Nick Smith’s 16ft launch Louise project reaches seven planks a side

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Motor launch Louise at seven planks
Hampshire-based and Devon-trained boatbuilder Nick Smith has sent us some more photos of his current project, Louise, which he’s currently planking with khaya mahogany. She’s  a 16ft loa, 6ft beam and will draw about 14in.
Here’s what he says:
Louise has seven planks per side now, so thats just over halfway planked up; she’ll have 12 per side when finished. The shape is forming now, and looking fair and well proportioned.

The photo showing me holding a pen illustrates the spiling process  – or ”spoilin”  as they say on the Isle of Wight. A template of thin ply or softwood is clamped to the last fitted plank, by means of  wooden clamps known as gripes, and what you see me doing is running a biro or sharp pencil along the top edge of the plank, thus copying the edge shape to the template (or ‘draw-by’ as we used to call them in South Devon.

The  widths for the new plank need to be transferred from the stem, moulds and transom to the template, giving five points that can be joined up with a flexible batten and drawn along, giving the new plank top edge shape. Because the planks on a clinker boat overlap by a margin (3/4in on this boat) the bottom edge just marked must have that 3/4 inch added to give the full width.

This process is difficult to explain in words but is satisfyingly simple when demonstrated, and is an example of what I call ‘workshop geometry’ .
With all information transferred the draw-by is taken off the boat and ‘spiled off’ onto the treewood awaiting cutting and machining.



Thanks Nick! It’s great to see how the process is supposed to work.
Click here for posts mentioning Nick’s previous project, Lisa. If you don’t already know him, Nick comes from Devon and specialises in new builds in clinker and carvel for sail, motor and rowing power from 8ft to 28ft with a special emphasis on West Country style and design, and also takes on repairs and refits from 25ft to 50ft. He can be contacted by email at and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.
For some photos of Nick’s boats at last year’s Beale Park Thames Boat Show, click here. Nick tells me he’s be at the show again this summer, so if you’re interested it might be wise to put the dates 5th-7th June in your diary…