Friday, October 28, 2016

Midd Start - Philanthropy and Local Research

Vankina Prasanna, a Middlebury College history major, is raising funds to work with me and the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History on a unique research project exploring the life and times of a local trapper, hunter and fisherman. Among other things her goal is to work with me building a replica of one of his trapping boats. She is raising funds and support from a variety of sources, and we hope to create a project that will allow the public to participate as observers and learn more about local boat types.

I previously taught Vankina in my 2015 J-term Building the Japanese Boat and I look forward to working with her again. Please take a look at her proposal at the Midd Start website and consider donating!

Harold McDurfee was a member of a well-known family of outdoorsmen to live and work in this region. The McDurfees were legendary watermen, trappers, and hunters and like many rural Vermonters they built their own boats. In fact the boat in the background of this historic photo of Harold may be the same boat in the photo below.

The current owner of the property where Mcdurfee lived gave me this boat several years ago. At the time I was starting a project with local high schoolers researching traditional boat designs, and I brought this boat among others into the classroom.

Students stabilized the boat and measured it carefully.

The result was a detailed, CAD drawing. When Prasanna approached me with her research idea I thought it was the logical next step to this topic: thoroughly research the McDurfee Family and replicate one of the most important artifacts of their lives. The McDurfee trapping boat is the most finely-built example of this type, and it would be extraordinary to see one built, as well as uncover a fuller picture of its builder and owner. Please consider a donation to Prasanna's Midd Start application.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Agano River Boat

From now until November 6th the boat students built in my 2016 Middlebury College Winter Term course Building the Japanese Boat will be on display in the main library of the College. I spoke to a class yesterday and we began my presentation at the boat. For more about its history and construction, see this blog post. For more history and background of this type, see this blog post. Looking ahead, I am planning to apply next year for an arts grant in Japan to work with probably the last surviving builder of these boats living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. He is in his mid-70s now and built this type of boat professionally until about twenty years ago. He was the builder of the boat referenced in the second blog link, above.

These boats were built in Japan up to 35-feet long. I realized our classroom space wasn't big enough and luckily I had plans for a 27-foot version. Plenty big enough!

Professor Linda White's class on Globalization and Japan gathers around the boat.

Our launch last February in the College's pool, photograph by Trent Campbell of the Addison Independent newspaper.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Another Boat Launch

A week ago my students at the University of Vermont's Green House dormitory presented the boat they built last fall to Charlie Auer of the Auer Family Boathouse in Burlington. The boat is a replica of one of the businesses original livery boats, built by Charlie's mother over eighty years ago. This family business, which turns ninety next year, is a real treasure of Burlington's waterfront history.

I wrote earlier about this project here and here. All photos in this post were taken by Sean Beckett.

UVM's Rubinstein School just published an article about the project here.

One very important result of this project was a set of CAD drawings of the livery boat, prepared by my students from their measurements. Final layout courtesy of Jake Burnham.

Charlie Auer graciously accepts the return of his family's boat (foreground) and the student-built replica. Charlie's sister Christine, now 89, told us her mother built the boat for her when she was six years old.

Students rowing their creation after launch.

The Auer Family Boathouse is located right below the pedestrian bridge at the mouth of the Winooski River in Burlington, Vermont. 

Charlie took a turn at the oars. We will continue to do more of this work on traditional Lake Champlain boats as part of my research initiative with the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, called In Champlain's Wake; The Small Boat Traditions of Lake Champlain.

Friday, October 7, 2016

High School Boatbuilding

This was the third year of my partnership with the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History and the Hannaford Career Center, Addison County's vocational/technical high school.  We bring local historic boats in the Advanced Engineering class and students measure and draw the boats (lines-taking and lofting), then we build replicas. Later the students create detailed drawings of the boats using CAD. This is part of an ongoing project of mine documenting the historic small boat traditions of the Lake Champlain region.

 One of our historic boats was an odd duck. Note the raised oarlocks on posts and the thwarts are mounted at the gunwale. I borrowed this boat from the Intervale, a Burlington, Vermont non-profit. They are housed in the former Calkins Farm on the banks of the Winooski River and this boat was found in the farm barn. No doubt farmer-built for fishing in the river.

 This trapping boat was built by Panton dairy farmer Gerald Hatch in the 1950s or 60s. Hatch and his sons trapped muskrats seasonally on Dead Creek, which ran behind their farm. Hatch built half-a-dozen trapping boats in his life, all of which still survive.

 Laying down the lines full-size of the double-ended trapping boat.

 Measuring the Calkins boat. I have the students record the dimensions right on the lofting.

From the lofting we derive the mold shapes we use to build the boats.

Cutting the stem rabbet on the table saw. We derived the stem shape from the lofting.

The Calkins boat planked up. Both boats are planked with a single wide pine plank on each side.

A view of the Calkins boat from the stern.

The fit of the Hatch trapping boat at the stem. Note the plank ends lie on the same line. Typically the plank edges would be at right angles to the face. I believe Hatch pulled his planking together and then planed the two plank edges together to even them up. I can't think of any other reason for this otherwise unconventional detail.

The planking of the Calkins boat pulled together and carefully clamped, waiting to slip the stem in.

Bending the trapping boat planks using hot water. We draped towels on the planking to help hold the heat. Hatch built his boats using just a single center mold. The student at left is planing the edges of the planks to even them up.

Planking the bottom of the trapping boat. Both boats were cross-planked, which lets the builder get away from finding long lengths of high quality lumber. 

We used the jointer to put on a caulking bevel of 7.5 degrees.

Planking the Calkins boat.

The Calkins boat had no chine log, so the nails had to hit the 3/4" side planking. I had the students carefully drill a pilot hole using a gauge so the angles were consistent with the side planks.

The Calkins boat planked up.

The oddest feature of the Calkins boat was the side planking extended 1/2" past the sides. My guess is the builder was afraid of the nails near the edge splitting the bottom planks, so a little extra material would lend some added strength. We used this gauge after the boat was planked up to mark a line for us to cut this edge.

The Calkins boat bottom finished.

The trapping boat comes off its one mold... does the Calkins boat.

Old and new, side by side.

Students, original boats and the replicas.

The trapping boat upon launch.

The Calkins boat.

We were joined by a trapping boat built by last year's class.

And cool photography from the class' drone.

To see similar working I have done, go to these older posts: