Boat Building - Boat Building Tools and Use

Boat Building Tools and Use

Boat building uses many or the same tools that are common house tools such as hammers,cross cut saw, power drill, a bench and a vice. For building small boats under 5m some specialized tools are needed such as clamps(cramps) either G clamps or spring clamps. A minimum of 4 6inch(150mm) and 10 4inch(100mm) G clamps, plus 20 2 inch(50mm) steel spring clamps is need for ply on frame designs. More is better with clamps. Flat and round surform rasps are useful tools for shaping wood and ply. A drill set from 2-10mm ,several speedbor drills for larger holes 12-25mm,(1/2inch -1 inch) rotary sanding backing pads and a range of replacement sanding pads from coarse (40grit) to fine (180grit),counter sinking drills for screws,a right angle set square, a set of manual screw drivers with blades to match screws being used are essential. A heavy craft knife, an 8m(25ft) tape, flat and round metal files, a short level and a set of 3 chisels from 6 to 25mm are needed. Power tools make a job much easier and are relatively cheap . An 7 1/4inch(185mm) circular saw with a fine 40 tooth tungsten carbide blade, a jigsaw with a dust blower with a set of fine ,medium and coarse tooth metal and wood blades is good for cutting plywood panels to shape,a rotary oscillating sander with medium and fine pads and a cordless drill for driving screws all save time and energy. A fine tooth hacksaw is not only essential for cutting metal such as trimming stainless steel bolts to the correct length but is handy for ultra fine cuts in thin wood. A fine tooth tenon saw is used to cut across the grain to produce a reasonably fine, accurate cut. Some boat builders have started using Japanese draw saws for fine cuts but while these are excellent they tend to be very expensive. A No 4 smoothing plane is essential but an electric plane is very useful(but extremely loud) for making rudder blades and centreboards. A much longer No7 plane is needed if the design calls for a wooden spars as used in many modern "traditional" yachts.

In boat building lots of sanding requires using either dry sandpaper, or wet and dry paper, to achieve a reasonable paint or varnish finish. Sandpaper is graded from 40 (very coarse) to 400 (ultrafine). Wet and dry sandpaper lasts longer than dry sandpaper. Wet and dry is best used on paint finishes while dry paper is best used on dry wood. Spatula applicators, with a flexible stainless steel blade, are used to apply filler. A knife type and a flat 3"(75mm)type will cover most needs.

Bronze screws are normally used in boat building but can be hard to locate. Brass screws are more common but are softer and weaker. Stainless steel screws should be used for attaching fittings to the hull above the water line. Epoxy glue with its associated fillers is universally used in boat building due to its far superior holding power and ease of use. In its thickened state it is used as a strong filler and for a range of joints that do away with more traditional fastenings. A large supply of cheap wooden tongue depressors is useful for mixing and applying epoxy resin. The curved ends are useful for shaping coved joints with epoxy. Silicon bronze ring nails are excellent for permanent fastening of wood and ply as they are strong and easily driven. Many small boats are almost entirely fastened by epoxy resin. In stitch and glue construction the hull panels are temporarily held together with either copper wire, nylon fishing line or plastic cable ties, until the epoxy dries and then the stitching material is removed. Polyester filler is a quick setting(20mts), softer filler,suited to very small holes and scratches and is far more easily sanded to a fair shape than harder, stronger epoxy filler which takes 24 hours to set hard.

Boat building requires enough space, under cover, so that the builder can easily move around the hull during construction while holding and using tools, about 3 feet (c 1m) is enough. It also requires space at the bow and stern not only for working but for sighting down the gunwhale and chine lines to check they are fair. Have the bow at the garage door end for this reason. This is especially important in stitch and glue construction where no jig is used, as the play panels are very floppy until the glue sets.

Water based paint is far easier and cheaper to apply, as under coat, to produce a good smooth finish with a fraction of the time and effort of enamel paints but harder and slower drying enamel is best for the top coat on the outside of the hull which is subject to a lot of bumps and scraps. Limit varnishing to smaller areas, such as grab rails, hatches, toe rails and trim, unless you have lots of patience and a very dust free environment for varnishing. Use only Marine Gloss varnish on the outside, as interior varnish will peel off very quickly in hot sun and rain. Marine varnish has UV inhibitors to slow down peeling and fading. Never varnish a deck as it is slippery when wet. Even top quality marine varnish is not as water resistant as paint so you must apply at least 4 coats minimum. Often perfectionists will apply 8 coats or more to get a glass like, reflective finish. Never varnish submerged parts like rudders.

Boats take along time to build as there are almost no right angles. Amateurs working at night or in weekends commonly take a year to build a 12-16ft(3.6m -5m) craft. Builders with handyman skills will find that over time their skills will increase. For amateurs, starting with a boat built on a jig( temporary wooden frame)is useful as making the jig is all about right angles and basic carpentry skills. Sail boats require about 25% more time than a dinghy type because of the need for built in buoyancy, centreboard case, centreboard, rudder, mast, boom and a range of special fittings such as chain plates, gudgeons, blocks cleats and tracks.

Essential safety gear needed is closed in footwear,very high grade air protectors (especially if using a high revving electric plane or router),eye shields when cutting or grinding metal, disposable gloves when gluing,close fitting clothes that wont get caught in drills. Good light is essential. Boat builders should not work when they are tired and should keep the work floor clean so they don't trip over tools or wood or electric leads. A fan is handy for extra ventilaton if the work space does not have many opening windows or doors. Many boat builder like smaller tools to be bright coloured tools so they can see them easily amongst saw dust.

Other useful power tools are a belt sander, especially if using recycled timber or for finishing rough sawn timber. A thicknesser is only needed if building many boats or larger vessels as it is usually cheaper to pay a joiner to do this for a small amount of timber. A bench saw is useful if you buy larger sectioned timber, which may be considerably cheaper and need to saw it to the correct size, but again a timber yard will do this for a small charge.

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