On the Mark: Boatbuilding Tools - Part 3


Machinists tools:

Dial caliper
Buy one and become addicted. Width, depth, notch width, hole diameter - all are easily measured. The cheap Chinese/Indian imports form Enco are good enough for woodworking (besides, why risk a good one with epoxy in the area). Many distance and thickness measurements in a boat do not allow you to properly sight the measurement on a tape measure or ruler. The caliper and combination square work well as depth gauges in these situations (slide it in to the far edge and then take off and measure).

Small machinist's square (4-6" beam)
Remember tri-squares are accurate only on the inside, not the outside. When you need to set your table/radial arm/band saws square (yes it happens), then this is the accurate way to do it. Imports are less than $10.

12" machinist's rule
When you must accurately measure flat distances, there is no substitute. Flip it around and you get your choice of fractional or decimal measures. This is very handy when you want to do halves/thirds/quarters without a calculator; just flop it around until you find the measurement that divides easiest.

Marking tools:

The most common marking tool for most woodworking projects, but not used as much on the boat due to the slick surfaces.

0.5 or 0.7 mm mechanical pencil
This is specifically used for tracing. The constant line width and narrow tip make for clean tracings. Too small a point or too hard lead leads to tear through of the blueprints.

Sharpie markers
Fine point in several colors. Many measurements and marks are made onto epoxy coated wood. Pencils won't show. Having a couple of colors also helps keep your marks organized.

Wide felt tip markers
These are used on the edges of the frame and battens prior to fairing. You want a thin line of the original edge left after beveling. If you don't color it, you will lose track of what has been faired to the line and when you have gone beyond it. They are also used in the fairing process to mark bumps and hollows. I used blue for bumps and red for hollows. The color coding aids in planning your work and not forgetting a few spots.

Sidewalk Chalk
This is used with battens to mark humps in the hull or frame during fairing. Sidewalk chalk is nice and soft, easily transferring to the battens. The large sticks also are easier to rub onto the battens. Buy the box and the kids / grandkids will thank you.

Tan and Blue masking tape
Use for marking skips, bumps and hollows on the inside. Markers just won't do here. Always tag the spots as you see them. Do not rely solely on memory. Also don't rush to fix a spot as soon as you see it. Accumulate enough areas to fix until you have enough to use up a batch of epoxy. I primarily used blue, but still had to color code, to keep everything straight

Jigs, jigs, jigs
This is how you "make it repeatable". You certainly don't want to measure and mark over 150 batten notches to within 1/32 to 1/16 of an inch. With a simple jig, you can trace and mark them more accurately (ready to saw and chisel out) in a fraction of the time. Better yet, a router jig is even faster and easier for the bottom notches.

There is no hard and fast rule as to the decision point between measuring and jig/fixtures. For me, the break point is 4-10 identical pieces or cuts.

I had jigs for: batten notch cutting by hand, batten notch cutting with the router, batten scarfing on the table saw, batten fitting to the stem, planking scarfing, etc. Other jigs that most people do not think of as such: table saw rip fence, router fence, router table, band saw pivot fence, inverted hand plane with fence (for beveling planks), etc.

Just think about it. Any time you can replace hand skills and repeated measuring with simple fixturing, do it. Better yet, be sure to include: wood scraps, drywall screws, super glue (or epoxy). In the end, most jigs are virtually free, but greatly aid in accuracy, repeatability, and speed. Just be sure to wax (Johnson's paste) them as you do your other tools to aid in epoxy removal.

Once again, it is not the name brand on the tools, but how you creatively use them that matters. There are times when "buying the best" is useful (or at least gratifying), but many other times, ingenious use of "ordinary" or "cheap" wins out.

Next month: How about some suggestions? Mark would like to know what you would like to read about.

We are very pleased to have Mark sharing his expertise with his fellow boat builders. If you would like to comment on this article to Mark, he can be reached at "builders at bronkalla.com". Replace the at with @. (Just trying to dodge a few spammers). See Mark's great web site for information on his Riviera project.