A Boat on the Side

Timber Plugs

Scruffie Marine Build a Better Kit -  No 2

They are awkward little bastards but we’ve always recommended timber plugs as the best way to finish varnished work that has to be screwed in place. They are, however, a pain to cut and a fiddle to fit. They need to have the grain line up and a dab of adhesive applied before tapping in. Then you have to pare away most of the protruding material before planing with a small sharp block plane before sanding to finish.

The cutting is frustrating because no matter what you do the cutter clogs up after a series of plugs – sometimes you can get a dozen or more but often it’s only three or four. To minimize this a razor sharp cutter on the highest speed of the bench drill is needed.

Then there’s the timber itself. Some species are better than others. With Red Cedar we’ve substituted a slow growth red eucalypt whose name escapes me. It’s harder but has a tight grain, a nice deep red colour and it’s much easier to cut. You’ll have to remember to use a hard sanding block – i.e. no foam or rubber – to ensure the little buggers aren’t left proud.

We use them when fitting the deck or gunwale trims which are screwed and epoxied on. The clearance holes – around 4 mm – are carefully spaced bow to stern, allowing for the join(s) and ensuring both sides will match. We use tinted epoxy adhesive, well coved and chipboard screws to hold it all together. When properly cured the screws are removed and the clearance holes for the plugs accurately drilled. A sharp bit to exactly the right size is essential but you only have to drill 8mm or 10 mm deep. Finally using your wife’s eyebrow tweezers hold the plugs in place and tap them in. She won’t mind at all but clean any epoxy off with some thinners before putting them back – wiping them on your shirt is not good enough.

Arguments can easily be started with an innocent little sticky residue of epoxy inadvertently transferred to female apparel. Once again though, a timely offer of a dab of thinners on the outfit will soon have the matter settled. Hopefully she won’t mind too much if a little of the outfit’s colour is removed with the thinners – it’s clean, isn’t it?

 So, there you are then, a perfect varnished trim and a contented spouse. What else? On yes, I suppose we’ll have to supply them as standard now, having foolishly promised to list all improvements.

Next week – how to remove epoxy from hair and beards using nail scissors and common household products.


Scruffie Marine Build a Better Kit!

Not a terribly exciting headline, I must admit but it’s always been our dominant philosophy. A good example is with the 12 year production run of the Stornaway 18. Over the years we made twelve major and minor improvements to the model in order to bring the boat up to current specifications. Some of the improvements affect the performance and some the aesthetics, others help the build process and make an easier, better job for the home builder – for example the concave keel coving battens for ease of build and the foiled rudder for a better windward performance. From now on we’re going to announce our upgrades so you’ll have a record of how hard we strive towards our perennial goal – the best boats, the best kits.

I was cutting some cabin end veneers for a UK bound 20-footer and it dawned on me that we should always bookend them. Bookending is cutting pairs of veneers from the same length of timber and fitting them as per mirror images. On the Secrets’ cabin ends they are 6mm panels either side of the companionway, in the same sequence each side. Now of course it’s difficult enough getting band saw cut veneers of highly figured timber but for the ends it’s well worth the trouble to cut them here in the yard. The result is a very nice symmetric feature on the Art Deco shaped panels. Very pleasing indeed for me and a boat that’s a little bit more special for you. Veneers and solid timber trim are an important part of all our boats, particularly Secrets. With Queensland Red cedar we choose the harder, darker straight grained lengths for gunwales, cockpit coaming and channels. We can use the more highly figured stock for smaller, more visible sections. Cabin side and transom veneers are fairly thick at 5 mm to 6mm to allow for easier clamping up, planing and sanding. We use contrasting laminations for all beams, tiller etc. We can also introduce the same veneers to, say, the cabin ends as a contrast to the cedar. Internally, bench tops can also be had in complimentary timber. We usually have in stock plenty of English Oak (grown here in the cooler upland regions from acorns brought in by settlers) and Silky Oak, both highly figured and, once varnished or polished, very beautiful. English oak of course is extremely strong and hardwearing so a good choice. Silky Oak, while is not quite so strong is very long lasting and again a nice contrast. These days highly figured timbers of any kind is both rare and expensive but we have good suppliers and potentially enough for many boats.

The photos show a selection of varnished timber samples and two sets of Secret 20 cabin end veneers, ready for packing and shipment, one Queensland Silky Oak, the other English Oak from Tamborine Mountain. Both bookend sets feature quarter sawn panels and curl veneer – those sliced from the point at which a branch joins the trunk of the tree. The 6 mm panels are curved to match the Secret’s cabin ends. The panels are epoxied on to a pre-cut marine ply panel and trimmed, ready for fitting. Once trimmed to size they are sanded and clear coated. The samples shown are from stock and represent a decorative use rather than, say a cockpit coaming trim which, being laminated, needs a much straighter grain. Queensland Red Cedar and Silky Oak remain the most popular choice for our boats. The UK Secret is trimmed in Red Cedar with oak used in contrast. Red Cedar was extensively used to build the fabled Sydney Harbour skiffs from the earliest boats right up until the 1960s. It is light yet strong, durable and beautiful – very similar both in its appearance and properties to the now extremely rare Honduras Mahogany.

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How Fast Will It Go?


Speed – the perennial obsession of male humanoids since we failed to outrun sabre toothed tigers.

From chariot racing to Formula One, it’s the same story. We’re at it as kids when we push our bikes to the limit and as we grow up – well sort of – few will willingly admit to owning the slowest car, motorbike or boat on the block.

Lets face it, the adrenaline pumping thrill of raw speed is addictive – from a wild ride on a thoroughbred racehorse to an out of control spinnaker reach on a Sydney Harbour skiff – it’s the same old story – speed thrills, excessive speed thrills excessively.

Two of my sons recently had the opportunity to race around two of Europe’s classic racetracks – Spa Francorchamps in the Ardenne Mountains and the original, infamous Nurburgring in West Germany.

Did they enjoy it?

What do you think?

Suffice to say that I myself once drove around the Monaco street circuit in – wait for it – a modest rented Opel with performance guaranteed to bore even the most timid of drivers. But it was great!

Boats are no exception so here’s a few answers to the big male question: how fast?


Yellow Toys

Here’s a photo of our neighbours’ carport showing a matching Scruffie 16 and Teardrop camper van.

Yellow Toys

Reiner builds the wonderful little caravans and also supplies them as kits. Very successful they are too! The Art Deco vans are an excellent example of minimalist yet stylish design. Here’s a link to his site http://www.aussieteardrops.com/

 Recently bought from the original builder, the Scruffie 16 is nearly 20 years old and she looks as good as new. Reiner is about to start upgrading the boat to current specifications, including a slightly deeper keel with more ballast, a re-profiled rudder and a bowsprit with furling genoa – the boat will then be good for a few more decades at the very least!