Off Center Harbor

I am always on the lookout for anything that will help me be a better worker. Doesn’t matter what I am doing, I always want to do it better. Something that has helped me a ton is the videos on Off Center Harbor. For those of you that don’t know Off Center Harbor is a subscription based website that provides high quality videos for the small boat sailor. Its like a youtube for boat nuts.

I have seen their advertisements for a while now but never wanted to pony up the money for the subscription. I figured everything I wanted was on youtube. Turns out I was wrong. I stumbled upon one of their videos that had Geoff Kerr from Two Daughters Boatworks building a Caledonia Yawl. Like any good drug dealer OCH had posted a few “free” videos from their 42 part series on youtube. After watching all I could I was hooked. I ponied up the 30 or so dollars for the year and never looked back.

If you are going to build a glued lapstrake boat and have never done such a thing, I highly suggest you check them out.


PS: I am not getting kickbacks for advertisement.


We have ways of making you talk…

Torture is the most correct description of what I did to the foremost section of the bottom plank on Idle Hands. Bow template

As I trimmed the template for the bow I began to realize how tough this was going to be. Plywood only likes to bend one way. This section is bending vertically, horizontally and twisting quite a bit. It is so harsh that I snapped the first piece of luan that I was using for a template. After messing around with it for most of a day I finally resorted to my backup plan, social media.

I put out a call for help on the Welsford Facebook page along with the wooden boat page to get some suggestions. As always the “folks that know” helped out a bunch. The most important thing was to keep the plywood from “curling up” fore to aft as you draw the plank in with clamps to it’s final resting place. Sounds easy…Torture 1

Torture 2

This is what I started with – the back side is secured with three two inch screws through the chine and two clamps on the upper stringer. The plywood naturally wants to curve inward towards bulkhead number one and that pushes the end away from the stem.

Torture 3

I started from the back working forward slowly tightening the clamps as I went. I also had to keep pushing the middle, around bulkhead one, out so it would not curl. A turn or two at a time on the upper clamps, and then adding screws on the bottom into the chine stringer, I slowly pulled the plywood into position. The plywood was creaking and groaning the whole time; at one time I did hear a sharp snap but a detailed check showed no damage. I am really glad I ordered the high end Okoume plywood. I don’t think that the A/B fir I used for the frames would be able to handle this level of abuse.

Torture 4

This is the final product. It’s a huge bend but it looks awesome. Somehow the left side “shrunk” as it was drawn into place. Eventually I will have to add a little wood so it will meet up with the rub strip when I install it.

Finally, I am up to date with this blog. Its been such a busy late winter/spring I have not kept up with this site. I feel like a kid who is behind on his homework… As I type this, the clamps are off the lower planks and I spent most of the day prepping the left hand side for the next plank. If I had to guess I will probably be hanging it around Sunday of next week but don’t hold me to it.


The Blooper Reel

One thing I have noticed over the years is that most build logs, whether they be for aircraft or boats, only show the successes and never the failures. No matter how good you are at your chosen hobby/profession there will be times when you screw something up. Being a newbie woodworker and boat builder, my list of screw-ups is longer than most. I have no problem pointing out my errors in the hope that just one of you out there can learn from my mistakes. So here they are in no particular order, enjoy!

#1: Funky Glue Joints


This is what I’m looking for when I glue up a joint – an even glue line and enough squeeze out to make a nice neat fillet. In theory, it’s easy with two flat pieces of wood and all of my clamps. In practice, I have had my troubles. It seems that no matter how many clamps, boat nails, or screws I use there are just some pieces that will not glue up the way I want them. The picture below is a shot of the bunk flat stringer on the side of the center case. You can see that there is a lot of glue missing from this joint. The main culprit in this case is glue that was too thin. I have been using MAS epoxy with Cello Fill for all of my structural joints. In this case I mixed it too thin so when I nailed the stringer to the plywood panel the glue ran out. Other times I haven’t had enough pressure on the joint to force it together. That particular piece went into the burn pile.

Bad glue joint

For me the best solution has been to back drill through the plywood, counter sink, and secure the stringers with stainless steel screws. A rough paint shop picture is below. I make sure that I countersink the screws deep enough so I can fill them later. I used this method on the transom and everything came out great.


#2: Use Your Damn Square!


It’s a two millimeter bow in frame three. I know it’s not much but it could have been prevented with one of the three speed squares I have laying around the Idle Hands workshop, one of which I had to move out of the way to glue this frame in place.  It will never affect the seaworthiness of the boat but I will always know it’s there. Enough said.

#3: Measure Twice, Then Fit in Place Later

If I had to start fresh tomorrow, the biggest thing I would do differently would be fit the 20 x 45 and 20 x 20 solid wood stringers in place instead of gluing them to the frames from the start. I have found that because of the curve in the bottom of the boat the frames need to be planed so that the frames stand up correctly. I found out building the transom its easier to duplicate the angle on your table saw and cut it into the bottom stringer. That way when you glue down the frame it stands up correctly and makes a nice tight glue joint. The other major reason is this:


Yup, the top stringer is supposed to line up as shown with the orange line. I measured twice. Really I did. I promise. I was sober. I promise.


Sammy the shop dog was not impressed.

This is the short list of things that have bit me over the last several months. I know it’s all part of learning a new skill but I sure would have liked to learn from someone else’s mistakes!

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!

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.

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.