Canadian Woodworking

Canada’s historic schooner Bluenose

Author: Fred Martin
Illustration: Helen Martin
Published: June July 2003

Create your own tribute to the historic Bluenose schooner.

The sailing schooner, “Bluenose”, was launched in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada on March 26, 1921. During its 25-year career it never lost a race and, in 1937, the Bluenose’s image was placed on the Canadian dime.

The ship was named after the nickname of the people of Nova Scotia: “Bluenoses” or “Bluenosers”. There are a couple of stories to explain the origins of the nickname. Nova Scotia’s potatoes had a blue tinge, when washed, and often had nose-like knobs on them. The potatoes were exported to Maine and, because of them, Nova Scotia became known as the land of the “Bluenoses”.

The nickname is also said to have come from the early fishing days, when fishermen wore homespun clothing. They would arrive in Boston to sell their fish at the markets, with blue on their noses. The blue was left by their home-dyed blue, woolen mittens, with which they wiped their noses while fishing in dories, on the cold North Atlantic.

The name “Bluenose” reflects two important sources of livelihood, and the nickname was proudly accepted by Nova Scotians and, later, used in the naming of the world famous tall ship.

This intarsia design is a small tribute to the proud ship and the men who sailed her.

The woods used here are only suggestions. Feel free to use whatever woods are available to you. This type of project is far more about enjoying yourself than about the woods you use.

Transfer the pattern

Transfer the pattern onto tracing paper, making sure that the grain direction arrows are included. Select the first piece of wood for the hull. Mark it, using the traced pattern, and cut it to shape.

After cutting, remove the burr from the back edge, and sand the edges with an oscillating spindle sander, or a drum sander, mounted in a drill press. Without square edges, it’s nearly impossible to have tight fitting joints.

Fit the pieces

Select the wood for the next piece; slide the transfer paper under the pattern, and place the first piece in position. Mark this piece, using the pattern and the first piece as a guide (photo 1). Cut and fit the pieces together.

When you’re satisfied with the fit, you can either tape the pieces together using duct tape or, as I have done, glue them together (photo 2). The pieces are glued together because the hull is shaped as a unit, so don’t worry about excess glue.

Continue cutting until the hull pieces are completed. Sand the edges of the hull to make a seamless edge (photo 3).

Continue marking, cutting, fitting and taping pieces together using the previously cut pieces as a guide (photo 4 – left, photo 5 – right). Continue until all the pieces are shaped and glued together, except the upper sky and cloud (which are done after the sails).

Shaping and Contouring

This is where you make your intarsia piece come alive. Some intarsia artists say you should start at the lowest piece; others say you should start at the highest. I do both, some higher, then some lower. Keep taking a step back to get an overall view (photo 6). When you are satisfied with your contouring and sanding, glue the pieces together, using wax paper under them, so that they don’t become a permanent part of your workbench.

Mark and cut upper sky and cloud

Cut and edge-sand the cloud. Use this to mark the sky. Cut, fit and shape the upper sky and cloud (photo 7 – left, photo 8 – right, photo 9 – bottom).


Apply glue to any gaps you have on the back of your piece (photo 10 – left). When the glue has dried sufficiently (approximately 10 minutes), sand the back flat (photo 11).


Apply the finish of your choice and, when dry, attach a hanger.

Fred Martin - [email protected]

Fred is an intarsia artist from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

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