Pics from Bates Boatbuilding

Ricardo sends these inspirational pics from the Bates Boatbuilding program:

"Some of us build authentic replicas of 100 year old skiffs (Dan Mason). And some of us build models of what we're going to row next summer (Alex Bakhtin). And some of us build tables (me, remaining photo). I'm hoping the table will float.

Speramus fluitet (motto of Bates boatbuilding dep't.: We hope it floats)"

At the bottom is a pics of Ricardo next to his skiff, a replica of Howard Chapelle's Farmer's Daughter, which he brought into the shop for a fresh coat of paint.

Well, I guess it's time to clean out the workshop and start painting my own skiff again.  I had some repairs done on the basement so I ended up using the workshop as storage space and actually piling all my kayaking and camping gear in the boat.  It can sure hold a lot of stuff!





PrimerI just finished rolling on the second coat of primer on the interior of my skiff.  The building manual recommends three coats of primer then two coats of paint on top of that.  The plywood seems very porus and really soaks up the paint, so I would say that that would be the minimum number of coats to seal everything and get a durable finish.  I have been sanding between coats and cutting in by hand, leaving a quarter inch gap around the varnished areas. I'll cover that gap in the final two coats, which will be a darker "antique cream" color.

Pictures From The Boat Shop

ThwartDrainplugI finally finished brushing six coats of varnish on the seats, gunwales, and centerboard trunk of my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  Looking back on it now, it took me over two months!  That's because I sanded between coats in every little nook and cranny in those seats.  Like I said back in August, if I had the chance to do it over again, I would probably forget all about painting and varnishing and just rub Boat Sauce over the entire boat.  It would be a lot faster and easier, and I'd probably be done by now.

On the other hand, nothing compares to a nicely varnished smooth glossy wooden surface.  You can look into it and it has depth.  The hull panels are still unfinished.  The next step is to paint the interior.  Before I can do that I had to finish up a few details in the interior: a drain plug and the mast step.

The drain plug is not really necessary but is a neat little detail.  It keeps rainwater from collecting if the boat is left outside uncovered. Apparently it was also traditional to put salt in wooden boats to prevent rot, since it is the fresh rainwater that promotes rot, not saltwater.  Note how the plug is neatly sunk so it sits flush with the bottom panel.Mastpartner

The mast step is a block of Honduran mahogany with a hole in the middle for bottom end of the mast.  It is epoxied and screwed into the bottom panel from the outside.  I also carved in a little groove to allow water to drain from the mast step hole.  How's that for attention to detail? 

MaststepThe seats and centerboard trunk were only temporarily installed today to drill the holes for the screws that will hold the trunk in place.  Everything will be removed again before I begin painting the interior.  The centerboard still needs to be installed in the trunk before the trunk can be installed in the boat anyway.  The last pic is the centerboard after painting it red.Redcenterboard


Varnish_2Most of the interior components of my Joel White Pooduck Skiff are complete and in the process of getting their six coats of varnish in my storage tent.  I'm also varnishing the gunwales, breast hook and quarterknees and 'midship frame. The centerboard is getting three coats of primer before paint. 

Isn't it wonderful how the varnish brings out the contrasting colors of the mahogany, oak and yellow cedar?  I'm using Epifanes Clear High Gloss Marine Varnish which I dilute 10% with thinner.  I sand with 220 grit and wipe down with a rag moistened with mineral spirits between coats.  As you can imagine, the whole process is a real pain in the ass!  Plus taking into account all the varnish, sandpaper, gloves, rags and paint thinner for cleaning the brushes, it ain't cheap either!   If I had the chance to do it over again I would probably rub on an oil finish instead.  At the Northwest School for Wooden Boatbuilding they use "Boat Sauce".  Warren passed on a couple different recipies to me:

Ray Speck’s Boat Sauce

1 Gallon Sea Fin Teak Oil
1 pint varnish
1 pint pine tar

Sunshine to kick off the pine tar (polymerize)

Boat Sauce

1 gallon Sea-Fin Teak Oil.
1-quart spar varnish.
1-quart pure gum turpentine.
1 cup to 1 quart Stockholm Pine Tar
(More for a darker finish less for a lighter finish.)
Add Japan Drier according to instructions on can for a quicker setting finish.

Brush on a consistent coat of boat sauce and let it set for ten to fifteen minutes depending on the speed of drying. Do not let it get tacky. Wipe it down with a white tack free cloth, being careful to avoid any pooling. The interior of the boat can get a thin coat of finish with out sanding. The exterior of the hull and the thwarts, knees and rails should be lightly sanded with 220-grit sandpaper between coats and wiped down with a tack rag between applications. Thwarts, knees and rails may be wet sanded for a finer finish. Often second third and following coats require exposure to sunlight to dry. Reapply bi-annually or as needed.

Spotted in this month's issue of Wooden Boat: an article written by Christopher Cunningham demonstrating the proper execution of The Dory Stroke in his 18 ft double-ender.

Progress on the Pooduck

Interior1Interior3Interior4Interior2Cb1Just a few pics  to show off the progress on the interior of my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  The multipanel bow and stern seats are finished (western red cedar), as are the mast partner and middle thwart (Douglas fir). The seats are a little more complicated than in the original plans, primarily for aesthetic reasons, but also to make them easy to remove  when it comes time to repaint and revarnish.

Note that the centerboard trunk is off center.  The centerboard slides down on the starboard side of the keel, which will be attached with the boat upside down again once the interior is completed.

I had to get out just about every clamp I owned to glue in the spacers for the inwales. 

And I learned a new skill: lead casting.  The centerboard is made of meranti marine plywood and the plans call for a lead weight in the board to keep it down.  I routed out a deep pocket in the board and screwed on a piece of plywood with a 1 inch diameter hole in the middle to make the top of the mold.  I found some coils of lead at the fishing supply department of my local big box sporting goods store and melted them down in an old can on a hot plate.  Lead melts very easily (at 621.5 deg F).  I then poured it into the mold.  Easy!

When it had cooled I unscrewed the top of the mold.  See how the wood is scorched?  I planed the surface of the weight smooth and glued the weight in with thickened epoxy.  The whole centerboard is then sheathed in fiberglass and epoxy, then painted.


Bow Seat

BowseatThe Joel White Pooduck Skiff is still coming together, although painfully slowly it seems.  The reason is that I'm not following the plans for the interior but making it up myself.  So I end up spending a lot of time standing around looking at the boat trying to decide how I'm going to go on to the next step.  When I think I have it figured out I do what boat builders naturally do -- get on my hands and knees and draw it out full size on the floor.

The original plans called for simple thwarts screwed into blocks on either side of the hull.  It's supposed to be an easy-to-build cheap plywood boat anyway!  Of course, I had to use this as an opportunity to show off a little fancy woodworking and added a multipaneled bow seat.  The stern seat will also be multipaneled.  Pictured is also the thwart that will serve as the "mast partner", so I still need to cut a hole in the middle for the mast.  The thwart is simply a 1x10 plank of vertical grain douglas fir cut to size.  Yes, the cost of all this beautiful wood keeps adding up!

Centerboard Trunk

StemtreatmentI've made a little progress on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  Before I go into that I'd like to mention a few things about finding wood for boat building.  I like to go to my local lumberyard or big box home improvement store for wood most of the time just because it's convenient.  I can usually find clear western red cedar in long lengths, mahogany, red oak, and clear vertical grain douglas fir there.  I buy wood a little at a time as I need it because I'm too lazy to sit down with the plans and calculate all the wood I need and buy it all at once.  It's not the most efficient way and sometimes I end up using scraps of what I already have instead of what's recommended, like when I laminated the stem and frame from the yellow cedar I already had instead of fir or mahogany.  Sometimes though you really want to get the right wood and can't find a source.  Well I finally found the ultimate specialty supplier of boat wood.  I had ordered wood from Edensaw before but only recently did they open up a Seattle location (actually Kent) which makes it much easier to shop for wood.  Although the main Edensaw location and mill is in Port Townsend, the Seattle warehouse is a wood worker's dream -- rows and rows of exotic wood planks, plywood, woodworking tools, and even some epoxy products.  I stopped by for the first time the other day and picked up a big board of Honduran mahogany, a sheet of Meranti Hydrotek marine plywood, and some spar-grade Sitka spruce rough cut 2x4s.   Whatever wood you need they have it, and if they don't have it they'll get it for you.  Be sure to take advantage of their free delivery for big orders.

Cbt1Cbt2Cbt3Building the centerboard trunk presents a challenge because is has a moving part (the centerboard), fits through a hole in the bottom of the boat, is subject to a lot of stress from the centerboard, and is prone to rot and leaks.  One alternative to using a centerboard is to use a daggerboard, which does not slide up if it hits bottom.  Since I wanted to be able to use the skiff in very shallow water I decided to go with the centerboard.  I also like the convenience of having the board stored within the trunk.

I actually built the trunk twice.  The first time I used red oak for the bed logs and cut them a little too low.  The conventional wisdom is that red oak is "totally unsuitable" for wooden boat building.  It is very porus and has poor rot resistance.  By the way, I think it is that porosity which makes red oak the gold standard for steam bending, and it makes great ribs for skin-on-frame kayaks.  But it would probably have been a poor choice for the bed logs which hold the trunk to the hull and are always wet.  It could rot from the inside of the trunk, and the rot would be difficult to detect and repair.  So I trashed the first trunk and built it again with Honduran mahogany.  I had thought about keeping the first trunk and encapsulating the whole thing with epoxy and fiberglass which might have been OK but in the end didn't want to bother with all that.   My understanding is that if wood is encapsulated well then it doesn't matter how poor it's rot resistance is because the wood never gets wet.  For instance, Pygmy kayaks are made with Okume plywood which has poor rot resistance but they do fine.  I was also afraid of cracks developing in the epoxy and fiberglass from all the stresses on the trunk from the centerboard.   The trunk is expected to move a little.  For instance, it is  attached to the hull with screws and 3M 5200 marine adhesive, which provides a permanent, yet flexible, bond. 

Well, it's starting to look like furniture.  Now to get to work on the seats.

Belt and Suspenders

QuarterkneeRubrail2Rubrail1The weather was nasty so I spent the day installing rub rails on my Pooduck Skiff.  Sounds easy enough, but it took a few steps to get to the point where I was actually ready to screw them on, including ripping the mahogany stock to size, scarfing the pieces together to get the rail long enough (about 14 ft), and planing the rough edges smooth.  I clamped the rails in place, drilled pilot holes for countersuck screws from the inside every 5 inches, and holes for counterbored screws on the outside at the breasthook and quarterknees.  After screwing everything together, I removed the clamps, unscrewed everything, brushed thickened epoxy on the mating surface of the rail, clamped it back on, then screwed it together again, and removed the clamps.  That 64 screws total for both sides -- quite a bit of screwing!   Lastly I bunged the holes with mahogany pegs after squirting a little bit of epoxy into them.

Anyone with experience building wooden kayaks might think that the "belts and suspenders" approach using silicon bronze screws plus epoxy is overkill.  Why not just put some epoxy on, clamp it together and call it good?  I don't know myself -- I'm just following the plans.  I bet it's because when you put a sail up these boats undergo all kinds of severe twisting stresses that kayaks do not experience.


There is nothing that gets me more inspired to get back to building than seeing a bunch of little boats up close, feeling the wood and smelling the varnish.  So I got back to work and made the "breasthook", the wooden plate at the bow that attaches to the inner stem.  This is a key component, because it can be difficult to fit, and is prominently displayed at the bow where you will see it everytime you take the boat out, and where everyone can inspect it up close.  So there was no small amount of sitting around visualizing, sketching and planning how I was going to make it.  Instead of following the plans for the Pooduck I used the technique described in the book How to Build Glued-Lapstrake Wooden Boats by John Brooks and Ruth Ann Hill.  It is a bit more complex than the technique described for the Pooduck, but results in a stronger breasthook. 

Breasthook2Breasthook4Breasthook5First I cut out the wood for the two pieces of the blank: 6 in x 1 1/2 in thick clear oak.

The pieces were joined together with a spline (mahogany), so a groove was cut out in the blanks, with some creative use of the tablesaw.

The blanks and spline were glued together with epoxy and clamped tightly.

After positioning the blank on the bow I traced out the final shape.  I brought it to the Bates Boatbuilding Program and used one of their many bandsaws to cut out the shape, with the help of Ricardo. I've never used a bandsaw before! Oh the boats I could build with all the cool tools they have there!

After a little planing around the edges to get a good fit, the breasthook fell nicely into place and was secured with silicon bronze screws and epoxy.  Once the epoxy is fully cured I'll plane it down so that there is a little camber at the top and it joins up smoothly with the sheerstrake.