Ant Mace skin on frame boat building courses at the historic Underfall Yard, Bristol

Ant Mace has been in touch to talk about some skin-on-frame boatbuilding classes that he’s running this summer. Here’s what he has to say:

I started building skin-on-frame boats out of personal interest alongside my other restoration work. It’s now the majority of my work. Mainly sea kayaks, but also some canoes and a skin-on-frame version of an Adirondack guideboat, which is a joy to row!

I’m running three kayak-making classes this summer. These are happening in July, August and September in my new workshop at Underfall Yard in Bristol. Students can choose between a modern design or traditional West Greenland-style sea kayak. Full dates are here

I love the combination of the traditional wood frame and modern skin materials. We make the frames from Western Red Cedar or Spruce with steam bent oak ribs, always bending by eye without moulds.  Each frame is custom-fitted to it’s paddler, and lashed and pegged together in the traditional way – without any nails or glue. They’re skinned by sewing on a ballistic nylon, then coated with a 2-part urethane (specifically formulated for skin boats). 

The finished boats end up beautifully lightweight, durable and strong. The lashed frame allows them to flex slightly when taking impacts, rather than cracking as a more brittle material would . I have a sample of skin that I use as demonstration piece when we have open workshops. Over the last 2 years it’s been abused by hundreds of visitors, with claw-hammers, chisels and rocks and is still going strong!

My new workshop is at the top of the historic slipway in Underfall Yard, and a stone’s throw from the lovely Pickle cafe. It’s a fantastic space to run the classes from – it’s much bigger and lighter than the old workshop. Best of all, students will be launching their finished boats from the same spot that iconic ships such as the Matthew were launched from!   

No experience is required to join a class. Last year I had students aged from 16-65 building kayaks.

To see find out more about the courses, see my website (www.shipshape.works) or drop me an email (hello-at-shipshape.works).

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Building a new traditional fishing boat for Dungeness

This is something amazing. Somewhere in Kent, retired shipwright Eric Paine and his friend Len are building a traditional South Coast fishing vessel. When they launch it off Dungeness, Eric believes it will be the first new boat of its type to sail off that beach in 45 years.

There’s a mass of details in these photos, and there is a huge sense of history attached to so many of them – quite a few would have been recognisable to Viking boatbuilders of long ago.

The whole thing is being done by eye and three moulds.

Notice the photo of the boat they’re working from – one key difference between it and the new boat is that the new one will have wheel steering rather than a tiller; otherwise they will be very close.

Notice also the long lath above the boat showing where the sheerline is to be, and the bilge pump, which I gather was something apprentices made many years ago.

I’m sure you’ll all joing with me in wishing great good luck to this fabulous project and a long life for the new boat!

Faversham Boatcamp leader Alan Thorne available for talks

Our friend Faversham boat builder Alan Thorne is available to give talks to clubs and campaign groups about the boatbuilding aspect of the Faversham Creek Trust’s annual Boatcamp programme, in which local school children experience building boats and sailing, and spend time rowing on the Creek.

The Boatcamp programme includes building small plywood boats, which is the part of the programme Alan is most involved in. He has already given several talks, which have included the long version of Richard Fleury’s excellent film about the Boatcamp project (a short version is linked below).

The film clearly shows how much the children enjoy and learn from this smashing initiative.

We saw Alan give a talk to the Hollowshore Cruising Club, and it’s fair to say a good crowd turned up and were fascinated by what he had to say.

Alan says he’s happy to travel throughout London and the South East, and area that will include a lot of sailing and rowing clubs, and of course towns and villages where campaign groups may be looking for ways of encouraging the local community to engage with their own creeks and rivers.

Contact Alan by email at ajthorne3@hotmail.com or phone 07865 091155.