By Jerry Cashman - Canberra - Australia

I now can't quite remember where the idea to try my hand at boat building came from... but it went something like this...

I'm a Scout Leader, which is fun and exhausting in equal doses and am consequently always on the lookout for activities to keep our Troop busy and engaged. One evening when discussing what to do next with my fellow leaders (over a bottle of red :-) the idea of ‘water’ as a theme was proposed, ‘we could go swimming’ one said, ‘hike along the beach-front’ said another and something possessed me to add, ‘we could build some boats and row out to Spring Island and camp there’... sceptical silence around the table.

After more injections of red wine, I decided that yes, we could do this, and vowed to look around for plans for a boat that would be easy to build, would go together quickly so the kids wouldn’t loose interest and would be cheap enough to make the whole project feasible. My fellow Scout leaders patted me on the head, said ‘off you go then’ and smirked (just a little) to themselves.

So armed with web browser and many hours of research (and much procrastination) later, I hit on Herb McLeod’s “One Sheet Skiff”. It appeared to fulfil all of my major criteria, the plans were freely available and the results looked like a real boat (confirmed by checking with a few passing Scouts).

I do a little wood-work so have a reasonable selection of tools already, however space was at a premium. I have a small shed, but even the tiny One Sheet Skiff wouldn’t fit inside, so she would have to be built in the back yard.

A visit to the local hardware shop provided a sheet of 9mm construction ply (definitely NOT marine grade), a few lengths of pine, meranti and a bottle of water-proof Polyurethane glue. Youngest son Evan (9) was keen to help so we set up a couple of saw-horses and prepared to make saw dust. [pic 1]

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Pic 1

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I wish now that I’d taken more photo’s during the construction, but she went together so quickly and I was so excited to see a real boat appearing from the dust... anyway, you get my drift. It was only two afternoons work later that the hull was pretty much ready to be glued together. The sheet of ply I’d come home with had a slight warp, which I told myself was an advantage. I kept the warp in mind as I cut the sides from the sheet and fitted the pine rubbing strips. The warped sides now started looking like a boat before we’d done much at all!

The most exciting time of the build was when we dry fitted major components. We grabbed the saw-horses, clamped the sides to the transom, the mid-ships rib to the sides then slowly drew the bow together... it was pure magic... from some essentially (mostly) flat, straight bits of ply a most charming three dimensional shape appeared. [pic 2, 3, 4] She curved in all the right places and just looked ‘right’ (‘fair’). We must have spent an hour or two walking around in the evening light looking at her from every angle and being absurdly pleased with ourselves :-)

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Pic 3

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We departed from the original One Sheet Skiff plans in a few places, deciding not to use chine logs, but rather to simply glue the bottom directly to the sides with a few screws around the transom [pic 6, 7]. I finished off by going over the outside seam with 50mm glass-tape. After discovering the wonderful and helpful Duckworks site and some others (almost as good :-) I now know that I should have used Epoxy Resin for this step, but in my naivety I used Polyester Resin... it appears to be pretty strong, we’ll see how long it lasts I guess.

The Polyurethane glue went on well, expanding a little as it dried and I’ve no doubt now that it will be quite strong enough for this purpose. I did however learn a lesson in the process. Wipe up glue spills while it’s still damp, Doh! Don’t wait until it’s dry! Oh well, this first experiment was supposed to be a quick ‘proof of concept’, I’ll do better next time...

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By now, the little boat was getting pretty close to being lake-worthy, but we needed a set of oars! Hunting around I found they were readily available from marine shops, but no, I was ‘into’ the project now, I didn’t want to buy anything I could make myself in the backyard in an afternoon (or so I thought)...

A trip to the local timber recycling place (Thor’s Hammer in Canberra) located a 50-mm by 150-mm plank (2 * 6”) of seasoned Hoop Pine which was lovely and soft to work. I ripped it into three 50-mm square strips, cut the middle length into four sections and glued these, one to a side, to each centre strip to form the blades. A lot of planning, spoke-shaving, band-sawing, carving and a fair bit of sweating and swearing later, a pair of oars emerged!

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Now, a confession. Making the oars took probably 3 times as long as the rest of the boat in total! Very satisfying, but not the fastest way to get on the water. Next time I’ll spend the $50... :-) [pic 8]

Early on, Evan and I decided to varnish the insides and paint the exterior, so we made sure the clean(er) face of the ply was ‘inside’ during construction. We put three coats of varnish on the inside and the pine rubbing strip and finished off with three coats of house-hold enamel white on the outside. We still haven’t decided what to call her yet, so the transom is just plain white. [pic 9, 10, 11]

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Pic 9

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Now oars need oarlocks apparently, which we picked up from the local marine store. I hunted around for a formula to tell me where to put the oarlocks and after much fruitless searching decided that they should go ‘around about’ where my chest would be. [pic 12]

‘Buzzz... Wrong Answer. Thanks for playing!’ :-( I now realise that they should be approximately the length of my fore-arm away from my chest, to put me in a more comfortable rowing position. Well it was too late now, the oarlocks were in position and I wasn’t going to move them...

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Then one evening I had a thought... I’m a Scout leader, I’m not scared of knots and rope... Why not simply tie a loop of stout cord to the gunwales and thread the oars through that? Enthused by this quick way out of a bind, I quickly drilled a couple of holes through two bits of scrap, glued and screwed them where the oarlocks should have gone originally [pic 13, 14] and Bob’s your Uncle’... job done!

Older and wiser heads are probably shaking all around the globe by now, but I enjoy experimenting, if it doesn’t work we aren’t out of pocket much :-)

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So there she is... a delightful little project that has got me thirsting for more. Evan and I have already decided that the next boat will be a ‘Summer Breeze’ which we found right here on Duckworks. We’ll modify her of course (Why leave something that works alone? :-) and no doubt make mistakes, learn lessons and have a whale of a time doing it :-) [pic 15, 16]

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