Steam Punked!

The first half of this update is nothing more than a re-hash of what I said in the last post. When I left off last time I had one properly bent chine stringer and one broken. It took a week and a half to get the right hand stringer installed. I wanted to try steaming the board again so I set up my steamer and tried it again. This time the outside edge of the board rolled up on me and “set” before I could get it back into place. The end result was one more broken chine stringer. More words were said, the dogs hid their faces in shame. Back to the drawing board.

Licking my wounds I went about the process of mounting the center case to the floorboard. This, for a change went really well. I could tell just by setting the case in place that it was going to sit level when screwed down so there was minimal sanding and fitting to do. I drilled and countersunk pilot holes for my attaching screws on the bottom, dry fit everything for the 20th time just to be sure, then pulled it all apart and roughed up the mating surfaces for the glue.  The case is glued down with 3M 5200 adhesive which is permanent but flexible. One tube of glue and a big mess later and the case was down.


After airing my steam-bent miseries on Facebook, Mr. Welsford suggested laminating the chine stringer out of multiple pieces that were easier to bend. I took his advice and made the third stringer out of two pieces. This worked a lot better than steam bending and it looks like it’s a lot stronger too.


Now that both chine stringers are on I can start standing up my frames in earnest. The first one I set was the transom.


I set this one first because it was the only one that really stands on its own. Frames one, two, and three all depend on the stem to center them, frames four and five marry up to the center case and require a lot of fitting, frame six just hangs out and frame seven needs the transom for support.  Plus it looks cool. One suggestion I do have for everyone out there is to leave the center lines on all of your frames! The picture above should show you why. I made the mistake of sanding off most of my reference lines and I am paying for it now. It makes aligning the frames a lot easier when you have a center line on the floor and one on the frame.

This evening I have the stem glued in and drying. The rest of my work time this week will be fitting the frames from front to back and getting them ready for glue. It’s starting to look like a boat now!


Steam Punk

Chine stringers are 3/4″ by 2 1/2″ pieces of soft wood that run around the edge of the bottom panel. They provide a solid place for the frames to glue to and also the landing for the first side plank. The run from the stem on the front all the way to the back hanging half off of the bottom panel. If you look back to pictures of my bottom panel you can see that the chine stringers will have to be bent to an extreme curve. There are several ways that a builder can do this, but I prefer to do it the old school way – steaming.

Before I could set up the steam box I first had to set up the sawmill. I had run out of milled lumber and it was time to make some more


Once the lumber was milled to size it was time to practice my scarf joints. For these I used my hand plane and a belt sander.

Chine stringer 3







Through this build I have begun to realize that most times the simple hand tools are the best. I originally wanted a scarfing jig for the stringers so I could be sure that each one would be perfect. Fortunately, my scarfing jig was far from perfect which forced me to use my trusty Stanley hand plane. It turns out that cutting scarf joints is just as easy as every one says it is. Also its quite therapeutic. If you have a rough day at work, an hour running a hand plane will set your mind right. I digress. 
Glue up 1








A simple glue job and a pass with a router to round over the edges was all that was left.

This morning I headed out to the local hardware store to get the stuff I needed to make my steam box. The bill of materials is as follows:

2 ea 3″ PVC pipes

2 ea 3″ PVC end caps

3′ automotive heater core hose

2 ea 5/8″ brass barbed unions

1 ea old camping pot

I rushed home and bodged it into this:

Steam box

It was just as sketchy as it looked. After I got it together I started thinking about a steam explosion and what it would do if I was nearby. Let’s just say I was a tad bit nervous. Sammy the shop dog took cover under the work bench just in case.









I gently steamed the stringer for an hour, all the time worried about a bunch of silly things that never happened. When I pulled the board out of the steamer it just didn’t seem all that steamy. I should of stuffed it back in the pipe right then but I am hard headed.

Chine Stringer 4


I started wrestling the chine stringer into place. I started at the front, shoving and clamping as I went. It went well until I got to the back where the hardest bend is. When I got there the board just wouldn’t move any more. Did I stop? Hell no, I got out a ratchet strap to pull it in the last three inches.


It made one heck of a noise when it finally broke. Words were said, dogs ran in fear. Now that I could see the inside of the stringer, I realized that I had not steamed it enough as the inside was still dry. No problem, I had one stringer left. I went out to my steamer and looked inside the pot to see how much water was left after an hour. When I popped the top, over half of the water was still there. I had been way to gentle.

I reset the steamer, put the dogs in the house out of harms way, and fired it up again. This time I gave it all of the steam my redneck setup could give. I let it stew for an hour and fifteen before I tried it again. This time when I pulled out the stringer it was steaming so much I could hardly see it. Bending and clamping was a lot easier too. No drama, no fuss.


Its going to take a few days for the stringer to dry out and take its shape so I have time to cut out a new section for the one that broke. I think tomorrow I might permanently mount the center case. Why not?

Time to get Technical

Rainy weekends are turning out to be the most productive time here in the Idle Hands Workshop. This weekend I have slayed the dragon known as the transom! After months of avoiding the transom it is finally ready for install. Turns out there wasn’t much to it.

The first order of business was setting the tilt for the transom. The plans call out for an eight degree tilt outboard from vertical for both the transom and frame 6a. For this I broke out my new Japanese sliding bevel and an old angle finder I had laying around the shop. Funny how tools can just show up when you clean the shop!

transom tilt 2

After setting the angle in my table saw I cut the bevel in the cypress stringer I had cut for the bottom.

Transom tilt

The aft face of the transom is one piece of 9mm ply. On the forward face of the transom you fit the frame with a 12mm ply doubler. This doubler gets notched like all of the other frames to accept the chine stringers and the plank stringers. This way there is only a solid surface on the back side of the boat which cuts down on potential sites for water intrusion. I made these doublers in my usual way, cutting out an MDF template and using a flush trim bit to cut them out of the ply. 1,942 clamps later I had the doublers glued to the transom.

0710151759 (1)

After the ply was glued around the periphery, it was time to cut holes in my transom. The big one in the center is for the tiller; the plans call for an almost round shape. I like this shape better. Down in the lower right hand corner you can see the cutout for the boomkin for the mizzen. This hole calls out for a doubler around it. I didn’t have any guide as to size or thickness so I used 12mm ply and made a doubler that looked nice to me.  On the back of the transom is a rub rail made out of local Georgia oak. The same species used on old Ironsides.

Transom frontIMG_0783

Now that that dragon is slayed I can move on to bigger and better things. Next up, closing the center case and building frame 6a!