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Building the Shinano River Boat

A workshop in traditional Japanese boatbuilding methods.

Tuition: $850

Shinano River Boat

In this one-week workshop, students will work together to build one boat, based on a traditional 21’ Japanese river boat design. The course will provide a thorough introduction to traditional Japanese boatbuilding, introducing students to unique techniques such as fitting planks with handsaws, and edge-fastening planks using both nails and wooden dovetail keys. Other topics include design, sharpening with waterstones, and the adjustment and tuning of Japanese wooden planes.

The boat design is from the Shinano River, Niigata, and is a hard-chined, canoe-like craft used in the lagoons and estuaries of the river mouth. They are locally called itaawase ("plank built") or honryousen ("standard fishing boat"). The finished boat will be suitable for paddling by one or two people. The design can also be adapted for an outboard motor.

If time permits, students will work on making paddles and/or half models. All the necessary materials and Japanese tools will be provided, but if students own hand tools they may bring a selection to class. The instructor will also discuss the tenets of Japanese apprenticeship. No prior woodworking experience is necessary.