Phase 1

Any project no matter how large or small can be broken down into different phases. If you build a house, the phases are foundation, framing, rough in, dry in, and trim out. Inspecting an aircraft calls for teardown, inspection, re-assembly, and operational tests. As l look at my build of Idle Hands I can see seven distinct phases:

1. Planning

2. Component Construction

3. Framing

4. Planking

5. Decking

6. Trim out

7. Sail the boat!
The first phase for me was a bunch of head scratching, beer drinking, internet surfing, and trying to sell the idea to my lovely wife. This I think is one of the most fun portions of any big project. As you surf the web and look through the appropriate magazine you have to ask yourself “can I do this?”, “does this match my intended use?”, and most importantly “what will the wife think?”. Being a male of the species, I am adept at convincing myself that I can, will, and should tackle any project I am fancying at the time. Whether it’s restoring a classic car, building an airplane, turning a box of random parts into a 1970 Honda CB750 motorcycle, I have no shortage of optimism that the project will be complete, on time, and on budget. In fact the more thought put into it the more I am convinced that not only can I take on the challenge but it would be silly for me not to.  The female of the species is a little tougher to convince.

Cheryl is probably the best wife a man could ever have; we have been a two man crew for as long as we have been together. We have been through tough times and good times and she has never once complained about my wild ideas. I think I could walk in and tell her I bought an airplane in pieces and she would be good with it. That level of trust means I have to make sure I have her buy-in before I start spending money.  Selling her the sailboat was a tough one though because my bride likes to go fast. She thinks fast, talks fast, walks fast, and runs fast; 13.1 miles in one hour and fifty-eight minutes fast. She will not own a motorcycle that will do 0-60 in more than 4 seconds or a car that takes longer than 7 seconds. That kind of fast doesn’t mesh well with a sailboat. Last year, in an effort to sway her my way, we went to the Jacksonville boat show to look at some trailer sailors. We had beautiful weather for the boat show and oyster jam and made out way through all of the trailored boats all the while I was talking her up on the merits of a trailorable sailboat. As we reached the marina side she saw the docked boats and asked if we could go look at them too. This is my suggestion to anyone trying to sell a small sailboat – do not show your wife a 35-foot Catalina unless you plan on buying a 40-foot Catalina. After touring through several brand new keel boats, that cute Compac looked like a bathtub with a sail. It took a while to recoupe from that mistake.

I finally set the hook when I came across the plans for Frank Smoots Slingshot 19. The Slingshot has a lot going for it; it’s fast, shallow draft, inexpensive construction, and fast, did I mention that? Basically it was a big sail powered version of the kayaks that we paddle all around this area.  I ordered the plans from Duckworks and began bulding the workbenches. When the plans arrived I used some scrap wood to draw out the frames so I could make a mockup of the Slingshot so I could see what we were getting into. After mocking up the boat and taking a good hard look at it Cheryl and I both realized that it just wasn’t the boat we needed. No matter how cool it was or how much I wanted to build it the fact was we needed a little more room to move around and store stuff.


Knocking the Slingshot off the list brought the second place boat up to the front. The Pathfinder was larger, more complicated, and more expensive. The only question Cheryl had is “can you do it?”  On to phase 2.


With Great Mistakes Comes Great Opportunity

When we left I had a center case sandwich curing on my workbench for the night. I will attach the video below but to cut to the chase, it didn’t work as well as I had hoped.

Lets just say the repair video is currently in work. I will have more updates coming soon. I accomplished a bunch on my week off and now I have to get it out on the blog.

Warp drive

Today started with a hunt for 6oz fiberglass in the Camden County area. The town I live in is super small so I have to either order supplies or visit West Marine in either Brunswick or Jacksonville. Now don’t get me wrong West Marine is very convenient but you pay for it. Normally I order my supplies from either Duckworks or Chesapeake Light Craft, and even with shipping and handling everything I have bought has been much cheaper than what West sells it for.  Today time was short so I had to source it locally. Fortunately Farmers and Builders supply in Kingsland had eight square feet for six bucks excactly the amount I needed to do one case half. Six dollars later I was on the way back to the Idle Hands Workshop.  I have been toying with the idea of setting up the camera and videoing some of the better tasks. Today seemed like a good day so here you go.  Bear with me I am no Mike Rowe.

Out of Parts

Today has been a fairly chill day. This morning the kid and I went to the college to finish up some last-minute paperwork before orientation. After that it was off to Brunswick to talk to Hubie at Lang’s Building Supply to get a quote on the mahogany I want for the transom. I hope that he comes back with a good price on the mahogany I think the transom would look great varnished. Oh well, I will find out tomorrow when he shoots me the price. After all of that was done it was back to the shop to work on the boat.

Just so you know shaping a center board takes a lot more time than you would think. I have the shape of the “airfoil” done now and am working on filleting the transition between the airfoil and the top of the block. I am using wood flour and epoxy to bridge the gap between the routed blade and the top of the block that sits inside the center case.


While the glue was setting up I drew out the center case sides in 9mm plywood. It has been a few months since I have laid out a part and it shows. I drew out the LH side first just to get a feel for it again; but when I went to draw the other side I realized I had not left enough room to draw it out. I was off by about 5mm. OK, no problem a Dewalt sander wont cure. After I sanded off the pencil marks I started again. This time I got it right and proceeded to cut out the side panels. Mr Welsford says that both sides must be exactly the same so I cut them proud and clamped them together and them planed them to the line.

center case

Next step in this process is to make the spacers for the center case and fiberglass the inside. If only I had enough fiberglass to do both of them…


Day two of vacation has been dedicated to shaping the centerboard. As it comes out of the router it is a rectangular block. The plans give you dimensions to use to cut it to shape.




Not much to say about this today. It has been a lot of work but very therapeutic. I will say I am really learning to appreciate traditional woodworking tools like planes and spokeshaves. I will post more pictures tomorrow with my progress.

Center Board Trials

It has been a busy month for us here in the Idle Hands workshop. After 12 long years and 12 short summers my little girl has graduated high school and is headed to college in the fall. For all of you that have been through this I am sure you understand there has been very little work on the boat accomplished. All of that is behind me now and I have ten whole days with nothing planned except working on Idle Hands. 

Since the start of the build I have been making goood progress but have hit three parts that have stumped me, the centerboard and case, the transom, and frame 6a. John Welsford says that the transom can be built one of two ways. Option one is 9mm plywood. Option two is using marine mahogany boards and edge gluing them together. I have the transom cut out in plywood right now but I am really thinking about doing it in mahogany. It really is going to depend on price and availability. I have been avoiding frame 6a due to the complexity of it. This is the frame that makes up the front of the motorwell and the motor mount and has to be made perfectely – any iffy glue joints might fail from the vibration of the motor. That leaves us with the centerboard and case.

The center board is made of multiple laminations of oak and cypress glued up and then carved to shape. The first five lammels are local oak, the same type that the USS Constitution is made from, and the rest are cypress. The oak is on the front to provide impact protection and a strong pivot point for the board.

Hand Plane

The finished width of the board is supposed to be 60mm. I made the mistake of cutting each lammel to size. After I glued up the board I realized my mistake. Because of the imperfections in the wood I had to plane and sand the block smooth wich caused it to be about 4mm undersize. If I had to do it again I would cut the lammels about 4mm proud, glue up the centerboard in sections small enough to fit in the planer and plane them to size. Oh well, no big deal, the centerboard has a 5mm gap on each side to keep mud and sand from jamming it up so the thickness isn’t critical.


Tons of options were available for shaping the airfoil also. I chose to go make a router template and carve it out that way. With a quick internet search I found a PDF file that I could print out and use as a template to cut out my jig. Once again Duckworks Magazine took care of me. Here is the link.

Here is the MKI version.


I made the template just big enough for the router to ride on. The round base of the router caused problems following the template. As the router dropped over the nose the depth changed causing gouges in the wood. Fortunately after the first pass on the first side my trusty pawn shop router decided to die. I spent the next few days repairing the router and figuring out how I was going to redesign my centerboard template.


MKII base

Here it is, the MKII! I used 1 1/2″ aluminum angle to make a base for the router and widended the base of the template. The MKII allowed me to control the router much better than before and rough out the airfoil shape without any of the gouges that I had before. With this setup I was able to finish the carving in two hours this morning. I do have a list of changes to make before I do the rudder. I am going to beef up the airfoil sections of the template by laminating two pieces of 1/2″ plywood and one piece of MDF per side. This give me a lot of area for the router base to ride so I do not have to move the template every time I make a pass.

Tomorrow I plan on cutting the board to shape and start sanding the final contour of the board. I hope to be able to post some progress each day during the vacation. Wish me luck!

Mr B