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After the success of the "Chair in a day" last year we decided on a nautical theme for 2019 and opted for Coracle in a day.  For anyone not aware the coracle is a small, rounded, lightweight boat of the sort traditionally used in Wales, and also in parts of the West Country and in Ireland, particularly the River Boyne, and in Scotland, particularly the River Spey. The word is also used of similar boats found in India, Vietnam, Iraq and Tibet. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the description).

Coracles come in all shapes and sizes, so at the design stage we had a lot of banter about the best way to design the boat.  We ended up agreeing to build two boats, one a very traditional bent willow and one with thin Chestnut lathes which would be steam bent.

Producing in a day presented a number of challenges, including: New cut willow can be a bit of a challenge to bend (it seems to bend better once it has wilted a bit), our steam bending box was not long enough, the waterproofing bitumen is safe for water use but only after it's fully dried (which takes a few days).


Learning from Chair day, detailed planning is essential, so we agreed on designs and made the former's for the steam bending, we  pre-painted the Calico with bitumen, and made a full size template for the willow rods.  Everything else was done on the day.

Our willow coracle started well, simply planting the rods through the template and "paring" the gunwales with thinner willow rods.  While this was being done Len made us a seat which was designed to slip into place around the four middle rods.  We continued paring to lock the seat into position.


Team Steam were busy cleaving long lengths of chestnut into thin straight lathes, which were then draw knifed into a more accurate and consistent thickness (if you end up with thin bits on the bends the wood tends to kink) 


The willow next needed to be bent over to from the keel, this was tricky for a couple of reasons, the fresh willow was not keen on being bent, so we ended up replacing quite a few rods, we needed to make a similar bend each side of the boat, and keep a very flat bottom, we found that we spent a lot of time tieing and un tieing,  adjusting and retieing to get the exact shape we wanted, although this did get easier the more we did and we "got our eye in".  We decided to tuck the thin ends into the paring on the other side.


Steam team had lots of lathes in the steamer and were beginning to form them into shape around their longer former.


Having finished the underside of the willow coracle it did look like it was supposed to, and we eased it out of the ground, at which point the sides sprung out and the seat dropped out.  We had forgotten to tie it in place!  It was easy to fix, a few holes were drilled in the side of the seat and with a bit of string we pulled it into position, and tied it in place.  while we were at it we drilled a few holes in the middle of the seat and used this to pull the bottom of the boat up to keep the shape (the flat bottom).  The boat now looked pretty good so we trimmed off the willow which was in the ground and the bits and bobs which were sicking out from the gunwales etc.


The steaming lathes had dried enough and with a bit of string to hold them in place they were removed from the former and set aside to allow the former to be reset for the the shorter lengths.


The willow coracle was now covered in calico which were sewed into place with an easy stitcher, a job which was surprisingly quick, and just as we stared a trim of excess material the paddle arrived and we were done!


The steam team were busy building their framework, and nailing the lathes together, and it was looking good, if a little small.

once the gunwales were in place they were able to fit the seat, and finally cover. in their case they used canvas which was very quickly held in place with an internal gunwal nailed on the inside.


So with two boats made it was time to give them a try on the nearest lake, and both floated.  

What we did discover is that the calico would have benefited from at least one more coat of bitumen as water did ooze in a little, but with a low centre of gravity it was pretty good.

We should have also used thinner willow, which would have been easier to bend and even lighter.

The lathe boat was a little small and tall, it's high centre of gravity and very steep sides made it very "tippy"   We think we should lose 6-8 inches in height and it should work much better


All in all a very enjoyable day with lots of involvement from everyone


Next year we have in mind a project which will incorporate a lot of different skills, and really allow people to showcase their skills.

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