The Build Process

In June 1994 this all seemed like such a huge undertaking to us. We had few tools, not much space to work and no experience building boats.

There were no digital cameras, and the internet was in it's infancy as we know it. I managed to document most of the stages of construction quite crudely, but there have been many advances in technology since, and lots of better records have been kept since.

I've scanned the original images and used those because it is our build after all, but our gallery has links to many other construction photos of later boats.

In this short description of the construction sequence, I have noted things that I would do differently with the benefit of a few more decades of experience. All pictures open to 600 x 600 pixels if further detail is required and our gallery page now has links to several Flickr galleries as well as our personal one where you can also see images at full size.

Our original construction diaries as published in Australian Amateur Boatbuilder in Autumn 1995 can be found here, for those with a nostalgic bent!


Lofting really did happen in the only space available; our living room.

Normal life just went on around me, kids in bed, dinner finished, fairing battens on the carpet, and the tele on on the other side of the job.

Lofting is really a misnomer, it's really setting out along gridlines clearly illustrated in the plans.

Cutting out the Stuff

In what seemed like almost no time at all, it seems I'd cut out all the bits and laid them on the garage floor ready to start gluing stuff together.

Note the masking tape on the bullkhead panels to prevent mess. These days I'd precoat the panels before gluing, and clean up before the epoxy had fully cured.

Bulkhead Framing

I was determined not to have any exposed screw holes in areas which would be clear finished. This increased the degree of difficulty somewhat, but thanks to half a dozen friends, I managed to borrow a motley collection of clamps that did the trick.

I'd still do it this way, but over the years I have an impressive collection of $2.00 g-clamps so it's a bit easier to manage!

Bulkheads One and Two

Bulkheads one and two, rear facing sides all ready for assembly.

Note the hole in bulkhead one for the access hatch is offset to allow access when the mast is in place. I can't remember if that's in the plan or not, but if it's not, it's a handy hint!

These days I'd epoxy the ply before assembling too. It makes sanding so much easier if it's pre-finished.

Bulkheads Three and Four

Bulkheads three and four. The observant will note a small hole between the access panels in bulkhead four. This isn't in the drawings. I was originally going to put only one access way in, but thought better of it.

My neighbour came over and began talking to me as I drilled the first hole - in exactly the wrong spot!

Transom Inner Face

The transom is another reason why you'd epoxy coat before gluing on the bits, it's really tricky to sand afterwards!

Note the curved top beam is NOT in accordance with the plan. Michael's designed beam is much lighter in appearance.

Assembly Begins

It all gets a bit exciting about now, the boat is assembled using drywall screws that will come out after the epoxy has cured.

Next the transom will be fitted, then the other bulkheads will be glued into place.

The Hull Takes Shape

Wow. It's looking like a boat, and already the elegance in the form is apparent. This was a very exciting time.

If you click for a larger view you will clearly see the square plywood pads used to spread the load of the temporary screws. The pads have packing tape on their faces to stop them sticking.

If a screw gets stuck, it's an easy matter to loosen it, by heating the head with a soldering iron.

All Bulkheads In Place

It's pretty impressive to us, at this point it looks as though it will be a boat!

Although it's barely apparent, I pre-finished the interior with epoxy, and unfortunately only light-sanded before assembly, leaving much sanding work for later!

It's a lot easier to sand and finish while everything is flat.

Check For Level

It's a good time to check that all the bulkheads are level before the epoxy goes off. This is easy to do by simply sighting along the bulkheads.

If the tops and/or bottoms are not perfectly parallel, the bulkheads aren't level and there will be a few problems fitting the bottom.

Use packers under the sides to get them perfectly parallel till the epoxy cures.

Fitting The Bottom

We've missed a few steps, but the bottom has obviously been fitted here, as before it's held together with temporary screws.

Here the chines have been glassed and a few sealing coats of epoxy have been applied. The boat is now ready for filling and fairing.


In this case the plywood hulls were mostly fair, and only small amounts of fill were needed as can be seen in here.

A couple of the screw fixings had left localised depressions in the surface.

All is sanded with a Random Orbital Sander or wet and dry paper, and then a high build primer applied.

Filling and Fairing the Hull

Fairing the hull can be a tedious affair. It certainly is for me, but time spent here is well worth it as it really reflects in the end result.

Thickened epoxy filling compound is applied and screeded across all the little hollows, and of course the taped areas, to eliminate any signs of bumps.

High Build Primer

Here the primer is on, and the sanding process has begun. I've started to glue the inwhale spacers on while the sanding goes on.

Because I didn't own enough clamps, the spacers are simply screwed in place, (temporary screws of course) as are the inner gunwhales until the glue cures.


Sanding becomes a bit of a brain and arm numbing experience. Here we've marked the high spots with pencil.

We'll sand by hand with a longboard - a piece of ply about two feet long with sandpaper attached, until the pencil marks have gone.

We're about ready for primer and painting.


The prime coat is on, and I'm not sure that the final paint coat isn't either in this shot.

Sanding of all the clear bits is underway, the masking round the transom is visible, and the inwhale spacers are being coated ready for the inwhales to be fitted.

Just the outer gunwhale to go as well and the hull will be finished.

Trial Fitting The Mast

We thought it would be a good idea to fit the mast before finishing all the internal varnish, so the boat went out to the driveway for a bit.

Each time we stood back we felt more and more excited!

Final Finishing

Back inside for five coats of varnish. Over three coats of epoxy this has lasted for fifteen years under cover. The boat has been stored in the open under a custom canvas style cover, so has been subjected to significant heat, and very little deterioration was experienced for the first 12 years or so.

The Name

No point in going to all that trouble to save a few cents on a name plaque. Gruff (short for Billy Boat Gruff), was cut from two different sign writer's vinyl and applied before the varnish.


About now all the hard work is really starting to show. I was always going to install antiskid on the floor, but couldn't bring myself to do it.

Interestingly it wasn't too slippery for many years, until wear on the surface took it's toll, and when I eventually revarnish, I will certainly use some sort of anti slip treatment.

Looking Forward

In more ways than one!

Almost ready for the big day now.


The simplicity of the rigging is really apparent here.

One U-bolt positioned near the mast.

Main sheet sheave tied between the limberholes in the centre thwart, (click on the picture for a bigger image)

Mainsheet traveller tied to the inwhales aft.

That's it!

The Launch!

Amazingly she didn't just float, she seemed to float a few inches above the water!



on this site

exceeding expectations
the build process
michael's comments
construction diary
plans and contacts

our other sites

eureka canoe
two foot skiff
canal cruiser

useful links
storer forums
storer design blog
storer plan agents

not so useful links

fading memories
paint blogging
our flickr

meaningless statistics

last update February 2008
visitors to date
image linking to 100 Top Boating Sites