One of the promises I made to myself a LONG time ago, was someday I was going to build boats. I pored over WoodenBoat magazine, collected books, and later scoured the internet. There are so many old, arcane techniques, and skills and knowledge that seemed like sacred writ, passed down only from father to son, or master to apprentice, and you had to pay serious dues to join the fraternity. Later I learned about stitch and glue, and thought, “hell, I can do that”. I found Chesapeake Light Craft, and studied their kits. Suddenly, this seemed do-able. A couple of years ago, I met the friend of my fiancée, a retired doctor who built a strip-built cedar canoe with his sons 20 years ago. The canoe was trashed in Hurricane Katrina, but we spent a couple of hours going over his construction photos, and I ordered and read a couple of books he recommended. When it came time to decide what style of boat I wanted to actually use though, I thought all those kayaks and canoes are incredibly pretty when they’re done, but they’re small, and I’d be more inclined to put one on display than use it properly. I was leaning towards something more practical, a skiff with an outboard or some other open boat, like a dory maybe. Then I found Jeff Spira’s super-easy to build designs (spirainternational.com). Pretty, nicely-designed boats that use normal dimensional lumber and plywood from Home Depot or Lowe’s, and are designed to require no special tools or skills. I still want a power skiff, but I ordered the plans for the 16’ Grand Banks Dory, which builds fast, and included plans for a sailing rig. All his designs use modern techniques and materials (epoxy and fiberglass covered), and are like a “unibody” construction. They do not rely on water infiltration to swell wood, or fasteners to transfer loads from the hull to the frame. Traditional design uses hardwood framing and softwood planking. But with his designs, you can use softwood framing, because everything is one solid structure, loads are distributed through glue joints, and everything is sealed from water intrusion. His website does a better job explaining it. Anyway, I ordered the plans and dove in. Let’s see where this goes. As I write this, I’ve just begun the framing. I’ll try to keep the pictures and progress moving, but this may take several-to-many months. You can order the plans printed or as downloads. I spent the few extra dollars to have them sent printed. I ordered them in Imperial measure, but they arrived metric. I e-mailed Jeff Spira and he apologized, and sent me a new set immediately. The note in the upper left says you are licensed to build ONE boat from his plans, and he sent me a SASE to get his metric plans back. This is his intellectual property. I got started building the strongback by converting the measurements from mm to inches before the new plans arrived. A strongback is a jig upon which you build the boat upside down. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just true. I may mount this one on wheels before it gets too heavy to move around the garage. You start by laying out the frames onto full-size drawings based on the plans. You can draw on scrap plywood, as I did, large sheets of paper, or directly on your workbench. It was pretty easy, but I took my time and tried to be accurate. The design is very forgiving, and you could be off pretty bad (1/4 inch) before anyone would notice it in the finished product. I kept everything within a 1/16 of an inch. One of these sure makes things easy. I learned to measure the angles accurately, transfer it to your saw setup, then make all the cuts for that frame before changing your saw angle. If you make all the cuts the same, the frames glue up beautifully. I found you have to measure the angles to within about a half a degree. To glue up the frames, you accurately align the pieces to the drawing, and screw or clamp. This was my first time using polyurethane glue (Gorilla Glue). It has its plusses and minuses, but I like it. Super strong and easy to use (but hard to clean up) If prepped and glued properly, you do not need fasteners in the finished boat. These screws were for clamping only, and I removed them after the glue set. I may end up with zero fasteners in the finished boat. The wood would break before that joint gives way. I decided on red oak from Home Depot for the frames. It’s expensive and probably overkill, but it was straight and true off the shelf, and beautiful. Over $2 bucks a linear foot! Yikes. The transom called for 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 dimensional lumber (1.5 inches thick) but because the oak wasn’t available in that thickness, I laminated up two layers of ¾ inch. Anyway, here are some of the 5 frames laid out on the strongback. I still need to raise and secure them to the proper heights to allow a gentle curve in the bottom, and notch them for the keelson, chine logs, and sheers. Then you add those longitudinal pieces, and get ready to fair. After a thorough fairing, you use the framing to mark the plywood sides and bottom for cutting. You do not have to loft the plywood from the plans.