Friday, 28 November 2008


There were quite a few modifications we made as we went along some of which I have already alluded to. Most involved what we saw as 'strengthening'. Hopefully we haven't made the boat too heavy or too stiff. I've listed some of them below in case they should be of any use to others.

Frame #2 : doubled in thickness as we felt that there would be enormous pressures in this area because of all the twists in stringers and planks.

Frame #6a : doubled in thickness - all that outboard vibration transmitted through this frame. Also added doublers on the port side to match the starboard side.

Transom & rudder: transom doubled in thickness ; added knees to strengthen the joint between the transom and the bottom board ; also decided we'd take the tiller over the top of the transom rather than through it due to concern over possible fouling with the outboard (It will involve an interesting laminated shape. The rudder design was altered with that in mind).

Bunkflats : greater framework support underneath to make the floor stiffer

Centreboard : added an aft uphaul and a front roller for the pulley uphaul (pulley attached to a larger and stronger mast step).

Side deck : added 9mm doublers underneath between each frame, including over the transom.

Foredeck : added a 9mm doubler at the 'bunkflat' end (for any belaying pins we might want to have).

So far we have enjoyed nearly every minute of the build project and we have a boat we can be proud of. We sincerely hope that the launch date will not be too far off, certainly by early spring 2009. See you there. It will be the River Severn at Upton upon Severn.

We are looking forward to trying out the yawl rig (it will be a first for both of us) and getting to know the boat in a variety of weather conditions. We'll probably do the first sailing trials on Lake Bala in North Wales before taking it out into coastal waters. See you there too!

Finally, a thankyou to John Welsford for a well thought out and lovely looking boat. We are going to enjoy it.

Paul & Anne, Alan & Sheila

plans on auto cad

Right at the outset of building we came across a few errors on the plans which caused us to wonder what was correct and what wasn't. We checked and double checked as we went along but perhaps it was our inexperience in boat building that was part of the problem or else our ability to read plans or a bit of both.

However, we needed to be re-assured without running to the JWforum every 5 minutes or endlessly e mailing John. There were other little things too. For example - when measuring distances say, between frames - was it the aft face, the forward face or the mid point ? Did the frame dimensions allow for bevels or were they the finished maximum size? Perhaps it didn't matter - a 'Backyard Boat Builder' ought to just get on with it.

Our real difficulties were the the centreboard fitting the centreboard case, the position of the yawl mast step and the exact position of the 'notch' in the stem girder. The last straw was when we had to cut off about 100mm off the centreboard to make it fit the already completed case.

Fortunately my brother in law Jeff took the plans away and put much of it on autocad for our personal benefit. He spent hours and hours doing it but what a difference! We could see the exact dimensions of every part and felt very reassured. It would have been good to have started with his drawings.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

final painting and naming the boat

Oct - Nov 2008 : Some of September and most of October was down time as far I was concerned. I had to "languish" in France for 6 weeks doing a couple of house sits in the Vosges and Bordeaux. Truly, its a hard life.

Whilst I had been away, Paul & Anne had done all the painting of the underneath and we were ready then for the final turn-over. It was the same easy turning over process as before, but now the boat rested on its skeg on thick foam Qtherm insulation pads at floor level.

Prior to final painting and turnover we added two additional 'bilge runners' to protect the bottom board near its junction with the lowest strake. These teak strips (1200mm long x 20mm wide x 25mm deep) were 'topped' with a 12mm half round brass strip. Time will tell if they prove any good or whether they cause too much drag. We had found them indispensible on our previous Shearwaters.

Finally we sikaflexed and screwed on a 3mm stainless steel band to the skeg from the stem u-bolt to the transom.

Now began the last 'painting' phase - we were ready to coat all the oak trim with Deks Olje D1 and D2. After that it would be adding all the fittings.

Some time previously we had come to a final conclusion over the name of the boat. My old boat had been called "The Idler" (possible a reference to my indolence) and Paul & Anne's boat had been called "Fiddler". Anne came up with the simple suggestion of amalgamating the two and so "Idle Fiddler" is the name it will be baptised with. Paul's sister Sarah is carving the name on a piece of oak.

the skeg keel and the preparation of the the undersides

Aug - Sep 2008 : the repeat process of filling and endless sanding saw us through the rest of July and early most of August. We then added an oak skeg which, aft of the cb case, had to be laminated to achieve the required dimensions ie about from about 30mm at the cb case to 150mm deep at the transom. This was screwed (from the sole) and epoxied in with a significant strengthening epoxy fillet.

We epoxied the bottom board and the lower two strakes using 150g cloth as recommended by JW.

the turn over

Aug-Sep 2008 : we had long wondered how we were going to turn the boat over. Space was a little limited and the ceiling height was only about 2.2m - not all that more than the boat's beam. Jeff, my brother in law suggested, when on a visit, that we turn it over by 'spinning it' on its long axis. Like all good ideas, they have the advantage of simplicity.

I had a chain hoist and an engine mount from a previous kit car building project. Both were pressed into service and with a few mods, it became child's play. Using a rope strop on the rudder pintles and another on the stem u-bolt we lifted the boat clear of the building frame, removed that, spun the boat over using opposing ropes fitted through the rowlock mounts and the job was done. All that worrying over nothing. We then lowered the boat upside down onto beams resting on axle stands with 75mm thick pieces of builders thermal insulation board (the type that can stand huge compression weights) to save our precious paint work.

painting the inside and first strake

After much deliberation and changing of minds we settled on International Paints with the top strake in Donegal Green, the inside with Toplac 'Ivory' (using 50% matting agent). As a base coat the inside received 2 coats of 'Intertox' wood preservative, followed by 3 coats of grey Yacht Primer, followed by 2 coats of Pre-Kote and then the Toplac coats.

The first strake had a similar treatment except the last primer coat was mixed 50:50 with the green followed by 2 coats of final Toplac colour. All the flat surfaces were done with a brush in one hand and a roller in the other. After every coat the paint work was rubbed down with very fine 'wet and dry'.

The inside of the boat was a pig to do. All those inner surfaces! We taped all the oak trims to prevent stray paint. It worked to a large degree with occasional mishap.

pre-painting final touches

Jan -Jul 2008 : a period of feverish activity. We can't believe that it's over well 30 months since we started. Friends keep asking "when is the launch date?" and we've run out of excuses - Ah, you mean lunch date etc

Where has the time gone? It will be over 3 years and there's so much more to do!!

First we put the whole building frame on 8 braked heavy duty castors which made life a lot easier. At least we could push the whole boat to one side of the workshop if we needed the space - and we did. The building log seems to have been silent for some time. I blame Paul and he blames me and Anne blames both of us - and I think she's probably right. Women, I have noticed in my short life, have this tendency to be right.....

Anyway, back to the build. We completed the coaming with an oak trim and slightly modifying its shape to what we regarded as more pleasing on the eye. We added a post to the coaming on the fore deck to give a bit of strength. George, a good friend and tame engineer made a handsome brass cap to finish it off. (George also made us a number of other items such as U bolts and the cb pivot with its nylon bushes - for which we were very grateful)

We finished off the outboard well by enclosing it with a top with a cut-out to fit the plan outline of the yamaha. A test fitting proved the need for an angle grinder session (on the well, not the outboard) and soon order was restored. An oak laminated stem was made and fitted ; we would marry it up with an oak skeg keel later once the boat was turned over.

Another friend had given us some teak decking which was just enough to floor out the sole, (so much for english timber). We stood back to admire many times. There was probably more tea drinking and standing back to admire than work at times!

There was a final session of filleting and sanding and we were almost ready to start painting! I cannot believe it, we're almost there. I forgot that we still had to make the spars, oars, tiller, trailer, sort out the rigging etc. Oh, and the classic - we will have to knock a hole the end of the workshop to get the boat out! Yes, we did know this when we began.

filleting, sanding and more sanding & then decking

Jul - Oct 2007 : before fitting the decks we thought it advisable to finsih off as much of the sanding as possible because as soon as the decking went on it would be very difficult to get at anything. Similarly any epoxy fillets had to be done and then smoothed and sanded down. Hours and hours were spent scraping and sanding, scraping and sanding. Its about the only bit of boat building I loathe!

Trying to find the best and most efficient use of expensive ply to complete the decking was a lot more difficult than we at first thought. There is a surprising amount of curve and twist in the fore deck and we thought that if we did it in two pieces with the join along the king plank we'd never get it to take up a pleasing shape. Equally it had to be joined to the side deck without 'kinking'.

In the end, this is exactly what we decided to do with the side deck being joined just above frame #3. Despite a lot of care we did get a slight kink at the side deck joint - nothing that a bit of filler wouldn't sort out, though.

oak rubbing strips

We've always liked the idea of using traditional english wood in boat building (notwitshstanding that the ply, silver bali, purple heart and douglas fir were from foreign climes!) so when we came to decide how to 'decorate' the boat the natural choice for us was oak.

For the rubbing strips on the top strake we used a 45mm wide x 19mm thick top strip and a 45mm x 12mm lower strip.

Again, because of the twist, tumble home and every other sort of tension, it was necessary to steam the oak for some time to get it pliable enough to clamp and screw in position - leaving it for a few days to acquire 'memory' before epoxying on. We did this before the decking went on because we felt it would be easier to plane it down to the 'meet' the deck.

We also used oak as seat edging, on top of the cb case, mast step, coaming edging, rudder pintle pads, stem and anywhere else it would show!

Planking finished

Jan - Apr 2007 : Work progressed slowly but we eventually finished all the planking and we allowed ourselves a little celebration. Not exactly Veuve Clicquot, but near enough! It was really a lovely looking boat. Even more exciting was the removal of all the bracing and releasing the boat frome the building frame.

Next was all the 20x20mm doublers on the frames to support the deck and coaming. After that, we fitted the bunk flats and seat tops having ensured that all the internal surfaces were well coated with epoxy, A heat gun works wonders. Also fitted the bunk flat drainage system.

Paul made the rudder after we decided that we would have the tiller go over the transom rather than through it. We couldn't quite see how, with the Yamaha outboard, the tiller wouldn't foul the top of it.

We had a long debate as to how we were going to ballast the boat, whether it was to be lead (bagged lead shot or similar or cast 'ingots') or water or cement and in particular where it should be located. Ultimately we decided to put it as near the centrboard as possible between Frames#4and #5. Later we cast twelve 5kg lead blocks each 80x45x120mm which were individually bolted down to a removable heavy duty carrying frame, with 6 blocks on either side of the cb case. Both 'sets' were to be accessible through the seat hatches. Old piping was our major source of lead.

Monday, 24 November 2008

More planking

Sep - Dec 2006 : As we progressed in our build we altered our approach slightly. Subsequent full size plank patterns (2.4m long) were cut to approximate width, then lightly clamped onto the stringer above with an overlap on the stringer/plank below and then marked on the inside using the lower face of the lower stringer as the guide. The next plank pattern was 'overlapped' with the first and the process repeated for the whole strake.

Overlaps were scribed on each adjacent ply pattern, labelled, and then cut after removal. This enabled us to make strapped butt joints to get one continuous pattern. Even so, we found it was too difficult to handle such a long pattern and halved it at a point which gave us the best use of ply (we needed 3 lengths of ply per strake ie 2 scarf joints).

In the end we scarfed two lengths of ply 'on the bench' using 'balcotan' and the final one 'in situ' using epoxy.

At the bow there was quite a lot of work to do to ensure that each plank 'landed' smoothly on the stem and mated properly with the plank below.

Bevelling & garboard planking!!!

Sep - Dec 2006 & beyond: The build log notes a 4 month break in serious work from May through to August. We were too busy with weddings, gardens and holidays to get stuck in. There was the odd desultory sanding and thinking about all those bevels on the stringers and frames.

In early September we started work on the bevels on the chine and 1st stringers. Initially it was true "wood work" with planes and good intent but after much cursing (stubbed fingers and grovelling in awkward positions) it became patently clear that it was going to be nigh on impossible so we threw caution to the winds and got out the ANGLE GRINDER. This tool should be in every arsenal and can be secretly used to great effect provided you are VERY careful!! Naturally, we finished off with fine wood workers' tools and were able to stand back and admire in true craftsman like fashion.

We made a pattern for the garboard plank (and all subsequent planks) from some thin 4mm ply before transferring the shape to already scarfed 9mm ply. We built in a 'safety margin' in terms of width on the basis that you can easily remove it but you can't add it! It was just as well we did because 4mm ply and 9mm ply do NOT take up the same shape when bent and twisted - and the garboard plank has an incredible amount of twist at the bow end. We were immensely gratified to find that the plank patterns could be used on both port and starboard sides with only minor adjustments.

Transom, Frame 6a & steaming & fitting the stringers

April 2006 : After fitting frames #1 -#6 and the chine stringer and experimenting with the outboard well, we were ready to fit the transom and frame #6a into position. As both had been modified in terms of thickness we had to 'adjust'the position of #6a so that the internal dimensions of the well were sufficient for us to get the yamaha outboard in!

We also decided that we would reinforce the joint between the bottom board and the transom by putting in a couple of 24mmm thick ply 'knees'.

All the doublers completed for the stringer/frames joints. Paul rigged up a simple router jig and completed the 'boring' job in no time - well, a few days. What would we do without machinery?

Before steaming the stringers we used a thin batten of the same width as the stringer to fit through the notches to ensure a good fit and line but, more importantly, to give us an indication of the amount of fore and aft bevelling required in each frame notch.

We also decided that before fitting the stringers it would be a good idea to cross-brace as much of the frame work and stem as we could to try and reduce the possisbility of 'twist' as pressure was applied. This made access to the 'inside' of the boat quite difficult and we often cursed the bracing but I'm convinced it was well worth it. 9mm thick ply frames look very spindly on their own, even if they are best quality marine "Robbins Elite"!

Paul made a simple jig that enabled us to pull the steamed stringers into the frames, before drilling and screwing and, as usual, leaving them for a couple of days to acquire the correct shape before removal, epoxying and re-screwing. It all worked like clockwork.

I see from the build log that Anne also did a lot of work, so when I say 'we' - that is all inclusive! I also note that one day she brought down a fantastic BBQ (yes, even in April - we're Brits you see) with home made sausages, chicken and bean salad all washed down with a good Alsace Pinot Gris. That was followed by a fruit salad in rum punch warmed on the BBQ in foil. Sheila produced home made vanilla ice cream and meringues and "voila", a feast. This boat building lark is easy. More wine?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Chine stringers, steaming bending and frame fixing

April 2006 : a lot of work completed during the latter week of March and the whole of April. We decided to fit the chine stringer before fitting the frames as we felt it would be much easier than doing it at a later stage. It was obvious that we would have to steam all the stringers in order to get them to fit and to try and reduce the stresses on the frames. This would be especially true of the chine stringer which was all 'edge set'. A Heath Robinson affair of copper kettle and hose pipe did the trick in the first instance but we became more sophisticated and effective later on by using a cheap commercial electric wall paper stripper and an insulated steam box made with ply offcuts. This allowed us to steam full length scarfed stringers before fixing on to the frames.

Anyway, I digress. The chine stringers were steamed and then clamped in place (24 clamps per stringer) for a couple of days to take up the shape before finally epoxying and screwing in place.

Fitted the centreboard case into position using Sikaflex, then screwed and epoxied the stem girder and frames #3 , #4 and #5. It is starting to take shape or do we have active imaginations?

Two days later, glued and screwed in frames #1 and #2. Experimented with dry fitting of frame #6a (now 21mm thick) and seat fronts. All looks good.

Fixed all the doublers on the stem girder and decided also that we would have additional bunk flat supports to make them less 'bendy', so altered the frames and plans accordingly.

Started thinking about outboards - make, size, fuel type etc. Critical, as we needed to start building the outboard well and it had to fit! Eventually chose the Yamaha 4hp 4 stroke - the largest we could fit in a mock up of the well.