Building a Wooden Boat With a Young Student – Part 1 - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Building a Wooden Boat With a Young Student – Part 1

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

When my fourth grade students finish their first mandatory projects (making a mallet or a walking staff) I invite them to choose their next project by themselves. Obviously I help them navigate through the many ideas that come to their young, yet creative minds, and I help them steer their commendable motivation towards a safe harbor. You see, I really don’t want a project to be racked on the harsh rocks of reality for the lack of skills (albeit temporarily, as this is the first year they study woodworking) or insufficient time for completing it. One such project that I supported last term was brought up by Thano, who wanted to build a boat.

Shaping the hull contour

We began with shaping the hull from a scrap of 4×4 Douglas fir, about 12” long. First, he drew a template that matched the boats sheer line (or the boat’s plan view). Then he drew the design on the blank.

Following this, he held the workpiece in our bench vise and started to chisel downhill to shape the bow and then the stern. At times he used the chisel – bevel down, and in other occasions, he switched to a gouge. Once the hull’s contour was ready he drew the keel line (the plan view of the hull, from below) on the underside of the blank.

Shaping the hull’s slopes

There are two effective and efficient ways to hold the blank when shaping the slopes from the sheer line to the keel. One calls for holding the blank between the flat deck and the flat keel surface, practically the same way as we held it to shape the contour.

The other way is to embrace the boat, deck facing down, between the two soft jaws’ liners to “hug” the hull’s curvatures. By the way, our liners are made from an inexpensive sheet good material called Homasote. (see illustrations, and a separate blog entry on making jaws from Homasote).

After the hull is roughly shaped with chisels and gouges Thano held it in the vise and refined the shape using a rasp and a file.

Another way to hold the blank for chiseling and gouging is to temporarily connect to it via a screw or even glue to a rectangular block of wood. The block is then clamped in between the jaws of the vise, which allow the entire boat workpiece to rise above the surface of the bench. This method makes it easier to carve the blank and prevent the object from tipping or “Diving” into the vise.

Next time I will show how we continued the work on the deck.

– Yoav Liberman

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Showing 4 comments
  • Mostly Square

    I’m in my 60’s, but judging by the look on Thano’s face, and that very cool boat (nice rigging as well), I guarantee that if I had that experience at that age that boat would be on my fireplace mantel today. No question.

    I made a lot of stuff as a kid but never really had a mentor. Good for you.

    Nice article, and I will be looking for Homasote as well.

    • Yoav Liberman
      Yoav Liberman

      Thanks so much for your kind and supportive words. I hope to publish the next chapter of the boat story in a day or two.

  • john2t

    Super drawings. I wish all schools had this kind of class available to all the students. Getting away from the power tools is a great idea.

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