Sternsheet and side benches

The sternsheet is a seat or bench located at the transom.  When Tammie Norrie will be propelled by potato power, the sternsheet will be a nice place for the lucky passenger to sit (lucky because I’ll be the one doing the rowing).

The side benches are what you’d expect – they are benches on port and starboard, running between the sternsheet and the aft thwart.  When sailing, I normally sit on the windward side bench.

I started construction by determining the location of the sternsheet on the transom, then subtracting the thickness of the planks.  Some masking tape applied to the transom allowed me to draw reference lines, which were checked with a level.  The aft ends of the sternsheet are attached to a cleat, which in turn is screwed to the transom.  There’s nothing magical about the cleat; it needs to be large enough to allow you to screw in the sternsheet planks, and the top edge is beveled to account for the rake (slope) of the transom.  In the photo below the transom cleat is held in place with drywall screws; those will be replaced with bronze screws during final assembly.

2018 02 18 Transom cleat.

The thwart also has some cleats which will be glued and screwed to the underside of the thwart; these cleats will hold the forward edge of the side benches.  For now I’m using temporary cleats from scrap stock.  After I determine the size and shape of the side benches, then I can make permanent cleats out of proper wood.

2018 02 18 Temp cleat on the thwart.

Tammie Norrie has a beam that runs across the width of the boat that defines the forward edge of the sternsheet and supports the side benches.  It’s a good idea not to glue the beam directly to the hull, as that will result in a point load on the hull.  To spread the load, I made a small cleat which was glued to the hull.  Since the hull had already been sealed with epoxy, I sanded the location of the cleat to bare wood to get a good bond.

2018 02 18 Cleaning the strake for the beam cleat.

The cleat has a mortise cut into it to support the beam; this is a whole lot easier to cut on the bench rather than wait until after the cleat is glued on the hull.  The top edge of the cleat is also beveled so that it will sit level with the hull.  It’s almost impossible to clamp the cleat in place while the glue dries, so I used 5-minute epoxy and held the cleat in place until the epoxy kicked off.  The photo below shows that I have some clean-up to do.

2018 02 18 Beam cleat epoxied in place.

A temporary beam is made from not-cheap wood; the final beam will be made from cherry and have a decorative curve cut along the bottom edge.  Likewise, the side bench planks are made from not-cheap wood.  The side bench planks have some curvey shapes to follow the sides of the boat, and it’s not hard to foul up a plank – trust me on this.  A compass is used to scribe the edge of the plank that sits adjacent to the hull, and then a batten is used to spile the inside edge of the plank.

2018 02 18 Using a batten to spile a side bench plank.

Each side bench has two planks with a gap in between, reminiscent of a park bench.  The planks end at the transom, leaving the center section of the sternsheet to be filled in with shorter planks.

2018 02 18 Side bench planks on port side, and temp beam.

The photo above shows the two side planks on the port side; the process is repeated for the starboard side.  When the starboard side was completed, I discovered a mistake.  The side planks were a constant width, with a 3/4″ gap  between the planks.   The center portion of the sternsheet has four planks, and as I had them laid out, there was very little room remaining at the transom to fit those planks.   Referring back to the plans, I noted that the planks were not intended to be constant width; they narrowed towards the transom.  Good thing I was using not-cheap wood instead of very expensive wood!  The outermost side bench planks could be re-spiled with the aid a batten to make a nice smooth transition, but the two innermost planks were trash.  With the correction made, the four inner pieces of the sternsheet were relatively simple to fabricate.

2018 02 19 Side benches and sternsheets from pattern stock.
2018 02 19 View of side benches and sternsheet, looking from transom.

That’s enough for this weekend.  The side benches have an additional support mid way between the sternsheet and the thwart; that will be the next project.  Tammie Norrie also has a bow seat which is built in a similar manner as the sternsheet.  Making the permanent pieces will require a trip to the Purveyor of Very Expensive Lumber, which means a drive through big city traffic.  I”ll wait until the bow seat is made so that I can get enough cherry for the sternsheet, side benches, and bow seat all in one trip.


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