A peek at Chesapeake Light Craft
During my trip to the East Coast Last month, I stopped by the Chesapeake Light Craft on my way to the airport. Owner John Harris was there and gave me a tour of the shop. I’ve been building wooden boats of various sorts for quite a while so I like being surrounded by mahogany, cedar and woodworking tools. Most of my tools are old hand tools that I’ve found in garage sales and estate sales, but I can appreciate the large and expensive machinery of a production facility like CLC. The pieces that go into the CLC kits are all cut on a CNC (computer numerical control) machine: a large table straddled by a router that travels the length of the table on tracks.
The router gets its directions from a computer housed in a clean room near the machine. Sheets of plywood go on the table and are held in place by a vacuum while the router follows paths determined by the computer. Long sweeping curves come out fair and true and the finger joints that hold kit pieces together snap together with perfect alignment.
CLC has another machine that has been adapted to cut cedar into cove-and-bead strips for strip-built boat projects.
Those two machines can do in minutes jobs that would take me days to do on my workbench and they do it with much more accuracy than I could manage even after my 30 years of boatbuilding.I’ll always have a fondness for building boats from scratch—I like to let the time I spend in my shop stretch out as long as possible—but there’s no denying a computer-cut kit is the best way to get a first-time boatbuilder on the water in good style in a minimum amount of time