A large number of our members visited the Victorian Wooden Boat Centre in our February club night at Melbourne Docklands.  The Wooden Boat Centre has been in existence for many years and is currently run by Nick Atkins. The Wooden Boat Centre provides space for boat building or restoration projects while Nick can provide advice or assistance with projects.

The night began with our members inspecting the projects underway. These were varied between kayaks and canoes, rowboats, sailboats and a mini tugboat. There were many designs which included some of Nicks’ own designs.

The night started early enough for the members to share a BBQ. Many thanks to the committee for supplying food and special thanks to our chef Andrew Cohen.

Nick began his talk with a discussion about building boats from a younger person’s perspective. He talked about self-built boats being the last mode of expression left to choose your mode of transport and the modern way of having instant gratification from your work, developing skills which are long time coming and the problems of these which clash with building your own boats.

Nick's strategy is to take away some of the time-consuming jobs with the use of technology. He showed how he could generate an electronic drawing of a boat and convert this to tool paths in his CNC router.

For instance, in the case of a lapstrake boat no longer would you need to loft the building frame, making templates for each plank and cut out the plank manually. With the use of the CNC router the result is more quickly cut out and then assembled. This will enable “seeing” a completed boat coming together in the workshop and leaving the finishing and fit out to complete the project. Nick then demonstrated his CAD drawing of a random shape and showed how the drawing was post-processed to develop a tool path for the router. He then cut the shape out.

So, where does this all lead? Well, in this age of instant gratification, boat building, because of the amount of time involved to complete the varying processes, is likely to struggle in the future. Once we accept that “traditional” boat building can be replaced by modern materials and manufacturing methods, elements of building will be retained by a younger generation of boat builders and there will be a future for boat building.

Anyway, I think a good night was had by all, a look at boats, a feed and a discussion about boats, is there anything better?

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Thanks to Hanh Nguyen for the great photos!