Friday, 25 September 2015

The Boat House

The first year of our apprenticeship as shipwrights, in 1954, was spent in the famous Sheerness 'Boat House.'

The Boat House in the 21st Century - derelict

Inside the Boat House in the 21st Century - derelict

Despite the Boat House being built in the 1800's, it still reaches into all our lives. If you look at the way it is built, in the lower picture ,you can see the steel girders. This was the very first time this method of construction was used, and is the precursor to all 'skyscrapers' that were to follow world-wide.

This place was stuffed with wooden boats of all shapes and sizes - and references refer to it as the boat store. To us it was always the boathouse. The first year apprentice training centre was one floor up on the right at the near end. 

We started work at 7am (0700) and finished at 5pm (1700) with an hour for lunch. Additionally we had classes at the Dockyard Technical College two nights a week and one afternoon. A very long week for 15 year old's, and for our labours we were paid £1-10p a week (US$ 1-75c).

The 12 months in the boathouse taught us a lot, at the end of it we were all proficient wood and metal workers - including me!
   On day one we were issued with a large empty black wooden tool chest with rope handles ... and painted on the front mine were the words:

John Simlett
Shipwright App

The first job was to build to specification, a second smaller tool box, complete with dovetail joints etc. (I will photograph both boxes later when there is space in the garage  'er boathouse!).

Soon we had two empty tool boxes, and spent the next 12 months filling them with tools as we made them. 

The smaller box took the metal work tools we made: G cramps, Sash cramps, Moulding cramps, U clamps, toolmakers clamps, engineers squares - large, medium, small and mitre, 12 inch brass dividers, brass bevels, trammel bars etc.

The large chest took the woodwork tools as we made them: planes made in Ash; smoothing, jack, hollow and bollow, rabbet - 3 sizes, plough, mallets, 18 inch dividers in teak, bevels with brass 'blades', large mahogany square etc.

Additional tools be bought for a token price: lots of saws and chisels, adze, draw knife, pin maul (like a sledge hammer), caulking irons, hammers, spirit levels,  etc.

We left the boathouse well equipped with tools and skills, and a good academic grounding. Our next stop was to be the Plate Shop. 

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