The Coracle Build - Part 1
May 2, 2015

We will be making two coracles based on this design by Hannu Vartial. We'd hoped to do both coracles today, but plans don't always work out.

I'd made some spacers to keep the laths the correct distance apart. Rather than do Hannu's technique of starting the weave from the center lath, I decided to draw on my pie-making skills and lay out all the vertical laths first.

We wanted to hold the laths in place and Bob volunteered to act as a weight, standing on a piece of scrap that went across all the laths.

It didn't take long to decide to screw the board down and use Bob to help with the weaving. It was shockingly difficult to slide the laths into place, so it was a team effort. Mike held the alternating vertical laths up while Geoff kept the ends even and he, Bob and I pulled the crosswise laths into place (John took pictures.)

Nine up and down and nine lefty-righty. Push push, slide slide.

Once we got 'em all in place, we set the gunwale structure on top to see how it all worked out.

Next came placement of the three seat posts. There are fancier ways of doing this, but we are just running a screw down through the seat and up from the bottom. We drilled pilot holes all the way through.

Bob and I attached the seat supports to the seat.

And then set it in place.

Can you hear my knees creak? We were attaching little 'legs' to the gunwale to hold it at the right height while we worked on the laths.

Final height check

Mike and I had practiced bending laths earlier - we found it helped to wet the wood while heating it with a heat gun.

Now it was time to put it to the test.

We did the center, thwart laths first, then the center, longitudinal ones.

When I was out getting more water for the spritzer, I found Jolie and her husband walking the docks, taking pictures. I asked them if they wanted to help build coracles, they said "Sure! What's a coracle?"

Jolie became our primary spritzer while Bill watched. You can see we'd found we needed something to hold the seat down as we attached laths - I recommend sliding your straps under the laths before you start bending - it'd be easier that way.

We (I) cracked two of the laths. At first, I thought it was because I was bending too hard, too fast, but when the second one broke at nearly the same place, we decided it was a flaw in the ply. We'll either leave it be or figure out a fix for next week.

Bill and Jolie as we continue bending.

36 bends - we were learning as we went along. It is possible we were trying to get the bottom too flat, but I wanted the bottom as flat as possible to make the boats as stable as possible.

Almost done - we were much faster now.

All the laths were in place - time to cut off the excess. Do you have a Japanese Pull Saw from Duckworks yet? You should.

We decided to remove the weights and strapping and secure the bottoms of the seat supports.

The boat is very light.

Now we needed the corner laths. After much discussion, we decided this was the right way to do it.

Cut the corner laths and we are done.

Did I already say the boat is light? It is very light - like 10 or 12 pounds. Very nice.

How do you make a coracle go? You can't paddle like a canoe, you'd just spin. You lean out over the front and pull the water to you in a sculling motion.

Or is it the back? Which end is the front or back? We won't know until we can do some testing.

We finished the day with a little practicing of the sculling stroke off the docks before heading to Pig Feathers for lunch.

There will be another Coracle Build at the Boathouse on May 9, starting at 10am.