Thursday, February 22, 2007

Two seats, a skeg and a mast spar

I added SiteMeter to this blog a few weeks ago, and I would like to thank all of you for your interest in my wooden skiff building project. So far there have been over 150 visitors from a dozen different countries all around the world, stretching from Alaska to Australia. I was aware that Chesapeake Light Craft has a very widespread appeal and a global customer base, but I am very pleased to see the interest in this simple yet elegant sailing skiff. I remember seeing a post on CLC's Builder's Forum some time ago wherein the person was asking if anyone has built a Jimmy Skiff ™, and questioned the Jimmy Skiff's ™ popularity. Here was CLC's response:

"We've sold more Jimmy Skiffs over the years than Skerries and Passagemaker Dinghies combined; it's one of our most popular non-paddling boats. (Blogs and forums aren't a reliable measure of the number of boats out there.)

It's an excellent all-round skiff, very easy to build. Rows really well; you can row it all day if you wanted. Fast and weatherly under sail. Just a good old skiff, nothing flash or fancy."

I wonder if Jimmy Skiff ™ 'fans' may tend to be more conservative than those drawn to other designs. This may explain the lack of other Jimmy Skiff ™ blogs. Or, maybe other Jimmy Skiff ™ builders were just having too much fun building and then sailing their boats that they simply did not take time to share in this way. As for me, I am thoroughly enjoying the entire experience, including writing this blog.

I closed my previous post by saying that I would be installing the seats and bulkheads next. When it came time to get to work on the boat, I realized that I was getting a little ahead of myself again. I had cut out the seat parts at the same time as I cut most of the other parts, but I still needed to assemble the seats before I could install them in the hull. Since the seat parts had been coated with unthickened epoxy earlier, I started by tacking on some temporary glue blocks with a 18 gauge pneumatic brad nailer. I only nailed through the sides where it will be easy to fill and hide the holes if I choose to varnish the seats vs painting them. The blocks were cut in the shape of an 'L' so that they would not become permanently glued to the bottom of the seats. Click on the photo for a better look. My purpose in using the blocks was to ensure the squareness of the supports to the seat tops. This was not something that was shown in the plans or building guide, but I found that it did help keep everything in place until the glue was dry.

After using an epoxy and silica mix to glue the seat supports to the tops, and allowing them to cure while clamped, I removed the temporary blocks and pulled out the steel brads. Next, I mixed the epoxy and wood flour to form small fillets on the insides where the seat supports meet the tops. This is what really gives strength to the joint.

This is the blank I glued up for the skeg. I ripped a relatively straight-grained oak board into 1½" widths, and then alternated the grain before gluing it back together. This should keep it from warping. I figure that having a warped skeg would be like having the wheels of my car pointing in different directions. That would be bad, right?

After the skeg epoxy cured, I marked the final shape on the blank by holding it in place against the bottom of the skiff and tracing the curve with a pencil compass and the assistance of my lovely wife. I then cut out the skeg and fastened it in place on the bottom of the boat with thickened epoxy and eight bronze screws driven in from the inside of the hull. I then formed a fillet around the skeg.

In order to support the bottom of the boat without putting undue stress on the skeg while it cured, I added a 'Y' shaped support to the rear saw horse which holds the hull from tipping and placing lateral pressure on the skeg.

Since I was in 'part making mode', I decided to go ahead and mill the parts for the mast and boom spars. I used this sliding scarf jig that I built when I needed to cut scarfs for the inwales last week. The toggle clamp holds the board while I slide the jig along the saw's fence. This is set up to cut 12:1 scarf joints. This means that for every inch of board thickness, the joint will be twelve inches long.

The spars for the mast and sprit boom will be made with pieces ripped from 4" x 4" x 8' Douglas Fir beams. I dug through two pallets of beams at Home Depot to pull out the best four specimens with regard to straightness, tight knots, and lack of splits. I knew that when I ripped these, there would pieces that would not be suitable for the spars, so that is why I bought four. As it turned out, I only needed to rip three of the beams to get all the very good pieces I needed for the mast and boom. The 1½" x 1½" x 10' long blank for the sprit boom is shown on the right side of the photo. This was glued up from pieces that were ripped to 1½" x ¾".

The mast spar blank will be 2¼" x 2¼" x 16'5". Note that as I cut the pieces and fit them together, I marked each joint to indicate orientation. In case anyone is wondering, the white 'paper' I used to protect my shop floor while gluing is Tyvek. I know that some people like to make sails out of this very durable material, but I think that this is a much better use of the extra I had from an earlier building project. Thanks again for bearing with me, and hopefully next time I'll show you the seat and bulkhead installation.


Ron Paro said...

Update on number of visits - as of today, August 10, 2007, there have been over 2,500 visits to this blog, and over 11,600 page views. The visits have come from dozens of countries, and from every continent except Antarctica (so far).

Maybe this makes me a geek, but I think it's pretty cool! - Ron

Ron Paro said...

It's hard to believe that three summers of sailing have come and gone since I built this boat. It has been a lot of fun to sail in a wide range of locations and circumstances.

The blog continues to attract readers, and the visit count is now over 11,000 with 52,882 page views as of today, August 27, 2009.

I guess I am still a geek, because I still think this is pretty cool. - Ron

Lance said...

It's very cool. I built a kayak last winter and I want to build a skiff and ran across your site as I am researching. One factor when I chose my kayak was if there were building sites I can refer to for support and PICTURES! Your site is a brilliant companion to the intructions! Well done!

Ron Paro said...

Thanks Lance! I'm glad that you have found this site to be helpful.

I am still very happy with my Jimmy Skiff. Last July, I sailed this boat on the Maine coast, in WoodenBoat's Small Reach Regatta, along with about 50 other traditional small craft. I had a blast, and the Jimmy Skiff performed well.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ron, I´m from Mexico, and I´m studying your blogs because I want to start building my own Jimmy Skiff, I like the model, but I like also the Skerry from CLC, so what do you think? should I start with the JS to get familiarized with the construction method? Thank you for let us know with your page how you did it, great work!
Andres Suarez

Ron Paro said...

Thanks Andreas, Have you seen the responses to your questions posted in the CLC forum? and

I will send you an Email for additional discussion. - Ron

Anonymous said...

Hello Ron: Great work.

Not sure if you are still checking this blog for comments but did you round the edges of your seat or leave right angles. If so did you use a router, block plane, or sand them?

Thanks Mike


My active build from plans is documented here:

Ron Paro said...

Hi Mike, yes I am still getting notifications for new comments. Thanks for the compliment and the questions. I did round over the seat edges with a power sander, but if I were doing it again now, I would probably use 3/4 inch solid planks and round them as much as possible with a router. This is because even with a bit of rounding, the 3/8 inch ply edges are still rather sharp feeling after a while. Granted, maybe if I followed that aspect of the plans, I would not have the slight overhang that I do, and this probably contributes to feeling the edges more.

I am still enjoying sailing, rowing, and motoring in my Jimmy Skiff. I had a great sail just last week on Great Bay near Portsmouth NH. It was one of those perfect sailing days when the wind, waves and tide were just cooperative enough, and just challenging enough to be the most fun and satisfying!

Anonymous said...


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