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Clark Poston shows off the steam box

Clark Poston, VP for Industry Development, shows off the steam box

A couple weeks ago, I paid a visit to IYRS, a trade and technology school only 27 minutes (as the GPS flies) from where I live. They are located right on historic Thames Street, and I’ve passed IYRS many times in my life wondering what kind of making goes on behind their doors.

My expectations were a little off: I expected a boatbuilding school. And while I did find plenty of boat restoration going on, especially on their main Newport campus, I found a lot more.

Here's the steam box in action. This helps the students bend the wood to their will.

Here’s the steam box in action. This helps the students bend the wood to their will.

A close look at a lofting sheet

A close look at a lofting sheet.

This might be the oldest tool in the shop: a vintage Paddock Tool bandsaw

This might be the oldest tool in the shop: a vintage Paddock Tool bandsaw.

We took a side trip to check out the restoration of the Coronet, one of the largest and oldest schooner yachts

We took a side trip to check out the restoration of the Coronet, one of the largest and oldest schooner yachts.

After checking out the Newport campus, we took a trip up to the composites program in Bristol. Here, Composites Technology Instructor Henry Elliot shows off a chopper gun, which is used for laying down fiberglass

After checking out the Newport campus, we took a trip up to the composites program in Bristol. Here, Henry Elliot shows off a chopper gun, which is used for laying down fiberglass.

The IYRS composites program is where it becomes clear they aren't just a boatbuilding school: here's a set of skis drying in the walk-in kiln

The IYRS composites program is where it becomes clear they aren’t just a boatbuilding school: here’s a set of skis drying in the walk-in kiln. Yes, a walk-in kiln.

That's not to say that the Bristol campus gets off yacht-free. Here, my guide for the day, Brent Morin, shows off one of the projects students are required to build: the electrical, sensor, and plumbing (there's a toilet on the other side) systems for a boat

That’s not to say that the Bristol campus is yacht-free. Here, my guide for the day, IYRS Admissions Associate Brent Morin, shows off one of the projects students are required to build: the electrical, sensor, and plumbing (there’s a toilet on the other side) systems for a boat.

IYRS students spend their first year restoring a Beetle Cat boat. The school relies on donations of unseaworthy boats that are eventually sold at fair market value.

IYRS students spend their first year restoring a Beetle Cat boat. The school relies on donations of unseaworthy boats that are eventually sold at fair market value.

That’s just a small sampling of the interesting things I saw on my tour. I’ve got a bunch more photos up in a Flickr set. Check them out for more wood, tools, boats, and composites!

Brian Jepson

I’m a tinkerer and finally reached the point where I fix more things than I break. When I’m not tinkering, I’m probably editing a book for Maker Media.


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