Shipyard Memories #1: The Smaug Blog: Wood Boatbuilding 101, A Trip to the Sawmill

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 11-12-2010 08:56 AM 8440 reads 8 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shipyard Memories series Part 2: The Smaug Blog: Wood Boatbuilding 101, Backbone and Framing »

To those of you who have requested more photos and explanations of my boatbuilding days, thank you for sending me into my stacks of old photos and allowing me the enjoyment of remembering a youth spent doing what I loved and creating just really cool stuff. My days building wooden boats, from age 22 to 55, are all magical memories to me from the aromatic smell of yellow cedar coming out of the planer to the amazing geometrical shapes of bent frames to the sheer mass of some of the timbers we shaped with chainsaws, adzes, planes and chisels. (I may enjoy this reminiscence more than you, the reader.)

To start the show I will go through some of the photos of “Smaug” the 34’ Pinky Ketch I built in 1978 in my shop in Coal Harbour B.C.. I say 1978 because she was laid out and the hull built that year. She was completed on the owners’ timetable over the next couple of years.

The first requirement is of course to gather together the required materials. This required a trip to the sawmill in Telegraph Cove. The mill is no longer there but in 1978 it was in full operation and was located a very short distance from a dry sorting yard where I was able to pick out a couple of good looking yellow cedar logs and have them floated over to the mill. Then one fine sunny morning I went to the mill and stood beside the sawyer and watched as each slab was taken off. Depending on the quality, I would choose the size for the next cut and the sawyer would run the piece. If the log was clear where we were cutting, I would ask for 1 3/4” for planking and beam stock. If it had a few knots we would cut thicker stock for timbers and so on. This place smelled like heaven but was noisy as hell. Here are the earliest photos of what would become “Smaug”

One log section is in the headrig as another awaits it’s turn.

This piece would have been clear enough to render planking.

This is about 1/2 of what I got from two logs. The larger timbers were for a troller that a local fisherman wanted me to build. He backed out and I still have one of the 10×10s.

I’ll try to get back to this tomorrow and go through the backbone timbers and framing.

Feedback is encouraged. Criticism is always welcome also, I’m new to blogging.

Can anyone suggest what tags to put on this?... Thanks.

‘Till next time


-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

15 comments so far

View tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3121 days

#1 posted 11-12-2010 10:50 AM

I envy you Paul as an ex seaman I’ve always had a love of boats & I’ve owned many & I’ve even renovated but I’ve never built one. I really admire your skills I’d love to do it one day but at 58 I suppose it will always remain just a dream for me, but thanks so much for sharing your memories

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2907 days

#2 posted 11-12-2010 11:41 AM

Wonderful that you have kept a record.
It is great to see what can be done pre H&S days.
I’ve a plan sitting that I doubt that I will ever build, but it is still in the dream that lets me let my mind wander while sanding some repetitive production item.

for Sharing

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Schwieb's profile


1858 posts in 3512 days

#3 posted 11-12-2010 02:11 PM

Navigating through manipulating the images to get them into this format is a real chore for me as an over 60 guy. I had to have my young son help me do it and I took notes. It is as much interesting to me, your descriptions of the sensory aspects of the real hard work I know goes into building something on that scale and I love the tone of joy that it brings to you to recall it. Working with the sawyer to cut the material to your specifications is such a pleasant experience. I’ve been able to do that several times with special logs, to take advantage of every part of the tree. I love the smell of cedar in the morning…..... Looking forward to seeing more.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2827 days

#4 posted 11-12-2010 03:23 PM

Having spent many years on or near the water, you have done what I always wanted to do. I will be waiting to see the rest. Thank you


-- David in Damascus, MD

View sras's profile


4821 posts in 3180 days

#5 posted 11-12-2010 04:10 PM

I am really looking forward to this! Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View shipwright's profile


8002 posts in 2849 days

#6 posted 11-12-2010 06:56 PM

Thanks for the encouraging comments. The age thing does catch up to us all doesn’t it. I was 29 when these photos were taken and 56 when I built my last, Friendship. I sincerely hope you enjoy this process as much as I will.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2827 days

#7 posted 11-12-2010 09:44 PM

The alternative to the age catching up is really not good.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3412 days

#8 posted 11-13-2010 12:23 AM

Hey Paul,
Bring it on Sir.

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4128 days

#9 posted 11-13-2010 03:46 AM

Well..I turned 40…had never gone sailing…and decided to build my first—-mid-life crisis??? I dont know…

Since I started I have completed a sailing course and began cutting wood this past summer, but as a teacher have slown down with the coming of school…as a beginner I am trying to soak it all up…just finished a book called: “In the year of the boat” about a writer who builds a little boat using glue and stitch method…

In the mean time I am going to enjoy every blog…it sounds like you will enjoy going down memory lane too!!! Blogging will come naturally…

Tags…really help!!! When I started here I used to really encorage everyone to use them so that when someone is researching ideas all the projects would pop up…

Tags: sailing; sail boat; sailboat; boat; boat building

I will think of some more…

THANKS FOR DOING THIS…will drool over each one…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View shipwright's profile


8002 posts in 2849 days

#10 posted 11-13-2010 03:53 AM

Thanks Napaman I’ve done A LOT of stitch and glue. I might make that the next in the series if I don’t bore everyone to sleep with this one. ...and I will add those tags thanks

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2827 days

#11 posted 11-15-2010 03:29 PM

shipwright —I really don’t think you are boring anyone. As for me, I am fascinated. I am eagerly waiting for the next in the series.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3342 days

#12 posted 11-18-2010 11:29 PM

I just started looking at this, even though episode 7 is already up. Should be interesting, and I’m doing the Ralph Cramden “hummana hummana hummana” over those enormous timbers. I’m a high-altitude desert rat, so this is completely foreign to me (my brother still teases me about the seasickness incident from our trip to Corpus Christi in 2004).

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View MikeMc's profile


14 posts in 2726 days

#13 posted 02-17-2011 05:10 PM

Great to see someone sharing what we all hope isn’t a lost art. I am a former Bangor, WA submariner who likely saw some of your work sailing through the Straights of Juan de Fuca, and I always enjoyed watching the classic wooden boats as we transited the lanes on our way out to see, or better yet, back to port.

Thanks for putting the time and care into this series – great stuff!

-- -I'm new here, but feel just as capable of making firewood as the next guy.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3385 days

#14 posted 11-02-2013 08:52 AM

Hi Paul. I guess you posted this series while I was away from LJ for awhile and I missed it then. Very glad that I found it via a link from your comments to a current boat building blog. I buy Wooden Boat every month just to enjoy the build, sailing stories, history and culture of wooden vessels.

I will be reading through this blog series a little each day just to stretch out the enjoyment factor. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post all of this. It is always very interesting to see true craftsmen go about their business creating beautiful things, including wooden boats.

I found the submariner’s comment above about the Juan de Fuca Straights amusing. I was at the helm of our Navy freighter through there once on our way to Seattle. we had to use right standard rudder just to keep the ship on a straight course!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View shipwright's profile


8002 posts in 2849 days

#15 posted 11-02-2013 03:31 PM

Glad you found them Mike.
I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

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