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.  





Scarfing Jig

I like to begin a project by sneaking up on it a little bit at a time.  This leaves me bail out options if needed.  

I even tried this on my wife, but she said NO, so I married her without any further fussing.

With this in mind, I have decided to build the scarfing jig and the temporary frames for a Skiff America 20.  These two simple projects allow me to start without really starting or fully committing to the build.  If I continue feeling good, I’ll keep moving forward.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the scarfing jig.  I have cut scarfs by hand and it’s a difficult process.  If the angles are not cut accurately, your scarf can fail.  A failed scarf is no fun…this jig will help me get it right.

Kilburn Adams included plans for building a simple, straight forward scarfing jig.

DSC00536I must say the plans produced by Kilburn are very impressive.  The level of detail and attention paid by Kilburn is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  In fact, these plans are so good you should buy them just in case you ever decide in the future you want to build this boat.  This level of intelligent design is rare in our modern throw-away society.  

DSC00535I started by lopping off an 18″ section of 3/4″ baltic birch.  You gotta love my home made trisquare…much warmer to touch and lighter to handle than cold aluminum.  And yes, It’s square.

DSC00537A 3/4″ x 1″ fence is added to the cutting end of the jig.  I counter sunk the screws to keep the bottom of the jig flat.



DSC00541Then I built the 3/4″ x 3/8″ strip to key the jig to the table saw slot.  Here I’m checking the fit.

DSC00544I then glued the strip to the bottom of the angled jig.  After this dried, I cleaned up the squeeze out with my shoulder plane.  A shoulder plane can work miracles when you have a need to remove material from an inside corner.  After a few passed, the jig once again moved freely through the table saw slot.

DSC00545I used a jack plane to flush up the clamping side of the jig.  This creates a flat clamping surface for holding the stock lumber to be scarfed.

DSC00547I checked the angles with my pocket square for accuracy.  All looks good.


It took me just over an hour to build this scarfing jig.  Now when I need to scarf solid stock into longer pieces, I can accurately cut the scarfing angles.  Many thanks to Kilburn for providing this as part of the Skiff America plans.  This is a very handy jig to have around your shop.