Time to clear some stuff out of the garage, something that resembles a new boat is going to take up a lot of space. I have a two-car garage, but only half of that space is available for boat building; Wee Lass occupies the other half.
The molds, stem and transom are set up on some type of jig. The plans give the spacing between the molds, so that’s not a problem. Most jigs resemble an oversized ladder type arrangement. The jig absolutely has to be flat, straight, and level. Dad and I went to the big box store one Sunday to pick up some 2×6 lumber for the rails; I already had some 2x4s that would serve as the cross pieces. In Rule #2 I mentioned that lumber from the big box store is classified as “Not Cheap”; this was certainly the case. Dad and I sorted through the lumber bin and found the two straightest pieces of 2×6 we could find. Most of the lumber qualified as firewood in my opinion.
Making the ladder jig was simple, with the aid of drywall screws and some scraps of plywood for gussets at the four corners. But when we set the jig up on sawhorses, the jig had a wicked twist in it. That problem was solved with some strategically placed cinder blocks. Attaching the molds was also simple; I ran a string line down the center of the jig and used that to align the molds. Attaching the stem and the transom also presented no problems.
The problem began when I inserted the first layer of the keelson. Mr. Oughtred calls for the keelson to be 7/8″ thick. The after portion takes a sharp bend, so Mr. Oughtred specifies it to be either two pieces laminated together or a 7/8″ piece split down the middle and glue forced into the split. I chose to laminate the entire keelson from two pieces.
When I installed the first layer of the keelson, it lined up well into the notches I had cut into the molds for the purpose, but the stem and transom were both out of alignment – the stem was off to the right, and the transom was off to the left.
This ain’t gonna work.
I thought that one of two possibilities might be giving the alignment problem. First, my molds might be off. Second, the jig might be out of whack. I took the assembly apart and checked all the molds against my mylar patterns; all were good. That left the jig as being suspect. In his book “Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual”, Iain Oughtred describes a jig made from plywood that the molds are attached to; it’s essentially a large plywood box. Plywood has the advantage of being dimensionally stable, and the factory cut edges are straight. Another trip to the big box store, and another day spent building another jig, but this one worked. Now I’m in business.
This time everything was in alignment and I could start laminating the stem. The molds have small cleats at the notches for the keelson, so I could clamp the keelson to each of the molds. To spring the keelson down to the transom, I left the ends of the transom a little long and used a Spanish windlass to bring the end down to the transom. Low tech rules.
Cover the edges of the mold with plastic tape so epoxy drips don’t glue the keelson to the molds. The keelson is not glued to the stem or transom just yet. After the epoxy cures remove the keelson from the molds, lay out and cut the centerboard slot. This is easier done on the bench rather than on the boat. Then replace the keelson on the boat, and epoxy to the stem and transom. In addition to the epoxy, a single bronze screw holds the keelson to the transom. No screws were used on the stem. Structurally, this may seem a little weak, but when the garboards are glued on, they will tie the assembly together.