This side up

I just spent three hours trying to get my brand new Kunz flat face spokeshave working. As with any edged tool the first thing I did was sharpen it to a fine edge on my water stone. I reassembled the tool and went to town on the curve of the bow of the boat. No matter how I set the tool or used it, it kept chattering like a dull plane. Aggravated I tore the tool down and totally trued the face, cleaned any burs or machine marks off, and re-sharpened the iron. No luck, if anything it was worse this time. At the end of my patience I was about to throw it out the shop door when I realized what I had done. The blade was installed with the bevel on the wrong side. One quick flip of the blade and it cut the plywood like butter. Three or four strokes and the curve of the bow looked great.  A whole lot of unpleasant language and one evening down the tube with only me to blame. Its time for a beer.


X Y and Z

I have to admit I am still having problems with the frames. On paper it sounds so easy; draw a center line and a water line 90 degrees from each other. Measure up from the water line and left or right from the center line and place a dot there. Make all of the dots listed on the drawings and connect them with lines to make the outline of your part. It is an easy process…

I have already mention that I am an aircraft mechanic not a boat builder. In the aircraft world every dimension that you could imagine is included in the drawings that the engineers give you. If you are building a curved part, offsets and radii are included so there is never any question as to how to build the part. To us all of the dimensions are important, nothing is left to the technician except to build the part correctly.

Stem 1

Now with the pathfinder that isn’t so. The measurements outline the exterior of the part and the “critical dimensions” but everything else is left to the builder. That has been a hard thing for me to accept but I am rolling with it.  Where it gets interesting is the inside of frames 2-6. When you lay out your part the inside curve is entirely up to you and all that the designer calls out is a minimum thickness. I have accepted the fact that I will have lopsided curves in my pathfinder. Now as far as transferring the dimensions to the plywood, that is easy. I went to Harbor Freight and picked up a four foot metric ruler and a drywall square and use them to mark the waterline and center line measurements.

XY resize

For the curved sections you take several measurements from a top line, drive brad nails in the dots, and then bend a batten into a fair curve and trace. After the marks are made cut the part out about 1/16″ away from the line and then use a plane, spoke shave, or sander to bring to the final dimension.


Next up is building up the doublers and stringers on the frames. Hopefully I will get into the swing of things.

Lets build

The ice storm that covered most of the country in February seriously impeded my build schedule. At least in my head it did. Two weeks and a couple of emails with Sandra from Duckworks and I had my plans in hand. I rushed home that day, tore open the tube, and laid them out on the workbench. Huh, not what I expected.

I work on airplanes; I am used to a lot of detail in my blueprints. When I opened up the plans and rolled them out I was, for a moment, horrified. My personal motto is “don’t panic” so I poured over the plans to figure out how everyone else had built them. After a while I was able to translate “Naval Architect to Aerospace Engineer” – once I start building I will detail the differences.

The bill of materials gave me a bit of a shock. When I looked up the prices, the cost of the milled lumber and premium okoume plywood about gave me a heart attack. The only source I knew of was Chesapeake Light Craft and let me tell you they charge a premium for their services. That led to a local search for marine plywood and rough cut lumber that I could plane and cut to size instead of buying the nominal size. After calling around and taking a couple of road trips, I found an old school lumber yard in Brunswick. Hubie Lang at Langs Building Supply hooked me up with BS 1088 marine plywood and rough cut cypress that is perfect for this boat. Now that I had the supplies in hand I had to set up the sawmill.

.Dirt dobbers

Kori saw



My dad has all of the tools you could ever want but they have been sitting exposed in his garage for several years. If you have never lived in southeast Georgia you are probably not acquainted with the mud wasp, or what is known in the South as the dirt dobber. The problem with these wasps is they usually make their nest in places like a Dewalt planer or a Craftsman 10″ table saw.  When they do the mud turns so hard it is almost stone and locks up machines and clogs cooling air passages.  Fortunately I have my daughter Kori who is a pro at cleaning machinery. One day of dis-assembly, cleaning, and re-assembly and we had a planer and saw that was ready to rock. Now its time to make sense of those plans.

Where to begin

The first thing I had to do was find a boat to build. When I was younger I spent a lot of time kayaking around the bays and rivers in South Georgia so that was where I started. I took my lovely bride down to Merritt Island last year for a Chesapeake Light Craft demo day. I have been following there website for a while, and although I like what they are doing I just wasn’t sure they had what I was looking for.  After a whole day test driving everything they brought with them, we decided that we needed something bigger than just a kayak or a rowboat. I also looked at the CLC 15-foot pocket cruiser aptly named Pocket Ship but the little cabin on the front took up a lot of the usable area and I couldn’t ever see using it to sleep in so for me it was a waste of space. After looking at several other designs like the Caledonia yawl, everything that Francois Vivier has drawn, and a cool little trimaran from Frank Smoot, the design that finally caught my eye was the Pathfinder. pathfinder-fall-sailThe Pathfinder has all that I could want in a sailboat this size; at 17’4″ long it was plenty big enough to hit the waters around south Georgia with plenty of room for both of us.  The motor is placed in a well that doesn’t detract from the lines of the boat, and what lines they are. From any angle this is one damn good looking boat. The complexity of the build is a little more that I had wanted, but I figure I can handle it. One call to Duckworks boat building supplies and the plans were on the way.

The first words are the hardest

All of my life I have had a strong desire to build. Growing up my room was scattered with Lego’s and half built model airplanes so it makes sense to me why I want to build something bigger now. Over the next weeks, months and maybe years I will use this site to document the build of a plywood and fiberglass sailboat tentatively named Idle Hands. I am building it from a set of plans from John Welsford; a small craft designer from New Zealand. With the help of my Wife we will get this site up and running soon. Wish me luck.