Port Hadlock Report Card  

By Pete Leenhouts - Port Ludlow, Washington - USA


Traditional Small Boat Class

We are making very good progress on the two 12-foot Grandy skiffs we are building in the Traditional Small boat class at the North West School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock WA.

We have fourteen people in this class. There are four who are in their fifties (several of whom are retired), three in their thirties and forties and seven who are in their twenties (college grads, veterans, and high school graduates). It is a congenial group, and one that enjoys (or can tolerate, anyway) a wide range of eclectic music in the shop!

Since my last note in mid-January, we've finished and leathered the oars, completed the lofting, constructed the molds, stem, transom and keel, and are ready to begin planking the boats.

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Leathered oars

The lofting was completed on two sheets of 4x8 plywood doorskin (very thin plywood), painted white. From start to finish, it took the student lofting team just under two weeks to loft the boat, working 5 hours a day, more or less. (We spend two hours a day in classroom sessions, and about an hour a day in shop instruction). The lofting team is certain they could halve that time on the next boat of similar complexity.

The student lofting team

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The lofting provides the builder the information needed to construct most of the essential parts of the boat. From it, we built the backbone (stem, keel and transom) assembly and the molds.

The patterns for each piece of the backbone and the molds were carefully traced on mylar from the lofting. Then, the mylar was secured to the stock and the pattern pricked through with an awl, then drawn directly on to the stock. Here, a student works punching the pattern through the mylar onto the mahogany stock for the transom.

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Carter punches the lofted pattern through the mylar onto the stock.

The piece was cut out and compared to the lofting again. Minor corrections were made, and the pieces nailed, glued and screwed together right on the loft floor to ensure each mold is as perfectly matched to the lofting as possible. Here, a mold is constructed on the loft floor. It is fussy work.

Jeff and Alicia building molds on loft floor

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While the molds were being constructed, the same process was being followed to build the backbone. Here, one of the students chops the rabbet into the stem. The rabbet is the groove in the stem and keel into which the planking will be fitted. The small piece of wood in his left hand is a fid, which is the same thickness as the planking. It is used to ensure the rabbet is of the correct depth and angle.

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Matt cutting stem rabbet

We leveled the building frames with a water level and erected the molds, which were carefully squared to the centerline and braced.

Instructor Tim Lee (left) and student Jeff setting up molds on the building frame.

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The backbone assembly was placed on the molds and secured in place. You can see the transom is secured via a temporary frame at this point to the building frame. The transom's top rests on the temporary frame to keep it at the correct height and angle.

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Keel, stem and transom in place

Slender cedar battens, the same thickness as the lapstrake planks and the same width as the overlap between the planks, were placed on the molds and tacked into place. The battens represented the plank edges, and were scrutinized to ensure the planking lines were fair. The spring clips along the stem allowed the battens to be easily adjusted. Elsewhere, the battens were just finish-nailed in place, with each nail driven only halfway home, again to facilitate the inevitable adjustments needed to ensure fair planking lines.

Instructor Tim Lee explains how to line out planks.

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Then, vertical battens were placed both to lay out the future location of the oak frames, and to ensure that future fastenings will not conflict with each other.

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Lining out planks and frames

The boats are ready to be planked. We will plank these boats during the week of 12-16 February 2007.

Pete Leenhouts
Student, Traditional Small Boat Class
North West School of Wooden Boatbuilding
Port Hadlock WA