Building an Iain Oughtred pram dinghy

My birthday present was a kit to build a little wooden tender by the celebrated Scottish designer Iain Oughtred (celebrated, that is, by afficionados of wooden boats). However, this tender is not for Spring Fever, because there is nowhere on the deck it would fit, but for the grandchildren to row on the old farm pond in our garden, and perhaps on quiet stretches of a nearby river.

The boat is 6 feet 10 inches and called the ‘Feather’ pram, because it is Oughtred’s smallest and lightest design. Construction is lapstrake, which is like old fashioned clinker (overlapping plank), but glued instead of clenched with nails. Nearly everything is made from plywood. It’s a very pretty little boat.

The building frame on trestles.
The building frame on trestles.

The first stage was to buy some timber from a builders’ merchant and make a strong frame on which to build the boat, resting on a pair of trestles in our next door neighbour, Paul Broomhead’s, workshop, which he has kindly lent for the project.

Cutting planks from a plywood sheet.
Cutting planks from a plywood sheet.

The kit, by Jordan Boats, arrived as four sheets of ply, with the planks, transoms and moulds partially cut out of them. We extracted the pieces ready to start assembly. All the other parts are to be made up from scratch using the printed plans.

Next came the difficult job of setting up an accurate centre line and positioning the moulds at exactly specified intervals, and at right angles to the centre line. Anything else produces a crooked boat.

If by some chance someone who is actually building one of these boats comes across this post, here is a link to a page describing how we dealt with various detailed problems.

All the planks and the bow and stern transoms cut out.
Planks and bow and stern transoms cut out.

After setting up the moulds, the bow and stern transoms, each of which comes as two thin pieces of ply, were glued together to make double the thickness and strength.

The transoms were then set up on the frame and planking began, using clamps and glue, but not many screws and nails, which aren’t needed in any quantity for this type of construction.

Planking under way, using clamps while the glue dries
Planking laid over the moulds, using clamps

The large picture near the bottom of this post shows the fully planked boat, still upside down on its moulds, ready to be turned over.

A shallow keel has been made from  two thin strips of oak; two oak rubbing strakes, to protect the sides from impacts, have been glued along what will be the top plank when the boat has been turned over; a skeg, a triangular piece of mahogany, has been glued to the keel; and a pair of  think oak strips called bilge runners  have been glued onto planks on the bottom to protect the most vulnerable area from scrapes.

Time for a drink with our neighbours to celebrate finishing the hull, and to thank them for lending us their workshop. After turning the boat over, there’s still a lot more to do to get it ready to launch, work which is described in more detail elsewhere – see this link to the technical post mentioned above.

The finished boat, primed inside and out and moved from the workshop into the house for the final coats of paint and varnish
The finished boat, primed inside and out and moved from the workshop into the house for the final coats of paint and varnish

Launching will be in a later post.

 Peter and the boat
Peter and the boat

2 thoughts on “Building an Iain Oughtred pram dinghy”

  1. Incredible, you are now building boats!
    Congratulations and good luck for the christening. Do not break the the hull with a bottle of Champ, simply drink the wine.
    Jean-Jacques from Switzerland.

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