Douglas Brooks recently came to the shop to teach a week-long course in traditional Japanese boatbuilding. Students in the course built a 21-foot long traditional river boat from Niigata Prefecture, locally known as nofuninawase. These boats were historically used by farmers to haul rice or transport sand when dredging waterways. Students worked almost exclusively with Japanese boatbuilding tools, many of which have no counterpart in the West. The techniques used to construct the boat are also quite different from those used in western boatbuilding; seams are fit watertight using special handsaws and long curved chisels are used to pilot holes for hand-made boat nails.
In Japan, these boats were built of cedar. However, for this workshop, students worked with white pine. The boat nails were hand forged by a blacksmith in Vermont. Participants in the workshop included three of our 2-year apprentices and two outside summer residents. At the end of the workshop, we conducted a Shinto boat launching ceremony. The images below take you through the building process from start to finish.