Monday, September 16, 2013

The Craftsmanship That Goes Into the Schooner, "The When and If"

When I first began photographing the restoration of "the When and If" last October, I had so many assumptions about what craftsmanship meant in terms of boat building. Nearly a year later, I am continually amazed by what it takes to restore a schooner of this caliber. When I was observing back in October of 2012, as they removed the plugs that covered the bronze screws that held the planking on, I assumed that an impact drive or cordless drill would be the preferred weapon of choice. As I came to understand the nature of restoration and also the issues surrounding boat building, I came to realize the value of hand tools and creative problem solving. 

I had no idea that a manganese bronze screw was so fragile that in most of these hardwoods, the head will just shear off if too much torque is applied. These woods are tough! Removing a screw that has lost its head is no small matter. Watching the gentlemen working on this boat using bit braces to drive these expensive screws is a lesson in patience. So many ways to mess up, and that is just driving a screw!

There are precious few straight lines on a boat. Out of the water, nothing is ever truly level. All of the compound curves, the math to make these angles and curves fit together... the sheer volume of wood that it takes to get one board to fit where the old one had rotted away... is mind boggling! 

On my last visit to Cayuga Wooden Boatworks in the town of Cayuga, I made an off-hand joke about how many stores had run out of clamps to sell since this project began. I kid you not, there are piles and piles of clamps of all sizes, shapes and styles. So many are in use at any given moment! Things are constantly being fitted, removed, more material planed away, then refitted, cleaned, glued, and finally screwed back into place.

If you note the blue painter's tape on the board above. It is there to make it easier to clean up the adhesive being used to join both boards. In most construction, that little squeeze out of glue is no big deal. On this schooner, it is critical that every little bit be impeccable. That glue line will be cleaned up, scraped down to bare wood, completely, before the next board is laid in place next to it. That is serious craftsmanship!

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