A blog about SCAMP (Small Craft Advisor Magazine Project) boats. Covering the build, sailing the boat and the scamp community that has formed around this little portly boat.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Building skegs: there's got to be a better way

I thought I had a good plan; laminate 2 3/4" plywood skegs to make a 1 1/2" skeg. Members of the message board encouraged me to use white oak instead. I've worked white oak before; it's hard to work and I didn't relish the thought of shaping it.

I do have some 8/4 white oak pieces that are about 9 feet long from a previous project. I could have cut those down to 1/2" slices and bent them to the hull and laminated skegs, but the thought of weighting those down on the hull and laminating them made me think it would take weeks.

After much deliberation at the lumber store, I finally decided to buy red oak for the skegs. I was able to find 2 pieces of rough cut 6/4 red oak that would work.

I traced the pattern and cut out the red oak with an older jigsaw that I had.  I burned out the old jigsaw cutting the red oak and had to buy another one. Jigsaws suck.
I don't have a bandsaw, but that would have worked much better. I had to cut well outside the line because I've had bad luck with cutting perpendicular.
Cutting the skegs

Skegs rough cut

I attached the template to the rough cut skegs and set up the router with a top pilot 1 1/4" long straight bit. I should have used a shorter 1" bit, it might have been easier to manage.
Cutting well outside the line meant that there was a lot of material to remove.
top pilot straight bit
It didn't go that well. The bottom pilot came loose a couple times and I gouged the pattern and the wood.

I flipped over the pattern and removed the other side with a bottom pilot straight bit.
Cut the remainder
After doing the second piece and making a lot of sawdust, I was finally done.
Skegs are done
I didn't get any photos, but I was able to route the finger holds. In retrospect, I should have cut those later.
I also put a 1/8" roundover on the appropriate edges. Again, this might have been better to do after everything was cleaned up and more straight.

I set them on the boat on top of some plastic and cleaned them up by layering on some epoxy thickened with some (relatively) easy to sand 407.

raw cuts.

slathered with 407 epoxy.
I'll sand these when they are cured and get them smooth. I'll have to do some clean up with the shinto rasp, especially on the bottom to get it to fit the curve well.
I don't want to put screws through the hull, so I'll likely use a forstner bit to drill a couple shallow holes in the hull for dowels.
Then I'll fill in the bottom low spots with thickened epoxy about 8 hours before I glue the whole thing down.

This whole exercise was a real pain. There's got to be a better way.
If I were to do this again, I would cut the pattern on 1/4" plywood. It would be more sturdy and offer a better edge. I would also make 2 patterns so that if one did get screwed up, it wouldn't mess up the second cut.
Better yet, 4 skegs CNC cut from 9mm plywood would be just about 1 1/2". Those could be laminated together and glassed.

Afterwards, I remembered that bamboo plywood would probably have worked well. I know they sell  4' x 8' sheets of 1 1/2". A friend of mine gave me some that he was using as stair treads.
1 1/2" bamboo. Maybe I should have used this.


  1. Jeff -

    Interesting bamboo plywood - I've never seen anything like that. Regarding screws/dowels - I actually didn't use anything. I layed out some alignment lines and clamped the skegs down by bracing against the ceiling with light battens. That worked well and there was not much tendency to slide around.

    You can see photos of that here:


    -- Dave

  2. My local Rocker store sells 3/4" 1'x8' bamboo plywood that is similar but 3 ply. Unfortunately, they want $15 per linear foot and I'd have to buy 4 sheets. yikes.

    There was also a bit of tear out on the first pass with the router bit because of the width of the material that was removed.

    This was much more labor intensive than I thought it would be. Using a bandsaw to cut the initial skeg or using a straight router bit with a larger pilot for a first pass would have made things easier.
    The next time will better.