of On Deck log entries: 24 July 03
the Flats Rat, now the ArcAngel
the original, tone-setting
post to this log]
I began working a few weeks ago on a project that I've
been building in my head for months. I'm calling this
design of mine (my first!) the ArcAngel
a Church Mouse, really. I'm taking the Flats
Rat design, a Mouse
boat, and curving it up and building
the hull with 1/2 x 3/4 strips of No. 2 spruce from the
By choosing this approach, I
have gone outside the design parameters of the Mouse
boat -- hard chines, plumb sides, and plywood construction,
either stitch-and-glue, preferably, or nail-and-glue.
Strip-building is specifically mentioned as not-Mouse,
as is lapstrake. Still, I assume that Mouse-makers
will realize that anyone such as myself who is not against
them is really for them.
just finished my second Flats
Rat in as many months, and my wife, the
Reverend, and I have had one wonderful
outing in late summer in our two little paddle boats before
being temporarily grounded by a rusted-through muffler
in our trusty old truck.
taking the proven lines and displacement of the Flats
Rat and adding a gentle vee-bottom, rounded
sides, and tumblehome (for looks and to help with paddle
clearance in an otherwise wide hull for a paddle boat
(the beam at the sitting place is about 32 inches). I'm
keeping the pram ends of the Flats
Rat but rounding them to accept the curves
and arcs established by the forward and aft bulkheads
that I've also rounded up, based on the Flats
Rat lines. I'm lofting full size, an idea
that David Hazen offers in The
Stripper's Guide to Canoe-building.
going to draw the Flats
Rat frames -- bow, stern, forward bulkhead,
aft bulkhead -- and then add my curves and vees, first
to the bulkheads., which I will cut out of Medium Density
Fiberboard (MDF). After putting these two forms on a strongback
and springing battens at the sheer, bilge turn, and keel,
I'll pick up the shapes of the transoms from the attitude
of the battens.
using No. 2 spruce in 2x6x10- and 12-foot lengths to get
the 1/2 x 3/4 (11/16, really, after subtracting the 1/16-inch
kerf of the saw blade that I bought from Dave
Carnell). One of my design parameters
is to use lumber from the home store. I like being able
to pick over huge piles of lumber at my own pace, and
I dislike the prices and problems of taking whatever they
give you at most small lumber yards that cater to home
builders. One exception in my city, and not too far from
my house, is Niemiecs;
they are friendly and helpful. I got a load of radiata
pine and yellow pine for the Weekend
Skiff there. Still and all, I like
the ability to take my time, at my pace, at the home store.
Buffalo, New York, I can get spruce in reasonably knot-free
runs by concentrating on 2x6s, which I can rip accurately
and safely in my basement in lengths of up to 12 feet.
This confines me to small boats, or a lot of scarfing.
Since I love tiny boats, I don't feel any confinement
from this design parameter.
done a summer's worth of reading and research on strip-built
boats. This first strip-built project will be a test of
several additional design parameters:
building with 1/2-inch strips to beef up the hull, because I
will coat all surfaces with epoxy but not fiberglass. I'll be
interested in the weight difference between my Flats
Rats, built of 5 mm lauan underlayment plywood,
and this stick-built boat, the ArcAngel.
be edge-nailig the strips, and nailing the strips to the frames
-- transoms, and bulkheads. The usual strip-built canoe is bent
onto temporary frames made of MDF. Fiberglass cloth gives these
boats strength and shape-holding ability. My ArcAngel
will hold its shape the old-fashioned way, with frames, stringers,
and possibly a laminated transversal strip at the mid-point
of the hull, halfway between the bulkheads, which are four feet
apart, the length of the cockpit.
will use edge-nails, glue, self-tapping deck screws, and some
clamping but no staples. I'm building a boat, not putting together
a report. I will use toothpicks to fill any holes in the hull
made by temporary deck screw clamping. Toothpicks are wood,
which is more than I can say for staples. It's bad enough that
I depart from tradition in the way I get my wood; adding Office
Depot to the mix is one too many for me ...
use Elmer's ProBond glue,
which is rated interior/exterior, has a wood-flour thickening
effect that the manufacturer calls a gel. Elmer's cleans up
with paper towels and water. I will, as I said, cover all surfaces
in and out with epoxy. Maybe even two coats.
will be by double paddle, as with the Flats
gets the nod over cedar because my home stores don't stock cedar,
and I like the looks and feel and characteristics of spruce
as much as I like any wood, including pine.
than going to the bother of dusting off my router and mounting
it in the router table that tried to cut off all my fingers
the only time I ever used it, I'm going to use 1/2 by 3/4 strips
instead of using cove-and-bead router bits to shape the edges.
No thanks to all that fiddly stuff. Epoxy loves gaps, anyway.
I won't sweat small gaps as long as the strips are tight on
the inside at least.
chose pram ends to maintain the displacement above 200 pounds
and because it is generally considered to be a bitch to strip-build
a short hull with pointed ends. A boat of about 8 feet in length
and 3 feet of beam or less will displace about 225 pounds if
the ends are pointed.
are the books that I read this summer concerning strip-building
Stripper's Guide to Canoe-building,
by David Hazen. This is a classic. You receive permission to
try out your own ideas, with guidance on techniques, or you
can use his designs, which others have spoken highly of.
by Ted Moores. I value this book for its clear guidance on techniques.
I have chosen among many approaches from many good books on
by Mac McCarthy. He gives clear instruction on techniques, with
plans and guidance for building the Wee Lassie, a beautiful
double-paddle boat in 11- or 13-foot lengths.
Manual, 4th edition, by Robert M. Steward;
by Howard I. Chapelle; and Boatbuilding
in Your Own Backyard, by S.S. Rabl. These
classic books have valuable sections on traditional strip-building
of boats, and the books predate, largely, the advent of epoxy
and fiberglass. My techniques borrow heavily from these writers.
Wood and Canvas Canoe, by Jerry Stelmok
and Rollin Thurlow. The writers describe a related approach
Strip-Built Sea Kayak, by Nick Schade. This
book clearly teaches the modern approach -- staples, 1/4-inch
western red cedar strips of bead and cove sandwiched between
fiberglass, in and out, and all over.
plans for the Flats
Rat are a free download from the website
Routh, a Texan who sells a number
of interesting boat designs; his site also has a narrative
and lots of pix of the Flats
Flats Rat, technically speaking, is a
kayak, simply because one uses a double paddle to propel
it. Any other resemblances to the usual idea of kayak
are largely absent. Still, it's an able craft and will
carry a husky or tall or chubby adult and a bunch of gear
Rat is the 10th or 20th permutation of
a single-sheet plywood boat called Mouse, originally design,
then released Open
Source-like, to boatbuilders on the
Internet. Mouse is the child of an English guy named Gavin
website is a treasure trove of free stuff having
to do with building boats, computer programs -- free --
for designing boats, and links to a Yahoo club concerning
original Mouse is a single sheet of plywood in a vee-bottom
hull 8 feet long. The original purpose was to give novices
a way to experience stitch-and-glue building techniques
without much expense. I like the Flats
Rat because I don't have any interest
in stitch-and-glue techniques. Flats
Rat is meant to be a nail-and-glue boat.
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