Job list for 29 August

During the week the keelson and stems went up a hill to visit the wizard woodcutter, who trued up the keelson and reduced it to its finished size of four inches, then thicknessed the stem sections, so we’ve now got a complete kit of parts for the hull.

Meantime the fairies went to the shed and set up the moulds. On Wednesday we can:-

Finish the four frames, by giving them a nice radiused edge where they will be on the inside of the boat, then completing the sanding already started.

Fit parcel tape to all mould edges and surfaces that will be in contact with the boat.

Screw the frames to their respective moulds.

Cut the stems to fit the keelson.

Place the keelson in position.

Glue the keelson to the stems and frames.

Fit extension pieces from the stems to the floor and glue them in place.

If we get all this done I’ll be astonished. The next step is bevelling the surfaces that will take plank one.

`Wednesday 22nd – the building frames are finished!

Tonight we finished connecting the building frame section halves  together using fish-plates made from scrap ply on both sides of the upper sections and the cross-spalls from CLS timber. We then assembled the complete  building frames roughly on the building support (the ‘caterpillar’) to create our mould.

Joining the two halves of the last mould section

It won’t be long now before we make a start with the keel and the first planks!  Ewan seems confident that we can get the planking done by the end of September.

Building frame sections assembled to make the complete mould
Building frame sections assembled to make the complete mould

Meanwhile others were cleaning up the epoxied hull frames ready to attach them to the appropriate sections of the mould when the time comes.

Cleaning up the epoxied frames - these are what the planks attach to.
Cleaning up the epoxied frames – these are what the planks attach to.

The laminated stems are looking good –  no gaps, and as they are about 3/16 oversize there is plenty of leeway when cleaning them up and planing them.

Finished stem being cleaned up
Finished stem being cleaned up

If you want to come along and help on Wednesdays there is always something to do.

Job List for 22 August

We’ve had a trial fit of the building frame on the caterpillar. The good news is that everything goes together very nicely. This means that we’re at the end of phase one of our build and can move on to setting everything up for serious boat-building.

Building setup bow view
Building setup bow view

General Clean-up

We should now have our first big clean-up of the building space, as we’ve finished making our kit of parts for the main hull and won’t have to make any new pieces for the next month.

We should gather up all scrap plywood, saving the bigger bits of marine ply and scrapping the cheaper stuff that the moulds were made from.

Building setup stern view
Building setup stern view

Finish the Frames

The four frame pieces have all now cured and can be unclamped.

The inside faces and the flat fronts and backs will all be visible inside the completed boat, so will need to be sanded to remove the runs of epoxy that have squeezed out. The sharp edges should be nicely radiused.

Finish the Building Moulds

The mould pieces are all looking good and need to be cleated together using fish-plates made from scrap ply on both sides of the upper sections and the cross-spalls from CLS timber, which Ray has been making.

The online instructions for the set-up are available here:-

We’ll have a few paper copies in the shed for reference as the evening proceeds.

The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, so I won’t try to improve on them. They are written with the traditional building ladder set-up in mind, but I don’t think any changes are needed for our closed caterpillar set-up.

Note that Mould 1, at the bow end, will be screwed onto the outside face of the wee open two foot box furthest from the door. It’s been left clamped in position.

Note also that the cross-spalls go on the AFT faces of moulds 2 to 5 inclusive and the FORWARD faces of moulds 6 to 10 inclusive. This is essential to ensure that everything can be taken apart once the planking is complete.

By contrast the frames will go on the FORWARD faces of moulds 2 and 4 and the AFT faces of moulds 6 and 8. This is so the edges can be bevelled slightly to give a close fit to the planks.

There is a box of long screws to secure the cross-spalls to the top of the caterpillar, one screw on each side of each mould.

The Skiff Word is spreading

It was great to see the enthusiasm last night not just from Kilmelford residents, but also Councillors Elaine Robertson, Louise Glen-Lee and Iain MacDonald for the Scottish Coastal Rowing project. For many this was the first introduction to the idea, which is travelling round the coastal communities faster than the skiffs themselves (they do about 5 knots).

If you’re in any doubt about the project just have a look at the videos of the Ullapool Regatta posted on

You will see that the site has links to all the various clubs and resources round the coast.

The project started on the East coast, but it’s spreading rapidly. The North Sea is a much less inviting environment than our West coast, with its sheltered waters and lovely stretches offering plenty of opportunities for recreational excursions or local regattas. The skiffs are a fantastic source of healthy exercise and a colourful treat for spectators.

Projects have been set up and managed in various ways, always with local volunteer effort. On Seil we decided not to apply for charitable status or funding. We felt that the local community could easily raise the money, as it has done, with only a few shares left unsold. If you’re interested please contact our Secretary Dr George Hannah at the Easdale Medical Practice.

In common with many other rowing associations we opted for the classic sixty-four share format, which goes back to Phoenician times. At £60 per share this has financed the kit purchase at £1340 (cheaper if you already have the moulds) and the timber, glue and fastenings needed for the rest of the build. We’ll have something left over at the end for bits and pieces.

It’s absolutely not necessary to buy a share to become involved, in fact all you get for your £60 is a little satisfaction. Everyone has a contribution to make, whether rowing, building, painting, designing the graphics or the website or just cheering on and enjoying the spectacle.

Most of the build does not require traditional skills, but each project should have one or two people who have some knowledge of modern glues and methods. Each project has the effect of producing its own crop of builders to supplement any experts already in the community.

We’ve just heard that Lochgilphead is already rowing and Islay has launched her second boat, built in ten weeks. The Seil Skiff will be rowing early in the New Year and ready for action at the first Skiff World Championships at Ullapool in July 2013.


Job list for the rest of August

For the rest of the month I think we’ll be busy getting the whole set-up ready to begin planking in September, so rather than posting weekly job lists what follows is a comprehensive list covering everything to complete this stage of the build.

Complete and size stem pieces to sided two inch thickness.

We should be gluing up the final piece on the 15th. Excess epoxy to be carefully planed off and then sections finely planed to size.

Assemble mould sections and frames.

This is all described in great detail on the Scottish Coastal Rowing website, so I won’t repeat it all here. The page for this is :-

Making the Boat at last

Everyone in the team felt good that last night we were beginning to make parts for the actual boat, rather than just clearing and preparing our building space and doing preparations. We also now have behind us our first experience of using the MAS Epoxy resin and for some our first shot at using any version of this magic ingredient. What follows is a description of the process, which I hope will be useful beyond our own Skiff for Seil.

Procedure for laminating stems

The stems on the St Ayles Skiff involve fairly sharp bends and if the decision is taken to laminate them, rather than to cut them from solid timber, the strips must be very flexible.

Seil, in common with most teams, decided to laminate and we sourced some very clear Douglas Fir with a low enough moisture content to glue with epoxy. Most people will be familiar with the basic principles involved, but it may be helpful for us to record some points of detail from the process.

Machining the wood

To do this on a bandsaw would need a massive machine, as small domestic ones are no way up to the task and the blade will simply wander off. Using a commercial table saw gives perfect strips at the cost of quite a bit of wastage through the wider saw cut, but is clearly the way to go.

It’s essential to cut some test strips to prove that the results will take the curve without breaking. Watch the growth rings as you will find that the wood bends more happily along the grain. Our strips are just under 1/4 inch, meaning that we needed about forty to do the two inner and two outer pieces. These turned out just about right, taking the bends without complaint and showing no tendency to spring back once unclamped.

Before starting to cut John our expert thicknessed the planks to 2 3/16ths and trued the edges, to ensure that the finished pieces were uniform. This is worth doing as it greatly neatens the work later.

Mark the pieces, as you will want to reverse every second one, end to end and back to front, to equalise out any stresses in the wood.

The strips laid out for spreading the laminate
The strips laid out for spreading the laminate

Using a scrieve board

The traditional way to laminate a stem is to make a jig from solid timber to go round the inside of the curve and use large clamps to bring the strips in to it. This wastes a lot of time, as more effort goes into the jig than the actual work and only makes sense if several boats are being built.

We have a heavy chipboard base, painted white, on which the curve of the piece can be drawn from the pattern provided. Angle brackets are bolted to this, to which clamps will draw in the glued strips. It’s probably better to have the brackets along the inside, concave face of the pattern, as the clamps will be more effective, although some say this stresses the strips more during the process.

The board and the brackets must be protected from glue. It’s less messy to use plastic sheeting for this, rather than to cover everything with sticky tape, which will need to be removed later.

The scrieve board  bolted together
The scrieve board bolted together

Sorting out the strips

Next the strips are selected, inspected, then double inverted as described above, then numbered and the gluing faces marked, for example A-A, B-B and so on, as it’s terribly easy during the excitement of the process to lose track.

Mark off a couple of inches at one end of each strip (the end that will be nearest to the floor) that will be kept clear of glue so that you can lift them. Also mark the outside faces of the end strips for no glue.

Stack the strips in order and drill a hole for a large nail to keep them in place.

If in any doubt try the whole thing out without glue.

Strips marked for easy assembly once the glue has been spread
Strips marked for easy assembly once the glue has been spread

Gluing the strips

Set the strips out in order on a level surface covered with plastic sheeting and give them a good drink of neat epoxy, followed by thickened stuff per the makers instructions. Our strips were quite dry and thirsty.

Once they’re all nice and sticky stack the strips on the nail and carry the bundle to the scrieve board.

Clamping up

Start clamping from the nail end, gently bringing the bundle together with a couple of clamps, then adding more as you work along the bundle. Protect the wood from the jaws of the clamps with little wooden pads.

Some strips may want to rise up from the board and must be pressed or battered down with a mallet.

The stem glued and clamped
The stem glued and clamped

Clean up

Dispose of surplus plastic sheeting, gloves and any glue spills. Resist the temptation to poke the strips. Just go home and dream about the new stem cresting the waves.

Here's one we made earlier
Here’s one we made earlier

Job List for 8 August

First, last week’s progress.

We got on with trimming the surplus pieces off the mould and frame sections and there’s a lot more of this to be done before we can assemble them on the building base.

Construction of the building base itself was completed.

The brackets were all cleaned up and since Wednesday some progress has been made with laminating the first stem section.

This Wednesday we can:-

Finish the Mould and Frame Pieces

Cut off the webs, smooth the frame sections for assembly.

We should cut the cross-spalls and dry fit everything for later assembly next week once the caterpillar is done.

A minor change of plan – it’s very useful to have the building base on which to laminate the stem sections, so we’ll delay permanent assembly to allow this.

Laminate another stem piece

We’ll check the one that’s been done, reset the brackets and do another.

 Tools and stuff report:-

If you have a Japanese pull-saw or similar please bring it. Having only one causes log-jams.

Don’t forget to collect used plastic tubs and bring them along. We need all we can get.

Some clear light plastic sheeting will be useful, to keep glue off the laminating board.