A Boat on the Side
19May/100

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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