When there are available drawings, if at all possible, I’ll scale them and print them out to use as patterns for the shaping of the shiki, or the hull bottom, and the miyoshi, or stem, and also to create some kind of temporary former to simplify the shaping of the hull. I make copies of the drawings, cut them out, and glue them directly to the wood.
For this small model, with its completely enclosed deck, a removable internal former seems unnecessary. So I’m going to do the same as I did for the first Japanese boat model I built from Paris drawings and build it with a permanent internal frame. This frame consists of a strong back and a couple bulkheads that define the shape of the hull planking.
Now, to a western ship modeler, this might not seem like enough bulkheads, and there might be a desire to make at least one bulkhead for every station line in the drawings. But, Japanese boats aren’t built to a full set of lines like that. They are generally built with two or possibly three stations, plus the locations and shapes of the miyoshi, or stem, and the todate, or the transom, defined. The curvature of the hull planking then is defined by these few stations and the natural bending characteristics of the wood.
With the central hull piece done, the lower planks, or nedana, are then spiled to fit the hull bottom. To do this, I usually start with a piece of card stock to get the rough shape of the planks started. I then transfer this shape to wood and further trim that for refinement.
For the upper edge of the planks, I follow the chine of the bulkheads and transom – the hard edge, where the lower and upper planks meet. At the bow, I can get the position pretty easily from the drawings. For the wavy shape of the bow, I temporarily hold the starboard side lower plank in position, and try eyeball the curve that appears on the drawing that’s been glued to the strong back.
Once I have the starboard lower plank shaped, I just transfer that to the port lower plank. Now the upper edge of these planks doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s better to leave just a little extra width to the upper edge, to be sanded down to fit.
The upper edge stops at the upper chine. The upper plank, called the uwadana, will overlap the edge of the lower plank, and runs mostly vertical along much of its length. Again, a piece of card stock is used as a template that is shaped to fit the top edge of the lower planking. The upper edge can again be left high above the deck initially.
Before adding the upper hull planks, I gave some thought to the deck planking, and decided I’d better add some support for the deck planks that I’ll need to add later. For the support, I simply glued length of wood strips 1mm below the top of the deck, which gives room for the deck planking, which will be 1mm thick hinoki.
The middle deck of the Utasebune has a couple features that have to be considered. First, the main mast has a kind of well that helps in the raising and lowering of the mast. This is basically a slot along the centerline of the deck that runs between the nearest beams.
Also, the deck in this section is tilted toward the rear of the boat. I don’t know the exact purpose of this design, but it would certainly cause any water run on that section of the deck to run off toward the rear. But, it’s also possibly that it made it easier to dump fish into storage below the deck.
As you can see in the above photo, I’ve shaped both of the upper hull planks, and I’m just about ready to glue them into place. A model this small is easy to bend the planks into place and regular wood glue will easily hold everything in place. Masking tape holds the planks in place until the glue dries.
I’ve learned to leave the planks a little long at the rear of the boat. It’s always easier to trim them to proper length. If they’re too short, the fixes aren’t as clean.
Once the hull planks are in place, I could then start to cut and fit the various deck beams. But, I only put them into place temporarily, as they can interfere with the placement of deck boards.
Next, the deck boards will need to be arranged and glued into place. I refer to them as boards, simply because they are generally removable boards, many with a small thumb-hole in one edge to allow the easy removal and access to storage space below the deck.
The arrangement of the boards take a little planning, as the boards often don’t run the full width of the deck, except on the smallest boats. Instead, there is often one or more stringers running longitudinally down the deck, with separate boards on either side of them. So, the presence of these stringers need to planned. Often the arrangement of stringers changes where beams are located.
I’ll get into the decks in my next post.