Cockpit Coaming and Bow Work

DSC00473First a word about tools.

I have not always been a tool guy.  When I was younger, my father would buy me tools using words like “son, these will last you a lifetime if you take care of them”.  I would stare blankly at the tool, then gaze off across the room and begin dreaming about backpacking gear.  In fact, I sold several of the tools my father bought me in exchange for backpacking equipment.  Then, in my late 30’s the latent tool gene kicked in.  All of a sudden I found myself in sales for a living while doing nothing with my hands.  I felt little value in my profession; it seemed like nothing I did was of lasting value.  This left me feeling empty and hollow inside.

Then, it happened.  I decided to build something.  I saw a maple tool chest in a Tool Smith magazine.  It looked smart, efficient, clean with sharp lines.  I showed my dad the plans.  They gave him great pause…remember, I hadn’t built much in my life.  To him it didn’t look like a beginner project.  But to me it looked heavenly.  We went out to Home Depot and I purchased several shop tools.  A table saw, jointer, band saw and drill press.  With these core tools, I built the maple tool chest.

DSC00470It has proven to be very helpful in organizing my tools and served me very well.  After that came a tool bench and multiple other wood working projects.

My interest now is more centered in good quality hand tools.  I find them very enjoyable to use and very effective at accomplishing different tasks.  So, when you see the hand saws above, don’t think I’ve always been a tool snob.  No, instead I’ve grown to love hand tools after many hours of using cheaper tools.  Christopher Schwarz offers the best advise I’ve found regarding the reasoning and effective use of quality hand tools in his profound book entitled, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest”.  Worth the money if you are serious about investing in quality tools as opposed to quantity of tools.  He describes and presents 50 hand tools worth every penny you spend on them for general wood working.  I bought every one of them and have never looked back.  The total cost of all these quality hand tools was far less than the cost of a single four wheeler.

Now, on to boat building.

DSC00485I trimmed the bow panel down flush with the bow cap rail using a block plane and shinto rasp.  It was extremely fun to watch the panel come into compliance and take shape.  This is one of those moments I had been waiting for…to see the defined bow of this boat.  It is stunningly beautiful and reminds me of a battleship.

DSC00470The bow cap rail and gunwale needed to be shaped at their forward end.

DSC00474The first cut was with a fine toothed panel saw.

DSC00475I then used a fine toothed rasp and hand sanding to blend the lines.


DSC00484DSC00482DSC00480You might notice I created a little different shape with the cockpit coaming.  I planed stick #5 down to 5/8″ as opposed to the 3/4″.  This created a bit of a reveal between stick #4 and stick #5.  I liked the handrail look this dimension created.  I also ran #4 & #5 a bit forward of the designated stop point.  I’ll shape this forward end once the epoxy is fully cured.


The great thing about wooden boat building is the chance you have to make little changes to the boat which make it uniquely yours.  This is indeed half the fun of the building a wooden boat.  Take you time, get it the way you like it and have fun.  If your not having fun, something’s wrong.  


Cockpit Coaming

Waiting for epoxy to dry, I turned my attention toward the cockpit coaming.  I had a board of white oak left over from the gunwales.  It turned out to be just the right size.  The oak will contrast with the mahogany and make for a beautiful and strong coaming.

I’m striving to install one piece per day, so check back in five days for the finished product.


Piece #1 bend quite easily into position.  I clamped the oak strip with multiple small clamps and had no trouble creating a smooth curve.  

Gunwales & Cap Rails

I’m currently working on the gunwales and cap rails.  Here are a few photos to show the progress.

DSC00476DSC00477DSC00479I planed the oak gunwale down to 9/16″.  This was mostly for cosmetic reasons (I felt the 1,1/2″ thickness looked a little clunky), but it also allowed me to bend it extremely easy.  I plan to plug the screw holes with an oak dowel.  I then created a rather large chamfer on both the top and bottom edges.  My thinking here was to create a gunwale that would easily slip past a dock skirt without catching on the gunwale.

DSC00474DSC00470DSC00472I then moved to the cap rails.  I decided to add a decorative design to the thin end of each cap rail.  I used my hand planers to create the taper on the sticks.  I ended up with 1, 1/4″ height at the tapered end (the plans call for 1″ height), but bending them into position was not a problem.

Now for the bow.

DSC00484DSC00485I ran the cap rail to the end of the gunwales.  Also, my stem is somewhat simplified from the plans.  I’m sure Kilburn is pulling his hair out at this point in the blog.  No offense intended, I just felt a simple white oak 3/4″ stem (on top of the inner stem) was sufficient.  I’ll round these corner so the glass will lay across it better and do some shaping to the gunwales & cap rails once the epoxy cures.


No magic here, just step by step, moving forward.  


Boat Building is a Democracy

First some theory:

Wood has an opinion and it should have the right to vote.  It wants to flop this way or that way.  It naturally curves up or down.  When laying out gunwales, it’s very important we consider the woods natural tendency to flop.  If we fail to recognize this point, the wood will have the last say.

Now for the photos:

DSC00490After planing the wood to 3/4″, I ripped it to 1 & 5/8″ strips.

DSC00493The wood is casting it’s vote here.

DSC00494Vote duly noted.  I then laid out the gunwales noting Starboard and Port sides and marked the scarfs cuts to be removed.

DSC00497I then cut the scarf joints on the table saw.

DSC00499The scarfing jig in the plans worked very well.

DSC00500Clamps with handles work best here.  Traditional clamps tend to get hung up on the top of the table saw.

DSC00501After wetting the joints, I smeared thickened epoxy on the mating surfaces and used a 24″ stick to stabilize the clamping process.


Scarf joints are always touchy.  The become very slippery and difficult to clamp correctly.  Take your time and try not to swear too many times when applying the clamps or your wife will wonder if this boat building thing is a good idea.  




Nose Job

After securing all the panels to the bulkheads and transom, I was ready to work the bow/stem into position.

DSC00470By securing the panels to the front bulkhead, I could easily move the bow panels into position against the stem and check alignment.


DSC00472By hanging a plumb bob to the top of the stem, I was able to check the verticality of the stem.

DSC00476I made 3 cuts to steepen up the angle of the stem for proper alignment to the front edge of the panels.  I was able to bring the panels flush with the stem with very little pressure.  Surprisingly, the panels fit remarkably well.  I mean within 1/8″ which really amazed me.

DSC00477I then added two large fillets to the inside of the stem and laid 4″ glass tape over the wet fillets.

DSC00478The inside fillet allows for good purchase to the stem and bow panels.  I’ll trim the glass flush with the top of the stem once cured.


At this point, I must say how impressed I am with Kilburn’s plans.  These panels fit almost  perfectly.  The above photo shows the panels uncut, fitting nearly flush to the stem.  The stem didn’t need to move backward or forward.

The lines of this boat are gorgeous and the proportions are much better looking that what I could decipher from photos or even the plans.  Remember, discredited this boat in my head for a couple of years before deciding to build it.  Wow, was I wrong.  I love everything about this boat.  To this point, It is exactly what I hoped it would be and even more.



Locked and Loaded

Once all the panels look fair and delightsome, I locked things into place.


DSC00475DSC00476After the epoxy has set up for several hours, I’ll come back and trim off the ends of the fiberglass tape and cut around the washers.  These are rather large fillets and it took time to lay in enough material to create a large smooth radius.

Steps I followed:

  1. I used a brush to wet all edges with unthickened epoxy.
  2. I rolled a 3″ strip of unthickened epoxy along all joining areas.
  3. I then applied thickened epoxy to all joining areas.  This was accomplished in several steps.  Many areas took three applications (all while the epoxy is still wet) to ensure a sufficiently large fillet. If you try to add it all in one step, the fillet has a tendency to sag.
  4. I worked the fillets by using a squeegee cut in a radius.  I made several different sizes, but really only used one large size.
  5. I then cleaned up all the jet stream trails (epoxy squeeze out).
  6. I cut 4″ glass tape into proper lengths.
  7. Using a squeegee, I wet out the glass strips on the bench over wax paper.
  8. I then laid the strips onto the wet fillets, using my gloved fingers to smooth the tape and remove any air bubbles in the glass tape.


Wait until you have an uninterrupted amount of time for these steps.  Once the fillet is wet, you want to have sufficient time to work the fillet and apply the glass tape.  It took me about 4 hours to accomplish these steps.  Now, I can wait for things to set up a bit before I trim the glass ends.  I’ll then roll on another layer of epoxy to fill the weave of the glass.  


Verticality Reality

After moving slowly forward by epoxying all the panels, suddenly I have some major progress to report.


This all went relatively smooth.  I did, however, follow a different sequence than the plans suggested.  By installing one panel at a time, I couldn’t see where I was going vertically.  After thinking about the process, I decided to go a different direction.  I elected to epoxy all the panels together into one long panel and then install this long panel onto the boat.  This system worked very well for me, but it did necessitate an additional helper to lift and support the panel.  I solicited the help of the alpha male ‘ham n egger’, my father.  We enjoy working together and it made the process fun and exciting.  Surprisingly, we had both panels installed in about 2 hours.


  1. I moved the front bulkhead aft about 2″.  This kept the vertical bulkhead cutouts center along  the side panel doublers.  I will however, need to make a couple of small wedge filler pieces to bring the lower bulkhead sides back into their proper shape.  (I’ll document this step in a later post).
  2. I shimmed the aft temporary bulkhead outward 1/2″ at the top and 5/8″ at the bottom.  This created a beautiful curve.
  3. By loosening the screws holding the aft most panel to the transom, you can accomplish a much more natural shape to this panel.  Here’s the issue:  The rear transom is cut at 90 degrees to it’s face.  Yet the panel needs to be sloping into the transom gradually.  By loosening those screw, you effectively allow the rear panel to angle into the transom, producing a much more natural curve.  The slight gap produced by loosening the panel can easily be filled with epoxy.
  4. I cut the aft temp bulkhead panel support arms down about 3/4″ of an inch.  Why?  1-I added a 1/2″ subfloor, and 2-I added a full 3/4″ shim underneath the hull.  This effectively raised this temp bulkhead higher than needed.  Hence, the aft temp bulkhead support arms didn’t allow proper alignment to the transom and cabin bulkhead and needed to be cut down a bit.
  5. The front stem (as shown in the first photo of this post) is not yet in it’s proper position.  I will epoxy the side panels to the front bulkhead first and then turn my attention to the front stem.  I want to secure the side panels before I make adjustments to the stem.

Final Thoughts:  

I must admit, I was a little scared of this step.  It’s all fun and games until you actually expect things to align and come together.  In this step the truth reveals itself, for good or for bad.  If you have made a mistake, it will be crystal clear during these steps. For this reason, I felt nervous about going vertical.  24 hours later, I feel much more relaxed.  By damn, it worked.  And, with my dad’s help, it was amazingly simple to accomplish.  As I sit here today, I’m ready to epoxy the panels.  It’s hard to believe how quickly you can go from panels lying around the shop floor to a shapely boat with sex appeal.  I’m amazed how quickly and simply I got over this hurdle.

If your panels are cut identically and all glued together in a straight line, you will have insured success for this critical step.  

Transom Work

In looking over the transom, I realized I made a mistake.  I glued the transom doubler flush with the bottom of the transom.  But, remember, I added the 1/2″ floor to the hull in the cockpit.  This means I should’ve held the transom doubler up 1/2″.

DSC00470I took a router and removed the extra material.  But, then I made a second mistake and took 3/4″ instead of 1/2″ off.    So, I made a small 1/4″ piece to glue into position to create the right sizing.

DSC00471This now is what I wanted things to look like.  The transom will sit directly onto the hull and the transom doubler will rest on the subfloor.  I’ll remove the screws once the epoxy sets up.


One thing I love about wood and epoxy is that you can always fix a mistake.  Don’t get discouraged, just fix it.  

Side Panel Doublers

After epoxy work and more epoxy work, I’m finally ready to install the side panel doublers.  I feel like I’ve been applying epoxy for months, but in reality it’s only been a few weeks.

DSC00502The aft most doubler warrants much more attention than the others.  It will be seen inside the cockpit and the cockpit coaming will but up against it.  The doubler will be proud of the coaming, so I took a little extra time to clean it up a bit and round over the top edges.

DSC00505So, I curved the top of this doubler to match the curve of the cockpit coaming.

DSC00506Clamped into position while I inserted a few screws from the underneath side.

DSC00507This is the first installation, hence without glue.  It was easier to leave the wax paper on the screws than to remove it, but it is unneeded for this step.

DSC00522Rear doubler epoxied in place.

DSC00521The forward bulkhead doesn’t require any shaping and goes much faster.


With the starboard side panels complete, I’ll now focus on the port side panels.  I’m almost ready to begin building the hull.