Shipyard Memories #13: Two Cape Scott 36's: Cold Molded Construction

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 02-15-2011 06:39 AM 7924 reads 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: The Catboats: Framed Plywood Construction, Finished Photos and Sailing. Part 13 of Shipyard Memories series Part 14: Cold Molded Planking »

This is the third in a series of blogs on the different types of wooden boat construction I’ve done. The first two covered traditional carvel planking and framed plywood construction. This one will concentrate on a method called “cold molding”. Cold molding refers to the fashioning of a hull form by gluing up layers of thin planking in different orientations much like a sheet of plywood is made, but in this case it takes the shape of a boat.

There are several methods by which a cold molded hull can be built. There can be several very thin layers or fewer thicker ones. There can be opposing diagonals over a form of temporary molds, bulkheads and permanent battens, or the hull can be laid up over a solid re-usable mold and removed as a shell, or it can be built with an initial layer of strip planking covered over with two or more thin diagonal layers. There are also combinations and modifications to all of the above. The important thing is that they are all glued up monocoque hulls that exhibit very high strength to weight ratios.

Olfara and Stevador (see my projects) were built with three layers (1/4”) of diagonal planking over temporary molds, bulkheads and permanent battens. Olfara’s planking is all Honduras Mahogany while Stevador has two layers of Sitka Spruce (to reduce weight and give a light color to the interior) and one Mahogany on the outside for durability.

The first photo shows the oak plywood bulkheads and behind them, the temporary molds, ready to be assembled on the strongback timbers that will form the rigid foundation required to keep everything in line. The Oak plywood has had two coats of epoxy sealer to protect the thin surface veneer during construction.

Here the bulkheads and molds are being set up on the strongback timbers, trued up to be plumb, level and square. As you can see these hulls will be built upside down. The messy looking pile over by the wall is 6000 lbs of lead sheathings stripped from old electrical cable. I’ll never use cable sheathings again. We’ll come to that later.

Now the stern timber is being laminated up out of sixteen layers of 1/4” H. Mahogany. This was done in stages and required MANY more clamps than you see here. We often took most of the clamps off after several hours, when the epoxy was almost fully cured but left enough to avoid stressing the joint until full cure was obtained. The heavy blocking is just a form and was removed as soon as the stern timber was cured up.

The stem was a much easier lamination and was made up of 3/4” layers. Again there were many more clamps than seen here. I think this picture is actually a dry fitting.

Here the permanent battens are being fitted (Yellow Cedar) and the stem is being faired and shaped to match their changing angles. The bulkheads have been notched to accept the battens and the battens will be glued into them, making them rigid structural members. The temporary molds are smaller and the battens rest on top of them.

This is basically the same thing as the last photo but at the stern. It was a truly challenging stern to build. The rough shaping you see here was done with a power plane. Once all the battens are in place the final fairing is done with a disc sander.

Final shot for today. This one belongs somewhere between the last few but shows the whole boat. The backbone (stem, keelson and stern timber) is in place but not yet faired in to accept the skin, the sheer clamps have been added and the battens are being installed.

Next time , Planking cold molding style.

Thanks for dropping by. hope you’re having fun. I still am.

Comments, questions and critiques are always welcome.

Thanks again.


-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

7 comments so far

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3120 days

#1 posted 02-15-2011 08:33 AM

That is exceptionally cool.

-- Brian Meeks,

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3291 days

#2 posted 02-15-2011 01:19 PM

The construction details are great! Thanks for sharing your photos and construction techniques.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3841 days

#3 posted 02-15-2011 03:11 PM

Very interesting! I always wondered how some of this was done. Thx for sharing.

View sras's profile


4822 posts in 3183 days

#4 posted 02-15-2011 04:20 PM

It is going to be another great story Paul – looking forward to it!! It’s fortunate for us that you have these pictures saved. Adding your excellent descriptions males this another very informative series.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2747 days

#5 posted 02-15-2011 04:25 PM

You are, my good friend, a true craftsman. I really enjoyed this post.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3169 days

#6 posted 02-15-2011 11:25 PM

another good blog from you as always a pleassure to read :-)
thankĀ“s for taking us on another jurney with you

take care

View tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3124 days

#7 posted 02-16-2011 10:01 AM

I’m really enjoying these reminiscences Paul you’re a fine craftsman.

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

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