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Some wise boat boatbuilder once said “the only straight line on a boat is invisible.” Because a boat is made up of a series of curves, it is frequently necessary to bend wood in the process of making one.

If you have ever boiled a pot of water and cooked spaghetti, then you understand the principle behind using the power of steam to bend wood. That’s how Rocking the Boat’s Boatbuilding instructors introduce the science of steambending to their students. In this metaphor, a 16-foot long box is the pot, 100 degree steam is the boiling water, wood selected for its lack of knots, straight grain, and moisture content is the pasta, and the cook time is an hour for every inch of thickness. Pulling each heated length out wearing welder’s gloves, students must work quickly to bend the wood in place before it cools off and becomes brittle again. Rocking the Boat’s two current projects—a Herreshoff 12½ replica and a 14-foot Whitehall—have a total of 84 ribs and nearly 40 planks between them, requiring our Boatbuilders to demonstrate significant skill and patience, as is beautifully captured in this video.


the student becomes the teacher

the student becomes the teacher

“When I was a student, I had no idea wood could bend in such ways. It was impressive! As the Boatbuilding Student Program Director, I am excited that I now get to teach this technique. We installed 20 frames over the past two weeks, and I knew exactly what was running through their minds.”

- Manny Roman, Boatbuilding Student Program Director and Boatbuilding Program alumnus

three boatbuilding apprentices on steambending

three boatbuilding apprentices on steambending

“I remember the first time I had to steambend on the steamboat. I took the frame out of the box and when I bent it in, it broke. It was the funniest and saddest thing. Since then I have gotten the hang of it.”

- Jarrett Adorno

“Wear gloves because it’s hot from all the steam and don’t be too forceful or it might snap and break!!”

- Kemdry Blanco

“You have to be very careful, but very quick at the same time!”

- Jake Castro

kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892