The building of wee Rob; second instalment.


There’s been a bit of a delay while waiting for the delivery of a consignment of marine ply and Douglas Fir from Robbins Timber in Bristol. It came, in fact pretty much to the schedule they’d given me, beautifully packaged and in excellent condition – so on with the motley!

First order of business was to make up the two stems, bow and stern (canoes being by nature double ended!). I’d decided to make these up from solid timber rather than laminate them, so the task was to take a piece of Douglas Fir, cut it up and glue it back together in a slightly different order, so that straight timber might become curved. It seemed to work!

The stock for the keelson (aka the hog) needed cutting and then gluing to the stems, and then suddenly there really is the beginnings of a boat. There then follows a process of fairing and bevelling with a small plane …. slightly hairy process this, judged more by instinct than measurement and I hope the end result is near enough right for the wonders of West Epoxy resin to hold it all together – we’ll see.

Next on the agenda is the cutting and fitting of the planks. Easier said than done I think, but Robbins used 2 8×4 sheets of cardboard to package the marine ply, and they’ll fashion into useful templates. I hope to get at least the garboard strakes (those nearest the keel) fitted this week.

The jig needs a bit of modification I’ve decided. The stringers at either end won’t quite adopt the right curve to bring the planks to the stems, so I’ve taken off the garboard stringers at the endmost moulds, and I think will probably take off the rest at the same point.

I’ve heard it said that boatbuilding is a series of problem solving exercises, and I heartily agree. It’s a creative process with overtones of sculpture (if that doesn’t sound hopelessly pretentious), and much of it is about a combination of “eye” and instinct. Yes there are plans – but there are no instructions (or at least a very minimum in Iain Oughtred’s leaflet) and the trick is in figuring out how to recreate on the jig that which IO envisioned on paper – fascinating!

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