The Tonegawa Takasebune (高瀬船) – a Model in 1/72 Scale, Part 2

The 60-shaku Tonegawa Takasebune is a 1/72-scale scratch build, based on a drawing in the book of the same name. This, as I mentioned before, is the same scale as the Woody Joe Kitamaebune I’m building and my completed Woody Joe Higakikaisen kit. As mentioned last time, the model is based on a 2-view drawing of a 60-shaku (about 60 foot) I found in the book “利根川高瀬船” or Tonegawa Takasebune.

I began by scaling the actual drawing to 1/72-scale using cutting it up to create a pattern for an internal former. The use of a former is my standard method for building these essentially frameless wooden boats. The former is made from 1/4” MDF or Medium Density Fiberboard, which I buy by the 1/4-sheet at the hardware store. I start with the backbone, which is the easiest part to fashion, then add some cross section pieces, which will help me attach the hull planks at the proper angle.

Unfortunately, once I started the model, I didn’t really take a break to take photos or do any writing until I’d gotten the hull put together. But, below, you can see a template I made, which is essentially a tracing of the top view from the original drawing. This gives me the shape of the bottom of the boat. I’ve also gone back and re-created some steps so I could take a few photos to illustrate, at least.

My Takasebune top view outline.

I made the hull bottom, which I refer to here as the shiki, though in some regions of Japan, there may be different term for this. I could have simply using a single sheet of wood for it, but I want to make the model from Japanese cypress, called hinoki, and have some nice strips of hinoki on hand. So, glued up 5 strips of 2mm thick hinoki side-by-side, making a single sheet. Because the shiki will need to be bent slightly, and wetting the wood will make this an easy task, I make sure to use Titebond II wood glue as it is water resistant when dry, but cleans up easily with water during the gluing process itself.

The above pattern was then cut out and rubber-cemented to the sheet. While the pattern ends are centered on the sheet, you may notice the middle of the pattern is slightly closer to one edge than the other. This comes from making the pattern directly from the drawing. It’s not clear if the drawing itself has distortions or if the shape comes from the original boat. Rather than re-executing the drawing completely, I chose to follow its shape on this model. Anyway, the curves aren’t off a significant amount and won’t be noticed on the model.

The finished shiki needs to be bent slightly to fit the curves of the former, and then I use some simple plastic spring clamps to hold the shiki to the former, while I begin working on the bow plank and transom. The transom, which I would normally call the todate, is referred to in the Tonegawa Takasebune book as the tomo-tate-ita (トモタテイタ),I kept simple as it’s small and hard to see, so it’s just one piece.

The plank-style bow, called the omote-tate-ita (オモテタテイタ), is slightly peaked, so it’s made of two pieces that join together at a slight angle. For both the transom and bow, I kind of constructed on the fly. At this scale, it’s pretty easy to do. The former makes sure that these pieces are attached at the proper angles. My apologies for not having photos of that process.

The hull planks of the this boat are generally pretty simple. I’m not an expert here, but I believe one of the characteristics of these boats is that the hull planks are made up of either a single, long board, or sometimes two or three long boards. But, in all cases, I believe the boards are simply edge fastened into a single sheet, and there is no angle between the boards.

For this model, I’m using a single-piece hull plank on each side. In full size, these boards would be about 4 feet wide. I suspect then that they might actually be two planks wide, edge fastened, with the fastenings driven in on the inside of the hull. This would mean mortises cut on the inside and then plugged. But, at this scale, such detail would be invisible.

At this point, I’m out of photos to illustrate the next steps, so I’ll just ahead quickly here. With the bow and stern boards installed and properly shaped, the hull planks are added. They are overly long when glued into place. After the glue has dried, it’s easy enough to trim them back to correctly fit the shape of the bow and transom.

Next, thin floor beams are installed. According the Tonegawa Takasebune book, these are called tonegi (トネギ), and appear to serve as a base for the floor planks. This would serve to keep the floor planks and any cargo resting on them dry.

Rubbing strakes, called koberi (コベリ), are added, and beams, or funabari (フナバリ) are next. You’ll note that the bow is finished off with a short wall to close it off. Also, on the inside of the tomotateita at the stern, I added a thin horizontal strip. This will serve as a support for the deck planks of the stern enclosure.

Next, I added the planks of the enclosure at the stern, and the narrow decking that crosses the hull. When the boat is full of cargo, these will provide a narrow walkway across the hull for the boatmen. For traveling the length of the boat, the wide edge of the hull would be used, and often a board is laid across the tops of the beams, or even on top of the cargo.

In the following photos, you can see that I’ve added a thin beam and a section of deck planking near the bow I’ve also added an enclosing bulkhead for the forward cabin. In addition, there is a heavy floor beam mounted amidships and a mast step immediately aft of it.

Finally, I added a molding strip along the inside top edge of the hull planks. It was hard for me to tell if this should actually be a piece of molding or the edge of a cap rail. I would tend to think it was actually the edge of a cap rail, but as I was building the model “by the seat of the pants”, I just added it as a strip. Also, I added pieces to the top edge of the hull at the stern to raise the height of the hull there.

Next time, I’ll build the bow cabin.


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