Peter Beck’s hands, especially his knuckles, are covered in small scars – combat wounds from a decade of woodworking. For more than half of his life, the 17-year-old built model ships that have become more and more complex over the years.
The summer after first grade, Beck’s parents enrolled him in a day camp program at Colorado Lagoon where each child was given various components and instructions on how to build a model boat.
Both Beck’s parents were working at the time, his mother Christina was a ballet teacher.
âHe hated going to the studio with me,â she said.
The lagoon was within walking distance of the family’s home, Christina said, and the boat-making class was one of the few walk-in programs she could find. So she signed up Peter and started dropping him off every morning.
Peter remembers being given a pin to file until it was rounded. Then a shell to sand and file. And so on until he finally had a boat worthy of the water and able to race to compete with the other kids in the program.
âAt first, it was a pretty tedious job. Very repetitive – sanding and filing, âsaid Peter. “Once I got to start painting it and see the components come together, I was very excited.”
Having competed in dozens of races, Peter said he has won several times, but humbly added that the luck of the wind is just as important as the craft.
Before the course, the family had no connection to sailing, Christina said. But after that first summer, he got hooked. Peter was involved in the program from 2011 to 2017, when he became a teen volunteer, helping run the program and teaching the children to build the boats.
Apart from his shipbuilding, Peter learned to sail large ships. The Wilson High School junior also enjoys surfing, running and basketball.
He said he hadn’t decided what he wanted to study in college, but said it would be in the field of design, like landscape architecture or town planning. But he said boat building was a hobby he planned to continue indefinitely.
âI haven’t lost any interest in this so far,â he said. âI still have a lot of fun, so as long as I do, I’ll keep doing it.
Over the past 10 years Peter has built around 60 boats, many of his own designs that are much more complex than the basic sailboats he started with. Some of the boats are available, while others are decorative.
Peter has researched various ships and their history, studying different styles of inspiration. From Chinese junks to traditional European ships, he drew inspiration from all of them.
âBut a lot of the design that I do is a bit theoretical,â he said. “I invent them in my head.”
When it comes to making a seaworthy model, Peter said he often opts for a catamaran or trimaran design because stabilizing small vessels is a challenge. During the program, Peter said each boat included a custom lead-weighted keel, which kept ships from tipping in the wind. However, outside of the program, Peter said there were supply issues preventing him from getting the raw material.
Peter’s boats vary in size, with his first boats measuring 12 inches. But about four years ago, he made his biggest boat to date: for four months – during which he worked 25 hours or more a week – Peter built a ship that was 9 feet long and 5 feet in length. top that featured 100 hand-sewn sails.
He has since deconstructed the boat and used the materials to make his largest current, which is 8 feet 7 inches long with 115 sails.
Every sail on Peter’s boats, whether seaworthy or not, is manually retractable to preserve the authenticity of the designs. Braided fishing line is used for ship lines, larger and more complex models requiring more than 500 meters.
Peter learned to sew and use the variety of power tools needed to build his ships, including a bandsaw, through YouTube tutorials and trial and error, he said. The Beck Residence garage has been transformed into a workshop filled with Peter’s tools and materials.
âI can see him through the garage door when he doesn’t know I’m looking,â Christina said. âI enjoy seeing him create. I’m proud of him. “
In March 2019, Peter started selling some of his boats, with prices ranging from $ 50 to $ 120 depending on size and complexity. He sold by word of mouth until February of this year when he started a website.
To date, Peter said he has sold around 12 ships. His aunt, Anastasia Rose, is one of his best clients, having spent $ 225 on two boats. One of the crafts – the most elaborate piece – is in the living room of Rose’s home in San Diego, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The other, a simpler sailboat, was a gift for her daughter.
âThe craftsmanship, honestly, shocks me. They are beautiful, âsaid Rose. âHe’s extremely talented. It goes from sketch to realization and it’s just amazing.
In addition to selling his own designs, Peter takes commissions for specific ships from clients, he said. He is currently working on two orders: a replica hoof and a scale model of a 30-foot sailboat.
Many of Peter’s creations are kept in the garage, but there are many pieces scattered throughout the family home, Christina said.
âAll along the hallways, in the living room, on the fireplace, in the dining room,â she says. “That does not bother me. I watch them all the time because I see something different – maybe the light hits them differently. They are beautiful to me. They are part of our lives. “