The Nautical World...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lofty Lofting

What a week. School is really starting to kick in, even more reason I need a boat, and soon!

Towards the end of this week I hope to begin the lofting (still trying to decide which type of plywood I want to sell my unborn firstborn male child for.) Traditionally, lofting was done directly on the floor of a boat shop, unless of course they wanted to save the pattern so that they could recreate this boat again and again. In this case it would would be done on some plywood type material. This way I can reuse it again for building another dory or maybe just for hanging on my wall (or I can use it to make a nautical themed beer pong table (or I can just stop messing around with ping pong balls and drink the beer directly)). Whatever the case may be, I am going to loft on the plywood.

Now, a Banks Dory has been built so many times that some people I talk to say I shouldn't even bother lofting it. There have been a million books so why waste my time? I am choosing to loft because I am going to use the finished product and "pick-up" my lines directly from it. Picking up lines refers to using your lofted boat plan almost as a template to guide you in cutting out your pieces. I am also choosing to loft because the great John Gardener told me so in his dory bible "The Dory Book," and I dare not incur the wrath of John Gardener. John Gardener is to Dories is what Bobby Fischer is to chess. You just don't second guess the guy.

So, I'll begin by purchasing two 4'x 8' pieces of plywood and some 2"x 4"s as support. I would like to bolt the plywood to the 2"x 4"s that way I can assemble and disassemble and move them around easier. We'll see how my attention span is when it comes time for that though, I bet I'll just nail that sucker (and then probably wish I bolted it later, ha!)

I originally intended to put a cool picture I saw the other day of some salty dudes lofting a boat probably in the late 1800's. However, I could not find the picture so I chose to tell you this miserable story instead. These days everybody gets a lot of grief for how easy we have it compared to the past. Like in my case, I will be building this boat with power tools, so I guess I can't really say it is being built traditionally. I mean I guess the old-timers had it a lot harder right? You know what, they may have not had power tools but they also didn't have things like youtube, facebook, wikipedia, or google to ruin their lives and sidetrack them for like three hours. I innocently decided to go search for that picture, and not only did I not find it, but I looked at ebay, craiglist, and wooden boat forum. See all those blue hyperlinks? It's like walking through a mine field, except instead of being blown up by a mine, you get derailed and end up spending an hour looking at the freaks that crawl around Wal-Mart (People of Wal-Mart, click it, I dare you.) Did you click it? Did you spend at least twenty minutes feeling nauseous? Anyways, I digress, on with the boat!

Once, I lay out the plywood and check to make sure both the pieces are not distorted or affected in any way, I can start the process. Firstly, make a baseline.
 ***Disclaimer*** All line's plans and offset tables are different. Some are drawn with a baseline, some use a waterline as the point of reference, some elevate the true bottom above the baseline, yada, yada, yada. (but, you yada yadad over the best part! No, I mentioned the bisque... (10 points to who can name where that comes from!))***Disclaimer***
So it is up to you to read your plans carefully. Some find it helpful to do a 'mini-lofting' on a piece of graph paper (that's what I did.) It allows you to work out all the kinks on a piece of paper instead of on your expensive plywood. Then, if you want to go even further, you can build a balsa wood model to check your accuracy even further.

Here is a picture of my 'mini' lofting and the start of my model:
You can see the profile view (side), and the half-breadth view(expanded to full-breadth). The start of the model is sitting directly on the full-breadth view showing that the plan directly corresponds with the model.

The way I started this was with my table of offsets. Here is the exact plan I am using:

This one page contains the entire plan for the boat. It's like the Rosetta Stone, in order to understand the hieroglyphics, you gotta know your Greek. Well in this case, numbers are your Greek and everything else is that jumbled mess of hieroglyphs. Notice in the bottom right hand corner. There is your offset table. As long as you know your numbers, you can plot the lines. The offsets are a certain distance from a certain reference point which will give you a certain location of a point in the boat. I could delve very deeply into this, but it's about 1:30 a.m. where I'm at and I just got done doing a bunch of homework. Alas, I promise I will, at another time, cover every aspect, that's a good reason for you to keep coming back!

So exciting, exciting! Sometimes the planning part can be very tedious. That's how it was when I was in the Marines. Planning just downright made you want to pull your hair out. But, the success of a mission relies on the planning, so it is a necessary evil. And, it's not all that bad, you get a lot of daydreaming in.

When you start to get stressed out, you just gotta find something to motivate you. This dory picture should keep me motivated for quite some time:
Take that wave!
I could honestly write a million captions for that picture. I don't think they are rowing, it appears they are blasting off into space.

Fair winds, strong rum, sharp knives,



  1. Nice pic. I wonder how the ride back to the beach was?


    Scroll down on this page and check out these sweet work boats. Put a little 15hp in a well in one of those and Ill go from puget sound all the way to yakutat! (best longboard wave in alaska)
    Also check out how they roll those things up on the beach.

  3. @JPL Marine Labs, Man the shear on those dories is epic! Really cool how they rolled it on the beach too, soon I will post a picture I have that shows the Banks Dories nested in each other.

    What can't a dory do?