OSS Update
by Bill Eason


Much overdue are my combined reports on OSS projects #2 and #3. My first project, UNO, was reported last August here.

To recap where I left off, my brother and his wife and two boys moved back south to the Atlanta area last June after nearly five years away in Boston. I had been itching to build a boat - ANY boat - for far too long, and when my wife suggested I do a project with my newly-returned nephews, I jumped at the idea. I built UNO, a Herb McLeod One-Sheet Skiff (modified), and made plans to build another with each nephew during individual overnight stays with Uncle Bill. We would only have time to do the construction phase, and I would send them each home with a structurally complete boat that they could sand, fill, and paint on their own time, leading up to a mass christening of the fleet later in the summer.

Well, after a successful builder-test launching of UNO in the Chattahoochee River near my office one day after work, I began on OSS #2 with my namesake nephew, affectionately known in the family as "Little Bill." He was then nine years old, and a little engineer-in-the-making, following in the footsteps of his Uncle Bill and Granddaddy. He's a great kid, always looking for scrap wood and a hammer and a few nails to assemble something he's dreamed up. Rob was eleven at the time, and is more of a Nintendo junkie, but my hope was that he would enjoy the project as well. He certainly did! Not surprisingly, the boys both named their boats after their other interests: Bill's "Row-bot" (get it? :-) and Rob's "Game Boy."

We began each boat after supper on Friday night, getting a rather late start. I had pre-cut some of the more complicated parts, like the triangular stem and a few beveled parts, but I wanted to leave enough cutting to make it interesting for them. Pretty quickly, we had cut out the first piece - a gusset for the center frame. Having built my own OSS, I had a specific goal of getting the frame and transom glued up before bedtime so they'd be ready to take the stresses of the bent sides in the morning. We also got the angled ends of the side panels cut and glued onto the pre-cut stem before hitting the bed between 11pm and midnight.

Even though we have a guest bed, the boys both preferred to sleep on a makeshift pallet on the floor of our master bedroom. Our faithful cocker spaniel welcomed both the company and the soft, cushy foam pad to sleep on. In the morning, we had a good breakfast and got to work by unclamping the frame and transom, and by beveling the edges of the transom to fit with the side and bottom panels. With a bit of guidance, Rob was able to run the piece over the jointer to accomplish this himself.

With that done, it was time to dry-fit and then glue the frame and transom between the sides. By 10:45am, we had something resembling a (bottomless) boat! Since these boats will never be wet for more than a few hours at a time, we just used plain shiny zinc-plated steel screws along with construction adhesive (some PL-Premium, some various other types) from the hardware store. I figure they might outgrow these boats (or the interest therein) before the boats have a chance to fall apart anyway.

The goal for lunchtime was to get the bottom on the boat. This meant fitting and attaching the external chine logs with glue and some temporary screws, marking the outline on the bottom panel, cutting it oversize to shape, and gluing & clamping it in place. I have a good collection of small clamps that we were able to use, but the thin lauan plywood still wanted to stand away from the chine logs in spots. To help get hold things together tightly, I used some short (1/2" and 3/4") round-head screws through the ply into the log, every 6-8" as needed. Once the glue set sufficiently, the screws were removed for reuse and the holes filled.

After lunch, we were able to roll the boat and fit the gunwales. I had pre-rabbeted some 1x2 pine to fit over the lauan and sit flush with the inside face of the boat. Again, the clamps weren't quite enough to pull everything snug, so round-headed screws were called into service. While it felt like the boat was almost finished at this point, we still had to attach the external keel and the seat. Being in a basement at mid-afternoon on a summer's day, I also began battling a waning attention span with both boys by now. We pushed on, though, and got everything assembled before suppertime. I had taken a page from my old Boy Scout days and put an eye splice in a piece of sisal rope, looped through a 3/8" eye bolt for the bow of each boat. This became the final touch before sending them home.

In all, I think it was a great experience for all of us. I was able to spend some good one-on-one time with my nephews after living 1000 miles away for several years. They got introduced to boatbuilding and ended up with a "take-home" that they could actually use. Even if the boats get more use than they can survive, then maybe that's a good indication that a slightly more "serious" vessel would be a reasonable investment for them. As I'll later tell in the story of the launching, this also became a wonderful excuse for getting the family together at the lake to enjoy the beauty of creation and some memories in the making.

Fair winds,

Bill Eason

(click to enlarge)

Rob cutting the second gusset

Bill & Bill with the first piece cut - a plywood gusset

Bill holding the completed frame

Rob holding the completed frame

Land ho, mateys!

Rob attaching side 1 to the stem

Happy with the progress, but let's get to bed!

Time to get cracking!

9:25am Saturday - We've had breakfast and the transom has been removed from the clamps - it looks good!

Screwing the sides to the frame

Hey - this thing's pretty lightweight!

The proud boatbuilder with the bottom panel glued on

Got clamps? ...attaching the gunwales

Using the block plane to trim the bottom panel down flush with the chine logs

Closeup of bow & eye splice

Bill & Bill with Row-bot; UNO in the background

Rob & Bill with Game Boy; UNO in the background

We did it!!! Loaded up and ready to take home