Building a currach

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Building a currach

Postby Darrell » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:20 pm

In a recent edition of The Bodger's Gazette there was an article about building a Currach, a skin-on-frame boat similar in execution to a coracle, but in the author's case it was a 14 foot rowboat.

I was on holiday last week, and I spent about 4 hours altogether making a prototype Currach of my own. Most of the work was accomplished with a brace & bit and a hatchet. I harvested a bunch of saplings from the woods for the bent parts of the frame. I had a huge spool of cotton string for the lashings, and some old blue tarps and 4-mil plastic sheeting for the "canvas". For the gunwales I used some 1X3 and 2X3 leftover construction material from last year's Gazebo project.

Here is the completed frame. Since this was a proof-of-concept I didn't do more than make a big rectangular tub that would float. I can save the creativity and art for next time round.

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I put a layer of blue tarp on to protect the plastic sheet from the knots and pointy bits of the frame. This worked quite well but cost me a few ounces of weight. Not that it matters much, as I was able to wear the finished craft like a hat it was so light. Turns out it does not paddle worth a d*mn but it rows beautifully. Or maybe my sculling skills are just plain rotten.

I christened it "Improbable" (my second choice was "You Get The Idea"). That's my wife in the background laughing at me. Not least because I outfitted the new craft with all the requisite safety gear required by local laws.

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Not sure if the video will work, but here goes:

http://galootcentral.com/index.php/component/option,com_seyret/task,videodirectlink/Itemid,55/id,19/
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Re: Building a currach

Postby jrccaim » Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:13 am

I am impressed. Bravo! It seems that a currach would be easier to steer than a coracle. It is longer than it is wide; what would be called a scow in the wooden boat trade. I am a kayak freak myself but I bet your currach is better for fishing than a kayak, has a lot more room and is not quite so tippy. Nice work. Would have used a kayak-type double paddle rather than oars, but that's just me :)
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Re: Building a currach

Postby AlexanderTheLate » Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:04 pm

Ready to cross the atlantic? :P Looks real good, a well spent four hours. One suggestion I could make (though not from experience, unfortunately) is to make the 'ribs' closer together, to save the canvas from your shoes and equipment. I have been considering building a Coracle, just for dodging around the ponds, this may be a better alternative, looks easier to handle. Good job! :)
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Re: Building a currach

Postby Darrell » Mon Jul 29, 2013 3:16 am

A couple of weeks ago I introduced our Scout troop to basic boat building at our summer camp. The camp was at a woodlot that needed a lot of brush thinned out, so we had plenty of stock to work with, mostly maple and alder. The kids did 90% of the work, cutting the gunwales, screwing them together, boring holes, cutting sticks, and lashing them together. I tried to keep the process as simple as possible, as I have found that when you slow things down and try to make it perfect, they are no longer engaged. So I told them not to worry about the shape of the ribs or the quality of the lashing. This made the job faster, simpler, and easier, and kept their interest up.

Here is the frame after a few hours work at camp

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Last Wednesday a few of the Scouts and Cubs came to help skin the boat. I first had them trim off any pointy or rough bits that would puncture the skin, and then apply duct tape anywhere that might still be sticking up. I gave the most competent Scout a drill and explained where he needed to drill, through the gunwale and into the ribs so we could pin them in place. Then the rest of the group drove nails through the pilot holes. We used a small saw to trim off the protruding rib ends. I had a part roll of 6-mil plastic, so I rolled out enough to cover the frame. The stuff comes off the roll folded in half, so we ended up with a double layer. I tacked the plastic in place, and then turned the kids loose with a couple of staple guns. After they used up all my staples it was time for more duct tape, to cover any places where the frame was overly stressing the skin.

The result is quite similar to a canoe in appearance. Weighs in at 26 pounds, and is 14 1/2 feet long.

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This weekend we took the canoe out for a sea trial. First we christened it "BACON". I don't know why, but every name they thought of had Bacon in it, so Bacon it is. My son took the honours of being the test pilot. I had a couple of small pieces of plywood to use as floorboards to protect the skin. His first comment was "OMG is this ever tippy!" He said it handled well, but was hard to balance.

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After that, I took the stern and one of the other kids took the bow, and off we went through the harbour and up the creek. We had another canoe plus a kayak along. The craft is very tippy, but after a while you get used to it. If we were going to build a better version for frequent use, an outrigger would be a necessity. We paddled about for an hour and a half and deemed it a great success. The kids were really proud of the fact that they actually built this thing and it worked so well.

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Re: Building a currach

Postby gavin » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:27 am

Bang on Darrell! You have engineered an activity that precisely matches the skills of the people with their interest level. There's nowt like a quick and less elegant solution that gets the job done.

Darrell wrote:The craft is very tippy, but after a while you get used to it.
Clearly the stability would need improving for any later construction. Coracles are built with a VERY pronounced 'U' profile where the floor and the walls are as close to right-angles to each other as possible - Bacon has more a rounder profile with a gradual curve and so is more tippy. You can get deep into naval architecture here, but if you only will flex the ribs over your knee during construction to make the bend from wall to floor much sharper, you'll be less tippy. This nuance of flexing ribs during construction would actually have prevented your kids engaging if you'd attempted to enforce it, so the way you did it was absolutely appropriate.

Darrell wrote:If we were going to build a better version for frequent use, an outrigger would be a necessity.

Not necessarily. You could build two. One with outrigger, the other with a more abrupt transition from floor to wall.
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Re: Building a currach

Postby Shankar » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:37 am

Fantastic well done to you and your scouts.
Remember my scouting days building this sort of thing with plastic barrels. You've taken it one step further and it looks excellent.
The alternative for stability now you've built one is to get the scouts to build another one totally independently so it reinforces what they have learned.
Attach the two with 2-3 struts running from outer wall to outer wall but attached to the inner wall for stiffness to create a cata-canoe or even a cata-currach.
I've used these with my kids for recreational paddling and they are very stable. Just a picture from Google.
coes_canoe05-1s.jpg
coes_canoe05-1s.jpg (7.49 KiB) Viewed 6893 times

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