Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 4/22/00

Profile: Bruce Hutchinson, Boat Builder
By Robert Anthony Robinson

When Bruce Hutchinson of Richland, Michigan is doing whatever floats his boat, he's making them; that is, boats. Bruce was the grand prizewinner in the 'Post Your Project Contest' contest, a statewide search for Michigan's most dynamic home-made woodworking project sponsored by L.L. Johnson Lumber company in conjunction with Profiles Magazine. Bruce's winning entry, chosen by woodworking experts at L.L. Johnson Lumber Company, is a solid mahogany, 16-foot wooden boat that took more than 1,000 hours to make.

Bruce, who is a self-taught woodworker, has worked wood seriously since his retirement seven years ago. "I suppose my 7th grade woodworking class could be considered some formal training," he says. "I remember well how Mr. Taylor, my 7th grade woodworking teacher, taught us to use the hand plane. Probably the best thing I could have learned. He made us take it apart, clean it, tune it and sharpen it. We worked on it for three weeks solid, never touching a piece of wood. I was starting to wonder why they called the class wood shop. When I was all done with it, he took it apart, smashed it all up and told us to do it over again. It seemed cruel at the time but it was actually one of the best learning experiences I've ever had with wood."

Bruce spent many years in marketing and general management working for the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Throughout the years he had occasional opportunities for woodworking, building a midget car when he was a kid, a small sailboat in the early 60s and a house in the 70s. It was only after his retirement in 1992 that he began a serious avocation with woodworking. "I'm at it almost everyday," he says. "I guess I've kind of neglected the yard work a little."

His recently completed award-winning project, a solid mahogany speedboat made completely by hand in his 20 by 40-foot home workshop, has become his pride and joy. The project sports an inboard, 305 Chevy marine conversion engine that propels the craft at speeds upward to 50 mph. The motor itself weighs over 900 pounds says Bruce. "I had to build a gantry crane just to lift it into the boat." The crane, of course, built by hand and also out of wood.

His home shop is nothing out of range for the average woodworker. It houses a myriad of power tools which includes a $300 Craftsman table saw, a 50-year-old radial arm saw, a lathe, drill press, jig saw, antique Powermatic band saw, bench top planer, and an assortment of hand sanders and power tools, most of them Delta. His favorite woods are Mahogany (although he says its hard to steam in his home-made tube steamer and steam box), poplar (which he's used for deck framing, in boats, and for sailboat masts), ash, and white oak. His favorite part of building the boat was framing and planking it. The worst part of the project, he says, was fairing and sanding. "The fairing took hours and hours of hand carving and chiseling. It gets a little difficult with the arthritis," he says. The boat is made entirely from Oak (used for its frames) and with Genuine and Philippine Mahogany for the bottom, sides and deck.

It's a real beauty, Bruce! And for his grand prize Bruce received an award of tools from L.L. Johnson Lumber Company, presented at their Wood Expo '99 on September 10th and 11th. The boat was proudly displayed there to the envy of other wood loving craftsman.

Robert Anthony Robinson

Editors Note: Robert is the editor of Profiles Magazine and you can find other interesting profiles at their website.

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