View Full Version : Penobscot 14

07-14-2003, 10:56 AM
Hello all,

I'm looking for my first boat to build. I have some woodworking skills - I've built some furniture. I am looking to do some daysailing in the bays and inlets of the Long Island Sound with my two girls age 5 and 6. Looks like Archer Davis has done a nice job documenting his boat - plans, video, articles in WB, so I thought this might help in my first effort.

Has anyone built this boat, and care to comment. I'd also be interested in any other suggestions for similar size boats, that might be good for a first boat. My basement shop is 22' by 15' and I'd like to build her in there. Also, I need to get her out a standard size door, but do not have to get up the staircase - walk-out basement with sliding glass doors.



07-14-2003, 07:20 PM
I have built one of Arch's smaller designs, the Sand Dollar and I would recommend his plans, manual, video, phone support and products to anyone, especially a beginner. I have considered the Penobscot 14 and think she will sail and row well, and the building method should result in a good looking and solid boat that is not too heavy.

07-14-2003, 09:05 PM
I built the Penobscot about 5 years ago, and she's still sailing/rowing strong. Do the search thing, and you'll probably come up with a number of posts on the subject. Good luck!


07-15-2003, 03:32 PM
Thanks for the advice. I did a search and found a bunch of items related to the Penobscot 14. I'm going to order the study plans to get a better feel for it.


07-18-2003, 11:42 AM
I am in the process of building this boat right now. Hull planking almost complete. Looks pretty good to my eye. If I can do it, anyone can!


07-18-2003, 01:41 PM
Paul Fisher at www.selway-fisher.com (http://www.selway-fisher.com) has more boats than one could reasonably build in a lifetime. He's great on email support and there's an active forum on yahoo called SFD_Builders.

08-06-2003, 12:13 PM
I got the plans last week, and I've started on the stem. The video looks very helpfull. Arch has quite a bit of work with hand planes, which I've never been very good at. I'm more of a power tool woodworker, but it will be fun to learn.

Railmeat, what woods are you using?


08-09-2003, 09:28 AM
I'm in the process of building the Penobscot 14 now, got it about half planked. This is only my second boatbuilding effort, the first was a pirogue (about as simple as you can get and still call it a boat). Progress is going slow but well, plans and instructions are well-written, I haven't bothered with the video. I'm making a few changes - first, got rid of those ugly plastic access hatches and replaced them with wooden ones as described in Iain Oughtred's Clinker Boatbuilding book - look a lot better. Under the forward thwart, I'll add bulkheads with limber holes and convert that into a storage compartment - I agree with the designer and don't want to store gear in the buoyancy compartments for and aft. Finally, I wanted a 3/4" thick transom for mounted an electric trolling motor (just in case!), so instead of laminating three 1/4" layers I used solid mahogony. It will be pretty! It's a pretty design, and you'll enjoy building it.

08-12-2003, 10:40 AM
I've never had any regrets. http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid73/pfa7476546a137b54ab70e3e08a2ff4c8/fb68c56a.jpg

Captain Pre-Capsize
08-12-2003, 11:33 AM

I too built the Sanddollar skiff and it was a terrific experience for a first timer such as myself. As you work on the "14" you will inevitably have questions not answered in the video or plans. Give Arch a call. He is a terrific fellow and more than generous with his time. Best of all he is reassuring to a new builder.

Boy, did I make mistakes. After hanging up the phone he must have been holding his head in his hands - it would only have been human nature. I picture him calling aloud to his wife, "Honey, it was Scott again!" Then she would come running for another installment of As the Boatbuilder Turns. I know that if I were in his place and some hapless nimrod as myself were calling with innane problems that I would look forward to it as an endless source of entertainment. To Arch's credit he never let on as to his amusement, if ever there was any.

08-13-2003, 08:16 AM
Thank you all for the encouragement. I'm finishing up the stem, and the next step is the transom. A solid wood transom is very tempting, but doesn't the wood move seasonally? I know when I make a solid wood tabletop, you have to figure in for expansion and contraction across the grain, or the top will crack. Does the epoxy coating stop the wood movement?

Mower, that is beautifull job on your penobscot. It gives me something to look forward to. Maybe next summer!


08-13-2003, 07:59 PM
I believe a solid wood transom is typical on many boats of this size. Iain Oughtred recommends building the transom up from several boards epoxied and clamped together. If I build another boat, I'll go for solid mahogony rather than ply as it just looks and feels better. Movement should not be a problem if properly sealed but I would be careful when selected lumber to get a nice even grain pattern across the seperate boards. If you want to build light, then Arch's recommended design would be best.

08-26-2003, 11:15 AM
I spoke to Arch about the solid wood transom. He was against the idea. He said that while there are plenty of boats with a solid transom, most of them are not glued with marine epoxy. He thought the transom might crack over time. I'm going to follow his advise, and use that nice mahogany board to make the transom frame. Then 1/4" marine plywood is glued to the frame.

I bought red cedar for the stringers, the sheer clamp and the keel. It seemed to have very straight grain, and bended nicely. Any comments on Red Cedar, I know its a relatively soft wood.

08-26-2003, 09:37 PM
Cedar might be a little soft for stringers, I remember Arch mentioning that the screws might not hold that well. I don't think the stringers are really needed for strength so that should not be an issue. I would keep a few clamps handy when gluing up just in case the screws don't hold. We used Spanish cedar for the seats, both light and a nice colour and grain.

Although I think you should follow Arch's advice on the transom, almost every Oughtred boat is built with lap ply and a solid transom which must put this construction type in the thousands....

08-26-2003, 09:44 PM
Originally posted by Shalfleet:
...almost every Oughtred boat is built with lap ply and a solid transom which must put this construction type in the thousands....And no stringers. No doubt that the design works, but I have to wonder why a boat this size needs all of those stringers. I have to agree with the review of the Penobscot 17 in WB, "leave the stringers on the mold."

Don Maurer
08-26-2003, 10:11 PM
I began building Iain Oughtreds Tammie Norrie 3 years ago. It is very similar to the Penobscot 14 with a transom made of 7/8" mahogany boards edge glued with epoxy. The boat was built in an unheated shed, then moved from Iowa to New Jersey prior to painting or sealing with epoxy. There was no sign of any splitting in the transom. In fact, there is no sign of a glued surface splitting anywhere. I used MAS slow cure epoxy. Possibly it is flexible enough to prevent splitting.

08-26-2003, 11:16 PM
Originally posted by hbrochs:
I spoke to Arch about the solid wood transom. He was against the idea. He said that while there are plenty of boats with a solid transom, most of them are not glued with marine epoxy. He thought the transom might crack over time. I'm going to follow his advise, and use that nice mahogany board to make the transom frame. Then 1/4" marine plywood is glued to the frame.

I bought red cedar for the stringers, the sheer clamp and the keel. It seemed to have very straight grain, and bended nicely. Any comments on Red Cedar, I know its a relatively soft wood.Might be easier to cut the ply transom and then glue the frame on rather than make the framing first and then glue the plywood. As already said, the red cedar is rather soft for those purposes.

08-27-2003, 01:03 PM
I really appreciate the feedback. It help to understand why things are done a particular way, and also see that there are a multitude of ways to accomplish the goal.

I don't think this boat NEEDS the stringers. I think screwing the planks to the stringers helps the novice builder get the boat together tightly, while minimizing the need for a lot of clamps. I am not nearly up to the planking stage, so I have time to mull this over. But, if the stringers are not critical, then it shouldn't matter much if my stringers are cedar. Sounds like a good idea to supplement the screws with a few clamps in case some of the screws don't bite.

Charles Neuman
08-28-2003, 09:42 AM
Wayne wrote:
> No doubt that the design works, but I have to
> wonder why a boat this size needs all of those
> stringers.

I think one part of it is that you don't need a whole mess of clamps to glue the laps. You just screw them into the stringers. Plus, I think there's the idea that the form of the boat should represent how the boat is built and should show where its strength comes from. Or something like that.

08-28-2003, 12:41 PM
Ok, so there is a "pay me now or pay me later" thing happening here?

08-30-2003, 09:14 AM
I've got the transom all glued up. That epoxy is messy stuff. Next I have to make a couple of bulkheads, and a few temporary frames.

Anyone know how to post photos on this forum, not that there is much to show at this point.

thanks, Howard

08-30-2003, 10:30 AM
Consider clamping the framing pieces to the ply and not using screws when you build the bulkheads. This will avoid bungs in the visible face of the bulkhead which will improve the look especially if you plan on varnishing. I wish we had done this!
Search the forum for "Posting Pictures" and you will find loads of advice.
Also be careful with the epoxy, keep you and the boat as clean as you can, and remove any waste before it cures. If some mess does harden, use a hairdryer to heat it and it should peel away pretty easily. You have probably worked all this out, but another point is that small syringes are a great way to measure small amounts of epoxy.
Have fun!

[ 08-30-2003, 11:38 AM: Message edited by: Shalfleet ]

09-01-2003, 07:17 PM
Just finished planking this afternoon. Those stringers are part of what sold me on the design to begin with. From the study plans, the boat construction looked a lot like the model airplanes I used to build. The stringers don't need to be strong, just straight grained and able to bend. Although this is my first "serious" boat, I like the stringer method. It makes it a lot easier to spile the planks, and it saves you from having to have a multitude of clamps. I used 3/4" stainless screws as Arch Davis recommended, and didn't have any problems with the planks not staying on the stringers.

imported_Steven Bauer
09-01-2003, 07:57 PM
There's a Penobscot 14 down at the marina and the tarp over it doesn't fit that well and some rainwater gets inside the boat. What bothers me is this rain water collects in the little triangular area formed where the stringers meet the hull. So there are all these places where water collects. Isn't this asking for trouble?


09-03-2003, 11:17 AM
Shalfleet, thanks for the advise about leaving the screws out of the bulkheads. They seem to be going together fine without the screws. By the way, you did a top notch job on your website (also top notch job on the boat). Very nice photos.

As far as water collecting where the stringers meet the hull, that does sound like a potential problem. I hope to keep her dry on the hard, when I'm not sailing. Wouldn't you need more frames/bulkheads if you were leaving the stringers out?

Captain Pre-Capsize
09-03-2003, 11:50 AM
I too looked at where the ply meets the stringers allowing water to just sit there soaking and realized, "Well, that's why I carry a sponge - to run along there and get the water off there."

I don't see any way around it design-wise really. I don't knock myself out but do wipe the interior down if it has gotten especially wet.

09-03-2003, 08:24 PM
Thanks hbrochs! Glad to hear the bulkheads are going together nicely. I agree with Captain that a sponge quickly dries any water caught on the stringers and as I keep Varuna indoors its not really an issue. If kept outdoors, I would think any standing water should be avoided if possible, or at least minimised. If properly sealed with epoxy, well maintained (and covered if outside), then I would not expect major issues, but others may not agree.

I have read that leaving out the stringers may require a slightly thicker ply for the planks, which is essentially the technique that Iain Oughtred recommends so it must be fine. I would go with Arch's building process as it is proven for this design and is very strong. I especially like the stringers if you are trailering as this really does make for a stiff boat that can take a bit of pounding on the road.

I wonder if the equivalent of those little drain holes that are in each frame next to the keel on traditionally built boats would work on the lowest part of each stringer? (I have forgotten the proper term). These would allow the water to channel away and would be really easy to cut before fixing the planks.

09-03-2003, 09:20 PM
Shalfleet, it sounds like you're talking about limber holes. I'm anything but a naval architect, but I'd be leery of them on this design. The stringers are 3/4" square, and I'd imagine that you'd want limber holes to be a half-circle of at least 1/4" radius to be of any use. Cutting a notch or half-circle that size in a stringer sounds like inviting trouble when you try to install the stringers (i.e., snap!). Those stringers have to make some pretty serious bends along their length.

Captain Pre-Capsize
09-03-2003, 09:57 PM
Man, that idea about leaving the screws out of the bulkhead ply and just clamping it... makes me regret using the screws. In that application they are a bit too redundant and the face of the bulkheads would look much better. Do it! Since it was my first, I was really a slave to the building manual and nearly followed it to the letter. Nearly.

Here is where I departed from the manual and candidly this becomes a matter of taste. Go to Arch's site and take a look at the closeup of the interior of my boat - he entitled the piece under "News" as The Happy Accident. Note that the thwart knees are missing. I decided just as I was to install them that as someone sat on the thwart, the knee would potentially gouge them in the thigh if they slid across the thwart. Remember now, the thwart is already screwed and glued up into the seat riser. I decided to wedge a support for the thwart under it. That is, between the bottom of the thwart and the stringer underneath.

I used a scrap of cardboard to get the size about right and then used the cardboard as a template and roughed out a piece of ash for the support underneath. It was a matter of repeated trimming of the lumber until it fit well but not too snug. Then whip out the epoxy, glue it and slide it into place. The thwart is just as secure but no knees to gouge those fair hips of my bride.

[ 09-03-2003, 11:06 PM: Message edited by: Captain Pre-Capsize ]

09-06-2003, 11:14 AM
Captain, I saw the picture of your boat, and I agree that the supports look much better under the seat/thwart. Good idea, I'll definitely try that also.

Still making the bulkheads and temporary frames. I'm also not crazy about those circular white bulkhead ports. Need to shop around. ideas?


Captain Pre-Capsize
09-06-2003, 12:36 PM

First the braces under the thwart. Be patient, there are a lot of different angles that all seem to converge under there. Fortunately it is all out of sight when the boat is done. This was my first boat and it looks good - to me anyway.

I found it necessary to go slow and steady - trim a little; slide it in; note where else to trim; try again; etc. It is important to slide it under the thwart from fore to aft. That is, as it is slid into position under the thwart you want it to be sliding toward the transom . Here is why: the skiff does narrow ever so imperceptably under the width of the thwart. You need the brace to be loose as it slips between the seat riser and stringer and then the further it slides under the thwart you want it to snug up. My one brace on each side was centered under the thwart.

I got it as best I could and let the gap filling abilities of epoxy make up the difference. Also, no need for screwing it in place, just glue it and forget it - it ain't go'in nowhere! Forgive me if I have made this sound unnecessarily hard - really it is a snap.

Second, the white access holes. It seems there was a thread about some alternative out there but that may just be wishful thinking on my part. That is actually on my list to fiddle with this winter. My thought was to somehow disguise the white lids - perhaps cover them with something. They do draw the eye a bit since they are white but not one person upon seeing Dawn Marie for the first time has shreeked, "AAAIIIIIEEEEEUUUU!!!!! Would you just LOOK at those white round plastic lids!!! EEEWWWWW!" The boat before them seems to visually outweigh the access hole panels.

I would like to get some feedback though from anyone that has an idea to help cover it up.

[ 09-06-2003, 05:31 PM: Message edited by: Captain Pre-Capsize ]

09-07-2003, 09:20 AM
Captain, there was a thread on those access covers a while back. If memory serves, those plastic covers were the only serious gripe about an otherwise beautiful boat. Add to that, the access cover is slightly too large for the rear bulkhead. I got around the problem by making some wood access covers following Iain Oughtred's instructions in his Clinker Boatbuilding Manual, page 106. Much more attractive solution.

09-08-2003, 10:41 AM
One alternative that was suggested in that thread were bronze deck plates, which someone had located (Bristol Bronze, maybe?). They were pretty pricey, though. The other part of the discussion involved making a wooden circular plate with a center bolt that threads to a backing cross-brace on the inside of the hole. I haven't gotten to this stage of my Penobscot, yet. Not sure how I'll handle it.

09-15-2003, 12:54 PM
Well, I found some nice vent fittings. The key was using the searchword "deck plate". Sailboatstuff.com has circular bronze deckplates that are air/watertight. They come in 3,4,5 and 6 inch diameter and cost $25 to $50 depending on the size.

I'm about done with the temporary frames and bulkheads. Next is the building jig, and mounting the frames.


Captain Pre-Capsize
09-15-2003, 04:18 PM

At the risk of monopolizing this thread I did think of another place where I departed from Arch's plans. You have a way to go yet but consider this as well.

After the rub rail is installed you then mount the blocks along the interior of the top of the sheer. They are screwed through the ply and into the rub rail. Then you mount the inner gunnel onto the blocks and create the "open gunnel" look that you can see in the pic on his site of my boat.

The way you install the inner gunnel is to bend it somewhat and then "spring" it into place. The plans call for this piece (mine was ash as was the rub rail) to be 3/4 inch thick. When I went to bend it so it would spring into position it simply wouldn't flex. Oh, it would bend but MAN it took a lot of muscle to do it. And this was ash - known to flex more than most types of wood.

Here is what I did: I just ran the piece through a planer until it was only 1/2" thick. Then it bent like a noodle - no problem. As I look at it today I like it. Seems less bulky and perhaps has more of a refined look to it. It would look great either way. Everyone comments about the open gunnel look really "making the boat stand out".

A word of warning. If you choose to make your inner gunnel 1/2" like mine then the four blocks of wood for the oar locks need also to be trimmed down (that is, made thinner .) Naturally I discovered this after the four blocks were glued and screwed into place. But then at the advanced age of forty-four ;) I have begun to accept these challenges as part and parcel of life. smile.gif

[ 09-15-2003, 05:53 PM: Message edited by: Captain Pre-Capsize ]

10-02-2003, 09:28 AM
I've got the frames and bulkheads set up on the building jig. Now I'm debating about which screws to use. I priced some square drive silicon-bronze "boatbuilding" screws, and they are expensive! Could easily spend $200 on screws. Is the expense worth it, over stainless steel screws?


10-02-2003, 10:24 AM
As a Cajun buddy of mine often says, "Sumthin' ain't right."

I paid a penny apiece for 1 1/2" bronze oval head screws, don't remember the exact size-either #6 or #10. The square drive screws are good. Bronze is good. The permanent screws in my Caledonia yawl are square drive bronze screws.

That seems like way too many screws to leave in a small boat like the Penobscot 14. I guess it's the stringers at the plank laps that are using so many screws? I can tell you my boat, which is a lot bigger than yours, has no screws in the plank laps.

Captain Pre-Capsize
10-02-2003, 06:59 PM

I used SS screws throughout with a Phillips head on them and all went fine. You are going to end up covering them either with bungs or thickened epoxy anyway. The only purpose they serve is to hold the wood in place until the epoxy sets up. At that point the screws are redundant as the epoxy (believe it or not!) has greater holding power than the screws. I understand that some builders (with other plans) simply clamp everything in place until the epoxy sets up. I like Arch's "belt and suspenders" approach, especially for a first timer like me.

Couldn't tell you how much mine cost as I soon (a little too conveniently for my wife ;) ) stopped keeping track of my expenses. You see, the whole reason for building a boat is that we certainly couldn't afford to actually buy one so by gosh, Dad is just gonna build one for the family and save money too!!!! Just goes to show that my judgement in boatbuilding is no better than the stock market. Fortunately my judgement is 100% though when it comes to picking a wife to accompany me on this ever so brief journey called life. smile.gif Thank goodness for the hereafter! Whewwww! ;)

10-02-2003, 09:58 PM
If you are worried about the cost of screws, then just buy a few stainless ones and keep reusing them. As the Captain says, they do not add to the strength so your boat will be just as strong but a little lighter in both weight and cost. The only downside I see is the extra time to pull the screws and the slightly larger holes to fill.
I have read that bronze is good under the waterline as stainless does not do well when permanantly wet. A small boat that is sealed in epoxy and dry sailed would not require bronze, (although bronze would be my choice if the screws where visible).

[ 10-02-2003, 11:03 PM: Message edited by: Shalfleet ]

10-03-2003, 09:13 AM
I would still be more concerned about the weight of 1,000 or more screws of any material left in a 14' open boat.

McFeely's lists #10 x 1-1/2" F.H. silicon bronze screws for $143/1,000.

Iain Oughtred says that he built a 15' Acorn pulling boat "with almost no mechanical fasteners."

I think the answer lies a lot closer to none than 1,000. What does Arch Davis say?

10-03-2003, 11:20 AM
Arch specifies the number of screws to buy, and I don't believe he says anything about taking them out after the glue sets. He specifies somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 or 800 screws of various sizes throughout the boat (I don't have the book in front of me). I don't think the weight of the screws is an issue. What are we talking about here - 10-15 pounds added to the hull? You can have that much additional weight on a day sail, depending on what you pack in your cooler. For the most part, I've left the screws in my hull, but I have removed some for re-use.


10-06-2003, 07:50 PM
I spoke to the designer, Arch Davis, about the screws. He thought the silicon-bronze screw might be better if the boat was going to stay in the water. He thought I'd be much better off not keeping her in the water, though. Home Depot did not have many of the screws. The screws they stock in big boxes are deck and sheet rock screws, and the decking screws are all long. The reason that McFeeley's bronze screws were so expensive is because the smallest amount you can order is 100, and some of the sizes, I only need 15 or 20 screws.

I'll probably just order the McFeeley's bronze screws, so I'll have extra for the next boat. I appreciate the feedback.


10-06-2003, 09:01 PM
For attaching the planks to the stringers, you'll need 3/4" long screws. I followed Arch's directions used stainless, then covered up the heads with epoxy. I was able to get countersunk phillips head screws at $7.20 per hundred locally - not too expensive. Yes, it's a belt and suspenders approach, but I'm not experienced enough of a boatbuilder (or don't have enough confidence in my own work) to rely only on the epoxy.
- Al

10-08-2003, 06:13 PM
Don't give up on square drive bronze until you price them from:

Standard Fastenings (http://www.babbittsteam.com/standard.htm)

Hamilton Marine (http://www.hamiltonmarine.com/CatIndex3.html)


Jamestown Distributors (http://www.jamestowndistributors.com/cgi-local/SoftCart.exe/index.htm?E+scstore)

OR, use square drive stainless-square drive works!

10-09-2003, 10:09 AM
I forgot to add Clark Craft

Clark Craft (http://www.ccfasteners.com/index.html?cart_id=b3da037174cc541a1dbcb1868d105a6 d)

10-10-2003, 10:50 AM

Thank you very much. You saved me time and money. I just ordered stainless screws from Hamilton Marine. They had very reasonable prices.


imported_Steven Bauer
10-10-2003, 12:03 PM
I was down at Hamilton Marine the other day and they were closed for inventory. I looked at the other guy standing on the steps with me and said "Bummer" and he said "And I'm here from Connecticut." :(


10-10-2003, 12:52 PM
Originally posted by Steven.Bauer:
I was down at Hamilton Marine the other day and they were closed for inventory. I looked at the other guy standing on the steps with me and said "Bummer" and he said "And I'm here from Connecticut." :(

StevenGlad I could help!
I suppose it's a good thing John Anderson got there last week. :D Even so, they were out of a few things I will have to order. Great place!

Kinda like Norm said, I would rather drive up there than walk across the street to "Those Other Places."

10-27-2003, 09:35 AM
Hope this works...trying to post a photo. http://members17.clubphoto.com/howard762629/owner-7dd9-1.phtml

10-27-2003, 11:54 AM
I don't think it worked.


10-27-2003, 12:53 PM
Attempt #2...


10-27-2003, 01:10 PM
Stem, temporary frames, bulkheads and keel.


10-27-2003, 07:55 PM
She looks great....got any bigger pictures??

10-30-2003, 05:39 PM
Thanks, shalfleet. I'll try to post a bigger photo.


10-30-2003, 05:43 PM
I'm new to posting photos.
ps don't mind the mess in my shop.


10-30-2003, 06:46 PM
She looks really nice...excellent work. I love the way the stringers show off the hull shape before the planks are attached. You seem to be working really fast...and trust me.....your shop is spotless! Keep the pictures coming, we are watching with great interest!