Comprehensive Career Boat Building

Great Lakes Boat Building School’s Comprehensive Career Boat Building Program is carefully designed to give our students an intense course of study in the methods and materials required of today’s wooden boat builder.  

Our 12-month curriculum is divided into 4 modules.  Each module consists of two courses with specific student objectives.


Comprehensive Career Boat Building Program


Gainful Employment Disclosure

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Module I          (Traditional Boat Building)         Instructor: Gus Bell

Course: Traditional Boat Building

Students learn the classic woodworking skills required to build vessels in the traditional, carvel, and lapstrake methods of planking. They will also be introduced to the modern techniques and materials used in the construction of traditional boats.

Course Objectives for Students to:

  • Become proficient in the use and maintenance of traditional hand woodworking tools
  • Become competent in wood selection
  • Become competent in the craft of wood joinery and fastening
  • Know how the lofting process is used in the construction of small and medium size vessels
  • Know and understand the body and structure of wooden boats
  • Be skilled at producing wooden boat parts
  • Understand construction methods of traditional wooden boats


Module I                   (Composite I)                   Instructor: Gus Bell

Course: Composite I

Students learn modern wooden boat building utilizing epoxy and reinforcing fabric to make wood composite structures and hulls. Emphasis includes lamination and concepts of composite boat building, working with epoxies, plywood as a construction material, lofting, and construction of modern wood/epoxy composite boats.

Course Objectives for Student to:

  • Have knowledge of epoxy/wood composite boat building techniques, material, and their application
  • Understand epoxy wood encapsulation and its benefits
  • Build and finish small crafts using methods of glued lapstrake and strip plank finishing techniques


Module II              (Finishing)                    Instructor: Rob Freel

Course: Finishing

Students learn the preparation, application, and maintenance of different finishes, with emphasis on stains, shellac, varnish, and paint, when applied to different surfaces.

Course Objectives for Student to know:

• How to choose the best product to finish wood
• How to maintain a finish
• How to repair or remove a finish
• How to finish different wood products
• The proper steps involved in preparing wood for finish
• The proper tools involved in application
• How to mix stains
• To apply stains with proper wiping techniques
• How to properly clean and prep boats for finish
• Wet sanding techniques
• Proper caulking techniques


Module II           (Restoration I)               Instructor: Rob Freel

Course: Restoration I

Students learn key information, gain skills, and learn the techniques necessary to build, repair, and restore wooden boats with a high expectation and emphasis on quality woodworking skills.

Course Objectives for Student:

  • Knowledge of the traditional construction of a boat
  • Competent in determining the critical fixes necessary to repair or restore a boat to original condition
  • Competent in determining appropriate materials needed to rebuild and replace during restoration
  • Competent in determining the start and stop stages of disassembly
  • Competent in the preservation of wood during disassembly
  • Competent in the skills and techniques necessary to problem solving
  • Skilled in selecting the appropriate tools to disassemble a boat


Module III               (Propulsion for Boat Builders)

Instructor: Matt Edmondson

Course: Propulsion for Boat Builders

Propulsion for Boat Builders focuses on the engines and related systems required to make boats operate. The course familiarizes the student with the basic operating principles of engines, marine gears, steering and control systems, as well as their installation considerations as they pertain to a builder.

Course Objectives for Student to:

  • Be familiar with the operating principles of the drive parts and their functions
  • Learn the layout and installation procedures necessary for a safe and reliable drive, according to ABYC standards
  • Specify and order parts required for an engine installation


Module III                             (Composite II)

Instructors: Matt Edmondson/Gus Bell

Course: Composite II

This course builds on the skills learned in Composite I. In this course, students will use existing CAD drawings and prints as they might find in a modern shop to build a boat using plywood, veneers, reinforcing fabrics, and vacuum bagging.

Course Objective for Student to:

  • Be proficient in the use of epoxy as both a coating and as a structural material
  • Understand plywood, veneers, and the vacuum bagging process
  • Be able to use reinforcing fabrics as a building material


Module IV            (Marine Systems for Boatbuilders)

Instructor: Matt Edmondson

Course: Marine Systems for Boatbuilders

This course is centered around the non-engine systems found on boats. Marine Systems for Boatbuilders focuses on the operation and installation considerations specific to elements such as plumbing, electrical, and related systems as they pertain to a builder.

Course Objectives for Student to:

  • Be familiar with the operation and function of the systems found on boats
  • Have an understanding of electrical installations and safety
  • Be familiar with the core ABYC standards governing the installation of marine systems
  • Be able to specify and order parts


Module IV               (Restoration II)             Instructor: Rob Freel

Course: Restoration II

Students will focus on the restoration of a boat throughout the entire course. As the student approaches the start of Module IV, Restoration II may be at any one of the subject areas listed below. This course will be a continuation of the work completed in Restoration I, and work completed during shop time throughout the program year.

What People Say

Thank you so much for doing such a beautiful job on the
Marilyn Jean. Everyone loves her!

Wayne B., Commissioned Boat Client July 14, 2017

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