Canadian Woodworking

Basement Boatbuilding – Part 2

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: December January 2016
basement boat building
basement boat building

When I last left you I was preparing to build a 19-foot kayak in my base­ment, but first there was the little matter of an inconvenient wall I needed to remove. I had performed some precise measurements, and even studied some blueprints I had found in a bedroom closet.


They weren’t for this house but my wife can’t read blueprints so it didn’t matter, as long as she thought I could. Besides, I looked really professional as I stroked my chin and went, “Hmmm,” while I turned the plans round and round. Eventually, I came to the assumption that the offending wall may not have been a bearing wall after all, and even if it was … so what? I had almost full confidence the builder knew what he was doing and I figured that the house probably wouldn’t collapse on my head much before the kayak was built and we had moved away. Far, far away.

I finally decided it was time to start work and as I reached for my matching set of precision sledgehammers I couldn’t help but recall those immortal words of Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Wilkinson, tear down this wall.” And with those stir­ring, slightly paraphrased words echoing through my empty little head, I hefted the sledgehammer to my shoulder and with a mighty swing drove the hammer straight through the gyproc, where it sailed across the dining room and embed­ded itself in the far wall. Somehow, on its passage through the wall it managed to miss every stud, nearly all the electrical thing-a-ma-jigs, the hot water pipe and even the 220 volt wires and outlet for the stove. It was readily apparent even to me that I needed more practice with my tools.

Before proceeding any fur­ther, I feel I should list for you which tools I consider essential for home renovations. There are two. These apply to all home renovations, not just wall removal. First off, you need a sledgeham­mer, possibly two, and when it comes to sledgehammers, bigger is better. I used to like a 14-pounder for that little bit of extra power you sometimes need for driving that nail or to re-attach some door trim. Nowadays, I prefer something with a little more precision and subtlety. Lee Valley carries a nice line in 4-ounce upholstery hammers that seem to do the trick for me. Then again, these days most of my home improvements involve making the bed and occasionally vacuuming the floor.

The second essential tool for the home handyman is, of course, the reciprocat­ing saw. I had two just because they are so much fun to use and that is the rea­son we got into woodworking in the first place. If you don’t know what a recipro-saw is, think jackhammer with a saw blade. A recipro-saw is designed to quickly and easily cut through anything you want (and a little too frequently through things you might not want it to). If you need a wall down, this is the tool to use. Other than that, I can’t think of any other tool a home handyman might ever need. I know I never did. At least not until my wife noticed the 220-volt wires gently sparking against the water pipe I had tucked it behind. Then she made me get a screwdriver and actually disconnect the wire. Women!

She then raised the issue of a potential dust and odour problem that might occur during construction. I raised the issue that since this was her idea in the first place she would just have to live with it. Later on she graciously sent one of her chil­dren down with bedding and a sandwich. I conceded that I could staple some poly over the stairwell so no odours, sawdust or swear words could find their way upstairs and she let me out of the basement. I went and bought a new staple gun.

Once the poly was up and a few extraneous wires and water lines were disconnected, or at least pushed out of the way, I had provided myself with all the space I might need for her project.

In a few short hours I had managed to turn two completely wasted rooms into a first-rate boat building shop, and if that isn’t a home improvement I don’t know what is. And I am still here to tell each and every one of you that you too can do the very same thing.

Unless, of course, you like being married.

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