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Master woodworker makes eternal vessel

When Moisey Baudoin was featured with his handmade boat on the cover of Forests & People in the spring 2013, he called it his “dream boat,” a 23-foot mahogany and cypress vessel built in the style of classic Chris Craft runabouts. Since its completion in Baudoin’s workshop in the little South Louisiana community of Delcambre, this sea-worthy wooden gem was moved to Baton Rouge where grandson Josh Renard competes with it in area boat shows. Now this 86-year-old craftsman has built another masterpiece, one designed to elicit eternal sweet dreams on heavenly seas. Baudoin took the unusual step of building his own coffin, but this is no ordinary, off-the-shelf pine box. Constructed of top-quality red oak lumber, the stunning piece features fir-wood handles, a fruitwood stain, satin varnish and a plush lining. The project took about six months to complete, with materials costing about $2,000 Baudoin said. “There is no comparison in the quality of this handmade coffin to a commercially made one,” said Richard Landry of Alexandria, who has known and admired Baudoin for years. “It is a beautiful piece of furniture. The market price today for a red oak coffin is approximately $10,000, and (those coffins) cannot measure up to Mr. Baudoin’s workmanship.” Baudoin said he “always had a notion to do this. I wanted to fix it like I wanted it.” And at the age of 86, Baudoin figured there was no better time to get the job done. He sandwiched in this project with other creative efforts. Long renowned as a master craftsman of beautiful accordions, Baudoin also is building a battery-powered, wooden cart and has made reproductions of a 1903 Oldsmobile and a 1904 Cadillac. Even though the octogenarian is happy to have completed the vessel that will be his final resting place, Baudoin doesn’t spend much time worrying about his own mortality. Rather, he reports that he is in good health, doesn’t have to take any medicines and continues to enjoy life, including frequent travels with his wife, Louella. “You can’t ask for better than that,” Baudoin said. “You just gotta keep busy.” P (Melanie Torbett is a forest landowner and contributor to Forests & People magazine. Richard Landry is a longtime Louisiana Forestry Association member.)

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