Odds and Ends: The Rudder

The rudder is another one of those pieces that was mostly built early in the project and has been laying around for months, if not years. Rough cut out and fitted to set the location of the gudgeons and the height of the till quite a while ago, it’s finally time to finish it up.

Now that I am flipping through the thousands of pictures I have taken of the build I realize that no pictures were taken of the build of the rudder or the rudder stock. Hopefully the pictures of the end product will help.


The blade of the rudder is designed to kick up when beaching or hitting an obstruction underwater. When I was in Texas sailing Peter’s boat, I found it was a perfect depth sounder. As soon as the blade struck bottom up it popped to let me know it was time to find deeper water.

It made sense to build a strong rudder because of the abuse it will take. The first two laminations were of bubinga which is as hard as a woodpecker.s lips. Southern yellow pine and white oak made up the rest. The blank was cut to shape and then taken outside to have an airfoil section cut into it.

Shaping rudder

The angle grinder with a 40 grit sanding disk made short work of the rough shape with the fine tuning being done with a hand plane and sander.

Glassing the rudder

A total of four coats of 6 oz boat cloth was applied. Three layers of cloth over the entire blade and then one strip of tape over the leading edge for just a little more protection.

graphite lube

Some of you will recognize what is going on here if you have been reading articles on Duckworks Magazine. This is epoxy mixed with a graphite powder. Small boat folks have been using this for everything from a damage resistant bottom coat to a low friction coating for sliding surfaces. I figured it would work well to protect the rudder blade from friction damage. Three coats total were applied to the blade and two to the inside of the rudder stock. Finally it was time to varnish.

Rudder varnished

The end result turned out pretty good. The initial fit of the rudder inside the stock is tight but workable with natural wear and tear loosening it up over time.


I had reached a pretty big milestone with the rudder completed – there was nothing left to build, sand, paint, or varnish. All of the parts were done. As they say in southeast Georgia, “all I lack is finishing up”. Four and a half years of building lay scattered around the shop. The boat is on its cradle and the masts, booms and gaff slung from the ceiling. The motor was on a stand in the corner ready to go after having its break in runs done. Looking around I realized there was only one thing to do, set a date: September 22, 2019. See you there.

4 thoughts on “Odds and Ends: The Rudder

  1. Hi, I’m trying to decide which boat to build and also settled on the Pathfinder, and consequently found your blog. Without reading all 5 years worth, can I assume it took 5 years to build? I’m looking forward to building my first boat,, but don’t want to commit 5 years to it… Can you estimate the probable amount of hours spent on it? If I’m way off base, please accept my apologies,


    • Hey Stephen, sorry it took so long to get back to you. The toughest statistic to nail down on building your own boat is how long does it take. I will give you two examples.

      I took 4.5 years to complete and launch Freya. The big reason for this is that I was using it as a stress relief and hobby more than trying to build a boat to go sailing in. Whenever I would start a task that required a new skill I would go on several side projects to learn the skill to my satisfaction before offering it up to the boat. Added to that I funded the boat entirely with overtime/side work so that I didn’t dig into the family budget. This lead to at least 9 months of total inactivity and lots of smaller stops here and there as the boat account was built back up.

      Now my friend Peter is at the other end of the spectrum. He built the Flying M over the course of three months with his retired father. (Both Peter and his late father were experienced woodworkers) You would think that there would be a big difference in the build quality of the boats but there really isn’t. The flying M is a beautiful boat that has completed several Texas 200’s over its life.

      So fast forward to today. I am a reasonably confident woodworker with a heavy background in aerospace composite manufacture. Given a good shop space, proper tooling, and all the money for the project up front I feel 1-2 years of part time building is reasonable. Your results may vary… Good luck and good choice on the Pathfinder. It’s a hell of a boat.

      Oh, and please take lots of pictures and document it somewhere. I love reading other builders blogs!


      • thank you very much for the reply, that’s what I was hoping to hear. Still not 100% on building a Pathfinder, but it is the only one, so far, that meets my requirements. I’d really like to have a Scamp that would sleep 2 somewhat comfortably and have room for a portapotti… and I really like JW’s designs.


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