Weekends and sticky moments.

Just recently i picked up an older thread idea and series of mine : highlighting a group of boats, often cheap projects popping up on Ebay.    In the previous post of this series i quickly featured 3 boats as i remember it and then the very same week another 3 or 4 viable small boat projects came up although by then i’d run out of blogging time and just had to be doing other, essential things instead .  Thus i got a bowsprit made, a drill bench finished and the curious cabinets mounted but didn’t put out a follow-up post.

On Ebay it just seemed that everyone with an old boat in their back paddock (almost said their back passage !) suddenly woke up and stuck them up for auction.  There was a whole slew of small viable boats just asking for a bit of love : several Achilles 24’s, frequently mentioned here, ditto some neat Corribee’s, a sad but rescue-able Memory gaffer and then the ones i featured.

Just after that i got all moist myself when one boat popped up that i really, really liked the look of myself…..a wooden boat too !.    Now, you all probably know where this is going as that’s what happened last year with ‘Inanda’  and shortly before that nearly happened with a little English Folkboat (Chuckle made me smile !).  I do have a thing about wooden boats because they have ‘soul’ and ‘character’…..it’s just that me and wooden boats don’t belong in the same sentence.  If you knew me you wouldn’t put my name and highly skilled, and then wood and finally boatbuilder anywhere near each other.  ‘Inanda’ was clearly a mistake and a physical one because the work required would have been brutally horrible on my recent knee replacement.

However…..despite doing the mental equivalent of writing out 50 times : i will not look at wooden boat projects on ebay, i will not look at wooden boat projects on ebay,i will not look at wooden boat projects on ebay……and so on…..after about the tenth time it becomes ‘oh look….nice wooden boat project on ebay”.

What really got me thinking and wishing was a 27 foot wooden gaff cutter with a centerboard and essentially laid-up in a boatyard after the death of her owner.  Now don’t panic too much, the bidding went past my set limit the day before the auction was due to end and on the day i quite deliberately closed myself away in the workshop and turned the computer off.  The thing is that although it was a wooden boat, she was cold -moulded and quite recently built, essentially an FRP boat and the kind of thing that i can cope with working on.   It was the kind of project that had me wondering if i could have got my boat around to the east coast, lived aboard while i did the refit and even did some agency work over there to pay the bills.   Luckily i think that she was some 300 miles away and not just down the road so i couldn’t just go and ‘take a look’ and get all enthusiastic.

Well, it’s kind-of happened again and with one of the very few wooden boats that i really have actively researched and considered owning : and it comes on a trailer.  As the yard here starts to empty out and with me still owning a viable towing vehicle, perhaps for the last year, it really got me thinking about a genuine retirement project boat….except that i would have to do some work to pay for materials and yard space….Catch 22.  Luckily again the boat in question is so far away that it’s technically in another country : Scotland and some 600 miles away in a straight line.

Well, what is it precious ?…..here then : https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Sailing-boat-26-ft/283424415969?hash=item41fd6960e1:g:Kf8AAOSwqCJckjlT

Amazingly there are 2 of them on the site right now although the second one is a classified listing.  They are both of course Fairey Atalanta’s and the connection today is the hot molded and glue posts one.

This is the actual boat on auction, currently sitting at £700.

s-l1600 (3)

Regular followers will know that i am enthusiastic about this very quirky design because it would meet so many of my sailing requirements : larger than the Liberty, more powerful and seaworthy and with a shallow/variable draft with it’s twin bilge-boards. I have covered the history and design before (Uffa Fox and airoplane builders ‘Fairey’ but it did make me look again at the glue connection because of my recent work and the fact that the Fairey works had also built aeroplanes in wood.   The direct connection entailed quite a lot more research about glue and hot moulding.

Just as a reminder here is what a fully restored Atalanta can look like. (owners website pictures)    What i discovered in the first round of research was that it wasn’t really an Atalanta i wanted but the slightly larger and boxier ‘Titania’ which, i believe, has a taller hull.  I think the white one below is a ‘Titania’



I still love the odd looking 1950’s design and that curved cabin top, sort of a cross between yellow submarine and wooden aircraft.  I was never quite sure about the accommodation because it has to be divided into 2 separate parts for and aft by the central cockpit.  That makes both cabins small although there is potential to make the 2 aft bunks into one much larger double, my objection as i remember it from going aboard an Atalanta being that i couldn’t sit up comfortably in the aft cabin but might be able to in the boxier Titania.

Because of my current practical research into boatbuilding glues and the history of making lightweight boat and aircraft parts in wood i went back for another look at the hot molding technique.  The following is taken from Wikipedia :

The hot moulding process was an adaptation to post war boat building of the method originally developed by de Havillands in the 1930s for “stressed skin” wooden aircraft production, using layers of thin birch plywood sandwiched together with glue over a male mould and “cooked” in a large oven called an “autoclave” By using true mass-production techniques, Fairey Marine were able to turn out vast numbers of identical boats at an unprecedented quality and price. Moulds were constructed from spruce, built up on a steel base plate. Seven by three inches planks cut to the waterplane sections provided the starting point. Working from the sheerline, the planks were built up in a series of steps, arriving quickly at a close representation of the designed shape. Subsequent fairing yielded finished dimensions. Rebates for the keelstem and transom completed the mould building process. Although the veneers used to produce Fairey boats may appear to be parallel sided, every one was in fact profiled. Rather than shaping each veneer to fit on the mould, as in traditional boat building, Faireys saved an enormous amount of time by sawing complete sets of veneers to precision patterns. Veneers were produced in stacks of six. Boat were then typically built in batches of 24 or 36. Early boats used 1/8″ spruce ply, surplus to the War Department’s de Havilland Mosquitoaircraft programme. When this material became unavailable it was replaced by 2.5 mm agba veneers.

Chosen for its high gum content, agba formed easily without splitting and glued well. All the dinghy classes used just three agba veneers while some of the bigger boats used up to six. Initially all the veneers were laid at 45° while later boats changed to fore and aft outer planking for aesthetic reasons. With the keel, stem and transom in place, veneers were applied starting on the centreline and working out towards the shear. Each veneer was held in place by just three staples at the keel, bilge and shearline. Roller-application of Borden One-Shot waterproof glue preceded each veneer except the first. With all veneers in place a vacuum bag was drawn over the moulding and secured in place using a clamp plate and G-clamps. Early vacuum bags were made from war surplus barrage balloon fabric. After about 1950, individual rubber bags were prepared on the moulds using uncured rubber sheets which were subsequently vulcanised in the autoclaves used for production.[6]

Placed in the autoclave, the vacuum was drawn down to 27/28 inches water-gauge and steam at a pressure of some 50 pounds per square inch introduced. Processing took about 45 minutes at 100 °C. Curing at elevated temperatures under vacuum not only ensured that all the veneers were firmly consolidated – a process requiring many thousands of staples using the conventional cold-moulding process – but allowed for the use of a truly waterproof, single part, high-temperature curing glue. During the curing process the glue impregnated the wood resulting in a virtually rot-proof finished shell. Components such as side-decks were also hot moulded while other parts required for assembly were cut to patterns in the same way as the skin veneers. For one of the more complex boats, the International 14, the time for final construction from bare hull to finished boat was set at 230-man-hours compared to 400–500 hours associated with traditional construction.”

So, in my earlier post about glue and the famous ‘Mosquito‘ i think i said that the Mosquito ‘hull’ (fuselage of course) and wings were cold-moulded.  It seems that was an error on my part and as above that they were made in a hot mould and possibly an autoclave like oven.                 I really had to stretch my memory to see if i could remember any aircraft that Fairey (aviation) made and could only think of the ‘Swordfish‘ and deliberately didn’t do a search because i just knew i would then be there all night : again !.  As it happens i don’t think the famous ‘Swordfish‘ was made of wood although it was already an obsolete biplane at the start of WW2…..didn’t stop it crippling the Bismark though !

That brings us onto the glue used…..’Borden’ glue.

The nearest looking link i can find so far is this : and i can’t be sure that it’s the same stuff although it does seem to be a resorcinol resin product.        http://www.hallmarkfraulo.co.uk/assets/pdf/Resorcinol_Generic_Information.pdf

This weeks progress on glue then.

No, i still haven’t completed a project with either cascamite or resorcinol resin but what i think i may have done is worked out a simple clamping and holding technique for my potential hollow wooden mast project and that basically uses webbing and an over-centre ratchet to take up the pressure and then very wide and long cable ties to keep the pressure on….would be easier to show than to explain.

Anyway…todays aircraft-porn for those who are into that kind of thing.

The Fairey ‘Swordfish’…..i don’t ever remember seeing one although i guess there would be one at the Fleet air arm museum near Yeovil.   (Tanks are more my thing)



  1. That white Atalanta is not a Titania, she is a modified Atlanta 26, the stern sheet was raised by her very skilled owner. The Titania has a raised blister aft cabin house similar to the Howard cabin. Take a look on the Atalanta owners association website. The white boat is a cracker though I must admit.


  2. Fairey took the “make do and mend” philosophy of the war into their post-war boat building it seems — got to use up all those old barrage balloons eh — great stuff, thanks Steve.

    Hard to believe that at one time Fairey Marine were the world’s single largest boat manufacturer outside of the USA. I have to admit that if I were a rich man (copyright Topol) a Huntsman 28 motorboat what be on my shopping list just below an Atalanta of course 😉

    And yes, you are right, there is a Swordfish at the FAA museum. It had a fabric-covered metal airframe. Even though it entered service in 1936 and was an obsolete design by 1939 — probably obsolete in 1936 too — the Swordfish was remarkably successful, in no small part due to the brave men that flew them, and served from the beginning to the end of WWII!


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