Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Your time Boat-building at the  Hill Institute, Florence

  • Chris Condon<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ira Hare, Craig Addis<br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Sealing edges with a torch<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Craig Addis<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Chris Bowen, left, Craig Addis<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • From left: Chris Bowen, Craig Addis, Ira Curtis, Chris Condon<br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Cosimo Favaloro, Ted Addis<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Chris Bowen<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Chris Bowen<br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Chris Bowen<br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ira Curtis, left, Chris Condon<br/><br/>ERREY ROBERTS

The smell of paint and varnish was in the air at the Hill Institute in Florence on a recent Saturday as six students spent one of the final sessions of a two-semester class completing their skin-on-frame canoes. Each student made a 15-foot canoe, or a 12- or 15-foot kayak.

Craig Addis of Florence, who has been making boats for 30 years, led the students as they lashed floorboards to the wooden frames with artificial sinew, applied varnish, stretched the frames with heavy polyester fabric, stapled fabric to the frames, sealed the edges with a torch, shrank the fabric with a steam iron, painted it with oil-based enamel paint and attached wooden rub rails. Earlier in the course, all of the components of the wood frames were cut and the frames themselves were constructed in the woodworking shop.

The class is just one of dozens offered by the institute. Among the others are jewelry making, painting, drawing, quilting, weaving, photography and cooking.

The students’ projects will be on view at a show tonight from 6 to 8:30 p.m., and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon. Tuition for courses at the institute ranges from $25 to $450; class length varies from two to 30 sessions. The canoe-making class meets weekly, and is $170 per semester. Materials cost about $350.

Ira Curtis of Northampton, who was applying paint to his canoe, said he appreciates the reasonable cost, expert instruction, the close-to-home location and his fellow students. “You get to hang out with people every week who are doing the same thing. There’s good camaraderie,” he said.

Chris Bowen of Southampton said he had previously taken a class in vegetarian cooking at the institute taught by Paul Sustick, of Paul and Elizabeth’s in downtown Northampton. A long-time patron of the restaurant, Bowen said cooking alongside Sustick was “like a dream come true.”

Bowen said he’d looked for a school where he could build a canoe to use at his parents’ place in the Adirondacks. He hadn’t been able to find one in the area, and those he found elsewhere were expensive, he said. The class at the institute — which he likened to having a boat-building school come to him instead — was the perfect solution.

To suggest a subject for Your Time, email Suzanne Wilson at swilson@gazettenet.com.

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