Monday, November 30, 2009

The Bottom (Soko)

After getting the planks bent we anchored the assembly firmly to the sawhorses and began the process of fitting the bottom to the boat.  The bottom, or soko, consists of three large timbers and we started with the largest center piece.  This timber is huge, over a foot wide, nine inches thick and some eighteen feet long.  It easily weighed over 250 pounds when we started.  We have chainfall riding on a cable across the shop which allows us to move this on and off the boat, for scribing and then shaping on a pair of sawhorses.

This timber had been roughed out with a chainsaw by my teacher and his son before I arrived here.  Here it is right side up where we are working on the edges fore and aft that meet the side planks and also hollowing the center.  The square bump you see forward is the mast step, just an integral part of the timber and not a separate piece of wood.

You can see the strap running to the chainfall and the horses to the left where we move the timber to work on it.  In the last three days we have moved this timber on and off the boat at least twenty times.  I am amazed by how incrementally my teacher fits this.  We take off just an eighth to a quarter inch of material at most at a time, each time getting a little bit closer to the final fit.  This center piece only touches along about two feet of seam at either end (that's the bow toward the camera).  We will be adding timbers along either side of this one next.  Shimojo san has told me that the final goal is a bottom timber that is about three inches thick.

Here Shimojo san is scribing for the next fitting.  He does this by eye, sometimes with the help of a batten.  Then its time to take the timber off the boat, trim to fit, and then rig it to move it back on.  Repeat.

Over the last three days we have planed the bottom considerably.  Its still big and heavy, but we have turned a lot of it into shavings nevertheless.  This is just the result of one fitting.  The mountain of shavings grows ever bigger.

This is looking aft from inside the hull.  If you enlarge the image you can see how we hollowed the side planking and the material we left to create thwart risers (which will support the seats later).  Some of the turnbuckles and chains we used to bend the planks are visible, along with the bars we installed to spread the planks.  The bottom timber is running down the centerline of the photograph.

Japanese youth culture is notoriously famous for its obsession with fads, be it fashion, music, dance, etc.  It seems the current fascination is watching two old men build a wooden boat, if these visiting seventeen-year-olds from Niigata Prefecture are any indication.  We are trying to enjoy the attention while it lasts.

Peace and oranges.

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