Boat builder Nick Smith took these photos as he fitted the gunwale cappings onto Mona Louise, the new West Country-style motor launch he is building for a client. For an earlier post on this topic click here, and to see his website or contact him, click here.
Here’s what he says:
‘I fit the aft ones first, and scarph joint them so that scarph is ‘trailing’ – back in the day before good glues were available, if the edge of the scarph lifted it would not snag on ropes or lines running back along the side of the boat.
‘Cutting the scarph joint on the bench, I use a lip scarph for certain structural members, while planking, oars and other spars especially those that have circular or oval sections use feather-edge scarphs.
‘I make them using a combination of paring chisels, block plane, rabbet plane and, more recently, a sanding block made of plywood with 60 or 80 grit glued with spray contact adhesive – using that to finish off gets right up to the lip, sands flat and roughs up the surface to key the glue.
‘I use epoxy resin to glue most things where glueing is appropriate – I have been using it since the mid eighties with great success and so I am sticking with it. [Yes, we noticed what you did there! – Ed]
‘Years ago when using less resorcinol glues, the capping would also be nailed down with small copper boat nails, the head would be ‘bradded’ to make it smaller, that is flattened on an iron (or dolly) held in the vice and hit with a hammer, then when nailed it was punched-in below the surface of the wood and stopped in with putty. It was a nasty sort of process, and so instead I began to use 6 gauge screws with the heads countersunk and plugged using a dowel or a pellet. But now I use the epoxy glue only – the result is strong, there are no fixings involved and the work looks clean and neat.
‘See the transverse clamps, holding blocks with parcel tape on them (non stick) to keep the inside edge of the capping flush with the inside edge of the gun’l. I bevelled the inside edge of the capping in advance; the bevel changes throughout its length.
‘I have also as you can see masked the top edge of the gun’l and topstrake so any glue drips are not on the varnish. It’s a lot of fuss, fiddle and time for a relatively small piece of wood, but it has to be right. The outside edge will be trimmed off with a block plane when the glue has cured.
‘Taking the bevel off the gun’l and offering it up to the capping, then the capping is held in the vice and appropriate amount of wood shaved off with a sharp block plane. It’s partly by geometry and partly by eye.
‘A neat way of transferring the topstrake edge to the top of the capping.
‘Port and starboard cappings glued down; you can never have too many clamps in boat building. Tomorrow when the glue has cured I can release the clamps, trim up the edges and scarph and fit the forward pieces.
‘The increase in gun’l stiffness after fitting the cappings is marked – it’s like a rigid box section all the way around the sheer. I have also glued douglas fir packing chocks between each frame sandwiched between the topstrake and gun’l for extra strength, as the launch is to be a davit tender and will spend time slung over the side of the ship in choppy weather and otherwise stowed on chocks on deck.
‘These boats are labour intensive to build as we know, and as you can see. The working time for one of my sixteen footers is 660 man hours and for a twenty footer 880 man hours. But I love the work.’
Well, that’s good to hear. Thanks for an interesting post Nick!