We get a lot of offcuts in the boat building trade. These sound and useful bits of material may not be of use in a larger craft one is building, but there would be many situations in which they could be used.

When we built the 4.3m clinker boat for the WBA we ended up with a lot of strips from the edges of the planking. These bits were either Huon pine or New Zealand karri, too good to just throw away. So we decided to put on a small foredeck and narrow side decks to use them. The offcuts were cut into strips about 38mm wide. I added some bits of white beech that had been sitting around for a while to make the margin boards. The strips were sprung around to produce a good looking deck and it all worked out well once the joints were filled with black rubber. After a few months no one could tell the difference between the Huon pine and the karri.

Another job we were involved in was an 11m sailing boat, built with students at one of Melbourne’s private schools. The planking was all Huon pine and even though we were very economical with this valuable timber there was still quite a pile of offcuts, mostly very thin. How to use them? We decided to build a small carvel dinghy to test a design that I had drawn up a few years before and partly to give my offsider, Bob, some experience in strip planking. The boat was to be 3.2m long and narrow, along the lines of a gentleman’s rowing skiff. We made up some moulds from MDF and ran the offcuts through the circular saw so the planks were 25mm wide (the thickness of the yacht’s planks) by 6mm thick. These strips were then scarf jointed to give enough length to run from the front to the back of the boat. A stem and transom were set up to a keel over the moulds and the planking started. Each strip was edge glued to the last and we pinned them to each mould as we went. Some of the strips developed edge set but it all worked out. The finished hull had all the temporary nails removed, the holes and open joints filled, then it was cleaned up, sanded fair and removed from the moulds.

It was then that Bob decided he needed some fibreglass sheathing practice so the inside of the hull was sanded and sheathed with a thin layer of glass using epoxy. Then the inside was fitted out with a thwart, gunnels, knees and an aft seat with a back board as found in river skiffs. We then sheathed the outside just to get more practice and to keep the hull tight and weatherproof.

Then came the launching and the naming! The naming was simple and obvious. The larger boat was Heart of Huon, so the skiff became Off cut of Huon. We took the boat down to the school ramp ready to launch and lowered it into the river where it looked just fine. I went to get something from the workshop while Bob did the honours and stepped into our new creation.

I had warned Bob that it could be a bit tender, but Bob was used to racing shells and was not concerned. When I got back to the ramp Bob was hauling the boat out of the water and he was rather wet. I had missed the fun, but some of the boys saw what happened. Bob had stepped into the boat facing the wrong way, turned, lost his balance and went over.

Once all the water was tipped out we started again, but facing the right way. Bob held onto the ramp and made sure he was seated before trying to row. Once we got the hang of it she rowed very well for such a small boat, although you had to row with crossed oars as they do in a racing single. The rather fine wineglass stern did not have much buoyancy, but was sweet to row one up.

With two people it was better if the passenger sat on the floor to stop the stern from settling and dragging so much water behind it.

The only things that we bought were the epoxy, some fastenings and paint.

Why waste good material?

Tom Whitfield