Nightmare on Elm street

Yesterday I rescued sculpture number 3 from outside the museum workshop and brought it inside. I learnt two things about its origins.


The rain soaked sculpture with a couple of large wine corks glued in place

Henry our volunteer shipwright from Porthleven took one look at it and said that’s not teak, it’s elm. It’s obvious when you look at the grain which is just beginning to emerge. It’s wavy and twisty just like elm. Henry knew that English elm was often used for boat keels and was best when it was not too wet and not too dry.

The other thing I discovered was that Andy, the museum boat collection manager, used to work for Pendennis ship yard when Shamrock was refurbished in 1999. He was sure the keel piece was from Shamrock, the classic J Class of which I have written before. (Three little birds).

So that’s it as far as I’m concerned this little piece of wood has a very interesting history.


The cork-like thing sticking out of the wood is something I epoxy glued in yesterday. It was to fill the keel-bolt hole that was not part of my plan for the sculpture.

Today I began to rough shape the sculpture with chainsaw, electric planer and hammer and chisel. I reshaped the long profile and cut the wood towards a knife edge along its spine.

Now that I am in a more public place everyone stops for a chat and asks what it is. Almost all the work that we do in the workshop is to make or refurbish functional things like boat hulls , rudders, shelving etc. How can I explain that my piece of wood will not function as a practical useful thing? “It’s a sculpture which is based on general boat forms” I say. “It’s all in my head. Yes I know where I am going … Wait and see.” I wonder if they think I am nuts?


I have 1400 stills of the day’s work from my timelapse video.


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