One Project, Many Skills

By Shane Hall

Typically, groups of 8-10 students come in to the Compass Project boat shop and each one builds a small boat from start to finish. This year high school students from South Portland and Gorham are working in conjunction on a boat that is anything but small. The Crestwood Gig, 34-feet overall, was designed by the late Joseph Dobler, Naval Architect. His intention with this boat design was to make the process of building a substantial pulling boat accessible to amateur builders.

Each group of students comes into the boat shop for one to two hours once a week as part of their school day. We began in late September with introductory activities to provide the context, skills and confidence to embark on the yearlong project of building this giant boat. Frame building and scarphing have been two of the major ongoing projects this fall.


The process of building frames offers opportunities for learning many skills: how to layout shapes from the table of offsets; gain familiarity with the plans; measure and mark; cut to the line and block plane to the line; drill and drive screws; gluing, plugging the screws and sanding the parts clean. The skills and techniques that are introduced and practiced through building the frames will be repeated again and again on the various parts of the boat.

Anytime that we build a plywood hulled boat that is longer than eight feet it becomes necessary to scarph together the planking stock. A scarph joint is a way of joining two pieces of wood, to make them longer. Once you have the stock ready, measure the thickness of the wood to figure out the steepness of the bevel. Usually we use an 8:1 ratio for joints that will be glued with epoxy. So the length of the scarf is eight times the thickness of the material being joined together. Cutting scarph joints entails computing ratios, marking a parallel line, planing a bevel, paying attention to detail, learning about grain orientation, and using epoxy and clamps.

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