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
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
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
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
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
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.