restoration v. copy

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by OliverMoore, May 10, 2011.

  1. OliverMoore
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    OliverMoore New Member

    Hi. I'm curious about whether there is a philosophical point when a restoration becomes a new boat. Would a heavily restored wooden sailboat be considered the same vessel as long as it retains its original keel, for example? Or if it has at least 50pc of the original materials? I'm asking because it pertains to a story I'm writing for the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. Any advice welcomed. Or is this an impossible question to answer? Thanks
    Oliver Moore
  2. cthippo
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    cthippo Senior Member

    Welcome aboard, Oliver!

    The consensus seems to be that if there is any of the original boat in the new one it is considered a restoration. Some have said as long as the nameboard is original, even if nothing else is, then it's a restoration.
  3. keysdisease
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    keysdisease Senior Member


    Hello Oliver,

    Look at it from te other way. A newbuild could not be a restoration.

    A newbuild is a newbuild, from scratch from the keel up.

    A restoration takes an existing vessel and restores/refurbishes/rebuilds.

    Neither is the other.


  4. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I've lost judged shows to boats where a 6" piece of keelson was all that remained of a "restoration". To me this is a new build, literally copying the parts removed and installing them new. There should be some line in the sand to define this, but there isn't. I've worked hard to recondition old surfaces, keep their patina, wear marks and localized "life marks", such as the stained arc, left by a set of keys, that hung below an ignition switch, for a half a century's use.

    Where the line is drawn is usually a practical issue, in that at some point in a restoration you realize it'll be much cheaper just to build a new one, then refresh and restore the old. This is often the less costly route, though leaves one with an odd taste in your mouth, when you call it a 1932 something or other.
  5. OliverMoore
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    OliverMoore New Member

    Thanks for the responses. I'll follow up individually. Best
  6. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    There is no rule, as PAR has said. Some consider a small remaining piece of the original boat to be enough to call it restoration, and that could be a subject for endless technical discussions.

    I'd like to just say this: a restoration of an old boat is more than just a technical and economical feat. It is also a cultural and emotional effort. It's main motor is a pride of owning or helping to revive a unique and beautiful object - or else one wouldn't spend a big bunch of money necessary for a good restoration. I have used the word "object", but that's wrong. How many of us consider a 50+ yrs old wooden boat just an object? I don't, and I hope I'm not the only one. I can feel it has a soul (call a doctor if you want :) ), which was given to it through hard work of the craftsmen who have dedicated months and years of their lives and attention, and also through decades of service in contact with sailors and with the sea (and the sea has a soul - and a lots of it).

    If one starts a restoration job with this spirit, he will give his best to search for every bit of information he can get about the original design, about materials, screws, glues, varnishes, building techniques etc. used when that boat was created. And he will give his best not to betray the original spirit of the design, by carefully restoring and repairing the good parts and (when necessary) rebuilding the bad ones exactly as they were intended by the original design.

    While doing this job of search for informations, he will discover a new old world made of persons, events, anecdotes, technical info, historical facts related to that boat and the years in which it was created, or has raced or been in service otherwise. At the end of the story, a properly done restoration work will not just put back the old boat into a new life - it will also enrich the life and knowledge of persons who were involved in that job. That's why it is a cultural and emotional feat too.

    So, if and after all of the above has been done properly, with heart, knowledge and craftsmanship, is it really that important whether the frames or plankings are made of old fissured and repaired wood or they've become new parts, identical in everything to the original except for the age of the wood?

  7. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    reminds me of Building Dept/Code/Zoning farce where when

    basically building a brand new house on a piece of property you can build closing to the property line if the old wall's framing is kept in place and standing while total demo of everything else, including the foundation under the studs in question, happens.

    "Whatever you do, don't knock over those 6 studs, or I'll need to redraw the entire blueprints and make the house 10ft smaller".
  8. OliverMoore
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    OliverMoore New Member

    Yeah, seems very much in the eye of the beholder. Which is probably the only way to do it. Cheers
  9. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The rule, not accepted by everyone, is that as long as the boat always existed, it is a restoration. That means that if you change pieces one by one, it is a restoration and not a new build. The philosophical differences depend on many factors. For example, the Constitution has been extensively replanked, repaired and restored through several decades. Many think there is only a small percentage of the original ship left. However, because it happened slowly through the ages, most people consider it a restored historical ship. The arguments usually start when all the repairs are done in one job.
  10. Pericles
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    Pericles Senior Member

    The family axe. Five new handles, two new heads, but still the family axe.

    This is a restoration.



    My paternal grandfather was a cabinet maker. He ended his days in Mutford, Suffolk, England. He had access to fine, mature and ancient timber. He purchased oak church doors for £4 per ton circa 1900 AD. Whenever possible, he would purchase a single example of a quality English chair, Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, something of that ilk.

    Carefully, he would disassemble the chair into its constituent parts and make as many duplicate parts as would enable him to assemble that same number of chairs as parts, each with one original and the rest newly made. Correct wood of correct age, you could not tell which was new and which was old. Then he'd sell the complete set as "heavily restored". He was relatively wealthy when he popped his clogs.

    As it happens, I have 20 beautiful Chippendale chairs for sale, £30,000 and they are yours.

  11. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Not a dig at you Gonzo, but I'm in a unique position to discuss the USS Constitution and she's about as original as you can imagine.

    She's received several refits, the most extensive before the mid 1990's was in the late 20's when she was dragged home to be continuously berthed. She has never been restored. She's had major battle damage repairs about a half a dozen times, with the net result being she's shorter then she was on the ways in 1797. Typically, the splintered wood was cut back until solid and new stem and stern works erected. A hog has been removed three times, the last in the mid 90's. Her diagonals have been returned to her, having been removed doing repairs and prep for static display in the 1930's (which was called a restoration, but really was a butchering). Her masts have the same lowers except the mizzen, but all the upper works have been replaced more then once. All of her standing and running rig have been changed many times and bears little resemblance to how she launched. Her current condition is that of the 1812 era (well at least this is where they're going now), which includes substantially changing the bulwarks and hardened boat deck area. In this regard they're incorrect, because captain Hull made these changes as he took the ship into the 1812 war. Though admittedly, she does look much better with the open waste and lower bulwarks that got crews slaughtered in the Barbary Coast war (the very reason Hull raised them).

    Her keel is original as are most of her frames, all of her floors, though plenty of repairs are viable. Her planking is mostly original, except where battle damaged or sprung over the years. In short an easy 80% of her primary structure is original, which is quite amazing in itself. It must be remembered, she's been dormant for about 150 years. She was in "ordinary" only 20 years after built, enjoyed a leisurely life for the next 50 years, then languished for quite a while. She was refitted every 10 years or so, when working as a sail training ship, but it became obvious she needed more then just new sails and hemp and a serious hog had developed, so she was set back to Boston.

    The US Navy has called several of her repair sessions restorations, but much of this was related to just fixing what was broken. In the process much damage was also done. You have to realize she's been cut up a good bit for "upgrades" like air conditioning, heating, dehumidification, forced ventilation.

    In short, I couldn't call the old gal restored, but she has been kept in moderately good repair, considering until recently, she was just a museum piece to earn money are her gang plank.
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