Monday, June 27, 2016


Garboards installed
The planking of ten strakes per side is a lengthy process.

Each plank represents its own unique challenges.

The garboard and the next two planks twist quite a bit as they approach the bow.

For each plank, gains need to be cut so that the planks merge into one smooth continuous surface as they approach the bow and the transom.

Plank #6 installation at transom
For the style of this design, it is not necessary to cut these gains beyond plank #5 on the stern side.

Skeg Mortises under keel line

While I had less than half of the hull planked, I took the opportunity to do some clean up work alone the future keel since access to the top of the boat will be more cumbersome once the full beam of the hull has been reached. I simply loved this particular low angle plane. One of the best tool purchases I made in preparation for this build.

Neat Epoxy on beveled surface
Each installed plank needs to be beveled along the receiving edge of the next plank so that the next plank forms a smooth surface band along the glue line. Since the angle at each station changes, the bevel needs to roll smoothly from station to station.

Before applying the thickened epoxy for the actual glue joint, Francois Vivier recommends that the beveled line receive some neat epoxy to seal the various exposed layers of the marine plywood.
Before each application of epoxy I taped off the upper plank line so that the squeezed out epoxy would not go all over the place during the clamping process. 

I was amazed at how much epoxy was needed to get the entire job done.  For gluing of the planks I did not use the regular MAS Epoxy Resin. Instead I used the MAS medium viscosity FLAG resin which behaved very nicely once properly mixed with slow hardener and sufficient wood flour thickener. This was particularly important on the last 4 sets of planks where the glue surface is increasingly vertical.

Final strake installation
When I first saw these "clothes pin" clamps I had my doubts about their efficacy. Once I made myself a fair number of these little gadgets, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did the job so long as you clean up excess epoxy squeeze out right away.

Obviously, that needs to be done regardless.
Let the Clean Up Job begin
So now the entire hull shape is in place - all 10 planks on each side.

Alas, so much yet needs to be done before the hull can be turned over for work on the inside of the boat.

Essentially, the outside will have pretty much a finished appearance (except perhaps of the top plank).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ilur's Rib Cage

So, progress is being made... I try to do a little every evening. After watching the news I do need that time to focus on doing something constructive. Building Ilur fits the bill.

Sourcing wood has proven to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Mars Lumber finally got in some Cypress wood which I intend to use for keelson and keel. I loaded it on my kayak trailer since I did not want to transport a heavy 16' board of lumber on the top of my car.  My friend Garth Jones kindly and most conveniently availed himself in perfect timing to help me re-saw the 8/4 board such that - in the end - I had two boards, one for the keelson and another for the outer keel.   

After the strakes were glued up...

...the transom was completed. The top is a fine piece of Sapele.

Finally I was ready to assemble the station forms... these will not stay with the finished boat...

...along with the bulk heads which act as station forms and to which therefore the strakes are glued permanently.

The center board trunk is also part of the initial assembly, as is the transom and the inner stem.

Before gluing in the inner stem I drilled the future limber holes (for water to drain) into the two mast steps - a job more easily done on the bench than once it is on the boat.

Finally it was time to fit the keelson, cut the three large mortises for the skeg

Keelson - Pre-bevelling
and plane the rolling bevel to create a perfect fit for the garboards.

Dry fitting the skeg to make sure the mortises and skeg tenons sink in just so.

Coming up: the garboards and the will to bend!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

More Preliminary Tasks

Though the construction of the strong-back was one of the first tasks, the use of it for setting up the station molds (which currently populate countless areas in the basement and garage) will not commence until all preliminary tasks are completed.

For one it is of course a basic matter of task sequencing but equally importantly, the strong-back provides a very convenient, long platform for the construction of items which are needed prior to the assembly of the jig. The most obvious one, of course, is the gluing up the long planks which will become the strakes of the hull once the station molds are set up.

Ilur has ten strakes on each side, so there are 40 separate plank halves that get cleaned up, glued together and verified for matching curvature.

The new puzzle joint just recently redesigned by Francois Vivier make the fine tuning of each plank quite a bit easier since there really is no wiggle room to permit an "unfair" curve.

The bottom five planks received a fiber glass patch for extra reinforcement.
These patches will be sanded smooth but even so, they will be facing inboard.

I still have a number of planks to glue and clean up. My space constraints limit me to gluing up one pair at a time.

Then as previously mentioned the center board trunk needs to be prefabricated.

The design is simple, functional and ingenious.

The CB simply slides into two grooves on either side of the CB trunk and a bronze pivot bolt comes to rest at the bottom at the pivot point.

For extra insurance, I lined the slot with some carbon fiber tape to protect from abrasion.

After epoxying the inside walls with fiber glass reinforcement, I fill coated the fiber glass with several layers of graphite... once again to protect from abrasion.

F. Vivier called for a 14mm rod to act as the CB pivot. This will be inserted at the pivot point in the center board.

Just to make sure that I had a proper fit before gluing the trunk shut for ever, I ordered a 5/8" rod to test for size.

I am glad I did because when it arrived I realized immediately that it was way too big.  The CB would have gotten wedged inside the trunk.

So I ordered a 1/2" bronze rod and filed one end smooth to prevent scratching and voilà this size fit as snug as a bug.

Once I am ready to build the center board I'll have to cut a piece down to the needed 1  5/8" length.

One other pre-assembly project concerns the transom which consists of three parts: an 18mm and a 9mm plywood component plus one which forms the top plank with rabbet and sculling notch to be cut out of timber. I was able to secure a nice piece of Sapele.

The timber must be extra strong since it will in part provide the backing for one of two gudgeons holding the transom mounted rudder. The other reason is that when you use the sculling notch the transom must be able to absorb significant lateral forces.

So far so good. Once I have finished the gluing and cleaning up of the remaining strakes, I think I'll be ready to assemble the station molds on the strong-back.

I am trying to be patient and not to rush the preliminary tasks because if something can be done on a flat surface it'll be a lot easier to do it while still 2-dimensional than when things start to get 3-D curvaceous.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ilur - Beginning in Earnest

So... ta-taaa:  the kit arrived!

I had it shipped to a nearby warehouse from where a friend helped me with his pickup truck to transport all 750 lbs. to my garage.

The sheets of plywood arrived on a 4' x 8' wooden pallet.

Just bringing this package home and unloading it sheet by sheet proved to be quite an undertaking.

The first order of business was to inspect each sheet to make sure nothing had been damaged during transport.

Happily, all arrived in perfect order.


The ingenious and innovative aspect of the Francois Vivier boat kits is the fact that along with the plywood, you receive precisely cut AdvanTech boards with which you can assemble the strong-back and station forms.

Without a doubt, this saves the builder countless hours of preparation.

All the same, building an Ilur is a big project from my perspective and for my level of experience. (or lack thereof)

To begin with I needed to assemble the strong-back and add some wheels to the base so that I could move the evolving and heavy structure around as needed.

More immediately, I will be able to utilize the strong-back as a convenient platform for a number of preparatory tasks prior to setting up the station forms.

In reading through Vivier's plans I actually did not fully appreciate just how many steps of preparation are necessary.

The most immediate job is to find a good source for timber. This is proving to be trickier than I expected. If I lived in Washington State or Maine this would not be a problem but around here it is not so simple. Mars Lumber has a reasonable supply of domestic and exotic hard woods but when I drove up there with trailer in tow (in order to haul some long pieces) I struck out. I will probably have to schedule a trip to my friends at Chesapeake Light Craft in Annapolis who not only sell their boat kits and related supplies but also a great deal of generic marine lumber.

In the meantime, there is much preparatory work. The transom needs to be assembled and top piece carved.

The 40 strake pieces need to be glued together into a total of 20 full length planks - 10 for each side.

The bow stem needs to be assembled and the false stem laminated from 14 individual slats each 3mm thick and 50mm wide and about 4 foot long.

Pardon the mixed metrics... all of the instructions and measurements are in metric measurements.

Alas when shopping for wood I'll have to be able to translate into feet and inches.

Then the center-board trunk needs to be fabricated.

This task is quite involved and requires consulting a number of different pages of the plans in order to determine all of the specs. It is particularly critical to get this right since this will be the last and only time you'll be able to work on the inside of the trunk. It's got to be rock solid and able to withstand the stress of wave action and the wear and tear of the up and down sliding of the center-board.

More about that next...


Friday, February 19, 2016

Mustering Courage

Ear of the Sternberg Chair
Okay, don't be alarmed by this picture. It continues to be a blog about Sailboat Building. For reasons which no longer make all that much sense, I had started a separate blog for my kayak building efforts. For now I'll keep it that way. 

So let me explain the connection between this picture and boat building. ~ Bear with me: this entry will be a bit wordy. Sorry!

I have not added to this blog in quite a while and the casual visitor might have surmised that with my Passagemaker Dinghy C-Lute sold (to a wonderful sailor in Atlanta), this might be the end of it.

Well, NO. To begin with, the reason I decided to part with C-Lute was my desire to build a new sailboat though I did not yet know what kind. With three wooden kayaks and one wooden sailboat (plus a modern racing dinghy) I really could not justify building another sailboat without first creating a "sailboat vacuum" to make space for a new build.

So, instead of another "winter building project" I allotted time this previous winter to researching what my next sailboat build might or should be. I knew that I wanted something heftier and bigger so long as I could still fit the construction process into my garage. It was not going to be a S&G (stitch & glue) boat like C-Lute because I hoped to try a different building method called glued lapstrake.

My criteria: I wanted a versatile boat, one that could be used for single-handed day-sailing, for the learn-to-sail program (where I volunteer as a certified instructor), for camping cruising the Chesapeake, for a comfortable romp in blustery conditions and for an easy transition to row when the winds die: essentially an open sail and oar boat with plenty of canvas to move on a wisp of air yet easy to reef or  dowse and a pleasure to row.  There are many boats by well-known designers to fit in this category. Space constraints eliminated many attractive options such as the wonderful Iain Oughtred designed double-enders like the Ness Yawl, Caledonia Yawl and Sooty Tern... all in the 19' range. 14 - 15 feet were probably going to be the maximum hull length over all.

Ilur - Lug / Sloop Rigged
After reading a number of boat building books (including Iain Oughtred's "Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual") I did indeed resolved to build a clinker boat better known in US parlance as glued-lapstrake. In the days before the modern materials this construction method involved rivets and a very complex set of work processes not at the disposal of  someone without specific training. Nowadays lapstrake boats can be constructed using modern material (epoxy, fiber glass and marine plywood) to build a very traditional-looking hull at a fraction of the cost and time - not to mention without the essential and exquisite skills of an experienced ship-wright (to do a half-way decent job). Epoxy and marine plywood make boat construction readily accessible to a hobby-builder.

Countless building blogs and boat building sources (such as the Woodenboat Forum) were consulted as I clawed myself to a decision.

Actually, I was hoping to be found by a design rather then the other way around.

And then there was an article in the Wooden Boat Magazine (2015 Small Boat Edition) by Geoff Kerr (Two Daughter's Boatworks) about a boat called Ilur designed by French Naval Architect Francois Vivier that seriously piqued my interest. As it turned out, the builder of the reviewed Ilur (John Hartman) had an extensive and extremely informative thread on the Wooden Boat Forum where I could read blow-by-blow what was involved in building an Ilur.

I then downloaded a study plan on building an Ilur and came to grips with the realization that this was going to be A LOT MORE involved than any of my previous building projects BUT that even so, the unique design of this plywood clinker kit was thought-out so ingeniously that it would take a builder a lot less time than some of the other builds I had been looking at. Clearly it was going to be a lot more than a winter project. Obviously I looked at the other Vivier boat designs as well. In the end, Ilur seemed to best fit mon goût in terms of size, versatility, practical application, "provenance" and salty appearance.

The Plans for Ilur
The next step was to order the actual plans from Mr. Vivier who sent them promptly. I was extremely impressed with the extraordinary detail and clarity of the drawings. 

I must mention another valuable resource that helped to muster my courage to do this build, namely the Off Center Harbor video series, by Geoff Kerr on building a glued lapstrake Caledonia Yawl. I highly recommend this site to any lover of wooden boats regardless as to whether or not you want to build a boat yourself.

 In the lapstrake building video course, Geoff Kerr recommends to prospective boat builders that they build themselves a "Manning
Manning Bench - components separated
Bench" (or two) the construction of which is described in a book called The Workbench Book (The Taunton Press).

After waiting for the ordered book for over six months (presumably out of print) it finally arrived and I was able to construct one of these modular workbenches.The two components (1' hi and 2' hi respectively) can be used separately or clamped together as a single 3' hi bench.

In combination with my other workbench, I'll be able to create a long platform for the building of spars.
Manning Bench - components together

As I learned more I became somewhat intimidated by the prospect and concluded that I first needed to acquire some experience in working with hard wood. This was clearly a needed skill and it required tools I had never owned or used before. Obviously, even the best tools are useless if you don't have the skill and experience to properly use them.

Last spring I had been in Germany after my mother passed away. Essentially this set back any considerations of commencing the project by many months. Furthermore a major software upgrade project at work was going to require all of my undivided attention for six months or more. So while these two matters caused a significant delay, it gave me time to ponder my plans and consider my angle of attack - from afar.

Burg Sternberg
My parents had inherited an unique chair, a good number of which had been build for my grandfather according to his design and specifications. My grandfather (a pioneer in Early Music) had established an instrument workshop and museum of rare historical instruments on Burg Sternberg where he offered seminars as well as workshops in construction and performance of Renaissance instruments. In the early 60's Burg Sternberg became well-known to Early Music lovers and was recognized for the extraordinary acoustical properties of the Rittersaal.  (see my blog entry So That's Why) This is the hall for which these chairs were intended and where I first sat on one.

Anyway, this arm chair had a straight and austere form but its shape struck me almost as a throne of sorts on account of its generous width and the unique scrolled ears invoking the look of an early musical instrument . This Sternberg Stuhl (as I began to call it) was surprisingly generous and comfortable almost luxurious - a perfect listening and thinking chair. I would have loved to take it with me across the ocean but that was not exactly practical. However I took lots of pictures and precise measurements. So now, as I had resolved to acquire some experience with hardwood, this particular design offered itself as an attractive and to-me meaningful opportunity.

I consulted with my dear friend Garth Jones (who is a professional builder of exquisite custom-designed furniture as well as a boat builder) regarding the optimum wood of choice: it was determined to be Cherry.

One of these chairs will soon go to a new home
Before trying my hand (and tools) on Cherry I wanted to make sure that I had not gotten confused with the (metric) dimensions. Therefore I picked up some construction lumber and fashioned a somewhat crude version of the chair simply to make sure that the dimensions "felt right". They did and off I went to buy enough fine Cherry for two Sternberg chairs... just figuring out what and how much I needed without unnecessary waste was a new skill.

The chairs have been finished off with several silky coats of Danish Oil and now have that wonderful variegated Cherry glow which over time will darken. With the support of and guidance by Garth Jones, I learned quite a bit about working with hard wood and am now "pronounced to be  ready - for the most part" to commence Ilur.

The kit has been ordered and cut by Hewes & Co.
In fact, it is being shipped as I write this.

Ah - anticipation is such a sweet thing!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ready to Let Her Go - SOLD

C-Lute has been SOLD!

With a tear in my eye I am ready to let my Passagemaker Dinghy go. Besides the PMD, I have built three kayaks (a Night Heron Hybrid, a Shearwater Sport Hybrid and a fully stripped Petrel). Now I am contemplating my next build, another sailboat - another lap-strake hull.

Alas, in order to build my next boat, I am forced to make some room in my residential boat yard and thus I have decided to make C-Lute available for sale. This dinghy has everything your heart desires and she is in tip-top shape. She can move on a wisp of air yet can take 15 - 20 knots without a problem.

Included are the following:
  • One Passagemaker Dinghy (painted in Hatteras White lower strakes and bright upper strake)
  • The bright work is protected by interlux schooner varnish - with top coats of satin varnish
  • 2 stations of bronze oar locks
  • 8' spoon blade oars
  • stitched on leather on oars, boom and yard
  • Tan-bark Lug Sail (upgrade) with reef points
  • sail and spar bag
  • hi-end Ronstan Carbon Blocks on down-haul
  • hi-end Ronstan Carbon Blocks and cam cleat on mainsheet
  • Mahogany carved tiller extension
  • Trailex trailer with special bow fitting for pram
  • Spare tire 
  • "travel kit" a customized setup which allows you to trailer mast, spars, oars and dagger board safely and securely

Asking $3,500 (essentially a little less than the direct material costs)

Boat located in Pittsburgh, PA
If interested, communicate via email

So, how - you may ask - can you stand it... letting go of my baby? My answer: that's how any builder of fine musical instruments must feel... and yet - there is comfort in letting someone else enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Here are some current pictures: