Bending in the Ribs
March 25/26, 2016
There's a lot of this build we've never done before, but this step
- bending in the ribs, is the mostest not donedest. Literally have
no idea of what of what to do or expect beyond reading a couple
of books and a brief discussion with Harvey Golden of the Lincoln
Street Kayak Museum.
Oh, my, what a beautiful day to enter into the unknown. If you
are going to make a mess of things, it might as well happen on a
lovely spring day.
Today is the day I will be ripping the ribs from the oak plank.
I wanted to minimize the dust, so hooked up the shop vac to the
cyclonic separator. A wee bit of scrap ply adapted the exit of the
separator to the vac.
I am using a circular saw blade in the tablesaw - it is much thinner
than a tablesaw blade and results in less waste. There are 21 ribs
needed for the boat. As the plank was about 50" long and the
longest rib a little less than 33", I cut 16, expecting the
excess to fit the shorter ribs at the ends. I cut them 5/16 thick
and planed them to 1/4".
The thin strips of wood would jump and 'chatter' as I fed them
into the planer, taking big gouges out of the ends of the wood.
I decided maybe the blades were dull, as we've had the planer for
years and have never changed them. Swapping blades was dead easy
- good job, Dewalt! It didn't solve the problem, though. I asked
around and people said "Yep, thin strips jump and chatter when
fed into planers."
The oak I'm using is green and already very bendy, but the books
say the ribs should be soaked for a few days before bending. I've
heard "traditionally," the ribs are soaked in a special
mixture which includes, to a large part, urine. I don't have a few
days, and I don't have that much urine, but I do have overnight
and a whole slough of brackish water. I bundled them up and tossed
The board is set, the pieces in play. Tomorrow begins the adventure
into the unknown - the potential for disaster looms. Time to head
to Pig Feathers.
The bundle of ribs must have soaked up some water - it had floated
the night before, and now was sunk. That bodes well . . . don't
Friends of the Boathouse, Dan and Diane, along with their six-year-old
son, had sailed up from Newport on Friday evening, overnighted at
the transient docks, and were now headed home. I wished them well.
Now, it was time to get started.
Whoo hoo! Look at that bend! This might work, after all. Disregard
that heat gun in the background - it wasn't used at all for this
bend or any of the others.
Geoff got started on final prep. He was carefully tying the keel
into place so it would remain straight as we placed and lashed in
We cut a batten - about 1/8" thick so it bent very easily
- and did a test placement of the stringers and used some string
to simulate the skin so we can get an idea of the hull shape.
OK, first two ribs in and things are going well. No steal, no heat,
just brute force and a tiny bit of patience.
The mortises were starting to crack from the strain of the bent
wood, so we started clamping them before inserting the ribs. We
were shaping "by the eye" by now: Inserting one end of
the rib into it's mortise, bending it to shape, estimating the length,
removing it, trimming it, reinserting, and finally, shaping.
We have a new volunteer! Matt just got a job with the Port, I'd
met him on Friday and invited him to join us. This was working out
Two things going on here: First: the ribs down at the ends are
under a lot of stress and blew out one of the mortises, so we glued
the break and clamped it tight. The second thing to notice is the
holes we've drilled in the keel. That's where we'll run the lashings
for the ribs.
Dave joined us and we did final fit and shaping of the ribs.
Man, I love building boats like this. Everyone has something to
do, we aren't obsessed with measurements, and the boat looks beautiful.
There she is - and looking good, too.
Next week: Peg the ribs to the gunnels, rip the stringers, and
lash them into place. We are getting close!