Building a Wooden Dory

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by ag_streak, Jan 1, 2017.

  1. ag_streak

    ag_streak Tiene Ruta Cuarenta?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    #1
  2. ag_streak

    ag_streak Tiene Ruta Cuarenta?

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    Got the stem cut out today. It too is 1.5 inches, laminated up from two thicknesses of ¾”. It’s nice and heavy! One long edge is curved. Hard to see in the pics.

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    I spent the rest of today cutting scrap into support pieces to square up and position the frames on the strongback. Tomorrow, I’ll square the frames up and secure them, then try out my new scarfing jig for the router. I need to scarf both the longitudinal stringers and the plywood sides and bottom. More to come…

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    #2
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  3. DakarNick

    DakarNick Swabee

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    Subscribed. I have no need to build a boat but I like carpentry. Looks good so far!
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  4. villageidiot

    villageidiot Long timer

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    In.

    I know Jeff Spira personally, nice man. He's got a lot of cool boat plans and crazy ideas too.
    #4
  5. AZ Pete

    AZ Pete Adventurer

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    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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  6. hpsVFR

    hpsVFR Hoosier Daddy

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    I'm in.
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  7. Bruincounselor

    Bruincounselor North Plains Drifter

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  8. ag_streak

    ag_streak Tiene Ruta Cuarenta?

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    No shit? That's wild! Small world! :beer

    He's been very responsive to my questions and really nice to deal with!
    #8
  9. villageidiot

    villageidiot Long timer

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    Yeah, we both share a mutual friend, have worked for/with Spira on a few projects etc. including but not limited to a scratch build turbine engine haha
    #9
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  10. anonny

    anonny What could go wrong?

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    I'm in too. :lurk

    But I do wonder why plans for an east coast dory come from the west coast.
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  11. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    Just go with the flow, man. :wave
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  12. Bridge Builder

    Bridge Builder Been here awhile

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    You make it look super easy.......................and man, what a clean and organized garage! When you are done I will buy your lunch in Hiawassee for a quick row on Chatuge
    #12
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  13. Cat Daddy

    Cat Daddy Been here awhile

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    Watching this one for sure.
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  14. JT105

    JT105 Let's Ride

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    Always wanted to build a boat. I'm in.
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  15. crawdad

    crawdad Been here awhile

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    Nice work, handsome looking boat. Make sure you seal that red oak as well as you're able.

    #15
  16. ag_streak

    ag_streak Tiene Ruta Cuarenta?

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    Wow! Cool video!

    The oak I bought wasn't actually labelled red oak in the store, I was just assuming by its appearance.

    I'm off to try that experiment after coffee this morning!

    The use of epoxy to seal the wood SHOULD prevent all water intrusion, if done properly.
    #16
  17. AST236

    AST236 Long timer

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    I'm in!!

    Plus, now I feel like such a slacker. After coffee, I'm cleaning my garage............:)
    #17
  18. ag_streak

    ag_streak Tiene Ruta Cuarenta?

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    Funny, I felt like the garage was so cluttered I could hardly walk around, but last week I sold one bike (down to two), and yesterday, I muscled a 95 pound canoe up to the ceiling hooks, so now I have room to work and move that strongback around. :beer

    I didn't do the red oak saturation test yet, but I just googled "thinning epoxy resin". Looks like using heat is much better than using solvent to lower the viscosity of the epoxy without affecting moisture absorption. I'll coat all the frames, especially the end grain, prior to skinning them with the sides and bottom. :thumb
    #18
  19. Beemer Bob

    Beemer Bob Long timer

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  20. Beemer Bob

    Beemer Bob Long timer

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    Do not seal the end grain if it's a glue point.
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