The Shipbuilder
by August & Tyriek

The first ships built in the New World were built for fishing and fur trading. The ships were built from trees that grew in nearby forests. Some African American enslaved people were trained as boatmen building smaller boats. Former slave, Frederick Douglass worked for his master in the shipyard near Baltimore when he was just 11 years old. Later Colonial ships were larger and were used for passengers and trading. The largest ship yards were in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

Some tools they used were:

  • Caliper - used to measure thickness and distance
  • Chisel - metal tool with sharp edge used to shape wood
  • Maul - heavy long handled hammer used to drive stakes or wedges
  • Square - used to test right angles
  • Adz - axlike tool with a curved blade
  • Steam Box - used to steam the wood to shape it for the boat's frame
  • Jack plane - used to smooth and level wood

Shipbuilding was hard and complicated work. To be a shipbuilder you needed to know math and angles. Shipbuilders were architects, carpenters, joiners, caulkers, sailmakers, and designers.

Click on a trade below to read more about it.

Source: Fisher, Leonard Everett. The Shipbuilders. New York: Benchmark, 1998, c1971.

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