Building a Traditional Wooden Boat #10: Cutting Stem and Keel Rabbet

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by MattD posted 09-30-2009 04:44 AM 34954 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Attaching Transom, Finding Planking Lumber and Copper Rivets Part 10 of Building a Traditional Wooden Boat series Part 11: Stem to Keel and Lining Off »

This next part is cutting the rabbet into the Keel and Stem. The rabbet is a groove for planking to butt into. The rabbet must be accurately cut in order to form a tight seal. The rabbet for sunshine runs down both sides of the stem as shown and continues along the keel to the stern.

Keel Rabbet

Cutting the Rabbet in the Keel was relatively easy since I had already beveled the keelson from the lofted lines in the Stem and Knee - Part 2 section.

To me, it seemed practical to try a Stanley #90 shoulder plane, and use the angle on the keelson as a reference to cut a 90 degree “groove” into the keel so that the groove had a depth 3/8”, which will be the plank thickness. I used a test 3/8” piece to test occasionally also. This method worked really well for me and seems better than chopping out.. but I’ve got plenty of chisel chopping ahead.

After several hours, a nice rabbet on both sides of the keel.

Stem Rabbet

The stem was a little more challenging. At this point, I have to really trust my lofting skills which is where I’m getting all the angles for cutting the rabbet. The rolling bevels in the stem are wild compared to the gradual changes in the keel. Although I checked everything 4 times, there’s a lot of time into the stem already and I don’t want to ruin it! First step is to get the bearding and rabbet lines from the lofting onto the actual stem. The rabbet line is easy, since it’s a fixed distance from the edge of the stem, so I just used a marking tool referenced off the stem edge. The bearding line however is a weird curve. I transfered the bearding line from the lofting onto the templates that I made earlier for cutting out the stem. I then drilled several small holes along these lines on the template so that I could lay the template on the actual stem and draw marks through the holes. Using the template is nice this way, since I could just flip it over and make matching marks on boths sides of the stem. I should point out that the curve for the bearding and rabbet lines were originally determined from the lofting drawing. This is explained further in Stem and Knee - Part 1

With the lines transferred, I then cut a series of notches along the stem with chisels and then removed the waste between the notches. It’s very nice to be able to do this on the bench instead of working on it vertically in the mold.

The angles of the cuts are tested with a 3/8” template to ensure that the planking fits correctly at each point in the stem.

Completed stem rabbet!

And a shot of the whole thing.

Finally, a close up of the intersection between the Stem and Keel. The rabbet still needs to be cut here so that there is a smooth transition. I have to wait at least a few days for the bedding compound to dry, otherwise, I’ll be working with a big tar-like ball of shavings.

Materials List:

None for this step!

Project Materials Summary:

  • Plans and Book: $60
  • Lofting Supplies: $47.88
  • Mold Supplies: $36
  • Strongback Lumber: $33
  • Transom Materials: $22
  • Stem and Knee: $47
  • Keelson, Keel, Skeg and Sternpost: $97
  • Silicon Bronze Hardware: $225
  • Larch Planking and Copper Rivets: $325

- Total Project Expenses so far: $892.88

Labor Hours Summary:

  • 5/29/09 – 6/8/09: Lofting – 12 Hours
  • 6/14/09 – 6/20/09: Building Molds: 5 Hours
  • 6/25/09 – 6/27/09: Building Strongback: 7.5 Hours
  • 6/30/09 – 7/13/09: Building Transom: 6 Hours
  • 7/14/09 – 7/20/09: Stem Lofting Detail: 3 Hours
  • 7/22/09 – 7/29/09: Stem and Knee Cutout: 4 Hours
  • 7/30/09 – 8/16/09: Keel, Keelson, Skeg and Sternpost: 21 Hours
  • 8/16/09 – 9/5/09: Attaching Transom: 3 Hours
  • 9/28/09 – 9/29/09: Cutting Stem and Keel Rabbet, 9 Hours

- Total Project Labor Hours so far: 70.5 Hours
- Time since starting project: 123 days (3 months 31 days)

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

3 comments so far

View patron's profile


13704 posts in 4119 days

#1 posted 09-30-2009 05:35 AM

looks real nice , matt .

one of the things we learn in woodworking ,
is patience !
it is essential for fine work .

and it transfers into our lives ,
and helps us be better people .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4112 days

#2 posted 09-30-2009 10:40 AM

Nicely done blog Matt. Really enjoying it. Would have liked to have built a boat, but never did, but it’s fun watching the process. Thanks for posting.

Truer words were never spoken David.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4660 days

#3 posted 09-30-2009 01:49 PM

This is great fun to watch. A lot more work than my canoe.

Thanks for sharing,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics