August 31, 2014
This seems to have been the summer of light - moonlight, starlight, golden evening light, and the pale warming light of dawn. I’ve basked in the steady light of midday as well as the defused light that sometimes shines through gray storms. I’ve admired the light shinning through thick green forests and reflecting off of quite waters. From shore, and less wisely, from the thwart of a boat, I’ve seen storm light dancing on tossed seas. I’ve marveled at the quality of light laying across summer fields or slipping at dawn through open bedroom windows. I’ve seen light reflecting off Osprey in flight, mountain ridges, rockbound coasts, and the faces of friends. I’ve seen light shinning from the faces of friends. I’ve seen light shining through the dust in the air of half a dozen different shops and the mist on as many island mornings. I’ve felt the warmth of light on my bare feet and the warmth of light held in stone, both appreciated in the cool of the evening or at the dawn of the day. This summer the earth and the heavens seem to be infused with the gift of light.
Chewonki Boatbuilders, 9 Willows and QuickBeam.
So much has happened this summer and I feel like I’ve been to so many places and work with so many students and friends I can’t even come close to catching up here. I built Willow kayaks with the Chewonki boatbuilders then meet them on an island to camp and paddled and I joined them on their last night out on the islands. I’ve built Fox canoes by a mountain lake and on the shores of Maine. I’ve helped students understand the process of lapsrtake plywood boat building and I believe a few have already started boat projects on their own. Summer’s winding down but I’m not yet done teaching. Or with the gift of light.
Chewonki Boatbuilders, our last night out together.
A boathouse on Squam Lake
July 22, 2014
July's full moon at WoodenBoat
The 2014 Boat Builders
The classes I have taught so far this summer have all been extraordinary for me and I believe for my students. I’ve just finished the Chewonki project and the kids, accompanied by their trip leaders, are out on an extended kayaking trip in their new Willow kayaks. I had a blast working with the group and plan on meeting them out on the water towards the end of this week for a few days of paddling.
I’ll be at WoodenBoat teaching next week when they finish their trip so I’ll also get in one more evening paddle with he group before they head home. I’ll have ice cream waiting as a treat. No chance of this post spoiling the surprise because, for the 5 weeks the kids are with Chewonki, they don’t have anything that remotely resembles internet access. Their “devices” are paper and pencil, books and charts, their intellect and their imaginations. Maybe we should all take breaks like that?
I’ve got four more classes to teach this season with some crazy back and forthing to pull it off. It’s good work though if you like the places you’re spending time, the students and teaching and the building or kayaking. And I do, very much.
Sanded and ready for paint.
Installing decks, working carefully.
Coamings and conversation.
June 22, 2014
Sunset at the Woodenboat School.
So far the weather, the feel and the pace of the summer have been ridiculously nice. Just the right amount of rain with warm but not hot days and cool nights. The weather might change, I know the pace is about to.
I’ve been getting kits ready for Chewonki and my other building classes and will have all the parts finished for my July and August classes by the end of this week. Chewonki starts next Sunday. I’m really looking forward to working with the kids and hopefully spending some time paddling with them once they start their trip.
There are still openings in both my Fox canoe classes. If you’re thinking about building a Fox come up to Woodenboat the week of July 27 or Squam Lake the week of August 18. There is also space in my August 11 paddlng class. If you’ve been thinking about any of these classes touch base with the venues right away. Contact info is on the teaching page here on my website.
Atlantic Coastal Kayaker is a long running sea kayaking publication put together down in Ipswich Mass. Their June issue features one of my photos on the cover and an article on the Willow kayak. It a great magazine, if you not discovered them here is a link to their website.
Iain Oughtred SkerrieSkiff 15, Mattie Grove
I splashed the rowing version of my Iain Oughtred Skerrieskiff 15 a few weeks back. This is the design I’m currently building with students in my Introduction to Boatbuilding class and she’ll be spending the summer on The Woodenboat School waterfront. If you’re taking a class feel free to take her out in the evenings. We’ve enjoyed several nice outings in her so far this summer. She pulls light and tracks well. I did find her a bit of a challenge to row down wind in rolling seas and 18-knot gusty winds, Maybe I should have stayed home that day? I’ll try to find the time to build her sailing rig this winter. She’s a good boat.
Last night I hiked to the top of our local hill, Mount Agamenticus, for the summer solstice. For me, the solstice marks the beginning of summer even if the days are getting shorter. Enjoy your summer and I hope we cross pathes.
May 24, 2014
Last week, for the first time I offered a boatbuilding class in my shop here in Maine. I’d thought to build 3 boats with students but ended up with two students both of whom built QuickBeams. As it turned out two boats was the perfect number. The space and the pace was just right. In fact the pace was bordering on being to casual, one day the morning tea break almost slid into our lunch break, we delayed lunch and got a bit more work done. Students enjoyed being in my shop and explored the area with daily bike rides or walks. The boats we built were well crafted and will be finished up by the builders to the high standard we worked to in my shop. It was a nice week.
I’ll definitely offer the class again next spring building two boats. I’m also open to holding another class in October. If you’re interested touch base and we’ll look at the calendar.
May 11, 2014
Corner cabinet in birch and cherry with a black
lacquer finish. This was a fun project.
It’s hard to believe we are this far into May but the calendar and the weather for once are on the same page. Today is the first windows open - curtains moving in the breeze sort of day of this season. And it’s most welcome.
These past few weeks I’ve been churning through the projects. I’ve delivered a corner cabinet for a client and I’m close to starting the finish work on a Fox I’m finishing for a customer. Mattie, the Oughtred skiff I’ve been working on for the past several winters has enjoyed some attention and is at the paint and varnish stage. Looking at my schedule for the summer it seems prudent to try and have most of my kits ready for class by early June, so I’ve been making kit parts and scarfing planks when I have a spare moment.
This week I’m hosting the first class I’ve held in my shop in Maine. We’ll be building two of my QuickBeam kayak designs. I’m looking forward to the building, the students and being able to focus, for the most part, on one project.
Here’s a customers Fox Canoe and an Iain Oughtred Skerrieskiff 15. Both should be in
the water by mid June.
I’ve been building up my kit part inventory for classes and shipped kits.
This is a run of 20 Fox seatback blocks.
April 5, 2014
Spring is taking it’s own sweet time to get here this year. It’d be hard to describe the world outside right now with out using the words brown, gray or soggy. Still, spring does come each and every year and I’m sure this year will be no exception.
I’m starting a big push to get my winter shop projects out the door. June through September will be all about teaching or getting ready to teach so I’ve pretty much got to wrap up furniture and boat work by the first week of June. Check out the class offerings here. There are still some open slots including one in the May class here in my shop.
I’m also pushing out some website up grades in the next week. If you look to the left of your screen you might notice flicker and 500px icons. These will jump you over to my photo sharing sites. I’ll have a video page up this month with a Fox slide show and two videos from the Off Center Harbor Fox building series I did. Also watch the writing and photography page on this site for some changes.
I’ll get one more newsletter out this month as well. If you’re not on my mailing list drop me a note and I’ll add you name to the list.
Tomorrow’s forecast is for temps in the upper 40’s and clear skies. The snow is cleared back from the shoulder on most of the roads and it’s Sunday. Might be time for the first spring bike ride of the season?
Fitting cabinet doors
Danger in the shop
March 16, 2014
A former student shared this photo of his daughter paddling a Willow he built in a class several years back. The shot was taken in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The newsletter I sent out last Sunday, or rather the response to it has been great fun. I’ve heard back from many old friends. Some shared photos of boats they have finished, others related adventures they’ve enjoyed on the water.
Out in the shop, while still not quite up to full speed after a health issue, I’m starting to wrap up some of my winter projects. I’m reminded once more just how much I enjoy the work I do.
We’re still in the grip of a lingering winter but my thoughts and my plans are starting to turn towards summer and teaching.
March 2, 2014
It’s March but a glance outside does not support that fact. I woke up last week to a string of subzero mornings, -7 this morning. The one-day that it warmed up to the low 20’s still managed to catch me off guard.
I store kits and shipping boxes in the barn and on a brief excursion to grab parts for a Fox shipment I was quite simply ambushed by the nature of the cold. The snow pack has settled and is infused with ice from a sleet storm a few weeks back. The wind, blowing across this glacier, had an almost sinister bite. It was the first time all season that I felt like winter was out to get me, personally. Back in the shop though the stove had my world feeling bright and warm.
This week it’s no warmer but if you’re outside in the clear air of morning, you can hear the unmistakable spring song of the Chickadees.
February 5, 2014
Handplanes I made more then 30 years ago. The smallest one never really worked well but I’ve kept it for sentimental reason, and as a reminder that we are always learning, and that outright failure, it’s an unavoidable part of the process. At least for me.
This afternoon I need to knock together two sets of sawhorses so I took a moment to sketch out the design I’ve migrated to. I thought I would share it here as some of my Fox and kayak builders have asked for suggestions for sawhorses designs.
Every woodworker has his or her own preference: a unique idea of what makes a good sawhorse. Here’s mine and of course the reasons I like them. These are sturdy, stable, nest together and are quick to build. When I started woodworking, house carpentry really, sawhorses were cobbled together on site the first day of a new project. They were crude got the job done and were left behind in the burn pile at the end of the job.
As I progressed in my woodworking and discovered books like ‘The Impractical Cabinet Maker’ by James Krenov, I realized there was another way to work. I made my own hand planes, coveted a fine little European table saw and formed my idea of what a proper sawhorse should looked like. Years later, while poking around shops in Germany many of those notions were set in stone.
So here, accompanied by a rough sketch, is the how and the why for the horses I use. I make them from clear 2 x 4 stock. Cut tight fitting lap joints and use glue and screws to assure years of wobble free use. Don’t be afraid to cut into the top. If you don’t glue it in place it’s easy to replace once it gets chewed up. I’ve made my fair share of nice hardwood versions but these days, spruce 2 x 4’s work just fine. If you build a set that's over the top, send photos.
January 19, 2014
We’ve had the same sort of ‘all over the place weather’ in Maine that the rest of the country has been experiencing. Heavy early season snow and deep cold followed by an unseasonably warm spell. Now, more snow, and later this week the return of subzero nights. It’s just weather and it’s best to roll with it. Last Sunday walking in the woods, it felt like early spring with open patches of ground and free flowing open water in the middle of the streams. Today, one week later, it’s back to a snowy landscape and a morning of snow blower and shovel work.
I brought the shop back to life last week after nearly two months of down time but to be honest, I just felt too shaky and unfocused to produce good work; or be safe. The up side is, as I do get back to building, and I will this week, I’ll bring a new focus to the process and my craftsmanship. Stepping away for a bit has been good.
I have made strides in my office with several designs coming together. I’ve enjoyed the time at the drawing board. I’m working with Flicker and or 500px to build a photo sharing site, each has its pros and cons. If anyone has any thoughts or experance with these two sites, I’m open to input.
I’m also close to finalizing my prices for photo prints. I’ll be offering selected photos in standard print sizes up to 13” X 19”. These will be matted and all the printing and materials are archival quality. I’m also going to be offering prints on canvas. I really like the canvas medium and am excited about this new offering. I’m still not sure how all this will come together but it’s thrilling to be moving ahead. Baby steps.
I’ll keep in touch as we move deeper into winter and I spend more time sorting out projects and working in the shop.
Maine has quite an active winter surf scene. I took this on an afternoon walk last week.
December 22, 2013.
Last night we celebrated the winter solstice. Short and often dark days pass easily around a warm hearth in the company of friends. As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of cozy and that is easy to find around here in winter.
Out in the shop and at the drawing board, things are stalled. For the past few months I’ve been pretty much laid low by a simple single cell protozoa. It’s crazy but I’m just completely shut down till this is sorted out. No work, no playing in the woods, not much of anything but reading and resting.
Once I work through this I’ll set the world on fire. I’ve got boats to finish, cabinet and furniture jobs to design and build, and snowy forest to tramp through. Two projects that have been backed-burnered way too long are now set to go. I’ll finish the Mischief plans and have kits available this spring. We’ll also be building Mischief’s at The Carpenters Boat Shop in July if you’d like to take a class. Another long over due project is a photo sharing site. I’ve had a lot of interest in buying prints of my photos and frankly I’ve been stumped on the implementation of a site to facilitate this. I’m still stumped but will set up a flicker sight in the next few weeks, just to get the ball rolling. Stay tuned.
Here’s to a joyous winter and a peaceful new year. Lets keep in touch.
November 19, 2013
Star Island NH... and Maine. The state line runs down the middle of the island.
In the past few weeks I have found myself in several diverse locations. Trips to Brooklyn New York and Star Island were both work related and offered up two dramatically different views of the world.
From a Brooklyn roof top looking towards Manhattan.
Also, I’m still pulling together the final details of my teaching schedule for next spring and summer but I’ve posted the classes and dates that are firm on my teaching and class page here on this site. I’ll keep it updated. One of the new offerings this year will be a build your own boat class in my shop. The date is not locked down yet but it will be in the spring and we’ll be building Willows, QuickBeams and Fox Canoes. Touch base if you’re interested. As they say, space is limited.
One of my WoodenBoat kayaking classes from 2013.
October 29, 2013
Sandy Pond in Baxter State Park
October went pretty much as planned, which is great, because I had a good plan.
I’ve been trying to catch up in the office and shop, take care of the place, lay in next winters firewood and explore Maine.
We did a 7-day VW van reconnoiter of the Maine Highlands and I’m blown away by what is out there! We covered 800 miles, 120 of those on gavel roads and discovered a country full of lakes, deep woods and long vistas. It’s a lifetime of exploring just north of home.
Out in the shop I’ve sorted the detritus from this summer and built a “pantry” in one corner of the shop. I also cleaned and sorted my hand tools and built a new cabinet for my hand planes. This week, I’ve started back to work on client projects and will be delivering a piece to Brooklyn New York on Friday. I’ve got a full winter lined up in the shop and it’s nice to be back at it.
And in the office? Well progress is slower there with several designs sitting on my drawing board and correspondents with students and clients backing up. I’ll hopefully get caught up in November.
South Branch in Baxter
It was a vw bus trip
New hand plane cabinet.
My new shop 'pantry'
Misty mountain morning.
September 29, 2013
Small Boat Voyaging, an afternoon in a varied collection of small boats.
Summer has given way to the first days of fall, it’s still warm but the teaching season is behind me now, and that, more then the calendar marks the end my summer.
In September, I taught a shop class and a sailing class at WoodenBoat. I also spent 5 days on an island in Squam Lake. The latter was a vacation. The former, two fine weeks with students in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable. It’s been like that though, beautiful places and really interesting people all summer. I said in an earlier post, I’m still processing. And I still am, its’ all the wonderful people I spent time with this summer that are on my mind these days.
I’ve got another trip planned for October, a long overdue exploration of the Maine Highlands. Once I’m home the balance of October will be spent getting the shop and my winter work ready to go.
I’m also working on my teaching schedule for 2014. I should have a few new offerings posted in November.
Introduction to Boatbuilding at WoodenBoat.
Building an Iain Oughtred Skerrieskiff 15.
My second full moon on Squam in as many months.
An eastern sky at sunset
August 28, 2013
Postcards From Squam Lake.
Full moon rising on Squam. I did get in my moonlight paddles!
Day 4 of a Fox building class.
Day 6, loading up to take the new boats home.
August 14, 2013
Kayaking to Pototo Island in Maine.
Summer is flying by, the meadows almost have that end of summer look; full of color and blooming flowers. A soft brown has replaced midsummer green in the tall wild grasses. In the next few weeks I expect to see the first hint of fall color in the low wet areas that border the forest.
I’ve taught 4 classes in the last 5 weeks. The pace is fine, all this work is balanced by the places I get to spend my time and the students I meet. This is a shop week though with a trove of task stretching out in front of me. I'm catching up, cleaning paddling gear, sharpening tools, clearing my desk. I've got Fox kits to get ready for a building class next week. Deadlines really perk me up.
I taught kayaking for the last two weeks and before that I was at The Carpenter's Boat Shop building Fox canoes. Carpenter's was such a gentle place with a balance between giving and learning, reaching out and turning inward, thoughtfulness and work. On the old shop door are carved the words “ Hearts to God hands to work.” I’m still processing the experience but I’m richer if I can hang onto the lessons I learned.
Next week, more Fox canoes at Squam Lake in New Hampshire. I'm looking forward to paddling and enjoying the lake and mountains each evening.
Setting up shop at The Carpenter's Boat Shop.
Building Fox at Carpenter's
July 7, 2013
I biked into town on the 4th for the fireworks. Ogunquit really does a great job.
It’s been hot here, after a cool spring, which was fine with me; we are into summer full on. The days are long enough to play outside well past 9 and the sun is up at 5. I went for a bike ride this week, stayed out late, got in at 9:30 and though I had good lights (don’t want to get hit) it was still dusky enough see the road.
I’ll be teaching 7 classes between now and mid September. We still have openings in two of my paddling classes, my September Introduction to Boat Building class and both the remaining Fox building classes. The teaching page on my site list dates and places. Touch base if you think any of these would work for you.
Out in the shop I’m getting kits ready for classes, shipping kits and working on our sailboat. I’ve been doing a bunch of much needed upgrades and repairs, two new bilge pumps, new hoses, a new rudder, grinding and painting, well it’s a long list but I think she’ll make it to the water this year for a late season cruise.
These next 3 months always seem to just fly by each year.
A before and after of our Dolphin 24's forepeak. Still a work in progress.
Like I said, a work in progress.
Introduction to Boat Building is one of my favorite classes to teach. Working with the students we build a 15’ Iain Oughtred SkerrieSkiff. One of the students will be able to take the boat home for the cost of materials. It’s a great deal and an opportunity for me to help launch a group of new boatbuilders out into the world.
Sunset at the WoodenBoat pond.
June 17, 2013
Two Iain Oughtred designs
I’m at The WoodenBoat School teaching Introduction To Boat Building this week. The seasons just seem to keep rolling past, new faces and new friends in each class yet the feel of the weeks and places are familiar.
Sooty Tern is out the door; the new owner is going to finish her up. I think she’s in good hands.
For those interested in building a Fox Canoe there are still openings at Carpenters Boatshop. It’s a great place to spend a mid summer’s week in Maine. Give them a call.
Leaving for a week of teaching at WoodenBoat.
Sooty Tern breasthook
May 28, 2013
I've been building an Iain Oughtred Sooty Tern. This week, for the first time, she stuck her head out the shop door and took a look around. Even thought it felt like spring she quickly retreated back into the shop for a coat of primer. She'll be out again soon.
May 15, 2103
Douglas Fir kitchen cabinets being installed.
Spring has arrived, perfect weather. The days are warm but I still need a fire in the shop most mornings, and in the evenings, a fire in the house also feels nice.
Work’s full out and I don’t really seem to have time to get out and play as much as I like. I don’t know if it’s the workload or how I manage and balance my time. I doubt I’ll figure it out anytime soon as I’ve wondered the same thing for 30 years.
I do know, I’ve let the ‘wealth’ of stuff on the internet gnaw away at my time. I’m changing how I use that tool. I started this morning by deleting a winter’s worth of links and bookmarks. Then I went for a walk.
Iain Oughtred Sooty Tern.
Out in the shop the kitchen is installed and Sooty is moving along. The owner is going to finish out the hull and I’m hoping to wrap up my part in the next few weeks. My first class at The WoodenBoat School is only about four weeks away.
I recived a few photos from a Fox builder in Canada, he built his boat with a striped cedar deck. He also lowered the coaming and changed the seat back. All the modifications were thoughtfully done and boat is lovely. I really like the hull color.
A Fox Canoe built from plans. The builder went with a cedar deck.
April 19, 2013.
Building Fox canoes at Penland.
Spring and on the road teaching
So here’s a quick post…. I’m just back from Penland in North Carolina were I taught a Fox building class. We built 7 boats, and honestly, despite really long days, working with this group of students and my studio assistant Chris, it simply rocked! What a blast and a privilege it is to teach at Penland.
This weekend I’ll be building a woodshed at the AMC Knubble Bay Cabin and next week I install the Doug Fir kitchen I’ve been working on. Progress on the Sooty Tern is what I’d expect at this point with a new set of planks going on each day.
I’ll fill in more details about these projects just as soon as I can find a moment.
Building Fox Canoes at The Penland Craft School
March 14, 2013
A week on the road.
The apprentices at Carpenters Boat Shop do outstanding work. Many of the boats they build are for sale and can be seen here.
It’s no secret that I am very happy to hole up in the shop for the winter, only venturing out once a week, or less if I can help it. Well this week has been a full-on, out everyday road week.
I’ve driven with my trailer through Boston, twice, delivering kitchen cabinets. Today I drove up to Pemaquid and Carpenters Boat Shop then dropped Fox off at The Maine Boatbuilders Show. The juxtaposition of the two drives is not lost on me.
I’m playing with a new GPS navigation tool (yes I’m happily late to the game here) and honestly, I’m not sold. Driving through Boston the system was useful enough though I tended to ignore the suggested route in favor of my own. But here in Maine, GPS, well not so much. I was running a bit late this morning so against my better judgment I let the voice in my phone talk me into a shorter route. It is mud season here with the melt from several feet of snow and the heavy rain and sleet from two nights ago trying to soak into still frozen ground. This makes for some very muddy and often impassable dirt roads. About 2 miles from my destination I found myself confronted with just such a road. The dirt track I’d been following abruptly ended, replaced by a muddy rutted ice and snow bound concept of a trail through the woods. A quick look at a real map showed a pretty major backtrack, so again, against my better judgment I dropped the truck into 4-wheel-drive and plowed ahead. I just made it thanks to aggressive tires and a bit of luck. It was not a drive for the faint of heart.
All this road time is work related, I’ll be teaching a Fox building class at Carpenters Boat Shop in July and I’ll be at the Off Center Harbor booth at the BoatBuilders Show on Saturday. If you’re in Portland stop by, or better yet, come build a Fox in July. Carpenters Boat Shop as going to be a fantastic place to spend a week this summer.
March 3, 2013
Books and boats.
Sunrise on new snow.
I seem to start each winter with a backlog of reading squirreled away. It’s always a mix of books, magazines and old newsletters. Some of it’s pretty dated by the time I get to it. Subjects run the full spectrum from novels to books on boatbuilding and woodworking. Also mixed in might be books on mountaineering and randonneuring as well as photography and history. It’s pretty varied subject matter. Much of the writing is new, or new to me, and I never quite make it through the stack. Despite the wealth of new reads each year a few old friends seem to turn up in the pile as well.
Roger Taylor’s Good Boat books keep me mentally on the water through much of the winter. I discovered these at my local library when I was about 14. I kept one or more on permanent loan through most of high school.
Sometime in March, with the first hint of spring, I dig out George Dyson’s book Baidarka. On the surface, this seems to be a book about kayaks but it’s much deeper then that. It’s about simplicity, and it’s about possibilities.
Looking at my winter stack of books I see I’ll need a few more months of dark and cold to get through this year’s pile. That thought leaves me somewhat conflicted.
We, and I’m using the ‘royal’ we here, are wrapping up the first Mischief Pram building class at the Port City Makerspace. Tyler, a young man who has been working with me off and on for nearly 7 years taught the class. (Thus the loose use of we.) Each time I’ve stopped by the Makerspace I’ve been really impressed with the energy and activity of the place. I’m looking forward to working with them again soon.
A Mischief Pram building class.
February 17, 2013
As I write this it’s snowing outside. Snowing to beat the band. I’m just back from a long snowshoe in the woods behind the house and I’m finding, I’m still really enjoying our winter and all the snow we’ve had. Still…. as a gentle, reminder that summers can also be fun I’ve just watched this Fox Canoe video from Off Center Harbor. If you’ve not looked at their site you might want to check them out here.
Out in the shop all that Doug Fir is slowly being milled, jointed and turned into cabinet doors. It’s great fun, and hard work. Monday, bright and early, I’ll crank up the shop stove and get back to work. But for now, I think I’ll enjoy the quiet of a snowy Sunday afternoon and the afterglow off a long deep woods tramp.
For those that emailed asking, last weeks storm.
Doug Fir door panels.
Thoughts of summer.
February 14, 2013
Last week I had quite an adventure tracking down some ‘old growth, reclaimed, quart sawn, vertical grain Douglas Fir lumber.’ How hard could that be?
While it’s a Pacific Northwest product, lots of old buildings, and factories here in New England where built with beams sawn from these massive and straight growing trees.
The huge old Doug Firs are mostly gone now, logged into extinction. Managed areas just don’t produce the same quality lumber as the old forest and the few remaining untouched forests are rightfully protected. It would be a sin today, just like it was 100 years ago, to cut down these trees.
What I was after was reclaimed lumber. Lumber salvaged from old buildings and sawn into 4/4 planks. I needed enough timber to build two kitchens. I’d been waiting for weeks for a local supplier to deliver 500 board feet of the Fir but it was becoming pretty obvious that he did not have the quality timber on hand.
I scrambled and found a millwork company just down the road that had some Doug Fir left over from a previous job. I hand picked about 200 bf of lumber from his stash and while the quality was pretty good I did not drive away with nearly enough lumber for the two jobs. Back to the internet and the phone.
Next I tracked down a source in Connecticut. They had several things on hand that might work. One was a collection of huge old Doug Fir beams that could be sawn into lumber, the other, a large bundle of 16’ long bleacher seats. Desperate, I drove down to look at what he had.
The bleacher seats turned out to be nearly perfect for my projects. Under layers of varnish I found beautiful warm red straight-grained Doug Fir. It would be a bit of a challenge to work around the hardware holes in the seats but the wood was just lovely. We used a chain saw to cut the seats into 10 and 6 foot sections so I could bring the lumber back to my shop. I took all I could carry, enough for the first kitchen, and I’ll go back down in the next few weeks for another load.
Wayne Iron Works Rolling Gymstand. The Doug
Fir I'm using is from old bleacher seats.
On the drive home I had another encounter with old woods. This one was more of a pilgrimage, a visit to Walden Pond and the site of Henry David Thoreau’s famous cabin.
It seemed like the time had come. I’ve been reluctant to visit Walden. The old forest is protected but it is a very popular recreation area and I imagine often quite crowded. Definitely not the experience I was looking for. But, the day I had stretching out before me was a bitter cold and gray one, the mood enhanced with infrequent flurries of snow. It seemed promising.
I found the reproduction of Thoreau’s cabin. The great man was not home and to my surprise the cabin door was locked. Not much to be learned there so I walked the trail around the frozen pond looking for the man. The old house site, dusted with snow, and the still older woods were moving, but I realized, Thoreau’s lives in his words, not the place.
Later that night, sitting by my own fire, surrounded by my own woods, I reread passages from some of Thoreau’s works, grateful to have walked in his forest. I think it’s not only the words, but it’s also the quiet between the words and the quiet the words came from that speaks to me today.
January 28, 2013
Class openings in 2013.
Thinking ahead to summer and paddling. Do you need a boat?
For those of you that have emailed looking for a location to take a build-your-own Fox class. Penland has had two cancellations so there are openings for the April class. Here’s the link. I’ll also be teaching a Fox class at Carpenters Boat Shop in July and Squam Lake in August. Both locations are great places to spend a week during the summer.
If your itching to get your hands dirty before the summer and you need, or want, a sweet little pram, I’ll be building my Mischief pram with students during two consecutive weekend workshops in Portsmouth New Hampshire. Here’s the link to the Port City Makerspace where the build-your-own class is being held. Check out the links or touch base with me if you have any questions.
Mischief Pram, ready to go.
January 27, 2013
Orion at night, Chewonki during my WFR class.
The last few weeks have been busy, and cold. Perfect weather for working in the shop, or spending time exploring the New England woods. In mid January I spent four days at Chewonki taking a Wilderness First Responder recertification class. It’s fun taking the class in the winter. The cold and snow just add to the already intense experience. Despite the cold it’s been dry with light snowfall here along the coast. That makes for diverse scenery and sketchy traction out in the forest. On yesterday's hike I found a mixed combination of open ground, deep snow and lots of ice. I was able to follow a mountain stream for nearly an hour stepping over what would, in summer have been small waterfalls and crossing deep frozen pools with ease. Short trail-crampons were ideal for this kind of traveling.
This morning I dropped my truck off for some needed repairs and then biked home. While the roads are clear and safe, 10-degree bikes rides are a bit bracing to say the least. I think I’ll save any longer bike rides for slightly warmer weather. I’ll be sure to take my bike down to Penland in April for some North Carolina spring riding.
Out in the shop; I’m working on a Douglas Fir kitchen. Once that’s out the door I’ll set up my strongback and get started on an Iain Oughtred Sooty Tern. I’m looking forward to seeing that hull come together. Iain’s boats are always so lovely.
Getting started on a set of kitchen cabinets.
Walking a frozen creek.
Old stone walls and a low winter sun.
Winter coast near home
January 1, 2013!
I'm just in from a late night snowshoe. It’s cold and beautiful outside; the moon was just starting to show above the trees as I came down through the woods and back to the house. It’s inviting to see the yellow light from the windows on the snow and know there’s a warm woodstove glowing inside.
I’ve been thinking back on 2012 and looking over my current projects page tonight.
I know it’s a worn cliché, but how did the past year slip away so fast? There were so many projects I meant to do and never found the time for. I also realize, and I’m a bit stunned, by how much I did get done both in the shop, teaching and personally. I spent more time outside this past year and did more traveling then I have in a few years. That’s a nice trend.
In the shop I’ve got a very full calendar of diverse projects lined up for the rest of the winter. Next summer I’ll teach 11 classes.
Out in the woods the snow is, for now, just perfect for backcountry skiing. The climbs are a bit of work but the rolling sections are classic kick-n-glide Nordic stuff. And the downhill stretches, well those are just free!
For the next few months I’ll settle in for a focused run of shop work. Though, it’d be a shame to waste such a perfect snow cover. I know I’ll find a good balance
Here’s to 2013. May we all find balance and enjoy a peaceful and fulfilling year!
December 9, 2012
I’m wrapping up my fall upgrades and finishing up a few small boat projects. Mischief has been refinished and Phoenix III is about to head back home for the winter.
After a summer of frequent use, Phoenix III came back to the shop for a few upgrades and a winter cover. Mischief needed a bit of attention after a hard season of use. She really proved herself this summer as a tender, a family boatbuilding project and a workboat during my on water classes. This winter I’ll finish up the plans and building guide. I hope to have kits and plans available by the spring. I’ll get more information on the design up on this site soon.
I’ve also finished the shop addition. Now I’m just waiting for the first snows so I can enjoy the new sheltered workspace; and get my cross-country skis out.
I’ve added one more Fox building class and a Mischief building class to my schedule for 2013. Be sure to check out the 'Teaching & Class Offerings' page on this site.
Next week, I’ll move the boats out and make space for a load of old growth, reclaimed Douglas Fir. Getting ready for my next project.
November 7, 2012
Fall shop projects.
Out in the shop we’ve been busy working on a few fall shop improvements. This year’s projects are slightly more ambitious then some of my past undertakings and they also seem a little like luxuries. I’m convinced though, that both of these big undertakings are worth the considerable effort involved. After more then 30 years of working on hard, cold and cruel concrete floors I’ve built a sprung, insulated wooden floor in my shop. Painted an off white it’s already proving it’s worth. A full day out in the shop now is no longer a back jarring torture session. I seem to finish up so many projects like this thinking, “I should have done this years ago”. And I should have.
The first practical use of the floor started almost before the paint had dried. I’ve always wanted to build a bow-roof shelter and we laid out the form on the new floor for a 14-foot wide building. We then knocked out 16 bent frames. You see a fair number of these bow-roofs around Maine. They are relatively inexpensive and they make great boatbuilding sheds and greenhouses. As I’ve discovered though, there is a reason you don’t see them in every dooryard. Building one of these things is not for the timid. It’s not hard really, it’s just harder then you’d think. I was pulled into the instant shelter myth and never really took a hard look at the work involved, or the slope of my proposed building site. What I thought was maybe 5” of slope turned out to be closer to…. 17”. Who would have guessed? I solved this problem with tapered knee-walls which also gave me the height I need to store larger boats on trailers. All in all I can’t complain, I’ve jumped through some unforeseen hoops and still have a few problems to work though but, in less then 3 days we are almost ready to put the roof covering, white 6 mil greenhouse film, on a 14’ x 20’ building. I’ll use the building to store and work on our boat and as a space to refinish, repair and build boats for customers.
Getting started on the shop floor.
The finished shop floor.
A stack of finished bow-roof frames.
October 29, 2012
A few more fall trips.
Here in New England early October can be a brilliant season and this year has been exceptional. In addition to my backpacking trip I also found time for two over-night kayaking trips, one on Squam Lake and one co-leading an AMC trip from the Knubble Bay Cabin here in Maine. The latter took place just before Hurricane Sandy blew in. Saturday we paddled into Hockomock Bay. The low blueberry bushes along the shore were fire-red and set off by dark water, gray stone and a clear blue sky. Sunday we snuck in a quick and early paddle working our way back to the cabin against the first winds and rain from Sandy.
On Squam, while we did have a strong and unexpected western wind on our way back to the put-in the clear skies and the peak fall colors out on the islands more then offset that effort. I’m grateful for these gifts.
AMC trip from the Knubble Bay Cabin
October 18, 2012
Carins in the fog.
Earlier in October I managed to get away for a backpacking trip to the White Mountains. It was a short trip but in some important ways it was a big trip. I was able to slow down and I hope, lay the foundation for a productive and balanced winter.
I’ve been lucky enough to hike in the Alps, the Cascades, the Rockies and extensively in the Southern Appalachians and while all hold their unique charms the Whites are truly special. The lower section of the trail I hiked brought to mind the mossy bolder strewn river valleys of the Smokes. In contrast the exposed peaks and ridges offered up the endless long views and craggy landscape of the Rockies and Cascades.
And I have to say; sometimes, what passes for a trail in the Whites stretches the concept just a bit. Several places I scrambled up felt more like bouldering then hiking. I loved it.
Backpacking, like sea kayaking or sailing, offers up lots of opportunities for daydreaming, philosophizing or simple clear minded ambling. I indulged in all three. One of the metaphors that struck me as quite appropriate for this hike focused on the stone cairns used to mark the trail above the tree line. In the Whites these have been elevated to an art form. In life, I find them symbolic. Carins appear out of the fog or rise from the snow to guide us along the path we’re trying to follow. Often we’ve set out prepared and made sound decisions on our journey but still, it’s nice to have some guidance and reassurance along the way. Life’s a journey, it’s an adventure on the best days and I’m always happy to see the next carin in the fog.
October 3, 2012
QuickBeam, Fox and Mischief.
I don’t consider myself to be a particularly boat-y person. I think about a lot of other stuff and have a lot of other interests. However, a brief tour for the shop and barn and the property between turned up no less then 18 boats. I really need to address this embarrassment of wealth. A half dozen of these boats are for sale and can be seen here. Make an offer.
The Willow and QuickBeam class at WoodenBoat went really well. It’s a bittersweet feeling to be wrapping up the teaching season. I’ll miss getting to spend time in such great locations and I’ll miss the students. My next class is in April 2013, a Fox building class at The Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
For now though it’s time to slow down and dig into the shop for the winter. I have a variety of interesting projects lined up as well as my traditional fall shop upgrades, and my traditional fall trips. More on both as they happen.
2012 kayaking building class at WoodenBoat.
The view from the boathouse the last week of the summer.
Loading up in the rain.
September 19, 2012
The WoodenBoat September kayaking class was just awesome. There were six students in the class all paddling at about the same level. During the week we paddled three different commercial kayak designs and four wooden kayaks. Two of the wooden boats were my designs: Willow and QuickBeam. The other two were cedar strip kayaks belonging to students. The weather was unsettled but in the end we enjoyed a typical Maine summer with lots of sun, some fog, strong winds, dead calm and one stormy day that kept us holed up in the classroom. During the 4 days that we were out on the water we surely did cover some miles. We stopped on at least four islands and spent one day at a warm inland lake practicing rescues and paddle strokes.
The weekend after the class I was able to get away for a 3-day kayak-camping trip on Maine’s Muscongus Bay.
And now, the truck’s loaded with tools and kits, in the morning I’m heading back up to WoodenBoat for the last week of the season.
Leaving for a hike on Harbor Island. Willow and QuickBeam are in the foreground.
September 1, 2012
Squam Lake sunset seen through a power boat wake.
I’m heading up to WoodenBoat to teach an on water course this week. I hope the students are ready to cover a few miles ‘cause I know I am.
The Fox building class at Squam Lake went wonderfully. It’s a stunning place to teach and paddle. We’ll offer the class again next August, so mark your calendar.
I spent most of this last week at home digging out the shop and getting caught up at my desk. Summer’s not over, my last class is at the end of September. We'll be building my Willow and QuickBeam kayak designs at WoodenBoat. We still have space for one more boat. Even though it's early September with the last of summer still stretching out ahead I do find I’m already thinking about October trips, and winter work.
Building Fox Canoes at Squam Lake.
A really sweet 1938 Hacker-Craft.
We took an evening trip out on the lake in one of the students boat.
We also enjoyed a quite sunset paddle and picnic.
Another evening paddle.
August 23, 2012
Excellent Adventure in the rain.
This week I’m in Holderness New Hampshire with a group of students building 5 of my Fox canoes. The event is hosted by The Squam Lake Association. The area is just stunning and the building is going well.
Now, I’ll try to get the details right for the last few weeks. I’ve taught a kayaking class at WoodenBoat where I took students camping on the local islands. In addition to the school kayaks we had a Willow and QuickBeam on the trip.
I built my new Mischief pram design with students at WoodenBoat. The class was offered during Family week this year and I really enjoyed the dynamics of the week. The average student age really drops, it’s a fun change.
The Chewonki BoatBuilders paddled in while I was at WoodenBoat. The kids had been on the water for nearly 3 weeks and I simply could not believe how fantastic the group and the boats looked. I was surprised at how emotional the reunion was.
I also co-taught a camp cruising class with Ross Beane. We used the school sailboats to cruise to and camp on the islands in Penobscot Bay. It’s the second year I’ve done this class, which is now referred to as “Ross and Bill’s excellent adventure”, and it was.
A Willow and QuickBeam during a kayak camping class.
Building Mischief at WoodenBoat
Mischief and a young visitor.
The Chewonki BoatBuilders 2012 Willow kayaks.
....... and finally, dinner on Sheep Island during a WoodenBoat sailing-camping class.
July 21, 2012
Life in the shop or out teaching is moving pretty fast these days. Phoenix III is out the door and romping around the waters of Rhode Island. She’ll be back late in the fall in need of a frame for her winter cover.
I’ve also finished up my part of the Chewonki BoatBuilders program. We built 9 Willow kayaks in 14 days. As I write this, the group is out on the water in the middle of a 3-week paddling trip along the coast of Maine. I hope to join them for a night or two. I’ve got 6 more weeks of teaching this season. Three weeks of shop-based classes where we’ll be build Mischief Prams, Willows, QuickBeams and Fox Canoes. Twenty-eight plus boats for the season.
I’ll also be teaching out on the water for three weeks. Two sailing classes and one more kayak class. On two of these I’ll be camping with students on Maine Islands. That’s tough work, island camping during high summer, but someone has to do it.
I’ll take the hit for the team.
June 21, 2012
Sunset at WoodenBoat
I’ve had an incredibly busy spring in the shop as is evident by the lack of new information here and the less evident lack of time playing outside. Yesterday was the summer solstice and I meant to celebrate with an evening bike ride. Instead I worked late. I’m not complaining, the work is enjoyable and I will turn a corner out in the shop in the next few weeks. With several big projects wrapping up and 3 months of teaching stretching out before me the focuses and the pace of my work is about to change.
As Gamble Rogers said “There ain't nothing wrong with materialism as long as you have an emotional involvement with the material object.” Well, I love my truck. Here is my 2004 Nissan Frontier at the WoodenBoat School with a typical summer load; On top, two kayaks, a 16’ strongback, the hull parts for a 15’ boat and my bike. Inside, all the tools and moulds for the one week building class and camping gear, just in case. I’m also towing my new trailer with a Iain Oughtred SkerrieSkiff 15. Lets not talk about the gas millage.
Introduction To BoatBuilding class.
April 19, 2012
We’ve launched – and named the new pram design. Taking advantage of a truly beautiful spring day we loaded the pram, Mischief, into the back of my truck and drove down to the Ogunquit River where she enjoyed her first outing.
She’s 7’8 ½” long with a beam of 48 ½”. The hull is built from 6mm plywood and decidedly not a stitch-and-glue design. Mischief is fast for a sub 8’ pram. Tracking is flawless and maneuverability is also great. She’s stable, you can stand in the ends of the boat, and floats right on her lines with one or two passengers aboard. When I drew this boat I was after a pretty tender that preformed well yet was a simple building project for families to enjoy together. I worked hard to finesse as much shape as I could from the plywood while not creating challenges that might frustrate younger builders. The boat will be offered as a kit and eventually as a plans set, but for now, I’m focused on using the boat and getting all the final details ready for the Family Week at WoodenBoat School.
On other fronts, Phoenix III is looking really sweet. More on this boat soon!
March 28, 2012
I'm working with Off Center Harbor on instructional videos and I’m also writing blog entries for them. There’s a pretty diverse group writing for their blog, definitely worth checking out. If it’s a good fit, and not to long, I’ll include some of my blog entries here in current projects. Here’s the latest.
A start in small boats.
I could, if I thought about it, trace my introduction to small boats back to a single person, or more precisely a loose group of conspirators. While I’m not naming names I will relate the story. I don’t recall exactly how I came to spend time with this eclectic band, I was in my mid-teens and it was the mid 70’s. Here’s the basic gist of the story.
Someone in the group had access to a wooded peninsula on a large inland lake. The property was about 25 miles out of town and on weekends we’d meet there to camp, play with cameras and play in small boats.
The boats arrived tied to or towed behind an assortment of older sports cars. I recall a Triumph TR3, an orange Spitfire and a collection of Fiats. The rest of us biked out on wildly inappropriate road bikes with sew-up tires. Remember those?
I also learned the basics of photography out at the lake. I clearly remember the 30-mile winter evening bike ride I made to pick up my first real camera, an old Canon SLR I bought from one of the gang.
Another of the truly lasting influences of these weekend trips was my introduction to small boats! I paddled my first kayak, I think it was a DK13 during one of these outings. It was, as I recall a funky version of this less then stellar design, one of the first kayaks intended for home builders. I flipped it in deep water once and managed, motivated by embarrassment, to climb back in. Most weekends there would also be a few canoes and at least one sailboat: a Flying Dutchman in the ever changing fleet.
By far the boat that I had the most fun with though was an old skin-on-frame Folbot. This was a home built kit boat and I was, and still am, enthralled by the concept of these tandem wood framed kayaks. I have a vintage frame for a German version, a Pioneer, in my barn right now. Someday I’ll cover the frame and get her back in the water.
I’ve included two photos of paintings I made as a teenager not to document the start of my career as a painter. That faded quickly, but to illustrate the life long love I have for simple pleasures and being on the water. It’s a fundamental part of who I am and how I work and it’s genesis might well have it's roots in those early trips out to the lake. I still have strong memories of waking up early on a fall morning, mist laying over the quiet lake, my bike leaning against a tree and the fleet of small boats pulled up on the sandy beach. The day stretching out ahead ripe with endless possibilities.
March 22, 2012
Projects in the shop are moving along briskly. I’m working on several boats right now and while I’m not a huge fan of multi-tasking I have been doing just that for the past few weeks. I generally work more efficiently if I focus on the task at hand but with boats, sometimes, it does seem to make sense to keep several balls in the air at once. I’ve just finished a model of my QuickBeam design, I’m wrapping up the finish work on the new pram design and I’m finishing up the hull on the SkerrieSkiff. Next week I start in earnest, and with my customary tunnel vision, on the construction of Phoenix III. I’ve got the moulds, bulkheads and the stem ready to go so planking the hull should really move along.
March 7, 2012
This winter I seem to be a full time boat shop. That’s not always the case, the variety of work I do is often more varied. But for now, I’m pretty much focused on boatbuilding. Here are are a few of the boats I’m working on. Oh and two links. Here are tons of photos on Chewonki’s flicker site. Most were taken during the first and second year I worked with them building the Willow kayak. And here’s a link to Off Center Harbor’s site with access to a few of the Fox building videos.
The pram is coming along nicely. Splashed her on a cold morning to test the performance. She turned on a ripple and tracked dead straight. Note the temporary milk crate seat and the clamped on oar locks. I still don't have a name for the design. Any ideas?
There are six different boats represented in this photo. The pram, the Fox I’m building for the Off Center Harbor video. A packed Fox kit ready to ship (lower right corner), moulds for two boats leaning against the bench and a QuickBeam model on the bench.
I've started the finish work on the Pram and the boat on the strongback is and Iain Oughtred 15’ SkerrieSkiff. More on this boat and the next design I’m building in a week or so. Stay warm.
January 30, 2012
The bike I ride most of the time is built up around an older steel Trek
frame. I’ve converted the bike so it’s suitable for Randonneuring stlle
riding. The front bag is made by Acorn Bags and it’s one of my favorite
pieces of kit.
In many ways this has not been a typical winter. First the weather is off, that’s just the only word for it and the unusually warm temperatures have a somewhat foreboding feel to them. To be sure, warm is a relative term and January has been cold, it’s just over all we’ve had an above average warm winter with a below average snowfall. New Years Day I bundled up and rode my bike 25 miles. Most years I celebrated the New Year with a day in the woods snowshoeing or skiing. Work with what you have.
The other change is that I’m busier then is typical for mid winter. Not a worry of course. It’s nice to have great projects to work on! This past month I’ve been finishing up the banister in our house and working on the new pram design. Sort of catching my breath after the pace of the summer and before the push that’s coming. I’ll make it a point to keep the current projects page updated as new boats come to life in the shop. Looking ahead to next summer, I’ve added 2 new Fox classes to the roster. That brings the total class offerings to 12. That’s plenty.
December 28, 2011
I love the work I do, I’m proud of it. I even think some of it’s important. Teaching and the Chewonki Boat Builders spring to mind here. I know the furniture and boats I build for my clients is important to them.
Promoting myself, i.e. finding work has always been a balancing act. I suspect it is for all small business and one-person operations. The Internet while opening up a vast network of far reaching communication has made connecting with potential clients easier - and harder. The web sometimes seems to require endless accolades piled one on top of one another. Braggadocio over information. Not my style at all. So several months back while reading Tom Bodett’s blog I stumbled upon this,
“What I need is somebody who is more interested in me and the stuff I do than I am. I don't say that in some sad sack Eeyore way. I just no longer have the vanity it takes to drive a self-promotion vehicle responsibly. Modesty is to the Internet what fuel economy is to NASCAR: The losers circle.” (Quoted here with the author’s kind permission).
Needless to say I laughed out loud, I roared. Here was my dilemma perfectly summed up. Thanks Tom. So what does all this have to do with current projects?
Well hang in here with me a bit. OffCenterHarbor.com has launched their website and it's pretty cool. This is a membership based website focusing on boats and boating with the goal of making both simpler, more fun and most importantly, more accessible. In a small way I’m going to be part of the site and their offerings. For starters we are creating two detailed how to build videos, one for Fox and one for Willow. Members will have full access and anyone who orders plans or kits from me will receive a one-year membership. So; I get to be part of something pretty big without actually having to act big. I get to ply my craft, teach, design and build and someone else is going to do most of the pesky promotion. Ok here’s the link again. Go.
December 11, 2011
While this is not exactly a current project, it’s more of an on going project; I thought I’d post these photos of our living room space. The relevance to my work is that this is the type of design and build I typically do
for my clients. The space was challenging both in it’s shape and the location of 2 base board heaters. I started the project by stripping the room down to the plywood floors and bare drywall. After the drywalll was patched and painted I installed and finished white pine floors. Instead of nails I used screws and bungs for fasteners. The flooring is from a local mill and some of the boards are 16” wide. For heat there’s a Yodel stove on a slate hearth. The cabinets are cherry with an oil finish. There is storage for old fashion CDs and even more old fashion albums. There is also a tv monitor behind the sliding doors. The front door and storm door are both made from Douglas fir. I still have a few details to take care of but for the most part the space is finished. The room is comfortable, warm and bright and the cabinets fit like they where custom designed for the space. After all…….
December 5, 2011
WoodenBoat’s annual addition of ‘Small Boats’ is out and it’s a fine offering this year. I look forward to getting my copy each December. Per usual this year’s edition features a diverse collection of interesting small boats. My Fox canoe is one of the designs covered in this issue - and it’s on the issue cover. Mike O’Brien wrote a particularly flattering review. You can order a copy from The WoodenBoat Store or grab one at your local news stand.
Also, the WoodenBoat School's 2012 catalog has been mailed. I'll be teaching 8 classes at the school next summer and 3 at other locations. I have updated the teaching and class page on my website. Check it out.
November 23, 2011
It’s a cold day; raw would a good word to use here. Perfect for quiet shop work. The woodstove’s chortling away and I’ve got two Fox canoes going together. Over all it’s a nice scene.
In my office I’m finishing up the final details on the QuickBeam plans. I’ll be ready to ship the first kits in early December. I’ll get more information regarding the boat up on this site soon. Just behind the QuickBeam project lurks the new pram design I’m working on. The first draft of the design is done, I just need to knock together a model to double check the shape before I start on the prototype. I also need to think of a name for the pram. Usually these things reveal themselves as the project evolves. I’ll keep you posted.
November 6, 2011
The Appalachian Mountain Club has a lovely little cabin located on Knubble Bay near Bath Maine. It’s a wonderful piece of property tucked in between Robinhood Cove and Beal Island, and it's right on the water. The cabin has a small off-the-grid footprint and is available for anyone to rent. It's the perfect model of a shared low impact facility in a near wilderness setting. The cabin is a VMF, a Volunteer Managed Facility. This means that there is no staff employed to maintain the cabin; instead all of the upkeep and administration of the facility is done by a committee of very hardworking and talented volunteers. The committee also host and leads a number of great trips from the cabin each season. It is important work and I count myself lucky enough to be on that committee. We just finished our fall work weekend and I am amazed at how much we accomplished. I’m even more amazed by the committee meetings and how easily 15 people can discuss and implement some pretty big decisions. I’ve spent most of my life working alone and I’ve always heard stories of the inefficiencies of committees, but that’s not the case with the AMC Knubble Bay Committee. The weekend was very rewarding. As if that was not enough, we finished out Saturday with a rainbow. Good deeds are rewarded!
Here is a link to their website if you are interested in learning more.
October 14, 2011
All summer the pace and the pleasure of my work keep me on the move. As a result, lots of projects, task and office-work get shoved to the preverbal back burner. Working alone, I have to do a constant balancing act focusing on the tasks that most need my attention. Or, sometimes the tasks that most catch my interest. Well it’s time now to dig in and clear a space in my shop and in my head for winter work. This week one of my jobs has been to clear out the barn to make room to store the two new boats I’ll be building this winter (more on that soon). I’ve amassed a surprising number of small boats six of which I need to find new homes for. It’s an eclectic mix of old designs, prototypes and boats I simply don’t need anymore. Prices and more information can be found here.
On other fronts, I’m finally finishing our front door and bath vanity. And, I took some time off to explore the North Woods of Maine.
September 14, 2011
Summer lingers but while walking in the deep green woods or along the shore, I feel an almost tangible softness that speaks of change. The long shadows in the evening forest and the final dazzling burst of wild flowers in the meadows are sure signs of the change that is coming.
While teaching over the last four months I’ve been fortunate enough to reconnect with many old friends and former students as well as to meet wonderful new students from all over the world. The experience of teaching, sharing, and learning from my students is nothing short of a blessing.
With only two classes left and my summer shop projects wrapping up my thoughts are starting to turn to fall and winter projects – but not just yet, summer lingers.
August 18, 2011
I’ve been at the WoodenBoat School for the last two weeks. Now I’m back in the shop for about 10 days. Projects while I’m home include Willow kits for my next building class, finishing up a Bay Skiff 15 and the final touches on a Douglas Fir storm and entry door set. I’ll install the doors in early September.
While I was at WoodenBoat I taught a one-week Beach Cruising class with Ross Beane. We went island camping in the school’s small sailboats. I also taught a one-week Elements of Kayaking class. Below are a few photos from the trips. I seem to be more interested in sharing photos these day then words. Towards that end, when I find the time, I’m going to set up a photo sharing site. Until then……
July 27, 2011
Summer is moving at, well…. summer’s pace. Flying. I’ve taught four classes and have five left this season. I leave in a few days for two more weeks of on water classes. Last week was the hottest so far this summer and I spent it teaching an on water kayaking class. And swimming. Not bad work, if you can get it.
Nine Willow Sea Kayaks
June 14, 2011
One of my favorite joints for doors is a haunched tenon.
Fun to make and very strong.
June 9, 2011
This time of year I’m pretty much constantly on the move. Looking back, I wonder if maybe I took it just a little too easy last winter. Right now, out in the shop, I’m finishing up a boat for a client, building a set of entry doors for another client, building a forepeak hatch for one of my favorite Bolger designs and pulling together 14 kits for my next two classes. Last week I taught my first class of the season at The WoodenBoat School. I also paddled QuickBeam for the first time. I’m extremely pleased with the kayak. I paddled less than 10 miles but that’s enough to know the boat is just what I had in mind when I first laid down the lines. I also ended the week with my first overnight paddling trip of the season. I didn’t get away for long, just a quick overnighter in Fox. It’s amazing how a quiet night on an island will set you up for a productive week in the shop. It also helps if your week is spent working on boats.
Scarfing Willow and Fox kits
Island camping with Fox (ok sometimes I stop moving)
QuickBeam, a new kayak design
May 8, 2011
A friend once told me, in Maine, in the winter the work day is pretty short. It’s too cold and dark to get much done. Then one morning you wake up and over night spring arrived. The days are longer and the weather warmer and 12 hours is not enough time to power through the days task. Well it’s spring. I’m wrapping up my winter projects and have taken on a few new client jobs as well. I'm also getting ready for my first class. I’ll be teaching 9 weeks this summer. Come September a 12-hour work day might look pretty short.
Bathroom Vanity with QuickBeam in the back ground.
April 19, 2011
I’m in the middle of a short southern tour, doing some of the prep for my fall Fox building class in Asheville North Carolina. While I’m in the southern mountains I’m also exploring my old stomping grounds. I stopped in a small town for breakfast this morning and rediscovered these doors. More then 25 years ago I build 10 custom doors for this old building. They still look pretty good.
April 15, 2011
A former student brought his Willow kayak and spent a few days in the shop getting the boat ready for finish. I enjoyed the company and the opportunity to compare an unfinished Willow to QuickBeam. QuickBeam, the boat in the foreground is just about ready for paint and varnish. I hope to splash her in mid May.
April 1, 2011
Spring is slow to arrive this year. Here’s the shop on April fool’s Day.
Personally, I think this bodes well for a fine and long summer.
February 13, 2011
I'm making a scale model of my Fox Double Paddle Canoe to send down to Asheville Hardware in North Carolina. I'll be teaching a Fox building class there the first week of April. It’ll be really great to enjoy an early spring in the mountains of western NC.
The kayak in the background of the photo is QuickBeam, a new sea kayak design I’ve been working on this winter. I’ll put up more information about the boat in the next few weeks. Oh, and Chewonki posted a video on their boat builders program. Here's a link.
January 30, 2011
Sea Smoke is a low fog that forms as cold air passes over warm water. Both are relative terms in this case as the night I took this photo the air temp was below zero. In any event it’s not a common occurrence and the full moon just added to the ethereal feel. For those that care about such things: Lumix G1, f/3.5, 30’s, ISO 100, shot with a 28mm lens.
January 6, 2011
This time of year I seem to find
myself between big shop projects.
This is often intentional and always short-lived. It’s also an
important part in the cycle of the
sessions, a quiet and necessary
time. This is good time to tackle the small jobs and new designs that seem to get shoved to the back burner during the more intense parts of the year. The
days are short and cold which just makes the shop that much more inviting and cozy. It’s a wonderful place to spend a winter day.
I did a run up to CNC Routing & Designs in Camden
Maine to pick up kit parts.
I love the drive up to Camden. I follow US 1 up the coast and never have the time
to stop at all the places I’d like to. Here's a view of the Androscoggin River in
Maybe the best part of the winter is getting out of
the shop and into the woods!
November 22, 2010
Winter preparations are wrapped up and I’m settling in to the shop. There are still outdoor projects that I’ll work on but the ‘must do’ list is taken care of.
I’ve just finished a mahogany table and restored a set of 4 hand-made chairs. The chairs where made in North Carolina and originally had cane seats. I chose to replace the worn out bottoms with cotton shaker tape. The chairs and table worked together perfectly and created a really sweet dinning set.
My friend Steve Stone is working on a series of videos on small boating and boats. Here is a link to a short on the Fox Canoe.
October 1, 2010
Last class of the year.
I finished up the 2010 teaching season helping eleven students build a fleet of Willow Sea Kayaks at the WoodenBoat School. Great folks and nearly perfect weather help make the last week of the teaching season one of the best. I’ll have the 2011 teaching schedule up on the site some time in late November.
September 18, 2010
I'm loading up for my last class of the
season.I’ll be building 8 Willows with
students at the WoodenBoat School.
It takes a lot of parts and tools to build
that many kayaks. Admittedly though,
some of the things in this pile are toys.
I hope to do some bike riding and
perhaps an overnight camping trip or
cruise while I’m away.
September 16, 2010
Summer’s winding down.
Over the last eight weeks I’ve taught six classes at the WoodBoat School.
Four were waterfront classes and two were building classes in the shop.
The photos below were taken during these classes.
Small Boat Voyaging.
Class on an island.
Elements of Kayaking II.
Fox building class.
A Fox canoe came in on the waterfront.
July 6, 2010
I’m just back from Chewonki where I spent 7 days helping a group of 9 fourteen year olds and their 2 trip leaders build 10 Willow Sea Kayaks. The boats will get finished up this week then they’ll head out for a 3 week, 160 mile plus, self supported paddle up the Maine coast. I hope to join them for a night or two. We’ll see what I get done in the shop this week. I finished up the kitchen I was working on back in May and I’ve delivered the last of my furniture jobs till the fall. It’s time to focus on teaching. With 2 classes down and 8 to go I’ll not have much time for other projects until late September.
Introudction To Boat Building at The WoodenBoat school in June
April 20, 2010
This year, spring is very early, both outside with new green and flowers blooming everywhere and inside the shop with a near riot of work to be done. I’m already full out getting kits ready for classes, refinishing boats for the summer and building a set of cherry kitchen cabinets. I’m glad to be busy and looking forward to fine warm weather pursuits like biking, paddling, sailing and backpacking.
Hang on here comes summer!
March 22, 2010
I've just finished building ten Douglas Fir doors. Eight are full sized interior doors, no two are the same size, and there is a matching set of saloon doors. The joinery is mortise-and-tenon and the finish is a sprayed conversion varnish. I’ve packed then up carefully because they are about to start a long ocean voyage. They are on their way to Aruba. Bon voyage.
February 12, 2010
My sessions aren’t defined by holidays or calendars. Instead, each is marked by the work I do, the weather out side my shop door and how I play. This is my quiet time of the year and I treasure it. The kayaks are tucked away in the barn, I was out there today, thinking about paddling and spring and time out on the water. Right now though it’s still deep winter. Time for backcountry skiing and winter camping when I can and quiet days at my bench in the shop when I work.
January 16, 2010
These days I’m balancing work on our house, customer projects and time outside. Well, actually, I’ve been pretty focused on the house, and the outside stuff. We have torn into 3 rooms of the house and I’m wrapping up the big work on the dinning room, living room and bath. So far there are new bath cabinets, less doors and drawers, a soaking tub, a new floor in the bath, new stairs, a new hearth and new white pine floors. We have also repaired drywall, reworked a dormer replaced a window and painted. Gallons of paint. I still need to trim the spaces, finish the bath cabinets and build new furniture and book shelves for the living room. That work will need to wait though. It’s time to focus on the back-log of customer projects. I’m building 8 custom interior doors and a 7’ Bolger designed tender. I’m also finding time for back-country skiing and I’m just back from a class at Chewonki where I earned my Wilderness First Responder certification. That’s been a goal of mine for nearly 20 years. Got it!
November 9, 2009
Tuned Up Shop Space
We are still enjoying a cool crisp fall. I’m whittling down my winter prep. list but I have been lulled into a leisurely pace by the weather’s siren song. The fire wood for next winter is in and I’ll wrap up the last small jobs in the next few days.
I went all out in the shop. The bench rebuild is finished but seeing as all things are connected I also reworked the whole bench/hand tool corner of the shop. And added a much needed window!
Winter work looks pretty good with 8 custom doors to build, several built-in furniture commissions and 2 new boat designs to bring to life.
October 7, 2009
I’ve wrapped up my 2009 classes. I built 33 boats with students and enjoyed several weeks of classes on the water as well. It was a great year and I’m already at work on 2010. There will be several new course offerings and at least 2 new venues on the roster.
I’ve decided to rework my old Hofmann & Hammer work bench and bring it out of the corner and into the middle of the shop where it belongs. I have 2 European benches, One I built in 1983 and one I bought used a few years later. The store-bought bench is the larger of the 2 so it’s the one I’ve been using. I’m truing the top, adjusting the vices, renewing the finish, raising the height 2” and building storage drawers for hand tools. Sort of ‘nesting’ in the shop for the winter. The hand plane is one I made in the late 80's
September 7, 2009
Summer is winding down, but with luck, the fine warm weather will last well into September. I’ve been going full out with 6 classes down and one, a Willow Sea Kayak class at WoodenBoat, still to go. I’ve also found time for a few furniture jobs, helping out on the interior of a 1903 Nathanial Herreshoff sloop, and a paddling trip or two.
The Fox Double Paddle Canoe is done and quite simply exceeded my expectations. She is stable enough for my friend Annie to paddle with her 14 month old son Ben on board, fast, straight tracking and quite seaworthy in a modest swell. I am quite pleased!
Now it’s time to think about and prep for the coming winter. I’ve still got to get in 3 cords of firewood for next winter, line up my winter shop projects as well as house and shop improvement projects and sneak in a few more backcountry and paddling trips. All in all not really a lighter work load or slower pace, just a change in how I spend my days. That’s just fine with me. New work for a new season.
June 28, 2009
Packing For Chewonki
12:00. Can I fit all the parts for 8 Willow Sea Kayaks, the tools and clamps needed to build them, my paddling and camping gear into a midsized truck? 1:30. the answer is yes, but just. Wrapping the planks up to protect them from rain slowed up the process but the load is secure and now I’m off to build boats!
The Beginning Of Summer 2009
I’m just off a 3 day working vacation on
the Schooner Mary Day. The weather
was ideal with cool evenings and brisk
days that offered fine sailing. Today the
weather was stormy and cool, almost
cold, so I built a fire in the shop stove
and settled in for a day of woodworking.
It was great fun! I have an old Inca 259
tablesaw, a very precise tool with a
mortising table that I use when doing
mortise and tenon joints. I used it to
make some bunk fronts for a boat interior I’ve been helping to build. I also fnished up the final construction details on a Fox Canoe. I’m trying to get the boat ready to take up to The WoodenBoat School next week. My teaching season has started. Between the 7 classes I’ll be teaching, the guide work that’s lined up and shop projects I’m not looking at much down time until October. It’s a good thing I love what I do.
March 6, 2009
A few weeks back Charlotte Rutz and her dad spent the day in the shop cutting out parts for a Willow Sea Kayak. Charlotte is building one for her school intersession project. It was great fun having them in the shop for the day. The photos I’ve gotten since they have gotten back to their shop show great progress on a well crafted boat.
I particularly like the “indoor”end pour.
I am loving winter and the 'off season pace' but working with Charlotte reminded me that summer and the teaching/guiding season is just around the corner.
February 5, 2009
Will epoxy cure at 8 degrees?
Yes and... well, no. It won’t cure but
if you use MAS’s fast hardiner and a small heater it’ll harden enough to move the boat back into the shop after an hour or so. I’m building one of my Fox designs and needed
to get the stern end pour done today if I hope
to have the deck on by Friday. At 14’ 7”
the boat is too long to stand on end inside
my shop, thus the cold weather maneuvers.
Lots going on here, several new designs
are moving from the drawing board to the
shop this winter and I’m already prepping
for a busy summer of teaching and kayak guiding. Two weeks ago I took a Wilderness Advanced First Aid class. It’s the next step towards getting my Wilderness First Responder Certification, a goal I’ve had for
a number of years. The class was held at Chewonki and was quite an extraordinary experience. And yes, it’s very cold here this
October 28, 2008
A New Design
Summer’s slipped away and fall is winding down. I have just about wrapped up my classes for this year and I’m working on pulling together my winter projects. At the top of the list are the last details on the new design Fox, a decked double paddle canoe.
I have been working on and paddling the boat for the past few months dialing in the design and construction details and enjoying time on the water using the boat. The prototype has exceeded my quite lofty expectations. I’ll have the final version done in November and kits and plans will be available soon after that. Look on the Designs page of this site for more information. I have 3 other designs on the board right now and hope to have the next project finished and out in the world by late spring.
July 24, 2008
Boats And People
You’d think the summer would be about boats, and it is, but it’s even more about the people I get to meet and work with. The kids at Chewonki where great, I had a blast getting to know them and I’m heading out early tomorrow to paddle with them for a few days. They have been out 2 weeks and still have a week to go. Then; it’s up to WoodenBoat for two more classes before a few weeks of down (non-teaching time) in August. I still have twenty one more boats to help build this summer. That’s a lot of new friends.
June 29, 2008
Nine Kayaks On One Truck!
I’m heading up to Camp Chewonki for another week of teaching. I’ll be working with a group of young men and women building eight Willow Sea Kayaks. It’s a five week program and we hope to have the boats finished and painted by the end of the second week. Then, they’re off for three weeks of paddling along the coast of Maine. I’m really excited about the program and a chance to work with the Chewonki Foundation.
My first class of the season was at The Woodenboat School, we built 7 boats with 12 students. I am blown away by the fascinating people who take these classes.
As one of the students said “interesting people take boatbuilding vacations”. I agree and I am always humbled by the lives and stories of my students.
June 14, 2008
The bath renovation is almost finished.The mirror is being
set it the frame this week, then
just a bit of paint and varnish punch
work and it’s done!
I am really pleased with the space
and the feel of the room. The richness
of the mahogany and the brightness of
the white paint really make the small
6’8” X 6’8” space comfortable. The
skylight also helps and gives me
standing headroom under the eves
of the roof. The space is really more akin to a boat head then to a house bathroom.
Next, off to Woodendboat School for a
week of teaching boatbuilding. It’ll be
great to see old friends and enjoy a few
evening paddles out on the Reach.
May 31, 2008
New Design For A High Volume Kayak
The custom kayak is out of the shop and
bound for a new home on the shores of
Lake Superior. I am very pleased with the
design but more importantly, the boat fits the new owner like the proverbial glove. It’s a big boat, just over 18’ long and 24 ½” wide. The designed displacement is 375 pounds so when I tested the boat I did not bring it down to its lines; still it moved
nicely in the water. This is a unique high volume kayak, nice lines and a good performer but it’s sized to fit the taller heaver paddler. I’ll be offering the design as a finished boat. Dave has promised to bring the boat back to Maine next summer so we can paddle together.
May 23, 2008
Lots Of Irons In The Fire
Several projects are wrapping up and
a few exciting ones are just getting started.
The custom kayak will be done and delivered
next week. I’ve finished what might be the
worlds first ‘stitch & glue' shower and the spring
customer boat repair projects are all done and
out the door. What’s next? A new boat design,
a bath vanity and an 9 class teaching season,
for starters. For now though we’re off for 4 days
of work/play aboard the Schooner Mary Day.
March 4, 2008
Late Winter Projects
I’m making progress on the custom kayak. It’s a big boat for a big paddler. He is one of my former Elements of Coastal Kayaking students. It’s a fun project and I am looking forward to paddling the boat once or twice myself this spring. We call that sort of thing “sea trials” to justify the time on the water. This week it feels like spring might be just around the corner. Last week? Lots of snow and a few sub 0 nights so who knows what is in store for March. Work on our new bath room is coming along slowly but I’m about to ramp up that project. Pretty excited about building a vanity with a radiuses corner to match the round sink. All the cabinet work, the shower and the trim will be mahogany. I’m using stock I’ve been hording for years. Stay tuned for more details. Also check out the Cabinets and Furniture page here on the site for a few new furniture shots.
It has been a fine winter so far. We have had snow on the ground since early December and the temperature has, for the most part, remained pretty cold. We’ve had our share of crisp blue-sky days as well. Perfect conditions for nordic skiing and snowshoeing.
In the shop, the woodstove has been chortling away and I have had some fun out there these past few weeks. Just before Christmas I did a small run of shaker boxes. This month I am working on a couple of nice paint grade cabinet jobs. In February I ’ll start work on a custom kayak and, at long last, start on our upstairs bath. Oh and I'll go skiing.
October 23, 2007
It's fall here and the trees with their brilliant colors make it seem like we are well into autumn but the weather is very warm. Almost 70 today! I am behind on my winter preparations so I guess a reprieve from the coming cold and snow is a good thing; still… I spent today getting Willow kits out the door and scarfing a few extra panels for the next orders and or my December
building class. With such glorious days it's
hard to spend too much time in the shop.
Thank goodness for the above mentioned
winter preparations which is all good fun
October 5, 2007
Summer is winding down.
In mid September I taught a Willow class at the WoodenBoat School. It was a great week and the class turned out 6 masterfully crafted kayaks! Last Saturday, the 29th, I paddled in the Gerrish Island race. It was a beautiful day, warm, sunny and we had a stiff 20 knot wind out of the NW. I’m guessing there where more then 50 kayaks and another 20 plus pulling boats and canoes that showed up for the event. The wooden kayak in the top photo is a Willow built with hatches incorporated into the bulkheads. A nice job all around. The race finished up on a small island near the entrance of Portsmouth harbor where we enjoyed good food and great conversation.
September 5, 2007
The last week of August I taught an
IntroductionTo Boatbuilding class at the
Woodenboat School. This was my 6 time
teaching at the school this summer.
What a treat. Working with 11 students
we built a Karl Stambaugh designed
Bay Skiff 15. Two of the students, a father
and son from here in Maine will take the
boat home and finish her up over the winter.
August 7, 2007
Summers in Maine are about playing; because a big part of my work centers around
helping folks play I’m full on right now. In the past 5 weeks I’ve taught a canoe building class, an on-water kayaking class, worked as a deckhand on the Schooner Mary Day
during a WoodenBoat School class and built 5 Willow
kayaks with students at Squam Lake New Hampshire.
Next up is the Maine Boats, Home and Harbors Show in Rockland August 10-13. Then it’s back to WoodenBoat for an Elements of Coastal kayaking class. It's all great work and great fun!
March 5, 2007
I have always wanted to build a ‘skin on frame kayak’. This is as far as I have gotten, it's a
great little boat, sweet lines, but only 20 inches
long. Maybe someday I’ll build a bigger version.
The mahogany saw horses where made by
Tyler Sauter the Woodenboat School shop
intern for the past couple of summers.
February 4, 2007
Real winter weather now. Sunday I drove up to Camden Maine to pick up some boat parts. While I was in the area I scooted up into the Camden Hills for the afternoon. The hiking and views where spectacular! I love borders, the places where elements come together. Where a meadow meets the forest or a rocky coastline meets saltwater there is always some magic at work. On Sunday, at sunset, snow and gray rock and spruce combined to create what felt like the border between earth and sky.
It’s finally cold with a bit of snow on the ground. I built these Redwood benches for a client’s steam shower. Sounds like a nice treat at the end of a cold day.
December 24, 2006
There are some nice hills on the east coast as well. I spent Christmas Eve day wondering around the Flume and Mt. Lafayette, in the Whites. Not much snow yet unless you get up high. Sometimes a good sunset is about being in the right place at the right time.
October 14, 2006
One of the things I love about kayaking
is the wildlife you get to see from your
boat. While paddling with Brian Neeley
we stumbled onto this polar bear. I am
not going to say where; I don’t want to
give all the good spots away.
October 4, 2006
Life has taken me to the west coast for a few days. The peak is the North Sister one of my favorite mountains in the Cascades. Oregon is a spectacular state with an incredible diversity of landscapes.
September 11, 2006
I just finished teaching a one week Elements of Coastal Kayaking class at the Woodenboat School. We enjoyed beautiful weather, a typical Maine mix of sun and fog and even a bit of rain. The group was quite adventurous so we covered a lot of ground. On Friday, the day this photo was taken we paddled from Brooklin to the Benjamin River and back. Not a bad way to end a work week.