Sunday, July 13, 2008

A master of his craft.

The Master Holding Court (In Suspenders!)

One of the people that I met during my first week at the WoodenBoat School was the instructor who was teaching in the East Bay. This was a gentleman by the name of Bill Shamel. Originally from Texas, Bill had been in the Coast Guard and married the daughter of one of the 'deans" of Grand Laker canoe building, Lawrence "Pop" Moore. Under the instruction of "Pop" Moore, Bill learned the art of building Grand Laker Canoes. It was a labor of love - Bill spent over 25 years learning his craft.

I found Bill to be a kind, gregarious and generous man who was very happy to share what he knew. I have to say that this was a hallmark of most of the people who I met at the school - both instructors and students.

Bill and his students were building a Rangely Lake Boat. This craft is a double-ended rowing craft that is constructed very much in the way the Grand Laker canoes are built with steam bent ribs and thin planking covered with canvas. What I found to be particularly interesting was the fact that this new boat was not being made on a mold with steel strips to clench the tacks as a canoe might. This boat was made over the hull of an existing boat. The tacks were not clenched until after the new hull was removed. It was really an impressive piece of work. It took the class almost the full week to build up the hull.

The Original Hull - Used as a Form

I've done some repair on wood-and-canvas canoes including the replacement of planks, ribs, canvas. However, when the class came to use the canvas-stretching station in the center bay where my class was taught, I paid rapt attention. It's amazing what tips and tricks you can pick up by watching a master do his work. In particular, his choice of canvas stretching pliers and the use of a strip of canvas at the stems to keep the canvas at the stems in place under tension when finishing the stems was really fantastic.

Stretching Canvas

"Is that a wrinkle?"

The Devil is in the Details

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