Re: Sassafras 12

Posted by Bob Santore on Sep 22, 2007

I built a Skerry when my kids were 6-7 and 4-5. I took my time and it took about a year. I found plenty of things they could do and do well. Sometimes I had to work a bit extra to make it happen for them, but that was sorta the whole point so I didn't mind.

I made it clear to them that they could not be around power tools or epoxy. I bought a cheap ($25) digital camera that they used to "document" the project during times when they could not actively participate. They really enjoyed that. Of course most of the pics they took were not of the boat. At the time they seemed to be especially fond of ants and each others nostrils.

I let them sand bare wood by hand. By the end of the project I was also letting my oldest using an electric detail sander (not anything as aggressive as a ROS), but by then he had showed me that he was up to the task.

Sanding anything with epoxy needed them to be not only not involved, but also out of the workshop.

You'd be surprised how happy a kid can be with a sanding block and a dust mask. They will work at their pace, wander all over the boat, and wander away, then come back. That was ok with me, I just wanted them to feel like they were welcome and could participate.

There is a lot they can do in the stitching phase - passing wires from one side to the other for example, or snipping them later.

I actually had my oldest doing a lot with a hand plane, including cutting the gains on each plank. Any kid with a reasonably tuned block plane can start taking a corner off something square that eventually needs to be round. That's a perfect job to let a kid do. It is so satisfying to have those curly wood shavings coming out of a plane. And taking off a corner is dead easy. Just make sure you've put the time in to sharpen and tune the plane. You know you'll finish it up and bring it to a nice radius, but they will really accomplish something before you need to take over.

Another good project using a block-plane to take something square and make it round is making a boat hook that you'll keep in the boat.

I also let them paint and varnish. Yep! There's no harm, you're just going to sand it and put down another coat anyway. I still do annual touch-ups and they beg to help when I do. I put both paint and varnish on with a foam roller, and then tip it out. I prep the roller, let them roll it on, and I do the tipping out. They never stick around for the whole thing, but they do get to do some of it.

They both enjoy the boat, and they both remember the building of it (and of course we have lots of pics of them involved with it, so it's not likely they'll forget).

I'd say your grandkids are fine ages to get them involved in something like that. Just be reasonable with your expectations. It's hard for me to not put things on a schedule and want to "work through it", and that's just not a good way to work with kids. The goal has to be time with them, and not the boat per se.

Of course I also have to say, not all kids are alike. Some in your crew may take to it more than others, and who's is "in" or not will probably change year by year.

I know it really made an impression on them. They are both really into Star Wars too, and love to draw these elaborate battle scenes. I still get a kick out of a drawing my oldest did once of a very-Skerry looking boat being attacked by space ships and defending itself with a laser cannon.

Dream on!

- Bob

In Response to: Re: Sassafras 12 by Ian Colledge on Sep 22, 2007