Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy working on Scheherazade

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy working on Scheherazade

Craft

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

With their precise detailing and intricate fittings, Robert Eddy’s bespoke yacht models are true works of art.

By Lauren Ho | 20 March 2018

The fact that Robert Eddy grew up in Camden, a pretty seaport town nudged against a boat-speckled harbour along Maine’s coast, probably had a lot to do with his resulting career as a yacht model producer. His success though, as one of the most recognised craftsmen in the industry, is all down to over 40 years of carefully honed skills as a sculptor, draftsman and trained jeweller that have won him a legion of sailing and naval history fans. His work adorns homes, the interiors of yachts and, soon, the Hart Nautical Gallery in the MIT Museum.

In fact, Eddy’s models are so precise, even the decks have been hand-laid plank-by-plank and stained to match the tone of a freshly laid teak deck. In the case of Snowhawk, a Little Harbor 54’ sloop, the specs alone are eye-popping: acrylic deck prisms, white gold cowl vents, and even winch tops finished off with tiny 1 point diamonds. The price? A snip at $60,000.

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy's model of Tenacious

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy's model of Tenacious

Given that some of his models can cost almost as much as a full-size boat, it is not surprising to hear about Eddy’s exacting standards. This includes making his own hardware from white and yellow gold, a skill he attributes to fellow craftsman Jay Hanna who advised Eddy to work for a jeweller. “To this day there is nowhere you can purchase properly scaled hardware of decent quality,” says Eddy. “The metalwork is paramount to the overall quality and the longevity of the models. I believe this is what sets our work apart from other model builders.”

Then there’s the groundwork that goes into each project. This means detailed discussions with the client, and visiting the full-size yacht, where he can spend up to two weeks photographing, videoing, measuring and re-measuring every single detail from the wheel and rudder to all the hardware, despite also working off the naval architect’s plans. “We work with our clients to identify what their needs are in the same way they have worked with their shipyard,” explains Eddy. “And having access to the vessel itself is very important, as many details are not in the drawings.”

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy crafting the hull of a bespoke yacht model

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy crafting the hull of a bespoke yacht model

With this information, Eddy, who says he would never have accomplished the pieces he has built had he not embraced technology, reduces the yacht to scale using computer-aided design (CAD). From here, the process involves a whole host of special tools from miniature saws and lathes to laser cutters that help him create the minute detail. “The laser cutter means I don’t have to outsource a lot of work and has given me control over the end product,” he says. “But at the time, it cost as much as my car!”

Needless to say, with so much intensive labour involved, each project can take an average of 2,617 hours to complete. Snowhawk alone took 1,550 hours, but Eddy’s biggest and most challenging commission to date is a two and a half foot replica of the 122-foot Atlantide. “I could go on forever about this project as it was very consuming and challenging,” says Eddy. Indeed, built during the same timeframe that the 1930s vintage motor yacht was being restored and reconstructed, it meant Eddy had to build the model and then, after the launch, finish all the details, taking him a total of 5,470 hours to complete. To put that in perspective, that is nearly three years of work for most of us who do 40-hour weeks.

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy's model of Maltese Falcon

Behind the scenes with a master model yacht craftsman

Robert Eddy's model of Maltese Falcon

Atlantide was actually one of the five commissions made by the late entrepreneur and passionate sailor, Tom Perkins. Together, these comprise some of Eddy’s most notable projects – three of which Perkins left to MIT in his will – such as Andromeda La Dea, which took 4,000 hours to complete and incorporates such details as rhodium-plated sterling silver metal details that have been sand-blasted to give a brushed aluminium appearance to match that of the real yacht; and the staggering one and a half foot replica of the 287-foot Maltese Falcon. “Imagine taking an object the size of a football field in length and trying to achieve reasonable detail of that football field,” says Eddy. When it launched in 2005, the life-size vessel itself was ground breaking: a square-rigged sailing yacht with three freestanding carbon fibre masts from which 15 square sails could be set at the press of a button. This of course presented huge challenges for Eddy, which meant the exploration and testing of new materials. “ We addressed the challenges of this model by making rubber moulds and then used resins to create the multiple parts we needed for the rigging,” says Eddy. “Everyone who worked for Tom was tested with their abilities and extended their boundaries.”

Taking 2,150 hours to complete, the finished model, now owned by Perkins’ son, sat proudly on his personal desk, a trophy to admire and remind him of the revolutionary design he achieved with the Maltese Falcon. A reason also, why so many yachtsmen flock to Eddy for his craft. “My clients are passionate people involved in the design and construction of both the real vessel and the model. They are very particular people who want the best of the best,” explains Eddy. “Also, the intricate details are talking points and having a one-of-a-kind anything is pretty cool.”

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