Fitting the Decks

Fitting the decks is a rather satisfying stage of a boat's construction. It's a bit like turning the hull over for the first time, or putting a roof on a new building. It's confirmation that progress has been made.

At the time I undertook this stage of the work, the building instructions weren't finalised, so some of this work will be out of sequence with the instructions. You can do it my way if you like to fiddle rather than finish, or you can take the easy way out and do it Michael's way, but either way you'll end up with a nice boat!

One major deviation here was my addition of two deck beams to finish the edges of the deck. These just give the edge a little extra strength and just as importantly to us, give a good hand hold for carrying the boat. They do take significantly more work though.

Trial fitting the deck

Why I could never recommend decks of 6mm ply! To be blunt it's a cow of a thing to bend over such a small radius, just use 4 mm and be happy.

The ply bends happily over the big radius, but flattens out very quickly with potentially rather nasty effect, although I've seen a couple of boats with flat decks and they really don't look too bad.

Of course I built the whole boat from 4mm, but had some 6mm left over from another project and was too tight to buy more!

Shaping the deck beam

I did say I'm happiest with a spoke shave in my hand! The deck beam is shaped in two directions, to give the deck camber, and also gently curved at it's edge.

I'll rebate it as well so that the deck finishes flush with it.

I've also decided to set the deck flush with the tops of the gunwhales, but that will come later.

Deck beam shaped

Here the beam is shaped, ready to fit into the hull.

It's one of those slowly slowly things as I'm going to have to halve it over the inwhale and it's all got to end up flush with the deck.

Checking the fit

The beam in it's final location. Well at least it fits between the hull sides, now it's got to be rebated.

Cutting the rebate

I could have used a router to do this, but that would have taken no time at all, and I'd probably be paddling by now.

It gave me an excuse to pull out one of my Dad's old planes and spend a few hours cleaning and sharpening it, as well as making a convex fence to fit the curve of the timber.

Next time I'll probably use a router though.!

Centre Stringer

In order to keep the deck camber as consistent as possible, I fitted a centre stringer. This is now a standard piece of construction, and combined with the thinner ply works very well.

Note that the deck beam has been fitted (as have the inwhales) and the deck is ready to fit.

Centre stringer in place

All ready to deck, we'll deal with the inwhales in a minute. One of the challenges of documenting the build is that many things actually happen at once, but of course we can only read about them one at a time.

Clamping the deck

There are a few ways of clamping the deck. Some use cleats and the gunwhale fixed in place.

I rather like simple packaging tape. The more you wrap, the more pressure it exerts.

Waiting for gunwhales

I did say I was messy, here the decks are wayyy oversize ready to trim, the deck beam rebates were deliberately deep to allow for any slight misalignment of the deck, and now need planing to level.

Building the Inwhales and Gunwhales

The inwhales and gunwhales are just bits of timber stuck on really. That's all there is to it.

Most will use a simple square cut spacer for the inwhales, and the job will be done in fifteen minutes. Most will use temporary screws and just get on with it, and the job will be done in twenty minutes.

Ahh. Well it does take a few evenings doing it my way, specially if you only have enough clamps for half a hull at a time!

Cutting inwhale spacers

I like to put a nice little concave on my spacers. Some will argue that this is a nonsense, that they were originally the ribs of the boat and therefore rounding them has no design validity.

I say they aren't ribs, and I like the way they look when rounded so tough!

So I make a jig and cut them using a Forstner bit in my drill press, then sand them with a drum set in the press.

Gluing in whale spacers

Here I'm gluing on the spacers, one at a time. I set them up about 6mm (1/4") above the line of the bottom of the inwhale, so that any misalignment will be invisible.

I did one side at a time because I only have thirty clamps, but glued the inwhale on the first side as the spacers were going on the second.

Of course if I'd used screws, I wouldn't have needed any clamps.

wales3Inwhales in position

Inwhales and spacers now in position, only the gunwhales to go, and that's just a matter of gluing on the timber to the outside of the boat!

Bulkhead detail

It may not be tradesman like, but some people spend a lot of time getting a perfect fit in places which will never be seen.

Here is the junction of the bulkhead with inhwales. It will be under the deck behind the beam, so there's no point in fiddling for hours, and if I say that, you'd tend to believe it!

Inwhales on, waiting for deck

This picture is almost out of sequence, but you can see the next step is to fit the deck framing as set out above.

Trimming gunwhales

In my sequence, the gunwhales go on after the deck. This is because I think it's easier to trim the deck flush with the sides, then fit the gunwhales flush with the deck.

The gunwhales are tapered slightly in the vertical dimension, and then tapered in thickness toward the ends. Here the right hand side has been completed, and you can see a very subtle lightening of the appearance.

Cleaning up the glue joints

With everything in place it's time to clean all the mess, I wish I was a cleaner builder, but I'm not, so I need to sand more than most. Here, just a little more is needed to remove the last snip of epoxy in the join, but here is the inwhale/deckbeam/deck join, read for final trim

Getting ready to coat

Well actually the decks can be coated now, but we still need to fit the seats before we finish!


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building - bulkheads and spreader
building - decks and whales
building - the seats
building - finishing
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