All Aboard!

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The Workshop has seen a number of great changes this year – the new office space and Wood St Coffee‘s bright new, cactus filled café, to the education space. One of the other notable changes that has played a big part in the use of the workshop for our members has been the new outdoor working area.

Consisting of four bays each measuring  11.5sqm, that can be used right up until 8pm, three of these bays have been let out long term to some of our existing members who work on larger projects including La Maison de Furniture, who as well as having access to the workshop, now has more  space to sand and assemble. The remaining work bay is available to book up to a week in advance on a short term let for anyone needing space for larger projects at the same day rate as a bench.

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If you’ve ever been to the Workshop or come to the café, you may have noticed – and it’s hard not to miss – a boat being built. We spoke to the man behind the boat David Vivian, one of our long term members to ask all about the wonder that has had people blown away.

I went to boat building college in 2008 after deciding a practical skill was the way forward, so I was a boat builder for 5 years and then moved on to make furniture but have always wanted to come back to making boats and the new outdoor space at Blackhorse seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a boat. I had an idea of this prototype I wanted to try that I had been working on the computer with for around six months and I put the pieces together and here we are!”

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Deciding that you want to start building a prototype boat isn’t as easy as it sounds. Finding the space that can accommodate such a large build is challenging.

There were a couple of other places that I could have gone too. My old boss Mark Edwards from boat building college who I apprenticed with, owns a ramshackle boat yard in Richmond, right underneath Richmond Bridge where he makes traditional canoes, and setting up a space there would have been an option. The other idea was to move out of London into a friend’s barn but I didn’t go with that option either and then there was Blackhorse, where there is always access to the machines and I was already a member which all-in-all made it a tempting place.”

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Knowing how much space you’ll have has been good. In the workshop it can be hit or miss during the week, not knowing if it’ll be full with people or have few people, plus having more space has of course been useful. The access hours have been helpful as well, as I’ve had some late nights. More importantly, with a project like this, you don’t have to worry so much about getting dust over everyone else as you’re in outside in your own space.”

Before commencing with the actual building of the boat, David had to first build a covering for the boat. The process of assembling the boat has involved lots of gluing, clamping and waiting. David has been using a mix of Douglas Fir, Pine, Timber and Accoya which is a trademark product, using a treatment like process that increases the resistance of wood like pine and timber, to protect it against things like rocks and water. The process was perfected by a dutch company who take fairly, widely available and sustainable wood and turn them into more useful, durable material.

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Once the prototype is finished, what happens next?

Ideally, I’d like to make more of them if I can find some people to pay me to make them. I still have the furniture side of the business and I have tried to maintain some contracts I had in the industry, so if a boat order doesn’t come through, I’ll always fall back onto furniture. There is a good market of Thames boat users and in the home counties. Eco-conscience people are a good market as well because of the electric side of it boats. All of these demographics tend to prize antique and historic boats because no one seems to be producing anything that can match the elegance and cache of those older boats in more modern boats, they just tend to be boring plastic boats so hopefully that’s something I can offer. We shall see.

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We asked for David’s final thoughts on using the outdoor working bay and whether it has the same feel of being in the Workshop and we think he summed it up very well.

“The fact that there are a couple of more permanent sharers of the space does give you a feel of being inside the workshop. It’s got a similar sharing and caring vibe. Sharing tools, sharing advice, is what Blackhorse does well.”