When it’s tough to capture in one picture what’s really going on in the boatshop, a thousand sure can tell a lot more.  This is this current 8th grade class from South Bristol School working on two Yankee Tender Skiffs.

Luckily there still exists near the shop a sawmill to saw, cut, edge, and plane most any trees we can drop off. Trees coming from a woodlot or grove are preferred, backyard trees that may contain spikes, screws, or other ferrous metals are frowned upon. Luckily this tree made it through without finding anything to dull the blade.

Day 2: The Mill
Species: Thuja occidentalis (Northern White Cedar)
Distance from shop: 1.8 Miles

The shop is filled again with middle schoolers learning to use tools and identify wood – this year’s crew is 21 students and this fall each will be making a three legged stool, a toolbox, and a half model. Field trips to boatshops and a sawmill are coming, stay tuned for forthcoming action videos!

Though it’s obvious to those of us who work with wood every day, many may not realize that a recently launched boat or a finished chair was at one point rooted in the earth. We try to weave this concept into our year long woodworking and boatbuilding curriculum with middle school students. The most traditional way to build boats – anywhere – is to build with what you have. Luckily for us Maine is blessed to have a great reserve of standing timber, a great natural resource. We thought it might be interesting to follow a tree from death to life – from the initial felling, milling, and drying, to its being shaped by human hands with human made tools, and to see the different paths a tree takes in our shop. For a life cannot be taken lightly – we must strive to honor this gift and use it in as many positive ways that we can imagine.

Day 1: The Fall
Species: Thuja occidentalis (Northern White Cedar)
Distance from shop: 20.2 Miles

Today Woolwich students finished building their half models, a three week project which entailed carving a scale model of a susan skiff and affixing it to a shaped backboard. A brief survey of the kids yielded the most difficult part of the project – learning all the new vocabulary. The task was to take a set of blueprints (‘lines’) and transfer these to a three dimensional block of wood. A few short hours of sanding later, and the models were ready for a coat of oil.

This year’s class finished their half models before it was time to go, so we decided to make Christmas tree ornaments. Sailboats and sleds were in order, with some pretty colorful variations on a theme.

A gaff rigged sloop!

This holiday season we decided to offer another Shaker Box workshop, but we were unprepared for the interest in this class. We ended up holding two classes with 7 people in each. Participants came from as far as South Portland to each build a set of three nesting shaker boxes.

A total of 42 boxes were made in the first two nights

After 14 months, thousands of hours of work, four coats of paint, seven coats of varnish, and one awesome party, we can finally say it: “Velo” is complete! She was launched today amid a fanfare of bagpipes and cannons, and will finally take her rightful place in the waters next to the museum. Many thanks to Vicki and Paul Skydell for hosting the launching party at the shop, and also to Farm to Table catering for providing the refreshments. There were over 100 people in attendance to the event, which included the official opening of the Museum’s small craft boat storage barn, completely renovated and organized to showcase some of our classic small craft.

With launching only a few days away, we’ve been working on the final finish work and detailing of Velo. Everything from buffing the bronze hardware to touching up the paint will ensure that she is ready to go into the water in a couple weeks.

Today concludes our third annual Boatbuilders Summer Camp, which once again coincided with the hottest week of the summer. Temperatures in Bath today hit 101 as we launched our boat and spent the afternoon playing wiffle ball outside. Next year we’ll try to get the air conditioning working in the boatshop.

Four students spent the last ten days building a Bevin Skiff from scratch, cutting out each part and nailing, screwing, and gluing them together. Paint scheme was determined by the kids, and each got a chance to (learn how to) row.

This week we installed the coamings in the cockpit, which took quite a bit of time. More shaping, bunging, and of course varnishing remain, but this represents another mini milestone in the construction process. It took us pretty much the entire day, and more than five pairs of hands were involved from start to finish. When it’s completely shaped and varnished, the coamings add beautiful lines while protecting cockpit residents from water while heeling.

Both Woolwich boats are just about ready to launch, which means it’s time to paint! One skiff will have the traditional museum colors of white topsides, red bottom, and cream interior, while the school’s boat will have maroon topsides, a black bottom, and a buff interior.

Painting is serious business, because if it goes on too thick, all the runs and sags will have to be sanded and scraped by hand, which is NOT what any of the boatbuilders want to do next week…

The sailboat we’re building has four spars, and we decided to build them out of spruce bought at the local sawmill. Luckily we were able to buy clear and straight grained stock. We also decided to build a hollow mast out of 8 pieces, glued together with a ‘bird’s mouth’ joint, cut on our newly acquired shaper.

With only a few parts and pieces left on the skiffs, Woolwich students are finishing up the seats, outer stems, and oarlock pads. Below, a 7th grader is shaping the outer stem, which will protect the plank ends from water and collisions with immovable objects.

Here, another 7th grader is cleaning his pine seat, which will eventually be varnished.

Today our other boatbuilding class, the 8th grade from South Bristol School, flipped their skiffs. There’s not TOO much time left for the interior, but everyone was confident they could get the job done.

Tepid enthusiasm for the work ahead…

Today the keel and skeg went on. Both made out of oak, they provide directional stability and must be installed directly on center.

Now that most framing is complete, it’s time to sheath the deck. Here a volunteer is fitting the forward deck, made out of 3/8″ marine plywood.

Over the plywood goes Dynel set in epoxy, which is very durable and looks like the traditional canvas.

Today we flipped both boats and began working on the interior. Taking a boat off of its jig is a moment unlike any other in the building process, save for when it goes in the water. It’s sometimes hard to really understand what the boat will look like when it’s upside down, and our imaginations can only take us so far. Usually the hull looks bigger when it’s upright, and one can immediately see any and all mistake that may have been made in the planking process. It also allows more elbow room for cleaning! In a boat like these, completing the hull constitutes about half the work, and fitting each individual interior member takes a bit of time. Of course, that doesn’t include painting and varnishing. With a launch date set for June 14, there’s no time to relax!

As of the end of the workday, both Woolwich boats are completely planked! In addition, one has a bottom and is ready to take off the jig. This is always a key moment in the process, when the hull takes form and it actually looks like a boat. This year’s crew is actually ahead of schedule, so if we have time at the end, we’ll make our own oars for the launching.

Now that the sheer clamps are in place, it’s time to build the decks and floorboard supports. There’s not a whole lot of wood going into this stage, but each needs to be fit precisely to fit the angle of the hull. Before we put them deck on, we will paint inside the bulkheads to save the trouble of doing it later on.

Floorboards come next. Ours will be made of 1/2″ cedar, and two hatches are built in to allow access to the bilge, in the event water needs to be pumped out.

The Haven 12 1/2 is making slow and steady progress towards its July 15 launching. Today we fastened in the sheer clamps, which stiffen the gunnel and clamp in the steam bent oak frames. Each frame gets riveted to the sheer clamp, which involves driving a copper nail through the clamp, and peening over the end with a ball peen hammer. Better done with two people, this job requires a strong grip and lots of patience. Luckily a volunteer jumped right in the boat and by lunch we were halfway done.

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