John's Tool Crib

By John Cupp - Oregon - USA


Now For A Completely New Idea

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NOTE: the response to John's "Idea" has been so great that he has started a Yahoo group to discuss the possibilities. John invites all interested to come by and contribute their ideas - Chuck

Are you tired of wood for your boat costing 100% more each year? Are you tired of paying the highest prices just because you say it is a marine part when you go to buy a simple fitting? Does it seem like the boat you are building should have been less expensive and when you think about it you get angry? Are you ready to make a stand for better service and prices?

I have been on a small sabbatical for the last two months and some day I will tell you all what happened and why. However, during this period I had time to think clearly and I have come up with what I feel is a solution to many of the problems that boat builders face today. The rising cost of everything is killing many of the projects we would normally undertake. Remember my article about plywood and the plywood industry? I received some nasty letters about how wood pricing would remain beyond the reach of our boating industries and especially private boat builders. Some major company representatives gave me plainly false information and told me they do not charge more for “marine plywood”.

Think I have found a way to beat the big wood companies. Now it is a fact that boat builders represent all nationalities and socioeconomic groups. Simply put it does not matter what language we speak or the color of our skin. We have doctor’s lawyers and even waste management engineers (garbage collectors) who build boats. Some of us make six figured incomes and some of us barely make a living. If we stay disconnected we will remain weak and at the mercy of the big wood and tool businesses. Believe me big businesses have no mercy at all for you and me. The reason your wood costs so much is that the wood companies have the only game in town. What the traffic will bear in price is the way they are selling wood now. I am asking everyone who reads this to determine to make a change.

The model that I want our boat builders to emulate has been around for more than one hundred years. This outfit in my area sells gasoline and diesel to their members for a dollar less a gallon than we pay for it. They buy tools and supplies for discounts from 25% to 50% off the wholesale prices. It is not a get rich quick scheme. There will be plenty of work for everyone to do and some more than others and we all will have to invest some money. No, it is not a pyramid scheme either. How many of you have heard of or belong to the farmers co-op?

It is a national organization that benefits farmers and they do very well and have taken individuals and given them massive buying power. What if all the boat builders in the US and Canada formed a Boatbuilders Co-oP? First it will take skill, determination and a well thought out plan with input from attorneys that may belong to the Co-oP doing pro bono work. The Co-Op could buy a few sawmills (portable) and send them to members in areas where they have stockpiled logs for milling. In my area alone I have seen thousands of board feet of lumber go to waste by land owners who fall the timber to build a house then give the wood away for fire wood when it could have built planks or framing for a nice yacht! Not just a boat but yacht sized projects.

The saying says that many hands make the task go faster. If we can organize, I could get huge discounts from tool companies who say they could sell in large lots to a national Co-oP. Discounts on tools, epoxy and the buying power to get huge discounts on plywood. However, personally I would like boat builders to wean themselves from plywood boat building. Those Plywood companies used boat builders to start their trade then the forgot about Boatbuilders when housing developments started using plywood. With a volunteer work force, the overhead would be much less than in any Home Depot and the rewards would be immense. Now I volunteer to do my part and if we get more people to help, we can move mountains. It will take clerical volunteers, workers that can run a sawmill one day a week, people to stack and un-stack lumber for other boat builders, any one will be welcome. Most of all people who will get along and work together. I have seen many times a political complication ruin to many good things. We must remind ourselves that we are helping each other not just the fellow we do not get along with.

People who helped other people built this country. I built a house in a small community called Tionesta, California. When it came time to raise the center beam on my house I could not afford a crane and it weighed 2,200 pounds. My close neighbor made a few phone calls and all fifteen Tionesta residences came out and we installed the beam. It still was one hundred and forty six pounds per person but some carried more and some carried less. At the end of the day, my house had the second story started and I fed everyone. After that, everyone helped each other no matter what the task and we formed a very tight community. Sure, some people did not like other people but if there was work to be done, we put away our squabbles and made the work disappear.

Now in my area we have huge Douglas fir trees, Lodge Pole pine, Ponderosa pine, American Red Cedar, Port Orford Cedar (closer to the coast), Manzanita and three different types of Oak and Walnut. We also have soft hardwood like cottonwood and Chinese Elm plus other trees I have yet to identify. Besides being a heavy equipment mechanic, welder and having a class one driver’s license for driving semi trucks, I have a large Dodge diesel pickup that can tow big trailers or a portable band mill. I have also tested an Alaskan Chain sawmill. They cannot cut as much lumber but if a tree falls down in some ones yard, I can be there before the chipper truck shows up. I have a building I use for a solar kiln and I will be building my new shop soon.

Now just imagine that you want to build a newer boat and one Saturday or Sunday twenty people show up and in half a day they put up a bow roof shed so you can build your boat and place a stack of lumber inside the shed plus only charge you pennies on the dollar for the lumber and all you have to do is feed them. That is the kind of Co-oP I want to form with my friends all over the US and Canada. Just think of the knowledge base available from twenty boat builders in your area who have built boats all of their lives. All they ask you in return is a yearly membership fee to belong and a few weekends of work or more. But lets be totally realistic in a world where the dollar is almighty how many of us will be willing to divide up a stack of wood that we cut for others to use that did not do the work? That is why there has to be a minimum of hours a year that must be put in to the Co-oP. Some will always do more and others will always try to get by doing nothing at all.

Therefore, as the organization grows and it brings in more money then we could actually sell wood to outside sources to recoup the cost of the overhead. We can set up a board of trusties who oversee all money matters and the positions will all be voluntary. That means no paid supervisory positions. It also means that having a board of trusties our money and equipment is safer than having one person oversee an entire area. When you need to contact someone having seven numbers to call is always better than just one number and waiting for a vacation to end to get an answer. As the years go on newcomers who want to join will be asked to pay in a larger amount because the sweat and sore muscles of the older members will have made the organization worth more on paper. Alternatively, they will be required to do more work, either way older members should get equity in their membership that they could use to their advantage. Someone who devotes a lot of time and money to the Co-oP should not be left without anything when they retire; at least not like corporate America does to older workers now on a regular basis. Maybe we can provide a mutual fund for the small profits in someone’s own account that will grow as their membership grows. Sort of like a savings account. So part of the membership fees will not be touched and when the member retires, they can sell their membership to a newcomer and receive a small amount of money from any profits. Now all this can be decided by the membership and it must take a majority of the members to change any part of the Co-oP bylaws. Now I have been involved in the formation of municipality organizations but never a non-profit or Co-oP system. There are many ways to run these things but a board set up to oversee these things should work better than any single person should. It might be nice to have separate chapter select their areas board personnel. There might even be a local board and one member of that board gets to be on the national board serving the Co-oPs.

I am not saying any of it will be easy and probably for me it might work out cheaper just to buy the wood in the first place. However, what about a couple generations down the way. If it is this expensive for us, who will build boats in 2053? We have to take a stand for our children’s, children! Even if all the money goes right back into the Co-oP and we never make a single dime for ourselves we will have made a niche for the boat builders of the future. They will thank us by building boats and cruising around in them long after we are gone. Can you imagine if a few people had done this in the 1920’s? We might be building a Co-oP boat right now to defend the Americas Cup! Instead of renting a houseboat at Lake Shasta California, you might be getting a free week on a Co-oP owned boat at Lake Shasta. Instead of Duckworks magazine, we might have Duckworks Naval Academy for builders and designers. The Co-op could be commissioning a design a month from Phil Bolger for a lucky member contest where they would get the design and all the supplies to build it.

Now this idea is much larger than John Cupp or any twenty people. This idea can be made into a real community of well-tooled, crafty boat builders across Canada and America. It could even end up around the world as a boat building empire. I will be willing to put my time and energy behind this ideal. I hope those of you with some vision can help and jump in to create something especially for boat builders. Nobody else will cover our butts so let us get a leg up. I have already set aside some time in the local high school shop to teach a few students how to build canoes and kayaks or whatever boat they decide they want. I write articles to give back to those who taught me free of charge. This winter I am even going to test what I feel might be the best sawmill for the Co-oP or any individual boat builder who needs lumber and can cut it themselves.

I have a huge stack of information from portable sawmill companies. After all, I will never be able to afford a larger boat at today’s wood prices. I have been thinking about the Co-oP idea for some time now so I decided to get information on new sawmills. I have watched hours of video and DVD footage of band and chain saw mills operating. I have already used an Alaskan mill. I received a new information packet on the Friday after Thanksgiving. What I watched amazed me. Out of all the portable mills I have been looking at this seems the most perfect for a Co-oP situation. It is called a Logosol M-7 chain saw mill. Now if you have used an Alaskan chain saw mill like I have you know they are very slow and it is hard to make completely square lumber. With a Logosol M-7 mill, it could be easy to break the 200 board feet an hour mark.

These mills are very affordable, I will test one for our members of the magazines I write for, and those are the people I am asking for help in forming the Co-oP! Now do not think that this is wood for boats. With a national organization, we are talking about screws, epoxy, fiberglass cloth, paint, outboard motors, drills, circular saws, fittings; saw blades and a thousand other items used for boat building. This is a fact, if we can keep our eyes on the big picture of low cost supplies, everything else will fall into place.

So please call me or email me and tell me what you think. Do not call and tell me it is a bad idea if you do not have a better solution to fix what you think is bad. I welcome criticism if you can show me a better way. I do not care if you want to build a canoe or a yacht we are all in the same boat now. Take a stand and make life better for us now and for our children into the future. Lets all be a part of something bigger than ourselves that can benefit each of us with one huge voice.

I have seen in the last twenty years how the lumber industry has moved away from longer boards and plywood too smaller stock sizes. They have taken quality 2 X lumber and given us sub par lumber that we once considered cull lumber and made it grade A lumber. We have been moving toward smaller metric sizing in all forms of marine parts and wood. When it all is seen together, the boat builders have been shortchanged but mostly in America. I see ships full of giant Port Orford Cedar logs leaving Brookings Oregon for Japan and I know that boat builders have really been sold out. When I was growing up one thing I was taught is that, I am not helpless but against a wacky system that is out of control, I am somewhat helpless. I have a word processor, a computer and a few magazines that will print this article. So now, we (you and I) are empowered and we can change this situation.

Please print this article and give it to those boat builders who do not have email or a computer. We can change the face of boat building to a more pleasurable inexpensive hobby or business!

Ranting again from my tool crib in the snowy Klamath Lake area

John Cupp