Griff Fenton drills holes in stone to fasten a boat together. PHOTO COURTESY OF GRIFF FENTON

Rock-solid family trade 



ISLANDER PHOTO BY NINAH GILE

BAR HARBOR  Scraps of high-quality stone left over from the projects of MDI-based Mount Desert Granite and Brick have now been given a second life as unique replicas of the many boats that sail area waters.  

 Life-long sailor and retired high school teacher Griff Fenton of Marlboro Beach has combined his artistic endeavors to build stone model sailboats. Having recently completed canvas oil paintings and bird carvings at the Wendell Gilley Museum, Fenton found a way to continue his artistic aspirations by using stone pieces from his stepson Tim Lewis’ shop, Mount Desert Granite and Brick. Lewis, a professional mason who has worked with stone for decades, said he was happy to provide Fenton with leftover scraps from company jobs.  

From Italy to Brazil, Lewis insists on using only high-quality imported stone from all over the world. Fenton knew model boats made of stone would be able to withstand Maine’s harsh environment. Since the granite has a full range of finishes and natural colors, Fenton figured there was potential to make figurine models of many local boats.  

“I have sailed in many local classes of boats in the Mount Desert Island area … I decided that I would make representations of these boats,” he said. To see if his notion was viable, he first built a prototype to see how the pieces would fit together.  

A matrix bridge saw used to cut through stone.
ISLANDER PHOTO BY NINAH GILE

Within Lewis’ warehouse located on Route 102 of the Bar Harbor Road is an industrialsized Matrix bridge saw weighing well over 1,500 pounds. This $45,000 table saw, mostly used to cut large slabs for household kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities, was also used to shape intricate pieces for Fenton’s boats.  

Fenton’s first model boat prototype was an International One Design that races as part of the Northeast Harbor Fleet. “Tim cut out three pieces and I figured how to assemble them,” said Fenton. When he formed the correct pattern with the differently shaped stone pieces, Fenton uses a diamond bit drill to make holes in them. Though fastening the stone was a step that required much thought, he settled on a two-part epoxy and stainless steel pins that would be inserted into the sails and hull. To ensure the boat would stay upright, Fenton fastened an additional stone base to the boat with more steel pins. “I don’t want them to capsize,” he said. 

After Fenton found this prototype a success, he moved forward with his next boat model. For an accurate depiction, he created a template with realistic measurements that were proportional to the pictures of the boats he selected. This method made it easier for him to make a stone Luders 16, a sailboat model that he raced with his family years ago at the Bar Harbor Yacht Club.  

“The Internationals and Luders have been sailing around here for about 80 years,” said Fenton. Many people still race these in the Great Harbor Fleet from Northeast Harbor, the MDI Community Sailing Center in Southwest Harbor and the Seal Harbor Yacht Club. The stone Luder model has rounded edges that were smoothed with diamond grinding disk from Lewis’ shop. These diamond grinding disks are attached to a machine that moves rapidly to typically varnish the stone corners of Lewis’ custom-made cutting boards, household interior and more. 

Fenton’s latest piece is a boat called the Winter Harbor Knockabout. “These beauties are over 100year old boats and race on Frenchman Bay out of the Winter Harbor Yacht Club,” he said. The Winter Harbor Knockabout will be an indoor piece as it will be fitted with a mast, boom and gaffe. 

So far, Fenton has gifted these boats to family members. In order to stay busy for the remainder of the winter, Fenton hopes to make a few more of these boats and has also mentioned selling them to would-be buyers in the future. “This ensures that during the snowstorms I will be thinking of better summer days to come,” he said.  

Ninah Gile

Ninah Gile

Reporter at MDIslander
Ninah Gile, an MDI native, covers the town of Bar Harbor. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.

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