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Great Lakes Boat Building School Whaleboat Project

At the Great Lakes Boat Building School (GLBBS), students will learn team work while building the whaleboat. It has been said,“To work with someone is to know him; to build a boat with him is to know him well.“ And so it goes at GLBBS.

The process begins with the preliminary work being done by second-year students, while the first-year students are being introduced to classic woodworking skills, which involves building their toolboxes and being introduced to the fundamentals of lofting. Second-year students, having learned the required lofting skills in their first year, will loft the whaleboat to establish its full-size lines, which then will be used to form the necessary references and patterns required for accurately building this boat to the Beetle design.

Second-year students will continue on with the next step, which is using the lofting lines to make the molds representing the hull shape, then setting the molds up in a building jig. The building jig is designed for building the whaleboat right-side up, and also to allow plenty of height underneath for working on the bottom of the whaleboat.

Once the second-year students have completed the building jig, the actual boat construction begins with the building of the backbone. They will build a keel, stem, and stern post. In this process, they will gain more experience in constructing a bending jig, as well as the steam bending process involved in bending the stem and sternpost. When the stem and stern post have been bent to shape, students will learn how to layout and carve the rabbet into the stem and sternpost and assemble them together on the building jig to form the backbone of the whaleboat.

Next comes planking. Students will apply the planking skills they learned in the classroom, and line off the building jig, spile, shape, and “hang” the planks...and enjoy the satisfaction of installing the final plank, known as the “shutter plank.” Framing follows. Students will learn more about choosing the correct woods and grain patterns for steam bending frames. In going through the process of steam bending, in this case the frames are pre-bent on a mold, just as was done with the original whaleboats, followed by laying out, shaping and notching for the battens, and finally installing them.

Students will also learn how to choose the appropriate fasteners, and to properly install them in both the process of planking and framing.

Next is the installation of rails. Students will learn how the shape and install these critical parts, as well as shaping and installing the sculptured oak bow chocks that are unique to the whaleboat.

Interior work will include the laying out, shaping/construction, and installation of the sole, the centerboard trunk, the hinged tabernacle used to support the mast, the mast slide, the thwart seats, the logger head along with its lion’s tongue, the braces and cleats; all unique to the whaleboat.

Students will learn what it means to “fair” and smooth the exterior hull in preparation for finishing, and then how to choose an appropriate marine finish and apply it to the whaleboat.

See a slideshow of the progress.

About Great Lakes Boat Building School

The Great Lakes Boat Building School, located in the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands of the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, offers a highly rated educational program designed to teach quality wooden boat building skills and preserve craftsmanship. The only licensed proprietary school of its kind in the state, GLBBS is housed in a 12,000 square-foot facility, designed and built specifically for the teaching of woodworking, basic design, traditional and modern boat building, and yacht joinery. Combine this state-of-the-art facility with our seasoned instructors and professional curriculum, and you have the perfect place to learn the art and craft of boat building.