Coracle Build: Making the Gunnel
April 12, 2014

We are going to be building a pair of Severn-Ironbridge coracles based on an interpretation by Hannu Vartiala, who has a simply brilliant web page chock full of fun designs:

The specific design we will be using is found on his page about Building a Plywood Coracle and we will be sticking to his design as closely as possible. We've already made a pair of paddles and ripped all the laths we will need, the next step is making the gunnel, where all the laths will attach.

I've been using Alowood and Poplar for various parts of the boat, so continued that theme for the seats. They are 10" wide, 42" long, and 3/4" thick.

The first step is to attach the temporary brace to the bottom of the seat. The brace is 54" long, width is not specified, so I just grabbed some scrap. The midpoint of the brace is lined up with the forward edge of the seat, centered on the seat, and temporarily attached with a couple screws.

The gunnel is made by laminating 3 layers of lath around the cross made by the seat and the brace. (sorry about the photo quality - I'd fire my photographer if I could) I found the first lath to be the most difficult as I had to screw one end down to hold it in place while I got the length. I am using #6 3/4" wood screws for this, 2 screws per each end of the lath.

Tightly bend the lath around seat and brace and mark where you want the end to hit. I wanted to stagger the ends of each layer, so I picked different end/start points for each. Mark the end and cut it off.

Remove the temporary screws, lay down your glue, and screw it back on.

I'm countersinking the screwholes so the heads fit flush and they won't interfere with the next layer.

A single lath is not long enough to go all the way around, butt the next piece against the first, temp screw it in place . . .

. . . tightly bend it around and mark where it meets on the other side. Remove the temp screws, cut to length, and . . .

. . . glue and screw it into place.

The next layers are easier because you don't have to temporarily screw the first end down - just clamp it where you want to start and tightly bend the lath around to the other side

After it is cut to length, slather it with glue (I'm using TiteBond III for this, but any waterproof-ish glue should work.)

I didn't pull the laths as tight as I might have, so I clamped everything together to make sure I have good contact. This project took less than 40 minutes to glue up.

Next will be weaving the basket of the coracle. That will happen on May 2, starting at 10am, at the Boathouse.