Monday, March 16, 2009

Building a Lyle Hess 34' Falmouth Cutter

This the building of a Lyle Hess 34 ft Falmouth Cutter from a bare fiberglass hull from Channel Cutter Yachts. The project started late in 2004 . The first job was to build a temporary shed. My Father helped me build the shed onto an existing 30x20 garage so I ended up with a 70X20 ft working space with plenty of height. For over a year I had been collecting machines and many of those needed some restoring. All in all setting up took some time.

Vancouver Island is a good place to build a boat. Domestic woods such as Douglas fir, Alaskan yellow cedar and western red cedar are excellent woods for building a boat.

The first order of business was carefully leveling the hull and laying out for the deck framing. The deck framing, bulkheads and ballast was finished in 2005. The Deck framing is air dried Douglas fir and the deck is cold molded red cedar. The temporary bulkheads and bracing that came with the hull were kept in as long as possible to retain hull shape.

Here much of the framing is complete but still have to put in blocking and varnishing.

Finished deck framing

Roughing in the bulkheads. All plywood is BS1088 sapelli or occume marine ply and bonding to the hull was done with epoxy and 12oz biaxial and 10oz cloth. Bulkheads are set on 15mm closed cell foam.

Here you can see the simple half-lap joint for the two bulkheads (the main and the galley bulkhead) that were wider than a 4ft sheet of plywood. The joint was glued and held together with some pan head screws and washers while also being glassed to the hull.

Here staving is being installed and glued. Pan head screws and plywood pads which get removed and then coutersunk for a not-really-necessary bronze screw and plugged.

I did not like the idea of plywood way down in the bilge so decided to lay up some 1/2" thick fiberglass and cut out the mast step floors from that. Then some nasty time with the head in the bilge 'glassing them in place. Note the ample scuppers.

The large purple heart mast step in for a trail fit. The ballast has just been put in and the lifting chains will be cut off with a zip-disc and the ballast completely and heavily glassed in place with polyester resin.

The 6000 lbs lead ballast was cast in a concrete form I made. Once again my Dad came over for the day to help with pouring the lead. Once cast and cooled it was lowered into the boat by a crane. The ballast was then heavily 'glassed in place.

The first layer of the deck is Western Red Cedar 5/8" T&G glued and nailed with bronze ring nails to the beams. Then two opposing diagonals 5/16" each. The final layer is 9/16" Silver Bali. The diagonals were stapled through small squares of door skin. When the glue cured I could pop off the doorskin backer with a putty knife which left the staple proud for pulling out.

The rubrail was ripped out of a 31ft peice of angelique. The wood could not be delivered up the driveway and weighed a ton. A couple of willing friends helped me tow it up to the shop with the Land Cruiser.

Some interior went in during the winter of 2006. Here is the galley and the cabin sole beams. You can see the ballast 'glassed in place.

During the summer the 36hp Buhk engine was set in and the cabin was built. My friend John is here helping me install the engine. We "walked" the engine along using two chain falls.

John and I had steamed the teak cabin grubs a few weeks previously. The sides got clamped up on the boat and the fore and aft ones were clamped over a form.

The grubs glued and fastened in place and the miters splined.

The cabin sides are three lamination's. 3/8" teak over 2 layers of BS1088 sapelli marine plywood. The cabin was glued, screwed and bolted down through the carlins with a total of 35 x 3/8" bronze rod bolts. By laminating the sides I could lay out the bolts and run a 1/4" x 1/4" dado with the router so the 3/8" drill bit would have something to follow.

I built a form to build the cabin sides around. To get it right, I made a 1/4" template out of plywood so I could lay out the portlights, bolts, and sheer.

Fitting the cabin sides.

Fitting the bronze bolts.

Once the sides were in place the outer pieces of the corner posts and the cabin roof beams came next. I wanted to leave the roof off the cabin while I did most of the interior. I finished the main cabin sometime in October 2006.

Its pretty quiet here except for when I get the machines going. White tailed deer will usually be browsing outside and are not bothered if I open the door and take a look. Here is a view of a summer sunset over the Straight of Juan de Fuca from here.

Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival in 2006.

Winter 2006 came early...

2007- Back working on the boat in April 2007. Started off with the scuttle hatch. Built the same way as the main cabin but the cold molded red cedar roof is also a hinged lid.
Some sailing on the 23' Stone Horse I rebuilt to clear the dust way. Anchored off James Island.

Some more interior work and then on to the cockpit coamings. They are built up out of a sawn red cedar core, "bread and butter" with 5/16" teak veneer and a teak cap. They are bolted down through the deck and blocking with bronze rod.

Here are some pictures of the red cedar core before being bolted through the deck and getting the 5/16" teak veneers and 7/8" cap.

At the end of August I sailed down to Port Townsend with my father to pick up some silver bali deck planking that was left over from when the deck was redone on Schooner "Martha". The planking was bundled up and lashed to the deck. We sailed back across the straight with double reefed main and stay'sl.

While in Port Townsend I took a few photo's of some Lyle Hess cutters. Here is a picture the 24' Lyle Hess cutter "Able" .

"Terrier" also of Port Townsend is a Bristol Channel Cutter built with a traditional deck and house on a 'glass hull.

About this time I spent some time doing some interior work. The heater platform, saloon settees and the double quarter berth. The bulkheads are BS1088 sapelli or occume marine ply. Except for the main and fwd bulkheads which are 18mm, the partial bulkheads are 12mm. All are over- laid with 1/2" tight vertical grain (VG) Douglas fir staving glued with resorcinol glue. The ply bulkheads are first set on some 15mm closed cell foam and then heavily filleted to the hull with thickened epoxy. They are then 'glassed in place with two layers of 12oz biaxial cloth and one layer of 10 oz cloth a good 10 inches up the plywood and over the hull. The 'glass is let into the plywood a bit so the staving will lie flat.

Here is the heater platform being built. There is room for a water tank behind and a bookshelf which is accessed from the double quarter berth.

The starboard saloon settee getting built. Trim and cabinets are Honduras Mahogony.

The hull-deck seam got trimmed and 'glassed. The gel coat was ground off the top 6 inches of the hull and I ran the power planer over the outer 6 inches of the deck so the 'glass would lay flush. The edge was 'glassed with epoxy and two layers of 12oz biaxial cloth and one layer of 10 oz cloth.

Over top of this lays the covering board and on the hull a "shear strake" of 1/2" VG fir. The shear strake will hid the 'glass work and also when painted help lower the look of the shear.

The butt joints were routed out so to glue in a lapping piece and make the joint seamless.

2008 - Much of the time I spent on the Falmouth Cutter in 2008 was on interior work. Here the stainless steel ice box liner is getting installed. A 1/2" hose at the bottom leads to a brass tap for draining water. There is also a sliding tray inside.

There is 4 1/2" of SM styrofoam around the sides and front with much more at the bottom and top. I also contact cemented a 10mm layer of closed cell foam all around the box first so there could be no voids.

I built it so the opening would be big enough for easy access and clean out. The insulated inserts will be made up of two separate pieces but not attached to the lid which would have become heavy. The ash lid is first lifted up and held in place by a self tending catch.

The heater platform is aft of the ice box and will be lined with stainless steel. The heater will be made by Navigator Stove Works.

The hull was insulated in two different ways. 15mm closed cell foam was placed behind the ash hull ceiling. Inside lockers above the water line where the work of putting in hull ceiling was not needed, I contact cemented the same foam and then epoxy 'glassed over a layer of 6oz cloth and painted it. That gave a durable clean surface. Here is insulation in the settee after it has been 'glassed. Still to be trimmed and painted.

 The opening through the bulkhead from the berth gives access to a large book shelf.

 The ash hull ceiling is screwed with #8 bronze screws to ribs epoxy glued to the hull. The back side of the ash is sealed with two coats of varnish before being installed.

The bunk slates are yellow cedar. Everywhere I can the shelves, settee and bunks have yellow cedar slates to promote air movement.

 The engine box and companionway ladder were mostly finished.

The lid of the engine box folds back and drop boards on both sides are removable to give good access to the engine. The ladders are held in place with Murray snap apart hinges so are quick to remove.

Where the hull is exposed above the cabin sole a first layer of 1/4" red cedar was glued down to the hull with thickened epoxy. The hull was first prepped with a grinder and a 24 grit disc and wiped down with acetone. The cedar was faired and a second layer of 1/4" teak was glued down ensuring tight fits all around.

The 7/8" teak cabin sole is sitting on varnished angelique beams. The beams are in turn bolted to 18mm plywood knees that are epoxy 'glassed to the hull. I first set up a strong-back down the centre line and clamped all the beams in place. Then I could clamp the knees to the beams and fillet them to the hull and 'glass them in place knowing they would be exactly where I wanted them to be. The beams were then removed and the other side of the knee was 'glassed before re-installing the beams.

Looking down to the interior. The 7/8" bare teak floor boards have been fitted. One of those jobs that are quick but make a big difference to appearance.

Still have to finish off the Galley trim and cabinetry

Time to get out of the shop. A 3 hour drive away and an hour ski to here. Mt Albert Edward in the distance is a good ski if conditions are stable.

Sailing on schooner "Magic" for the Gaffers race in Sidney.

Here is "Alcyone" charging along.

Here is a detail of the settee cabinet

All the counter tops are ash. Cabinetry is Honduras Mahogany, staving VG fir, hull ceiling Ash, cabin sole bare teak. As the cabin sides and deck head are painted white the colours get darker from top to bottom helping everything to feel grounded.

Here is the sitz tup glued up and with two coats of epoxy sealer. A 2-part polyurethane will be varnished over the epoxy. The tub is 1/4" red cedar glued to 12mm plywood. The sitz tub is in the fo'csle.

The last job on the boat for 2008 was to lay the 9/16" sprung silver bali deck. This was glued to the red cedar sub deck with Aerodux resorcinol glue. The deck was glued down 3 strakes at a time and were held in place by lead ingots and pan head screws and fender washers driven down in between the seams. That gave me a deck with no screws or bungs. I had help with laying the deck from my father. Handling 26 ft long pieces covered in glue by yourself was not appealing. The seams still have to payed and the deck sanded down.

Did some pattern making and had them cast in Everdur silicon bronze by the good folks at Achinback Foundry only a 20min drive away.

The stainless steel galley counter top was ready. Very well made by Straight Metal 45min away in Sidney.

2009- During Feburary and March 2009 I got to work on the bulwarks. The woodstove did it's best to keep the shop warm.

The bulwarks are laminated from three layers of teak glued with resorcinol glue for a total thickness of 1 1/2". The bulwarks are supported by the stanchion bases and bolted through the deck and fiberglass flange with 3/8" silicon bronze rod. I used a scraping tool to put three 1/4" coves on the bedding surface of the bulwark. The bolt holes were also counter sunk in the deck and bulwark and an extra bead of 3M5200 was put around the holes and bolts.

The bulwarks are joined at the midships hawse blocking and I routed out to glue in a lapping piece so it is seamless. That allowed us to scribe and fit two more manageable pieces.

Stanchion base bolted to the deck and bulwark

I also had cast the bob stay tang (by Port Townsend Foundry) as well as a 1/4" stem band that wraps over the top of the stem under the gammon iron. The gammon iron is riveted with four 3/8" bronze carriage bolts.

Fitting the taff rail. The taff rail is laminated out of three 1/2" layers of teak with resorcinol glue.

Cast chain hawses

In June and July I finished the bulwarks and caulked the deck. The bulwark hawses were fit and installed. They were riveted together with 1/4" annealed bronze rod and filed flush for a hidden fastener.
Time was spent to hand shape the 1 1/2"x 3" bulwark cap to a pleasing oval shape on top and to saw it so the grain sweeps with the sheer. I was lucky with the teak I had and managed very little grain run out when sawing the pieces. The bulwark cap pieces which are each about 8-9 ft long, are joined with 4" half lap joints which give good glue surface area and less vertical seam that can weather on the top compared to a vertical hooked scarf. The taff rail knees are joined into the taff rail and bulwark cap with hooked scarfs.

The bronze deck armour seen below will serve three purposes. It will protect the deck under the bow sprit which will be difficult to keep clean, protects the deck from the chain and acts as a trim ring for the caulking around the samson post. This has served me well ensuring no leaks in the past. It also over laps the stem band which itself wraps over the stem and under the gammon iron. All leaving no gap for water to infiltrate in a difficult area to maintain.

The lazarette hatch is split in the middle so it opens like a book. Much easier with a tiller in the way.

Deck caulked and sanded. The deck was a lot of work and it was nice to see it completed.

My father came down and helped for four days with the transom. The transom was over laid with 1/2" vertical grain teak set in System Three G2 epoxy and fastened with bronze machine screws. Plywood pads and hex bolts tapped into the fiberglass were used to secure the planking during glue up, which was a messy affair, and when removed countersunk and replaced with a bronze machine screw. With a curved and racked transom one has to get the right curve when lining out the planks so it appears horizontal and fair when viewed from astern. A straight plank seam would appear to sag.

The sail locker was finished. The hull ceiling is yellow cedar. You can see the purple heart stem backing for the gammon iron and bob stay tang. Both set in thickened epoxy.

A picture of the interior. The cabin roof framing was completed and varnished and the 3/4" Western red cedar T&G was milled up and painted ready for the roof to go on when I get back to the boat at the end of September.

November-December 13th 2009
I managed to get in some work on the roof. I started off by finishing pre-painting the Western Red Cedar T&G I had milled up in July. To lay the T&G I started at the centre line and worked out either side so it would be symmetrical either side. Thus when you look up inside you will see the T&G planks die out in the curved sides at the same place port/starboard. Just the little details some people will notice but most won't.

When I fit a board I would have to go inside, mark off the beam's with some masking tape, pre-drill for nails and take the plank away and lightly grind off the paint where the beams are. Then glue it down with some white 3M5200 and nail it down with 1 3/4" bronze ring nails. A rather slow process that took two days to finish.

Some long boarding was next and then the second diagonal layer of Yellow Cedar could get cold molded on.

The staples all get removed and then faired with jack plane and long board before third layer could get glued down. I also routed in a groove to run wires for two over head lights. The wires make their way up to the roof through the brass tubing saloon table stanchion. One over head light at the galley and one over the table.

As usual I milled up all my own material and the roof was made from some beautiful cedar from the Queen Charlotte Islands. Here milling up the last layer of Red Cedar on the bandsaw.
Fairing the last layer for 'glassing. The roof got 'glassed with epoxy and one layer of 10oz cloth and one layer of Dynel (I used System Three Silver Tip Laminating epoxy which wets out the 'glass nicely and is blushless). The roof then got faired, long boarded and coated with another layer of epoxy. It is sanded and ready for primer now.

Here is a picture of the inside of the roof.

The sliding hatch and skylight came next. These take some care to make and are fun. Care had to be taken to ensure the 1/4" bronze carriage bolts for the sliding hatch rails came out dead-centre in the roof beams. I pre-drilled the holes in the rails with the drill press so that the holes would be dead square and could act as a guide for my drill bit when drilling through the roof. Some double-triple checking of measurements and all went well.

Building the skylight. The frame is joined with mortise and tenons.

The dorade boxes are an integral part of the skylight furniture. I wanted to try to join the pieces together rather than a bunch of seperate pieces planted all over the roof. The sliding hatch garage which is not built yet will tie the skylight and the sliding hatch into a contiguous unit as the rails for the garage will extend forward to the skylight making a sort of bin for storage area between the skylight and garage. It will be the first thing I get to when I get back to the boat as well as finish off the skylight and sliding hatch which are not completely done yet. The tops of the dorade boxes are solid fiberglass I laid up and will be painted out along with most of the roof structures. The only brightwork on the roof will be the sliding hatch and the actual skylight.

The skylight has a double coaming with four scuppers.


  1. Absolutely beautiful!!! I have built 3 boats with the last one being a Flicka, but I just marvel (and drool) at the quality and workmanship of your endeavor.
    Bob Collier (10-30-2011)

  2. Amazing work!! any update?

  3. Sir...I have no words. I followed this blog with wonder.
    *slowly rises and begins soft applause*

  4. My humble thanks. Work on the FC34will resume again in due time but right now working on my Swedish Journeyman's Test Cabinet this year.

  5. Do you know if the original builder will be continuing building these beautiful boats? I have tried to contact him and have not heard anything. I understand he is working out of the country right now is that right?

    Beautiful boat!

  6. Been busy and have not been in touch for a couple of months but am quite sure nothing has changed and Bryan at CCY is still building the 34 foot Falmouth Cutter

  7. Wow!

    Lyle Hess designed some nice boats and your work is outstanding. Makes me wish it was my next boat if I was to upgrade from my Nor'sea. Everything from the inside and outside is quite remarkable.

    Great Job!

  8. Floating furniture: your pride is obvious and deserved. We sail out of Pender Harbour and hope to see you on the water.

  9. Absolutely stunning. Your craftsmanship is second to none. Outstanding job.

  10. Hi ,such a beautiful project for workmanship love & pride! Would like to know how or acquire plans for a scuttle and sliding roof scuttle. Also where to acquire the portholes. Plan on doing projects with a nautical flair on our home.thank you