Gavin over in the boatshed has just written some nice things about my boat building exploits.He’s wrong though, when he says building my Walkabout must be a challenge – it’s easier than an Ikea wardrobe. No, really – or at least not in the ways you might imagine. Let me explain why I believe anyone with common sense and patience can build a boat like this.Starting points:
- I have limited work working skills. I can put up shelves which (usually) stay up, even if they don’t look elegant. That’s pretty much been my limit.
- John Welsford designs boats specifically to be built by people with what he calls ‘average handyman skills’. The plans and instructions are clear, and his book a mine of useful tips and inspiration.
- I started with a kit of parts from Fyneboat Kits. I could have done it all myself, but based on my experience with a stitch and tape canoe, I realised that cutting out the frames accurately and neatly would be a slow job that I’d rather avoid.
With those starting points, it’s just been a case of taking one, generally fairly simple, step at a time. None of the steps needed special skills or special tools. I plan to write about the tools I used at some point, but for now I’d like to emphasise that I haven’t used any expensive power or hand tools. I have mainly stuck to my household tool box – replacing a few items that were rusty or blunt from lack of use or poor care.
A couple of items I did buy and they’ve been a revelation. I bought a cheap block plane (??8 or so) made of pressed steel, but it’s been a pleasure to use – and is essential for this sort of work. The current issue of Watercraft magazine has a review of a block plane, cast out of solid bronze or something, that costs over ??100. Lovely, but not necessary.The second item is really a partner for the plane – a sharpening kit at a cost of around ??12. I’d never used a sharpening guide before and it’s made a huge difference – the plane is actually sharp and takes off wood like a cheese slicer slices cheese. I now have sharp chisels as well which are now also a joy to use.That’s not to say there haven’t been some, not difficulties, but puzzles along the way. Generally these have been solved by stopping and thinking, often with a mug of tea in hand. If that’s not enough, an email to the John Welsford Builders group will provide the answer – often in the form of a response from John himself.I’ve not been building to a deadline, self imposed or otherwise, so that has certainly made the build easier. Although I’ve not yet finished I can honestly say it’s been an almost invariably enjoyable experience.When I think about the bits I haven’t enjoyed they’ve been caused by trying to rush and skip on preparation and planning. The key to success so far has been to focus on the work in hand, enjoying the feel of the tools as I work, appreciating the nature and quality of the wood as I cut or plane – even appreciating the magic of epoxy. And day dreaming, both of future voyages and of the next steps in construction – how exactly might I tackle that step? which bit to do first?This may not truly be easier than an Ikea boat, but I’ve put together my share of flatpacks. Never once have I appreciated the quality of the materials, the movement of the allen key in my hand, the supportive camaraderie of the Ikea builders yahoo group. Nor have I dreamed of sitting in my wardrobe with the wind on my face, the gentle pull of the door in my hand, the sound of water lapping at chipboard and the sight of a gannet diving into the sea a few yards ahead.