Week 10 – Cocooned!

We are now cocooned in our own specially constructed plastic tent within the workshop so that we don’t spread cedar dust all over everyone else (it’s nasty stuff being one of the more carcinogenic wood dusts – we have to wear proper filter masks when sanding). The tent includes a closing doorway designed by Wilbur – the boy’s a genius!


It’s been hard physical work this week, including planing off the planks along the backbone of the boat (see the picture below). Most physical has been the sanding using plywood long boards in the 80’s disco motion again – this is much better for you than any gym exercise!


We also had to re-drill some of the rudder tube hole where it had been covered by planks. Here’s Wilbur at the ready with the necessary hardware!


Now it looks like this. You’ll see we’ve finished off where the planks meet at the stern – this meant routing out a channel and putting in an insert of sapele. We also had to add some extra wood on the stern as you can just see in the picture because for some reason we had a bit of a dip here in the planking.

DSC01215Next stage is putting on the glass sheathing. Here is the first layer cut out and laid dry on the boat. Lovely and shiny! Sarah and I will be in tomorrow to finish this – it will need two layers of 300g biaxial glass plus a layer of peel ply. The latter gives a good finish and avoids amine blush which is a waxy deposit created by the epoxy drying.


On Monday a team of about 6 of us will apply a layer of high build primer all over the boat followed by the glass (while the primer is still wet), then wet it all out with epoxy. Then we’ll put the second layer of glass on while the first layer is still tacky.

This week I’ll give a quick update on the other boats. Adrian is building a Beer fishing boat which is clinker style and about 19 foot long. Beer is a fishing village on the south Devon coast not far from Lyme Regis. It will have a small cabin and a diesel engine. As you can see you build clinker boats the right way up.


He’s built the backbone and put on the garboards (the planks nearest the keel) plus another 3 or so planks on either side.

Regina’s boat is also clinker built and is a small sailing dinghy designed by Iain Oughtred. She has the garboards on, and will now start putting on the rest of the planks. This is an eco build using only locally sourced wood and environmentally friendly materials as much as possible.


Max is building an international canoe using a second hand carbon fibre hull which he is repairing. This will have a sail and a single seat and is a racing class boat. The picture below shows the hull. He is working on the various parts of the boat, like the seat (which you can just see behind the hull) in the GRP room which is in a separate part of the academy buildings.


Finally, Bob & Dan are building a cat boat which is an American design, used in shallow waters such as lagoons. It’s about 21 foot long and carries only one (huge) sail. It has a very curvy shape and a flat bottom. The topsides of the boat curve inward and this is called tumblehome. The construction method is cold moulded and involves gluing 4 layers of laminates on top of each other at diagonals to each other using temporary battens to create the required shape.


That’s it for this week.

Week 9 – All the planks are on!

Just a quick update because this was a class week on restoration, so we have only worked on the boat sporadically. However, we managed to complete all the planking! Here are some photos.


The tutors have been very complimentary about the shape and say this is down to accurate lofting – phew! And we are now just about back on schedule.

On Friday we did a fair amount of the scuffing off which involves passing a no 4 plane across the hull in a diagonal motion while keeping the plane parallel to the planks – it’s a sort of ’80s disco dance move! The idea is to take away all the lumps and bumps and is the first stage of fairing the hull. We won’t tidy up all the edges on the stem, stern & hog until the scuffing off is completed.

Next week will involve more scuffing off and then lots of sanding, followed by high build primer and laying the glass fibre. Ideally we should glass on Friday. The outer stem and keel will only be fitted when the glass is on. Then we will be ready for anti-foul (we’ll use Coppershield) and the paint finish which will be International two-pack royal blue.


Week 8 -What a shape!

Despite being on a class room week learning about painting & finishing we’ve actually spent a lot of time on the boat including a late evening on Wednesday (followed by a couple of beers!)

We started the week having already put on the first three planks on either side following the guidance given by Paul Gartside in the plans. This meant placing the first plank about 30mm above the seat riser then taking the bow end of the plank almost to where the stem  meets the harpin and the aft end to where station nine meets the harpin. As you’ll see below from the photo of the first plank in position this results in a gentle curve.


What is very clever is that this start point for the planks looks as though it will allow us to plank right up to the hog without having to start a new plank line. Normally with strip planking you get to a point where the planks will no longer take the curve and/ or twist required by the hull shape and you have to start a new plank line. This involves cutting some of the plank ends off with a circular saw (one of the scarier power tools in the workshop!), finding a new natural line for the next plank and planking up the resulting gap.

Here is where we now are with the planking with some great help from Steve (one of the tutors) and fellow students Regina, Max, Carson and Wilbur. You can see the beautiful lines that the designer has created.



We’ve also had the great advantage of being able to use a nail gun which fires plastic nails, to fix the planks to the molds – very kindly lent to us by Bob, a fellow student. These nails can be left in the wood and are easy to plane and sand. This also involved dusting off my compressor that hadn’t been used for about 7 years, and so far has worked well. I did stand well back when I started it up for the first time!

We used polyurethane glue to fix the planks to one another and seem to have used lots more than I estimated – already about 20 tubes.

The usual method for temporarily fixing the planks to the molds is to use metal screws and where pressure is greatest with penny washers as well. This is fairly laborious and means they all have to be removed and the holes filled once the planking is finished. In some places we have had to resort to screws where the plastic nails can’t cope with the pressure. This is particularly the case at the stern as you’ll see below.


The tongue & groove method that we’ve used, together with the curve of the boat has resulted in quite a lot of gaps in the planking, so the idea of leaving the hull as a bright finish (i.e. unpainted) isn’t going to work – actually I think it will look a lot better painted.

I’ve now ordered the lead ballast – a 365kg lump of lead and by far the most expensive single item for the boat. I’ve provided measurements and the plans to the manufacturers based in Cornwall and am praying it fits! All the bespoke items for the boat have also been ordered mainly in bronze including the rudder stock, gooseneck and pin rails.

So we’ve now caught up some of the lost time and are only a few days behind schedule.

Week 7 – Bevelling and more bevelling….

This week has been about finishing the bevelling particularly on the hog and horn timber, and machining the western red cedar ready for the planking. And we finally got the first planks on – three on either side. Not much but at least we’ve started!

Bevelling the horn timber and cheeks took hours because of the amount of wood to be taken off. But this is now ready to receive the planks as you can see below. You can also see that the harpin behind the last mold, which is double thickness, has also been bevelled. This is where the planks will land creating the fantail stern.


The western red cedar has to be put through a table router twice once the strips have been cut from the big planks, to create the tongue and groove. You can see the finished result below although we have a quite a few more to do.


The bracket for the outboard arrived from Rustler Yachts this week. This allows most of the bracket to be removed from the boat when the outboard is not in use just leaving an unobtrusive plate fixed to the decking. It’s beautifully made but not cheap at close to £700! Here’s a picture.


For the next two weeks we have lessons. I intend to get the planking done during the evenings and weekends, so depending on progress I will post a blog next week or leave it until we are back to building the boat full time.

Week 6 – Oars & Spars

This has been a lesson week on oars & spars so we haven’t spent much time on the boat itself. Oars aren’t very practical for Terror because they would need to be over 12 foot long (twice the beam of the boat). So I chose to make a paddle and Dan very kindly volunteered to make a second one so we have a matching pair. It would really need to be an emergency if we actually had to use them!

So how do you make a paddle? In this case you start by gluing together some lumps of douglas fir and a khaya veneer as illustrated by this picture. A veneer of spruce was added later to strengthen the shaft.


You then shape the paddle and handle ends using a template (in this case from an existing paddle). Here you’ll see the paddle partly shaped sitting next to the template.


Then you mark up the shaft with lines using a set ratio, so that each arris (edge) can be planed down. With this size of wood you do this to create 8 sides from the original 4, then 16 sides. Here you’ll see where I’ve shaded the bits that need planing off, to create 16 sides.


Then you lightly plane off any remaining edges and use the block plane in a circular motion to create the perfect shape (an oval in this case). The resulting paddle looks like this.


I finished the paddle by Friday morning so then worked on the hog to create the bevel on the side we hadn’t done in the previous week. I did this using a hand plane which is hard work but avoids using the electric plane – in my view this is the noisiest and nastiest piece of kit in the whole workshop! Here you can see the bevel done – it will be finished off on the boat.


This allowed us to epoxy the inner stem and horn timber to the hog on Friday night, so the inner backbone is now fully in place. You’ll see the slot cut in the hog for the centreboard – small pieces are retained until the keel is put on, to ensure the wood doesn’t change shape in the meantime (it isn’t because we’ve got some sort of whizzo three bladed centreboard!)


So on Monday when we’ve finished off some bevelling on the boat (particularly to the horn timber) we will be able to start planking.

Week 5 -only 11 weeks build time to go!

Yes, we only have 16 weeks available for building the boat because of time taken by lessons and exams. We’ve been working on it for 5 weeks already. So we’re almost a third of the way through the build time – s**t!

This week we started to glue up the joints on the cedar planks and machine them, which didn’t go well. A combination of some imprecise joints, using polyurethane glue (epoxy would have been better) and clamping too many in one go caused issues. Most of the joints failed when the planks were put through the table saw, to cut them into the 16mm thickness required. So Wilbur has done a great job of re-cutting the joints for each strip. Next we will glue and staple the strips individually before putting them through a router to create the tongue & groove.

We’re actually now thinking of leaving the hull as a bright finish. That means no paint, leaving the strips visible through the see-through glass layer. This can look stunning if the planking is done well – I hope we can do this!

We glued the hog this week so this is now in one piece, and I started to bevel its edges today so that it will accept the planking at the correct angle.

We also glued the top of the keel using the hog to create the right shape. The picture below shows this all clamped and comprises two 15mm thick pieces of sapele wood.


This part of the keel, and the outer stem, will be put to one side until the planking is done. These will then be completed/ shaped to fit over the planking.


Week 4 – more good progress

I said that I’d provide a picture of the deadwood and horn timber in my next post – I know you’ve been waiting for this all week so here it is!


The horn timber is the long curvy bit in the photo. The hog is the straight piece on the top. The inner deadwood is butting up against the horn timber on its left side as you look at the picture and sits on top of the hog (bearing in mind the boat is currently upside down). The outer deadwood (which needs finishing) fills the space between the horn timber, hog and where the rudder will be positioned (the piece of the hog overhanging the outer deadwood will be cut off).

In the picture below you’ll see we’ve dry fitted the inner stem and hog, but are yet to bevel this to accept the planking. The inner stem and horn timber (with cheeks added) will also need bevelling next week.


We’ve also started cutting the halving joints in the cedar planks (see photo below) from which we will create the strip planking. You have to join them to get the length required. This process is very time consuming, requiring about 50 or 60 joints in total. Once joined these boards will be put through the table saw to split into 16mm by 25mm strips, which will then be put through a router jig twice to create the tongue & groove. So the planking technique is a bit like laying a wooden floor – more pictures will follow in future posts.


We finished the week by laminating the outer stem and the picture below shows this epoxied and clamped in place over the inner stem. This amount and length of laminates is very difficult to keep straight once they are covered in epoxy, but we were very pleased with the result.


We’re a little bit behind now based on the project plan, because we should start planking on Monday, which won’t happen. I’d rather get all the backbone of the boat spot on rather than rush it. And we should catch up in the actual planking stage.

The sails have been ordered from Frank Rowsell Sails in Exmouth, a local company and will be cream for the mainsail and jib, and royal blue for the topsail and spinnaker.  I’ve also ordered all the bespoke fittings, mainly in bronze. This is going to be one cool looking boat!