Building a Gozabune (Kobaya) from Paris Plans – Part 6

The Paint Scheme from Paris

Having made some great progress on the model, it’s time to begin consideration of the paint scheme. From the very start, as a gozabune, it’s been very clear that this is a highly ornate ship, painted in black and vivid red lacquers, and decorated with gold trim.

Model of a large gozabune I found on the Internet.

I’ve noted that modeler Yukio Nakayama’s gozabune models, as well as those made by other Japanese ship modelers, are painted inside and out. Pretty much everything except the decks. This left me wondering how I would end up finishing this model.

I’ve been in a quandary because I do like the look of the interior painted bulwarks and beams with the bare wood deck. But, I recently looked more closely at the notes on the Paris drawings and discovered that interior painting information is actually there in addition to the exterior info.

Another gozabune model found on the Internet.

But, according to Paris, the deck planks and supporting joists are all painted blood red, except for two areas of the deck. One of those is the lowered deck section near the bow, and the other is the deck planking under the tiller. The beams are apparently natural wood finish. What isn’t specified are the rudder, the rudder lifting tower, and the inside bulwarks.

Now, I’m in a bit of a quandry. I really like what others have done with gozabune models. The model in the French maritime museum apparently has red decks, but from photos I’ve seen, it’s really hard to tell, as the paint seems faded. I didn’t even notice that the decks were painted red until I looked for evidence of it and did some color enhancement of the photo.

The Hull Paint Scheme

Well, I can wait and ponder this a bit, but I’m really ready to deal with the hull exterior. The colors on this model are the reverse of what I’ve seen in other models and painting. Most I’ve seen are basically red with a bottom painted black. This ship is black with a red bottom. Certainly not unheard of. The outboard beams are painted red, as are the columns that support the rails on the sides. The bulwarks rail and the side rail tops are both painted black.

The exterior was apparently painted with lacquer. Japanese lacquer is really beautiful and is called urushi. It’s harsh stuff, though, being the sap from poison sumac, and you have to wear gloves and a mask. Some people are more succeptable to alergic reactions to the stuff.

In the past, I’d looked into ordering some from Japan, but they weren’t able to ship it. Oddly enough, that seems to have changed, as I’ve found urushi lacquer on Amazon. So, that offers another alternative to what I was originally considering, which was a new line of oil based enamel paints (like the old Testors and Pactra brands) from a company called True North Paints. I found out about this manufacturer from the ship model company BlueJacket, which is looking at selling these in place of the old Floquil line, which has effectively gone away.

Of course, I could still used artists acrylics, like I have been doing, but the gloss finish of enamels matched my idea of what the gozabune finish might be. However, with the availability of usushi lacquer, which is the same kind of paint that would have been used on these ornate vessels, brings up a whole new possibility.

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no experience painting with urushi lacquer, so if I go that route, it’s going to take a lot of study. But, the stuff is available, though it can be expensive. I found some cheaper stuff, and I’m hoping it’s mostly because it’s a small quantity. I don’t need a lot to test it out.

This brand is in small tubes. I’m guessing they’re a lot smaller that the picture makes them seem. It’s available in black and dark red, so I went ahead and ordered them both, as well as clear lacquer that comes bundled with a gold powder for painting gold lacquer.

It’s going to take a few weeks before the lacquer arrives, so much of this project is on hold until I can figure out what paint to use. I do have the True North enamels, though, so I’m currently testing out the use of that product.

Gold patterns

In the meantime, I also need to figure out how I’m going to create the gold patterns on the model. This vessel has some very detailed patterns along the rails, mostly a row of hexagons, with some indiscernible pattern in the centers.

There’s also some curvey detail on the hull, a little forward of the rudder. So, this is going to take me a little time to figure out too. Time to do some experimenting.


In the meantime, I have some detail work still to do, which can be done while I’m figuring out all the paint issues. I did manage to add the bases for the rogui, which are the pivot mounts for the sculling oars. It was a bit of a challenge cutting 28 tiny rectangles, all the same. I need to taper them slightly and drill them out for small pieces of wire, which will represent the pivot points.

I also shaped and added walkway boards, which are described in the Paris text, but not shown on the plans.

These boards are on either side of the section of the main deck which sits lower than the rest and is probably where the VIPs would sit. I am still going to be deciding what kind of structure to erect over this section of the deck. Paris describes something referred to as a “flying hut”, which I presume refers to structure that is covered by an awning. That’s something that seems very likely on a vessel of this type.

Next up, I haven’t done anything about the mortises along the plank edges, so while I’m testing paints and figuring out things along that line, I’ll start cutting these using the sharp Japanese chisel I purchased a while back. And then, of course, there are the 28 sculling oars I need to make.

So, lots to do yet.

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