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Learn About Hand-Lashed Kayaks at the Shreveport Mini Maker Faire
From top to bottom: Guillimot, Arctic, Greenland, Greenland frame (in authentic color), and the gunwales and deck beams of a new boat

I visited the Tyler Mini Maker Faire in April, 2015, in preparation for our first Shreveport Mini Maker Faire in September. I saw many exhibits and programs that I’ve grown to expect from a Maker Faire, such as 3D printing, robotics, and a Rube Goldberg device. But when I stumbled upon Don Fraser’s unique boat exhibit, I was amazed.

There he was, crafting a gorgeous boat, with more on display under a tarp in the rain! After visiting with him I learned he is retired from the Navy. I told Mr. Fraser that my oldest brother Sean had served in the Navy on the USS Sacramento, AOE 1. It was an oiler ship. He never outgrew his love for boats, and on his bucket list were plans to retire on a wooden DIY houseboat.

He never made it that far, and passed away at the young age of 43, his ashes released in Puget Sound, Washington. Contemplating how excited Sean would have been to see these masterful creations, I eagerly invited Mr. Fraser to demonstrate his handcrafted work at our Mini Maker Faire, and he is now our Feature Maker. He will have an area the size of four regular booths right in the center of the entire Faire.

These are the key points we’ve learned from Mr. Fraser:

When Don Fraser, MBA, US Navy (Retired) is not working as the Director of Alumni Affairs at Tyler Junior College in Texas, he is making boats. Building the boats in the traditional way, he bends the wood by steaming, then lashes it together using wood nails or screws, sews a skin onto the frame, and coats the boat with three or four layers of waterproofing material. These boats are flexible, light, and fast!

The boats he specializes in are the Greenland skin on frame and the Aleutian wood strip canoes. He built his first canoe at the age of 14, and has not stopped in 45 years. The hardest lesson for him to learn was: ”That they [canoes] didn’t have to be perfect to work. The Eskimos that first built these weren’t engineers in our sense… they were hungry!” Mr. Fraser’s favorite part is “putting together the frame and bending the ribs. I think it is a work of art each time.”

What does he do with them when they are finally done? “I paddle them. I have helped dozens of people build their first boat, and they are on the waters all around the country.” Mr. Fraser will be showing his boats and building one at the first Shreveport Maker Faire.

his Guillimot Kayak, plans by CLC boats, with two additional hulls in the background, one for a personal kayak, the other for a 9 foot canoe
His Guillimot Kayak, plans by CLC boats, with two additional hulls in the background, one for a personal kayak, the other for a 9-foot canoe


Come to the Shreveport Mini Maker Faire on September 19 to see this and many more great projects.

For more information on this FREE event, go to their website!

Heather Kleiner

Special Programs and Education Grants Manager at Sci-Port, Louisiana's Science Center

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