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Thread: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

  1. #1
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    Default A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    As a newcomer to wooden boats, what would be more difficult to learn, the knowledge of how wooden boats are built, or the actual mechanical skills to operate the tools to craft one? I see Steve building Arabella and he seems to have had a pretty good set of tools and the knowledge and skill to use them. But he didn't know boats. He had to learn that. I, have a decent knowledge of boats, but not the hands and tools. (Working on that, not unsuccessfully.) Who's more disadvantaged? Is there even a difference?
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  2. #2
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    The construction knowledge can come quickly. Reading, videos, etc.

    The craftsmanship? Some pick it up quicker than others, but it always takes a while to develop. I've been doing it for decades and am still honing old skills, and developing new ones.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    I built Woodwind ,34'/12 tons,with a tablesaw, a drill, a disc sander ,power planer and wormsaw. ( in 3 months...alone...29 years old...for 6 grand)
    no bandsaw,jointer, thickness planer, drill press,welder,or stuff that did not even exist then, impact driver,oscillating saw kinda stuff.
    but that was an epoxy boat of course.no actual mind bending skill involved.just a dream, some drive and cold black coffee.
    i don't call myself a chippie
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 04-17-2021 at 06:27 AM.

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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Not that much of an old timer, but every boat I've built I wanted to build it again after finishing as I knew I could do it so much better the second time. I did build one little dinghy twice, no comparison between the two.

    It would be a good idea to build a smaller boat before the big schooner, if you haven't done much building before. (I don't remember, but you imply that is the case.) A small boat has all the same skills as a big boat, on a much easier to learn scale. Then you have something to boost morale during the dark days of schooner building.

    Half the skill is knowing how good is good enough, and the muscle memory of running the tools. The more I build, the better the tools seem to perform, but really I must be learning something along the way.
    Last edited by J.Madison; 04-16-2021 at 11:08 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Hi Sailor,
    I would echo J's comment above. I know I could do some of my earlier woodworking better now. There is muscle memory and the knowledge of how to work the wood. I just finished some deck boxes with hand cut dovetails, even doing small projects like this really helps the skills. It doesn't take much space, and it's a pleasure to just work without power tools.
    There is a reason Murielle does all our welding now, keeping the skills up is an ongoing task. I used to be able to MIG weld fairly confidently, but haven't done it in so long it would take some practice to get back up to an acceptable quality level.
    Cheers,
    Mark

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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    I spent my career as a finish house carpenter. I've built 18 boats over the course of my lifetime. The first one at age 18, the latest just finishing up at age 68. All built with the same basic tools I built houses with. The knowledge to build boats came from reading Chappelle's Boatbuilding and Bud MacIntosh's Boatbuilding plus a lot of head scratching.
    As for skills to build a boat, that varies. It's far easier to understand how a boat goes together then actually building it. Some people have ten thumbs when it comes to using tools. First thing is to count how many thumbs you have. If more then two, it's time to reconsider building a boat.
    When I built my George Stadel Jr. 20' gaff rigged sloop decades ago, I was talking to Mr. Stadel (a very old man at the time) that I intended to build a small boat first to 'get my feet wet'. He suggested that I skip that and just jump in with both feet on the big boat, a full keeled design with steam bent ribs and mahogany planking. I did and the boat is still sailing now 31 years later.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor View Post
    As a newcomer to wooden boats, what would be more difficult to learn, the knowledge of how wooden boats are built, or the actual mechanical skills to operate the tools to craft one? I see Steve building Arabella and he seems to have had a pretty good set of tools and the knowledge and skill to use them. But he didn't know boats. He had to learn that. I, have a decent knowledge of boats, but not the hands and tools. (Working on that, not unsuccessfully.) Who's more disadvantaged? Is there even a difference?


    Reading a book on boatbuilding without actually building a boat might be likened to reading a mathematics text without pencil and paper. To get the most out of both you have to do the work. Vaitse's "Lofting" is incomprehensible beyond the very basics without actually lofting something and using the book as a reference as problems arise.

    S'all I got right now, Dan. I'll try to grub up another nugget while I'm out back playing at boats.

    Jim

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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    "He didn't know boats, he had to learn that"
    This is the most mind blowin thing about Steve/Alixs Arabella.
    Far as I know, they still don't know boats or have sailed overnight on the ocean !

  9. #9
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    I'm going with the physical skills as hardest to pick up. It is one thing to look at a picture in a book and know what the piece is supposed to look like, getting there in the "real" requires a complex set of actions. Starting with being able to look at a set of plans or (gasp) lofting the shape of the piece you want to make. Being able to pick the right piece of wood (see a recent thread on "Why did my gunwale snap?") knowing the proper tool, how to clamp the piece, how to actually draw the line and then follow it. How tight a curve can my circular saw cut? Which way is it going to kick when I pull the trigger, how do I compensate for that? This plane isn't working, am I going in the wrong direction? Is it tuned up? What does "tuned up" mean regarding a hand plane? How do I sharpen this thing? Do I need a jig for this? What do you mean "Trust your eye"? What am I supposed to be looking at?

    There is a raft of hand-eye coordination skills needed to efficiently reduce a nice piece of timber to shavings, they all take time and practice to develop.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
    H.A. Calahan

  10. #10
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Yes, you have to actually do it, to start learning how to do it.

    Unless you can Apprentice somewhere of course -- by far a better solution. Less wasteful.

  11. #11

    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    the skill and speed, a boatbuilder is only as good as his last scarf

  12. #12

    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    but with epoxy, you can be much faster, you only need a trowel and a sander

  13. #13
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Quote Originally Posted by peter radclyffe View Post
    but with epoxy, you can be much faster, you only need a trowel and a sander
    ..and a wormsaw and a planer and a drill .

  14. #14
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Quote Originally Posted by stromborg View Post
    I'm going with the physical skills as hardest to pick up. It is one thing to look at a picture in a book and know what the piece is supposed to look like, getting there in the "real" requires a complex set of actions. Starting with being able to look at a set of plans or (gasp) lofting the shape of the piece you want to make. Being able to pick the right piece of wood (see a recent thread on "Why did my gunwale snap?") knowing the proper tool, how to clamp the piece, how to actually draw the line and then follow it. How tight a curve can my circular saw cut? Which way is it going to kick when I pull the trigger, how do I compensate for that? This plane isn't working, am I going in the wrong direction? Is it tuned up? What does "tuned up" mean regarding a hand plane? How do I sharpen this thing? Do I need a jig for this? What do you mean "Trust your eye"? What am I supposed to be looking at?

    There is a raft of hand-eye coordination skills needed to efficiently reduce a nice piece of timber to shavings, they all take time and practice to develop.
    Not boats but books. Same rules apply edge guillding the page block. You can read all about it but it's not till you actually see the body language involved that the penny drops.

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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Unfortunately, some of it has to do with what you were born with. My youngest son is a natural in the shop like his dad and grandfather. My oldest just aint; just like my grandfather about whom his father said "He never knew which end of the screwdriver to stir the paint with."

    Some skills can be learned over time, sometimes painfully. Talent can't.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Go through the WoodenBoat magazine archives and read everything you can find by Maynard Bray. In particular read the 'A Matter of Detail' section in the early editions.
    The physical work of using the tools and making and assembling pieces will come soon enough, but the subtle reasoning of "why" construction details are fitted and assembled a certain way can take years to understand.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    Maybe a bit of an analogy is like music? (I'm not a musician so guessing here). You can learn to read & understand music and you can learn the terms and mechanics of boat building, both fairly mechanical so to speak. Then there is learning to play a musical instrument or learning to use the tools to build a boat. Both take practice, perseverance and technique, and like so many skills, maybe some just never really acquire the feel. I find that if I haven't picked up a hand tool in a while (slick, adze, whatever) it takes a bit to get the feel again.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: A question for the old time shipwrights on this forum

    If you can do a week or two at Wooden boat School . Brooklin Maine. you'll be amazed how much you'll learn. It will solve all you worries. Check out their classes. No I don't work there. Wish I did though. Dave.

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