Days of Yore
An old skill crafts a bright future
ALMERE _ Jaap Ording will not be jobless soon. Not when classic sailboats still thrive on Dutch waterways. Not while Tall Ships races still attract scores of vessels and throngs of visitors to European ports every summer. Not while old ships _ or their replicas _ still roam the Seven Seas. And not while Hollywood still makes pirate movies. Ording’s trade is an old one, but one that is not in danger of going out of style or favor.
Ording (photo) proves there’s a sunny future in making traditional maritime hardware. His company, Ording Blockmakers, issues all manner of handcrafted wooden blocks, along with bindings for masts, gaffs and spars.
“There’s a lot demand for wooden blocks,” Ording tells Yacht and Coast. In fact, demand is growing. Today, Ording makes about 1,000 wooden blocks a year.
Ording: “Eight years or so ago that was, oh, maybe 600 only. There are still people with an unusual love for classic wooden ships. They maintain them lovingly, sail them fanatically. And these are not just privately-owned ships. They include vessels that provide charter skippers with a livelihood. Some are over 100 years old. And others were recently launched.”
The company was begun, around 1970, by Jaap Ording’s father. Looking fruitlessly for a wooden block for his own boat, George Ording made one himself. And then he made it his trade, setting up shop in a former sea scouts club near Amsterdam. Over the years, the company found clients in the Netherlands and far beyond, tapping into a classic boating market that keeps going strong. Today, it not only makes handcrafted wooden blocks _ mostly out of elm _ but also their bronze, stainless steel or aluminum-bronze sheaves.
Ording’s pelican trademark goes on classic boat hardware everywhere. You’ll see it on the HMCS Oriole (1921), the Canadian Navy’s 31m-training ketch, for instance. Or on the 3-masted schooner Oosterschelde (1918, restored 1988-92) and the bark Europa (1911) _ both still in the charter business circumnavigating the world. Ording’s work is visible on replicas such as the Amsterdam (1985) which revives a Dutch East India trader, the Amistad (2000) and the Virginia _ replicas of two historic American schooners.
Unsurprisingly, when the makers of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies went searching for an authentic maritime feel and decor, they inevitably turned up at Ording’s doorstep. “We made the blocks for the ships in the movies as well as for the models that were used by the film makers.” he says.