then trimmed by knife and sanded to fit the hull. As I mentioned before, trimming Japanese cedar with a knife can be quite tricky as the wood is soft and the grain is hard, so the knife catches the grain and wants to follow it, so extra care is required.

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One thing you’ll notice is that the part labels are etched onto each part, so you have to either hide the labels or sand them off. Or, you could always just ignore them. They’re not that easy to see unless you’re looking closely. In this case, I just glued the boards so that the labels will all be on the underside of the deck.

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Adding the Rail

We’ve now come to the stage on the Tosa Wasen model where I became a bit confused about the next step of construction. It involves installing a rail, and I suppose that it may simply be a matter of getting accustomed to traditional Japanese building methods which, as far as I can tell, this kit seems to follow quite closely.

The first problem I ran into was that the ends of the long rail pieces that have to be added first. These are notched to fit to the beams at the bow and stern, but the pieces are too long to fit. So, the notch at one end can be used, but the other end has to be cut to deepen the notch.

More than this, where on a western style ship, we’re accustomed to installing framing and then attaching the rail onto that, with Japanese boats, the process is reversed. The rail is installed to only a few attachment points first, then the supports are added afterwards. This is something that I’ve seen in hull construction of Japanese boats too. The hull planks are edge fastened and bent/clamped into place in the process, and the framing is installed afterwards – Lessons in traditional Japanese boatbuilding!

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Of course, this isn’t limited to the Japanese or Asian ship/boat building. Thinking back, I recall local ship modeler and marine archaeologist Ed Von der Porten (he’s written a number of articles that have appeared in Ships in Scale) talk about modeling a Basque whaler and about how frames were added after the planking process had begun.

Anyway, I finally worked it out in my head, and the rail construction progressed.

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I completed construction of the rail, adding the pieces that make up the underside. With these in place, it’s a much stronger structure.

To fit the pieces into place, I had to soak the cedar pieces a little bit to impart a slight bend or twist here and there. I took the shortcut of wrapping the pieces with a wet paper towel and putting them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This was just enough to do the trick.

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Along the underside of the rail on the upper hull planks there is a laser-scribed line to help position the underside pieces of the rail.

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The pieces glued and clamped into place
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After the rail was completed, I went ahead and added the stem and other hull details, including a thick strake located on the upper hull planking, just underneath the recently completed rail.

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You may notice that the stem is lighter than the rest of the hull. Like the stern beam, the stem is make of Hinoki or Japanese Cypress instead of Sugi, Japanese Cedar.

Painting the Hull Bottom

Next, it was time to paint the bottom of the hull. The finish of the hull bottoms changed a bit over time. But, what we see as common for the Edo period would be black paint. The kit actually included a roll of narrow yellow masking tape from 3M which worked very well. For paint, I used a model paint sold by Caldercraft as part of their Admiraly Colors line.

There was no particular reason I used this other than to test the paint out. For all other wasen models I’ve built, I used artist’s acrylics Mars Black from Liquitex. In fact, the result using the Caldercraft paint was just a bit shinier than I would have preferred, but it came out fine. I keep trying other hobby paint brands and often end up just coming back to the artist’s acrylics.

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While I was at it, I went ahead and added the splash rail, which sits on the bow deck. The joint where the two piece meet and also the bottoms of the pieces had to be beveled to fit properly.

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Finally, I built the well area. This was pretty straightforward, though I did start to run into little discrepancies in parts alignment, which is going to happen on kits with pre-cut parts. Also, a reminder that it’s REALLY easy to over sand the kit’s Japanese cedar.

The bottom of the boat will be comprised of covered compartments. So, beams and ledges will be added to seat the deck boards / compartment covers. The well section is the tallest compartment.

Here, I’m adjusting the position of the ledge that I’m gluing into place on one of the well partitions. I used wood from the sheet of deck covers as a guide for exact positioning of the ledge. This assures that the deck covers will be flush with the tops of the partitions.
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Here’s the completed well area. Note the ledges glued to the hull.

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Before the deck covers can be added, beams and more ledges have to be added. I’ll cover this next time, along with the covers for the bow and stern holds, making the “Ro”, which is the Japanese name for the long sculling oar, and the final accessories such as the anchor and the bailer, etc. The next installment should see the completion of our Tosa Wasen.

Building the Tosa Wasen – part 3

With the lower planks in place, there are next two support beams that were glued in place. Like the pair of lower support beams that the lower planks lock into, these upper support beams are notched so that they fit into holes in the upper planks. When the glue on those beams was drying, the upper planks were cleaned up the leading edges were tapered the same way as the lower planks. The lower planks were then glued to the support beams described above.

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As with the lower planks, the upper planks were then initially glued only at the transom and at the stem. Fitting the planks was fairly easy at the stern, but was a bit harder at the bow. There, the planks are hard to seat tightly against the stem since there is some overlap between the upper and lower planks.

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This definitely took a lot of hand pressure and the use of medium CA glue since I couldn’t get a clamp onto the bow. I just had to hold the planks tight as long as possible until the glue set. At the stern, the planks were much easier to glue. But, I did run into one self-created problem that was actually less of a problem than I’d realized.

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The stern edge of the transom should have been lined up with the edge of the notch where you see the rubber bands in the above photo. I cheated a little in order to fix the problem by trimming the leading edge of the notch, effectively moving the notch forward. A beam is supposed to fit precisely into this notch, so I had to sand the stern edge of the planks just enough so the size of that notch was retained.

But, as it turns out, the top of the transom gets sanded flush with the top of the planks and later the whole section gets covered with planks right up agains that beam anyway, so you wouldn’t have been able to tell that the transom didn’t touch the edge of the beam, unless you looked up at it from underneath the boat.

With the planks secured in place, I then ran a thin bead of CA glue all along the inside of the joint between the upper and lower planks. Lots of clamps made sure that the planks were held properly together until the glue set.IMG_0263

After a while, it was safe to then remove the temporary strong-back, which was a nice and satisfying milestone in the build.

IMG_0267With that, the basic hull is complete and we have something that now looks like a boat. There is still the outer stem to add as well as some stern trim that protects the ends of the planks, but aside from that, it’s pretty much time to start detailing.

 

Building the Tosa Wasen – Part 2

The next stage of the build is the hull planking.

On a traditional Japanese boat, there are basically only 4 planks, 2 on each side, with the upper planks making a nearly vertical surface. The kit refers to the lower planks as カジキ or Kajiki and the upper planks as タナ or Tana. The term Kajiki is the same term used for the lower planking on the Bekabune as described in Brooks’ book and blog. And in fact, the Tosa term for the upper plank, Tana, is related to that of the Bekabune, which is the compound word Uwa-Tana, but run together the “T” becomes a “D” sound and becomes Uwadana.

Diagrams in the kit show that the leading edge of the lower planks need to be tapered. There are measurements shown in the instructions, but the exactly shape of the tapered area is not precisely defined. It ended up being a matter of getting something to look like the shape shown in the diagram – a shape that reminds me of the tip of a samurai sword.

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After tapering the leading edge of the planks, it’s then a matter of fitting the planks on. The laser-cut planks have square openings that line up with square tabs that protrude from the central beams on the model. These are actually located slightly aft of center, but they are at the widest point of the boat.

I found that mating the planks to those notches was a pretty tight fit, but it was good that the fit was snug, as this helps hold things together while gluing. I glued the planks to these notched frames first and let that dry, which seems to be how the instructions want you to do it. Next, the planks were fit to the transom and glued only at the transom.

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From what I could tell, it seemed that the top of the planks should be kept low against the frames, so that the planks ended up sticking up above the frames by only a small amount at the stern. On the forward half of the boat, the planks seemed to mostly line up with the top of the frames.

The planks were then glued to the stem, which is called the Miyoshi (mee-yoh-shee). The planks had to be positioned so that the very forward edges were flush with or just barely past the stem. After the glue dried, the rest of the planking was glued to the bottom and the frames using medium CA and the applicator tips supplied in the kit. Those, by the way, were a perfect fit for ZAP brand glue bottles.

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I found it a bit of a struggle to hold the boat while trying to glue the lower planks into place. The strong-back in the center is only glued in at the top and bottom of the transom and the stem, so it’s very flexy. It took a while to learn to hold the whole thing while bending the planks and gluing them into place.

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I should also mention that the kit never has you soak any of the planking. It’s long and thin enough that it flexes pretty easily. I suppose it might have made sense, as a ship modeler, to try to pre-bend the planks. But, it certainly wasn’t necessary and I managed without soaking or pre-bending the planks.

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I left the whole thing to dry and then came back and sanded the upper edges of the lower planks. When dealing with the upper planks, the will overlap the edges of the lower planks, and to make a good bonding surface, or watertight surface in the case of the real boat, the outer edge at the top of the lower plank has to be sanded roughly vertical.

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On the real boat, iron nails would be drive into the bottom edge of the upper plank and into this flat edge of the lower plank. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.

 

The model is just about ready to receive the upper planks or the Uwadana.

Tosa Wasen – Japanese Fishing Boat Kit – A First Look

With the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I’d been home a lot except for one day, Friday. Naturally, that’s the day the postal carrier showed up with the package from Japan. With nobody home to sign for it, I had to wait the extra day to pick up the kit. Fortunately, the Post Offices are still open on Saturdays, so in short order, I had the package.

The kit is not all that heavy, about 1-1/2 pounds, but it’s in a long box. I think this kicked the shipping cost up a bit, which was just about $30. Still, a ship model kit, particularly one this rare, for around $170 total, is not bad. That’s just about what I paid for the Woody Joe Hacchoro and the Yakatabune kits I bought from Zootoyz.

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Having ordered through Amazon Japan, the only seller of the kit did not ship internationally, so I had it sent to someone that then re-shipped it for me from Japan and they didn’t charge me any service fees. He’s done this twice for me and I don’t want to impose on him any further. There are companies specifically set up to forward packages from Japan. I just finished setting up an account with one called Tenso.com. Next time, I’ll try them out.

By the way, it looks like I may have been wrong about this kit being out of production. I thought it was no longer manufactured because the company that makes it, Thermal Studios, primarily makes large model glider kits and doesn’t list the Tosa Wasen kit at all. However, I emailed them about it and if we understood each other correctly, they produce the kit. Perhaps it’s more of a local item since they are apparently close to Tosa, Japan, and seem to have some kind of connection with the Tosa Traditional Boat Society.

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The kit itself is basically made up entirely of several laser cut sheets, plus a small bag with various kinds of parts, some other separate laser cut and milled wooden parts, instruction booklet, plan sheet, and even a sanding block.

 

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The laser cut sheets are made from Sugi (that’s “Sue” plus “Gee” with a hard “G”) or Japanese cedar, just like the real Tosa boats. Sugi is aromatic, though not as strong as the Hinoki used in so many Woody Joe kits. The parts are laser etched with Japanese characters to identify them. This probably makes locating parts a little more time consuming than if they were numbered. But, it’s just a matter of pattern matching.

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The bag of parts contains all the milled wood parts, all short pieces. Also in the parts bag is the metal anchor, the anchor rope, metal rings and fastener. The kit also includes a roll of yellow hobby masking tape, and for some reason, some plastic applicator tips used for applying CA glue.

 

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As expected, the instruction booklet is all in Japanese. The black and white printed book is 26 pages long and includes a parts diagram on the back cover, showing all the laser cut parts on their sheets. The diagram is pretty small and you really need a magnifying glass to read it. But, magnified, the part identifiers all appear to be readable. Instructions are divided up into 41 steps, with each step being clearly illustrated and each looking to be pretty simple steps.

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Time will tell if the Japanese text printed in the booklet is really necessary or if the model can be built solely by the drawings. But, in addition to the booklet, there is also on large plan sheet that gives a nice overview of the boat at full scale, which, by the way, is 1/10 scale.

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Overall, this looks like a really nice kit and it’s not that expensive. An additional bonus is that the  manufacturer, Thermal Studios, created a blog showing photos of the construction steps. This is really nice because it reinforces the written/printed instructions, giving you another view of the steps. Also, using Bing or Google translators, you can view the blog pages in English (or whatever your native language). This isn’t great as the translation can be pretty questionable, but it often helps.

Thermal Studio’s Building a Wasen Blog

Having attended Douglas Brooks‘ talk at the NRG conference this past October, and having been reading through his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, I can say that this kit looks very authentic and true to the way that the traditional Japanese shipwrights would have actually constructed their boats.

This kit would make an ideal study project for someone who is interested in following the work described in Mr. Brooks’ book. Personally, I’ve been planning on scratch building the Urayasu Bekabune that he discusses in his book. I think that building this kit first will help me a long ways towards understanding Japanese boatbuilding so that I can next attempt that scratch project.