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by Gary and Helen Blankenship – Tallahassee, Florida - USA

A Guide for Building Your First Wooden Boat
- by Dan Mattson

EPOXY BASICS - Working with Epoxy Cleanly & Efficiently
- by Russell Brown

Two new e-books have come on the market that look to be of interest to Duckworks readers. As I understand it, both will be available through Duckworks, so let's take a look at these new offerings.

Don Mattson's "A Guide for Building Your First Wooden Boat" fills an interesting niche in marine publications. It's a less than full-book length electronic publication (call it a long essay) with a much less than full-book price aimed at a newbie to boating and boatbuilding. (Yes, the title says it's intended for would-be boatbuilders, but the information covered is worthwhile to anyone new to boats and the water.) Because it's shorter, it's less intimidating than buying a full book and for someone who's uncertain about what that first book should be, Mattson's guide is a good place to start and a good way to get thoughts organized. It substantially ups the odds that that first book purchase will be the right one.

As noted, this is geared toward beginners. If you've been on the water for a while or built a boat or two, you're reaction to some of Mattson's observations might be, "Well, duh." But I like the basic approach. While Matson has been on the water since his youth, he is new enough to building to remember that some of the things that are obvious to veterans are less so to newcomers. Things like a shorter boat can actually be more expensive to build than a longer one if the shorter boat has more beam and freeboard. And things like motors, sails, and spars make power and sail boats more expensive than paddle and rowboats. (That might seem really obvious but Phil Bolger in his writing mentioned a couple times that customers who liked a particular rowing boat were shocked! shocked! at being asked to pay more for the sailing rig, rudder, etc.) The author wants to make sure that readers have a good grounding in the basics.

Mattson covers things like estimating a budget for building, different types of craft, and finding a place to build. He surveys different methods of construction, recommending stitch and glue for the beginner, although I detect a fondness for skin on frame for kayaks. There's a nice discussion that will help the reader sort out whether that first boat should be human powered, sail powered, or motor powered. There's not a lot of how-to detail about any of these options because that's beyond the purpose of this book. He also compares building from plans, building from a kit, or taking a class although everyone might not have that latter option.

Mattson takes advantage of the e-book format. There are quick links that allow the reader to jump back and forth in the book and hyperlinks to relevant online resources. Mattson, who also goes by the handle Woodenboat Dan, does a weekly podcast on wooden boats and people who build and use them. There are links to podcasts related to items covered in the book that allow readers to get more details about those topics. (His website is hookedonwoodenboats. com.)

I found only a couple minor nits to pick over, which may be more a matter of personal preference. The stitch and glue section focuses on multi-chine, almost semi-lapstrake boats and not the simpler, what I call five-panel boats with hulls that have a bottom, bilge panels and topside panels. Likewise, while he mention's skiffs in the discussion of types of boats, what Jim Michalak calls "nail and glue boat" with sharpie type hulls with a flat bottom and topside panels aren't really covered in the discussion of construction types. That omits such things as Bolger's first Instant Boats, the PDRacer, and a lot of Michalak's designs. Finally at one point he says readers might want to consider designing their own boat. That's probably a bit much for any newcomer whose last name isn't da Vinci. A Guide for Building Your First Wooden Boat is a quick read. It's only 39 pages, but the last 10 pages are things like a worksheet for developing a boatbuilding budget and a glossary of common boat terms. Even if you're not planning to build a boat but are new to small boats, it's a worthwhile read that sketches out the lay of the land with great clarity and minimal fuss.


The second book is from the Port Townsend Watercraft (ptwatercraft. com) and is aimed at a bit more advanced audience, although first-time builders using epoxy will benefit. "Epoxy Basics: Working With Epoxy Cleanly & Efficiently" is written by multi-hull designer and boat builder Russell Brown, son of Jim Brown, a multihull designing and building guru. And the intro to this manual notes, it's intended to be an addendum to various boat construction manuals that go with designs sold by PTW or taught in its various courses. But it also stands on its own as a technical manual.

If, like me, you've floundered around with epoxy in boat building for several years, it could be dangerous to read this book. That's because your reaction might be: "Where the *&%# was all this good information when I was learning about epoxy?"

No matter. Unless you've gone through a Port Townsend course or already read this book, it's certain you'll pick up some new information that will make you a more efficient user of epoxy and save you time in application and finishing.

This manual is thorough and concise and covers topics from mixing to finishing. The mixing includes tips on inexpensive "pots" and even the best shape for the stirring stick. Gluing with epoxy, sealing bare wood, fiberglassing, making fillets, and finishing all come in for treatment. The advice on using a sharpened wooden chisel to remove excess epoxy from the edge of fillets is as efficient way as you'll find to avoid hours of unnecessary sanding.

Epoxy is not an inherently dangerous substance to work with, but some care is needed and the book covers those well.

Like Mattson's book, there are internal and external links to help navigation and take you to sites with more information.

The one qualification I would make is that the book recommends using WEST brand epoxy. Without question, it's near or at the top of the epoxy heap. The advice in Epoxy Basics is geared to using WEST, which is one of the thinner epoxies in the market. Most other epoxies are thicker and less runny; some are considerably thicker. For example the book advises that when sealing bare wood to use three coats of epoxy, which is what is required for WEST. But I've used thicker epoxies that in one coat will lay down as much resin as three coats of WEST (and the total volume used will be about the same). Also the book notes that when painting a vertical surface with epoxy, WEST is so thin that it may run and some thickening may be needed. I've had exactly the opposite problem with thicker epoxies that sag when applied on a vertical surface and need thinning.

Not a big point. You'll soon figure out if any of the excellent advice in Epoxy Basics needs modifying for the resin you're using.

All in all, you won't find a more concise guide to take you from the basics of using epoxy through advanced techniques to give you a strong, well finished boat.

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