From left Steve Bennett, Kalispell; Kit Paine, Condon; and Wayne Strevel, Condon,
take pointers from boat builder Charles Grant of Condon.
by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
April 9, 1998
Looking for a new hobby or a cure for the doldrums? Try building a boat. Charles Grant, proprietor of a new boat-building school at Salmon PrairieThe Walrus and the Carpentercan teach you how to build a canoe, a pram or even a rowing skiff.
The Six-Hour Canoe, which Grant admits takes him at least 16 hours to construct, is a class that offers an introduction to boat building. Grant is teaching this course to several Condon area residents and one student from Kalispell. The class is being held at the Forest Service shop at the Condon Work Center during two consecutive weekends, and is sponsored by the Flathead Valley Community College and the Swan Ecosystem Center. The local Alpine Artisans donated three $40 scholarships for the class to encourage local people to participate.
The light-weight six-hour wooden canoe15 feet long and 40 poundsis just right for quiet waters, like the small lakes and ponds of the Swan Valley. Grant compares it to a 15-foot Coleman canoe, and said that it is perfect for one adult or two kids. Materials, which cost about $175, include marine-grade plywood, epoxy, and house-paint. The boat can be furnished with a cane chair, and is complete with homemade, kayak-style paddles.
"It's a real beginner project," he said.
Boatbuilding was nearly a lost art not too long ago, Grant said. When fiberglass boats became popular, major manufacturers "just about quit" building wooden boats, he said. But the success of several boat-building schools in the United States has kindled a renewed interest in the craft.
Steve Bennett of Kalispell, signed up for the Six-Hour Canoe class in Condon after several months of searching for an affordable boat. "I've had my eye out to buy a boat, but they are so expensive. This is cheaper, and it also means so much more with the experience of making it," he said. The Six-Hour Canoe will cost Bennett the $175 in materials, plus the tuition for the class.
And what was his initial reaction to the painted, wooden canoe?
"I like ita lot," he said.
The design for the Six-Hour Canoe was developed by Mike O'Brien, co-author of the Six-Hour Canoe book.
Grant, whose 25 years of carpentry experience helps him understand wooden boats, uses tested designs for his classes. Last year, he traveled to several boat-building schools around the United States, where he observed instructors and learned boat-building tips from old-time craftsmen.
His goal is to share those tricks of the trade with his students.
"My interest is not so much in building boats to sell," he said. "I'm interested in passing information along."
Local residents will have more opportunities to see Grant's boats, and visit with him about his business. He will have a boat "in progress" at the annual Loon and Fish Festival in Seeley Lake next month. Beginning in June, he plans to offer several more boat-building courses at Condon. Classes will either be held at the Condon Work Center or at the Swan Valley Arts and Crafts store.