Monday, January 20, 2014

Lofting Workshop

The second week of January I spent at the Carpenter's Boatshop in Bristol, Maine, teaching a lofting workshop to the ten apprentices there.  This is the second year I have conducted a lofting workshop for apprentices.  This year was a bit different because we were also going to take the lines (measure) a historic skiff from Orland, Maine the Boatshop has owned for many years.  Its a lovely skiff, admired by many, and the decision had been made to build a replica of it this Spring.  The project gave our lofting workshop special meaning, since apprentices will be following up our workshop by building moulds from their lofting, and then the boat.

First we lofted a very simple flatiron skiff just to introduce apprentices to the concepts of fairing lines in three views: profile, plan, and sections.  Lofting is an essential first step in boatbuilding, a process formerly done by carving half models.  It is now threatened by computer-designed boats where lines are drawn full-size by a plotter.

I believe that learning lofting is still a skill worth having.  So many boat designs are available from books and museums and anyone who can loft a boat has access to an enormous range of designs.

We had to piece the bow of the skiff back together, but luckily we had all the pieces.  The hull had to be squeezed back tight to the keel.  It was important that we get the boat as close to original shape as possible.

The boat was put up on one edge or our lofting table.  I like to loft on a temporary table, rather than on the floor.

We set rough-cut plywood forms covered with paper at our stations.  We clamped them to the table so they were at right angles to the keel centerline.

Using tick sticks, apprentices scribed measurements at each station.  The paper templates were then laid on the lofting and the shape of each station was transferred to the lofting.  From this the apprentices were able to develop a table of offsets (dimensions) which was our starting point to loft the lines.

Boatshop instructor Sarah Highland (center) working with apprentices on the lofting.  I loft boats on rolls of high quality paper.  This way the lofting of all my boats can be easily stored.

Some students decided to make half models, an exercise I encourage because it gives students a sense of how fairing lines and reconciling three views of the hull work.  In this case the model is the Boatshop's own sloop.


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