Tag Archives: Japanese Boat

Yaizu’s Hacchoro Fishing Boat

Just posted this story about visiting the Hacchoro fishing boats in Yaizu, Japan. Woody Joe makes a great kit of the Hacchoro. It runs about $180, sometimes you can find it for that price INCLUDING shipping, so watch the pricing online. It’s a pretty easy build, and makes a nice looking model. But, I’ve decided to learn more about these traditional bonito fishing boats, and to build a more detailed model after seeing the real (replica) boats.

Wasen Mokei 和船模型

Yaizu is a coastal city on Suruga Bay, 10 miles south of Shizuoka, and about 50 miles southwest of Mt. Fuji. On a clear day, you can see Fujiyama. I visited Yaizu during typhoon season, and the mountain was obscured by clouds. Yaizu is the home of two Hacchoro (hot-choro), fishing boats that got their claim to fame as boats of these types were once commissioned as escort boats for the retiring Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

img_0886 Hacchoro at the port of Yaizu, wrapped up for the season.

The story goes that the Shogun liked to hunt game using a falcon. Travel to the hunting grounds required a trip by sea. So, to provide escort, 24 fishing boats were commissioned. But, the fishermen operating the boats had a difficult time keeping up with the Shogun’s boat due to strict limitations in place on the number of oars that could be implemented on fishing…

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Funding a Japanese Traditional Boats Research Trip 2016

Help Fund My Japan Research Trip

Well, it’s official. I’m making a trip to Japan in early September to do some hands-on research. I’ve been running into something of a dead-end on what I can learn here in the U.S., and one evening I was poking around on Travelocity.com at airfares to Japan and found a deal that was too good to pass up.


Boats at the Toba Seafolk Museum

Of course, I can’t forget the fact that I can’t really afford to go, but I had to jump on it to secure the deal. So, for the first time ever, I’m going into fundraising mode – I’m selling off a few things I really don’t need, going into frugal spending mode at home, making a deal on one of my models, and so on.


A Hobikisen on Lake Kasumigaura

In addition, I’ve opened up a gofundme campaign, which is an online fundraising site. So, if you’d like to help out and have the means to do so, then please consider a donation of $5 or more. The details of the fundraising campaign including a breakdown of trip expenses is listed on the gofundme site. I feel a bit awkward putting out a fundraising request to allow me to do something I really want to do. But, without doing some fundraising it’s going to be tough to make it all happen. The more fully funded the trip, the more of my target locations I can get to and spend time at.

It’s going to be a short trip, I’ll arrive at Haneda Airport around 5:00 AM on September 5th and leave for home at 1:30 AM on September 13. That gives me 8 days in Japan to get where I need to go. I’m still working on an itinerary, but the two most important locations are the Toba Seafolk Museum and the Ogi Folk Museum on Sado Island. There are a number of smaller stops including working out a stop in Yaizu if I can arrange to meet with one or more of the people involved with the Hacchoro traditional wooden boats. Also, as a ship modeler, there is of course a planned stop to visit the folks at Woody Joe and learn about their operation.

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A Tosa Wasen

There are numerous historical resources in the greater Tokyo area including the Edo Tokyo Museum, a small boat museum in Urayasu, and the Fukugara Edo Museum.

A big destination would be the Michinoku Boat Museum up in Aomori, but that has apparently closed and the replica Kitamaesen called the Michinoku Maru is moored and not open to the public. But I’m told the Toba museum and the Ogi museums are both very nice and have good collections and I should be able to collect a lot of information from those two destinations alone.

In any case, I will be posting updates while in Japan to keep readers here up to date on the work I’ll be doing there. In addition, I expect to be taking tremendous quantities of photos and collecting as much information as I can for ship modeling purposes. I also hope to meet up with a few people in Japan that I’ve been corresponding with regarding ship modeling and Japanese traditional boats.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it all the over to the Tosa area on Shikoku Island where I’ve made a couple really great contacts regarding the small traditional wooden boats that are still being built and used regularly. There’s just not enough time, unless by some miracle, I get enough funding to extend my stay there. But, that’s very doubtful.


A Hacchoro under sail

It will be a very short and very busy trip, but I expect the information I collect to give me enough material to help me with a couple magazine articles I’ve been considering and maybe others I hadn’t thought about before. Also, I will share information here and elsewhere. Perhaps it will provide enough material do do a nice talk or write a book?

The link to my gofundme campaign is: https://www.gofundme.com/japanboatresearch

Thank you for any support you can provide, even if it’s just moral support! And, please be sure to pass this request along to anyone you think may be interested in supporting this work. Ω

Building the Tosa Wasen – Part 1

The build begins with the floor piece. There are apparently different regional names for this and I don’t know what the name is in the Tosa region. The term カワラ, or Kawara, is shown a lot for it in the instructions, so I assume that’s the regional term in Tosa. I’ll have to send an inquiry about these things at some point.

The first step in the kit is to bevel the bottom edge of the kawara. To aid in this, there are laser scribed lines. Interestingly enough, the sheet with this part is actually scribed on both sides. I’ve never seen that in a model kit. This means that the manufacturer had to register the wood and the laser in some way so that the cuts on one side line up with those on the other side.


Something interesting about working with the Japanese cedar. Where those dark lines in the grain show, that’s where the wood is more dense. When carving, you have to be aware of that because those lines are harder to cut through than the lighter colored wood in between. These dark lines are also harder for the laser to cut through. So, if you look in those etched trapezoidal holes, you can see lines of wood that line up perfectly with the grain. I started to trim out those ridges in the cut-outs. There aren’t that many really, so I’ll probably continue with that as I go.

The other issue with those lines is that they can make the laser scribed lines very hard to follow. Woody Joe uses laser scribing to mark the beveling lines on their kits too, but they use light color Hinoki, so I ‘ve never had to deal with hard to see scribed lines before.

The next thing is to partially cut through the Kawara at the dashed line.


This is where the bottom of the boat angles upwards. In his book Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, Douglas Brooks describes this as Kirimage (kee-ree-mah-gay), or “cut bending”. I don’t know about the Tosa boats, but the Aomori boat he worked on used a technique like this, though there’s more to it.

In my case, I thought this was a good opportunity to bring out my Japanese hobby saw, which is a very thin pull-type saw. The problem was that it was too thin. It cut nicely, but didn’t leave room for the piece to bend upward. So, I pulled out my old razor saw and I cut the line several times, holding the blade at different angles, so that it would cut more of a V-groove.


With that done, I could add the floor frames. These are permanent frames, thought a long strong-back piece serves as a temporary alignment guide. This was interesting because so many Japanese boats are frameless, or close to it. At some point I’ll look into this further. On the real boat, these may have been added after the planks were in place.

There was a fair amount of char on the edges of these and all the other wood pieces. The kit includes a large flat sanding block that made clean-up of these parts pretty easy. I did notice that there was a fair amount of smudging on the wood faces though. I cleaned these up as best I could. I used the sanding block, but tried to keep working very lightly.


I test fit the stem to how it was all going to work. The stem is made up of an inner piece and an outer one. The outer stem gets added later, but the inner one goes on next. I wanted to make sure I understood the design before continuing.


First, I had to made sure the strong-back was properly aligned. The main issue was to keep it centered and perpendicular to the Kawara. The piece is also to be spot glued at the very ends to keep it in place until it is removed in a later step.


Here’s where I’m at now. Steps 1 through 6 have been completed. I have only to bevel the stern most frame and the transom to complete step 7, then comes the lower planking. Japanese boats use very wide planks that are often very thick. On the Tosa wasen, the planks appear to be as much at 18″ wide.


I went ahead and started prepping the lower planks. Where I am cutting in the photo, the laser does not completely cut the dark lines of the wood, so I have to go over this with the X-Acto a few times on each side to cut the pieces free.


New Yakatabune Mini-Kit from Woody Joe



I’m a bit behind the curve on reporting on this latest mini-kit from Woody Joe. This kit, released in May, joins the two other traditional Japanese boat mini-kits, the Hobikisen and the Utasebune. The Yakatabune (yah-kah-tah-boo-ney) is an Edo period pleasure boat that become a common site on lakes and rivers in the later years of pre-modern Japan. The appearance of these boats coincided with the rise of the merchant class and the accompanying increase in leisure time and disposable income among commoners. The Yakatabune and boatmen would be hired for a day or an evening for taking in the sights at cherry blossom time to view evening fireworks, or maybe just to drink tea or sake and enjoy good company.

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Woody Joe already produces a large, 1/24-scale kit of a Yakatabune, but this one is small and quick to build and costs less that one-third as much as the larger kit. The kit features a large number of laser-cut parts. The design of the hull is nearly identical to the other mini-kits of the series, but the decking, rudder, and deckhouse means there is about 50% more wood in this kit. As with the others, the wood provided is Hinoki (hee-noh-key), a variety of Japanese cypress that is extremely aromatic, and it easy to work with.

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Parts are always well packaged and well labeled in Woody Joe kits.

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Japanese language instructions are extremely easy to follow, thanks to the well illustrated, 12-page, step-by-step guide.

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Laser-cut sheets are clearly numbered, and each part has its own identifier to make locating parts simple.

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Color printed paper is used to cover the shoji screen walls of the deck house and for the lanterns hanging along the side.

Having been building the larger scale Yakatabune kit, it’s clear that this is a simplified model. But, that’s the whole point here. This is a model that can easily be built over a weekend, and results in something that looks nice on the shelf.

The kit is solidly packed into its box, which measures about 9″ x 3-1/2″ x 1-1/4″. The model itself measures about 8-1/4″ long when complete and includes a nice base and brass tape nameplate.

At 5,500 yen, the Mini Yakatabune is the most expensive of the three traditional boat mini-kits. At today’s exchange rate, that works out to about $45. As always, I recommend buying the kit from Zootoyz.jp. Prices are good, shipping is extremely fast, and service is great.

For those who want to add a little detail, if you’ve built the larger kit, the details you might add are pretty obvious. There are the beams that protrude from the hull under the side railing, there are the rope wrappings around the sculling oars, the lifting rope on the rudder, and copper caps. But, I think it’s a better kit to be built as-is. A nice simple weekend project that would make a nice gift either as a kit or a completed model.

Personally, I’m a student of the Japanese folk instrument called a shamisen and my teacher would clearly love to have this model on her shelf. She’s been hinting to me, showing her collection of all the different things that her various students have made for her over the years. I think the Mini Yakatabune is going to have to be one of them. Ω



New Book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding



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!

Woody Joe’s Hacchoro Kit – Out of the Box Review

My highly anticipated, newly released kit from Woody Joe arrived a while back and I’m just now getting around to writing about it. It took a couple extra days to get the shipment this time because I ordered it pretty much right at the release date, which meant my supplier still had to get the kit from Woody Joe before he could ship it out to me.

As with all my Woody Joe purchases, I bought this one from Zootoyz in Japan. However, rather than order from their regular site, I thought I’d help them out by trying out their new store front on Amazon. Unfortunately, ordering from a new vendor on Amazon is a bit troublesome as you have to find them and it takes a while for the vendor to get up to speed with the intricacies of selling on Amazon.com.

My transaction went smoothly, but I think it’s better just to buy directly from the Zootoyz website. That way, there is no middle-man to take a cut, it’s easier to ship with the vendor you want, and the savings gets passed on to you. I could have ordered directly from Zootoyz and, as it turns out I could have paid as much as $20 less that what I did pay. Still, I was really happy just to be able to order the new kit and receive it quickly.

And, just for the record, I do not get any profits from either Zootoyz or Woody Joe sales!


The Kit

The Hacchoro is an Edo Period work boat and it is the subject of the latest kit release from Woody Joe of Japan. The 1:24-scale kit relies heavily on laser cut parts and the final model measures about 23″ long, 20″ high, and 12-1/2″ wide, considerably bigger than their Higaki Kaisen model. Woody Joe’s estimated completion time of this model is 50 hours, which is half of what they list for the Higaki Kaisen. The kit lists of ¥18,000 or about $180. I got mine for about $208 with Express Mail shipping.

Background of the Hacchoro

Since my last post about this craft, I managed to learn something interesting about its origins. It turns out that fishing boats during this time were limited by law in the number of oars they carry. This apparently was to keep boats from overtaking with the Shogun’s boat.

But, the first Tokugawa Shogun enjoyed falconry and after his retirement, he would travel by sea to the hunting grounds. 24 fishing boats were commissioned as escorts, but since there were limited in the number of oars they were allowed to use, they had a difficult time keeping up. To remedy this situation, the fishermen of this one region were given special permission to mount 8 oars, hence the name Hacchoro, which basically means 8-oared boat.


Inside the Box


Opening up the box, which is somewhat smaller than the previous boxes I’d gotten from Woody Joe, I’ve come to expect the company’s usual quality packaging. Beneath the sheets of plans, instruction book and their one-page catalog sheet, the wooden parts are all packaged in plastic bags, grouped together in sets – I haven’t figured out the rationale for what the sheets are group together as they are, but I think each set is made up of sheets of like thickness. Finally, there is the usual cardboard tray in one end with the spool of rigging line, the banners, a small sheet of etched metal and a laser engraved name board.




The first thing I noticed about the instructions is that the images are much sharper. It looks like these were created on a color laser printer as opposed to lower resolution traditional printing. The colors are more vibrant and the illustrations clearer. The booklet is 16 pages long, and the instructions are broken down into 30 steps. In comparison, the Higaki Kaisen kit is 32 pages long and breaks down construction into 96 steps. On the cover is a nice image of the completed model, with the parts list on the inside front cover. Again comparing with the Higaki Kaisen kit, the Hacchoro’s parts list is about half as long.


As with all Woody Joe kits marketed in Japan, the instructions are written entirely in Japanese. But again, as with all Woody Joe kits, the instructions book is extremely well illustrated. Add to the fact that this is a much simpler build than other kits like the Higaki Kaisen or any of the Western-style ship kits, and this kit seems very build-able regardless of the text. And, I did look through the instructions as best as I could and didn’t see any sign of construction steps warning “do not glue” in Japanese.


Three black-and-white half-sheets of plans are included in the kit, each measuring about 13″ x 19″. All drawings are in scale with the model. What’s called Sheet Number 1 is actually two of these half-sheets put together and shows a full exterior side profile of the hull, an interior side cutaway of the hull, a mid-ships cross section, and a top view. Sheet Number 2 shows details of the masts, yards, sculling oars and poles for the banners.




I didn’t mention it earlier in this review, but as with all other Woody Joe kits I’ve gotten, upon opening the box, you’re hit with the wonderfully fragrant scent of Hinoki or Japanese Cypress. This seems to be the standard Woody Joe material, much like Model Shipways kits all use basswood.

Hinoki, besides smelling really nice, is a nice wood to work with. While it is brittle when dry, it only has to be wet and then it will take bends quite easily. Unlike many hard woods, it doesn’t really need soaking, it just needs to be dampened.

The kit includes 11 small laser cut sheets. The majority of these seem to be around 14″ long and probably not much more than 1-1/2″ wide. Some are smaller and a few are much longer. One thing I hadn’t noticed before was that there two of the laser cut sheets are actually what look like birch plywood. These are larger sheets that are made up of the bulkheads parts (yes, bulkheads on a traditional Japanese “Wasen” kit).

There is, of course, packages of strip woods and dowels and one package containing the parts for the display stand. The stand’s design looks like it complements the Hacchoro’s traditional Japanese-style hull quite nicely.

One small sheet of etched copper provides the pieces that form caps to fit over the ends of beams. That and a coil of brass wire which appears to be used for shaping the sails, are the only metal parts in the kit.


The sail material is very interesting. It’s a very fine weave material. I would say the quality exceeds the stuff in the Higaki Kaisen kit. To me, it seems like the nicest quality sail material I’ve seen in a ship model kit to date. The material has the seams printed in black as well as the Tokugawa mon or family crest.


The rigging line is the same quality stuff that I’ve seen in other Woody Joe kits. The stuff is very nice and I would actually consider acquiring some more of it to use on my other models. On this model, the rig is very simple, so there are only two spools of line included.


Lastly, there are the nobori or the banners that fly at the stern. Unlike Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit, which gives you blank banners to try to drawn your own Kanji (the Chinese characters used in writing Japanese), one the banners (there are two included) is pre-printed with the characters spelling Hacchoro, plus a line of characters that I haven’t translated yet, and the other displays the Tokugawa Shogun’s crest. The material used for the banners is a veil-thin fabric that shows the writing and crest almost equally well on both sides, which is kind of neat.



Kit Design

I don’t have much knowledge of Woody Joe’s past traditional Japanese-style boat (Wasen) kits, but unlike the Higaki Kaisen kit, there is no attempt to show the traditional-style construction. In fact, since there is no interior to view, the model is built western-style, with inner keel and bulkhead construction that most ship modelers will find very familiar. While it’s not authentic and doesn’t try to represent the way these ships were actually constructed in any way, it simplifies things a great deal and I think most non-Japanese ship modelers will probably feel more confident working with this kit, even without English language instructions.

Building the Model

I have so many projects in the queue that as much as I want to build this kit, I need to hold off, at least for a while. This looks like it should be a really nice short-term build however. So, if I get stuck on my other projects, need a break from them or whatnot, I’ll definitely be giving this a go. And, with the experience I have from the Higaki Kaisen build, that 50-hour rating might actually be just that. Heck, that should be like a 2-week build. Maybe I’ll just have to find a good spot to take that break after all. Ω

Higaki Kaisen model completed

After a few marathon ship modeling sessions over the past week or two the Higaki Kaisen model is done. Well, more or less. I got through the last of the construction steps, but still have a little cleanup left to do and tying off of some odds and ends.




Today, I finished the task of the name banner that flies at the stern. This a traditional style Japanese banner called a “nobori”. This one consists of a flag pole with a cross pole at the top. The banner has loops of cloth along one edge and across the top that fit the poles. The includes cloth for making the banner, but you’re supposed to write the ship’s name on it. Since I can’t write kanji, I resorted to printing the name onto paper using my computer.

For this ship, I chose to use the name Kakehashi (kah-keh-ha-shi), which is means bridge or connection. In this case, the model is something of a bridge between my interest in ship modeling and my interest in my Japanese heritage. Actually, the full name of the ship is the Kakehashi Maru – Maru is a suffix that is used for ship names.




This is definitely not the kind of model that gets easier as one gets near the end. Rigging the sail was quite a challenge with 38 lines tied to it’s edges. What you might call the sheets consist of 13 ropes tied to the foot of the sail with the other ends tied to a heavy rope that runs between the bulwarks railing. I had quite a time adjusting these lines to get the sail shaped the way I wanted. In the end, after I got the lines all about equally tensioned, I realized I wasn’t all that happy with the shape the sail had taken on. But, with so many ropes and knots, I just adjusted the sail as best I could. The next day, I looked at the model with fresh perspective and was much happier with the sail.




One of the last things on the model is the adding of the copper capping. Copper caps cover the end up many of the beams. At the stern, small copper strips simulate the nail covers. So much copper is added at the stern, that this section appears quite ornate. I ended up using contact cement to fix these into place. It’s a little messy, but seems to clean up fairly easily. Also, used properly, you have a little time to adjust the pieces after they are laid into place. But, be careful of the brand you use. Read the directions as some are specifically not to be used with copper.




Other finishing touches included the anchors, the stay on the mast and all its details.









There are still a couple things that I may yet add to this model. Often, ladders have been used on the main decks of the replica bezaisen to climb up on the main cabin roof deck without having to go inside the cabin, and the same for the forward deck house or Kappa (cop-pah). Also, these ships traditionally carried a small boat called a Tenma-Bune (ten-mah-boo-ney) which was used for going to and from shore or other ships. I’d like to scratch build one and add it to my Higaki Kaisen model, but we’ll have to see if my understanding of the construction of these Japanese wasen is up to the task.



This has been a very different, very interesting, and extremely fun build. Woody Joe kits might seem a little pricey in the US, particularly for the small size of this model in particular. But, in the end, I think it’s been a great value. I’ve learned something about traditional Japanese ships and the model has been a great challenge.

If you’re interested in the kit, there are a couple things you may find of interest. One is that there are a lot more Amazon sellers listing this kit, though they are almost all in Japan. But, I no longer see the price gouging attempts on Ebay and Amazon that I once did. My personal recommended seller does not have an Amazon store, but is, of course Zootoyz. And if you do buy from Morikawa-san, please tell him I sent you.

But, another interesting turn of events is an importer that is reportedly bringing several Woody Joe kits to market in the US, primarily through Amazon, but with instructions he’s had translated into English. I don’t know what they’ll end up charging for the kits, but it will probably be more than what you would pay for the kits directly from Japan. Of course, with the kits from Japan, you’ll have to deal with Japanese language instructions. But, as I mentioned before, the instructions are very well illustrated. For the Higaki Kaisen, there is of course this blog, but also my plan is to write up a multi-part article for Ships in Scale magazine that should take the guess work out of the Japanese language instructions.

So, stay tuned, Higaki Kaisen fans. There should be more to come!

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.


An unsightly gap.


Alignment of the replacement piece.


The completed stern.


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.


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