Girls’ Boat Project: Boatshop Basics & Bandsaw Practice!

Kelsey BrennerAll Blog Posts, Girls' Boat Project, Youth Programs

By Taylor Austin, Girls’ Boat Project Instructor

Since our last update about the Girls’ Boat Project return, we have been getting underway familiarizing ourselves with the tools in the shop, the plans for the boat we are going to build, and getting to know each other! Now on our third week, we have eight girls and two instructors in our crew, and it has been fun to start each meeting with an icebreaker question. This week while enjoying our snacks, we chatted about our favorite ways to relax and unwind, our favorite types of animals and insects, and if we saw or discovered anything interesting in the past week. After some break time out on the commons and on the beach, we headed into the shop.

Last week, we took a look at the plans for the boat—an 11’ 6” Ed Monk-designed skiff simply named “A Small Skiff.” Ginny Wilson, one of our instructors and a working shipwright/boatbuilder, suggested it would be a fun boat for us to build using traditional methods and a good design for the time and materials that we have access to. Part of gearing up to build a boat is learning the terminology. Luckily there are lots of different types of boats around the NWMC to aid us in identifying boat parts, so we walked around and did just that! It is exciting to become familiar with these words and the names of parts and methods; it is like learning a new language. Ginny had the patterns for the plans printed out to working size, and the girls worked on adjusting the lines on the printout to scale.

We also got started with our individual tool tray projects by measuring our layouts on our 6’ x 4” x ¾” boards of milled douglas fir. Using dividers, combination squares, and pencils for marking, we measured out the four sides of our boxes, leaving a ½” between sections for working room. When the girls were ready to cut their sections, we used the cross-cutting side of Japanese pull saws. These saws have two sides, one for rip cuts (going with the grain) and the other for cross cuts (going across the grain). The cross-cut side has about 15 teeth per inch—great for getting through wood fibers.

This week, the girls got to use the shop bandsaw! After a safety review, a rundown of how the machine operates, and a bandsaw tutorial, the girls had a turn cutting out a template of what will be a “knee” for the boat on plywood. We want the girls to have the opportunity to observe the difference between working with man-made and natural timber whenever possible, as both are used in woodworking and boatbuilding. After they cut out their pieces, they had access to hand planes, a spokeshave, and sandpaper to practice getting a sense for creating a “fair line.”

At our closing circle check-in, all of the girls were pretty stoked to have used the bandsaw and other tools that we will no doubt be using more of during our time together in the shop. It was really cool to see them engaged throughout the afternoon as they were using their hands and figuring out how to do what they wanted to do with the tools they had. So fun!



In the Girls’ Boat Project, middle school girls learn woodworking and boat building techniques in our boatshop as they work on their own projects and as a team to build a boat! The program is led by women role models from our Northwest Maritime Center staff who are skilled in woodworking, boat maintenance and other maritime skills. This year our instructors are Ginny Wilson and Taylor Austin.

Women and Girls’ programs at Northwest Maritime Center welcome those who identify as women and girls regardless of assignment at birth. These programs also welcome people who identify as non-binary or gender nonconforming and want to be in a female-centered environment.

Girls’ Boat Project meets on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. Enrollment is full for this session but keep your ears open for more opportunities.