Reuben Smith is boatbuilder and owner of Tumblehome Boatshop, which he has reestablished in the Southern Adirondacks to focus on the high‐end restoration and new construction of historic and classic wooden boats.
Reuben Smith grew up in a boatbuilding family. Through his high school and college years, he worked in his uncle’s shop, the Everett Boatworks, in Canton, New York, and his father’s shop, Adirondack Goodboat, In Long Lake, New York. Working with his father and uncle, Reuben was surrounded with a crew of highly skilled and committed craftsman who showed him what a fine boatbuilding job really could be. Those shops worked on canoes, skiffs, and guideboats, as well as runabouts and launches. The work was primarily restoration of historic boats, but included new, and modern wooden boatbuilding, as well.
In 1997, Reuben started Tumblehome Boatshop in a corner of the Everett Boatworks, but then had the opportunity to leave Northern New York, and head to the Boston area, where he was Boatshop Director for the Hull Lifesaving Museum in Hull, Massachusetts. Reuben Smith worked with a crew of adjudicated kids in Boston building and maintaining a fleet of rowing gigs, from 24 to 38’ feet long. At the museum, Reuben learned how to teach boatbuilding skills.
He left the Lifesaving Museum in 2000, and started up Tumblehome Boatworks, the Rolling Boatshop. He built a shop in the back of a box truck, and toured up and down the Massachusetts coast subcontracting in boat yards.
There, Reuben met Cynde, and they were married in 2002 and settled down in Plympton, Massachusetts. With Cynde’s help he grew his reputation and his business, and the two became a strong business team as well as a great couple. Reuben taught an annual special topics course in boatbuilding for several years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2004 Tumblehome Boatworks moved to the Jones River Landing in Kingston, Massachusetts, into the famous old Shiverick Boatshop. There, Reuben founded Mass Bay Maritime Artisans, and conducted a workshop and a boatbuilding lecture series.
But the North Country was calling him back, and when, in 2008, Hall’s Boat Corporation on Lake George was looking for a manager for their newly expanded Boatshop, it was an opportunity not to be missed. Reuben joined Hall’s in 2008 and with Hall’s had a terrific run of boatwork, with several fine restorations completed there, as well as a whole lot of boat repair and maintenance on the wooden boats on Lake George. The Boatshop expanded with three new boatbuilders, as well, and became a restoration powerhouse. Cynde also joined the team, helping with marketing and PR, and the word got out about what was going on at Hall’s Boat Corp.
In 2012, it was time to reestablish Tumblehome Boatshop in a new, dream scenario. In a 6,000 square foot building, Reuben built a new boatshop grounded in a heritage of solid craftsmanship, and a commitment to service and excellence.
The move to start up Tumblehome was propitious. Reuben was fortunate to have a few loyal customers bring their boats to the shop, and right away, Tumblehome was busy, with a backlog of enviable projects.
Probably most importantly, however, the shop quickly gained a reputation among people who work in the trade. As the hardware piled up from boat shows, and the reputation of the shop as a healthy and collegial place to be grew, Reuben began to put together a stellar crew of gifted craftspeople. Far from being a one-man show any longer, Tumblehome Boatshop is now a team of craftspeople driven to excel.