Roll Over!

RolloverRollover2Ricardo took a break from building his skin-on-frame Greenland kayak at the Bates Boatbuilding program to help me roll over the Pooduck Skiff.  I had finished sanding her down with 220 grit just this morning.  The exterior is probably smooth enough for paint, but that will have to wait until all the interior work is done and we flip her upside down again.  So far she feels pretty lightweight and came off the forms easily.  That's me agonizing about how far off-center the stem is.  Thanks to Ricardo for the pix.

Filling the holes and the outer stem

Mask2_2Mask1_2Remember the "outer stem" I had laminated out of yellow cedar and carved to fit the full size pattern quite a while ago?  Well, after the boat was planked I installed it using thickened epoxy and silicon bronze screws, counterbored and bunged with pieces of hardwood dowel.  Since I had some thickened epoxy mixed up, it was also a good time to fill in all the holes left by the drywall screws that had temporarily clamped the planks together and held the planks against the forms.  The spaces between the laps also needed to be filled with thickened epoxy.  To keep the epoxy mess (and the subsequent sanding) to a minimum, I masked everything off with blue painter's tape.  One trick I learned was to mask around the screw holes with a roll of tape that had holes drilled through it. 

Woodflour1_3Woodflour2_3Outerstem2_2It really took a lot of thickened epoxy to fill between the laps.  In the middle of the day I ran out of the "wood flour" (the fine sanding dust that was the by product of my previous projects) that I was using to thicken the epoxy.  So I dropped everything and ran to my local Boater's World to get some more wood flour.  They charged me $9 for a container of MAS brand wood flour!   Oh well.  Of course, after the epoxy had cured and I started sanding I ended up making more flour than I would ever need.   I felt like I was making money!

Just a little bit more sanding to go then she'll be ready to "roll over"!


PlankedJust a warning: it might look nearly finished but there is still a lot of work to do.  Even before I can turn her over to start building the interior I have to install the outer stem, take out the temporary screws, fill all the little holes, and sand the exterior.  Once the interior is completed (gunwales, breasthook, quarterknees, thwarts, maststep, air chambers, floorboards, and centerboard trunk) I have to turn her over again to install the keel/skeg.  Then there's the rudder, tiller, centerboard, hardware, painting/varnishing, spars and rigging... Come to think of it, I've probably just begun!

CwbCwb2This was going to be a my sailing week but unfortunately the weather has been nasty and I have no crew.  I went down to the Center for Wooden Boats to get "checked out" on their sailboats.  When I got there the wind had picked up, it started to hail, and they closed the livery.  Apparently they close it at around 12 knots -- no big deal in a kayak, but I guess those little boats are only good between Force 2 and 3! 

I ended up spending the afternoon lazily browsing through old issues of Wooden Boat magazine in the CWB library.  I finally found the issue with Brian Schulz's cover article about cruising the Sea of Cortez for two weeks in a 18 ft skin-on-frame version of the Joel White Shearwater with a lug rig.  Amazing!

Looks like a boat!

The sun came out today and it felt like spring.  Getting in my car to drive home from work I had to turn the air conditioner on (briefly)!  I coundn't resist getting out to play in the water for just a little while.  People are returning to the beach. 

Midstrake2Midstrake1Midstrake3Just a few building notes today.  After installing the middle strake, I've finally gotten to the "looks like a boat" stage.  Planking is actually pretty easy.  I'm impressed now how well all the pieces fit together.   I cut the panels a little oversized, to take into account small variations in building the strongback, but it really wasn't necessary.  If I had cut them exactly according to the plans, everything would have fit together perfectly.  The last panel (the sheer strake) will be even easier to install, so it's all downhill from here (I vaguely remember saying that before sometime last year).  The best thing so far about this build: not having to work with fiberglass!

I'm looking forward to rolling her over and working on the interior, which is more like building furniture. 

The dark screw heads are the drywall screws that are use to temporarily clamp the laps together while the epoxy cures.  After 24 hours, while the epoxy is still a little soft, I'll remove the screws and scrape away any excess epoxy.

Planking: Now the Fun Begins!

BackboneMy skiff manual says that this is where the fun begins.  Actually, all boatbuilding is fun, isn't it? It's just that some parts are more fun than others.  For instance, I really don't think I would mind if someone else offered to do all the sanding...

The backbone is on (inner stem, bottom panel, and transom).  I first dryfit the 3/4in thick bottom panel around the forms and screwed it onto the midships frame, inner stem and transom with permanent silicon bronze screws.  Then I unscrewed and removed it so I could spread thickened epoxy on the mating surfaces of the inner stem, midships frame, and transom, then screwed it back in place again.  I added some temporary drywall screws to keep the panel on the forms. 

StemandscrewsSiliconbronzeGarboardOne thing that I like about plywood is that, compared to strip building, it is really easy to get a fair curve, and you can build the hull quickly.  The problem is that bending it around the forms and stem can require a great deal of force.  My next kayak will definitely be plywood stitch-and-glue construction (I can't help thinking about my next boat building project already!)

After the epoxy cured I beveled the edges of the bottom panel to fit the garboard strake, the next panel from the bottom.  After a lot of planing and checking the bevel for fit, the garboard was dryfit into place with permanent silicon bronze screws into the inner stem, midships frame and transom.  I'll plane the garboard to size, then remove it and work on the other side before epoxying and screwing both panels permanently into place.

I counterbore or countersink the permanent screws.  It's easy and requires no special drill bits -- I just make a little hole with a 3/8th inch bit and drill through the center of that with a smaller bit for a pilot hole.  The screw heads will be hidden by wooden bungs (if counterbored) or thickened epoxy (if countersunk).  The bungs are just slices of a 3/8th inch hardwood dowel -- nothing special.  It's all going to be painted over anyway. 

A Few More Pieces

FrameandformsStrongbackdetailDon't you hate it when it seems like everything you own starts breaking down at once?  I feel like I'm constantly fighting rot, corrosion, wear-and-tear, senescence.  The replacement Uniden Voyager VHF radio I received as a free replacement for the last Voyager that broke while under warranty won't work anymore after I got it wet.  I think it's a battery problem.  Those buttons on my camera still don't work. I really should get the leaky socks replaced on my drysuit.  The latex cuffs are starting to look pretty ratty too.  My hybrid car is broken. Something is draining the battery overnight so I need to jump start it every morning.  This has been a problem on and off over the last six months.  So far no one can figure out what's wrong, even after changing the starter battery and what they told me was a faulty relay.  But I'm absolutely sure it all started when they installed the latest software update!  I think I'll start looking for something I can run on biodiesel.

*   *   *

I haven't had a lot to post lately but I thought I'd at least show what little progress I've made on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  I think all of last week I was either busy with work, trying to get my taxes prepared, or just rolling around out at the beach without actually going anywhere.  The weather has usually been rotten anyway.  Nothing interesting to say about rolling either, except that I've started practicing while wearing a PFD.  Every once in a while someone will ask on the forum if wearing a PFD makes it easier or harder to roll.  I've decided that it makes forward recovery norsaq rolls easier, and even layback rolls easier as long as the thickness of the PFD doesn't impair your layback.

I thought I would at least have the backbone of the boat finished by the end of the month.  I'm not quite there, but I still have a few more days.  Now that the strongback is up, there is so little room that I'm crawling on my hands and knees to use the floor space under the strongback while working with the plans and patterns.


1)  View of the strongback from the stern, with forms and midship frame installed.  The midship frame is sanded down smooth, since it will be more difficult to sand down once it is epoxied onto the planks.

2)  Strongback detail

3)  Transom.  The edges are beveled at different angles to join with the planks.

4)  Nail heads used to mark the edges of the inner stem on the laminated inner stem blank.

5)  The laminated outer stem, carved to fit the full-size pattern.





PlywoodpanelsStrongbackcenterLasercenterFormsplumbFormsWell, the Pooduck Skiff coming along gradually.  I cut out all the plywood panels and now it' starting to look a little like a kit with all the pieces waiting to be assembled. 

I think building the strongback is one of those unsatisfying steps in boatbuilding because you end up spending a lot of time and effort putting together a big structure that is not actually part of the boat.  Making sure that everything is plumb, level and square can be very frustrating but is critical.  It starts with selecting straight wood, then measuring everything precisely and drawing a centerline.  This time I used an inexpensive laser level in addition to a couple spirit levels.  The laser made it easy to draw a straight line without snapping a chalk line. Once the strongback is level I fixed it to the plywood floor with drywall screws.  It shouldn't be easily knocked out of shape just by bumping into it.  After the strongback was completed I attached the station forms. 

My sails arrived today -- a dacron mainsail and jib in "egyptian cream".  Woo hoo!

Stems, Off the Form

Stem1Stem2Stem3Stem4Stem5I am still impressed by the scale of this small boat.  A simple thing as laminating the stem blank required 32 strips and buckets of epoxy.  I think it took me two hours just to apply the epoxy on each strip and clamp the thing together. 

Well, the epoxy cured and the stem blank came off the form easily with a few taps with a hammer.  I planed the surfaces smooth and also got to use my new toy, my very own spokeshave.  I never thought I needed one before.  It works very well and is a real pleasure to use.  I used it to smooth out the inner surface of the stem.  I ordered it from The Wooden Boat Store, where you can find the tools you need at more reasonable prices than, for instance, Lie Nielsen.  I'm just trying to get a boat done anyway, not collect heirloom tools to pass onto my grandchildren!

Once the surfaces were smoothed and scraped clear of epoxy a tap with the hammer separated the inner and outer stem blanks, which were prevented from being glued together by a strip of plastic tape. 

ExpandedpanelLastly, I transferred the measurements of the three side panels (garboard, middle and sheerstrake) to plywood.  It required measuring up from a baseline every foot along the length of the plywood sheet, hammering in nails at the points and fairing the curves between the points with a batten.  Once the batten was nailed in place I drew the curves and removed the batten and nails.  The next step will be to cut the three panels out, then use them as patterns to make identical panels from the other 14 ft sheet of plywood. 

Scarfs and Stems

PanelscarfStemstripsStemlaminationBack to boatbuilding again.  I haven't been showing much because it's a slow process, and also because I'm just trying to get all the pieces cut out first to make the best use of space I have.  During these preparatory steps it's not very interesting and won't look like a boat for a long time yet. 

One thing that really made me anxious was scarfing the plywood sheets together, because it can be difficult to get a good fit by planing the joints by hand.  Well, hand planing turned out to be not too time consuming and the joints look OK -- not "invisible" but probably good enough to be bright finished (on the inside anyway).  The 3/4 in plywood that makes up the bottom is joined with thickened epoxy over a 6 in scarf and the 3/8ths in plywood that makes up the side panels is joined over a 3 in scarf.  The resulting panels are 14 ft long, so they take up most of the workshop floor.  I'm having to work a lot on my knees (having comfortable knee pads is essential) and step carefully around the room so I don't mar the wood.  I built a frame just to lift the panels off the floor and glue them together.  I fixed a caul (clamping board) over the joint with drywall screws to clamp the panels together tightly.  Parchment paper keeps the panels from sticking to the caul and to each other.

I used up some more yellow cedar to make 1/8 th in strips to laminate the inner and outer stem.  I actually used a handheld circular saw equipped with a homemade "fence" to cut out the strips, and because the blade wasn't deep enough it required two passes.  It did an even better job than my cheap table saw!

Here is a pic of dryfitting of the strips on the form.  Both the inner stem and outer step are laminated during the same step on the form: a strip of plastic packing tape placed in the middle will allow the inner half of strips to separate from the outer half.

The Big Rib

FinishedframeNails1In skin-on-frame kayaks these pieces are called "ribs" but in other boats they are known as "frames".  I finished the laminated midship frame today.  It's amazing how many steps it takes to get this far: construction of a form according to a pattern, milling the strips, coating the strips with epoxy, bending and clamping the strips around the form, cutting the frame according to the pattern and then planing smooth.  Good thing there is only one frame in this boat. 

HNails2ere is a classic trick to transfer lines from a drawing to wood.  The first trick is to place the pattern over the wood and punch through the lines with an awl (described a couple times previously).  The other trick is to lay common nails with their heads along the lines, hammer them into the pattern, then carefully lay the wood over the pattern and hammer the wood against the nail heads.  The heads will make an impression of the pattern onto the wood and will even stick in the wood. Then you just connect the dots and cut along the lines.  I use a jigsaw. The blade of the jigsaw tends to wander sideways to I have to leave a little extra when I cut, and then carve down to the lines with a plane.  Yesterday my friend Ricardo said that they have some really good power tools at the Bates boat building program I could use if I wanted to take some of my work there.  They have a table saw that  is accurate to 1/64 th of an inch.  The problem is my work is here and not there.

Todays lesson is that a really motivated boat builder with simple hand tools can do in only a few hours what someone with good power tools will take several minutes to accomplish.