Dennis Page, owner of Dennis Boatworks

Lessons From A Marine Woodworking Expert

Wood has become expected on a boat. Well crafted wood, worked by a craftsman who loves what he does, is appreciated on a boat. The beautiful work done by these artists known as marine woodworkers gives each boat it’s distinctive personality and charm and provides the captain with everything he once could only imagine. If it weren’t for the nostalgic desire for wood, marine woodworking is a craft that could very easily be lost.

An Interview With Dennis Page

Dennis sat down with us and explained some things about his craft. He is from Ontario, Canada, and has worked with wood throughout his life. His work is admirable, and his services get sought out. He creates customized pieces of art that are a reflection of the boat and its owner. Every captain needs storage, and Dennis creates artistically crafted storage containers that stand-out in both their beauty and their serviceability.

AP: How do you determine what you are going to do?

Dennis: I take the ideas of the boat owner and try to mix them with the structure of the boat. I explain to the owners the best kinds of wood to use. Once we have the materials chosen, I then start getting creative. That is my favorite part.

AP: Marine woodworking is a service that appeals to a small and specific group of people. Is it much different than any other woodworking or cabinetry?

Dennis: Marine woodworking is an individually designed plan for each project. Domestic woodworking is faster and easier because, in a house, projects get done to standards. Every project that I work on is customized. I have to make templates and match my work with the pre-existing structure of each boat. I have to be extremely careful with every little detail, and poor quality is not an option.

AP: Your background is in custom cabinetry. You did this while in Canada?

Dennis: Yes.

AP: What are some visible signs of weak craftsmanship on a boat?

Dennis: Boat joinery requires skill and experience. If there is a problem, this is where you will find it. The seams need to be rigid. Any shortcuts or carelessness with joinery will stand out. The joinery must be well done, without error. Taking the time to make templates is the best way to meet the challenges of joinery. You can use a foam poster board that is inexpensive. Your client can see what you intend to build. Someone working on their boat without professional help should use a template. There is much that could go wrong if you do not. You will also need to use the right tools.

AP: Is there a particular type of wood that you prefer to use?

Dennis: Well, you are only going to use a few different types of wood. We mainly use teak in the exterior areas because teak is naturally oily. With the interior, we usually go with teak and cherry. Maple and cedar used to be very popular as well.

AP: Where do you get your wood?

Dennis: Most of the wood now comes from a farm. The only complaint I may have about that is that the teak gets cut down while the trees are still relatively young. They are not as oily as the older trees, and the color is slightly different.

AP: Is there anything you would tell people who are interested in marine woodworking?

Dennis: Find a community college near you and take a course in furniture building, carpentry, boat building, or something like that. It takes time and could be expensive, but it is worth your efforts. Also, a lack of patience will prevent you from enjoying this kind of work. Patience will make you the right candidate for marine woodworking.

AP: What specific project seems easy but is difficult if not done professionally?

Dennis: Definitely veneering. When a problem comes up on a boat, I use a fine piece of wood with matching grain and color to cover the issue. A veneer is good because I can easily find a perfectly matched veneer to the aged wood that is already there. One thing to be aware of when using veneer is that wood always moves. Contact cement will allow the wood to move more than it should. The veneer must be tightly applied. Many people have tried using contact cement, and it always fails.

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