Real, rough carpentry

Another two weeks has flashed past, it must be because we are comping out of lockdown and a social life is just hull up on the horizon. I’ve been getting into practice, partaking of the odd drink or two in other peoples gardens. But then the weather closed in again, so it’s been back to boat building.

We’ve made a bit of progress. The glass fibre cloth has been successfully fixed to the outside of plank one and the spectre of fairing is coming closer. Before undertaking this messy task, the boat needs to have vestigial keel and bilge keels fitted and the plywood centreboard case that sticks out of the hull needs a hardwood casing. All of these bits are necessary to provide some protection to the hull when (inevitably) the bottom strikes some hard stuff, either gently as the skipper deliberately parks her for a night so he can sleep on board above sea level or (more likely) he’s not been paying enough attention to navigation.

The glass fibre cloth in place on the bottm

Another delivery arrived – a few feet of Utilie.1 This is a lovely dark brown wood, usually with a smooth, close grain. I had elected to have standard sawn sizes, rather than bespoke sizes2 and the first thing to be done was to convert my hand held electric circular saw to some sort of bench saw.4

A large piece of rough plywood and some offcuts of roofing joists were soon cobbled into shape and there is was – a bench saw. As a sop to ‘ealth ‘n safety I fitted an earth leakage trip in the electric supply and placed the stop button near my foot.

To my great surprise, it worked quite well and I was able to trim the planks to the required sections without trimming bits off me……

Here I am fitting the protective bits around the centreboard case – the weather had warmed up for the day!

The protection for the centre board case used two pieces of 50 x 25 mm section, each just over a metre5 long. A trial fit showed that they needed to be bent to match the curve of the hull. Fortunately I found that the force need to bend them wasn’t that great provided I could devise a mean to apply it. In the end I settled for a loop of rope through the centre board case at one end and a weight at the other. As you can see from the video, I supplied the weight and then used G cramps and friction to hold them inplace whilst the epoxy set.

The two bilge keels needed bending too but there was no convenient centre board case to hand, so I temporarily screwed them in place from inside the hull. After the epoxy had set, I was able to remove the screws and fill the holes.

The keel strips were another matter. The yard had supplied three pieces of utilie, cut to shape to form the stem and the first two pieces of the keel, where the bend round the forefoot was through 90o on a tight radius. The next pieces of the keel (up to and aft of the centre board case) were to be made out of 35 x 40mm section. Cut to lenght, these pieces wouldn’t fit my steamer, so I scrounged a piece of sewer pipe from the builders yard and built a bigger one. Despite soaking the timber in water overnight, and steaming each piece for 6 hours, I could not entice them to bend and stay bent to conform to the required curve. In the end I cut the timbers into strips about 10 mm thick to laminate them into position. This worked really well, only needing a selection of building bricks6 at end to make the laminate conform to the keel. Four triangular blocks, 30mm think, formed a transition from the keel to centreboard case.

The electric “thicknesser” – or plane, as I prefer to call it – smoothed out irregulaties at the joins and it all looked rather professional.7

Rough carpentry done. Fairing can commence. But that will be in another episode.

Rough carpentry completed


1. Well, metres of the stuff which, I was assured, was from an FSC approved forest

2. At the time of ordering, I had only a rough idea of the sizes I would need, so couldn’t be specific3

3. It was more economical too.

4. I had been meaning to do this since I bought the thing about 20 years ago

5. Conversion for those on the west of the North Atlantic and for the brexiteers who still cling to the Empire.

6 The builders yard has a plentiful supply!

7. From a distance.

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