Woodworker keeps boat handcrafting afloat

Published: Nov. 29, 2017 at 2:55 PM EST
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Mark Coleman enjoys the hum of his woodworking shop aboard his houseboat on Norris Lake in Maynardville. It's where he builds the guitar stands that are gaining in popularity with his online customers. However, the craftsman boats that he has built but not been able to part with are the woodworking projects that give him the most joy.

"Most people call me Marco, they call me Marco out here," explained the small businessman who started

. Coleman began teaching part-time at Pellissippi State Community College, living a more relaxed lifestyle than when he was on the tenure track teaching anatomy to medical students.

The musician, with his PhD in the sciences, said he is detail oriented about building his small watercraft. He starts with a solid frame, crafting mahogany boats.

"They're much like the anatomy of a human, they have a skeleton that's the framing, and they have a skin on the outside," Coleman explained.

He has created a half-dozen different styles of small boat, from one inspired by Ernest Hemingway's Pilar to another complete with solar power, Bluetooth technology and LED lighting. He said he prides himself on quality craftmanship and building from blueprints. Coleman described his boats as light on the water, and as floating works of art.

While fiberglass boats are most common on East Tennessee waterways, Coleman said he enjoys building his attention-getting small boats out of old fashioned materials. They have always been conversation starters with others he meets on the lake.

"I think the cool thing about the wooden boat is you're the only one out there that has one...It seems unique, but actually it's a throwback to the past," he said.