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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