Trip Report — International Boatbuilding Training College


“…there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” — the Water Rat, from The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908.

We didn’t really get to mess around with boats much on our visit to the International Boatbuilding Training College last week. But we did get a grand tour of this remarkable facility on Oulton Broad in Lowestoft, Suffolk, said to be England’s easternmost settlement. Our thanks to the proud owner of the college, Mike Tupper, for taking the time to show us around.

Students from all over the world learn every aspect of boat building and repair, general woodworking and furniture-making — professionals and hobbyists alike. IBTC offers 47-week courses on Practical Boatbuilding and Joinery and Furniture as well as shorter courses: Build Your Own Boat (24 weeks — yes, you sail away at the end of it in your own boat), Woodworking Skills (12 weeks),  Introduction to Boat Surveying, and many more courses that cover all aspects of boatbuilding. And they include the whole gamut of non-woodworking boat-related skills: Glass Reinforced Plastics (4 days), Rope Work — Knots and Splicing (30 different knots!), as well as Rigging, Lofting, Caulking, Welding, and so much more.


There are boats of every style everywhere in this facility, in every stage of manufacture and repair. The work gets done on each as the curriculum dictates, moving from boat to boat as the students progress. Most of the boats are brought to the school by their owners who contract the school for repairs. They pay for the needed materials plus a small percentage but even though accepted for repair, there is no guarantee when a boat will be ready — could be years.


Hold on, though. If you need a repair done more quickly than the repair college can offer, it offers a perfect solution: right next door to IBTC, the school operates full-service repair facility that is staffed by many of the college grads. Here are some photos of their work:

Anyone interested in the design, construction, outfitting and repair of boats should seriously consider the offerings of the International Boatbuilding Training College. It’s a resource not to be missed.


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Trip Report — The European Woodworking Show 2015

Cressing Temple Barns

Cressing Temple Barns

Linda and I had the great privilege to attend The European Woodworking Show at Cressing Temple Barns near Braintree, Essex, a bit north of London, England. The venue was spectacular with over 90 vendors and exhibitors in both barns, event tents and outdoor stalls. This auspicious event is the brainchild of Mike Hancock of Classic Hand Tools and I am grateful to Mike and his stalwart crew for doing an incredible job of organizing a huge event, and for including us in it. Cressing2

And that vendor and exhibitor line-up doesn’t include all the great food and beer that sustained us in our exertions. The weather was uncommonly (I’m told) gorgeous. Rain threatened but never really materialized and while there were some cloudy, cool moments, I’ll remember my visit to Essex as being clear and sunny throughout.

The first photo above shows the barley barn on the left. The Knights Templar started cutting the timber for it in 1205. It is the oldest standing timber-framed barn in the world. We were showing our wares in the wheat barn, on the right in the top photo, which has a 44-ton brick/tile roof.

Inside the Wheat Barn

Inside the Wheat Barn

I took this photo of the inside of the wheat barn as we opened on Sunday. It was estimated that over 2000 people attended on Saturday so this joint was jumping most of the time.

Linda and I met a number of friends and customers face to face that we’ve known and done business with for many years by internet and phone. They came from all over the UK and Europe. There were several vendors from the States and Canada, France and Australia. We had time after hours to chat with our fellow tool-makers (a real treat for Linda and me) while we enjoyed delicious Indian fare and local ales. (Notice I used the plural there.) A congenial group, a great, large crowd, good food and drink — a memorable weekend, indeed.

Mike promises another show in two years so keep an eye out* for The European Woodworking Show 2017. We’re looking forward to it!

*Better yet, sign up for Classic Hand Tools’ newsletter. You’ll be in the know.



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Bevel-Up Wooden Plane How-To

Here’s a great way to make a bevel-up wooden plane! This how-to article by Jacques Breau, available at Canadian Woodworking Magazine’s website, is well-written, with clear illustrations and excellent photos.

The blade specified in the article is HOCK TOOLS’ #PL200, which normally comes with a breaker. In this application the breaker is not used so we’ll be happy to sell the blade without the breaker at a $10 discount if you specify “no breaker” in the comments box when you check out. (The blade will have a slot for the breaker but you’ll just ignore it.)

If you ever wanted to make a wooden plane, Jacques’ article offers an easy path to success. For a quick-paced, only moderately challenging, and very satisfying experience, this plane build is definitely worth a try!

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The Essential Sharpening Collection

One of the Essentials!

One of the Essentials!

There is a real bargain to be had over at Popular Woodworking’s Shop Woodworking store. It’s a package deal with eight of the best resources available to improve your sharpening game. They’ve included an everyone-should-have side-clamping honing guide along with Christopher Schwarz’s DVD, The Last Word on SharpeningRon Herman’s DVD, Sharpen Your Handsaws, Schwarz’s Digital Downloads, A Better Way to Sharpen Scrapers, Understanding Honing Guides, The Speed Demons of Sharpening, and Sharpening Plane Irons and Chiselsas well as, of course, my compendium on sharpening, The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers.

This collection would normally cost you $98.42 but right now it is being offered for $59.99! That’s a great deal! There are only 100 of these discount packages available so… make it so.

If your sharpening game is still on the learning curve – or if you want to add efficiency and ease with tips and tricks from the experts – this wealth of information helps speed your journey.

Just remember that sharpening is a fundamental skill for every woodworker. You simply cannot do good work without sharp tools! And, we each began to learn this task at some point, and many of us continue to – pardon the expression — hone what we’ve already learned. The Essential Sharpening Collection is a great package for any woodworker’s library!

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Make a Krenov-style Wooden Plane

Hand Plane in Bocote, by James Krenov

Hand Plane in Bocote, by James Krenov

It was James Krenov’s love of planes, much like the one in the photo above, that pulled me into the wonderful world of woodworking tools back in 1982. He waxed poetic in his books about the joys of using a wooden hand plane and Krenov’s fine woodworking program here in Fort Bragg starts each class with a thorough unit on plane-making. So to honor that tradition and share that joy I take every opportunity to encourage woodworkers to try their hand at making a wooden plane.

Making a Krenov-style plane may seem demanding, and it does require some precision work, but it’s not rocket science and there are many sources of help available. The help gamut runs from the simplest — Hock Tool’s plane plans or David Welter’s step-by-step instructions — to personal, hands-on instruction at one of the many plane-making classes which are popping up all over the world.

For an assist that’s more than plans but less than in-person instruction David Finck’s book or Scott Meek’s video will walk you through the process.

And I’ve recently found one more excellent online how-to. Many thanks to Mitch Roberson for his four-part step-by-step plane build that he posted on Craftsy*. Roberson’s instructions are clearly written, easy to follow and well photo-documented throughout.

Hock Tools' Plane Kit #KF150

Hock Tools’ Plane Kit #KF150

For the greatest possible boost up the plane-making learning curve consider one of Hock Tools’ kits for a Krenov-style plane. We’ve precision cut all the parts from bubinga so that you need only glue it, tune it and shape it to suit. A simple, reliable and very satisfying build.

Regardless of the plane-making path you choose here’s some advice before getting started: While it may be considered apostasy to Krenov devotees, I learned while designing our kits that the traditional pivoting cross-pin is an unnecessary fiddling. A simple 1/2″ dowel works perfectly well and saves a lot of time and fuss. Also, some still advocate using a dense hardwood like maple or walnut for the body and adding a more wear-resistant sole plate. If you can find the right sized piece of bubinga, jarrah, or other hard, wear-resistant wood, just use it for the whole plane and skip the sole-plate addition.

Give it a try! There’s no other tool quite like a plane you’ve made yourself. It will fit your hands and style of work perfectly, comfortably. And if you’re not happy with the results, well, it’s barely a board-foot of wood. Feed the fire and start over. Your next one’s a cinch.

*Craftsy is a huge resource of how-to craft projects. Navigate to HERE to find woodworking blog entries from a large variety of craftspeople. Great stuff.

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That’s a Lot of Pianos!

The Fibonacci, By Steinway and Pollaro

Steinway and Sons recently unveiled their 600,000th piano, designed by Frank Pollaro:

Named “The Fibonacci,” the piano’s veneer features the iconic Fibonacci spiral made entirely from six individual logs of Macassar Ebony, creating a fluid design that represents the geometric harmony found in nature. The lines of The Fibonacci spiral on the top of the piano’s lid are projected down to its unique curved base. Synthetic ivory inlay adds a breathtaking effect to the design, which also features unique patinated bronze details. In the end, over 6,000 hours of work over a four-year period were devoted to the creation of The Fibonacci, from design to finish. The superior craftsmanship of the piano’s exterior is matched only by the unparalleled craftsmanship that is at the very core of all Steinway & Sons pianos.

It’s been five years since I posted this entry about the documentary film, Note by Note, that follows the building of Steinway #L1037 “from forest to concert hall”. It’s a great film, highly recommended. Needless to say I was quite impressed by the amount of hand woodworking that goes into the world’s finest pianos. This 600,000th Steinway, by Frank Pollaro, is truly stunning. We have just the place for it in the living room.

With the recent public exhibition of piano and organ builder H. O. Studley’s tool cabinet, and the publication of Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley by Lost Art Press, a nod to Steinway’s historic achievement seems apropos.

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A Quick Path to a Fresh Edge

Rob Hanson’s Magstrop Four

My friend and fellow t00l-maker Rob Hanson of Evenfall Studios has developed what may be the ultimate Scary Sharp workstation: the Magstrop Four. He’s designed a 15″ x 15″ bench hook with four abrasive platens that are held down by magnets and kept from sliding around with dowels. The changing of grits or from paper to leather, etc.,  is quick and easy. And there’s no water or oil to mess up your bench.

Rob’s sales pitch for this system (and the simple one-platen Magstrop One) is that, by using abrasive films or paper, you eliminate many of the obstacles that we all encounter when an edge is dull. Many of our sharpening systems are cumbersome or messy. Many of us don’t have room for a dedicated sharpening station. We need a system that’s clean,  simple to store and that sets up ready-to-use easily for a quick honing touch up.

“There are two major ways you can approach sharpening.

Old School, where you run the edges into severe dullness and do a major reworking of them to restore them. (a common practice because people dislike sharpening, and it takes a while.)

New School, which is to sharpen rather continually as you work with fine abrasives so the edges rarely fail and keep cutting nicely.

It might surprise you, that even though the new school method is performed more frequently, it takes less time and effort. It can be done dry and quickly, getting you back to work and in the flow of things.” — Rob Hanson, Evenfall Studios

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