Scarves Around Our Necks and Scarf joints In The Shop

Last week I began building new cap rails for the Pot Pie skiff. We used douglas fir, as this is plenty strong for this application, and since it is being painted, using a more rot resistant wood is not necessary.

Stephen and I began my squaring up the four 16 foot sticks we would use. Once square, using the old rail as a reference, we cut them down to the right dimension on the thickness planer.

Since the boat on each side of the deck is roughly 27 feet, we needed to join the 16 foot long rail pieces to make the 27 foot length for each side. Using two of them on each size, we can get the length we need, with some extra left over to cut off. This is where a scarf joint comes in handy. The scarf joint will be pretty long, with a bottom feather edge and the top with a notch. I started by mapping out the lines on one side of my rail, transferred the lines to the other side, and then made cross cuts down just shy of my slope line. Using a chisel, I chopped out these blocks and then used a low angle block plane to slowly and carefully remove material down to my line. This process is repeated the same way for the top piece. After transferring the lines from the finished bottom half onto the rail piece for the top and cutting it and planing to my lines, I fit the two pieces together. If the fit isn’t precisely how you desire, you can take this time to “worry them together” which means taking the time to remove material from one or the other test fitting as you go until the two pieces fit snug.


With both pieces ready, I mixed up some thickened West system epoxy, applied it to both sides, and clamped the scarf joint. When it had cured, I shaped the round over top edge of the cap rail using my small hand plane and a quick once over with some finer grit sandpaper.


I finished up my day with patterning out the fit for the cap rail-to-stem joint at the bow of Pot Pie. Using a scrap I mapped the compound bevels and cut my scrap to fit tightly against the deck and stem. This way, I can get it just right and then transfer it to the actual piece before installation. This photo was taken in the middle of this fitting process and as you can tell I still had some work to do to get it right.


Meanwhile, Zach was making progress on the bow planking repairs. Here he is working on the fit of the planks on the port side.


And here, Stephen is holding the starboard planks in place as Zach scribes his line for a precise fit.


Stay tuned in for the installation of Pot Pie’s new cap rails!

- Moses Dane

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