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.


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!

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