Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Dory Prototype

April 13, 2017

Day 377

The Bluenose spent many years as a working fishing boat.  As was typical for fishing schooners, the ship carried a number of small fishing boats called dories.  These were small 2-3 person boats that could be dropped into the water to do the actual fishing.

The Model Shipways Bluenose kit includes laser cut parts to make 8 dories.  It also includes laser cut parts to make a jig for assembling these little boats.  These things are tiny – about 3 1/2″ long and 1″ wide.  The parts provided by the kit are 1/64″ thick.

The kit’s dories use 1/64″ thick laser cut sheet pieces for the bottom, sides, and stern of the ship.  These are glued together, then the various frames and supports are added using strip wood.

The kit provides 8 dories and I only intend to build 4 for my model (these little guys get stacked in two piles on the deck, and I think having stacks of 4 dories is a little too much).  So this means I have 4 extra dories that I can mess up.

I built the jig according to the instructions, and started building my first dory.  I spent a good amount of time trying to bend and hold these little pieces just right while gluing them.  I had no luck.  I could not get the pieces glued in the right places.

I decided to take a completely different approach.  I’m going to scratch-build my dories.

The plans indicate that the kit’s dories are simplified – they use a single piece for each side while the actual dories had three overlapping planks on each side.  I actually think gluing on three planks will be way easier than trying to bend a single piece.  However, to do that I’ll need the frames to be actual structural components.

I started by scanning in the plans for the dories.  I used some illustration software to determine the size and shape of each of the 5 frames on the dory, and made some templates for all the pieces that are at the right scale.

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The sheet of templates I made based on the plans.

I set up the sheet so it has multiple copies of the templates since I’ll probably end up needing some extras.

I cut out one set of templates and glued it to a piece of sheet wood.  I used 3/32″ thick basswood.  This will result in frames that are thicker than they should be, but I’m concerned that if I go too thin, these pieces will be too fragile.


A set of templates is glued to a sheet of basswood.

I cut the pieces out using my little Proxxon scroll saw.  Most of the pieces turned out fine on the first try, but “Frame C” took three tries.

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Pieces are cut out on a scroll saw using the template as a guide.

I used a #11 blade to score the floor, simulating planking.  I also marked the locations of each frame on the floor.


The full set of pieces.

The pieces were then glued together.  This was fairly easy.  Each frame was glued in using wood glue.  The bow piece was glued with CA glue so I didn’t have to hold it in place too long.  The stern piece was glued to its brace, then once that dried the stern assembly was glued to the floor with CA glue.

Once all the glue dried, it was starting to take the shape of a little boat.  It was surprisingly sturdy at this point.  Only the stern was a little fragile.



The pieces are assembled, forming the structure of the boat.

The next step was to add the sides.  I cut some strips of 1/64″ birch from a sheet I had laying around.  I got a sheet of this stuff a year or two ago at a local hobby store.  It was with their normal display of basswood and balsa.  I picked it up because it was the thinnest sheet material I had run into.

I started at the bottom.  I glued one plank on each side with CA glue.  This material is thin enough that it easily bends around the frames.  I added a second strip on each side, slightly overlapping the lower strip.

The third and final strip on each side was cut to be a little wider than the others.  After gluing it in place, I trimmed it down to be flush with the frames and gave everything a good sanding.

Now it definitely looks like a little boat.


Planking is added to create the sides.

I added a few more details, like the small braces at the stern and bow that aren’t full frames.  I made these from 1/32″ square strips.  I also added the rails that support the seats.

Everything was primered, then painted.  The plans call for the dories to be a ‘buff’ or ‘cream’ color.  However, I’ve seen a few Bluenose models that used a greenish-gray for the dories, and I thought that looked really nice.

I painted the outside of the dories with a greenish-gray, and painted the inside with a light tan.

I made the seats, painted them white so they had some contrast, and glued them in.  The rail around the top was cut from some 1/32″ sheet material I had, painted white, and glued on.


The seats and rail are added and the whole thing is painted.

I didn’t get the rail quite aligned.  I’ll probably have to rethink the rail on the next one.


Looks pretty decent.

I think this turned out pretty good.  I think having actual planking gives it more character.  There are some details I’ll need to work out before the next one though.

To see if I was happy with the color choices, I set the dory on the deck.  The dories will actually sit on some little racks, but I haven’t built those yet.


They turned out the right size, and the colors work pretty well.

I think the colors turned out fine.  It doesn’t look out of place on the ship, but it is different enough from the other deck structures that it stands out.


The dories stand out on the deck, but don’t look out of place.

This first dory isn’t perfect, but that’s OK.  This was just a prototype so I could see if scratch building these was feasible.  I think this proves it will turn out just fine.  Even with its flaws, this prototype is probably still better than I could have gotten with the kit’s parts.

Next I’ll start building the four real dories that will go on the model.  Based on the prototype, I’m thinking of making a few changes: