When Krisha Plauché, owner of Onboard Interiors & Hood Canvas, purchased the latter company in March 2023, some redesigning of her shop was required to accommodate the extra 1,000 square feet and expanded tool inventory that came with the Hood Canvas acquisition. Headquartered in Marblehead, Mass., the full-service design firm specializes in providing marine interiors and exterior canvas for private and commercial power vessels and sailboats ranging from 30 feet up to 200 feet.

“We added two locations for custom shelving units, one located by a layout table with some basic tools and the other at the back of the shop with tools for installation,” she explains. “Both have easy access and shallow shelves to grab things easily.”

Not only does an organized tool inventory improve productivity and make projects go more smoothly, having implements readily at hand minimizes the frustration of having to frantically search for a necessary tool. But considering the vast array of tools typically found in a marine fabrication shop—especially those tiny tools that are easily misplaced—creating an efficient tool-management system can take a bit of strategizing.

Tom Matson with Bayport Marina relies on a dedicated tool bag that he brings with him on every boat. The bag contains an array of tools needed to complete the job, including scissors, an assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches, Sharpies, a battery-operated drill and drill bits and more.

In the shop

For example, Plauché, who says all of her company’s tools are kept either in the work van or at the shop, doubles up on some, such as snaps, Press-N-Snap tools, Velcro®, basic tools, drills and some fabric books and samples. Nuts, screws and bolts are kept in a converted tackle box, and pattern material is kept in the van since this is what travels to jobs.

In the shop, containers are used to hold the items; the shallow shelving enables everything to be quickly viewed. For tote bins, Plauché prefers clear ones so she can see what is inside. Before heading out to an installation, the team reviews an item list. If a drill is needed, it’s charged along with a backup drill.

Tom Matson, who works in the canvas department at the Bayport Marina Association in Bayport, Minn., keeps most of his tools in the sewing shop on pegboards and in toolboxes. He also has a bank of parts bins in which he stores snaps, screws, boat hardware and so on. Located on the St. Croix River on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, the full-service marina offers complete service work, fiberglass refinishing and canvas and upholstery.

Keeping tools well organized and within easy reach is essential for efficiency. Most of the tools Matson uses are kept in the sewing shop in toolboxes and on a pegboard, shown here. Photos: Bayport Marina Association

“Our large service bay gives us the ability to work on any boat in an indoor setting as well as on the slips for smaller projects,” Matson says. “My sewing shop is in the service building and I have direct access to the service bay. 

“I have a dedicated tool bag I bring with me on every boat I work on,” he continues. “The tool bag contains many of the tools that will be required to complete the project. I do have many duplicate tools that are in the tool bag and in the sewing shop. On the rare occasion that I must travel to a neighboring marina, I just have to grab the tool bag and go.”

Some of his tool essentials include snap tools, a hand hole punch, various tapes (masking, strapping and double-sided), marking pencils and Sharpies, screwdriver assortments, a battery-operated drill with drill bits, Allen wrenches and a variety of taps.  

Ten years ago, Krisha Plauché, owner of Onboard Interiors & Hood Canvas, purchased a van to transport tools and other items to the various marinas they work in. To keep things orderly she installed this custom shelving unit and also added custom flooring so that soft goods would be protected.

For Liz Roso Diaz, president and designer of North Beach Marine Canvas Inc. (NBMC), scissors, pens, pencils, colored pencils, pins and a quilter’s ruler are among her most important tools, although she has added larger ones to her arsenal, such as a commercial skiver used for thinning leather. Located in San Francisco at Pier 40 at South Beach Harbor, NBMC serves the San Francisco Bay yachting community, providing creative, upscale yachting interiors to client in eight marinas.

“Tools are in the shop and in a couple of select tool bags for patterning and installation and drapery. I have a red tool cabinet, like a mechanic would have for tools,” she says. “For larger tools, all the shelving in my shop is on wheels and the tools, such as foam cutters, can be pulled close to the job. FYI, my shop is a 25-by-50-foot double-wide trailer.”    

On the go

When Plauché expanded her shop she added two shelving units, one by the layout table with some basic tools and the other at the back of the shop with installation tools. Both units have shallow shelves making access easy, along with clear containers and open totes for quick identification. Photos: Onboard Interiors & Hood Canvas

Diaz takes a small cart or bicycle with a wicker basket when working on the dock at her home marina. When visiting others, she uses their carts, and when driving is required, she relies on her “beloved Honda Element.” With its maximum cubic-foot capacity and its small wheelbase, it’s perfect for parking in tight urban areas, she says. On the boat, she prevents tools from going overboard in rough conditions or windy weather by keeping them near the vessel’s center line. For more precarious work, such as over the water, Diaz has an assistant hand her the necessary tools.

“It has been years since I lost a tool [overboard] and it was my cell phone,” she says.

Plauché says she has a long strap on the Press-N-Snap to keep it secure on the boat and carries extra tools just in case. Taking one thing out at a time makes it easier to keep track. She also keeps a towel out on the work surface to place tools on, enabling her to tell what is out while also protecting the surface.

One of the largest tools in Liz Diaz’s arsenal is this commercial skiver, purchased for the “Wicked Game” project. Used to thin leather so the seams look elegant and not bulky, the machine has no thickness gauges or markings other than blue tape, meaning that everything is done by skill, trial and error. Photo: North Beach Marine Canvas Inc.

More than 10 years ago, Plauché bought a van to take to and from the jobsite, outfitting this with a custom shelving unit for tools.

“We keep a canvas tote with all kinds of tools, screwdrivers, tapes, scissors, tape measures and a right angle,” she says. “In the van, plastic bins help contain everything on the custom shelving unit. We added custom flooring so that soft goods would be protected, and it’s good for noise vibration because most vans are like tin cans. We love everything about having the van dedicated to work…everything except the commercial insurance.” 

Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Seal Beach, Calif.

SIDEBAR: Tool-management tips

“[I use] little custom canvas bags with Velcro® and windows that are color-coded by fastener type. I like these because whenever I see the bags, I know what is in them and how much is in them. Plus, they do not damage anything on a boat.”
Liz Roso Diaz, North Beach Marine Canvas Inc.

“Keep your options open and find ways to make your tool-management system more efficient. Talk with other fabricators and find out what they do. I have been doing canvas work for around 30 years and I am still open to ideas that will increase efficiency and productivity.”
Tom Matson, Bayport Marina Association

“Mark your tools with a certain color or stickers with your logo. Most times, there are other vendors on board and it’s easy to get tools mixed together. Try to stay organized. It is such a drag to put things away after the customer leaves our showroom or when we complete a job, but if you leave time for that and budget it into the job, it’s a lot easier than letting it pile up on you and having to dig your way out.”
Krisha Plauché, Onboard Interiors & Hood Canvas

SIDEBAR: A “wicked” project

A before-photo showing the vessel’s outdated interior of red and blue suede and flat, box-style cushions. The boat’s owner approached designer Liz Diaz, owner of North Beach Marine Canvas, about completely upgrading and upscaling the interior to match her aesthetic.

Liz Roso Diaz, president and designer of North Beach Marine Canvas Inc., is selective about the projects she agrees to. Diaz says she gravitates toward jobs that give her the chance to unleash her creativity, and she seeks clients who want the same. In 2021, one such opportunity arrived.

The client, a 60-year-old woman who had never sailed before, had purchased a Morris M36 Daysailer and wanted to completely revamp the interior space. Because this took place during COVID, much of the concept design was done without Diaz seeing the boat, with sketches sent back and forth between her and the client.

The previous interior was plain, even utilitarian, consisting of two box-cushion-style settees in blue suede with touches of red. Diaz produced two elegant settees featuring three types of leather. To achieve this transformation, Diaz purchased a commercial skiver so she could thin the leather herself.

The results. Diaz created two settees featuring three types of leather. A Persian rug cut to size covers the dull flooring, accent pillows, handmade from Hermès scarves, reflect the owner’s various passions and add pops of color. Diaz says the project remains one of her favorites. Photos: North Beach Marine Canvas Inc.

“It is used to make the seams look elegant and not bulky,” says Diaz of the skiver. “There are no thickness gauges or markings—it’s done by skill, trial and error.”

Another tool she deployed for this project was a quilter’s ruler, used for marking lines in the leather or channel quilting.

Accent pillows, handmade from Hermès scarves provided by the client, replaced the plain red throws, with the patterns chosen to reflect the boat owner’s passions (horses, vintage cars and now sailing). A Persian rug, cut down to fit the space, covered the drab flooring. 

From concept to finish, the project took about eight months, thanks in part to COVID, but also because the vessel was undergoing other improvements during this time, says Diaz, adding that this project, which she dubbed “Wicked Game,” remains one of her favorites.