How to Build a Cedar Strip Boat Using Compumarine’s Technique
Some people may feel intimidated by the idea of building a boat themselves, from scratch. Putting a boat together using the cedar strip/epoxy method of construction is a very easy and enjoyable project for the home workshop. Perhaps a quick and simple description of the building process, tools used and costs involved will stimulate enough interest to overcome any feelings of inadequacy or intimidation.
Skills & Tools Required
Only very simple techniques are necessary to build the Compumarine Small Craft Designs as follows: Building a strip plank boat out of cedar strips, epoxy and fiberglass cloth is basically a 6 step process:
Step 1 Build a simple strongback to support the molds. Use 2×4 and 2×6 lumber. Accurately measure and cut the wood with any type of saw you have available, then nail the pieces together per the drawing that is provided in the construction manual.
Use the full-size patterns provided with the plans to layout the cut lines on plywood or particle board for the station molds. Use a hand held jigsaw to cut out the eleven station molds, the stem and transom pieces. Set up the finished molds and stem and stern pieces on the strongback per the description illustrated in the construction manual.
Make or buy the 1/4″ by 3/4″ strips you will use to build the boat. If you make your own strips you will need a table saw, band saw or radial arm saw to rip the cedar strips from 1″ x 4″ straight grain, clear cedar boards. Although rectangular strips will work, it is highly recommended to bead and cove the edges of the strips using a router. If you prefer you may purchase finished bead & cove strips from a number of different sources listed on the Materials and Supplies page.
Bend the strips in place around the molds (no steaming necessary). Edge glue them together and attach them temporarily to the edge of each mold. There are two different methods of gluing and attaching the strips. You may use the hot glue gun method for edge gluing and attach the strips with small nails or you may my preferred method. Edge glue the strips using carpenters glue and attach the strips using c-clamps or spring clamps. Both of these methods are fully described and illustrated in the construction manual. Although many boats have been built using the hot glue technique I personally prefer the carpenter’s glue and clamps method since cleaning the excess glue off the finished hull is much easier.
After all the strips are in place pull all the nails and or staples and clean any excess glue off the hull. Sand the outside of the hull smooth and fair, apply two coats of epoxy to completely seal the bare wood then apply 6 ounce fiberglass cloth (finishes as clear and transparent as window glass) to the hull using epoxy. Install the outside gunwales. Lift the hull from the molds then clean, sand and fiberglass the inside of the hull. Install the inner gunwales.
Make and install the thwarts, skeg and other small parts, install the hardware, give the boat three coats of a good quality spar varnish and you are done. As you can see there are no difficult wood-working techniques (such as complicated joints, spiling of planks or steam bending) involved at all. The entire process is clearly described and photographically illustrated in the comprehensive, construction manual supplied with the plans set.
Costs to Build
Although the process for building these small strip plank boats is very simple, it does take time, since everything has to be done by hand. It will take approximately 200 hours for an amateur with no woodworking experience to complete one of these boats. It will be a fun and highly rewarding experience however, and will be 200 hours well spent. Material costs will run from $500 to $800 depending on whether you make or purchase your strips and the type and quality of materials you use for the external parts. However, to purchase one of these Small Craft already completed, or to have one custom built for you, the price would be $5000 or more. Have some fun, spend a little for materials and build your own quality small craft. It will be a work of art you can be proud to use and will draw an appreciative crowd anywhere you take it.