Rye boat builder Jeff Baker - Sussex maker of the month

Clinker boat-building

Clinker boat-building - Credit: Archant

Jeff Baker has a fascinating job, in that he undertakes carpentry and joinery works on all types of boats for his company Fine Woodcraft, based in Rye.

Restoration work

Restoration work - Credit: Archant

This has led to building display cabinets and fitted or bespoke furniture for homes. “I particularly enjoy undertaking specialist commissions which involve skills associated and learned from boat-building too – carving, sculpting, gilding and wood-steaming.” And if all that wasn’t enough, he’s developing a range of products which he will build to order, to include everything from traditional children’s furniture to jewellery boxes and large sculptures.

“I always wanted to work with my hands and be creative,” Jeff says of his path into carpentry. “But equally I like to design and make things that are practical and useful. Working with boats allows me to incorporate everything I enjoy – a wooden boat is all about functional aesthetics. The skills I have learned through working with boats are very transferable and allow me to work in a number of ways, including traditional joinery, but also decorative, specialist work such as wood-steaming and carving.”

Carpentry has been a long-held interest, and during the school holidays he used to learn to make and fix carpentry on his father’s building sites. “My first proper job was a business venture I had at 18; I opened a picture framing shop and small art gallery during a gap year.”

Sport is another passion, and Jeff studied Sport and Exercise Science at university before working as a personal trainer and rugby coach for three years. “Then I learned boat-building through working voluntarily with a boat builder for a year, before working in Greece repairing sailing yachts. It was only then that I set up my own boat-building and repair business – and now it’s expanded to incorporate a range of woodcraft services.”

Jeff Baker

Jeff Baker - Credit: Archant

Of working on the banks of the River Brede in Rye he says that “there’s a great atmosphere to the town and lots going on. I also love the strong maritime heritage there is here.”

His favourite piece was a 19ft mahogany on oak clinker boat that he made a couple of years ago, which he says was really satisfying. “It was a commission for a large private estate and part of the specification was to carve an ornate armchair within it and finish it with gilding. Apart from the chance to work in wood-steaming, carving and gilding, there was something very special about building a boat – the curves and lines in a wooden boat make it inherently attractive, and you’re creating something which will take on its own personality and characteristics in the water.”

Jeff is in the process of organising workshops to start soon for those wanting to work in the same way. Details will be on the website - www.finewoodcraft.co.uk.

Fine Woodcraft, Unit 1, Rock Channel, Rye TN31 7HJit 1, Rock Channel, Rye, 01797 227707; info@finewoodcraft.co.uk***

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