Assembling the Keel

Day 8.

The first step in building the Model Shipways Bluenose is to get the keel assembled.  This is a plank-on-bulkhead kit, so the hull is formed by slotting bulkheads (ribs) into the keel (the spine).

The kit provides three laser-cut pieces for the keel.  These were removed from their board and cleaned up bit.  Assembly should be pretty simple – the pieces are notched and tabbed and should just line up.  All you have do is add some glue.


This took a few days, because it didn’t go smoothly and I knew that messing this up would have repercussions.

Two major problems…first, the third piece simply wasn’t the right size.  It wasn’t an issue with the tab – the piece was physically taller (top and bottom) than part #2.  So, I drew on the reference lines from the plans (since I guess reference lines are there to refer to) and used those to decide how to line things up.  A little sanding, a little shimming, and I’ve got a keel.  It came out straight, so I’m happy.

The keel is assembled rom three parts.  Looks fairly straight.

The second problem with the keel was that while sanding off laser char on the top of section 2, I guess I went a little crazy.  Ended up with a beveled edge where it meets part #1.  I took too much off.  Solution?  Take more off!  I leveled it out, glued on some thing wood stock, and brought everything back into alignment.

Cutting the Rabbet Line

It looks days for me to get the nerve to make the first cut.  I’ve read everything I could about cutting the rabbet, but none of it gave me much confidence.  With my first POB build, something about carving away at the keel I just spent days aligning didn’t make me very comfortable.  Most of the stuff I’ve read is either discussions on what the rabbet is (which was helpful), or it was build logs that mentioned how concerned they were about cutting the rabbet, but that it wasn’t much of a big deal.  So I guess on the other side of this, I’ll be fine…

I tried the ‘cut out a copy of the plans and trace the lines’ method, but I wasn’t happy with the result.  I had little confidence that it was 100% accurate.  So, I measured the distance from the deck to bearding line at each bulkhead, and transferred that to the keel.  Then I measured the distance from that to the rabbet and marked that on the keel.  I ended up with a series of ‘dots’ at each bulkhead.  Then I used the cut out plans, aligned to these dots, to trace the lines.  Doubled checked against the plans, and I’m good to go.  Awesome!  I’ve managed to stall cutting the rabbet for a few more days!

Finally, I got up the nerve to cut.  I’ve written up my process in case you’re curious.

Cutting the rabbet.

Everyone was right – it isn’t hard, and doesn’t take that long (maybe 2 hours total spread over 2 days).  Maybe there isn’t much discussion on how to actually make the cut because after you’ve done it once, it’s no big deal.

I added reinforcement blocks over the joints in the keel (just seems like a good idea, and all the cool kids are doing it).

Then I started dry-fitting the bulkheads.  I’ve lightly sanded each of the bulkheads – removing just enough laser char to keep me from smudging everything any time I touch the parts.  The rest of the laser char should get cleaned up when I fair the hull.  Like many others, my bulkheads came as plywood.  They seem stronger, but they are a little harder to work with (cut/sand).  Each one has been lightly adjusted, along with the slots in the keel so they don’t fit too snug.

Dry fit of the bulkheads.

Next steps will be to install the sternpost and trim the tops of the bulkheads.  I know some people chop off the tops of the bulkheads and use fake stanchions, others follow the Model Shipways instructions and trim them back so the bulkhead tops become some of the stanchions.  I’m not 100% sure which way I’ll go, but I figure if I trim them before they go on, I won’t risk breaking anything, and if I cut them off later all I’ve lost is time.

After all that is done, I might be ready to start gluing in bulkheads…