Paul Cundiff bought his grandkids wooden boats for Christmas last year.
It doesn’t matter that they’re barely old enough to walk, let alone drive a boat: the owner of Woodies Restorations wasn’t about to let his own family miss out on the fun of his business’s first-ever Family Boat Build. His daughter and son-in-law were one of the teams constructing a truly drive-able wooden children’s boat from almost-scratch.
True, the deck has been preformed, the motor installed and plugs made ahead of time, but team members, including kids age eight and up, get to experience all the aspects of building a boat, to the extent that they could go home and build another if they were so inclined.
They drill and center holes for attaching the bottom framework, fasten it in with screws, apply a layer of caulk, do some wiring, install zip ties for slotted and gate construction — and remove them with Forstner bits — fair the outside deck seam with a hand plane they’ve sharpened (followed by use of a sanding block) and then apply coats of varnish.
“When they leave, they don’t have to do anything. It’s a working toy right then,” Paul said — although he also sends the teams home with enough varnish to apply up to five coats on top of the wood. BS1088 marine plywood forms the base of the boat, with a layer of “Philippine mahogany” (sapele) on top for beauty — except on the bottom of the boat. “The fish really don’t care,” Paul said.
The eight-foot boat’s design was originally created by Brad Christensen, an industrial arts education teacher at Kentucky’s Berea College, for his own daughters. It’s designed for use by a child, with a key switch and steering a child can handle — the boat’s powered by a 30-pound trolling motor — but it will also hold an adult.
Depending on the parents’ judgment of their child’s ability level, Paul said, a boy or girl could probably start handling the boat at about age four —- its highest speed, he said, “is about as fast as a brisk walk. At age 12 or 13, boys will probably start thinking it’s not cool, and then at 18, it’ll be cool again.” He did note that his own son, age 23, who was one of the test drivers, told him, “Nobody’s ever going to outgrow this thing.”
Since it’s been tested with more than one rider (for example, a child and an adult), Paul said, “we know it will hold up to 350 pounds. We’d have to sink it on purpose to know the absolute maximum, and we haven’t wanted to do that.”
What he has wanted to do is create memories for families. Another team at the January build consisted of a father and a 12-year-old son. Paul said, “I said to the dad, ‘Your son’s going to outgrow this in a year or two, but you won’t lose the family time.’ He said, ‘That’s why I’m doing it.’”
For more info, call 270-343-5007 or visit woodiesrestorations.com.