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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.