The Tonegawa Takasebune (高瀬船) – a Model in 1/72 Scale, Part 4

Last time I left off on the construction of the Tonegawa Takasebune model, I had completed the rudder, or kaji, and had shaped the mast, or hobashira. I’m not positive on the exact appearance of the top of the mast, so I based it upon what I’ve seen on other models, and also on my experience with the masts on the Higakikaisen and Kitamaebune models I’ve built. It actually went through a slight change during construction.

I originally built the mast with a pretty strong crook at the top end. But, I ended up modifying this so it’s a lot straighter. The mast top is notched to allow me to secure a forestay to it to hold the mast in place by looping it around the mast top. There is also a slot at the top for the main sail halliard, with a brass rod simulating a sheave.

I’m not sure what to call the overall structure that supports the raised mast. The mast step itself is called the Tsutsu (ツツ), which is connected to a pair of vertical supports by a board which are called Hasemi (ハセミ). The construction of all of this is pretty simple. I kept trying to figure out if there was something about this structure that I wasn’t seeing, but I couldn’t find any real details, so I just built it as it appearing in drawings and other models.

When the mast is lowered it rest across the top of the cross-pieces of this structure, so the most important thing to me was to make sure to position the cross pieces so that they would all support the resting mast. However, I’m making this model configured for sailing, so it’s not actually that critical. Most critical was then to make sure the mast is straight when stepped into place against the main support. This was the last major structural feature of the model. Everything else is rigging and details. 

Tonegawa Takasebune

The two main groups of details then, are the copper coverings of mortises, beam ends, and other components that are to be protected from rot, and perhaps some decorative details, and the other group is the cargo.

I decided during the build that it would be most interesting for this kind of cargo transport to be loaded with typical cargo. Since it’s mostly bringing cargo down the Tone river into Edo, the cargo should mostly be rice. Rice was carry in straw bales called Tawara. They were pretty standard, though I don’t know when this standardization occurred. Certainly at the time frame represented by this riverboat, it was pretty standard, with each weighing approximately 60kg, or about 130 pounds. These were then about 2.5 feet long and 1.5 feet in diameter.

For this 1/72-scale model, this came to exactly 1/4″ diameter by about 13/32″ long. With 1/4″ diameter so easy to find in wooden dowels, I decided it was easiest to simulate the bales in wood. The length is easier to work with in metric, so these are 10.5 mm long.

Cutting 1/4″ dowel on the table saw is quick work. What isn’t, is shaping them by trimming and sanding the edges round. Now, these will end up perfectly round. I know that straw bales, when sitting around for a while, will settle and flatten out a bit. But, I’m just simulating the cargo. At a larger scale, I’d definitely worry more about shaping them as well as making their surfaces look like rice straw instead of being smooth. But, I think these will look fine for what they are and most people won’t mind.

The most visible feature of the tawara are the binding ropes. I didn’t see any other way to deal with that, except to use thread to simulate them. It was a slightly tedious process, but I simply treated the thread with wood glue, and wrapped the barrel with two threads, the long way around the body, twice. Once dry, I then wrapped single threads around the diameter at the ends, then two more in between, so that there are a total of four wrapping the tawara body around the round body.

Since some of the tawara are burried beneath others, I kept life simple and just gave those pieces a minimum amount of detail. So, the ones that are partially tucked under the deck could be simplified as well. Even so, there were a heck of a lot of full tawara I had to make.  But, because they’re so labor intensive to make, I paused after making close to 40 of them, with some simplified and others being fully detailed.

There’s still the sail and rigging to deal with and all the coppering detail, so I’ll get to some of that while contemplating the remaining cargo needed.


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