Bob Fuller's family has been designing and building wooden ships wheels for three generations.
Bob learned how to build wooden steering wheels by working alongside his father and grandfather in their shop, which was known for developing the (Edson Yacht Wheel) in 1965.
This highly specialized maritime craft involves patternmaking, metal working, marine joinery, and fine woodworking. Since 1976, Bob has built wheels for Edson and other customers around the world. His latest commission was a steering wheel for the mail boat serving Isle Le Haut and Acadia National Park.
Without the support of the Mass Cultural Council , it would be very difficult to teach the building of wooden ships steering wheels, due to the high cost of materials and the number of hours that need to be dedicated in a one-on-one setting to master this craft. Apprentice John O'Rourke, a graduate of North Bennett Street School in Preservation Carpentry, shares a passion for working with wood and preserving history. Although he has not built wheels before but many of the skills such as design layout, joinery, Mortise and Tenon joints, machine work and hand tools apply in fine woodworking , cabinet making and preservation carpentry.
O'Rouke will learn the layout and design of building ships wheels, choosing the proper woods for the marine environment, wood turning for the spokes and outer rim, patternmaking for casting the bronze hub, marine joinery, and finish varnishing. This FY17 apprenticeship will help keep part of our Massachusetts' maritime heritage going.