By Luis Grauer - Merida, Mexico

I started building models because I was unable to work in my shop because of a broken leg. I found model building to be fun and informative, so I wrote this article. My model building experience is limited and I would be the last to claim to be a master, but I have learned a few things that I will pass on.

Anyone who plans to build anything can benefit from building a model first. This applies especially to those building plywood boats and more especially to first time builders. To be able to see your boat coming together in three dimensions, to see that it really works and you can really make it happen can give you the confidence to go ahead. Building the model will also show you what parts of the instructions you thought you understood but didn´t. This doesn´t happen all the time, but enough to try to avoid it with a $75 sheet of Okume. My reason for this article is to encourage those of you not overly familiar with the building process to become familiar using cheap cardboard rather than expensive plywood, and because it´s so cheap, you can play around and see what happens if you do this instead of that. You can also build a model for your mantle or coffee table if you choose to, but that´s a different thing to my intention. To use a model to familiarize yourself with the building process you won´t have to be too careful with accuracy of measurements as long as they are close, the cuts needn´t be perfect, but the parts should have a very good right side to left side symmetry. If you want a table top display model, you´ll need some very good and accurate measuring tools and sharp cutters.

Tools used

To build a familiarizing model you will want some heavy cardboard (I use a product called cascaron that comes in sheets 71cmx111cm or about 28"x44". Here in Mexico it sells for 14.5 pesos or about $1.20). Also, a fairly long straightedge, a utility knife, scissors, scotch tape and maybe hot-melt glue, and a 2H pencil (softer lead will smear and make a messy looking job). The cascaron is about twice as heavy as cereal box cardboard and one sheet will build a model of a 12´boat at a scale of 5-1. I like 5-1 because it´s big enough to see what you have and small enough to be comfortable at the kitchen table. A 12´boat will make a model about 30" long. You may want to change the scale for larger and smaller boats. Nothing here is written in stone, we´re supposed to be having fun, eh.

O.K., let´s build a model. First, read your plans and building instructions TWICE or more, until you are familiar with them, then cut out the parts. There are two types of building that I will deal with here, one being the "Instant Boat" type and the other being the multichine type built over frames on a strongback. For the "Instant Boat" type, and this will apply to many of Jim Michalaks designs, we start by scotch taping the stem, then scotch taping the transom to the sides. Put in your bulkheads and any temporary molds. your boat will now have rocker to the bottom. If you plan to take the bottom lines from the hull, mark a centerline and mark the centers of all the bulkheads and line these marks up as you roll the hull over the cardboard bottom piece. I use the scissors to cut curves. Attach the bottom and any inside pieces, i.e. seats, and you have a model of your boat.

The multichine will probably need a mold made of a strongback and frames across it. You can see how I built mine in the accompanying photo. Once you have that, mark the panels against the molds and cut out, or cut to the dimensions given in the instructions, then glue them up and you have a hull. I cut all my panels full length from the cardboard. I don´t think practicing plywood butt joints with cardboard serves any purpose or has much value. Some things just have to wait till you get to the plywood.

So, guys and gals, this is easy, it´s fun, it´s cheap enough that you can build any number of models as confidence builds or just to have fun or to experiment, and if you don´t already know everything, you might even learn something. Have a go at it!

The above was written after I had built the models shown. Two were of the "Instant Boat" type, built without a building jig, and very easy to build. The multichine needed a building jig, in its case fairly simple. I had just bought Renn Tolmans book "The Tolman Alaska Skiff" and decided to build a model of it photographing the process. The building method for the Tolman skiff is not what you would normally encounter, but all the better, because this part of the article will deal with building jigs for models and building my skiff model taught me some things, it did!

First of all, building jigs are designed by the designer to real size, which for a model might wind up too close to the floor, which, in a model, is the cardboard base that the jig is glued to to keep right angles right angles. You will have to decide if you want the whole thing elevated some to give you room to work. Depending on the boat, you may not have to, but still may want to. Second, and this I learned building the skiff, if you are going to mark the cuts on panel from a partially built model, the jig must not move. Cardboard is not very strong, so may have to be made in the form of an I-Beam, or possibly use another material (plywood, metal bar) for some parts of the jig. I realized after building my skiff, that I could have used printer paper to make patterns of the side panels as it bends much easier than cardboard. The message here is that you will have to re-design the building jig to some degree, and how much re-designing will depend on the boat.

Another thing to consider is that if you have a lot of trouble figuring out how to modify the jig to build the model you may have bitten off a bigger piece than you can handle at this point in your building career. If you need a complicated jig, you probably have chosen a complicated boat to build. Build something simple first. Bolgers "Instant Boats" and Jim Michalaks boats are very simple. Michael Storers Oz PDR is an easy build with 60 some odd pages of instructions. Michalak and Storer also teach you how to build a polytarp sail, which Bolger (Payson) doesn´t.





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