rounding edges

I am making slow progress on my Eastport Pram, and I wanted to ask your guys opinion on rounding edges. Let's start with the skeg and skids, and also outwales. Do you use a router to round their edges, or do it by hand? How? What radius are you aiming for?

This is my first boat, and I don't have any wooworking experience to speak of, so any advice would be apreciated.


21 replies:

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RE: rounding edges

   I've been using a handheld router with a 3/8" round over on the skeg and seats of my Peapod. I can't tell you about a router table.  I had little experience with a router too. Get some scrap to practice on and get the feel. Be patient and thoughtful about what you are doing. Plan your passes on the wood. Maybe do a dry run with it not running. Will it catch? How will I make the turn? Is there enough room ( maybe the piece is clamped to the bench) Should the workpiece be up off the table for bit clearance? 

Learn which direction to feed the router against the wood relative to the blade roatation. 

I have mine connected to a shop vac (routers throw out a ton of chips). Will the hose drag and catch? guilty!

If your bit has a bearing remember the bit will cut based on the bearing...not on what you think you want to cut...guilty!

This is some of what I've learned lately. I'm sure there is much more experienced builders out there that have more lessons learned. You can do it by hand given lots of time. A Shinto Rasp is a super tool. 

Lots of good stuff on YouTube

My router: Milwaukee handheld

Bits: Diablo


RE: rounding edges

I rounded the edges of my Chester Yawl outwales by hand (80 grit) after installing them. Didn't take long and was actually enjoyable - far less stressfull than using the router on the 'living subject'. I have mixed feelings about Telltale's Shinto rasp recommendation. I love the Shinto but even the 'fine' side can produce a lot of hard-to-fix damage in one pull.

Used a selfmade router table to mill some stringers for the teardrop camper. Don't go 'all in' with the whole radius of the round over bit - this might produce giant and dangerous wood splinters. Better do two runs, with half the roundover height in the first run.

RE: rounding edges

   Sometimes I use a hand held lightweight router with a round-over bit.

If I have a lot of long runs, I use a router mounted in a table with a guide, stringers, chines, etc.

Sometimes I use one of these tools I picked up years ago, pricy, but handy although you have to watch the grain as you can catch it and tear. Kinda pricey, (I bought mine back in the '70's) but maybe you can find them cheaper.

Sometimes I use a sander and just keep it moving.

In all cases, I follow up with some hand sanding to final touch up

RE: rounding edges

In terms of "what radius," I believe rounding serves two primary purposes: the first is to create a more continuous, friendly surface for epoxy/paint/varnish to adhere to.  For that, you probably just need to knock off the edges and then smooth the various pieces to a nice rounded surface -- so you really don't need to take too much off and create a huge radius.  The skegs and skids are pretty skinny (3/4-inch, maybe?) and I'm thinking I want to leave some appreciable surface for grounding my Eastport.  The second purpose (particularly on the outwales) is aesthetic.  It's true that you want to round the outwales, also, for an easier grip when you're carring the pram, but decide what "looks good" to you, as well.  That's just one person's opinion, though.

As for tools, I thought about using my handheld router, but the pieces are small and short enough, I didn't think it was necessary.  The grain was a little to twitchy for even a very sharp hand plane, so I just made a quick run with a palm sander and then rounded them by hand.  (I, too, have a set of those Woodcraft corner rounders shown by upspirate, but with use over the years, they've gotten duller and tend to result in more tear-outs and, for the live of me, I can't figure out a way to sharpen them, so I didn't use them here...)

The mast is another matter.  I'll be addressing mine in the next week or two, and I'm thinking that may call for a 1/2-inch round-over on the router, but in boatbuilding, all plans, estimates, and predictions are subject to change, so don't hold me to that!  Best of luck with your pram.  

RE: rounding edges

For small jobs, especially the plywood parts, I found the Stanley Surform shaver handy for eyeballing it, followed by sandpaper to smooth out.  For the solid wood stuff, I had a very small "fingertip" block plane that would chamfer the corners down for the small radius roundovers, again smoothed up with sandpaper.  For the big stuff like the mast and the edges of the dagerboard slot, my son used his handheld router--he was prettymuch the boatwright for that project, while I was more of a boatwrong and was early on forbidden to use power tools on the work.  Ahem.  Even he took a nick out of the mast I had to fill.  We were going to paint them, anyway....


RE: rounding edges

   The Peeler Skiff has a LOT of edges with long runs so I used a cheap trim router from Harbor Freight with a 3/8" round over bit to do all the edges. The rounds help epoxy and paint hold, help prevent wear and tear damage and are pleasing to the eye. Using the same radius seems to tie it together estheticly I think.

With the shorter lines and lighter scantlings of the Eastport a sanding block would do just fine. I do think that the edges should be rounded for the above reasons.

RE: rounding edges

>>  Do you use a router to round their edges, or do it by hand? How? What radius are you aiming for? <<

Doing it by hand is fairly easy. I've had great success knocking off the sharp corner with a block plane, then following up with a hand-held sanding block holding 80-grit to round it off. Quick and simple.

A router with a round over bit will work fine, but it will also let you screw up a lot faster.  

RE: rounding edges

   All, thank your for your responses, they were all very helpful. I don't think I would trust myself to do entirely by hand consistently, but those cornering tools that upspirate has mentioned look quite appealing, I'll experiment with them.

As far as the radius goes, I think the skeg, and the skids, and the outwales on Eastport Pram are all around 3/4" thick, so I am thinking that 1/4" rounding should be enough, both functionally and aesthetically.

I do plan to use a router with a 1/2" roundover bit for the mast, but that's further down the road.


RE: rounding edges

   If you go with the rounding tools I showed, be very careful.

Practice on some scrap, watch the grain.

One direction will be fine, the opposite may dig into the gain and pull out a chunk.

Practice and pay attention!!!

As to the sharpening that Rodger L. mentioned, I haven't done it yet, but I thought about using a small rt tail round file and running it in the groove

RE: rounding edges

Upspirate I'd avoid the rat tail, likely too coarse-toothed for what you want to do, and they're tapered. Better to look for a chainsaw file of same dia. or as close as possible. Much finer teeth, better for those curvy edges.

While you're shopping, look for any sharpening stones that might have curved edges, such as what you'd use on gouges or turning tools. That'd do the best job by far for touching up those simple tools.

For my edge-breaking needs I'll use any number of things I have nearby. Sanding block, small block plane, double-cut flat file, up into the power tools like a 1/4" collet laminate trimmer or the 1/2" collet routers.

Have a variety of piloted roundover bits from 1/16" radius up to the hogging 1" I used exactly once for a drop-leaf dining room table.

Sometimes it's easier and much safer to mount the power stuff in a table, bring the work to the tool so supporting and controlling workpiece is your primary focus rather than both holding and controlling the tool before, during, and after the job is done.

RE: rounding edges

   spclark, thanks for the chainsaw file tip, didn't know about them.

Router tables make a world of difference on certain jobs

RE: rounding edges

You're welcome.

You won't find one @ 1/16" dia. though, that's in the domain of needle files.

Those Vertias tools hardened? File may not work, why I mentioned properly shaped edge stones, used with a light touch.

With those shapes, any metal removed alters the radius a bit. Just go slow, take off only as much as you need to each time.


RE: rounding edges

   Things with a flat edge on a 90 degree work with a router or router table. But many boat items like the hull, chines, and other lines curve, angle and dip too much.  Using a router means you have to add a straight section to guide the router.  It is often easier to round over by hand.   I have used  a sanding block, block plane, vibrating plate sander and a belt sander. All were easier than some set ups for the round over bit. 

RE: rounding edges

In general, I am surprised that the instructions call  for rounding of most parts after they have been installed. Seems to me that it would be easier to round most of them - like seats and transoms, for example - beforehand.

RE: rounding edges

I rounded over my Easport Pram outwales with a router (mounted in a makeshift table) before putting them on the boat. Easier than trying to follow the curve once installed I think, and it allowed my to cut a more interesting profile. See photo at link (not varnished yet)

RE: rounding edges

Dang, Tim, that is pretty slick!  You is a right boatwright.  <;-)


RE: rounding edges

I'm standing with Andrew G's assertion about doing most edge-rounding while parts are stlll flat & not yet incorporated into a build.

Taking this one step further I have to wonder whether edge-rounding might not be a benefit where panels are to be butt-jointed? A radiused edge, perpendicular to a flat panel, would allow more thickened epoxy to create a 'weld' over what a square-edge provides for a fillet.

Small point but interesting to me.


RE: rounding edges

   Doing any rounding by hand is much easier than people often think. Get a piece of scrap wood and a #4 Stanley hand plane.  Go with the grain. Sandpaper and a sponge or rubber ducky for backing.  By the fourth edge on that scrap board, you should have the idea.  Look at all the great work done before woodworkers even knew about electricity.

RE: rounding edges

   Doing any rounding by hand is much easier than people often think. Get a piece of scrap wood and a #4 Stanley hand plane.  Go with the grain. Sandpaper and a sponge or rubber ducky for backing.  By the fourth edge on that scrap board, you should have the idea.  Look at all the great work done before woodworkers even knew about electricity. Most of it is better than anything we see today

RE: rounding edges

   I totally agree philosophically. I am just not proficient with woodworking and don't have good tools. My biggest concern though would be not being able to round long edges consistently.

I ended up doing pretty much everything with a router — transoms, seats, outwales, sekfg and skids, and it went reasonable well. (Would have went event better if I had a foresight to round all the parts before assembling the boat!) Will definitely do the mast with a router as well.

After the boat is done, I'll take it as a home assignment to assembe a better toolbox, and practice using the tools. After all, I am building a sailboat without a motor as a matter of principle; feels consistent to be able to build her without power tools as well.

RE: rounding edges

   If anyone is looking for hand tool instruction, Paul Sellers has many videos on YouTube.  I think he does an excellent job showing how to use the tools. He has many projects, but also a series on simply how to use a plane, chisel, etc. It's not at all marine related, but a chisel is a chisel, no mater why you pick it up.

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