Lapstrake Wherry - 1/3rd scale at 60"

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Project by FrankThomas posted 12-30-2009 05:04 AM 4246 views 5 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My most rewarding project to date. Living in Michigan, if you don’t have a boat, you’ve probably wanted a boat at one time in your life. I love wooden boats and think they are the ultimate in form meeting function, beauty meeting purpose.

I plan to build the full size version, 15 foot sailing/rowing boat in the next year or two. Having experience only in building non-sea worthy rectilinear objects, I thought it’d be a good idea to build a scale model to learn the curvilinear techniques required in boat building. And the lapstrake style of building a boat where precisely laid out planks (strakes) are cut and fitted into each place to form a rigid shell of the boat. Internal ribbing is the added, seats and other inboard fittings are fabricated and installed and viola’.... a boat!

I enjoyed this project immensely and the learning experience was fantastic. This 5 foot model now hangs from the ceiling of my sister-in-laws log home. It is constructed of 1/8” luann and pine. Each plank or strake is held in place with nothing but good ol’ Titebond II. Painted surfaces are Rustoleum’s Painter’s Touch. So this boat would not last long in the water.

I am planning to build another 5 foot model to improve my skills. When completed, I plan to make it the centerpiece of a coffee table by fabricating a wooden cradle that will hold the boat and support a glass table top directly above it. Should make for a unique and beautiful coffee table.

Then, the full size 15 footer and I will finally be a “boat owner”!

-- Frank Thomas, Grand Rapids, MI

16 comments so far

View sras's profile


5232 posts in 3666 days

#1 posted 12-30-2009 05:14 AM

IF you want another scale model – then build it. As a builder of a few wood kayaks, I think you are good to go for the full size model!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View FrankThomas's profile


46 posts in 3608 days

#2 posted 12-30-2009 05:41 AM

Thanks sras. I’d love to start the full size but I just can’t afford it right now. I can afford another model and the full size will benefit from my extra practice. And I need a coffee table too.

-- Frank Thomas, Grand Rapids, MI

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4310 days

#3 posted 12-30-2009 05:47 AM

Very nicely done. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3719 days

#4 posted 12-30-2009 06:34 AM

Very nice Frank! Where did you get the plans? It has nice lines. Thanks for posting!

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4419 days

#5 posted 12-30-2009 03:16 PM

My my, that is so cool. Nice job and good for you.

I (a landlubber) was under the assumption that Lapstrake meant that the strakes were held together with lap joints, where each strake overlapped the one below it by a half inch or so. This would not result in a smooth side, but rather looked like individual ribs. But I guess they could be smoothed. I need to study more.

Anyway, that is a nice looking boat,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3822 days

#6 posted 12-30-2009 03:51 PM

Awesome build. I don’t think you need more practice, but the coffee table idea sounds really cool. Great work.

-- John @

View toyguy's profile


1702 posts in 4374 days

#7 posted 12-30-2009 03:53 PM

I like it…......... I have aways want to try my hand at boat building also. I just don’t have room for a full size, so maybe you have given me ideas… LOL .

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Dale 's profile


415 posts in 3717 days

#8 posted 12-30-2009 04:21 PM

First of all thats one beautiful boat, well done. Secondly it reminds me of a conversation that I overheard in the early 60’s while serving in the U S Coast Guard. A gnarled old Chief Bos’n’s mate with 27 years service was getting ready to retire when a new seaman ask him where he planned on settlling down. The old Chief looked at him and said son I’m gonna find me a small row boat and strap it to my back and then start walking inland. When I get to a place where someone comes up to me and asks “whats that on your back”, I found my new home. I think the moral to the story was the Chief was tired of the seafaring life.

-- Dale West Central Pa. Do it all, before last call.

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3735 days

#9 posted 12-30-2009 05:01 PM

Very nice, I appreciate your craftsmanship. I plan on builing one in about 10 years.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View FrankThomas's profile


46 posts in 3608 days

#10 posted 12-30-2009 05:31 PM

Thanks everyone for the supportive comments. I appreciate them.

RetiredCoastie.. the boat is a one-off of the Walter Simmons designed Christmas Wherry that he markets at It is one off because I couldn’t afford the plans so I found everything bit of info published about the boat, traced shapes in Google SketchUp and filled in the missing info to get a resemblance of Simmons BEAUTIFUL Christmas Wherry. Check it out, it is lovely. Obviously the published plans and loftings will be in hand before I begin the full size.

SPalm… you are correct about lapstrake. The strakes or planks do indeed lap over the lower strake. That doubling of material at the lap is the secret behind the design. The lap create virtual stringers that make a very light weight and strong structure. The frames (sawn ribs) provide additional stiffening and strength. You are correct that the result is lots of ridges. The main photo does not revel these only because of the lighting. If you look at one of the photos that is yellow tinged you’ll clearly see the ridges caused by the overlaps.

-- Frank Thomas, Grand Rapids, MI

View stefang's profile


16807 posts in 3871 days

#11 posted 12-30-2009 05:43 PM

Great work Frank. You’re right the boat does have beautiful lines. I think your idea to build a model was good. Even though you can’t afford the the full scale yet, you are still working towards it. Judging from the results of the (big) model, I’m certain you will be building a fantastic boat at full scale. How did you get the frames to the correct shape and also manage to place the notches for the strakes so accurately?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View FrankThomas's profile


46 posts in 3608 days

#12 posted 12-30-2009 08:49 PM

Thank you stefang. To get the frames notched correctly I made templates for each one individually. I did this using cardboard squares that were slightly wider than each strake so that they’d overlap on top of the previous strake. I placed the corner of a square into each corner of a lap and tape it to the next one etc… resulting in a “chain” of cardboard squares that was a close pattern of the angles and distances of each strake over lap or “land” as they are called. I used that pattern to trace onto the frame blank. Then drew an arc on the inboard side of frame that was pleasing to the eye. I still had to finesse the notches of the frames a bit and they weren’t all perfect but, a little caulk and paint makes them look perfect. :) Actually this is one of the skills I want to improve before the full size boat since these frames are an important structural member and you want them to have full contact with each strake.

-- Frank Thomas, Grand Rapids, MI

View hunter71's profile


3460 posts in 3723 days

#13 posted 12-31-2009 01:47 PM

Great job. I have been planning a 1/2 scale “Trappers” strip built for some time now. Like yours mine will hang in our log home.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View stefang's profile


16807 posts in 3871 days

#14 posted 12-31-2009 07:31 PM

Thanks for the explanation Frank. I’m looking forward to seeing that “Boffee table” when it’s finished. A great and unusual idea.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Skylark53's profile


2718 posts in 3597 days

#15 posted 02-14-2010 06:11 PM

Great idea. A wooden boat is on my “to do” list too. Looks like yours was rewarding and continuing to be enjoyed. I just may have to try the scaled down model. Thanks for the inspiration.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

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