Week #4: Drafting Blues

12190032_985773431445736_1938638718682860227_nNo one ever said boat school would be all sawdust and hand tools. Oh, you would like to believe that was the case, but truth of the matter is new designs require drafting…and drafting means sitting at a desk while figuring out how to create a three-dimensional model on a two dimension surface. The computer guys have figured out how to accomplish this task with a relatively simple set of keystrokes. We are doing it with pencil, compass and a table of offsets.

Enough to keep even the most grizzled carpenter humble.

Think of it this way. Take the blue print for your home. Set it on plane form (what it looks like from the side), then add the front view. So far so good. Then add a perspective pulling in the rear shot (where the bar-b-que grill will go along with your hammock and lawnmower.

Not done yet.

To make life more challenging, tip the entire design onto its left front corner and then draw lines for the basement and roofline from a gopher’s perspective. Did I mention it all has to stay on one sheet of paper measuring 18 x 24 inches? Daunting was the first word that came to my mind. I think some of my fellow students had equally mind numbing terms passing through their cerebral cortex.

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Coffee and lunch become the mental health break. Coffee is an excuse to walk back to the pot and look over everyone’s shoulder. Ah, that’s how you derive the following measurements. It’s also an excuse to see just how good some of the classmates are at waging battle with paper and pencil. Suffice it to say, more than a few of my cohort should become architects. I would just be happy to pass civil engineering.

Alas, I forgot to mention what we were drafting. A classic hull for a 16 foot sailboat, drawn over a century ago be people most Americans will never come to know. The lines are remarkable, performance was likely capable of delivering endless smiles, and the entire process was accomplished without wind tunnels, water tanks, or computer models—those old guys were smart in a means that simply does not translate into today’s society.

Unless you are on the far edge of programming cellphone apps or still trying to create new furniture out of wood, absent a 3D printer.

This all begs the question, did we accomplish the mission? Yes! Some of the work will almost certainly land up behind glass in a picture frame for others to admire. Mine will become a sketch for a model that leaves a thousand compass pin pricks in the outlines. Regardless of ultimate disposition, the lesson came across loud and clear, here is how to envision a boat before turning to timber selection.

In my own humble observation, more “visionaries” would be well-suited to a lesson in working through this exercise in imagination and exacerbation. Who knows, it might have save the Ford Motor Company from the Edsel. A story for another day.

Completed draft in hand, we are back to the shop. Time to construct the classic half-plane form model one can find in endless antique stores. My bet is most of those “antiques” came off a basement bench and never resulted in a finished craft. Our task is less benign, but equally as dusty.

So we reach the end of week four and lean into the next set of skills. I, for one, am wondering when I will finally cut a set of dovetails that will allow for me to construct a box sufficient for hauling tools into a shipyard—less set my hands on an actual floating boat.

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.