Well, there’s no denying it: I am a novice, and these things happen. My first attempt at a centre-rib proved to be unsatisfactory.

I have made a second version, and must now  adjust all the other ribs, so that they form a watertight lute shell. (Watertight is probably not the correct term, but that’s the way I think of the  process).

Slowly and unsurely the bits and pieces come together. I am still confident a musical instrument of some sort will emerge – and as I follow the Curve, I find myself having to learn (if not master) new skills, and old skills….



A  kind and longtime friend recently sent me a bank cheque, along with a written instruction to buy something you need – or else, something you may not necessarily need, but definitely want.

Those who have been following this Boatshed commentary won’t be surprised  to learn that I felt more inclined to the second half of the instruction – and as it happens, I had for some weeks been admiring a not really essential block plane at the online shop of  Fine Tools Australia.


Having persuaded my Credit Union to accept such an unfamiliar, and possibly criminal currency, I secured the diminutive Low-angle Block Plane, made by Qiangsheng Tools Co. China – and as you will see in the first photo (with the dollar coin), it is an adorable and handsome and irresistible woodworking tool.

I can’t understand how I have managed without it for so long.

Already it has proved useful for a range of unnecessary jobs, and I am certain there will be more.   It can get into difficult corners; it can plane smoothly across the end-grain; it is a joy to hold and cherish.

And it has settled in comfortably with the little family of Boatshed Block Planes, which grow in number if not size….



Slow going, as I cut the native cypress with Dad’s Japanese Ryoba saw.

The kerf is minute: approximately 1 mm – so there is little waste. A truly amazing saw-blade.

These rough-sawn ribs are 3 mm thick – I will plane each of them down to 1.4 or 1.5 mm, using the  Luben Low-Angle Block Plane.

(see my commentary: A Tale of Three Planes – March 2018).



I have been trying my hand at cutting, planing, scraping, bending and shaping a lute rib, using an off-cut of native cypress….

The rib is 1.5mm thick. After a bit of trial and error – chiefly error – I managed to bend it to the required curve, using the heated bending iron (which is maintained at an even temperature).

So far so good….


Often enough Dad remarked that the hardest thing about building a boat was the first step: the starting.

Of course,  the building of any boat involves the initial ‘dream’ of boats in general, and thereafter the choosing  of a particular boat – and then the gathering of appropriate materials, the assembling of tools, the clearing of a space etc…but the real start, to my way of thinking, begins on the drafting table – and I well remember a sense of exhilaration, as we watched him draw the first pencil line on a thin sheet of plywood.

That simple pencil mark represented the baseline, and above it would grow (bit by bit) the heights, breadths and diagonals signifying the various moulds of our boat: the chosen and particular boat of three dimensions.

Without the initial pencil line, there could be no boat – and once it was drawn, we knew a wooden vessel had begun to take shape, and that in due course it would  be completed and launched and sailed, according to a sort of irresistible logic and momentum.

I was reminded of that mysterious process recently, while reading our dog-eared copy of Skiffs and Schooners, by R.D. (Captain Pete) Culler.

Pete Culler was first and foremost a craftsman; he was better suited to shaping wood than words – but even so, he wrote a number of inspiring books, in which he combined practical (and uncompromising) advice  with the many plans of small wooden boats for sail and oar: all of his own design; all of them beautiful and alluring.

Here is what he says about Starting.

Any man who wants to can produce a good boat. It takes some study, some practice, and, of course, experience. The experience starts coming the minute you begin, and not one jot before. I sometimes hear the wail, ” I have no experience.” Start. Start anything, and experience comes. Some say building a boat is one of man’s nobler efforts. Maybe so; it’s a lot of fun, anyway. As one of my builder friends says, “It’s only a boat; go ahead and build it.” If the first effort is a bit lumpy, so what? There will be another less lumpy later on.

I like that. It strikes me as an encouraging paragraph for a novice, and  could apply equally to any project: be it the creation of a boat, a lute,  a stone wall,  a manuscript, a song – you name it.

After the dreaming and the planning – start.

Mind you, when it comes to my Renaissance Lute  project, there are times when I feel I have bitten off more than I can chew; there are times when I wish I had ‘learnt the ropes’ in my more youthful days; there are times when I really haven’t the faintest idea what I am doing.

I can only hope that the first pencil line on the drafting table will carry me through, irresistibly,  to an acceptable conclusion.

But more of that anon….


Quote from: Skiffs and Schooners, by Captain Pete (RD) Culler
International Marine Publishing
Camden, Maine  1994