Building a KARA Hummer Layout Duck Boat #3: Planing the Gunnels

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Blog entry by DustyMark posted 05-12-2015 10:03 PM 9364 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Assembling the Upper Frame Part 3 of Building a KARA Hummer Layout Duck Boat series Part 4: Installing Anchor Pole Through-Hull Brackets »

Tools for the Job

Planing the gunnels requires a sharp hand plane, a straight edge and a flexible stick. I use a 10” smoothing plane for this task since it is easier to handle than a longer plane and much of the work is on a curve. On larger boats, I’ve used a hand-held power planer to good effect. I started with that and it seemed like overkill for 3/4” gunnels.

Rib Transitions

The angle that the plywood skin will land on the gunnel changes throughout the length of the gunnel. My youngest son’s approach to cooking is that you don’t need to slavishly measure as much as “you’ve just gotta love it.” That’s not a bad approach for planing the gunnels. I use a straight edge from the side deck support cleat to check my progress in the straight areas. When I hit the curves near the bow and stern, I switch to bending a flexible piece of hardwood strip about 1/4” thick over the ribs to predict how the skin of the boat will lay.

This is the deck side of the gunnel looking toward the cockpit before planing. Notice that the cockpit deck support is also a little bit high in this photo. I may have to redesign that support prior to building boats two and three…

After planing, the ribs flow nicely into the gunnel.

The transitions from the ribs to the gunnels on the hull side are more severe. This requires a steeper angle and more planing to achieve a nice transition.

After planing, the hull side of the rib flows into the gunnel. Notice there is much more surface area for the plywood hull to bond to the gunnel when it’s nailed and glued. It will be easy for a nail head to encroach into the cargo compartment if I start it too close to the center of the gunnel during plywood installation.

Here’s my 10” smoothing plane laying in a pile of shavings from one gunnel.

Even though I spaced the screws through the gunnel pretty close, I still hit screw heads when I planed the hull side of the gunnel. However, my Tormek sharpening system made short work of grinding a clean edge on the battered blade.


My planing job isn’t perfect, but it is likely good enough. I’ll dry fit the plywood and plane any problem spots that become apparent with the actual skin applied.


In the next installment, I’ll discuss bracket installation for stabilizer holes that will hold my anchor pole.

-- Mark, Minnesota

2 comments so far

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285 posts in 3788 days

#1 posted 05-13-2015 01:07 AM

Very cool, i love it!!!

View DustyMark's profile


523 posts in 3408 days

#2 posted 05-13-2015 03:19 AM

Thanks. I figured it might be neat for folks to follow a wooden boat build since most of what we do in here is furniture…something different.

-- Mark, Minnesota

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