Noah Horshim and Larry Dyer work on their individual boats during Don Rausch’s workshop at the Mill Spring Ag Center. (photo by Kirk Gollwitzer)
Noah Horshim and Larry Dyer work on their individual boats during Don Rausch’s workshop at the Mill Spring Ag Center. (photo by Kirk Gollwitzer)

Archived Story

Course builds boats, builds youth at Mill Spring ag center

Published 10:16pm Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Mill Spring Agricultural Development Center aims to become an epicenter for knowledge sharing in Polk County.

Patrick McLendon, the center’s director, hopes by the fall and winter the center will offer up to 20 different classes.

“We see the ag center as a place where we can have many educational events and become a center for knowledge sharing,” said McLendon.

Several weeks ago Don Rausch, a professional boat builder, approached McLendon and asked him for his help in providing classes in wooden boat building. McLendon did a quick inventory of the available spaces in the old building and began to think out of the box.

The two agreed on a mutually beneficial plan that would allow Rausch to set up shop and begin his classes at no charge to Rausch. In return, Rausch would be expected to clear out the old boiler room and turn it into a usable space. Rausch, who owns the signature appearance of an experienced sailor, kept up his side of the deal and filled his class to capacity.

Three kids and two grandfathers, with ages that span 70 years, built six boats entirely from scratch over this summer.

Rausch, who says he learned the art of boat building from the industry’s best, taught his students everything from plywood characteristics to the proper use of epoxy.

“All of our boats are made of Lloyds of London inspected marine plywood, very stout and very expensive,” said Rausch.

Larry Dyer, 17, sanded the entire surface of his boat with a passion.

“I just like getting out and working with my hands,” Dyer said.

Once the boats are completed, they can be used for the next few generations because they are constructed by following the exact designs of Devlin Boat Designers, a recognized leader in the industry, Rausch said. Rausch instructs his students to also follow the Devlin process known as stitch-and-glue.

“There are no fasteners in these boats. Fasteners are the weakest point of other boats. They’re old fashion and don’t work well,” said Rausch.

During all stages of the production, the boats come alive with the signature characteristics of both the designer and Rausch himself.

Larry Denton is the grandfather of Dyer, as well as Noah Horshim, 12, who also took the class.

“You know kids, they get out of school and they can’t get a job because they don’t even know how to work,” said Denton, as he watched over his grandkids with pride.

Rausch said he is not leading the course for money. To date he has spent his own money to help finance the class.

“This is for kids; I don’t get paid for this,” said Rausch.

McLendon said he believes Rausch’s class fits in well with the knowledge-sharing theme of the ag center. Other classes planned include a poultry class, a turkey conference, a chicken processing class and a cob oven building class.

For more information on the boat building class, which will start up again this fall, call Rausch at 941-779-3962. For more information about all other class offerings, contact McLendon at 828-894-2281.

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