I had heard about Bud McIntosh for years before I met him. Among the cognoscenti in the field of traditional wooden boats, his name was uttered with a special kind of awe: not the mystical kind, but the kind that is characterized by utter amazement. Here was an artist and craftsman, I heard, who could not only design and build beautiful boats but who could build them quickly and cheaply-in the best sense of that word. Here was a man who knew from experience how much and what kind of wood to use where, and how to fit it so well that it seemed to have grown in place. Moreover, here was a man who was remarkably erudite-well read, well spoken-but without an overbearing nature. It was the stuff of legend, all right, and I was certain that our fledgling magazine would find a way to do an article on this unusual man. But time and money passed quickly in the early days of WoodenBoat, and somehow that goal seemed to elude me.
One day, my friend Randy Peffer called to say that he’d just been to visit Bud; he’d discovered that the boatbuilder had been working on writing a book about boatbuilding, and that this was no ordinary work. I would see for myself, he told me, because he had put copies of a couple of chapters in the mail.
When they arrived, I read them eagerly, hoping that I might have come upon something new and useful for the magazine’s readers, but expecting nothing special. After all, the builders of traditional wooden boats in this country had not, up to that time, been given to writing much at all, and certainly not with the clarity and style desired in magazine journalism. Yacht designers wrote about boatbuilding, and sometimes very well; historians did, too, and preserved thereby some very important information. But one did not hear much from the boatbuilders who trudged off to their shops every day to coax even more beauty from that most lovely of natural materials. Making a living at it was-and is challenge enough; it would be difficult to find oneself inspired, upon arriving home at the end of the day, to sit down and write freely about it. I was, therefore, unprepared for the elegance of Bud McIntosh’s writing.
Indeed, I was truly moved by a clarity and style which seemed unmatched in the literature of boatbuilding. Here, in one chapter, was a profoundly clear blend of solid experience, literary style, and a measure of wit and humor unlike anything I had ever encountered. I wasted no time in arranging to publish whatever Bud could write, whenever it could be written. And I dreamed that, if it could become a book, we would be the ones to publish it. That was 10 years ago.
The boatbuilder had been able to write, it turned out, because he had found himself suddenly rendered infirm by an injury to his foot. To prevent himself from being overwhelmed by boredom, he decided to begin writing about boatbuilding-from his own strictly practical point of view and experience-with little or no attention to the theoretical, except where it mattered absolutely.
Thus, the series of articles by Bud McIntosh began in WoodenBoat. There was a certain irregularity to it, and a certain absence of method to the order in which the chapters appeared, but we were happy. The material was being published, and the readers were finding it both informative and inspiring. For, in Bud they found a real educator-one who wasted little time on the nonessentials, and who encouraged his readers freely to see both the basic simplicity of each step in wooden boat building, and its relationship to the whole.
There was, however, an element not yet well expressed in the series: illustration. We had begun with a few photographs and a few sketches, but we knew we were not doing enough to convey directly the essence of what was being said. And it was not possible to assign just any illustrator to the task of bringing these ideas to the printed page, because a thorough understanding of the process was essential to conveying it.
Thus entered Sam Manning, a uniquely capable artist and writer, and an accomplished boatbuilder himself. We had worked before with Sam, and knew well his ability to translate abstract ideas into comprehensive drawings. He had demonstrated it clearly in numerous magazine and book illustrations over the years, and he appreciated the simplicity and directness with which Bud approached this subject. When he consented to collaborate with Bud on the series, and to aim toward the publication of a book, we were thrilled at the prospect. Over the years, the collaboration between these two extraordinary individuals has yielded a body of work which we believe sets a new standard in the field.
It is by no means a text on building all manner of wooden boats; it is by no means a general treatise on the subject. Rather, it is an attempt to convey, in detail, the processes by which Bud McIntosh has successfully built so many boats over the years. It is an attempt to convey the spirit and the philosophy behind these processes. To the extent that it succeeds at this, the reader is treated to the rare experience of wisdom acquired firsthand-and to the inimitable pleasure of understanding what seemed to be complex and mysterious procedures.
This book is a celebration of the wisdom of one New England boatbuilder. In a culture where fewer and fewer items are constructed by hand, and where too little time is spent preserving process itself, and the lasting pleasures such process can bring, we are honored and proud to be able to offer it at last.
Jonathan Wilson, Editor WoodenBoat Magazine