Making the bottom was the first step in the boat’s construction. Planks had to be planed before they were fastened together with oak battens. The critical bottom bevel must be just right or it will cause trouble through the rest of the build. This is careful handwork. In addition to our large planer, the boys learned to use hand planes and also a small caulking iron to add cotton wicking to the seams of the bottom.
Once completed, the dory bottom was placed on moulds and the oak stem and stern were installed along with the jigs around which the dory would come to life. These jigs are ready-made, some of them dating back to the time of the original Bluenose.
Planking could now begin in earnest and with it comes many, many tricks Jay has picked up over his 30+ years building dories. From laying out, lining and spiling; to splicing and beveling; and hanging and fastening. Lapstrake is beautiful, careful work but these guys picked it up easily enough.
Once fully planked, they learned how to select, shape and install the boat’s frames, known in a dory as knees. Here at the Dory Shop we use a solid piece of hackmatack cut from the tree’s root system. This was followed by construction and installation of the gunwales, caps, breast plate, etc.
The structurally complete boat then received the final touches: thwarts (seats) were made, nail tops puttied, and the whole thing carefully primed and painted. What a beautiful dory. It will never cease to amaze me: a yard full of weather pine transformed into what I think is the most beautiful wooden rowing boat there is .. but then I guess I’m biased.
The two week course finished off with a fun afternoon dory launch – first the secret initiation that earned them the title Honorary Lunenburger, and then we put the boat in the water and they took her for a spin. And wouldn’t you know it: she floats just fine.
The great asset of a dory as a learning project is that while the boat is of relatively simple construction, the build involves a lot of work with basic hand tools; in fact, with the exception of a band saw, skill saw and thickness planer, it’s all hand tools. It’s interesting work that you just don’t find in this modern world of power everything. It makes you stop and think and appreciate the modern conveniences of today … or perhaps yearn for the days, 100 years ago, when life really was this real.
All in all it was a fantastic two weeks. If you’re feeling a bit sad that you missed out, we’ll be hosting another dory building class this October and we’d love to have you join us.