Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2009

Philosophy Applied

When the ARTS and CRAFTS movement peaked in the 1920’s, it was the grandest era in craftsmanship. Ethics were impeccable, nothing was compromised. If it looked like stone, it was. The roofs were slate lasting 100 years, hardwood floors with roaming boards, elaborate balustrades, and everything authentic! The labor force had an abundance of talented craftsmen and the economy was having a heyday. The buildings of this time period are highly prized. They were built so well that they are virtually all still standing in sound condition, serving their owners beautifully.

Today our society has a disposable mentality; there are very few artisans left. I have been working with wood for 35 years. When anyone makes a commitment like this, ethics become the lifeblood of the artist. The lack of availability of highly skilled labor makes the production of more than a handful of boats per year impossible; therefore mass production of our boats is out of the question.

The Arts and Crafts esthetic is obvious in every detail of our boats. The hardware is Silicone Bronze, designed by N. G. Herreshoff, much of it cast in his original molds! Bronze is a self-preserving metal. The oxidation that forms protects the underlying material indefinitely. The Herring Bone Stripe is made of Ash, Cypress, and Sable. Utilizing Skew Scarf Joinery, it is built right into the hull. Breathtaking as well as the strongest section of the hull. The hull is old growth Western Red Cedar from Oregon. It is rot resistant, lightweight, with long lengths, even strength, and has a natural beauty making it ideal for hull construction. The Rub Rails and Keel are caped with “Half Round” Bronze for wear and impact resistance. The topsides are book matched New England White Ash, reputed to be the finest in the world for its hardness, wear resistance and tenacious strength. The Mast and Half Wishbone Boom are Cypress with the ability to flex and recover, again and again. The trees are lightweight, rot resistant, tall and straight in spite of the pounding they take from hurricanes. The sail rig is cutting edge, designed by Eric Sponberg, Naval Architect. We agreed on a “Cat Rig,” with a half wishbone boom. The mast is forward and angles back providing lift to the bow. It pivots to keep its elliptical shape properly aligned with the sail, flexes to ease the impact of sudden gusts, which allows us to maximize the sail area while preventing the boat from getting knocked over easily. The wishbone boom will never hit you in the head when coming about and allows you to tension the sail according to conditions. In a strong wind a tight sail performs better by removing flutter, while light winds are more efficiently captured with a “belly “in the sail allowing it to fill.

The entire boat is blind fastened, the same way the finest furniture is made. Two thousand five hundred 18 gauge, 316 stainless steel edge nails are used in the 12’er, proportionately more in the larger ones. Every strip is coated with epoxy on both edges, clamped into position then nailed. This procedure makes an airtight waterproof seal between every strip, therefore if the seal on the hull is compromised and water gets in, it cannot spread throughout the hull destroying the boat. The blind fastening also eliminates the dark streaks of discoloration that plague most wooden boats and makes them high maintenance.

Controlling movement in wood is essential to making a more maintenance free boat. Wood does not move with changes in temperature. It is changes in moisture content that make it move. Read a can of varnish for marine wood and it will tell you that the moisture content must be around 15% for best results. This is because varnish does not seal wood from air. There is a seal, but wood holds a significant volume of air. When the temperature changes, the air expands or contracts creating pressures that drive the exchange of atmosphere in and out of the wood. As this occurs the relative moisture content inside the wood changes, which in turn swells or shrinks the wood. It is this movement that makes the surface of the varnish eventually crack and therefore fail, creating the cycle of required maintenance for wooden boats.  Therefore, the entire hull is coated in West Systems epoxy that is both 100% airtight and waterproof. Next, three layers of 4 oz. fiberglass cloth are applied with more epoxy, inside and out for incredible strength and wear resistance. The multiple layers of lightweight cloth accumulate to the same strength as heavier cloth, but the clarity of the finished hull retains the marvelous beauty of wood. Another reason for the heavier layup is longevity, the resistance to damage, i.e. denting and puncture, due to normal use. I have found that it is easy to puncture a single layer of four ounce cloth, three layers is close to bullet proof, preserving the all important seal that excludes moisture. And finally the extra layers, though not necessary for this size hull, give it extra strength to prevent flexing. All compost structures lose strength due to flexing, which breaks the fibers of the cloth and in turn decreases stiffness and can eventually lead to failure. Wood loses about half its strength from maximum stress, but does not further deteriorate. The engineering for this hull called for 1/8” wood and one layer of 4 oz. fiberglass cloth. So with three times the glass and 3/8” wood this hull will withstand millions of cycles of stress, translating to a lifespan equal to the life of the epoxy, 100 years!

Our boats are built to last for generations of reliable service without the “normal” hassle of maintaining a wooden boat. Ten layers of varnish protect the epoxy from damaging UV light and provide a beautiful, long lasting, easy to maintain finish.

This is why our boats are an investment that will serve many future generations!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The Wooden Boat House originated from a long-term relationship between Paul Wagner, a patron of the arts and myself. We met when Paul decided to make an addition to his 1760’s farmhouse. The contractor needed to find millwork to match, so he introduced me to Paul. More than a decade of projects later, one fall day in 2004 I met with Paul. It was here that the question was asked “Steve, if you could build anything you wanted to, what would you build?” Much to Paul’s surprise, my answer was “boats!” So Paul said OK, build me a boat and that’s how the whole thing started.

Paul is a spiritual man; he believes that good karma brings great returns. This has brought him to live in the philosophy that the best things in life come from a love for whatever is being accomplished.

So as the boat was being built, instead of taking clients to a business lunch, Paul would bring them to see the boat. A lot more fun than sitting in a restaurant. The overwhelming reaction to the project prompted us to continue and to create our company.

Read Full Post »

About the Boat

It started with a dream.  I did a lot of wilderness canoeing in northern Maine, so an efficient hull with substantial weight capacity, long range, and sea worthiness were the foremost design parameters. No true boating enthusiast wants a boat that fights the water. I was reading about this very issue as the main topic of discussion at the international Boat Builders Conference this year.  We have made the extra effort to build hulls that are one with the water, “GREEN”.

Starting at the bow, our custom made cast bronze “handle chock “ gives our boat the ability to sit steady at anchor by allowing the anchor line to be retained on dead center. The long and slender hollow in the bow allows the boat to part large waves and then gradually rise, reducing friction and pounding while maintaining speed. The pronounced flare helps keep you dry by throwing water down and to the side. Our narrow beam lets you slide through waves while the full keel keeps you on track making it possible to maneuver and stay on track even in strong winds. The round bottom has the best stability of any type of boat design, in combination with the keel and low center of gravity the boat is remarkably stable. The Oarlocks provide added safety while also allowing for a bit of exercise. The hull is incredibly quiet, so if you like to fish you will be able to get right next to them. Built in rod holders port and starboard help keep the decks clear along with storage compartments under all seats and under the bow.  Anti slip traction tapes are applied to the deck to prevent slipping while moving about. The bronze wear plate permanently prevents the transom from scaring as a result of putting motors on and off. Dow Blue Foam flotation billets will never get saturated with water and are placed under each seat for additional buoyancy. The highest grade vinyl cushions sets are custom made for each seat, so long days are easy to endure. Top that off with the fact that the hull sits on plane at rest and the 16’er weighs in at only 200 Lbs.

I also love to sail and contemplated making a strictly sail version which is still a possibility. However, I felt that making the boat seamlessly convertible to a sailing rig would be the most dynamic choice. So, we enlisted Eric Sponberg’s help (Sponberg Yacht Design) in creating the sail rig. A “Cat” rig with a half wishbone boom, PERFECTION!!! The mast is free standing, simply pull it out. The thwart that holds the mast comes out in a heartbeat just one fastening. Pull the centerboard out and replace it with the blank that fills the slot. Side seating drops in between the center and rear seat to create a sailing cockpit connected with super duty Velcro. Just lift them out to convert back to the skiff. Remove the tiller and it’s done. The only sign that it sails is the base mount for the mast and a pair of Gudgeons. Best of all she’s really fast!

Yes, that’s right, Motor, Row, Sail, Fish all in one beautiful, timeless, work of art!

Read Full Post »

About Myself

I began my adventures in woodworking in 1973 the age of fifteen while studying at the George School, a private Quaker prep school, in Newtown, Pa. Under the instruction of Palmer Sharpless, a Quaker master cabinetmaker, I learned the skills of proper joinery and old world craftsmanship. I knew that I loved working with my hands, creating functionally, beautiful works. Geometry always came easily to me and it applies directly to my work, and decided to study accounting at Western New England College, which serves me well in running my own company.

In 1981, I purchased a 5000 sq. ft. Victorian home in Palmer, Ma. . Built in the mid 1800’s and in need of major renovation. As a result, I set up my first wood shop. My desire to restore this investment to its architectural period compelled me to study art, architecture and design. Upon completion the home was sold and I relocated back to Pa. where I became involved in many design, build projects. Once again it was requested of me to authentically duplicate architectural correctness, structurally, visually and without compromise. These projects, particularly rewarding, and entailed a melding of all the aspects of woodworking – floors, moldings systems, built ins, staircases, kitchens, furniture, windows and doors. Utilizing timeless formula’s of golden geometric proportion,and old world craftsmanship my works have both structural integrity, and lasting beauty. I hold firm the axiom that “function is beauty in design”. The Arts and Crafts Movement ethic of ” truth in material “. I believe that my strict adherence to these beliefs is what led me to be published in Fine Woodworking, invited to exhibit in the Philadelphia Furniture Show as well as in many renowned galleries.

Recreation for me has always meant water. My first time getting up on water skis was at the ripe old age of five, behind a 9.5 HP Evinrude on a john boat. Fishing with dad began at 3 years old. Attending summer camp on the Belgrade lakes in Maine where water adventures were my favorite. It was here with wilderness canoe trips, sailing, swimming, rowing, boat races (a few were authorized) that a spark was lit that burns eternally. As a young man, not being the meek sort, wilderness trips were quite exhilarating and never long enough. Some of these included the Grand Lakes, Sebago, Moosehead, Rangeley, Belgrade, Flagstaff, and the Allagash wilderness waterway.

Fishing evolved into many loves, from spin fishing to fly-fishing. With a love for water and knowledge as a craftsman, I am finally achieving my lifetime dream of becoming a fulltime boat builder.

Read Full Post »