Budding builders learn the craft

TREMONT— School is over for the day, yet on this particular Thursday, a few students remain, not for sports practice, but to learn basic boatbuilding skills from a local wooden boat craftsman.

Richard Stanley of Richard Stanley Custom Boats has volunteered to share his knowledge of boats and woodworking with four students participating in the Tremont Consolidated School’s Options Program.

The Options Program at the school began five years ago. Designed to give alternatives to students who might not fit easily into the conventional curriculum, past programs have included classes on small-engine repair, cooking, bicycle repair and navigation.

The four students – eighth-grader Jason Bulger and sixth-graders Jake Mitchell, Wyatt Lawson and Austin Wedge – are working on half models of a 34-foot lobster boat.

Half models are scaled-down three-dimensional replicas of a boat hull sliced lengthwise from stem to stern. Half models were, and in some cases still are, used to design boats. After shaping the hull to his or her satisfaction, the designer takes the “lines” off the model and uses those measurements to construct the actual boat. Because boat hulls are symmetrical, only half of the hull is needed for this process.

Tremont teacher Geoff Wood is in charge of the Options Program. He said he approached Stanley last year about teaching the class. Stanley, who already had worked with a Pemetic Elementary School student to build a 19-foot sailboat, was eager to take on the challenge.

“It’s good to be able to teach these young fellows about working with their hands and being creative,” Stanley said.

Although each student is working on the same size and type of boat, Stanley has encouraged them to be creative and add their own personal touches to the basic design. This came more easily than one would think, Wood said.

“A lot of these kids have experience on different types of boats,” Wood said. Several are sons of fishermen and two students even have boats of their own, he added.

This is the fourth meeting of the class. During the first week, they cut the white pine stock, gluing and clamping the pieces to make laminated blocks. The second week, the blocks were squared and students used limber wooden battens to determine the sheer line of their boat. In the third week, Wood said, “they went to town with planes and chisels,” roughing out the basic shapes of the hulls. Along the way, they learned the proper methods of sharpening and handling the tools.

On this Thursday, the students are using wood rasps, chisels and various types of planes to fine-tune the contours of their half models. As they work, Stanley offers suggestions, and when warranted, picks up a tool to speed the process along. When he does, he always asks what the student is trying to achieve, keeping true to their vision of the hull, not his. It’s a teaching style the budding boatbuilders obviously appreciate, and they respond enthusiastically.

During the next few Thursdays, the students will be finishing the half models, which then are destined to be displayed on the walls at their homes.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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