Great Lakes Boat Building School

Meet The Crew: Restoring the 1947 Chris-Craft Deluxe

Stem2Stern was able to catch up with the team of students that will complete the restoration of a 1947 Chris-Craft Deluxe – a 17 foot runabout donated to the school’s restoration program by Michael Foss. Over pizza at Ang-Gio’s restaurant the group, along with Instructor Rob Freel, reflected on their time spent together working on such a gorgeous boat.

Q.) What have you liked best about working on the 1947 Chris-Craft?

CHRIS KOWALSKI – Bringing something old and decrepit back to life.

BEN DIAMOND- Along with what Chris said, the boat will look the same or better on the water than it did originally.

TOM RUDDY – Watching the progress as we go along, seeing the before and after of each piece within the process.

SCOTT WEBSTER – Getting to see how the restoration process transfers over to other boats. The skills we learned are applicable to not only other brands, like Century and Hacker, but they transfer to new builds like the Barrelback. Rob taught us how the classic brands are different but the construction techniques and restoration methods are similar between boats. Its also been nice to build a brand new ChrisCraft inspired (Barrelback) boat right next to one that is almost 80 years old. There is so much that is the same.

Q.) What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during the restoration?

BEN – Clean varnish. (laughter) WILL ROBBINS – Clean varnish.

TOM – I’m torn between engine alignment and getting a clean coat of varnish.

COREY STOCKDALE – I think the biggest challenge was getting wood that was good enough for the project. You need straight grain – you’ve gotta pick through it all to find the right stuff.

SCOTT – I agree it was the wood that was the challenge.

ROB – Yeah. I don’t think students coming in really have any idea how much work is involved with just getting a boat ready for stain. How much sanding you actually have to do. You think you have it ready, start staining, and then you see scratches you couldn’t see before. It takes a lot to get a boat ready.

Q.) What have you learned about working together as a team?

CHRIS – It’s hard. (laughter)

BEN – Oh yeah, communication is key.

WILL- Definitely communication.

SCOTT – Especially when you’re rotating groups; letting people know where you left off so they can continue.

BEN – I think that it’s communicating to a certain standard. Like we say we’re rotating people through, we have six people in our class, which means we might have six different interpretations on what an adequate gap is on something. It’s sometimes cool to see how all those different ways work out – but for this project keeping things consistent is key. ROB – Everybody in this group worked hard and well together. My biggest challenge has been to keep everybody busy doing something all the time and to stay ahead of you guys.

Q.) What has been the most rewarding experience so far during the project?

SCOTT – I think the most rewarding part is gonna come when we see it in the water and functioning. A.) to know that you can take something old and recreate it and restore it – make it new again and B.) to now be able to make something that I would otherwise not be able to afford.

CHRIS – I think the big thing too is, for instance when I walk into a shop, I can walk in and there is a 1936 ChrisCraft utility sitting there. They can ask me a question and I can tell them exactly how I would restore that boat. That impresses an employer and that’’ll get you a job like nothin’ else. If you know and can tell them how you would go through and restore it, that’s huge in my opinion.

BEN – I think that the entire [ ] project has a bit of a gestalt mentality to it, right? Where these parts that you make individually come together and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Its really cool to see and very interesting.

SCOTT – Getting to work with people from all over the place – we come together as one team. We build boats together and get to know each other at the same time. It’s great.

TOM – my family and friends are really impressed with our progress. My dad sometimes shows his coworkers pictures from Facebook. Everyone is really impressed. I found it rewarding when I got to repaint and restore the steering wheel and steering column.

SCOTT – And they look awesome, Tom!

Q.) Has this experience helped build your confidence as a boat builder/boat restorer? If so, how?

COREY – Oh yeah. I mean coming in with no knowledge, or like very little, and we’re leaving with confidence to go in and apply to work in a boat shop.

BEN – Shoot. Chris is taking on his own project, building his own boat – if that’s not confidence I don’t know what is. ROB – Don’t let things scare ya, I guess would be my advice. Make up your mind that you’re gonna do it and do it.

SCOTT – Cory nailed it. I had no knowledge whatsoever and to leave ready to be a professional says it all.

ROB – Y’know, there have been lots of times I’ve put about 3 final coats on because I didn’t like the previous two. (laughter)

ROB – It’s ok to not get it right the first time.

Q.) What advice would you give the classes coming behind you?

WILL – Take your time.

CHRIS – Listen to Rob.

WILL – Take your time AND listen to Rob. (laughter)

TOM – I think that pretty much sums it up.

ROB – Don’t take too much time. (laughter)

WILL – I didn’t say take all the time – I said take your time. When you start to doubt yourself…just send it.

COREY – Be patient with the instructors and everyone else until you understand how much actually goes into this.

Q.) Any parting shots?

ROB – Just want to say I’m proud of all you guys. I can’t wait to get the boat done and just see it in the water. I’ve restored a lot of boats in my life but this will be one of my major accomplishments to see it in the water because just knowing I was a part of it with all you guys will make it that much more special.

COREY – I’ve never been in a wooden boat before.

SCOTT – Me either – it’ll be my first one! I’m excited!