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Tosa "Wasen" Traditional Japanese Fishing Boat by catopower - FINISHED - Thermal Studio - SMALL 1/10 scale

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I purchased this kit from a dealer in Japan, having found it on the Internet some time ago. This is a very accurate model of a traditional fishing boat from a region called Tosa on Shikoku Island, which is one of more Southern of the 4 main islands of Japan. The kit was produced by a company called Thermal Studio, which is actually a manufacturer of glider kits. I suspect that there is some personal connection between the owner and the Tosa Traditional Boat Society. The manufacturer indicates that this kit is made under the supervision of that group.


I won't go into too many general kit details, since I already discussed the details of the kit on Model Ship World here: http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/12018-110-scale-japanese-fishing-boat-kit-from-thermal-studios/






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.

Edited by catopower
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Hi Grant, Ken, Carl, Bob welcome!


Hope you enjoy the build. It's been an exciting start. I saw one of the blogs on the build of this kit maybe about a year ago, but couldn't find the kit anywhere. When I found one in a listing in Japan, I snatched it up, hesitating only to make sure it would actually get to me one way or another. 


I've been in contact with boat builder Douglas Brooks for about 2 years now and, following his work, I've been wanting to try scratch building a boat he refers to as a Bekabune, a seaweed harvesting boat from Tokyo Bay. It is relatively simple and small, but I didn't want to fully commit to it yet because I felt there were just too many questions in my head about the building methods. With him the only source of information, I didn't want to be bugging him all the time. 


I think the Tosa Wasen model project will help me through some of those building issues. I'm getting a sense of the difference between the two boats, what kinds of things might have been simplified in the kit design, construction techniques, etc.


I don't expect this to be a long project – I'm already on step 8 of 41. But, I do have a rigging repair I'm finishing up at the same time and then some. Plus, I'm translating each step to make sure I'm not missing anything major, and that takes time. Still, though I'm in no rush, I'm betting I'll be done by New Year.




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Welcome, there's plenty of room for all!


I don't expect we'll be here all that long. Though it's not a simplified construction model, the design is not complicated.




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.






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.





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.






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.






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.






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.






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.



At this stage, the model is just about ready to receive the upper planks or the Uwadana.



Edited by catopower
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Thanks John, this is a really looking kit, and as long as I don't screw up the steps, it should turn out very nice!



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.




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.




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.




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.




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



With 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.


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Hello Druxey, thanks for the comments. Always nice to have you following my builds!



Last time, I left off with the basic hull completed. Now comes the detailing.


A pair of beams are provide which are attached directly on top of the upper hull planks. These are first tapered from underneath so that at the ends they are reduced to half thickness. The fore beam referred to here as the ツノ or Tsuno (tsue-no), and the stern beam is the オオトコ or Otoko (oh-toe-koh). The heavy stern beam in particular is a common feature of traditional Japanese boats as it is used to mount the rudder on some boats, and usually bears the seat for the sculling oar.









One thing you might note about these beams is that the parts are made from a lighter colored wood. True to the original boat, unlike the hull planks, which were made of Japanese Cedar, these parts were usually made out of Hinoki (Japanese Cypress) because its greater density and strength.






At this time, there are some extension pieces located at the midships frames (I was calling them beam initially, but now they're built-up high enough to call them frames or bulkheads). I don't know what it's called yet, but this boat has an extended rail outside of the hull and these pieces are the central supports for it.


These small pieces initially had a lot of char from the laser cutting on top and bottom. I was as careful as I could be to not take off too much material. But, the cedar is relatively soft and it sands a little too easily here. But, I seemed to manage okay and essentially got the char off.


By the way, something interesting about that space between the frames that you see in the photo. In the center portion of the hull bottom, there are a few holes. I believe that this might have served as some kind of "live well" that must fill with water through those holes. There are in fact, two sets of holes. Near the forward bulkhead, there are two smaller holes in the bottom, and I believe these open into a smaller, separate section that might have been for storing bait. I'll report on this at another time after i've collected some facts.


So, next step was to add the upper and lower slotted beams, which will hold removable doors to allow access into the bow and stern storage compartments. The ends of the beams had to be sanded down to fit nicely in place.






A special template is provided to make sure that the beams are properly aligned. One side of the template is used for the bow and the other side is used for the stern. The angles are different enough so that it's pretty obvious which side is used for which end of the boat. You don't need to read Japanese to figure that much out.









One of the issues I ran into was that the tops of the upper hull planks weren't perfectly aligned. So, I made an extra effort to make sure the gap between the upper and lower beams was consistent.


After the stern pieces were done, I assembled the floor of the bow storage compartment. Interestingly enough, the two pieces that make up the floor aren't two symmetrical halves. In fact the joint between the two doesn't even run parallel to the centerline of the ship. You can see what I mean when you look at the photo.






I'll cover the completion of the holds next time. The next step is to add the deck beams to the bow compartment and then the add the bow and stern decks.




Edited by catopower
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Hi Clare?

As usual I get to miss a interesting build start... Never mind I've cought up now....

I love thease Japanese and korean kits. They are so different from the normal European kit.

Have never used Japanese cedar before. Looks like and cuts like the stuff I have used here in the UK.

I like your approach on all your builds.. Steady and check and recheck.

A late seat is booked. And as Richard states.

The nice thing about the internet is there's plenty of room for front row seats. Richard.

so true.

Following along..

Regards Antony.

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Thanks Richard, Bob, John. Welcome Antony – No worries, there's plenty of project left...


I got stalled for a bit when I got to the rails, but managed to complete the bow and stern decking. 



The bow deck first 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.





The deck itself is made up of two pre-cut pieces of cedar.





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:







These characters don't actually mean anything, 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.





The deck parts are 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.




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.





Now, here's where I was at a bit of a loss. There are rails that attach to either side of the boat. The ends 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 existing 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!





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 talk about modeling a Basque whale 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 is in progress.








I should have the rail completed soon, but I think it's been the hardest part of the build so far. More later...








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I continue to make progress on the model, but there isn't really much to say. 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 put them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This was just enough to do the trick.





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.





The pieces glued and clamped into place








After the rail was completed, I went ahead and added the stem and other hull details include a thick strake located on the upper hull planking, just underneath the recently completed rail. 




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. 

Edited by catopower
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Thanks for the nice comments all.


Regarding the difficulty of the kit. In general, it's not a difficult build as there is no rigging, few fittings, and lots of laser cut parts. Beams, stem pieces, and other wooden parts are pre-milled as well. No long pieces of strip wood that need to be cut to down, no sheet wood or dowels.


Even so, I wouldn't go so far as to say it makes a good beginner's kit. First off, the instructions are all in Japanese. Secondly, it's made using traditional materials used in the real boats. Cedar is a little splintery, strong grain makes it difficult to cut straight when trimming, and it's a little soft and easy to over sand.


It seems to make a nice kit for someone who has some experience and wants a different kind of challenge. Probably best to have some interest in traditional Japanese boat construction. Otherwise, one of the Woody Joe kits like the Hacchoro or Yakatabune might be a better option.



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Hello Sam,


There is only one book on Japanese boat building that I know of that's written in English. It was just published last Fall. If you can afford the full price, you can get it from the author's website douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com. All profits go to support his research. He was one of the speakers at the NRG conference in Mystic this year. 


Both the Hacchoro and Yakatabune kits are about the same level of difficulty, a bit less tricky than the Tosa Wasen, and you don't need to know anything about Japanese boat construction to build them. But, it's nice to know about traditional construction so you can see how the kits have simplified the process for the modeler. The Hacchoro makes a nice display because it's big, has tall sails and eight sculling oars and the kit's not too expensive.


As always, I recommend getting them from Zootoyz.jp. His prices are generally better than what you find on Amazon, his service is great, and if you use EMS shipping, which I recommend, you should have the kit in about a week or so. The Tosa Wasen, I bought off of Amazon-Japan and had to use an intermediary since there were no international shipping options. I'm checking with the manufacturer about options though.


It's easier to find images of Hacchoro on the Internet because they still have modern built replicas and hold regular Hacchoro races in Yaizu city, I think it is. But, it helps to do your image searching using Kanji characters and not type out Hacchoro in English, or you'll just get nothing but links to my own blog site! So, just copy and paste this: 八丁櫓


I'm planning on building another Hacchoro in the not too distant future. Whatever you get, I hope to see you start a build log on one here!




Edited by catopower
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Thanks, Druxey. Always good to know you're out there!


Sam, looking forward to it whenever you're able to get to it. 



Hope everyone has had a nice Christmas. For me, it was a short break, and now back to work and projects!


I recently made contact with the manufacturer and sent him some links to my blog and MSW posts. Next thing I know, someone from the Tosa Traditional Japanese Boat Society reached out to me and also there is a post on Facebook. Here's a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tosawasen/?pnref=story 


I tried to link to the actual post, but I don't see an easy way of doing that. But, in any case, I found the guy who actually drew up the plans for manufacture, Toshihiko Shibafuji. He studied traditional Japanese boatbuilding with a master boatbuilder, Mr. Hiromitsu, and it also turns out he knows Douglas Brooks, who I already know. So, it seems that the circle is complete!



As for the model, 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.









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





Here's another view...





Finally, I built the well area. This was pretty straightforward, though I did start to run into little discrepancies in part 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.





Here's the completed well area before deck covers and fitted into place. Note the ledges glued to the hull.






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