Sunday, June 10, 2007

Memory lane: first boat project

I first got interested in boat-building in the summer of 2002. The first boat I contemplated building was a 12' Compumarine classic dinghy design. I really liked the strip-built look, and John Clark (the Compumarine owner\designer) had a ton of good how-to information for beginner builders. I bought the plans, and got started. Here's a picture at the very beginning of construction:

I made good progress at the beginning. I ripped and routed my own strips, assembled the strongback, cut out the frame molds, constructed the transom (a nice, curved one), and was making good progress on the stripping. Here is a picture of the transom:

I was trying to build the boat without using any screws, staples, tacks, etc -- not even temporary ones. The benefit of this is that the resulting boat doesn't have any holes to fill in or show through the final (clear) finish. The downside, is that construction is slow (I was doing 2-3 strips per day, at best), and it can be difficult to force the strips to conform to the molds; you have to be really creative with clamps:


Here's one more picture, partway through the stripping:

For my project, as I began to strip over the side-to-bilge curve, the strips started moving away from the molds. I tried to correct this, but just couldn't get it right. Here's a small picture to show what I mean:

For a new builder, this was very frustrating and I wasn't sure how to recover from it, other than by tearing off some of my already glued strips and starting over, which I couldn't bring myself to do. The project essentially hit a major brick wall, to sum it up. I did nothing on it for the next year.

Finally, late the following summer I got sick and tired of sharing the garage with this 12' behemoth. Despairing of actually finishing the job, I sawed the entire thing into scrap. The strongback and the frame molds were saved and stored in my shed, on the offchance I decide to attempt this project again (next time, I'll use nails\staples to hold the strips in place).

The failure of this project left a bad taste in my mouth, and I pretty much blamed myself being a lame boat builder. :-) And after that waste of time and money, my wife had sworn that if I ever wanted another boat, I'd have to buy it, not build it. So for the next year or so, I stayed away from boat stuff.

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