Deep Experience

Deep Experience

For Reuben Smith, boatbuilding is a skill learned from doing, reading, watching, teaching, and doing more. Rooted in deep experience, the crew at the Tumblehome Boatshop take their craft very seriously. 

Wooden boat builders and restorers are students of history, as well as students of craft. We need to be aware of the historical trajectory of the boats we work on in order to grasp the nuances of the boat—the things that make them uniquely terrific and worth hanging on to.

The first imperative in a restoration is the shape of the boat. Every boat has been carefully designed to perform in a certain way, and with a historical boat, the behavior and feel of the boat when in the water is probably even more important than how she looks.

At Tumblehome Boatshop, we strive to restore the shape of the boat, and then lock in that restored shape with the structural restoration.

The next imperative is the maintenance of the engineering—the materials, and how the boat was put together. While a wooden boat may appear as a piece of art, the construction is carefully engineered. Often, this engineering is calculated by the designer, but also it is often based on the experience of the builder about what works best.

Part of the work of the restoration is searching for appropriate materials—in lumber, fasteners, paint, and bedding, and then applying them with the same sensibility as the original builder. It requires carefully checking over the parts of the boat as they are being replaced, and often researching the building methods of the original builder.

The final imperative is the contemporary life of the boat—the goals of the restoration as well as the needs of the boat and her owner. Whether a boat lives in the water on a mooring or at a dock for the entire season, or whether she’s hauled out regularly and generally lives on a trailer can have a strong influence on if we want to restore a boat using traditional methods, or borrow from modern materials and methods. Also, we may find that an aspect of a wonderful old boat proved not to be engineered perfectly, and we may alter the construction of certain aspects to make the boat easier to own today.

Properly restoring and building a classic wooden boat takes substantial experience and a mental commitment that Reuben Smith’s Tumblehome Boatshop has.