View Full Version : Is it a copout on craftsmanship?

09-28-2004, 01:39 PM
As I was going to sleep the other night I got to thinking about Floozie the 1920s style boat I am building.
I found my self-thinking not about her construction or her beauty but her flaws. Not that there are really that many things I would change but there are some things I let go. For instance two of the planks on her pilothouse sole split on the ends when I screwed them in I could have replaced them but I chose not to.
In one of my many photo books of classic wood powerboats I noticed a lot of them had split and slightly discolored deck planks and I liked the look. I donít want Floozie to look like a boat show trailer queen, now donít get me wrong I love looking at them just as much as the next guy but itís just not for me.
Even when it comes to the bright work on Floozie I donít mind if it gets a little dinged up during construction not that I beat it up on purpose but I do put down tools on the helm station and the carved seat in the stern.. And the main deck has a few small bumps and ripples that I could have gotten rid of but I chose not to I really want the boat to look old. But some times I wonder is it an excuse for not doing my very best. One thing I do know is the best complement anyone could give me when they see Floozie is to walk over and say Wow you did a hell of a job restoring that old boat. Not that I could fool any of you guys but the average person wouldenít know. smile.gif .......Phil

09-28-2004, 02:42 PM
Trailer queen - that's what I think when I see a boat or a bike that's just too perfect. God forbid you should actually use it!

Wild Wassa
09-30-2004, 03:04 PM
Originally posted by videoguy:
"Not that I could fool any of you guys ..."

Are you sure? ... the 'book readers' will be having paroxyisms reading this.


Billy Bones
09-30-2004, 03:32 PM
My dad used to tell me "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Ron Williamson
09-30-2004, 04:50 PM
It ain't a space shuttle,get over it. :cool:

Bob Smalser
09-30-2004, 06:06 PM
Absolute perfection is impossible...

...and counter productive to attempt.

09-30-2004, 06:16 PM
You're they only guy who can say when your boat is perfect. I like fish slime and bait guts dried on the gunwale and thwarts of the skiff. SWMBO refuses to recline on the thwart when there are dried fish slime and bait guts thereupon.

Which of us is right?

09-30-2004, 06:22 PM
I see all the imperfections in the boats I've built and I learn something for the next one.

Others who build fine things from wood see imperfections in mine and understand.

Folks who don't build things see only beauty.

Carry on...........

Terry Etapa
09-30-2004, 06:35 PM
I agree with you. It's not worth the extra 90% of effort to get the last 10% to perfection (don't know where I heard that). I'm converting a troller, whenever I screw something up, I just say "it's only a work boat, not a yacht".

I'm currently putting on safety rails. I have tapered filler blocks to get the stantion angle correct. I screwed up the direction of a double taper block. Rather than tossing it, and making a new one, I planed the correct taper in. This resulted in a block 1/4 inch shorter than the block next to it. Would that be acceptable on Paul Allen's Octopus? No. On Terry Etapa's Pacific Glider, yes.

[ 10-01-2004, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: Terry Etapa ]

09-30-2004, 06:45 PM
Last time I was in charge of the construction of a yacht, I put two signs up in the shop:

"Good enough" is not good enough."


"Perfection is not an ideal, it is the target."

I figure that when someone is paying three-quarters of a million US bucks for a 44-foot boat, the least we can do is get fanatical over our workmanship.

Fishing boats get less attention to cosmetics, but the same level of attention to the hell-for-strength and reliability departments.

The art of a fine builder is to know how to do it right, and how much is right.

Tom Lathrop
10-01-2004, 07:24 AM
I wonder if anyone has ever built a boat that they truly considered "perfect craftsmanship". I have built several boats that win awards but I know where the errors, mistakes and glitches are. There have been a few small projects that I might consider perfect from my own viewpoint but never anything as large or complex as a boat.

This is not a disagreement with MMD but a dose of personal reality.

Besides, human perfection makes the Gods angry. That is not a good thing.

[ 10-01-2004, 08:26 AM: Message edited by: Tom Lathrop ]

Matt J.
10-01-2004, 03:44 PM
The most rewarding things I've built with my hands have been for any of the boats. The most frustrating things I've ever done is build things with my hands. All I see is imperfection and flaws...

The remedy? Have over any of the neighbor guys and let them ogle... I feel better. Shallow? Yep. Effective? Yep. I fuss til I figure there's no defect that will cause failure to perform the task of the piece and get bored. If it won't work, I keep going. If it works and I'm still obsessed, I keep going. If it works, and I'm tired of it, I call it a day. I'm not getting paid to fuss over the last 1/32 of an inch on the forward hatch... so I stop when I'm tired of it.

10-01-2004, 04:25 PM
Videoguy: Medieval Monks left mistakes in their manuscripts to proclaim that only God is perfect.

10-01-2004, 07:07 PM
Phil, when you get her in the water, I think you will find that she'll be as perfect as you wished her to be. In other words no, not a cop out. :D

[ 10-01-2004, 08:09 PM: Message edited by: Daniel ]

10-01-2004, 08:30 PM
"Medieval Monks left mistakes in their manuscripts to proclaim that only God is perfect."

With no delete key or whiteout, no easy way to fix a mistake, my cynical side says they just used that as a very handy and effective excuse to not rewrite a whole page. smile.gif

And if I were them I would use it too.

When I built my first canoe I had a gap between a decorative strip and a plain one in the "football" area. It wasn't too noticible to anyone else but it was to me so I carved a little filler strip and used some stain and made an almost invisible patch.

A professional canoe builder friend came by with his wife and as they were looking at it I confessed my error and showed it to them.

She looked at her husband with a grin and said, "Hmnn he learns fast doesn't he honey?"


L.W. Baxter
10-01-2004, 08:34 PM
I like what David Hazen had to say, regarding his time building canoes professionally, in The Strippers Guide to Canoe Building :

"...I realized that not one of my customers ever saw those mistakes. They were usually too overwhelmed by the charisma of the boat and ignorant of what small details composed the multitude of 'mistakes' that went into every boat. The irregularities actually contributed to the charm of the whole thing, because they meant that it was made by a human being and not a machine, which has some value in our day. However, I got the mistakes down to such an unnoticeable level that many observers doubted that I had actually make the boat with my own two hands, which was rather disappointing to me."

Tim Diebert
10-02-2004, 10:44 AM
All my life I have made nice things from wood.
Of all the nice things I have made, I have always felt the 'fixes' for the screw ups have been the most gratifying. This is often where I have done my best work. Not the prettiest or finest work,or even work you tell or show the project owner, but where I had to use my bean to figure some way of fixing that thing without disturbing what is right.
I don't like making a mistake, nobody does.....but I do like the challenge of a good fix.
Alteran's post had me thinking about this.

As I read from the top and found this a thought provoking topic, one of those thoughts were....if the project was for someone else, I would be forever pissing around making all the small details just right.
For myself, my guitar, my boat or my house....forget it, good enough is good enough.
My wife wonders what causes that condition.... :D

I make 'trailer queens' for other people for a living....but would be damned to own one myself....and have a hard time seeing why someone would bother.
But if not for the queen owners I would have to make a normal living (god forbid)
Such are the paradoxes of life.

I enjoy going to a boat show and seeing all the beauties.....but enjoy the patina and wear points of a well used boat, bike, guitar or motorcycle far more.

David Tabor (sailordave)
10-02-2004, 10:57 AM
I'm just finishing a plywood kayak, one of Chris K's early CLC designs. There are a few shortcomings in the plans and his later stuff looks better (before he sold the biz).
I am almost done and daughter unit asked me what was left to do and I said I was going to paint the hull and put a rub rail on the side and a decorative stripe of paint at the deck edge. She asked why cause she likes the bright varnished look and I said I was unhappy w/ the appearance of the wood/epoxy. She said to leave it so people can tell it's handmade (bless her) and not to paint the edge of the deck so you can see the copper nails but I'm still undecided...

10-02-2004, 11:36 AM
The difference between an amateur and a professional is the pro is better at hiding his mistakes. The degree of perfection one tries to achieve is a personal decision that depends on the end purpose of the object. That is, who must be satisfied with the results. You as the builder? As the end user? Your customer? Total strangers who may see it? Someone 50 years from now who wants to restore it? Only you can know.

10-02-2004, 02:46 PM
Phil, I know just how you feel but with out questioning myself. As I redid the wide teak boards on my older boat, I didnt want to do away with all the plugs,scarfs, and putty that was giving te boards character from years of use, removal of fittings and screws, etc. To me, that was a visual clue as to the history of the boat, I enjoy seeing all that under my varnish.

10-02-2004, 05:32 PM
For a few years I tried to make a living out of making beautiful things from wood. The shame of selling flaws to strangers put me off. So I learned a new trade. Now I make beautiful things out of wood and give them away (to friends) and I have never been happier. Perfect is a perspective.

ken mcclure
10-02-2004, 05:54 PM
Build to satisfy your own criteria - not someone else's. If something bothers you, work on it. If it doesn't bother you, no one else's opinion of it matters.

The first time you approach the dock at ramming speed the perfection is going to disappear anyway!

10-02-2004, 10:02 PM
The longer you spend working on a project, the more "flaws" you find. I sometimes drive myself nearly crazy trying to get something abso-freakin'-lutely perfect. Eventually, if you ever want to get your Floozie wet, you'll just shrug and move on. You'll always know what came out wrong, but.... NEXT time you'll have a better perspective on what is acceptable.