Bow Rub Rail & Trim Piece

I’ve been wondering how to trim the front of Shackleton to get just the right look.  With the gunwales and rub rails coming up both sides, I felt I needed something running across the bow, tying these pieces together for a finished look.  I wanted it to look tough…like the Scamp is meant to look.  I decided on a thicker slab of wood arching its way from starboard to port.  The look needed to be uncluttered, not fancy…think utilitarian and tough.  Nothing scrolling it’s way across the arch…just clean and simple.   DSC00027

Solid stock to Arch:

  1. Planed down to 1″ (originally 1, 1/8″)
  2. Held up to bow to trace proper angle of the arch
  3. Cut arch on bandsaw
  4. Used Shinto rasp and wood file to smooth cut lines
  5. Bench sanded to smooth cut lines
  6. Applied 1/8″ round-over bit to all edges
  7. Epoxied all edges and all mating surfaces
  8. Screwed into backer plates installed under deck

DSC00028  This piece is meant to take all the abuse, so I decided to leave it 1/8″ proud of the deck.  I’ll match this offset when installing the rub rails.  DSC00030The ends will be cut after I install the rub rails (which will but into the back side of the arch).   

Sapelle fit the bill for three reasons:

  1. It looks ship-like to me.
  2. It is locally available.
  3. It comes in 16′ long boards (which means I can use the off-cut from the rub rails to fabricate this arch).

Shackleton is starting to take on a look of it’s own.  Isn’t this why we build boats?  So we can add our personal touch to an already excellent design.  

Deck Installation

There comes a time in every mans life when he needs to rise up off the couch and install a deck.  Today was my day.DSC00007But first, I installed cleat blocks between the gunwales and carlins for the 4 deck cleats which will be installed later.  The blocks were made from (3) 3/8″ plywood scraps glued together and then cut to fit.  DSC00002I used a round over bit on the bottom edges of the block to create a smooth transition between blocks and gunwales/carlins.DSC00004DSC00001DSC00002I own 68 clamps.  I thought surely this would be enough.  Yet, just to be sure, earlier in the week, I purchase another 10.  Well, after clamping on the deck, I realized I was still a little short.  So, I sent my teenaged daughter and son to go buy 10 more clamps while I stayed and continued working on the deck.  $53.00 later, they returned with another 10.  Surly 88 clamps would be enough.   No, I could easily have used another 10 but I made it work.  I promise that no matter how many clamps you have, you will still want another 10.  DSC00003After securing the deck, I completed a few fillets to finish things off.  This is the deck/transom fillet.  DSC00002This is the BK2/front deck fillet.

Steps I followed:

  1. Applied the second coat of epoxy to the underside of the deck within 10 hours of the initial coat (to save sanding).
  2. With this second coat still wet, I had my kids help me position the deck onto the boat.
  3. Before doing so, I wet all carlins/gunwales and other mating surfaces with un-thickened epoxy (I used a roller to ensure complete coverage.  Roll it several times to work the epoxy into the wood fibers.  They are very thirsty.)
  4. Placed a thick bead of thickened epoxy onto all gunwale/carlin tops.
  5. Used a stir stick to smooth the thickened epoxy out flat over all the mating surfaces.
  6. Called for the kids to help position the wet deck in place.
  7. Clamped it down using 88 clamps (100 clamps would have been even better).
  8. Cleaned up the squeeze out and admired my work.

What I learned:

  1. You can never have too many clamps.
  2. Spread the thickened epoxy completely over the entire gunwale and carlins.  This will make for a very wide strong bonding surface.
  3. Take your time and preplan all the steps.  This went remarkably smooth (other than frantically running to the store to buy 10 more clamps).
  4. I didn’t use any screws in this installation.  The epoxy is plenty strong to hold everything down and you save the work of filling all the screw holes.

Have you touched your Scamp today?

Carlins Baby!

It is with great joy swelling up in my heart that I bring you this blog post.  There are many emotions that come to a builder during the building process.  Some are thoughts of boredom (like sanding), others are feelings of great exultations (like singing Hallelujah in the church choir).  I’m ready to sing Hallelujah twice over.

Not sure why, but the gunwales and carlins were a big deal to me.  Maybe it’s their shape, maybe it’s because I struggled initially with these steps, maybe it’s because my boat now looks as beautiful as a women.  I actually made my wife come out to behold the curves.  She agreed they were very beautiful.  I didn’t know boat building could be sexy…but it definitely is.  DSC00003 DSC00005Something about seeing these steps complete feels so rewarding.  Maybe boat building complies with the Law of the Harvest and I’m feeling the spiritual blessing from this natural law.  Call it what you will, I feel good.  The shaped hull is definitely attractive, but when you add gunwales and carlins, look out baby.

After my initial slow start bending the wood, all seemed to fall into place.

Key to building a boat…just keep working…problems seem to work themselves out.  

Prepping for Carlins & Finish

There existed a small cavity where the seat tops aligned with the seat extension.  I wasn’t happy with how it lined up, so I taped off the area and filled it with thickened epoxy.  DSC00001On a few of the bulkheads, the top panel was a touch proud of the bulkhead.  On others the alignment was spot on.  Instead of planing the top panel (which has a beautiful smooth curve cut from the kit), I decided to shim the low areas.  DSC00005Here I used an epoxy stir stick.  The thickness was perfect.  DSC00006Here I used a slim plywood piece about twice the thickness of the stir stick.  After these cure, I’ll shape them to fit perfectly atop the bulkheads.

Shaping Gunwales

With the gunwales bent in place, I’m feeling really good about life.  It was a lot of fun to pull the clamps off and observe the shape of the gunwale.  It adds a lot of stability to the top panel and beautifully defines the sheer.  DSC00033The next step is to bevel the gunwale to match that of the bulkhead top.  As you can see, I need to remove a fair amount of material to achieve this.  DSC00032A good block plane is worth your money.  I have used my Lie Nelson plane as much as any tool I own for this build.  It took only a few minutes to achieve the desired bevel. DSC00035I have decided to tape off and varnish up to the sheer before attaching the carlins.  This allows great access to the upper insides without having to reach around the carlins.  I have taped off the top line and bulkheads for the deck and cockpit coaming fillets yet to come.

Now for some bright work

Gunwale Success

After my talk with the gunwales, the next 4 attempts went forth seamlessly.  One moment they all wanted to break…the next they all bent perfectly.  What do I credit this change to:

  1. My frank, honest discussion with the gunwales regarding their potential and future destiny.
  2. Warming the wood (I kept the wood at 70 degrees).
  3. Allowing the wood to bend its preferred way.  I laid the wood on 2 sawhorses and allowed the gunwales to tell me which way they wanted to bend.  This worked marvelously well.  It was plain to see their natural tendencies.  The vertical bend was harder to decipher, but still manifest itself with careful observation.

DSC00006Dry clamping to drill screw alignment holes.  DSC00004Countersink bit made nice holes for the screws.DSC00009 Second installment…all glued up.  My son aligned the gunwale as I screwed and clamped my way along.  The screws aid in alignment (things get very slippery) and were placed about 18″-24″ along the gunwale.  DSC00002I placed clamps about 4″ apart.


  1. I dry clamped the gunwale (stern to bow) flush with the top of panel #3.
  2. I drilled pilot holes for screw alignment (which would be used during the glue up process).
  3. I removed the gunwales and rolled epoxy on all mating surfaces.
  4. I applied thickened epoxy to mating surfaces.
  5. I re-attached the gunwales using clamps (for even pressure) and screws (for alignment).
  6. I cleaned up all the squeeze out with a sharpened stir stick.
  7. I removed all the screws while epoxy was still green.

 I installed the 3/8″ x 1 1/4″ gunwales one at a time (2 per side for a total of 4 gunwales).  I used all the clamps I own for each gunwale installment.  I waited 20-24 hrs before removing the clamps and keep the shop between 60-65 degrees.  

I am so happy to see this step complete.  I had a slow, difficult start, but things all seemed to work out in the end.  Now on to the carlins.  (finger crossed).  


Talking to Wood

After the first two gunwales snapped with an authoritative ‘CRACK’, I was a little nervous and a bit out psyched.  Everyone said it should work fine, but my VG Fir had other thoughts.  Oh no, I wasn’t trying to bend anything thick, just the standard 3/8″ x 1 1/4″.  This should work, without steaming.  Well, It wasn’t working.  So I took some time to think things over.   After meditation and prayer, the answer came to me in the middle of the night.  Talk to the wood, explain in simple terms that the wood (gunwales) has two choices.  1-Break and end up in the junk pile, never to be of useful service to anyone again, or 2-Bend and become something much greater…yea verily, even a sailing vessel, to sail the seas, and transcend their present condition.  Yes, to become a ship.  Now, which choice would you like to pursue?  Every stick would need to decide.  There would be no middle ground, no neutrality.  Break or transcend.  After this discussion, the wood spoke up and said it too had a few concerns and requests to make of me.  They felt forced, unappreciated and a little used.  They wanted to be treated with utmost respect…never abused or talked down to.  They also wanted to move in their natural way and asked me to consider their will and tendencies.  They asked me to turn them over and over in my hand to determine their preferred direction of bending and orientation on the boat.  They requested I warm them prior to bending…they don’t like to be cold.  And, finally, they all wanted a fair chance to make their way onto the boat…no preferential treatment.  I would kindly bend each one of them, their way, and see who would break and who would rise above.  This I could agree to.  DSC00002 I’m happy to say, stick #3 has made the team.  Here is a most excellent VG Fir gunwale becoming part of Shackleton.  I’ve never been more proud of a stick in all my life and delighted it has made such a noble decision.  I’m encouraging all the other pieces to follow the great example of this little gunwale.

Stay tuned