Where I Dream …

You can have dreams without work, but they will never come to fruition without work.

Occasional periods of drudgery have risen throughout this build.  A few days ago I hit one of those “bumps” and had to walk away from the boat for a bit. The sanding and faring was getting to me, but what really slapped me was a warped centerboard. It went from a straight and true foil after glassing one side, but the second side glassing created a potato chip. I had added graphite to the epoxy for lubrication purposes and I expect the black heat sink got too much sun when I turned my back. I’m not sure if I can remove the glass to correct it or more quickly just start over. So, we went for a paddle.

Along the James.

The kayak trip restored a better outlook, but I wasn’t ready for the board or more sanding so, I lay the spars and sails in the backyard, studied how to lace and add controls, and finally raised the sails. That sent me dreaming again. Now I can face the drudgery again.

Laying out.


Needs downhaul tension.


Too tight on yard outhaul.


Mizzen lacing. Boomkin not yet installed.


Trailing wake.


A rose.
 While I did not complete the running rigging entirely, I have got it all figured out. The process was an enjoyable puzzle. And, I really love the simplicity of this rig. I believe she will be light, fast, and responsive.  (A decent centerboard will probably help too.)
Lastly, I sold my Penguin dinghy yesterday. Watching the new owner haul her out the driveway was a sad moment. She is a boat that’s beautiful from all sides, but her insides and outs needed a new coat of varnish and fresh black paint. The truth is she hadn’t left the shed for maybe 5 years and deserved to be loved better. The proceeds will provide a new trailer for the new love. Selling a boat and a trailer for a trailer somehow doesn’t sound equitable.
Anyhow, here is to “Tar Baby”. Someone told me you couldn’t have a boat named that nowadays. Really? What is the world coming to? Ignorance for all?
Tar Baby!! Moving on a wisp.


Stuck in the 5%

What do they say about the time required for the last 5% of a job? Well, I’m in the thick of it.

Both decks are on. Hatches are glassed inside and out (I feared stepping through the stripped maple).
In order to hide a lot of the hardware associated with the hatches, piano hinges are installed and a pull string secures the hatch through a grommet manufactured from a brass hose barb cut and chamfered. I prefer hardware store items over pricey boat store items.


Aft hatch and deck with secure line with cam cleat.
Gasket will be installed to underside of hatch.


Lashing line lead through eye and hole in bulkhead.

The mizzen mast deck collar and cleat bases are epoxied in place. The bases are echoes of the double ender.

Cleat base and collar before epoxy.

Main mast partners and foredeck coaming are now screwed and glued.

Coaming and partners.


Hatch with epoxy glass shine.

A 1″ drain is now in the bottom of the boat. This will aid in clean up after those future trips. A brass tube is epoxied through the bottom. Two different plugs were purchased. One is a compression lever. The other is a screw fitting. One will serve as a spare.

Drain plugs.


With the arrival of the sails from Douglas Fowler, the subtleties of spar bee holes, thumb cleats, and jamb cleats can be addressed.
A centerboard and a few shear knees are all that remain to be manufactured.
… the beat goes on.

A Little More of Many Things

I confess that the organized side of my brain tells me to finish a task (i.e. building oars) and then post all of the particular details and photos in a singular post. However, the other side of my skull says, “lets just do something”. And then there is the chaotic synapses that delight and create in having many projects going at once. It offers an outlet when a particular task may get arduous or boring as is sanding.

So be it. In such fashion, here are random pics of pieces and parts of the boat in various stages of completion. “Completion” is the operative word here. This past week’s sailing has made me long ready to end this build, stop this scattered documentation, and take this new boat on her own adventurers.

Since oars have been mentioned previously, here they are, nearly ready for final sanding and finish.

Cut blade tips for hardwood insert.


Handle shaping.


Final shape.
2 makes a pair. Tips gluing up.


The breasthooks as previously blogged I thought too fat. I planed them down, sanded, and added shellac for varnishing.
Stern breasthook.

After staining the hatches, I noticed some scratches requiring further sanding. I will glass the top of these. I’ve yet to decide on hinges. I do have some stainless piano hinge available.

Cherry stripped hatch.

I dowelled the center case trim where screws had been for accent.

Centercase cap.
Fairing has been applied to interior hull laps using epoxy thickened with micro balloons.
Faired laps.

As an after thought I glassed the inside of the rudder head to help assure it doesn’t split. Also, the rudder pivot hole was widened and filled with epoxy to be drilled later for bolt.

Rudder head glassing.


Aside from much sanding, I do have 2 coats of varnish after 1 coat of shellac on all the removable brightwork. they are stacked out of the way for now. Final coats will be attempted in a less dusty environment.

Shoe Shines and Sunshine

Cooperating weather makes this building deal much more enjoyable. In Central VA we had temps in the low 70s, sun, and breezy conditions. So, as much as I dislike the sanding process, I was able to  move on with a few tasks. The biggest was knocking down the gunwale with the belt sander, 36 grit, and the router. The results are smooth and satisfactory. The breast hooks are close to their final shape too.

A second bout of sanding went after the floor boards with the ROS and 120 grit. Several boards were cracked at the ends from too vigorous screw action. To fix this I saturated the end grain and flooded the countersunk holes. Hopefully that will hold.

End epoxy repairs.

Since the plans for the open boat do not show any of the side bench web supports I reduced the 4 shown on each side to 2. Support is gained from resting on blocks at the end bulkheads, the plywood webs, and hanging from the thwart. For that I bevelled a piece of teak and through bolted it between seat and thwart. The result is quite rugged and stiff. You can get just a peek of it in the next pic.

Teak bench spacer under thwart.

While the epoxy was flowing I blocked up the main boom and blanks for a pair of oars. Aside from the epoxy dry time, I think I had maybe 2.5 hrs in getting from board to rounded spar. The real trick to this is of course an electric plane and going from 4 sided all the way down to 32 sided before breaking out the dreaded sand paper. Actually, a cut 80 grit sanding belt with wood blocks nailed to the ends for grips allowed for gentle removal and rounding. A shoe shining technique worked great. That and my employ of a doubled up loop of rope as a breaking stirrup to hold the work in place. You can make this as easy or hard a workout as desired. My previous sanding drum could remove too much material before you knew it. More control is in the shining.

Manning benches with boom in carpeted chocks.
Shoe shining with the stirrup.

I chickened out of the spoon bladed oars and decided to go conventional. Here are the blocks and the different sided ends of the pair.

Oar blanks.


4 sided.
8 sided.
16 sided.


32 sided. Ready for “shoe shine”.

 I broke my last jig saw blade and used the hand saw to trim the oar blades.


Handle ends. 


Here is a bit of advice: don’t trust the guy at the lumber yard to know where to cut the middle of the board. In triple checking the final oar length, I got this 2.5″ difference. The dark shading above is defined from rolling a sheet of paper at the cut line.
Rough blade outline.


Oar in stored position after some shaping.

Shawn & Tenney has a good formula for oar length based on boats size. The Sooty would need 10′-3″  sticks (with a 2″ overlap) based on this. However, The fore and aft bulkheads are just shy of 10′ separation. Given that and my suspicion the added length will be a disadvantage in a troubled sea, I settled on 9′-8 1/4″ blades. These fit nicely in the boat and without the other two seat web supports, almost tuck up under the side benches. I like this. If necessary I can lash them to the webs. The blade nestles in the curve of the hull. I may glue a check forward to receive the handle end or vice versa.

Lastly, used the red microballons to fair a couple fillets to either side of the webs, thwart support, and a couple scuffs from the saw on the centercase.
Support web fillet.


Thwart support.
Ah, almost forgot. I got Horns and oarlocks from Shaw & Tenney. I went with the angled brackets and fitted them to the inwales. The typical sockets seemed to remove too much material in this key structural elements and raising them on cheek blocks would eliminate that as a seat on the rail. I’ll post that pic when I mount them again.

Caps, Dogs, and Inwales

The list is shrinking, but I haven’t had much desire to document it all. I do feel the finish line is around the bend.

Key remaining items to make are:

  1. centerboard
  2. main boom
  3. side seats
  4. decks
  5. oars
Everything else is a detail or … darn sanding and finish application. I did actually begin that process and quickly lost interest. I began sanding and epoxy coating the aft compartment.
It seems a shame to paint out the nice wood tones, but they look better from this distance.
Going forward, I curved the deck’s trailing edge per the sloop version. It adds a bit of elegance and functionally helps cover the hatch in the bulkhead. I may not have covered it, but I reverted to 4 dogs for the bulkhead hatch. I had two tongues on the back of the hatch and two dogs up high, but that was too awkward with this overhanging edge.


curved deck edge.


Added ash trim like small shear rubbing strip.


4 dogged hatch and mast partners.

After a failed attempt to bow a 1/4″ strip of douglas fir to follow the deck curve (it kept cracking and I didn’t want to steam or soak), 3/8″ plywood did nicely. The lower ash trim compliments the small rubbing strip on the shear plank.

The centerboard pivot was reinforced with a sloped piece epoxied above the hole. The aft end of the case got 2 layers of 1/4″ cherry. The first layer cracked, but the second covered the mistake. I’ve since plugged the holes from drywall screws with 5/16″ dowels.
Added sloped cap above pivot.


Centercase capped in 2 layers of 1/4″ cherry.
The final inhales are now installed. I wish my ability to do this now had been present to start with. Technique makes all the world of difference. She’s really a beauty. And she is looking ever more the boat.

Spring, Masts, and Boomkin

First 1/2 day of  Spring and the weather was perfect for a sail. 70 degrees, sunny, and winds around 12 kts. I did roll the boat out and gave her some sticks. Who knows how often I’ve stared at the sail plan and my small model of the Sooty. I don’t know why I’ve doubted my build’s accuracy, but the mast steps and partner locations were darn near dead on. Good.


It was really a thrill to see the masts in place. Soon … very soon … she’ll be afloat. (back to work).
Using a plumb bob and my iPhone “clinometer” app, I was able to fine tune the two mast positions and confirm the main mast partner locations. Somehow all the parts fit and were aligned per drawings. Good stuff.


True to my chaotic work habits, the next thing I knew I was cutting a hole for the boomkin! I had intended to add fairing fillets to the bench supports. It is time to sand the interior. Perhaps it would have been easier before adding the floors, but my interest wasn’t inclined at the time (and likely won’t be that strong even later).
So, using cadd, a paper ellipse template was drawn and taped to the hull’s shear plank.  After a careful eyeballing of the template’s position with the boom, rudder swing, and centerline, pilot holes were drilled and the coping saw put a hole in my boat.
As Luck would have it, no matter how I located the boom kin, the rudder head struck it when swung to the extreme. So much for all the care! Elongating the hole and filing the inside curve still didn’t get it right. Back to the computer to produce a longer outside ellipse for the same hole fixed things as I used this added length to allow for shifting the hole forward and effectively outboard.


These oak rings were shaped by hand saw, plane, and then belt sander. Then a pass through the table saw gave me two which were easily cut with the jig saw for the inner ellipse. The hull was sanded where the trim was epoxied in place.
Edges sanded.
Outside ring epoxied.

Onward and upward-

An Assorted Post of Sorts

I’m close to pushing this hull out into the outside air and begin the next round of sanding, epoxy coating, priming and painting or varnishing. Some good steps have been taken since last post, but my interest in documenting it has slipped. I really am at a point where I want to finish, so, my energies have simply plugged along with the build. I do have updates:


I’ll start with a shot across the bow. Iain has designed a looker.


  • The deck framing is done minus the edge support lip.
foredeck and hatch framing.


Framing is epoxied and dowelled.


  • I’m installing fore and aft hatches designed around a dairy crate’s dimensions. A 5 gallon bucket also slips through.


Bowed batten for frame arched edges.


Ganged framing for belt sanding.
Frames were cut with jig saw.


Hatch lip framing and hatch frame in cherry.


Cherry strips added to frame for hatch.


End strips are wedged with impromptu shims.
  • Thwart knees at 3/4″ have been fitted in oak, but they appear thin and I think I’ll swap them for 1″ spruce to match breast hooks.
Holt melt and ply knee template.


Cut ply template.


Oak knee. Seems thin visually.
  • Breasthooks are in spruce and near final shape.
Test fitting and screwed temporarily in place.


Benched for cutting and shaping.


Back in place after belt and ROS sanding.

By cutting the breast hook halves from the same board and adjacent to each other, a nice grain pattern is mirrored. I was overzealous in planing the joint and needed to slip some cherry shims there. It actually adds to the appearance I think.

Overall from aft starboard quarter.

The side bench supports are also in. I had neither 1/2″ ply nor 1x boards wide enough here. I glued two 1/4″ plus together.

The center case cap in cherry is epoxied in. The thwart is screwed in as will the thwart knees for easier removal when refinishing is needed down the road. I wonder how many miles will have been sailed at that point.
Lastly, of note, the sails have been ordered! She will now be a sail and oar boat.


I’m uncertain what I’ve here to inform or enlighten, but progress is progress in this case. The spokeshave has seen a lot of action. While the floors seemed to have a sweet flow from one to the next, once the floor boards were tested for fit, the floors needed some fine tuning.

First the boards for the floor (douglas fir) were arranged to take advantage of the grain character from board to board.

Floor boards arranged.

The floors needed repeated “scraping” to ease the twisting of the floor boards.


All but the 2 center boards are screwed to floors. Screwing the floorboards in adds greater stiffness to the hull. For the center boards I added 3 “fingers” to the underside and a keyed thumb cleat made of oak so that easy access can be had to the center of the bilge.



Keyed plinth for thumb cleat.


Radiused plinth with shoulders.


Oak thumb cleat engaged.

The floors were removed and installed maybe 5-6 times before I was
satisfied with the way they sat.


I shaped some oak for the forward centercase support. This open design will allow for lashing items securely in the boat.
Supports screwed in place.



Overall of floors and support.
The rudder screws are now countersunk. I’m happy with the installation. More later-

Tumbling On …

Been on a roll of late. Decisions have been easy. Not so much deliberating. Just execution … and concentrated time.

I’m now the king of the hot melt gun. The crude tool allows for quick bulkhead spilling and many floor templates. After cutting the moulds to slip past the partial inhales, I used scrap wood strips to locate the hull laps and faces. Tracing to the plywood from there was a piece of cake.

Station 6.


Glued scraps.


New bulkhead in place.


Station 2.


Points for tracing to ply.

From there I moved to the mast steps. Carving a few pieces of oak for the mizzen fried me. Alas, I came up with a better idea. The step is still supported by the keel, but I added a short floor to accept the lateral load. This all allows for any water dripping down the mast to pass into the bilge from the bottom of the step. Arrangement is quite stout.

Mast step and hot melt template.


Bolted floor ready for epoxy.


Floors with wide weeps.

I shortened the weeps from what was shown in the plans. They are still 1 1/2″x 3/8″ and provide longer attachment to the hull.

Elliptical hatch in forward bulkhead.


Centercase is epoxied and clamped into place.


Main mast step and 1/2″ copper drain tube.

A coating of epoxy was put on the interior of the centercase, drywall screws used to aid clamping, and the whole deal screwed to the keel. A cross support monitors the athwart ship level and helped keep the center case square while drying.

Oak thwart cutting.

A band saw is now high on my list for next tool purchase. After my last jig saw blade snapped, I was left with a workout for the old wing. By hand makes a better square cut, but boy did it take time.

Assorted templates for all the floors.


Gluing up of thwart cleats.


Cleat close up.


View from the “forepeak”.

All steps and floors are in. Both bulkheads secured with fat fillets (tongue depressor) on the inside and smaller outside (Popsicle stick).

Next up I think will be laying out the floor boards. This will allow for adding any turn button placement and locating side seat supports.  Moving on …

Cheeks, Arms, Mortise and Tenons

This part of the construction has been the most challenging. Many weeks ago I shaped the rudder foil (fine sanding and glassing still remain to be done). Weeks before that the rudder cheeks were cut from cherry and set aside. Now it must all come together … and work!

A model was made in SketchUp:

The hardware I selected rabbeted the rudder gudgeons and employed cherry wedges to align a 5/16″ rod through stem gudgeons.


This allowed for precise location of rabbets needed in cheeks which were routed with a clamped fence.
router/fence set up.


Stop block to left.


Finished routed fit.
Single cheek and gudgeons.

Before cheeks and inner spacer (1″ douglas fir) were glued, brass sheaves for control lines were located, and pilot holes for these lines were bored. One hole went astray and required plugging.

Rudder head clamp up. Rod positioned for square alignment.
For the tiller arm  a 5 degree “advance” was given to the arm instead of making it perpendicular to the rudder. Made of white oak, it is some hard stuff to cut, rasp, plane and file. This was really my first use of the spokeshave which proved a fun tool for sculpting the underside of the arm.
Rudder mortise and arm tenon.
Arm fitted after much filing.
A mortise in the tiller arm accommodates a wedge of cherry. This is an amazingly tight combination. The wedge has a hole for securing with line and I exaggerated the head for easier removal.
Wedge and sheave holes.
Tiller arm sweep.

One of the wonderful aspects of this build has been the ability to individualize it as one’s own. Sculpting these pieces has been especially rewarding. A challenge accepted with some clean up still needed.

Next? I’m thinking mast steps and breasthooks.