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Merchants' wooden skiff boat project

After a year of hard work involving planning, construction and working together effectively as a team, the Merchants' Academy skiff boat project is coming to a successful close.

Students and staff involved in the project have been reflecting on the the last 13 months and looking back through each stage of the build. 


Diary of Events:

July 2017 - Project Announcement:

The Academy has been offered an amazing opportunity to join hands with British Rowing and the Bristol Classic Boat Company ‘Rolt’s Boat Yard’ to build a wooden Skiff boat.

The build will take roughly a year to complete and it will be made completely by hand. Once complete, the boat will aim to be used in a boating competition in Scotland.

Merchants’ Academy will be the first school in England to hand build a skiff and it will be the 206th skiff boat built, with previous boats being made in Scotland, Ireland, USA and Europe. 

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The build is being overseen by Mark Rolt’s team, from Rolt’s Boat Yard, Mark was responsible for building 'The Matthew' (located in the Harbourside in Bristol) and has a wealth of experience. 

The launch of the finished boat is due on the 10th anniversary of Merchants’ Academy’s opening, and there is talk of a TV documentary being made and filmed once the project is underway. 


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The project is a great opportunity for academy students studying Construction to learn new skills, not just practical, but also in project management. The students working on the project have been selected out of Y9 and Y10 BTEC classes and each will aim to oversee the whole project.      

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September 2017 - Project update:

After a few months of project planning and initial construction work, the skiff boat is coming along nicely.

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The students involved in the project this year are: William Stoneham, Matthew Calloway, Kaden Griffin and Lewis Jeffries.

During September the selected students have been preparing the skeleton frame of the boat. These pictures show the templates which have been taped up and ready for the proxy glue to be applied. The students will then start to bend the wood over the templates which will create the base of the boat. 

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Over the last 6 weeks the boys have shown a great deal of patience and commitment to the project and the result of their hard work is starting to pay off.

Mr Hook, Construction Teacher

February 2018 - Project update:

The boat building team have been busy at work over the winter months and the skiff project is progressing nicely. The skeleton of the boat is now complete with a string line running through it ensuring all panels are aligned. 

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During this term students have constructed the end curves of the boat skeleton via placing individual planks of birch timber on top of each other and then glueing them together using a special water tight substance. The planks are then bent around a template using numerous clamps and pressure and finally planed and cut to size. 

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During this process, the students needed to be extremely patient and accurate in terms of marking the timber and measuring the glue. This was a milestone reached in the project and all students have worked hard continuously, with their efforts clearly starting to show.

The coming weeks of the project will see strips of timber being applied to the skeleton.


April 2018 - Project update:

The skiff boat is taking shape and the students have started to ‘plank’ the skeleton of the boat. This involves making a jig to ‘scarf’ pieces of plywood together to make them longer; almost 24ft in fact! 

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The students have been learning to use new power tools such as a router and electric plane to ensure this job is done as accurately as possible. At this stage of the build it is imperative that mistakes are not made.

Furthermore, the first of four ores have been made. This started from just one (very long) length of timber which has been shaped using hand planes to get to the finished product. The skill and attention to detail needed to complete this job is difficult, but all the students involved showed tenacity, dedication and hard work to make it happen.

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May 2018 - Project update:

The students have finished the ores and have been continuing to ‘plank’ the skeleton of the boat. This process involves lots of Epoxy glue which needs to be accurately measured. This takes an incredible amount of skill as misjudging the amount by as much as a ML could have massive implications later on.


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Each plank need to be placed and lined up with pre-measured indicators before applying the glue and securing. As the planks are 24ft in length, the students have shown excellent team work and communication skills to get this job completed to a professional level.


July 2018 - Project completion:

Looking back across the project, academy staff and students involved are feeling very proud. Plans are in the pipeline for the skiff to be taken to the river Avon and hopefully involved in some up coming boat races or festivals. Mr Hook and the students hope one day the skiff can be involved in Bristol Harbour Festival activities, for the city community to enjoy their craftsmanship.




Mr N Hook

Construction Teacher and Project Coordinator

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