Boatbuilder’s Shop | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the October / November 2009 issue of American Woodworker

The impetus to build my shop was to satisfy a passion my brother Glen and I had for building boats. After taking over his garage and my sister’s warehouse, we knew we needed a dedicated shop.

The building, which overlooks the St. John River Valley in St. David, Maine, is a 24 ‘x 34’ post and beam salt pan designed by my partner Darlene’s brother, Dave Coltart. In the jargon of the boat builder, his designs are huge. The main beams and the beams are 8×10 and the uprights are 8 × 8 in spruce. The purlins, joists, stringers and roof risers are 4×6 and 4×8. Two 12 ‘fully insulated double doors open for access, light and ventilation.

The timbers were cut from our property and sent to a local sawmill, who cut them while Dave scored the mortises and tenons. We formed and laid a foundation resting on a solid ledge, then built the bridge and started lifting the frame. Unfortunately, Dave was diagnosed with cancer during construction, so I had to finish the job myself, learning this talented artist’s version of post-and-beam woodwork on the fly.

My main work table is a small workbench, a simple mortise and tenon work made with yellow birch that was collected along with the beams. Toolboxes loaded on the lower stretcher add some weight and stability. The space under the stairwell works well for my large homemade layout table. The output tables for the band saw and table saw also serve as additional work benches. All my tools can be moved when space is needed. Half of the first floor is currently occupied by a mold for a Haven 12-1 / 2 sailboat that is a few years and many thousands of dollars from completion. Upstairs, a 16-foot table with spruce planks fills most of the east wall, and in the northeast corner is Darlene’s cargo table. She is a civil war re-enactor with Company B, 20this Maine, and he loads the cartridges for his musket on it.

Around the shop you’ll see a messy assortment of boat building, logging, and blacksmith tools. Some of them are useful and some will be donated to a lumber museum once I write grant applications to build one (I earn most of my maintenance by consulting and writing grants for local communities). It’s an understatement to say I prefer older tools, but one big exception is my Laguna HD16 band saw. While its novelty seems out of place, I haven’t felt a second of buyer’s remorse since it arrived.

As with any store, some things still need improvement. There are only three junction boxes, dust collection is minimal, and lighting is close at hand: portable halogens, teardrop lights, and morning sunlight. The heat comes from a small Vermont Castings wood stove that keeps the store at a comfortable Yankee working temperature in the 50-60 F range. We keep the stove powered by harvesting the more than 50 acres of Acadian forest in the back yard. -David Wylie


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