In my last post I said that I had decided to build another guideboat. This will be the fourth guideboat that I will have built in the traditional fashion. I said that I would do things differently this time. This was prompted by remembering all the work done in the past to make the laminated ribs and stems for a boat. It seemed to take months and it probably did. In the end they are worth the effort since they are stronger, yet as light, as those made from spruce roots. Some people find that appearance of the laminated components very attractive with their dark and light bands. I was forced to use laminated ribs in my earlier boats because spruce roots simply couldn’t be found.
That changed when Keith Austin at Blue Line Hardwoods in Long Lake said he would sell me spruce root flitches (roots) for making the ribs and stems for my latest boat. What a great idea, I thought. Now I would be able to build a guideboat truly as the old time builders did. I would find out how to lay out the ribs and stems to follow the grain of the root and see what other challenges there are in using this old way of doing things. I knew that these slabs, taken from stumps, are truly a natural material. As such they would present some surprises. I was not disappointed.
Blue Line Hard Wood also had a nice plank of quarter sawn pine sixteen feet long and ten inches wide that I could use for the bottom board. Up to now I had had to scarf two shorter planks together to get the length I needed. Scarfing works fine but is not easily done with stock this size.
Brian, the proprietor of Blue Line Hardwoods, said he would deliver the flitches and bottom board stock to me in Delaware. Since it would be a month or more before he could arrange for delivery, I decided to make a set of seat frames for the new boat. This is putting the cart before the horse but I had the time so why not. I made the seat frames before making the boat the last time around so why not now too.
Like most things involved with guideboats nothing comes together at right angles (except the middle seat) This complicates matters since a little misalignment on one rail or stile throws everything off. I’m using the cabinet maker’s convention here; the stile is the vertical piece of the frame and the rail the horizontal one.
So we start by cutting dados (grooves) in the stiles. This is the first step in making the tenons. This is most easily done using the table saw and the miter gage set at the proper angle. Here we go.
The miter gage is behind my hands so you can’t see it. It is set so as to give the proper angle to the dado cut. I have ganged two stiles together so that each gets an identical cut.
Next we cut away the excess with a band saw to produce the tenon.
Before I did some hard thinking about how to do this tenoning thing I bought a jig from Delta to make tenons. Here it is:
It is definitely not worth the money. You use it with a Delta dado blade assembly that makes the tenon with two passes. The stile is clamped into it and passed over the rotating dado blade. The problem I had with it was that the dado blade assembly did not produce a clean straight cut but instead a sort of a “lip” at the shoulder.
The completed tenons are squared up with the rails as shown below.
The mortises in the rails are done next. To do these I use my plunge router. I made a jig consisting of a box, open at each end, that had a spring-loaded panel on one side. This arrangement held the rail centered over the router’s bit but allowed it to be moved under the rotating bit. It enabled me to plunge the bit into the rail to the proper depth and move the rail against the spinning bit until the mortise was as long as the tenon was wide. The set-up is shown below.
Any irregularities in the mortise are cleaned up using a chisel.
The tenons need to be rounded on each end so they will fit into the mortise. I use my long board to sand them into shape.
There is some backing and forthing to get the four frame joints to fit properly. Sometimes you feel you are chasing your tail in trying to get all four to match up. You no sooner get one or two joints to fit together nicely when the others go awry. After some perserverence things come together and it is time to glue up the frames. I use resorcinol glue for that job.
Now to tackle the seat back for the stern seat. The seat back for the stern seat is unusual in that the top of it is rounded. You start making it by laying it out and cutting out the shape of the top on the band saw. A dado is cut into it just as with the stiles. In the case of the stern seat the tenons, which are now on the frames, fit into the uprights, or stiles. Here the dado is being cut into the upper seat back.
The excess is removed with a band saw to form the tenon. The next step is to form the curve in the seat back. You start by cutting away the excess with a band saw.
I use my block plane with the rounded sole to complete the rounding of the seat back.
Once all the frames and seat back are glued up the next thing is to drill the holes for the cane. The holes should be 1/4″ in diameter and 5/8″ apart. It is best to lay them out with a compass. Here they are being drilled into the middle seat frame.
I round off the top side holes just to make it easier on the cane. I use my portable electric drill and a countersink bit to do that.
Time now to apply several coats of spar varnish and they are ready for caning. I found out long ago that I didn’t have the where with all for caning and I gladly pay for someone who does. Here are the seat frames ready for the caner.
Next time the flitches arrive. Will there be enough to make 48 ribs and two stems?