Week 3 – the molds really are up….

We’ve had a good week with all the molds fixed in position, the inner stem laminated, the deadwood made and much of the hog done. I’ll explain all these terms below!

It takes a lot of fiddling to get the molds in the right position – they have to line up with the centre line, be plumb and sit correctly with the harpin and seat riser. The picture below shows all this in place.


The seat risers fit well which is a bit of a relief! We’ve planed these to create a bevel so they align with the shape of the hull. You’ll also see in the picture the former used to laminate the inner stem. The holes allow clamps to be used to bend the laminates into shape once they’re glued.

The picture below shows the laminates clamped in place. The inner stem is made of khaya (African mahogany) which is not great to work – in particular it creates vicious splinters!


Gluing this up with epoxy and clamping it was a team effort with about 8 of us involved. The outer stem will be clamped over the inner stem next week.

The deadwood is a strengthening piece that sits under the horn timber (in case you’re wondering what the horn timber is this is similar to the stem but at the stern of the boat). I’ll include pictures of these items in next week’s blog.

Below you’ll see the inner stem and partly finished hog set out on the lofting. The hog sits on top of the keel and is part of the “backbone” of the boat.


The hog is made up of some fairly chunky pieces of sapele wood which are joined by scarf joints. These joints were made by Steve, one of our tutors, using a router and specially made jig (to achieve the 1:6 angle).

The inner stem is slightly too narrow where it joins the hog, so tomorrow I’ll be creating some “cheeks” to widen this along about 30mm of it’s length. 6 day weeks are now a regular occurrence!

Week 2 – Setting up the molds – well, almost!

We started this week focused on finishing the harpin, but like most things this took longer than expected. To ensure it fitted exactly we had to trim the joints (5 on each side) and then glue each harpin while positioned on the lofting. The photo below shows one side with glue applied.


When we put the harpin on the base framework we found a couple of anomalies, particularly the mold at station 7 which was about 20mm wider than the width across the harpin. The cause of the problem took a while to work out, but turned out to be an incorrectly constructed mold. So we had to take it apart and re-align it. Frustration followed by relief all round!

We didn’t manage to get all the molds set up this week as the picture below shows. So will need to complete this on Sunday/ Monday, together with bracing pieces to ensure the molds can’t move when we put on the planking.



At the moment it all looks like a cross between a viking ship and a giant surfboard!

This week we also made the seat risers, started to cut out and shape the horn timber (which sits at the aft and is part of the backbone of the boat), laminated the cheeks which sit either side of the horn timber and built the template to give us the inner stem shape.

The seat risers are 30mm by 70mm pieces of douglas fir, and had to be made in the same way as the harpin. They fit into the molds (you can see the openings about a third of the way up the molds in the photo above) and are the base for the seats. We’ll find out if they fit in the next few days!

The picture below shows the wood for the cheeks after it has been epoxied – it was clamped to the angle irons sitting behind to achieve the shape.


Week 1

This first week has been about setting up the base frame and making the harpin.

The base frame is made up of two parts. Firstly a box frame which has to be level and square, then fixed to the floor, and second on top of this a framework on which the harpin and the molds sit. This top section has to be set at precise heights for each station and each end of the cross beams has to be angled correctly to receive the harpin. We are using a self-levelling laser to get the correct heights.

The harpin is an 18mm by 100mm strip of douglas fir that the decking sits on and which follows the sheer line. I should explain that we are building the boat upside down, so at this stage the harpin is the first part of the structure to sit on the base. It has taken a fair amount of time to achieve the correct shape – initially it involves taking nail impressions from the lofting (which is why we have the lofting sheets out again in the photos below), then cutting the wood with a bandsaw and finishing with various planes. We have to joint these pieces because of the length and curve involved, so there are five halving joints in each side. We will use a router on a jig, to create the joints.

As of last night (Friday) we still had half of the the top framework to finish and the joints for the harpin. We’ll be in on Sunday, and hopefully will get this done so we are ready on Monday to glue the harpin joints, lay the harpin on the base and set up the molds on top of these.

Here’s our work area at the start of the day on Monday with some elements of the base frame set out.


And here’s mid-week with a section of the harpin in a vice on the right which I was working on (and you’ll see the lofting sheets are temporarily laid on the base for us to take nail impressions for the harpin and seat risers).


And this is where we were at the end of the day on Friday.


Finally here’s a shot of the three of us resting between strenuous bouts of boat building (Sam on the left, then Wilbur & me).


Lofting, will it never end?

Lofting is the process of converting the plans provided by the designer into life size drawings allowing key components of the boat to be built. One of the key outputs for our type of build are the molds which provide the shape of the hull.

I can’t repeat the phrase generally used to describe the effect on the brain of going through this exercise because it’s very rude, but let’s just say it can do your head in. You draw out the boat in three different views on the one set of boards – from the side (profile view), from above (half breadth) and from end to end (body plan). It results in a lot of lines. The trick is to remember what they all mean when you come to the actual build.

We spent three weeks lofting. Fortunately there were three of us doing the lofting for Terror, and fellow students Sam and Wilbur, picked it up a lot quicker than me.

There is no better way of understanding how the boat you are about to build is constructed, and what will be involved as you go through each stage.

I should say here that Paul Gartside specifies two alternative construction methods for Terror – either strip planking or carvel. I chose strip planking because the boat will spend a lot of time out of the water on a trailer and this can cause shrinkage issues if you have a clinker construction. I’ll explain more about strip planking, a relatively modern technique used in building wooden boats, later in this blog.

Here are some pictures of the lofting boards, the wood shapes being partly made molds.



And here are the molds finished and stacked up in order. You can also just see the template for the centre board behind the molds, which was also produced from the lofting.


In the beginning…..

Terror is a 20 foot gaff-rigged daysailer designed by Paul Gartside, a well known boat designer originally from Cornwall who has been based in Nova Scotia for a number of years. It’s a Victorian-style fantail sloop.

The name Terror comes from HMS Terror, a bomb vessel designed by Sir Henry Peake, constructed for the Royal Navy by Robert Davy, Topsham, Devon and launched in 1813.

In 1845 Terror, together with another ship called Erebus, became part of the ill-fated Sir John Franklin expedition which intended to gather magnetic data in the Canadian Arctic and complete a crossing of the Northwest Passage, which had already been charted from both the east and west but never entirely navigated. The expedition sailed from Greenhithe (near Dartford) on 19 May 1845 and the ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845.

Both ships had become icebound and were abandoned by their crews, all of whom subsequently died of exposure and starvation while trying to trek overland to Fort Resolution, a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost 600 miles to the southwest.

The wreckage of Erebus was recently discovered, but the final resting place of Terror is yet to be found.

More of the background, and the plans for Terror, can be found in an article written by Paul Gartside in the January/ February 2015 edition of Water Craft magazine (no. 109).

Anyway, enough of the history. And there’s no chance of this Terror suffering the same fate as the last time I enquired it was not possible to become icebound in Lyme Bay.

We are a team of 11 students on the 38 week boat building course at the Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy, and Terror is one of five boats we will build over the next 21 weeks, and launch on the 9 June 2016.

My name is Jon and I spent over 30 years in the financial services industry before realising that I had to do something else before I was just too decrepit. Here I am outside the Academy a couple of weeks before starting the course and somewhat clueless as to what is actually involved in building a boat!