A Portrait Carved In Wood

Much of my business in the past 28 years has been portraits of ships and boats. It all began at a crafts show at New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. I had been making trays out of mast hoops for some time. Towards the end of the day, a woman asked if I could carve her husband’s Eltro 19″ powerboat onto a tray. It was my first portrait.
Since then, portraits have been to be a gratifying part of my business.

Why did I take to making these so eagerly? My grandfather.
Our family has a long tradition of seamanship, but my grandfather had a severe heart problem, a life at sea was not for him. Instead, he made numerous models: passenger liners, a Great White Fleet battleship, a cabin cruiser, and for his sons a small tug boat. Other then the toy tug, all that is left are the memories. So when I began to carve portraits, I thought of my granfather and the generations of sailors who constructed portraits of their favorite vessels.
I call my work portraits, rather than models. I see my work as being in line with the 19th-century sailor/craftsman showing his ship on moving sea with squalls in the offing to starboard — the portraits are to “self scale” consistent with the size of the display the customer has ordered. For small sailing craft, this can be within a ten to 24-inch mast hoop. For a vessel, it can be quite large, like the carving of the Belganland on the blanket chest illustrated here.


I prefer to carve my portraits in cherry. Cherry is not for the faint of heart. Cherry is hard, durable, and it is tight-grained. Cherry takes and holds fine detail, an important consideration when carving a hull, which might measure out to be six inches in length. The grain pattern behind the boat gives the appearance of water, waves, sky, and horizon. Nature’s provision looks more natural than what you can add with a tool.
I’ve selected a series of pictures from completed portraits to illustrate boat portraiture in wood.

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