Jobs List for tonight – 26 September

Sorry it’s a bit late, here is the programme for tonight’s exciting instalment.

Some fairies came along and sorted out the plank gains, so plank 2 is now ready to hang and we’ll get that done tonight. Plank 3 has  been assembled but as it’s rather cold we’d better leave it to cure before clearing the table to assemble plank 4, which already has its scarfs cut.

Plank 2 port side trial fit
Plank 3 glued up

Naming the boat – getting the community involved

We’ve asked the school if they would be interested in getting the kids to come up with names for the boat. It has also been suggested that they could design a logo or crest to be used for the pennant, crew shirts etc.

We are really hoping to get more young  people involved, though we realise that might only happen when the boat is built ad our rowers come out of the woodwork.

Meanwhile, if you think this rowing stuff  is a new, middle-class pastime check out this picture of some Easdale quarriers practicing for their next regatta:

Easdale quarriers training for a regatta circa 1880



Plank One is on

Another wet Saturday was put to good use, when the first plank sections went on and three of us got a nice masterclass from Richard Pierce, now returned from his adventures in the States.

Our (well, mainly my) efforts at bevelling the keelson and stems to meet the planks were reviewed and mistakes corrected. I had been over-enthusiastic in the sections between the moulds, producing a slight scalloping. It’s quite easy to do this, as one tends to lift the plane when getting near to the moulds and naturally press harder between them. This can’t happen again on Seil Skiff Number One, as there’s only one keelson per hull, but it’s a warning for when we get to our second ship. Fortunately I hadn’t done anything that couldn’t be smoothed out and Richard soon had things sorted.

At the stems I had gone the other way, being afraid of removing too much material. Richard explained how the planks will naturally take a concave curve at the ends, clearly visible in the picture of the finished job. The natural tendency when planing is to concentrate on the sides of the work piece, so that one produces a convex profile and accordingly a bad joint or, worse, an outward lengthwise bow that will produce a bulge in the plank once it’s on, with a compensating flat in the section behind, as the material for the bulge has to be borrowed from somewhere. While one is always anxious not to remove too much it’s actually a lesser sin than not taking enough off. Wood can’t be compressed, whereas an accidental void can always be filled with thickened epoxy. This may be a reason why traditionally-trained craftsmen don’t always look kindly on garage boat-builders – they spend years being trained to produce a perfect fit, then we come along, mix our chemical mud-pies and end up with a stronger boat.

Richard quickly supplied the required concavity with a few passes of one of his favourite tools, the angle-grinder, minus safety guard but with sandpaper on a soft rubber disk replacing the usual wheel. The same tool also cleaned up the edges of the moulds and sorted the angles on the frames.

These corrections done we found that both sections lay sweetly in place, requiring only light hand pressure to come in to the stems, with edges completely fair. It was then a simple matter to glue up the faces and hang both port and starboard sections, securing them with a mixture of temporary screws and clamps. The remaining planks will be progressively easier, the sections having to cope with less and less twist as we move towards the sheer.

angle grinder in use

first plank trial fit

first plank in place
second plank clamped on, photo by RP

Making Our Skiff’s Oars

I’ve been spending a wet Sunday reading the numerous postings by our skiffie friends on their experiences with different types and sizes of oars. They’re very generous in sharing their ideas but this is also quite confusing as it’s clear that there isn’t universal agreement on anything. The purpose of this post is to start a discussion about what we should provide for our first set of oars, bearing in mind that they will be the first of many.

The starting point is the rule book, which outlaws spoon oars and the use of carbon fibre but leaves us free to choose any length, section and shape of blade. It seems that various lengths of oar have been tried and certain lengths lead to clashes more than others. Some impressive work has been done by Topher Dawson suggesting an ideal length of eleven feet, although some teams row successfully with much longer oars. He also recommends rectangular section oars, which are stronger in engineering terms than round ones, although they can’t be feathered. The latter doesn’t seem to bother existing skiffies. Finally he recommends the use of the cheapest whitewood, easily available in a 38mm x 89mm section and adequate length. He’s provided a sketch incorporating these points and I’ve modified it a little, mainly by suggesting the addition of softwood blocks to give a little weight at the inboard end, which I think could be beneficial (some add lead to  thehandles to achieve this). You will see that the 89mm dimension is used fore and aft, where it’s needed. There are thin hardwood strips on three faces to cope with chafe against the kabes.

All comments are welcome but unless anyone comes up with something better I suspect our Wednesday regulars will soon start making our first set to this pattern.

September 5th

Fairing up the frames to take the planks

The frames are now clamped to the moulds and the inner keel piece (sorry – don’t know the right name for  this) has been glued onto them. Now this keel piece has to be bevelled and shaped to take the first plank.  The frames all have to be bevelled by hand to take the curve of each individual plank – a time-consuming process.

Frames clamped to the mould, inner keel piece glued in place
Frames clamped to the mould, inner keel piece glued in place

Checking the frames with a dummy plank

A dummy plank is clamped along the frames to check the angle.  This section is looking good.

Checking the bevel on the frames
Checking the bevel on the frames. The inner stem piece is now in place.

Making the first plank

The chief beveller and scarfer decides he has had enough practice and the first plank is ready for assembly. It comes in three sections that have  to be scarfed together with epoxy. In the picture you can see one of the scarf joints clamped and in the background the bevels cut on the second plank.

First plank being assembled
First plank being assembled

Next – gluing the garboard strake in place

Once the plank is glued we need to painstakingly  finish truing the inner keel piece, the inner stems and the inner bevels on the frames to make sure the plank is a perfect fit. This plank, the one near the keel, is known as the garboard strake. It (and its partner on the other side) will be the most difficult to fit because it has to take the greatest amount of bending.

Gluing the garboard strake is likely to be a Wednesday night job as it will need three or four people. Whether or not it is next Wednesday depends on the progress made in the interim on fairing the keel and stems –  there is a lot of work to be done yet.

After the garboard strakes the rest of the planking should just get easier and easier as we work up (or down!) towards the sheerline. Or at least, that’s what the head boatbuilder says 🙂


Plan for September and Job List for the 5th

We have now completed all the tasks set out for the month of August, including everything in the last job list. As a result we have the complete skeleton for our new ship, all glued up and fixed to the floor. The task for September is to assemble and hang the planks, of which there are six on each side, then add the external stem sections and outer keel, all already made apart from final shaping.

This Wednesday we have the following to do.

Set up the base for scarfing the plank sections together and make sure it’s secure and level. The blockboard for this is already in position.

Assemble plank 1, port and starboard sections.

Bevel the keelson and inner stems to fit plank 1.

Left over from before – Clean up and sand the wee end pieces for the frame sections, that will go into the hull later.