John's Boat Shop

Best place to find locally built, small boats (dories, dinghies, skiffs, etc) for your every need!

It seems messing about in boats is more fun than updating my website…

Well, it’s been two years (again), and a lot has happened. The local lumberyard has closed (but replaced by an offshoot of another), I added a sail to the dory (but no centerboard or rudder), and we had a pandemic (in case you didn’t notice).

Let’s talk about the dory 🙂

So, it turns out that you can sail a dory quite a bit without a centerboard/daggerboard/leeboard, and without a rudder. You just can’t go upwind very well.

Here are some pictures of the mast being formed…

After epoxying the two boards and measuring, – the cutting/shaping begins.

Little bit at a time…
Almost there…
and finally!
Mast partners and step.
Fancy mast partners support…
More “stuff” and another view of the mast step (all plywood layers)
It works! And you can sail right up onto the beach!

Note the Optimist training sail! It’s a perfect fit, and it is a traditional spritsail.

The regular Optimist sails have battens and a funny shape. Could not have that on my dory. Just wouldn’t do…

Perhaps I’ll cut or buy another spritsail that I can lace on at some point. I’d also like to try a jib, -which would require access to the mast under that sleeve…

But it works!

Here I am sailing along the beach. Here’s how it is done:

For downwind sailing => sit in the BACK of the boat, as far BACK as possible. Let the sail out. Down you go…

For upwind(ish) sailing => MOVE FORWARD => This puts more of the forward end of the boat in the water, as if you had a centerboard or daggerboard down (well, doesn’t provide sideways slip like those items do, but…).

To Steer: Lean left or right to “dig” the boat in where needed, and MOVE forward and aft. You’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.

Not rudder! No Board! NO OARS (read about using them to steer in all the “expert forums”, – they never worked for me). I think if you have a center/dagger/lee board, then the steering oar concept would work better.

So control of the boat is through bodyweight placement and sail control. That’s it!

I CANNOT SAIL UPWIND – OR ANYWHERE CLOSE TO IT. But you can point up to some degree – you just drift sideways quite a bit. Might try a leeboard w/ a fender against the side of the boat at some point. The issue w/ dories and leeboards seems to be the that leeboard should slant out, but the sides of the dory slant in, a lot… Will let you know how that goes.

Now, I have to decide if I want to put a hole in the bottom of the boat for a centerboard or daggerboard, -or just build a sailboat 🙂 Not crazy about changing the boat. It rows well (if slowly and like a pig). Not sure I want to mess with it. Then again, because it rows slowly and like a pig, I might want to use it for sailing more than rowing and build a real pulling boat.

So many decisions!

Life is good. Don’t forget it folks. I try to remember how lucky I have it everyday. Even if I’m not rich, I have it way better than many, many people out there. And I am extremely thankful. Especially that I seem to have my health, most of the time… I try to remember this when I get frustrated. Is whatever I’m worried about really that important? Think: Food, Water, Shelter, Security.

Life is good.

Ok, so I’ve been slacking a bit…

Yeah, it’s been about 2 years! But I’m still building and boating…

Here are the latest pics of the dory… We’ve been getting a lot of use out of it !

Up next: How about a downwind sail on that thing?…

More updates:

Trimaran – I bailed on that idea – I didn’t like the feel of the laminated beams against the hull. They were too big and bulky. If they got loose, could have torn up the boat, and maybe the people in it. So I took the boat out “as is” for one last season. It was great.

So, Dory is done and in the water. Launch is gone. Dinghy is gone too. Time for another boat 🙂

(Also been doodling a lot. I keep coming up w/ a trailerable power scow or sharpie. I’ve got this 15hp outboard now, see…. Or I could sell it and just buy a Grand Banks or something).

Laminating Those Trimaran Beams…

Wood is expensive!

I decided to use Radiata Pine from the HomeDepot for the beams. Problem is, their website says they have tons of 16 footers in stock, but NONE of the local stores have ANY.

So, off to negotiate with the local lumber yard (which is sometimes worse than going to a used car lot…).

I ordered (12) 1x4x16 boards.

I got (14) 1x5x16 boards instead. Seems they couldn’t get the order right. But I did get the wider boards for the same price as the 1x4s. So I can’t complain too badly. In the end, I just hope they’re not too big/heavy (although I’m not sure what that would actually mean…?).

Ok, so I set everything up perfectly. I mean clamps, cauls, etc. Perfect. See?:

Then when I epoxied them up (pure epoxy both sides, -then one thickened layer (wood flour) on one side only), I couldn’t get them perfect. Really frustrating! I think I didn’t clamps them up from the middle out quite enough. I did, but something must have gotten stuck somewhere. I tried to fix it for about an hour. It wouldn’t go back to perfect 🙁  I do, however, think it’s probably good enough. And I’ll wrap some fiberglass around it for good measure. Maybe. We’ll see (yes, this is my typical design spiral)…

More after I get them cleaned up…

Too Busy!!!

Here’s what’s going on:

  1. The dory progresses:
    1. Got out the transom
    2. Ready to glue in both the stem and transom SOON!
    3. (Note the ever-present cheap underlayment, -now being used as battens)
  2. That old utility launch…
    1. I just couldn’t get rid of it. I was going to junk it since it was a prototype built of the cheapest materials, but my wife argued against it. My wife! How can I argue w/ her about a decision like this? 🙂
    2. So, it’s going to become a trimaran. Yep. A power trimaran for starters. -And then it might even grow a few sails…
    3. Those hulls came from CraigsList. I figure it saved me a couple of months of (the usual part time, SLOW, design/build process…) work
  3. The dinghy delaminates…
    1. Well, not really, but the outer, thin layer of the floor underlayment that I used, is coming off on the inside of the boat (where the top edge at the sheer wasn’t enclosed by sheer clamp, -which is on the OUTSIDE of the boat…)
    2. All the literature says don’t use that stuff… Well, my wallet says otherwise. So now I’ve got to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
    3. Ok, next time I’ll still go w/ the cheap stuff, but I’ll try to avoid the thin outer layer (like paper thin)…

Quick Dory Update…

Here are some updated pics from the dory build (haven’t worked on it in a couple of weeks w/ the holidays and stuff….). I made up some stands for the bottom, and shored it up (down?) with 2×4’s to the overhead… I have the first piece of 1/4 template material bent around one side to see how much I still need to plane from the bottom (not much fortunately…). Note that the frame moulds are just that. They are not the final frames… (I wrestled with this decision for awhile after reading John Gardner’s book vs looking at pictures from the guys in Nova Scotia. The “mould frames first, add the right angled frames later” approach seems more in line with my “don’t get hung up on the details approach to all things. It seemed to me to be easier to move the moulds as needed to accommodate the natural lay of the planks, then get out the actual frames later when it’s all good…).

Dust Collection

So, for years, I did almost all of my woodwork outside. Occasionally, I would keep the doors closed if it was too cold, but really, if it was too cold, I stayed in the house!

This year I said “enough is enough” and sprang for a dust collection system.

Here’s what I did:

1. Bought a starter kit


2. Bought a fig-a-ma-jig that gets placed on top of a bucket to separate out the dust so your shop vac doesn’t get clogged


3. Bought a bunch of extra hoses and a couple of extra gates and Y connectors that I still haven’t used…

4. Bought a little switchy thing to turn the vacuum outside on/off

5. Built an enclosure for the shop vac OUTSIDE – so the dust doesn’t blow right back into the shop… (duh – have heard arguments for and against, but for me it’s just “duh”…)

Uh, that’s it !


Retooling the shop for the Dory build

Ok, so I got out the stem (w/ knee) and the beginning of the transom…

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After planing the transom, I wanted to use the belt sander to get it perfect. Then I realized, it’s getting cold out!

Now, let me explain some stuff…

First of all, the last major project I undertook was a 35′ boat that had to be built outside. So all of the sawing, power planing, grinding, sanding, etc., happened outside. After a couple of years, I got good at planning out the work to take the seasons into account (no major epoxy work in the winter, make sure the tent goes up for summer shade, etc.).

The dory is different, I wanted to build the boat indoors. My shop is only 12 x 16, so building a 12′ dory, that’s actually 15′ 6″ long (dories are measured on the bottom) is a challenge. More on that later.

But the first problem I faced in the last couple of weeks was sawdust! When it gets cold, I turn on my little electric heater, and I don’t want to go outside! But as you probably know, using a radial arm saw, power planer, etc., creates way too much dust to just “hurry up and get it over with”. So, over the last few weeks I’ve installed some vacuum ducting and just this weekend I built a small enclosure outside the shop for the shop vac. I haven’t worked on the boat very much!! There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I’ve got everything set up pretty much the way I want it at this point. 

(I’ll dive into the whole vacuum / dust collection thing in my next post)…

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About that 15’6″ boat in the 16′ shed…

Well, first I measured the diagonal between the far end of my large shed doors and the back corner. Yes, a 15’6″ will make it OUT the door (that’s the most important part).

Here’s how I retooled the shop for the dory:

  1. I got everything OUT of the shop (only 1 workbench stayed in place)
  2. Chalked a line on the diagonal, which is the space with the greatest length, then penciled it in so it wouldn’t disappear
  3. Made sure I could walk around the boat! (penciled in all the stations, especially the stem and transom)
  4. Left enough room on both ends to spring the planks in (I hope)
  5. Put some of the stuff I took out, back in the shed, -but left a LOT of stuff out. Lots of cleaning/sorting/throwing out stuff… Amazing the stuff I’ve collected over the years…
  6. Made sure everything has wheels (I am working on bandsaw mobility. There are a lot of neat tricks posted on the net…)

After all of this, I built some stands for the bottom of the boat and laid it in. I have one vertical support so far to push down on frame 2. All the other spots are sitting where they should. Will shore stuff up more when I get back to working on the boat.

Dory build…

I’m working on a new boat (as usual). A Banks Dory designed by John Gardner. 12′ on the bottom (as Dory’s are typically measured). 15’6″ overall.

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The bottom is done. 2 pieces of 3/4′ ply scarfed together, beveled w/ a plane, spokeshave, and (after I got tired) electric handplane, -after cutting to shape with the circular saw.

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I experimented with the frames. I used 2×4 material with 1/2″ plywood gussets. I didn’t like the way they look, so I resewed the 2×4’s on the bandsaw and used mesh plates to join them. Much better looking IMHO…

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I laminated the stem from 2 resawed 2x4s. I think I could probably get away w/ just 1 2×4.

Am thinking that the whole point of a dory is to build a boat easily & cheaply. So next time (maybe even this time) I will use the 2×4’s “as is” (save time) and definitely stick w/ the mesh plates.

Transom and the rest of the frames are up next…

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