Staring At Lumber

(above) 18′ wales for a 16′ boat means that I can make a mistake without wasting this nice lumber

This is what I look like when I’m having a fantastic time on land


Maybe you should giv’em the clamps?


Work is proceeding slowly. I put in a few hours at the end of each day, most of which entails digging out and putting away tools. A big part of any complex wooden construction entails something I call “staring at lumber”. The designs and calculations I’ve done for this are only a small part of the figgerin. You have to get your lumber together, look at the density, weight, quality, grain, and you gotta stare at it in deep thought. This is where most the work is actually done. When I’m done staring at lumber, I explode into a brief period of frantic and productive activity, then I inevitably lapse into “staring at lumber” again. I second guess and double check everything I’m doing, which is probably good. With more confidence, I probably would be less able.

I had a few cool old guys look over my shoulder recently; My dad, and my dad-in-law. The ribs I made when they were watching are mostly crappy. The ones I made with no one watching are quite lovely. With this rib shape, I’m kinda forcing the bend to it’s limit, and I didn’t plane the battens down first, so a few snapped. There is also a lot of clean-up involved in laminations, which is tedious. Tedium, when done right, can endow wood products with great strength and beauty. Tedium is stronger than even time, by weight.

There are advantages to my odd looking rib method: I can generally work fast, and the good finished ones are under a bit of their own tension. Wood imperfections are spread out. I break less than steaming, and can use more sustainable woods. I don’t lose strength like I would with every other bending method I know of… The ribs of the center ten feet will be just under .25lbs each and will be positioned every 7″o.c. This is way stronger than it looks and is worth the sawblade width losses and extra time.

Putting the wales together and giving me a rough idea of size and shape really helps with the tedium. The hardwood I got for this will be strong enough to take oars. I want to make this 16′ thing perform like the 12′ Minehune2, at around the same weight, and be rowable…

These challenges excite me and put my brain in a highly active and happy state. I’ve been dreaming in blueprints again, and waking up with solutions. It’s a lot of fun. Tonight, I’ll finish cleaning up those center ribs and start building out the ends. These ribs will be composite, like the Minehune2, only they will form a box with the decktops and stem pieces. If I join everything well, I’ll get lots of extra strength without adding weight. It’s gonna be way better than any boat I’ve ever seen on the water, of that, I am increasingly certain.

4 comments on “Staring At Lumber”

  1. I enjoy reading these ramblings…. like being there with you. Never noticed how all projects have that “stare at the materials for a long time” thing in common. I like that part too. So glad you have the focus to dream in blueprints. makes life easier. Can hardly wait to see your next creation!

    • its like the prototype, but for heavier people with more stuff in rougher seas. i feel more confident with the design and methods now, so im not afraid to use lighter,stronger,and costlier materials.

  2. Dude, nice-looking fence you got back there.

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