Post XX - Planking Techniques

On the whitehall hull, the topsides and garboard areas are pretty flat and my first few planking sessions didn't require very much custom planing. As I approach the turn of the bilge I'm relying a lot more on my block plane to get a good fit. I had originally planned on following the technique described on the Laughing Loon website:

The problem is that you need at least three hands to cut a rolling bevel like that -- one to secure the strip, one to hold the work against the plane's sole, and a third to push the plane along the strip. In the LL case, the "securing" hand is replaced by a clamp on the amidships station mold, and the builder's hands do the other two jobs. He also has a much nicer saw than me and pre-cuts every strip with a 3deg bevel beforehand to minimize the necessary planing work on the not-so-curved sections of the hull.

I have a lot of short strips and you end up needing to fit in even shorter lengths here and there so as not to have the seams all line up at the same mold station. It makes it tough to use exactly the LL method everywhere and I just couldn't get good results. I also have a super shitty table saw that barely manages to cut straight (let alone accurate bevels, see Post II), so I made up my own method.

First, check the bevel before cutting -- just hold it in place and you can see exactly how much to shave off the inboard side of the strip.

Figure 63: Check the bevel by putting the strip in place. 

And before you go saying I'm a no-talent hack...I know the staples are crooked and it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

Step two: clamp a block plane gently in a vise. Do this carefully in a pussy little vise using a block plane you don't care much about. No Lee Valley planes allowed!

No clue who keeps linking here from homemadetools.net, but I'm
glad somebody takes an interest in my hackish methods.

Figure 64: Beat-up block plane clamped in a small, weak vise.

Step three: Use your left hand kinda like the picture below. I use thumb and pointer finger to set the bevel angle and my other two useful fingers to squeeze the strip against the plane's sole. Right hand pulls the strip through my fingers and the blade. If you're one of those satan-spawn lefties then do all of this backwards like everything else in your backward life. 

Oh, and i quickly realized that the edges of the strips are sharp as fuck and will quickly cut your fingertips to ribbons. Use gloves or a little scrap of wood under your fingers to protect them!

Figure 65: Muckle onto that strip!

This technique is working really well now that I've used it for a few bevels. I just mark on the strips how much bevel is needed as I fit them (Figure 63) and as long as I come somewhat close then the result looks fine. 

Finally, some boat porn for anybody that actually reads this; current progress on the port side is 10 strips. 8 strips to starboard. Got a way to go yet, but it's very gratifying seeing the curves coming together at long last. 

Figure 66: Current progress: 10 strips port side, 8 strips starboard side. 


Post XIX - Two Weeks' Sessions Worth of Planking.

Planking continued over the last two building sessions. This part is going relatively slow since I have to fit each individual piece and bevel it by hand - but I keep telling myself it's just using up time I would have spent setting up (and swearing at) a bead n' cove router table. Just thought I'd show the two tools I've been using for the planking task. Figure 59 is my block plane and Figure 60 is the backwards staple gun. Seriously buy one of these staplers for the task if you ever plan to do this (assuming you don't have air tools). I have no idea who invented the regular-type staple gun (where the lever points away from the business end) but they were a moron. The power-shot is infinity times better.

Figure 59: My beat-up block plane. I could do with a nicer one for such a precise task, but this one works half decent...and yes the blade was retracted before I placed it sole-down in the photo

Figure 60: The glorious and holy power-shot stapler. Best design for a hand stapler ever. Shut up if you disagree.

One thing that's come back to bite me is the fact that I didn't bevel the molds. It's not a massive deal since the molds are completely removed at the end anyway, but it means I'm always stapling into a corner of the mold rather than nice n flat on the face. On one side of the boat I realized I was stapling into the wrong corner too (woops) and it caused some unfairness in the planking. Luckily I'm above the turn of the bilge and I was able to simply remove the offending staples and re-staple the planks in the correct spot. Not the best solution, but most of my mistake will be hidden by the rub rail or by paint in the finished boat. 

Here's a few pics of my simple method for holding the planking together between molds as the glue dries -- low-tack painter's masking tape! When you stretch it over the current strip and stick it to the strips below, it holds every bit as well as a spring clamp. Butt joins are treated with tape, plus a clamp to draw the ends of the planks in-line with each other (Figure 61). Some spots it isn't needed but wherever the plank twists (toward bow and stern especially) it's hard to get the strips to line up without light clamping pressure

Figure 61: Butt join treatement (glue is scraped away afterward too)

Figure 62: Current progress port-side and bow

Figure 63: Current progress, port-side toward the stern.

I can't explain how pleased I am that the hull planking is going on.  I can finally see the shape of the hull and it looks absolutely fantastic. Super motivating on such a long-term project. Next post should be more of the same. I'll try to get some better pics that show the shape the way I see it when I look at it -- always hard to capture on a camera.


Post XVIII - Back from Hiatus & Planking Begins!!!

I began planking the hull the other night. It was very nice to be working on the project again after such a long hiatus. You know how it is -- summer, doing stuff gets in the way of doing stuff.

Well the cool rainy autumn months have arrived, family vacations are done and it's time to get back to work. I'm also very glad I got the mold to the point where the first post-hiatus task would be planking. I was excited to say the least!

Most of the cedar strip resources tell you that you should start your planking using a full-length strip at the sheer so that you end up with a perfectly fair curve. In this case, I've already decided that butt-joins will be my modus operandi, so where better to start than with the first plank right? My approach was to buddy a pair of strips at the sheer to avoid serious unfairness at the butt joins. Remember also that my strips are all in the vicinity of 8' 4" long, and cannot span the entire sheer, even in two pieces.

My method was to start a strip in from both transom and stem, and terminate each midway between a station, leaving 3 completely unattached stations in between. Then I used a full-length strip in the *second* strip position to span the 3-station gap in the first. Edge glued it and stapled to the molds it above the sheer strip, and clamped it to the sheer strip midway between stations to ensure that the two strips stayed snug and fair. Then I buddied in a filler strip in the centre of the sheer and clamped it to the second-position strip. It took a bit of jiggery and pokery to get the joints tight (see Fig 55) -- lots of dry fits and sanding off minute amounts of material from the ends to get it to lie in there tight. Last thing was to add a filler for the stem and transom sections of the second strip position, and clamp the remaining butt joints.

Figure 55: Clamped & glued butt joins in the sheer strip. A bit of a finnicky thing to do with just one clamp, but not too bad.

Figure 56: Completed 2-strip sheer plank.

Figure 57: One nice thing I noticed -- the staples are long enough that they cannot drive in to full depth using the hand staple gun. This means they are all sticking out and will be real easy to pull out when it comes time to sand the hull. Yay!

Nice revelation I had several days later when I removed the clamps and looked at the sheer from different angles. For some reason, I never quite appreciated the size of this boat until I added the sheer plank. This is going to be a sizeable ship when I'm all done. 

Figure 58: View from what will eventually be the top. This shit gonna be huge! I need a boat trailer. 

Didn't get much more done than this - only one side and only 2 strips, but I sorted out my system for fitting and cutting pretty well. The other side should fly on pretty quick and then it's all butter from there. It also upped my enthusiasm for the project pretty heavily, so I'll be motivated to sneak downstairs and work on it more often. 


Post XVII - Rebate on the Transom, Final Mold Adjustments

It's been awhile since the last post I know...summer is here and there never is enough time to work on projects like this. The last session in the shop took care of the last nagging issues with the mold and the transom. First off, I planed away most of that strip I added in the previous session. I left a millimetre or so because it seemed to help with the fairness, but in general my adjustments to the mold met with failure. I checked on the woodenboat.com forums and the advice I received was not to worry overmuch about minor unfairness. Full-size traceable plans were purchased and I was careful with my mold setup, so there probably is not too much to worry about. Of course, this is where my addition of 1' length might come back to bite me - the plans were originally faired for a 16' boat - but by all reports whitehalls are especially amenable to the lengthening method I used (described back in Post II I think).  

Figure 51: Filler strip added to mold #8, which I ended up planing down to pretty much nothing.

Moral of the story is: I'm not fucking with it anymore. Adjusting molds has sucked up too many hours and has produced net zero result. If it's a bit unfair here and there then too bad for me. I want to proceed with planking!!!

The other major thing I completed in this last session was the transom rebate. After adding my filler strip (scrap cedar planking) I used battens to judge the appropriate bevel at 9 points around the transom's curve. Each constraint position was pared out using my 25deg bevel 3/8" chisel, and then I came along afterward with the 1" paring chisel to cut the rolling bevel between the constraints. Finished result is pretty good and fairs into the aftmost molds nicely when a strip is held tight to the bevel. Maybe my fuckup with the router isn't the end of the world after all! 

Figure 52: Constraint bevels on the starboard side of the transom, each 1 hull strip wide and faired to the molds. 

Figure 53: Completed bevel up close - I sanded it a bit after to clean up the hairy bits. 

I gotta say, doing some of this work is suuuuch a nice change from sanding and hacking at MDF molds, or running noisy power saws. Paring down softwood with hand tools is just fun all around and I'm glad there's a lot more of it in my future as I cut the bevels on my strips. Forget bead and cove! Note in Figure 54 that I left the bit near where the skeg will connect. This part of the boat is going to be a custom-fit-as-I-go area, so I'm just leaving some extra material until I get near it with the planking. 

Figure 54: And the completed bevel on the port side, except where the keel joins the transom.

Next trip to the shop is where things are going to start getting exciting! I expect post XVIII to contain some shots of the installed shear planks!!


Post XVI - A Solution for the Transom, Odds and Ends, Also Battens

Again, a long pause between updates. I've been busy or sick, or both for the last few weeks and work on the boat kind of stalled. 

I came up with a nifty solution to the transom screwup described in the last post. Advice from the Woodenboat forum (ie from people that know what they're doing) was to either scrap the transom or plane off the rebate and move it back. I am done screwing around with the molds and I don't want to buy wood, so that meant I needed a different tactic. I decided to add material back onto the transom instead, in the form of some steam-bent cedar strips. The idea is that they'd fill in the rebate and enable me to chisel out a bevel. 

So I made a form from scrap MDF using the transom as a template and steam bent to cedar to it, then glued the bent strips into the rebate with epoxy & adhesive filler. Drywall screws (predrilled) were used to hold the strips in place until things cured. Afterward, I backed out the screws and mounted the transom to the molds. As I fair the mold using my new battens (described below) I'll cut away part of the cedar and be left with a custom bevel.

Figure 45: Clamping the steam-bent strips to a scrap piece of MDF

Figure 46: Glued strips to the transom inside the rebate

Figure 47: View of the screws

Figure 48: And she's ready for mounting. Good as new! (yeah right)

This procedure of course wasn't without its screwups. About half of the screws jammed in the hardwood and broke, Luckily, they broke off in the hardwood (ie deep in the hole) and not in the cedar. I don't expect them to get in the way when I'm chiseling, and the whole thing will be covered in glass/epoxy in the end anyway. I also realize the corner won't be as strong without the planking bonded directly to the transom, but I can handle that by filleting the inside corner and taping the outside corner after I do the main glass layups. Appearance-wise, I'm not overly concerned. I plan on painting a good deal of the hull's exterior anyway, and the ugly cedar filler strip will be hidden by the fillet.

The day I added the filler strips to the transom, I also scarphed 2 8-foot pine planks to make a fairing batten and glued the inner stem to the inner keel using the leftover epoxy/filler mixture. If any hardcore boatbuilders are reading this right now they're probably clawing their eyes out at a spliced batten, but I don't have much choice unless I really want to shell out some cash.

I'm getting a little better at scarphing by hand using a jack plane, but the joint isn't as tight as I'd like it to be. Luckily there are lots of scarphs left to go on the project (gunwhales, outer keel, outer stem,) so I should get lots more to practice on before all's said and done.

Figure 49: Clamping the scarph in the batten stock. 

Figure 50: Glued the inside stem to the inside keel.

Next time (hopefully) I'll be doing some mold fairing and if I'm lucky, putting on the sheer strips!


Post XV - Final Preparations for Planking and More Screwups!

March was a bit of a wash, and so was the start of April. I really haven't had a lot of time to devote to my project unfortunately. Last week I got my mold up off the floor and onto some legs, leveled everything and attached the keel strip to the mold with finish nails. This really hardened things up and I'm confident now that the mold is stiff enough to start laying the hull planking. The inner keel - inner stem joint is still temporary, but I need to glue up a few sarphs for another project and will probably do the keel-stem joint at that time.

RE the keel stem joint, I carved it out as shown on the plans, but I'm not happy with it. I think in the future I'd just do a scarph rather than that ugly step joint. Not a big deal for now, it's not something that will show in the finished product.

Figure 41: Keel clamped in place and nailed to station molds.

Figure 42 - Temporarily clamped keel-stem joint

Last night I had a rough time, and I think I've experienced my first major setback. On the plans it said that I should router a rebate (rabbet? I never know which is technically correct) into the transom to receive the hull planking. After much fighting with the router and bit, I managed to rebate the transom at 1/4" deep using a top-bearing flush-cut bit and a template cut 1/4" smaller than the outer edge of the transom. The result was less than awesome. A lot less than awesome. 

Figure 43: Template for the transom rebate cut.

Figure 44: Rebate is on a bad angle. Man, that looks shitty

So I'm not sure what the plans designer had in mind saying "this rebate can be cut with a router". Granted I went a bit too deep with it (ie depth from the inner face of the transom), but still...maybe they were talking about using a top-bearing dovetail bit? Something like that would have looked much better and the strip would sit flush at least.

Now I have to figure out what to do for fuck's sake. It's only 1/4" gone from the transom, and from the angle of things. I think I could probably still mill away the remaining material, then bevel the slightly-small transom so that the strips lay flat. Worst case, I could just make the transom again and forget about the fucking rebate.

I dunno, maybe the third option is to just live with it and hide the gap using a fillet later. I'll consult the forums before doing anything drastic.


Post XIV - Stem and Stern Installation

I have been thinking about quite how to post this part of the build. It wasn't exactly straightforward, but I'll do my best to describe it. Sorry about the wordiness, but it's complex to put in words

I did my lamination late Friday night, in hopes that my epoxy would still be in somewhat of a green cure stage in the morning. Having the epoxy a bit soft still would keep my plane and spokeshave blades from dulling too quickly (so my thinking went). I have no idea if that is the proper thing to do, but that's how I did it and had no issues. I was about 4 whiskey drinks in the bag at that point, so I'm actually amazed it worked at all!

On to the woodworking

At Harry Bryan's hand tool course last fall, he and Wyatt taught us some techniques for cutting complex shapes out of wood. Their application was a small canoe paddle, but the principle is the same here

The stem plan is complicated. It calls for a rolling bevel reaching from inside to outside face, all along its curved length. There is also a narrowing of both inside and outside faces in the middle of the curve. At the bow it starts out as a wide, 60deg bevel with a broad inside and outside face, then tapers to a much steeper bevel with narrow inside and outside face at the sharpest part of the bend, then flares out again to a 45deg bevel with a broad inside face and narrow outside face.

Luckily, the sheet containing the stem plan was very detailed, so I was able to establish a centreline and mark out the nominal widths on both inside and outside faces before beginning my cuts It's tough to see in the picture above, but there is a centreline and a spline to either side of it.

Figure 38: Aft end of stem showing bevel, centrelines and splines on top

The planing operation seems daunting at this point, but the trick is to do only one "projection" at a time. I started by establishing the bevel between the edge of the inside face and the splines drawn to either side of centre on the outside face. I carried this all the way around the stem (even though I know the width of the inside face should be changing, but that comes later). The projection I'm completing here is a trapezoid shape with a gently rolling bevel and a projection axis parallel to the curving longitudinal axis of the stem piece.

Once I had that all done (with 0.5 mm or so to spare outside the lines) I flipped it on its side and worked with my blade perpendicular to the inside face, adding the hourglass-like projection on an axis perpendicular to the inside face at any point along it.

At this point, I had 2 projections done, and the stem cut down to my drawn lines on both inside and outside faces. Not done yet though - there is still some material to be removed. Because the projection axes were perpendicular, the offending wood stands out like a sore thumb. It appears as a ridge with tapering ends through the narrow section on the tightest part of the curve. At this point it's safe to forget about projections and plane away the ridge to create a flat bevel from inside to outside face all the way along.

Figure 39: The completed stem. It's hard to take a good picture that shows the rolling bevel and tapering.

Harry and Wyatt both use a pencil to get good results with this type of complex shape. Simply score a crosshatch over the area you want to work. As you pare away unwanted wood, the pencil marks get pared away too, and you can always see where you *didn't* plane. This is unbelievably helpful at keeping your plane or spokeshave on the correct angle and in making sure you don't pare away too much from one side or the other.

Last check after the you get "close as possible" to the desired shape is to run over the whole thing with a straight edge held against the bevel. This will reveal any remaining bumps or rounds that you might want to get rid of. Again, mark the raised areas with pencil and shave away carefully.


Last thing I did while a buddy was helping with a section of the stem was to cut out my transom piece. Nothing too special to report here. Edge glued (with epoxy and adhesive filler) 1" ash boards and transferred the transom pattern from the printed plans using carbon paper. Cut it out on my wobbly bandsaw. I was looking forward to making this part and it definitely doesn't disappoint! Gonna look cool when it's all planked in.

Figure 40: Transom piece roughed-in


Post XIII - Fixups and More Steamboxes


Well I am glad I took a few seconds to ask on the woodenboat forum about my alignment issue. Peerie Maa, a member there suggested I pound nails into the tops of my molds and use those as alignment guides. I did this and in the process shifted my strongback around a bit to position it better in the workshop. I realized all of a sudden my centreline had hardly any of the wonk it had before...and the only thing that changed between now and the day I stretched the string is that I shifted the strongback to a new spot on the floor. 

Curious now, I busted out the level and checked at several points along the strongback. Sure enough, the beam had a twist! I didn't think of it as a possibility since the strongback is very rigid, but such a beam would be poor at supporting a torsional load. Considering the eccentric weight of the molds (and the considerable weight of the beam itself) I should have foreseen issues with twist. 

My sawhorses are too high, and I can't be arsed to make legs just now. A temporary solution was to slip 2x4 scraps under the strongback all the way along and level them using shims. This took the twist out of the strongback and I was able to reposition the 3 molds that were still obviously out of alignment. 

Figure 34: 2x4 scraps and cedar shims to level the strongback.

I believe I will make legs before I start planking...'cause fuck doing all that work on my knees. If things get twisty during installation of the legs, I'll just have to re-level the strongback and I can be confident that the keel alignment will remain pretty close. 

Steamboxes Again!

This process is really cool. I loaded in all my white ash stem laminates at once (on advice from Ted Benson in Canoecraft) and fired up the lobster boiler. Once it hit a rolling boil, I whipped off the aluminum lid and stuck the steam box in its place. 10 seconds later and steam was pouring out of everywhere - some at the seams but mostly out of the end with the holes. This is good from what I read. You want the steam to fill the box completely from source to outlet, and judging by the amount of steam coming out the end, I definitely ticked that box. 

Steaming time was 15 minutes for 1/4 inch laminates, based on the general rule of 1hr of steaming per inch thickness of wood. 


No clue who keeps linking here from homemadetools, but whatever. More 
pictures and details on construction of the steambox on Post XII if you're 

In all honesty, I scabbed this idea for using the lobster boiler from some other guy 
on the internet. Credit to him for the idea. Will post the original source if I can 
find it again. 

Figure 35: Steamy

Figure 36: More Steamy

Then came the bending, which was really scary. I tried dry-bending a piece just part-way around the curve of the stem and it broke like twig, so I was surprised that I met with such steamy success on the first go-round.

The critical time is the first 45 seconds after you pull the sticks out of the oven. They must be bent within that window, or the lignin in the wood will harden up and you're shit outta luck. My wife and I coordinated it so she was ready to install the 2 topmost clamps the second I got them on the mold. As the second clamp was being screwed home, I started bending around the tight radius and with surprisingly little effort, the things flexed right around! A couple more clamps finished the job and we were done in probably 45 seconds to a minute.

Figure 37: Completed bend. Ready for lamination once it cools and dries. 

I then treated myself to a beer to dilute the adrenaline and quell the anxiety. 2 more days to wait until I can glue it up - that's what the books say anyway. Glue will not displace water, so it's important to allow enough time for the moisture to come back out. Hopefully I'll get a few minutes to do my glue-up over the weekend.


Post XII - Screwups and Steamboxes


In a previous post I mentioned that there was a noticeable sway in the inner keel line. I was reading about this and other common pitfalls in my books over the weekend and they suggested tying a line from bow to stern molds in order to check alignment of the intervening stations. I figured it was worth a try if only to get the 1 or 2 stations in good alignment and holy shit am I ever glad I took the time. 

The entire thing is out of alignment for fuck's sake - but there's a pattern. The offset is all to one side and it lessens at the bow and stern. Amidships, deviation from centre for each mold is around 3/4 inch! If I don't correct this now, I'll have a boat that perpetually turns to starboard - which is the opposite of awesome. Figure 30 shows the problem. 

Figure 30: Portside arc of station placement relative to true centre. 

I'm confident in the straightness of my stern and bow molds, I took a lot of care in making sure each mold's centreline is perpendicular to the strongback surface. There should not be any problem with the strongback itself (since it is a 5/8" plywood box-beam, which by rights should be dimensionally stable in all directions). I'm guessing my problem has to do with the way I established the centreline. I did it with a chalk line and must have snapped the string a bit sideways...it's the only thing I can think of that would put that type of swoop in the centreline placements. I'll triple-check the strongback to be sure, but the chalkline seems like the likely culprit right now.

So assuming I'm correct, I should just be able to correct the swoop by sliding the offending molds to starboard, using the string as a guide. A setback, yes, but not as bad as it might have been if I'd been hasty. I'll be triple-checking everything else on the mold from now on - that's for sure.


Those pieces of ash I milled up are not going to bend around the stem radius without some steam, so I took a few hours this weekend and set about making a steam box. There is a lot of advice on how to do this, but it basically amounts to:

  1. find a good steam source
  2. build a box to appropriate dimensions
  3. steam your wood at 1hr per inch thickness of stock. 
I found a DIY steamer on the web that a fellow made out of scrap plywood and a lobster boiler, so I decided to copy that. I have the lobster boiler for homebrewing beer anyway, and it definitely boils the shit out of water, so there's step 1 taken care of. 

For step 2, I ripped the plywood into 6" x 7.5' planks and screwed them into a box shape with drywall screws (these tend not to split plywood when screwed into the end-grain). Added a permanent end-cap on one end, some wire racks to support the stock, and a plywood lid to fit the lobster boiler. The finishing touch was a hinged end-cap (not shown) on the business end with holes to allow some steam to escape. 

Figure 31: Wire racks in the steam box

Figure 32: Steam box and lobster boiler steam source

Figure 33: Steam port. 

If I feed the stock in edgewise, this box should give me capacity to do all 8 laminates for the inner & outer stem at once. There was no time this weekend to actually do the steaming unfortunately, so that is priority one for this weeks' shop night.


Post XI - Keels and stems

 Tonight I worked on the inner keel. I realized when trying to fit it to the mold that I ripped my stock about 1/16 too wide. Not to worry though - perfect opportunity to do some more planing! I have an old Stanley No.28 transition jointer plane that I only recently got back in good working order, so I was itching to try that out. I met with mixed success...the horned part of the handle on it is busted, so it's very difficult to use comfortably, and its hugeness makes it difficult to control on a narrow edge. I ended up going back to the No.3 plane. It's more finnicky to get long even cuts with it, but it's really the better tool for work like this I think. Also, thanks again to Harry and Wyatt at Bryan boatbuilders for the instruction on proper plane use (unsolicited plug).


Once I got it all planed down to the right size and the inside corners beveled, I fit it to the molds. Looks pretty cool on there.

Figure 26: Inside stem laid up on the mold.

I don't know if it's visible in this picture but if you look toward the transom, there is a noticeable wobble in the keel line, somewhere around station 10-11. I think maybe I should have stretched a string between stem and transom before putting up all the molds. I might be in for a bit of repositioning now. Not too big a deal, just a bit annoyed that I didn't take the time to do it right earlier.  

Figure 27: Tiny wobble in the stem line toward the aft end of the boat.

...but instead of doing that right now, I wanted to get my ash stem laminates all milled up. Inside and outside stem are each 1 inch, and I decided to build each up out of 1/4" stock. I really wanted to saw these to get the vertical grain facing out, but with the stock I had left, there was no way to do it. Keeping true to my economical build, I decided to use the stock I had, and milled them up flat grain style. It might make them harder to bend, but the stem curve is fairly generous and I don't anticipate problems. I have some spare stock to mill up another strip in case I break one anyway. 

Figure 28: Stem laminates all ready to go.

No time for doing the stem glue-ups at this point, so I finished off the evening with some nice relaxing bit & brace work. Not to go too philosophical on you, but man, they knew how to make tools back in the day. this 1" auger beats the everloving shit out of the hole saw I was swearing at for the first 2 holes. I bored a dozen perfect holes with this bastard in the time it took the useless wood-scorching hole saw to do just one! 

Figure 29: Bit & Brace. One of the most satisfying tools in the box.

Post X - Gluing

Just a mini post today. I took 1/2 an hour and glued up the scarphs I cut last week. I checked with folks on the woodenboat forum because I wasn't quite sure how to do this. Two reasons:
  • My scarphs weren't perfect and there was about a 0.5mm gap
  • I was worried because of cautions I'd read RE wood sucking all the epoxy out of a scarph joint into the end grain and ruining the joint's strength. 
Solutions to these were quick and simple from a member called keyhavenpotterer. First off, don't worry about small gaps. Epoxy and fillers are designed to fill them and as long as the gap isn't very big. Second, to avoid the problem of glue-starved joints, simply paint the scarph surfaces with unthickened epoxy just after you mix up the pot. Add fillers into the epoxy while you wait a couple of minutes for the wood to suck up some of the unthickened stuff. Then, before anything cures, do the final glue-up.

For gluing I use WEST system with the slow-curing hardener and WEST adhesive filler fibres. The slow hardener is great because it leaves lots of time for messing around if you don't entirely know what you're doing...like me! Slow hardener apparently gives marginally better strength than the fast hardeners too, but It probably doesn't make a heck of a lot of difference here - I'm more concerned with a long pot life.

Figure 24: Scarph mounted in a gluing jig built on a piece of scrap MDF.

I also did the top 2 boards of the transom. I hadn't planned on doing this right away, but I had a bunch of epoxy left over and the stuff is too damn expensive to waste!

Figure 25: Glued up transom pieces


Post IX - Bracing and Scarphing

This week I needed a bit of advice and so posted a thread at the woodenboat forum. I asked about the best way to brace and square the molds to the surface of the strongback. Is it better to add square braces to each mold, or can I rely on the inside keel strip and the well-braced stern and stem molds to keep the whole thing rigid. Bert Langley, a member there, indicated it would be best not to just rely on the inside keel, but to add square braces and perhaps temporary strips at the turn of the bilge to keep things rigid until I have my first few rows of hull strips in place. This advice was echoed in a few other members' answers, so that's what I plan to do. This week I just added the square bracing because I still need to scarph the inside keel piece. 

Figure 20: MDF square braces for each MDF mold not otherwise braced

Making and bracing all those molds took quite a bit of time, and I ended up splitting the MDF on a good number of them because I was screwing into the "end grain" of it. The stuff is kinda pressed in layers, so screwing into the thickness is impossible unless you pre-drill and pre-countersink. The splits were annoying, but I realize it at worst they will still serve to keep things square until I affix the inside keel and temporary bilge strips. At that point a few compromised braces won't matter. 

Next came the fun part - making shavings! I had some lessons on scarphing by hand at Harry Bryan's shop last fall:

He taught the class techniques for getting decent scarph faces using either a framer's slick or jack plane, instead of a powersaw and jig. This appealed to me because all of my hand tools are of decent quality (antiques, largely) but my power tools are a bit shit. So I traced the requisite 12:1 lines on the ash keel sticks and set to work. You'd think it would be hard to do this with hand tools but it is surprisingly relaxing. Procedure:
  • line up the sticks so that the end of one is offset from the end of the other by the 12:1 ratio. In my case I have 5/8" thick stock, so I offset by 7.5". 
  • Clamp it so that the lower stick's end is at the edge of your workbench. 
  • Set the plane for a nice deep cut (No.4 stanley plane worked well for me). You have to cut on both sticks together - start the stroke on the top stick and follow through onto the lower one, keeping material removal as even as possible between the two sticks. 
  • Start on one corner and whack it down to within a couple millimetres of the line. Follow up on the opposite side, then do the centre, and you should have something approximating the 12:1 slope on both sticks, but offset from the final line by a millimetre or so. 
  • Set the plane blade for a nice thin cut - the thinnest you can manage while still taking a full-width shave of the stock
  • Checking the lines frequently, continue planing until you reach your line
  • Put a straight edge along the scarph surfaces at several points to check flatness, remove material from high spots with short strokes of the planer if necessary. 
And that's it. The whole procedure only took about 15 minutes. 

Figure 21:  Sorry no progress shots, but this is the end result

 Figure 22: Closeup of the "feather edge" that you're supposed to get if you did it right. 

Gotta love the big swirl chip that flies off at the end of each stroke and the nice shearing sound it makes when the blade is good and sharp. The plane has always been my favourite tool for that reason. 

Figure 23: Chips!

I ran out of time, but I'm going to glue this up over the weekend (WEST epoxy and adhesive fillers) so that it's ready to put on the mold for next week's shop night.


Post VIII - Setting up the Molds

Setting up the molds was a pretty fun process. Nice easy methodical work with not too much dust creation or noise. I took a couple of scrap 2x4s and ran them through the table saw to make 1"x1" stock. These got sawed into 12" long sticks which became the anchors for the molds. 

For positioning, I snapped a chalkline on the strongback to mark the centre (molds all have a marked centreline too). Then plotted out all the mold positions and dropped a perpendicular off each using a homemade compass (a stick with a nail in one end and a pencil jammed through the other). Assembly was pretty simple after that. Screw an anchor stick to the strongback, centre a mold, screw that to the anchor stick, repeat.   

Figure 16: Just getting started

Figure 17: Halfway there

This process goes very quickly once you figure out the first couple. They are not particularly square (straight up and down), but the foremost mold and rearmost mold are squared to the transom and stem molds. This means I can use them as sturdy anchors for the ends of the keelson, and nail the keelson to each mold in between to keep them straight too. I don't know if that's what you're supposed to do (probably not) but I'm going to anyway.

Figure 18: Done from the front (minus the stem).

Figure 19: Done from the back.

I stopped before getting into the process of making the stem. That'll be the project for next week.  I'm planning to make a laminated one rather than a sawn one, which in a lot of ways is easier, but will involve gratuitous epoxy mess, so better to begin that process on a new night. I'll also mill the keelson out of 10' stock and scarph join 2 pieces to bring me up to the approximate 15' total length I'll need. I am supposed to have some help from somebody who knows what he's doing this week too, so maybe I'll even get the transom blank glued up.