The Craft and Philosophy of Building Wooden Boats by Hand

Andy Stewart builds boats with his own hands for life-affirming reasons. It’s a way to make inanimate objects come alive, to breathe new life into our world. But Stewart also enjoys the challenge of it all. The sea, he tells us, is the “final arbitrator” of your work. Quite decisively, it tells you whether a boat has been crafted with precision, whether every piece of wood contributes to the larger hull/whole. If your boat can stand the rigorous tests of nature and time, you know you’ve mastered your craft. The short documentary above, Shaped on all Six Sides, was directed by Kat Gardiner.

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Comments (3)
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  • beth says:

    fascinating this needs to be made into a full documentary!!

  • Ken G. says:

    Great documentary! I’ve always wanted to build my own wooden boat that I can take out onto the water – I’ve spent the last couple weeks researching and preparing everything I’ll need to do it myself. With regard to building, I’ve found a few good resources during my search including this page here, but this video about Andy gives me some great additional insights.

  • Will H. says:

    I found this mini-documentary while searching for topics for my English class. I am an English teacher, now living in Thailand and I’m also about to build my first completely new sailboat to meander around the islands here.

    Andy sounds just like me…his sentiment has been echoed, at so many points in my life. I have always built and restored things…old cars, motorcycles, houses and of course boats. I built boats professionally in Florida for many years. However, I also owned and operated a small marine service business and I think I spent more time restoring old boats for people than I did building new ones. Suffice-it-to-say that I never built a completely new boat for myself, in all of the years that I spent working on-or building boats for other people. I just never had the time, or the timing was just never right…take your pick.

    I have finally arrived a point in my life where there is a lull. And as Andy said, “men build boats because they can’t have babies”…so, so true. I mean I never wanted to have a baby myself. I have a cat! Which in my honest opinion is a better choice for a confirmed bachelor. However, breathing life into an inanimate object that is then slated to ply it’s existence to something as ancient as the sea and other watery byways of this world, is quite possibly one of the single most honorable and/or optimistic endeavors that any human being can engage in.

    I just leased a small shop space here in Chonburi, Thailand right beside a series of small lakes and only about 5 kilometers to the Gulf of Thailand. I chose this place, so that I could easily do water tests in protected waters, before venturing offshore. I’m going to design every single piece of this boat and innovate as many aspects of it as I can. I don’t care if it takes 6 months, or 6 years to do it. And along the way I am planning on building some smaller craft and selling them here and there. There are so many free small boat designs out there that have stood the tests of time and they cost virtually nothing to create.

    Maybe someday, I’ll make a documentary as well.


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