Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Japan: Preparing Lumber

My friend Koji Matano, founder of the Wooden Boat Center in Takashima, Japan, oversaw the felling and sawing of three cedar trees and one hinoki.  This is more than enough material for our boat, but we needed to sort the material and stack it for drying.

Setouchi International Art Festival:

Our project blog:

Koji had painted the endgrain with glue and roughly stacked it all before my arrival.  Japanese boatbuilders normally insist on one year of air drying of their timber.  We are pressed for time, and hope that by placing the stacks well off the ground on concrete blocks, plus the breezy location on the shore of Lake Biwa, that we will have dry enough material come July.  

Japanese boatbuilders use flitch-sawn material; that is, the log is sliced straight through.  Normally the keel timber is a thick plank taken from the center, and each pair of planks (garboard and sheer) are taken symmetrically from the log either side of the center.  Therefore I had to hunt through the pile, finding appropriate planks for each part, then finding their match for the opposite plank.  I labeled the the names of the parts on the stickers we nailed across the endgrain.

We worked sometimes during snow flurries.  Lake Biwa is Japan's largest lake, located right in the center of the country, 50 minutes by train from Kyoto.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Back in Japan, briefly.

I am back in Japan, doing some preparation work for a project I have here next summer.  I was accepted into the 2013 Setouchi Festivale, an art and craft exhibition taking place in the Seto Inland Sea region.  I will be building a traditional Japanese boat as a public demonstration in Takamatsu City.

The Festival has an excellent website and we have started a blog specifically for this project.  I will continue to post here as well as at our project blog.

Setouchi International Art Festival:

our blog:

I came over to measure a boat at the Seto Inland Sea Museum as well as to select the lumber I will use for the project.  My partner in this is Mr. Koji Matano, a former glass artist and now a builder of Western-style boats.  He is also the founder of the Wooden Boat Center in Takashima.  Mr. Takumi Suzuki, a canoe guide and builder of wood-canvas canoes, will be assisting me as my apprentice.

The Museum is Japan's oldest boat collection, and what we chose was a type called a tenmasen, or small cargo boat.  The museum has drawings and this detailed model of the type.  They also have a mockup of a full-size boat displayed in a boatshop setting, which we measured.  Later I will develop the lines full size (lofting), which is actually not a traditional Japanese method.

Some of the collection in the museum's main hall.  

On our way to Takamatsu we visited with the last boatbuilder of the region.  Tsuda san is a fourth generation boatbuilder I first met in 2003.  He had a remarkable career building all types of boats.  We had a nice visit and he eagerly showed us photographs of his boats, and gave us advice.

Our lumber, which was taken from two cedar trees in Tokushima Prefecture.  These planks are 23-feet long and some are nearly three feet wide at the butt.  We sorted and stacked the material for drying and I chose which planks will be used for particular parts of the boat.

A view of the Inland Sea.