Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition


Thinking Out Loud…with a Pencil in My Hand


Funny thing about becoming a woodworker…there is always more to do than time on your clock.  

One solution is to take the battery out of your shop clock. That worked until I landed up in trouble for failing to identify priorities.  Turns out dinner—particularly when prepared by a significant other—takes priority over creating sawdust.  As I was subtly reminded when the three circuit breakers servicing my shop were suddenly turned off.  (Who says I can’t take a hint?) 

Having managed to get my priorities back in order I, of course, went in search of things “needing” to be done and stumbled upon plans for the Baby Tender II—a lapstrake 46 inch long rowboat intended to serve as a cradle.  Originally designed in 1988, the plans have been buried beneath equipment manuals and “how-to” books for longer than I can remember. 

Here’s the trick to discovering things you purchased long ago and then lost due to other priorities—have the power turned off in your shop.  Suddenly, cleaning up becomes a good idea and sorting through various stacks of reading material stowed in dark recesses seems appropriate.  (I really should have read the instructions for assembling the table saw, would have made the entire process a lot less frustrating.  But now I at least know where that manual is located.)  Oh, I also found some interesting books on using band saws and how to do things with a table saw your mother would find worrisome.  Thank you Jim Tolpin, I am now in deep kimchi for showing a 13 year-old how to cut a near-perfect circle on an a tool most parents would prefer never came near their children’s fingers—suffice it to say I recommend his text titled Table Saw Magic.

Back to my current diversion. 

There, buried beneath the table saw operating instructions and published suggestions for how to get the most out that shop floor obstruction, were plans to Baby Tender II one of my friends thoughtfully offered as a birthday gift many years ago.  They were still stowed in the original shipping envelope, a testament that my susceptibility to distraction or simply wandering off to other projects has not changed over the last…24 years.  Yup, that’s what a date stamp on the envelop revealed.  Apparently not everything is subject to that old adage:  “Change is inevitable.”  

About now a few of you will remember I am supposed to be building an office desk, not working on another boat.  Bear with, the two projects can be done in conjunction.  So long as I don’t mix up building materials.  I know the slab of sapele cannot go on the boat, and the pine I intend to use for planking will not serve as legs for a desk. 

I will also note, the desk will be a lot easier to accomplish than this boat. 

The problem is boats come with angles and few flat surfaces.  When everything has at least two curves you become a fan of a band saw, hand tools, and patience.  The desk is no such encumbrance.   I could probably knock out all the basics for that piece of furniture in a day on the planer and table saw.  

This boat will not be so compliant.  Mr. Edison will get a lot less employment than my hand plane, Japanese saws, and mental gymnastics. 

Boats are hard.  Maybe that’s why the majority of floating objects are now made with fiberglass or metal—carpenters learned to find less demanding chores.  Like making butter knives, chairs, desks and gypsy wagons. 

And so here I am, with pencil in hand, going through the Baby Tender plans one step at a time.  Give credit where it is due, the instructions are clear enough, the  real question is my learning curve and amateur woodworking skills.  There, you caught me thinking out loud.  That last passage was supposed to be trapped between my ears, not printed on paper. 

With that the game begins.  I am off to the shop—power has been restored, I am out of trouble…so long as the clock is running—and on to the next project.  The true delight of any woodworker or craftsperson.

Eric Anderson is a retired Air Force officer who can be found puttering in his shop when not scribbling on the keyboard.  A new resident of Port Townsend, he is an avid sailor, struggling  carpenter, and would-be writer.