Nick Smith planks up Louise – and uses a novel steaming technique

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Planking Louise: Nick uses an on-the-spot steaming
device for the garboards

Hampshire-based boatbuilder Nick Smith is currently planking up a new project, Louise. She’s  a 16ft loa, 6ft beam and will draw about 14in, and built with khaya mahogany planking.

She’s destined for customers in Newton Ferrers,  and won’t be kept on a mooring but will be dry sailed on estuaries and rivers. Her internal layout will be identical to  Nick’s last project Lisa but compared with that boat she will be smaller and more lightly built for ease of launching and recovery, and with finer ends and a flatter sheer.

She’ll have an 11hp Vetus twin diesel installed.

Nick has kindly sent us these photos illustrating his method of steaming garboards and often the first couple of planks in situ using a piece of old inner tube.

The arrangement here looks a bit Heath Robinson – it uses an old thinners tin with an old style kettle element in it – but Nick says it’s very effective and he also uses it to steam frames.

My suggestion, gentle reader, is that it might be a bit scary for most of us to try at home, unless you happen to have the skills of an electical engineer! I’d guess that a big, stable two-ring camping stove would be safer.

However, steaming on the spot is obviously a very neat trick. Nick says: ‘I can’t think who invented this method but I’ve not seen anyone else do it. It’s very effective, however: in the old days the boy would run with the hot plank from the steam box to the boat, but by the time he got there the board was almost cold. But this way the plank is in place already: you just slide the inner tube off, and cramp the hood end up in place.’

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.

Jordan Boats supplies Iain Oughtred boatbuilding kits to the USA

Iain Oughtred’s Arctic Tern

Cut-out ply component parts and MDF frames and full-sized patterns for Iain Oughtred’s legendary catalogue of boat plans are now available in the USA from Jordan Boats.

Alec Jordan of Jordan Boats based in Fife, Scotland rang this week to say that the kits are being supplied in the USA by a company in Maine. Apparently, the same outfit also supplies for Woodenboat magazine.

The boat components are made from Bruynzeel and Shelmarine BS1088 marine plywood, which are not Lloyds Type Approved, but have an excellent reputation – Lloyds Type Approved ply kits are also available at an added cost of about 30 per cent.

Jordan Boats’ bank will not yet allow payment in US Dollars through its website, so the only way to order is by getting in touch through Jordan’s contact page and asking for a confirmed kit and shipping quotation. For shipping please remember to include your Zip Code, so please remember to include this together with your phone number and Skype name, if you have one.

Alec says it will take a day or two for his contractors to obtain the shipping quote, but when he has it he will will email it to you together with payment details.

Typical kit prices at the time of writing are: Ness Yawl, $2,208; Fulmar, $3,029; Feather Pram, $744; Badger, $1,254; Auk, $1,076; Acorn, $1,076; 13ft 6in Tammie Norrie, $1,346.

Kits are also available for Acorn 12, Acorn 15, Elf, Granny Pram, Guillemot, Humble Bee, Mole, Puffin, Skerrieskiff 15, 15ft Tammie Norrie, Tirrik, Wee Rob and Wee Seal. At the time of writing, Alec was working on adding the Shearwater and had plans to offer the Caledonia Yawl.

New designs can be added to order.

Jordan Boats

For more on Iain Oughtred’s boat designs, including photos of Chris Perkins’ award winning Macgregor canoe and his new Stickleback canoe, click here.

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17ft clinker-built launch Lisa gets framed-out

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Nick Smith’s latest build Lisa gets her ribs

While we were away, professional boatbuilder Nick Smith sent us this brief update on his current commission, a 17ft launch to be called Lisa. Here’s his note to me about it – I love the human touches, and the sense of a continuing tradition in what he says:

‘Hi Gavin,

‘For your interest here’s a photo of Lisa framed out.

‘It took two and a half hours (including a break for cold beer) from steam up. There were four of us, two outside driving the copper nails and two inside bending the timbers.

‘The first five seconds after taking the rib out of the steam box are crucial – that’s all the time we have to give the frame a quick ‘pre bend’ and then a final bend into place, ready to nail while the rib is still hot. No drilling of the rib is necessary.

‘I first did this task when I was 16 years old and it has remained unchanged for donkey’s years.

‘So the next job is to rivet all the nails, with one bloke outside (traditionally it’s the apprentices job, that is the ‘boy’) holding an iron (or dolly) on the nail head while I work inside the boat doing the rivetting (or clenching).

‘First I drive a ‘rove ‘ (or ‘roove’ or ‘ ruv’ onto the nail. The exact name depends on where you are in the country), but it’s basically a copper washer. For this we use a rove driver and a hammer, then cut off the point of the nail with a pair of ‘cut nippers’ then rivet ( or ‘peen’) over the rest of the nail with a rivetting hammer, which is just a ball peen hammer of an appropriate weight. Its a dull job and therefore traditionally done quickly from start to finish to get it over with!

‘Thats it for now Gavin some more photos when the engine is in.

‘Thanks, Nick’

And thanks to you Nick!

Nick Smith can be contacted at

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