Building a Boat with South Rowan HS Wood Shop

My name is Brad Taylor and after 19 years of teaching middle school science and sometimes math at China Grove Middle School, I accepted the woodworking position at South Rowan High School.  You might wonder how a science teacher transforms into a wood working (and carpentry which is also combined with a math 2 course!) teacher.  A little back ground, As a teacher, I had to find something to do during the summer months because as the saying goes, "idle hands are the devil's work"! 

During the summer of 2003 I decided that I would build myself a wooden boat from plans offered by a small company out of South Carolina.  I come from a woodworking background where my stepfather is a carpenter and my dad is truly an artist with wood, luckily for me I have managed to combine qualities of the two. As the summer of 2004 approached I desperately wanted to build another boat, however, if I built one for myself my wife would have made me sleep in it!  So I decided to build one for someone else, and hence my side business of Toller Boatworks was born (and my summer side hustle to supplement my teaching salary!).  Since building that first boat in 2003, I have become registered with the Coast Guard as a builder, built over 40 boats for customers in 14 states across the US, designed 3 new models from scratch and been featured in several magazines including American Waterfowler, Wildfowl and Salisbury the Magazine.  In 2016 I began another side business on a whim called Compass Woodworks Co. where I make mostly unique cutting boards, serving trays, bread boards & charcuterie boards. You can see both businesses at and 

So when the opportunity came along for the shop position, I decided to take the leap of faith.  A little background on my wood shop at South.  South Rowan was built in the 1960s when vocational programs were still going strong and the backbone of many rural school systems.  Unfortunately, over the years many vocational programs were pushed to the way side which eventually led to the demise of the program.  One of the things I want to instill in my kids is the value of learning a skill.  Even if they think their life path will take them to a traditional four year school, community college, or entering the work force.  Until 3 years ago, the South Rowan shop had sat dormant for a number of years.  Fortunately, the administration started really trying to offer what the students requested after surveying them on their passions.  At that time they hired an instructor who acquired a shop that was in much need of an overhaul and while he did make some improvements we still have a long way to go.  I spent a good portion of my summer break organizing and cataloging equipment before coming up with a huge purchase request for stationary tools, hand tools, safety equipment and tool storage.  Fortunately, the bulk of my request was granted but unfortunately, it depleted most of my funding for this year leaving us without much funding for our class projects.

I was one of those kids, who often said the eight words that teachers dread to hear, "When am I ever going to use this?" As I began building boats so many math skills that were buried in the back of my mind started to surface. As I began to look over the course objectives for woodworking, I began to realize that 99% of the skills that were to be taught could be covered by building a boat.  So I asked my kids if the interest was there...not only was it there but they were visibly excited by this idea.  As we talked about the idea they were quick to offer that we could sale the completed boat in order add more funds back to the program.  It is my hope that if we can get the materials for  first boat funded we would become self-sufficient for funding in subsequent years. 

The breakdown of where your donation would go is as follows.

$ 250 - materials to build a work cart for the boat.
$ 1250 - marine plywood & dimensional lumber
$ 750 - epoxy, fiberglass cloth, fillers, and polyurethane foam
$ 300 - electrical components such as wiring, switch panels, & lighting
$ 200 - hardware & fasteners
$ 200 - paint and interior liner
$ 550 - consumable materials such as chip brushes, rags, drop cloth, sanding, disks etc.

If you have any questions about the project, feel free to reach out!
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Brad Taylor 
China Grove, NC
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