10 Secret wood joining tips

When talking stitch and glue boat building wood joining are often done with fiberglass and epoxy. This wood joining method is really excellent and flexible for many types of wood joining jobs like joining hull panels, frames etc.

However for some jobs we prefer other more traditional and old fashion types of wood joints. This is specially the case when working on yachts and small boats superstructure and interior.

The post is about the different wood connections and how to make them.

Let us start with methods for joining wood boards edge to edge. The most simple is to glue the boards together. This requires the edges to be newly machined and level. However when you have obtained this the joining method is really useful and when using the right glue also strong and durable.

Another common way to joint two boards is using tongue and groove. This method does not require as much care and in most lumber stores you can buy the boards ready made for assembly.

One variant of the tongue and groove joint often used in boat building is where the two edges both have grooves and they are then assembled using a loose tongue. This method is especially useful when the boards don’t have straight edges like dunnage made of plywood sheets.

Beside joining boards edge to edge you often want to join wood corner to corner like in picture frames etc. When talking this kind of wood joints there are also several different kinds of joints to use.

First and most simple is the miter. Even though this joint is widely used in many applications it is a joint not really interesting in boat building. The joint is weak and does not have any structural integrity, so beside the picture frame for the owners picture on board it is not used.

Now if joining two wood pieces corner to corner is necessary there are some other techniques you can use. First there is a method you can call split joint. Here you half the two pieces before joining.

Another method is to make a slot joint where one piece has a tap and the other has a slot. An important issue here is to make the joint with the right proportions so it get as strong as possible. The proportions should be 3-4-3 as shown on the figure below.

An interesting and useful variant of the tap and slot joint is one where the slot is replaced with a hole. This joint is a real decorative and strong connection. It is important to make room for the glue when making this kind of joints.

Beside joining boards like in picture frames you can also joint the boards like in a box. This is often used when making superstructure like cabin sides or cockpit sides. An important issue when joining the wood boards this way is to protect the end surfaces from weathering.

As you can see from the illustration not all end surfaces are protected. If you want that and believe me in the long run you want, you will need another method for joining the camin or cockpit sides.

The above illustrated method for joining the wood boards is really great when you want a durable, nice and strong joint. Here you also have the advantage of being able to make nice round corners without loosing strength in the connection.

One last connection in relation with the joints here is one that I can’t recommend using outside. This connection is mostly used when making drawers and it does not protect the end surfaces. Therefore it is a joining method only suitable for interior use. The method is widely used in industrial products because it is easy to make on machines and easy to use on uniform items.

This was a short list of some of the wood joining method used in boat building. Most of the methods have roots within carpentry and are as such developed during generations but some are developed especially for boat building and ensure nice and long lasting wood joints proven in generations.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

15′ Daytrip canoe maiden voyage and stability test

I got an email the other day, honestly I get a lot of email every day, but this one was special 🙂

It was from Rolando Perez who has build the 15′ Daytrip canoe from the free plans available. Rolando was impressed by the performance and it exceeded his expectations.

Rolando did a video of his maiden voyage with the canoe. Check it out here:

And here:

Rolando also did a stability test and made a video of the test. That’s really interesting to see how much the canoe can take before capsizing. Enjoy 🙂

Read more about the 15′ Daytrip canoe and buy the boat plans here:

Boat plans for the 15′ Daytrip canoe

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

17′ Picnic barge being built

I have written about Marcel and his Picnic Barge before. Marcel from Holland is now close to being finished with the 17′ Picnic barge. Marcel has done a great job with the boat and we are all looking forward to the launching.

Check out the great pictures here:

Read more about the 17′ Picnic barge and buy the boat plans here:

Boat plans for the 17′ Picnic barge

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

14’ Motor dinghy being build in Australia

Paul Nelson from Australia is building a 14’ Motor dinghy. Paul is doing a modified version with no interior structures like steering console or seats. Paul likes the interior simple.

Check out some of Paul’s pictures here:

Since Paul is building his boat in Australia he has to fit a builders plate with information about the boat.

I have helped Paul with the different pieces of information that has to be present on the builders plate. If you are a builder from Australia I will of course also be able to help you with the information for your boat.

Read more about the 14’ Motor dinghy and buy the boat plans here:

Boat plans for the 14’ Motor dinghy

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

Creating & Equipping Your Boatbuilding Workshop

Whether you want to build boats to earn a living or are just expressing yourself through a hobby, you need a dedicated place to work. Thanks to modern technology, it is relatively easy to create and equip your boatbuilding workshop without much hassle.

While you can get as elaborate as you desire, there are really only 4 things to consider when designing a basic shop. None of the 4 are costly and all can be arranged quickly.

#1 – Space

Keep in mind that you and the finished boat need to fit into whatever space you create. What’s more, you will have to have room to move around the boat as you loft, cut and assemble the pieces.

One meter [3 feet] around the perimeter of the boat should give you the necessary elbowroom. You could feasibly work with less room, but it would most likely be cramped and uncomfortable.

#2 – Tools

The tools you equip your workshop with will depend 100% on your preferences and your wallet. You could cut and assemble the parts using nothing more than a handsaw, screwdriver and a manual drill. Needless to say, that will take more time and be a good deal more energy. Power tools would work best.

An electric jigsaw and a power drill should be all you require. Besides the tools, you will also need a measuring tape, pencil and some things (plastic spoons, for instance) that make working with epoxy and fiberglass easier.

#3 – Electricity

The use of power tools dictates the need for power. There are 3 common ways to rig your shop for electricity. (1) You can go all out and run dedicated electrical outlets to your shop. (2) You can drag heavy-duty electrical cords from your house/garage to your workshop. (3) You can use a gas-powered generator to provide electricity. Number 2 will be the more simple and affordable option.

#4 – Temperature

The only part of the boatbuilding process that is temperature sensitive is the epoxy phase. You, on the other hand, will be sensitive to temperatures all year long. For instance, if you choose to construct a temporary building that has no insulation, summer months will be sweltering as the heat builds within your walls. In addition, wintertime will be frigid with no way to keep your hands warm. (Wearing thick outdoor gloves will not be a good idea while working on a boat.) Fans and/or space heaters can be used to regulate temperatures when the climate is extreme.

Keep in mind that the temperature for epoxy use must be higher than 5°C [41°F].

If you are unable to keep your workspace comfortable for you and the epoxy, schedule your project around the seasons. You can start building in winter when the temperatures are much cooler. Plan your lofting and cutting of the pieces for spring. Next, assemble the pieces and do your gluing, taping and epoxy application during summer. You should be ready to launch your new boat by fall.

Whether temporary or permanent, creating a boatbuilding workshop is a necessary first step when taking on this type of project. Using these simple steps, you can easily develop a suitable place for constructing your boat and enjoy the fruit of your labor for years to come.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

5 Professional Tips for Building A Better Boat – Part 2

Continued from… 5 Professional Tips for Building A Better Boat – Part 1

3.  Make Fillets the Easy Way

When it’s time to bond the inside corners of your boat, a fillet is generally the way to go.  This can require the use of a special tool and a lot of patience.  Or you can make them the easy way using ordinary, disposable plastic spoons. To create the curved shape, just use the back of the spoons.  The spoons are sturdy enough to handle the thick epoxy.  They are also durable enough to hold up without dissolving in the resin.  Using disposable spoons makes cleanup easier, too!

4.  Clean Up Epoxy Stains Before They Cure

Have you ever tried cleaning epoxy stains off a surface?  It’s not a pleasant task.  Stains from epoxy on a boat are a pain to remove after the epoxy is cured. While it can be done, smart boat builders take the time to stop and clean the stains when they occur.  It’s ten times easier to do it before the epoxy cures.

5.  Bend Curved Panels Slowly During Assembly

There’s a bit of an art to bending panels for a boat.  To get the best results, you need to have a little patience.  Oftentimes boat builders are not aware that bending wood/plywood is much easier and requires much less effort if done slowly, just a bit at a time. Using this method, the natural fibers have a chance to stretch.  Also much less force is needed to bend wood panels slowly than forcing them with one quick stroke.

Above all, take your time and enjoy the process of building your boat.  You, like millions of others, can find this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life!

Do you want to read more? Do you want to learn more about boat building? Try check out my Boat Building Master Course. Available as paperback and for Amazon Kindle.

Click here to read more and order the Boat Building Master Course… 

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Naval Architect