Coracle Build Part 2
May 9, 2015

We put together the frame of our first coracle last week. We learned a lot, and we made a few mistakes. Time for corrections and building the second frame.

We had a total of three of the laths break, and we knew we had to come up with a fix. While it would have been possible to un-weave the boat and replace the lath, 'possible' is not always practical. The decision was to make a new curved piece, glue it over the break, and sand the outside smooth.

While bending a new piece, I broke another lath. It is interesting to me the failure happened on the inside of the bend where the fibers were under compression. I believe the interior surface gives way first and the exterior face eventually snaps. That's my guess, anyway.

I used PL Premium for the gluing because it expands to fill gaps as it cures, but also because I had an open tube laying around.

While the PL cured, I backed out the screws at the top of the lath and dribbled some TiteBond III in there. The screws were too long - the poked through to the inside by 1/8 inch. Once the glue was cured, I would remove them.

That was more or less it for Friday - nobody else came to the Boathouse so I rigged up the Goose and went sailing. It was great.

Here's how the fix on the broken laths came out. I took the belt sander and smoothed out the hard spot.

I didn't like how the raw plywood looked, but I really didn't want to paint it. I rooted through the paint locker and found some deck oil. Walnut is a little dark, but the price was right, so it worked out great.

John and Charlie showed up. John liked the stain and jumped right in to help. When we finished, we set the frame outside in the sun to dry.

Bob arrived, and it was time to get cracking on the second coracle. Rather than crawl around on the floor, we set up a piece plywood on some sawhorses as a build platform. This picture was taken at 10:33a.

Joe showed up, too! A real Coot gathering.

We figured out how to raise alternating laths and started cranking along. The weaving puts a lot of force on the laths - we really have to push on 'em to get them seated. The spacing blocks (2 5/8 square) are a great help.

Weaving done, it was time to place the seat and gunnel.

The straps keep are an attempt to keep the gunnel from rising as the laths are attached. It sort of works. The heat guns come from Harbor Freight and can be as cheap as $10 if you watch for sales.

That's a tight bend. We are getting better at this.

The bow has a gentler curve. Significant, but gentler.

From the last one, we learned we really want to have the bottom held down as much as possible - you can see we have some scrap screwed down to hold the laths down.

Almost done - just a couple more bends.

Corner laths.

That's it - 18 laths and 4 corners = 40 bends and not a single break. Time to saw off the excess. This picture was taken at 12:17, roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes after the first one.

We took it outside and set it next to the first one - they are very similar, even though we did the second one better. Time for lunch at Pig Feathers.

When we got done with lunch, it was 1:18p, plenty of time to do something, and since I still had everyone there, we decided to skin the first coracle.

We get the 8 oz polyester cloth from George Dyson in Bellingham. This is the same cloth (from the same order, actually) as we used in the Family Boat Build in 2011. We needed nine feet of 70" wide (or wider) cloth to cover one coracle.

We started by stapling down one end - using stainless steel staples, of course - pulling as tight as we could, and stapling down the other end.

Corners are hard. We did our best to pull tight. The right way to do this is to pull as tightly and wrinkle free as possible and staple all around the gunnel.

Back to the heat guns. This polyester cloth is wonderful - it shrinks up really well.

Here's a corner pre-shrinking.

and here it is after. Good, but not perfect.

Here's a shot of a corner we did better.

Joe went around and and set all the staples . . .

. . . and then he and Bob cut off the excess with a heat knife (also from Harbor Freight)

And that's it, all we need to do now is paint it. We had a lot of discussion about the color. I wanted varnish, which would give it a translucent, skin-ish color. Or maybe pink. I was soundly voted down in favor of semi-gloss black to mimic the color they would have gotten using tar. No one has a sense of style any more.

The boat is shockingly light. This is going to be great.

Tune in next week for the skinning of the second coracle and the painting of both.