Note: Please feel free to comment, critique, or otherwise chime in at any time!
I've noticed a lot of people create threads that track the progress of their builds. Those construction journals are very helpful to others. I hope you can glean some useful info from this journal for my first build, an Argie 15. I'm an all-thumbs novice, but I'm eager to share this boatbuilding odyssey with others.
(Above) The outcome I'm working towards. I love all the bright finishing inboard.
(Above, left) Some craftsmen have really turned out magnificent looking copies of the Argie 15.
(Above, right) The smaller sister of the Argie 15, the Argie 10.
Design selection. I need a bigger boat! Not because I'm under siege by a 25-foot great white that wants to snack on Amity Island's vacationers. Unlike the crew of the Orca, my need for a bigger boat arose due to joyous additions to my family. We need a larger daysailer to replace my small plastic Walker Bay 10 dinghy. I am also limited to a medium-sized sedan and a small trailer so the hull weight needs to be no more than 200 lb. The sharpie style boat and the lovely Storer Goat Island Skiff appealed to me -- great aesthetics and ease of construction. However, I eventually boiled my selection down to a multi-chine design from Dudley Dix, Lillistone First Mate, and the Selway-Fisher Highlander 14. Woodenboat Magazine praises the Argie 15's design in terms of performance, ease of construction, and versatility. The plans for the Highlander 14 ($115) were more expensive than the Argie 15 ($55). I liked the fact that there are so many highly-detailed photos of people's Argie projects online because this info would help guide my build, and proved the design was both ubiquitous and reasonably easy for beginners to accomplish.
Plywood. Okoume (BS 1088) costs close to $90 per panel -- too expensive, Aquatek (BS 6566) is $42 -- too many little voids, possibly. Hydrotek (Meranti BS 1088) was "just right" to use a Goldilocks term. I ordered eight sheets ($55 per sheet, including S&H from Calif.). I knew this stuff splinters more than Okoume, but I had a plan to mitigate the splintering and it wasn't a problem: work with gloves, score cutting lines with a utility knife, and use suitable saw blades.
Epoxy trumps polyester. Unless you are Disco Stu, a Simpson's character who is enamored with the '70s disco and polyester era, boatbuilding with polyester is probably not your "scene", Man! Neither should vinyl ester be your scene. Those products seem to be used to make nice fiberglass hulls and not for fiberglass-to-wood applications. Although Dix's original plans (1988) enable you to construct the boat successfully using inexpensive polyester resin, epoxy has since established itself as a safer, stronger, more durable option. I'm not even sure if an Average Joe could have readily found epoxy in South Africa in 1988. Polyester is lot more toxic than epoxy so I couldn't use it in my townhouse complex anyway. Woodenboat Magazine says Dix now advocates epoxy and the FAQ section of the Dix Design Yacht Web site reflects that stance.
Early epoxy failures. The first epoxy type I bought was Maxbond 1:1 off eBay. It is inexpensive and a few people on this and other forums vouched for the stuff so I decided to give it a try, but I was sorely disappointed. It seemed no matter what I did, the stuff wouldn't bond the tape to plywood strongly. I was able to peel the tape off with moderate force even after two weeks of curing. I lost a month trying different methods and ultimately having to remove the failed materials. The 1:1 epoxy was very thick at even slightly cold temperatures so mixing was a chore. In warmer temperatures, I think Maxbond would be fine for some coating or other non-structural applications (mixing up a cheap fairing compound, for example), but in winter temperatures and structural applications it was a flub for me.
Lessons in epoxy. I suspected the failures stemmed from the epoxy or the tape. I decided to eliminate both potential sources of the problem: (1) abandon using tapes and cut my own from cloth (those blasted selvages were a pain anyway), and (2) go with a more reputable epoxy system like West. Additional testing on scrap plywood by using West 105/205, fiberglass tape, and cloth proved the tape was not the culprit. Then I suspected glue starvation was the chief problem. While the plywood was sucking the epoxy into it and possibly compromising the bond, starvation was not the main problem. Following advice from Dix, West Systems, and a number of knowledgeable people on the forum, I learned and applied techniques that mitigated against glue starvation and I started producing stronger joints. I was still not there yet though. Additional testing showed that in lower temperatures 1:1 epoxy was taking forever to cure. The fast West hardener really helped, but patience was still required. I needed to just wait a lot longer than I thought before conducting joint tests. Most of the project was done with 3 gal of U.S. Composites 635/medium epoxy and about a quart of West 105/205 went into the interior tapes and fillets. I found this epoxy very acceptable other than a slight odor and slightly more tendency to form amine blush. (The latter is easily washed and scoured off.)
Dimensional lumber. I will use Douglas fir for the frames, daggerboard, rudder, and keel runners. I will probably get some pretty mahogany for the rub rails and other aesthetically important parts of the boat.
Hardware. After a lot of guidance by helpful people on this site, I selected rebar tie wire for the stitching. Copper is very expensive. I own most of the essential tools: jigsaw, orbital sander, drill, screwdrivers, pliers, Japanese saw, miter saw, utility knife, squeegees, etc. I had a table saw to rip lumber, but had a lumber merchant do it for me -- table saws scare me too much. A low-angle block plane is a real pleasure to use.
Lofting. The plans are drawn in metric (precise, mm) measurements. Use those because the "equivalent" Imperial measurements, which are shown in parentheses on the plan, are not convenient to use. You have to shop around a bit to find the correct measuring tools. I used a 16-foot long 3/4 in. x 1/4 in. white pine batten. (Warren Messer suggests something a little thicker). Get 1 1/2 in. finishing nails and use spring clips to hold the batten in place as you curve the batten around the nails. Someone suggested using heavily weighted tins as substitutes for lofting ducks -- sounds good, but I already had the spring clamps. Some other tools I used: a drywall T, a carpenters square, a steel ruler, and straight edge. All marking was done in pencil, which is a good idea because I made a few mistakes. Check and recheck your measurements, I learned. Dudley Dix sent me some good ideas for drawing perfectly parallel stations, and others suggested the "compass" and "3-4-5" methods for accomplishing this task. The only somewhat tricky parts to mark, were the lower side panels -- you have to mark a diagonal line across two panels and then mark the stations perpendicular to the diagonal line itself. I wish the plans just gave the same points as X-Y coordinates instead. The bow end of the lower side panels also had a "knuckle" (similar to Devlin's suggested transition point) and some tricky points.
(Below) Spring clamps holding the batten in place
(Below) Panels layout for the Argie 15
Cutting. I used a jigsaw with a fine 20 TPI scroll cutting blade. I turned the orbital cutting action off and the saw speed to a very slow setting. At first I tried to cut exactly just outside the line and then sanded by hand to get to the line. Completing a couple of panels by using that method took too long. I was getting some splintering on cuts against the grain (cutting widthwise) on the plywood panels, but I scored the marked lines with a utility knife and the cuts were acceptable. What really helped me double my speed, was cutting a little less carefully about 1/16 to 1/8 in. outside the line, and then removing the excess material by using a very sharp block plane and orbital sander with 100 grit abrasive paper. Using the plane was fun and precise. Don't use the plane against the grain though -- it encourages splintering, just sand it down amnd don't forget to score the cutting line with a utility knife. Most cuts on the Argie 15 are lengthwise where you can use a planer to finish the panels easily. (See also post no. 5 to learn how I joined the panels).
A fine (20 TPI) scroll saw blade and a jigsaw cut plywood well (below)
Disclaimer: I am an amateur sharing my personal experience and limited know-how, and you should not construe this journal as a construction manual or as plans to construct the Argie 15. Nor do I imply any responsibility for your use of this information. Dudley Dix Yacht Design (DDYD) owns all rights to the design. You should not attempt to construct the design without first purchasing plans from DDYD. Please direct inquiries in this regard to email@example.com.