Nick Smith’s latest motor launch – the ribs are steamed out and riveted

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Clinker built boat riveting ribs into place Nick Smith

Using an ‘iron’ or ‘dolly’ to drive the nail over into the ribs. It is of course very important for the iron to be in the right place as the nail comes through!

riveting ribs into position clinker  built motor launch ribs clinker built boat ribs

Nick Smith’s latest project has taken a big step forward with the addition of her ribs, and our friendly boatbuilder has kindly sent in some more photos and a few words of explanation.

I must say the process looks like hard work, but no doubt many hands make light work, and entertaining banter too.

Nick tends to call the new project Bamboo Viper II, because she’s very much like an earlier boat he built by the same name – you can see earlier posts here and here

Here’s what Nick says about the latest phase in BVII’s construction:

‘Hi Gav,

‘Some photos of BVII yesterday.

‘We got a crew of five – luxury! – together to steam out the ribs on the new Bamboo Viper II. We pulled the first rib out of the steam box at 10.30am, and drove the last nail at 12.15am, which was the best time in all the years we have been building. We only broke three timbers, which was fine as the shorter lengths can be used forward or aft, where they butt onto the apron or transom knee.

‘So had some “spare ribs”, which I bent off the job to come in for odd repairs to broken timbers on customers boats.

‘The next task is to rivet up, I tend to do the upper-most four or five by myself (as my arms are long enough) then get my “oppo” to lie on the floor and “hang on” while I get inside the boat and rivet.

‘When I was apprenticed this job was done in one hit immediately after steaming had finished, so as the “boy” there wasn’t time to draw breath – as soon as the rib was in place I was straight under the boat (damp earth floor) holding on with an iron whilst the journeyman rivetted as fast as he could, no stop, no hesitation, no breaks, til we had done. And if ever I was on the wrong nail head as he drove or rivetted I was referred to by him in no uncertain terms as a ‘f****** c***’ so I learned very quickly to concentrate. This is not a teaching method I have carried on.

‘Gav, I think it’s brilliant what you have done and are doing with this weblog, many thanks,


Thanks very much Nick – it’s particularly good to see photos of the riveting process in action. You must make a video one day!

Dear reader: I can’t make work without contributions like this and need more of them to keep going! If you have a story to tell, please get in touch either using the contact page or by emailing me at

Nick comes from Devon, learned boatbuilding the traditional way 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. These days he’s based in Hampshire, and can be contacted by email at and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.

Want to learn more about boatbuilding using the clinker technique? Try John  Leather’s book Clinker boatbuilding at the revived A-store.

Sadie Snowdon builds a John Gardner dory

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Sadie Snowdon

Sadie to the sea Sadie workshop 1 Sadie workshop

Sadie’s 14ft Gardner dory project Dolly

Boat Building Academy student Sadie Snowdown built this 14ft Marblehead dory skiff designed by John Gardner, and launched it along with her fellow students’ projects back in June.

It’s a double-chine plywood rowing skiff with oak details that she has set up for two rowers with modern gates and pins rather than the more usual traditional rowlocks.

Sadie joined the course at Lyme after working at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as a volunteer, during which she decided she wanted to develop her boat building skills. See the Portsmouth Dockyard website for information about the work volunteers undertake.

John Gardner’s books are a tremendous body of work if you’re interested in American boat types, and some of them have been available at very keen prices in recent years it’s well worth checking Amazon.

My thanks once again to Academy principal Yvonne Green for the photos.

For more on student launches at the Boat Building Academy, click here.

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