The 8′ Frugal Skiff

The small 8′ dinghy I built and donated for the Women’s Health Resource Library “Chinese Auction” during Milbridge Days attracted quite a few folks and sold an extraordinary number of raffle tickets. I received a lot of positive feedback and everyone loved the bright (spar varnish) finish on the quarter knees and breasthook; all fabricated from natural hackmatack knees.

Most people are not aware that I’m a retired naval architect and marine engineer. I once had an active design practice for yachts and work boats. I still maintain a hobby business out of personal interest, selling stock boat plans and instruction books I’ve written for them that are intended for novice, backyard boat builders. I market these through my other website called Shoestring Shipyard

The dinghy I built for the WHRL event is part of my “Frugal Skiff” series of designs. I no longer offer the 8′ version, but I still sell the 10′, 12′, and 14′ version – all of which go together the same way. This series used to be used for the 3 day boat building classes I once ran. Folks would begin at 0830 on a Friday morning and leave with a boat that was ready for the water (except for the paint/finish) on a Sunday afternoon around 5pm. They are that easy to build!

I shot several video segments while building this dinghy, so as soon as I have a chance, I’ll do some editing and post a series on how to build this boat on my Youtube Channel and on both of my websites (Downeast Thunder Creations and Shoestring Shipyard).

Latest Update: Finally!!!! I have begun editing of the film clips made while building the dinghy. The first segment has been published on Youtube, and the remainder will soon follow. I’m not sure how many parts there will be yet, but I’m trying to keep each video under 5 minutes duration. Here’s the first one:

Update for 19 SEPT 2017: Here is the Part 2 video for the boat building series:


8′ Frugal Skiff at WHRL Auction

Getting Frugal Skiff 8′ ready for auction.

Downeast Adirondack Chair

Our local “Milbridge Days” celebration over July 28th and 29th this year in Milbridge, Maine has come and gone. The weeks and days up to that point were quite busy, and I had committed to donating a chair to the Womens Health Resource Library’s Adirondack Chair Silent Auction.This auction was a fundraiser held at the “Seaworthy Center” on Main Street in Milbridge during Milbridge Days and all of the chairs went to local, professional artists to paint or decorate as they saw fit.

The WHRL ordered 15 folding Adirondack chair kits that came completely disassembled and unfinished (bare wood).  I had to drive a couple of hours (one way) to pick them up from the company they were ordered from, then came home and assembled all of the kits. They were then distributed to the local artists.

My chair made the total 16 in all. I traced the parts from the  kits onto hardboard and cut out templates to base my design on. Rather than build a chair exactly like the kits, I embellished a bit and  made the back slats look a little like the forward section of a lobster carapace, and the arms look like lobster claws. I also made drink holders out of 12 gauge copper electrical wire with soldered joints, using a jig I made so both would be exactly the same.

I used all locally harvested woods and American made hardware for my chair, finished it bright, except for the arm rests, back, and seat slats,

which I painted a bright red. I was trying to keep it subtle and never mentioned the word lobster. I simply dubbed the chair “Downeast Adirondack” and left it at that, but as soon as the doors opened, everyone started calling it “The lobster chair.”

At the end of the auction, my chair brought the second highest bid price of $500.00 and there were several bids from different families in attendance. This was a “one-off” chair as I did not make templates of the “lobster” parts  I incorporated into it. Some folks have asked me if I would be interested in making more of these, and I could draw some parts to look similar to this chair, but I’d have to get $600.00 per chair to make the effort worthwhile.

If you like it enough such that you are willing to part with the cash, a 50% deposit is necessary to schedule the work. At the moment, I’m working towards making enough inventory for my booth at the Machias (Maine) Blueberry Festival taking place in a couple  of weeks (over August 18th, 19th, and 20th). I’ve been assigned “spot number 8” in what they call “the church lot,” and I’ll be there all three days of the festival.

Downeast Adirondack by Paul Bennett


Youtube Introduction to Downeast Thunder Creations

Introducing Downeast Thunder Creations to the YouTube Community.

This is a short trailer video posted  on my YouTube Channel . It’s an introduction about Downeast Thunder Creations; what is offered in terms of how-to videos, plans & drawings, and future plans.

It was a long time coming.

I should have posted this video in the beginning, but I’ve been putting it off. Appearing in front of a video camera seems kind of weird to me, and I’ve been hesitant to do it. I guess I was finally ready for my “close-up” so here it is. I’m pretty sure my performance won’t win an Oscar any time soon though. I’ll make another trailer to replace this one after I get some more experience and can do a better job at it. For now, this one will have to do.

If any of my adoring fans would like a personally autographed picture, just let me know……………

Re-Purposing a 30+ Year Old Headboard

My desk is no longer used for typical office work, but is now a craft bench. The problem is no storage space to put tools, paints, materials, and other supplies. This results in a total mess when multiple projects are in various stages.

I planned on building something to remedy the situation. I mentioned this to my wife Susan, and she suggested I re-purpose an old headboard we had in storage but really had no use for. I had completely forgotten about the headboard, but it made perfect sense.

The headboard was designed and fabricated by me over 30 years ago. It was designed for a single bed, and features a combination of small drawers and shelf space, along with a few “cubbies.” This headboard served the purpose well, way back when. For the past few years though, there has been no need for it, and it has been just taking up valuable space, collecting dust.

In this video, you’ll see how the headboard was transformed into a unit that sits on the desk, and makes a perfect place for all the items I use in craft projects. The desk now displays a bit of order, and allows more space to work in.

The wood that I trimmed off of the headboard in order to make the transformation is perfectly good, and will be reused at some point in another project. Our “Mantra” here at Downeast Thunder Farm is: “Re-use, Re-purpose, Re-cycle.” My personal favorite quote is: “Waste not, want not.”

What do you have kicking around your home, not being used, and just taking up space – collecting dust? How could it be reused or re-purposed? Maybe it can be recycled?

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Visit Susan’s blog about what goes on around our farm/homestead along “The Bold Coast” of Downeast Maine:


Typical Winter at Downeast Thunder Farm in Maine

So far this (2016/2017) winter season, the weather has not been typical, with very little snow. This slideshow video reveals what we’ve typically experienced over the past 13 years we’ve lived here in Downeast Maine, along the “Bold Coast.”

No creative projects or how-to’s this time around. Just a few photos to share because I have friends around the country asking me about winters in our “neck of the woods.”

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Look around while you’re here on this web site, where you’ll find free downloadable drawings/plans for various projects in pdf format.

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Wrought Iron Pot Rack

My wife Susan wanted a pot rack, and found a design she liked on line. She saved the pictures and told me to get to work! The design she chose, and ultimately what I made for her was inspired by “Artisans of the Anvil.” It’s kind of “artsy-fartsy,” don’t ya think?

This project went along fairly quick and I neglected to take many photos during fabrication, but this short slideshow video will give you an idea of how the pot rack was built.

I have no plans to offer for the DIY folks doing their own blacksmith work, but I’m confident most folks with such skills can easily duplicate this pot rack from the photos if desired.

I accept commissions for such projects, and can be contacted through this web site if anyone would like to have something similar custom designed and fabricated.

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Building a Chicken Coop

Several years ago, we decided to add a flock of laying hens to our farm & homestead here in Downeast Maine. The chickens needed a home, so I designed the chicken coop you see here. It has a footprint of 4 feet by 8 feet, so a standard sized sheet of plywood makes up the main floor surface without any cutting. The video I made shows a few steps during the original construction of the coop, and I built it right from the plans I drew in CAD.

This chicken coop will house up to a dozen hens, and our chickens have survived many brutal Maine winters where temperatures plummeted well below zero. The coop is also very sturdy, and has worked out well in preventing predators from getting at our hens.

Over the years, I made a few changes. The picture of the purple coop is how it looks now. The same coop in yellow is how it was first built.

Here are free plans for this coop you can download in a pdf file: Downeast-Thunder-Farm-Coop-Plans

You’ll want to pay attention to the drawing details. Some people over the years have emailed me to say there was a mistake in the dimensions. No. There are no mistakes. Remember this coop was designed in CAD and so they are very accurate. In addition, I built this coop right from these very same drawings without changing any of the dimensions. If you think there is a mistake, go over the plans again (more carefully) before sending me an email.



Work Shop Fixture Plans

The slideshow video reveals a few of my work shop fixture/furniture designs in simple 2D drawings. The reason I posted a video in this format is because I am testing some software that converts my pdf files to jpg format, and I want to evaluate how it works out. I haven’t purchased the software yet – just evaluating a trial copy, so you’ll note the watermarks in the drawings.

The software is called PDF Helper by TriSun Software. They can be reached through their web site: if you think you might have a use for it.

The drawings presented in this video are typically used shop items such as saw horses, benches, and shelves, etc. I’ve been giving away these plans for free over many years, and I upgraded them back in 2012.

Obviously, they are not to scale in the video, and they would be difficult to save; picture by picture. The links below will allow you to download the plans for each item (free). Many items require more than one drawing as they have been drawn to fit standard 8-1/2″ x 11 paper so you can print them out. As such, you will see more than one link for each item. The step stool is the only item on a single sheet.

Sawhorse 1 | Sawhorse 2 | Panel Cutting Jig 1 | Panel Cutting Jig 2 | Tool Bench 1 | Tool Bench 2 | Tool Bench 3 | Work Bench 1 | Work Bench 2 | Work Bench 3 | Wall Shelf 1 | Wall Shelf 2 | Storage Shelves 1 | Storage Shelves 2 | Storage Shelves 3 | Step Stool

I’d appreciate your feedback on how the drawings look in the video – it will help in making my decision to purchase the software. I’d also like to know what you think of the designs themselves and if you might find them useful.

Thanks for watching, and please Subscribe on Youtube, also Like & Share on Youtube and Facebook!

Mobile Stand-Up Desk

The design for this mobile stand-up desk was inspired by Paul Akers of Fastcap and the mobile stand-up desk he created for his own use; now offered to the public as “Paul’s Desk” on the Fastcap web site. Unlike Paul’s Desk, the one I created is primarily constructed with 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood.

Paul Akers is the guy behind Fastcap Tools and I consider him my “guru” of sorts in the field of “lean” management and manufacturing. This mobile stand-up desk allows one to be very lean indeed. The desk can roll around almost anywhere, so you are not tied down to an office. You can certainly use it in an office, or a lobby, or on the production floor of your factory. Maybe you just need to roll it out of your office to your personal workshop. It’s an effective tool in the world of “lean.”

Drawers were designed to fit under the desktop, and they are on my drawings, but I have not built them yet. The space occupied by the drawers can be left open as shown in the video with coat hooks installed, or a trash bucket placed in this space. Other options would be shelves, or a combination of drawers and shelves.

The drawback to this desk is that it is custom built to the correct height for the individual using it and is not adjustable. The other drawback is that it will cost more in materials than simply ordering Paul’s Desk from Fastcap.

It is fairly quick and easy to build though, and if you already have materials in your shop, then it’s cheap to build and own.

My drawings for this mobile stand-up desk will be available in pdf files for free download relatively soon on this page, so check back if you are interested in downloading a set.

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High Wind & Heavy Snow Load Greenhouse

AKA: “Susan’s Greenhouse.”

We live in Downeast Maine: That’s along the seacoast; way up near the Canadian border.

Strong “Nor’easters” and heavy snowfall during the winter (most of the year) necessitate a heavy-duty design for any sort of greenhouse. Standard designs work to various degrees, but seem to ultimately fail when we get our most powerful storms.

I searched for stronger greenhouse design ideas on the internet and discovered a Youtube contributor; “LDSPrepper.” He had been influenced by someone else and shared a heavy duty greenhouse design he modified to fit his needs. I simply did the same. My design uses many of the concepts from LDSPrepper’s design, but modified to match our unique weather conditions.

Our greenhouse is 10′ x 20′ and has doors at each end. There is a walkway straight down the middle with beds on each side. The roof ribs are 3/4″ PVC electrical conduit, spaced 12″ apart on center.

The garden beds are not typical beds, but are actually “Hugelkulturs” (You can “Google” this to see what they are all about). We discovered the combination of greenhouse and hugelkultur here in Downeast Maine where there is a very short growing season, made our vegetables grow like they were on steroids!

We’ve had this greenhouse up now for the past couple of growing seasons and it has exceeded our expectations; in standing up to weather, and in it’s performance of growing veggies & extending our growing season. Here is the drawing I used to build ours in a pdf file. It’s not heavily detailed as it was not necessary for me. It was just a guide for me to follow during construction, but it may help if you wish to build one yourself:

DTC Greenhouse pdf

You can also visit my wife’s blog ( ) to see more pictures of this greenhouse, and of some veggies she’s grown in it.