Will Robots Effect Woody Boating? Yup!

If you have been following the news and tech world, Robots are coming and are the next wave of disruption to our desire for things to stay the same. If you think I am nuts, many of the stories you read on social media are written buy robots. Yup! It’s not just in manufacturing or other jobs. Now, we could go into the weeds about how jobs will be lost, and others gained. But who cares here. But what we do care about is our wonderful classic boats. And being the type of person that loves the history of it all and preserving all the pain with the pleasure. Will robots really find there way into our little passion? Well, they already have.

A robot drew this

The guys at Wooden Runabout Co, have been using technology/robots for some time now, replicating the perfect cut of wood, and thus making it possible to make repairs or even entire boats with more efficiency and accuracy.

Art by ROBOT!

Cut by ROBOT

Oh hell ya!

The best part of all this is you can customize and have fun with it all. I have been in this boat and its amazing and fun and the future of the past!

Now hold on “Mr I want the imperfection” of yada yada. This is no different than the factory did it. Only it was some group of guys that just cranked out cut boards. Each board was marked and cataloged and then put together. So whats different about that? Nothing.

Those are human robots, no different. Only they made mistakes. Sorry. And yes, the perfection of imperfection is part of the art of it all. BUT

And lets take it further. Just for the sake of poking the comment bear. Why not a robot that can find and detect weak frames before the bottom is removed? What about a robot that can be plugged into your flathead and read out stuff. A robot that adjusts the humidity in your barn? What about a robot that writes Woody Boater stories daily….. Oh, wait one dam second. Maybe I am a robot and don’t know it? Oh crap. But would I know it if I was a robot? Am I a robot?

39 replies
  1. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    Great answer to anyone that points out a less then perfect join or varnish run on your work. “What you think I am…a robot!”
    “Want it perfect? Get a robot!”

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    We had the pleasure of having that beautiful robot racing runabout join us in Algonac this year. The captain is a great guy, not a robot, and we had a wonderful time with he and his father. I hope they got some engine issues repaired but now.

    • Matt b
      Matt b says:

      Greg I know that guy! My father and I had a great time at the algonac show. You guys put on a great event and chapter. My race boat should be ready for the international show in a couple week.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Russ I thought a MRI type deal on a boat would be a fantastic deal. All you need is a million bucks for one. But I wonder if there is technolgy that is out there that can xray wood. Like a plate that scans the sides. I will say that I assume that when a bottom is done that its a train wreck underneith it. We are all optimists though and always assume our boats are nice and its just a bottom.

      • Scott Ales
        Scott Ales says:

        Yes, that is a thing Matt. Thermal imaging is all the rage in Europe for high end cars. You slightly raise the temperature of any material, and I mean slightly, then shoot thermal images. Any discrepancies show up in a glaring different color on the photo.

        • Russ Roque
          Russ Roque says:

          I have used induction heating to free stuck bolts and I can see how this would work with cars, but the same technology could not apply to wooden boats. How can you slightly raise the temperature of a wooden boat for thermal imaging?

  3. Jamie T
    Jamie T says:

    Having a 3D solid modeling background, I can assure you, a human spent MANY hours behind the keyboard lofting that hull. It’s definitely faster than nails in a board and bending a batten around them, though! The way I see it, the CNC router just gives us more time to do other things, like, enjoying woody boats on the water!

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    Imagine for a second that you could order a complete bottom and frames for your barrel back and they come pre cut and ready to go. Think of the time and money that would save since all the cutting and tweaking is a major part of the job. We MUST try and find new ways to make this a more affordable and fun process for all. Many boats like U22’s, 19, 17 barrel backs could have this. You want to do a cobra? Or rare Bell ISle then thats custom. This is no different than what Mustangs, Camaros and other types of cars have done. Replicating factory parts. This helps grow the hobby and removes a huge emotional block from certain people.

  5. Dennis J Mykols
    Dennis J Mykols says:

    I had the pleasure of parking next to this robot made runabout this Saturday at the Holland Classic Boat show. Mike is one heck of a nice guy and he and his partner Kirk, are on the cutting edge.
    They also help our Chapter pre cut all the wood needed to assemble our kit boats made by the youth boat building program, we sponsor at our display, at the winter Grand Rapids Boat show.

    • Matt b
      Matt b says:

      Dennis, yes, Mike and Kirk are great guys. They are the kind of guys that make this hobby fun to be part of.

  6. Scott Ales
    Scott Ales says:

    I see a steam chamber with a press to un-bend a piece which needs to be replaced. Then a digital drawing which can be manipulated if desired to add microns if needed to close a poorly fit original gap. CNC machine then cuts it out. But you still need to time honored skill of steam bending and final fitting for you die hards!

  7. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    I can’t imagine deriving as much satisfaction from watching a machine whip out perfectly cut parts, as I would get from crafting the piece by hand. As a professional craftsman, the creative aspect of my work is far more rewarding than the income, no matter how well I’m paid.

  8. MikeT
    MikeT says:

    I know Matt is having some fun with the whole robot discussion, but in reality a cnc router and the accompanying software is really just another tool that we can use to produce the best product possible. Some tasks call for using a bandsaw or a handplane, but if you have access to it, other tasks call for a cnc router. It is tough to argue that crawling around on your hands and knees while drawing out a boat full size on a lofting floor is the best way to build a new boat in 2017.

    I find that satisfaction does not come from using a specific tool or method, but from using the best tool and the best method at my disposal to do the best job for a customer. One of the most rewarding aspects of boat building and restoration is that we get to be creative whether we are using a chisel, a sanding block, a varnish brush, or a CAD program. Doing an excellent job with any of the tools necessary in our trade is rewarding and I hope that someone can derive satisfaction no matter what tool they are using. The satisfaction does not come from the tool or the process, but from the user and the end product.

    At the end of the day, each of us will use whatever tools we have at our disposal to get ourselves in a beautiful boat out on the water.

  9. Texcritter
    Texcritter says:

    Wood working skill levels comes to play with the cnc cutting of the wood. Many, including me can’t afford the mistakes when it comes to hacking up high dollar wood. This cnc cutting will give the less than average skilled person a chance to build a boat without the intimadating fact of measuring 5 times cut once. This will give the average builder the hands on experience and builds confedence that you can build from scratch.

  10. John Lisicich
    John Lisicich says:

    Aloha and happy Sunday! Very cool story! To add to this, there are two mates in NZ, Chris Prier and Harry Nordberg who have 3d printed and built a Baby Bootlegger replica, and are right now finishing a 3d printed Fairliner Torpedo from our original plans from the Fairliner plant from Allen Petrich. It looks amazing! It is beautiful! I know they would be more than happy to share photos with Woody Boater and the woody Boater community. It would be a Great story for Wooden Boat Magazine too!
    Thanks for sharing and make every day the best day of your life, so far!

  11. Matt's Second Grade Teacher
    Matt's Second Grade Teacher says:

    Matt — for cryin’ out loud — learn to spell.
    Don’t you know the difference between “effect” and “affect”?
    One is a noun, the other is a verb. You had a 50-50 shot of
    guessing correctly, and you blew it!

    • AECarter
      AECarter says:

      Matt proves to us daily that he is not a robot… Unless the robot was programmed to use the wrong word (buy instead of by), frequent misspellings, bad grammar etc. He is keeping it real in the cringeworthy sense, but for the the love of wooden boats, it is fine by me, minus the occasional jab. Woody boater for life!

  12. don danenberg
    don danenberg says:

    What Kirk and Mike are doing is great, but note that it’s only with entirely new boats that can (and now must) be built perfectly straight and bilaterally symmetrical?

    You state that; “Many boats like U22’s, 19, 17 barrel backs could have this.” And that “This is no different than what Mustangs, Camaros and other types of cars have done. ”

    Well, these boats were not built the same way cars were, with the same tolerances and symmetry.

    I’m just finishing up on two 19-barrelbacks whose bottom frames were all replaced by cutting out on band-saws. I have two more 17-barrelbacks to do and maybe I’ll just call Mike and Kirk and order bottom frame sets from them?

    I know what they will say, the boats just were not similar enough to guarantee any kind of fit in my boats.

    I’ve re-framed a dozen barrelbacks since 1992 and have never seen one that was NOT 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ wider on one side than the other.

    I’ll give them a call and see if they will commit to a set that will fit MY boats?

  13. simon
    simon says:

    but can they cut out the side planks for the sides: and the deck tops; that would be really interesting;

  14. Phillip Jones
    Phillip Jones says:

    Matt tell me this is really not a surprise to you. There are three restorers I know that started doing this six years ago. They have even been doing this in Muskoka for a long time. Man I thought I was getting old and slow but…….:):):) maybe I have hope:)

    Got to drive RumRunner at the Lake Norman show in NC. this weekend, she debuted at Tavares in 2005.
    WOW what a smooth boat, and love the twin screw.

  15. thomas d
    thomas d says:

    It would have been nice to have had pre-cut bottom ribs for my little 15 1/2 chris-craft but it’s like Mr. Danenburg said, the guy building the starboard side had different plans than the guy building the port side.

  16. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Geez…this story generated more responses than almost EVER!
    Cool concepts.
    But I am to old to learn I guess….or won’t…..

    This new stuff is very interesting and may be the salvation of the hobby when all us bandsaw guys are gone?

    John in Va.

    • John Justice
      John Justice says:

      Let’s hope that someone comes up with an economical way to replace the bottoms of the boats that are otherwise usable. We’ve all seen them. They are not worth a new bottom using today’s techniques/materials, yet they may be a family heirloom or otherwise a fun boat. Huge issue for getting more people into the hobby.

  17. sandy alan squitieri
    sandy alan squitieri says:

    well, this is just a thought but its rather easy to do. the old parts need to be scanned and then converted to a 3d file, from this file a wire frame model can be created and then any part desired can be singled out and made out of the appropriate material. remote scanners are sometimes used to make it more practical. So if you had the old part out and still somewhat in one piece that particular part whether it was out 3/4″ or more could still be duplicated with ease.

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