Tools for the job.

November 2021.

Pathfinder build, technical post – tools

Also….a new Facebook page for backyard boatbuilders .

Note to readers – this isn’t one of my ‘series’ posts and neither is it a normal blog post, rather it’s a response to another member dropping a question on the designer’s (John Welsford) social media group ; his question was about what tools to acquire before starting a build so….

As iv’e said several times – i’m not a boatbuilder and i have only poor woodworking skills : in 5 years of formal woodwork classes at school i think i nearly made a display case for my 25mm wargames army….except that i hadn’t finished it by the time i left . I have however owned and tried to maintain several wooden boats including a part built Wharram cat which i completed, the Frances which i refitted and then the Liberty that i tinkered around with for several years. When i sold and packed that boat up i brought all of my tools home and found that i had 2 similar sets of boat maintenance tools.

When i started this project then i already had a collection of tools because iv’e done all sorts of repair and refit jobs on several boats although i didn’t have several of what i now think as my boatbuilding tools – here’s a quick link to one of my tool projects in which i built a rough copy of Adam Savage’s rolling tool rack :

I thought that something like that would be very useful because i do a lot of my work outside my workshop, which is small , cold and damp – i often did my larger projects on a modified garden bench and it was useful to have most of my hand tools outside with me rather than going back and forth to the workshop. My first comments/review points then is not about tools but having a surface to work on and specifically at an ideal height to work with full plywood sheets – to mark out and cut out all of the pieces needed and then to modify again to do the big scarfing job for the bottom boards. My simple modification as below was to add 5 cross members in cheap timber – this raises the work surface by a useful 4 inches and allows me to cut long edges just by moving the sheet around .

Thinking about the stages of my build now there have been very few times until just recently when iv’e been doing different things on any day – most days early on , for example, i spent days and days just marking out pieces of plywood to make the frames from. John Welsford describes that in his build instructions as making a kit-set of parts ; i thought of it as my flat-pack furniture stage ; whatever, it only needed a few specific marking out tools , some of which i already had but to which i added a better straight edge with 1mm markings, a new tape measure and an accurate square. Just to say that i had an embarrassing moment on a house project when our plumber discovered that my shop bough drywall square was anything but actually square. To me now it seems almost criminal that a ‘square’ that isn’t can be sold as such – so watch out and if you buy one then buy a good one .

As i have built the boat thus far in several stages i thought i would run through the build in terms of the tools i used at each stage : i did a lot of marking out of pieces, notably the frames and bow girder so lets start there.

Tools for marking out (not complete)

1.Tape measure

2.Lots of new pencils – i settled on B and 2B for marking out.

3.Square and not shown a carpenters square which mainly got used later on.

4.New straight edge (not shown here) ….the yellow one is the remaining part of my non-square ‘square’ and it’s quite long so i often just used it as an edge to draw a line along.

5. Not shown here – a long (3 meter) alloy batten from a sail stack-pack that i used as a fairing batten for long curves plus a shorter flexible sail batten for the smaller pieces.

Most of the ‘flat-pack’ stage is a matter of marking out an XY points grid and then joining the dots in a series of straight lines – that needs an accurate datum line and then accurate marking out of horizontal and vertical points. Where it changes is where there is a curve to loft and fair ; the best example is the bilge curve of the bottom panel which has multiple stations to mark and then a whole load of points to join with a fair curve. For that job i used the long alloy batten that i mentioned above and i bent that around nails just driven in at the station marks… you could say that included in my marking out tools was a hammer and a bag of nails.

There are also a few places in the design that has smaller sections of curves and the long alloy batten was too long and awkward for those so i often used an old Willow sail batten….luckily i had 4 because i broke one in trying to bend it around a too-tight curve.

Marking out of curves then.

1.Fairing batten…at least 3 meters

2.Smaller fairing battens.

3.Hammer and nails.

4.A 2.5 liter paint can *

Cutting out tools.

Cutting-out tools are simple to talk about because i only used 3 and my absolute star of the show is a long handled Japanese pull saw, in my case either a ‘Dozuki’ or Hasumne saw. I sometimes used a smaller Irwin brand razor saw , again a pull saw because it would go around tighter curves than the longer Japanese saws. For cutting out the tightest curves in the frame doublers i reverted to a good quality jigsaw with a narrow and fine blade….of note i marked out all of those curves around a standard template – which in my case was the base of a 2.5 liter paint can.

Again, of note – often started my cuts on the chine angles by first drilling a hole through the plywood sheet with a large spade bit so that i could start the actual cut near the line.

Cutting-out tools then.

1.Dozuki and Hasumne pull saws (i’d really like the Japanese rip saw in the future)

2.Irwin brand flexible razor saw.


4.Battery drill and spade bits.

5.During the project i did treat myself to a table saw because i was having difficulty finding a workshop locally that would run my hardwood stock through their saw to make the centerboard lamells from.

6.Again later on in the build i bought a reciprocating multi-tool specifically to notch the stringers with but iv’e since used it for lots of other jobs.

Assembly stage.

I made some of my frames as one piece and the rest of them, as per plans, from several pieces that i then had to glue together and i knew of a problem with ply on ply with slippery epoxy glue in between and that is that the ply pieces slide around over each other especially under clamping pressure. As i said in an early build blog – i got around that by dry clamping the pieces together properly aligned and then drilling an 8mm hole through both and when i glued up i drove an 8mm dowel through the hole to keep the pieces aligned. What the assembly stage needs extra is a selection of clamps – i used mainly some spring clamps and small G clamps at that stage. Later on in the project i used the longer Irwin brand speed clamps to help me pull the stringers on – iv’e also got a couple of longer but lighter ones of those. The other clamps not shown here but appear in the blog are 3 big sash clamps that i used to make the centerboard.

Assembly tools not already listed.

1.Ratchet screwdriver.

2.During long screw and glue jobs – the battery drill used with a posi-drive bit.

3.Drill bits – 2.5 mm 4mm, 8mm and a pair of countersink bits.

4.Woodworkers mallet….mainly for smacking my head with when i got bored with a brick wall.

The epoxy tools and consumables i think i’ll talk about in a second post.

Below – marking out, cutting and shaping tools.


Much to my surprise i found that i was cutting decent straight edges for the first time ever and i rarely had to clean up a cut line – later on , during the stringer fitting and shaping stage, i had to do a lot of planing and shaping though. A lot of the work of that stage is planing the long bevels on each of the stringers ; that’s some 170 feet of bevels to shape by the way !. My favorite tool for that stage, especially when i had to spend hours in a difficult position planing under the bilge chine stringer was the little block plane. Later on in that stage i used a standard No 4 smoothing plane and then right at the end a rebate plane to help me cut the ply/clinker ‘gain’ at the bow. Other shaping tools that get hard use are a super rough half round rasp and a Shinto saw-rasp. Most recently i invested in a large hole saw just to cut the many 4 inch inspection hatch holes although iv’e had to do the 5 and 6 inch ones the hard way.

Shaping tools.

  1. Stanley block plane.
  2. No 4 smoothing plane
  3. .Rebate plane
  4. Coarse , half-round rasp
  5. Shinto saw rasp
  6. Heavy grit sandpaper and lots of different home made sanding blocks.


These deserve a separate section because i often felt that i often didn’t have the right clamps or simply didn’t have enough of them. Most useful have been small G clamps for making the frames and/or the small spring clamps. I used the big Irwin clamps a lot especially when i was pulling the stringers in at the bow – my main clamping and holding adjunct has been very long cable ties, anything up to 600 mm . When i dry fitted the stringers i found that starting in the middle and cable-tying the stringer to the middle frames helped me keep control of the stringer. I also used some lengths of cordage to pull 2 stringer ends in together and once employed a ‘Spanish windlass’ technique.

Power tools.

I found that i worked a lot without power tools but several are essential and several more are very desirable – rough order of importance as below.

1.Battery drill.


3.Various sanders – my triangular/delta sander is doing the heavy lifting right now.

4. Industrial hoover. (this week that’s at No 1 )

5.Table saw.

6.Reciprocating mult-tool with wood blade…..occasional use of metal cutting blade.

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