Building And Restoring Wood Boats

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. – While most of the boats made these days are typically fiberglass, the beauty in wood simply can’t be beat. That’s the thought of the Traditional Small Craft Association in South Haven. The group builds and restores old wooden boats and is part of a larger national chapter.

The group mainly builds smaller craft like canoes and kayaks but has been known to restore some bigger craft as well. They concentrate on anything that was popular that was powered by rowing or sailing before the engine. One of the TSCA members actually flew to Anvik, Alaska, to spend two weeks helping kids make a prototype canoe from cedar that would be the template for others to follow.

“Wood is an easily malleable material and workable material,” says TSCA member Sandy Bryson. “Secondly, the aesthetics of wood are simply hard to beat.”  The the easiest way to get involved in wood boat building is to first start with a kit, he says. Bryson built a small canoe with his 80-year-old father 30 years ago, and it still looks great and is quite sea worthy.

During the Classic Boat Show and Small Craft Festival, kids can have the chance to try their hand out at small toy boat building on June 22 on the South Haven docks.

For the grownups, a three-day class is offered occasionally during the summer. You can build a 10-foot canoe from scratch and take it home. It will weigh about 30 pounds and cost about $550. The work is done at the Padnos Boat Shed at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. Get information at their web site

Another exciting item at this year’s wooden boat show is the unveiling of the 1881 all wood Merryman Life Boat. It’s currently under wraps, but it’s beautiful antique hand crafted wooden interior will be on display during the show. Click here for more on the show. Other classic boats like a Chris Craft Sedan and Ice Boat will also be on display.

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