click image to zoomA stand-up paddle board designed by Travis Hickman with parts cut on the Techno CNC router. Volume production of the last wooden boats ended about 1966, however, their ride, appearance and romance still appeal to many enthusiasts. When Travis Hickman began restoring wooden boats in 1986, he faced the difficult task of measuring an existing boat, creating 2D drawings, translating the drawings into marks on full-size boards and cutting out the individual boards on a bandsaw. The accuracy achieved with this method depended on the skill of the individual craftsperson.
Hickman has since implemented a new process in which the boat is measured with a laser transit. The measurements are used to generate a 3D model of the boat. The 3D model is used to create a program to produce the boards on a Techno computer numerical control (CNC) router. “This approach takes less time than the previous method to produce the first boat and replacement parts or additional boats can be made in a small fraction of the time required for the first,” Hickman said. “The accuracy of the new method is also much greater since the CNC router reproduces the parts defined in the 3D model with a high level of accuracy, regardless of the skill of the operator.”
The End of an Era? Not Yet!
Chris-Craft produced its first wooden boats in 1923 and began making them on assembly lines in the early 1930s. At their height in popularity, the company made tens of thousands of boats every year. Fiberglass boats were introduced soon after World War II and gained popularity because they were less expensive to build and required less maintenance. But the appeal of wooden boats has endured long after they stopped rolling off the assembly lines.
When Hickman began restoring wooden boats, he was one of the few people in the business. He rebuilds the engine, restores the upholstery and replaces the wooden frames. The first step in replacing the wood is to capture the lines from the boat using one of several possible measuring devices. Hickman uses a surveying tool called a laser transit. He sets up the laser in the back of the boat and shoots a straight line down the center of the craft to the bow. Then he uses a ruler to measure the distance from the laser line to the hull along the length of the boat.
click image to zoomTravis Hickman in front of the CNC router. Moving to CNC Machining
Hickman was interested in saving time and improving accuracy by moving to CNC machining. CNC has the advantage that the user generates a CAD model of the product and then uses the CAD model as the basis of a program that guides the machine tool to cut out all of the parts needed to build it. CNC machining is much more accurate because the program rather than the craftsman guides the machine and additional parts can be created from the program with little additional effort. When he first looked at CNC machines they were expensive and he did not feel that he could justify purchasing a machine because he would be using it only periodically.