View Full Version : Shellback Build and Introduction

02-05-2016, 08:44 AM
Sometime during the early fall I came up with the crazy idea of combining two of my passions - teaching and boats - to create a new course at the high school where I teach. Now, five weeks into the second semester, 18 students are building four shellback dinghies and learning a bit about boat building and great nautical texts.

This is a first-time boat build for me too, and I realize some may think it a bit of a leap to take on such a project, but we're making good progress and the kids are having a good time. If you're interested in the project, or you're building a Shellback, or you have built a Shellback, I invite you to follow along as we forge ahead. And, of course, we're interested in any advice or insight you may have to share.

My students have created blogs to highlight each group's build. Admittedly, some blogs are better than others, but I'm working on improving their content. We only meet four times each week for 50 minutes, so I don't have much time to emphasize (or teach) the blogging component. I'm sure we'll get there, though.

Anyway, I'd love to have you "stop by" and see their progress. I've also created a personal blog to model some of the content I'm looking for as well as to provide a record of my/our experience together this semester. One of my entries on my Waypoints (https://nauticalarts.wordpress.com) blog has the URLs for my students' blogs. You may also check out their blogs via the links below:

Shelleyback (https://shelleyback.wordpress.com)
FiveGuysandaDinghy (https://fiveguysandadinghy.wordpress.com)
Quest to Build a Shellback Dinghy (https://boatprojectblog.wordpress.com)
tkpjcnl2k16 (https://tkpjcnl2k16.wordpress.com)

I only joined the forum last night, so I have yet to spend some time searching through some of the project logs. I know many of you do some beautiful work! I look forward to browsing some of your build/repair entries.

Fair winds!


02-05-2016, 08:55 AM
Welcome. These are always enjoyable threads. Seeing the students build and learn is fun. Post lots of pics.
I have not built a Shellback myself, but did just complete a Sailrite sail kit and will be starting the spars shortly - so maybe I can help along those lines.
From what I've seen the Shellback looks like a fairly easy boat to build for a beginner. Are you building from a kit or plans?
Good luck with your build(s).

02-05-2016, 09:14 AM
Thank you for the welcome and the offer of help! Yes, I'm doing my best to take plenty of pictures during each class period, and I've also encouraged my kids to take plenty of pics, which you should see on their blogs.

We're building from plans from the keel up. Go big or go home, I figured (perhaps foolishly). I have experience in sailmaking, so we'll be building the sails from scratch as well. As the project continues, we'll start working on different aspects of the build concurrently, so there should be some sail design and construction pictures in the next few weeks.

Thanks again for the welcome!

02-05-2016, 10:37 AM


these kids will LEARN(not just be exposed to) more/higher math than their average counterparts

the skills associated with building from plans has more far reaching effects on the young minds than the average Math Teacher could ever explain

in perusing the blogs i saw a need for an insulation foam covered cutting table/floor space which helps remove the temptation to hold a piece of wood by hand whilst using a power assisted saw

(4'x8' deck of 3/4" ply set up on 6ea - 16"-4"x4" legs with appropriate perimeter & cross framing, covered w/ thick poly-foam sheet insulation to protect the deck the saw blades & fingers)

please take/post lotsa pics of the process/progress



02-05-2016, 06:12 PM

I agree that it's a great learning experience for the kids - and for me (I'm having a blast).

Thanks for the idea of a cutting table. I'll see what I can do. We just started cutting the hull planks today. I'll go in over the weekend and glue up some more 4x12 pieces of 1/4" plywood - with the help of some hardworking kids in the class - so each group will be able to plot and cut hull planks next week.

Have a great weekend.


02-08-2016, 11:03 AM
I put in a few extra hours this weekend on the Shellback build to keep my students (and the project) on track. Although it speeds things up a bit, we still have hours and hours ahead of us. You can read my latest project entry on Waypoints (https://nauticalarts.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/striking-a-balance-keeping-things-moving/).

Anyone have some good tips on how to mill 1/8" strips quickly and efficiently from a curved board - without sacrificing too much material to waste?

02-08-2016, 11:52 AM
after visiting your blog, i realize you are gluing your scarfs on the floor which doesn't offer any means of securing the pieces to prevent slippage

you can do several joints, one on top of the other, at the same time

using my previously mentioned table and a couple short saw horses, you can do the gluing off the ground/concrete AND

if you dry fit your joints and tack/screw the components in alignment/place onto the flat wooden surface, the pieces are less likely to slip...

tacking the pieces down back from the joint allows you to lift them for the application of the epoxy

LOTSA WAX PAPER is in order


02-08-2016, 12:08 PM
Yes, we are using the floor and weighting the sheets to prevent them from slipping, which seems to be working, but I understand your point. I did read in Eric Dow's book about screwing the pieces down; we just haven't had/built a good surface for doing that yet. I'll see what I can come up with this afternoon, because we have several more pieces to glue up.

Thanks again!

02-09-2016, 11:51 AM

I took your idea and made it work atop our current tables. We clamped two sacrificial pieces of wood to serve as anchors at each end of the table, then glued and layered three 4x12 sheets, clamping and weighting the joint. The method certainly requires less space. Thanks for the nudge. I checked the pieces this morning and was pleased to see that the joints look great and the plastic sheeting between layers did its job well.

I've tried to attach a picture here without any success. You can see one here (https://nauticalarts.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/img_0370.jpg?w=1000), though.

02-09-2016, 08:12 PM
which kid set the PAPER WEIGHT in the middle ? :-)


02-29-2016, 08:11 AM
Work continues on the Shellback dinghies. We're on the cusp of planking the hulls, so these boats will finally look like boats! I'm excited to see these things take shape.

Check out our progress and leave us a note: Waypoints (http://www.nauticalarts.wordpress.com)

Does anyone have experience with Raka, Inc. epoxies? We've been using West System, but someone recommended Raka and their price is much easier on my already-stretched budget. I'd be very interested in hearing what you think/know about Raka.


03-14-2016, 11:02 PM
I've been using Raka on my Pixie restoration, seems as good as any, and the price is right. Sorry I didn't see this sooner. From my sifting around here, I've only seen positive feedback, nothing at all negative, seems to have a solid reputation, and they are super helpful and friendly.

03-15-2016, 07:39 AM

Thanks for the feedback! It's much appreciated. I think I'll place an order today.

03-15-2016, 10:28 AM
Wow, that looks like a great project! thanks for shareing with us! The students all look concentrated and "normal" (no baggy pants hanging round their knees, piercings ect!) This experiance will stay with them for life, well done!

Greetings from cold and wet Germany,


03-16-2016, 08:21 AM

Thanks! Yes, they're good kids. I've been very pleased with their level of focus and diligence. We just began planking one of the boats, and more will receive their planks when our spring break concludes. Exciting times!

All the best.


Wow, that looks like a great project! thanks for shareing with us! The students all look concentrated and "normal" (no baggy pants hanging round their knees, piercings ect!) This experiance will stay with them for life, well done!

Greetings from cold and wet Germany,


05-10-2018, 09:08 PM
I know this is an old Thread... but passing on

2018 Shellback Dinghy National Championship Brookline, Maine (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://79/1)

Dear Sailors, Builders, Family and Friends of the Shellback Dinghy National Championships,
The 10th annual Shellback Dinghy National Championships will be held September 27th- September 29th 2018 (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://80) in Brooklin, Maine for the awarding of the perpetual Frank A Pedersen Trophy.
The fleet will be based at Atlantic Boat, thanks again to the generosity of Cy Hannon, proprietor of Atlantic Boat. Cy writes “Our dock and floats are being upgraded, so bring a crowd and have fun.”
Two racing days will be held in Herrick Bay: Friday September 28th (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://81) and Saturday September 29 (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://82)th (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://82). (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://82) There will be a practice session Thursday September 27th (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://83) time: TBD
Registration & Welcome Reception will be held Thursday evening (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://84).
Saturday dinner (http://forum.woodenboat.com/x-apple-data-detectors://85) and awards presentation will be held at The Brooklin Inn. Thank you to Chip Angell for racing and hosting the awards dinner.

05-11-2018, 03:30 AM
Got 404s on all the links -- is this event happening?