Duncan Sclare pours 19ft Gartside cutter keel

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Duncan Sclare pours the lead keel for his 19ft Paul Gartside-designed cutter. Click on the thumbnails for larger images

Duncan Sclare in County Mayo, Ireland has an advantage over many amateur boatbuilders: 30-odd years of experience as a furniture-maker, cabinet-maker, carpenter and joiner. See his website here to see what I mean.

Talented and practical man though he is, I still think the story of how he cast his own lead keel this week is quite something. Here’s what he says:

‘Hi Gavin. Your readers may be interested in my project to build Paul Gartsides cutter design 163. This build is going to take some time as it has to be fitted in around making wardrobes, kitchens and other stuff I do to make a crust. I have been working on it for almost a year now with little to show exept lofting, lists, stacks of timber and so on.

‘Last weekend however work for real started with the casting of the keel. The pictures show the mould made from MDF and softwood and buried it in sand. Just short of 1 tonne of scrap lead was then melted down in an old cast iron bath. This took about three hours, but then the plug was pulled and the molten lead allowed to run into the mould. There was some singeing of timber and my hair, but otherwise it seems to have been successful!

‘The keel now needs shaping up and we can start to add the oak timbers on top. It will be great to get into some woodwork after that messy job!

‘In the background of the picture of the mould shows larch boards (planking) air seasoning and my battered Orkney Strikeliner still used for day trips around our West Coast.

‘I will keep you posted on (slow) progress. BTW, I love the site – great work keep it up. Best wishes, Duncan.’

Wow Duncan. With so much danger and excitement going on, I’m astonished you found time to take the shots! The result looks excellent, by the way šŸ˜‰

See Duncan’s striking photos of Inishkea in an earlier intheboatshed.net post.

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Sunny skiff 14ft plywood flattie plans

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The Sunny skiff

Another evening, another boat. Here’s a set of fairly basic but functional plans for building a 14ft lightweight flattie, the Sunny skiff. Download them here.

I think they could be just what many people are likely to want – a boat big enough to be comfortable for an outing for two, small and lean enough to row reasonably well, and a good size for building in a small garage or shed. Like the Julie and Ella skiffs the drawings present a rather basic boat – one can build simply or add gingerbread such as beautifully varnished breasthooks and knees, gapped inwales and the rest at will.

Like this boat? Send your comments to gmatkin@gmail.com.

I’d better add my usual warnings. I am not a qualified boat designer and the Sunny skiff should be regarded as an experimental design. The designer of the Sunny skiff accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage that may occur during building this boat or in its use. You build it and use it at your own risk. The Sunny skiff is intended for use on flat sheltered water with no strong currents. It is not intended for use with outboard power.

If you do decide to build this boat please build a model first and send me photos of your model and the completed boat, together with a report on how the project goes and how the boat performs on the water. Whenever I am available, I will be very happy to provide help and advice if needed along the way; if Iā€™m not around, the online forums can be very useful, but it often helps to search the archives before posting a question.

Finally please use the comment button to let me know what you think. This collection of elegantly simple skiffs with classic hullforms seem to me to have a lot to ‘recommend them. What developments, options etc would you look for, bearing in mind that these are not outboard skiffs?

PS – It’s become clear that depending on your build, some folks will find the thwart a little high – if that could be you, it will be a very simple job to make the seat lower if you do so at an early stage.

For more on the Sunny skiff, click here.

Looking for something smaller? See the Ella skiff.

Looking for something longer and faster? See the Julie skiff.

This boat is designed to be built using the stitch and glue technique – if you haven’t done this before you might be interested in my book Ultrasimple Boat Building: 17 Plywood Boats Anyone Can Build or one of the other books on this topic available from Amazon.

Water Craft boatbuilding comp winners 2009

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Nick Paull’s Hazy Days, winner of the ‘most professional’ category of the 2009 Water Craft boatbuilding competition. It was built to Steve Killing’s Prospector Canadian canoe. Click on the photos for much larger images

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Mike Wooldridge’s Puddle Duck, victor in the ‘home made boat most likely to encourage beginners’ category’. It was built to the Selway Fisher Drake sharpie plans

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Chris Waite’s ingenious and effective home designed rowing skiff Octavia, winner of the ‘most innovative home made boat’ section

This year’s Water Craft magazine amateur boatbuilding competition at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show was better than ever, despite the rain. Editor Pete Greenfield’s idea of opening up the competition by offering three categories of home made boats – most professional-looking, most likely to encourage beginners and most innovative – was clearly a big hit.

Hazy Days is undeniably very smart and won a tightly contested section, but I very much enjoyed seeing Puddle Duck, which chimed nicely with my view that people should be encouraged to feel that they can build small, simple and low cost boats that they can be proud of and which are effective on the water.

However, my favourite this year was Chris’s Octavia, which must count as one of the cleverest designs I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, those scraps of ply in the plastic bag are all that was left from the three sheets of plywood he used to make the boat, but that’s only the half of it – when Chris wants to transport it, the boat divides in two to fit in the back of his car, and when reassembled the undersides of the riggers include a system of pegs that neatly hold the boat together.

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