Steve’s Boat Building An amateur’s attempt to build a strip plank dinghy

Making the strip planking

The recommended timber for strip planking is Western Red or Yellow Cedar. An Internet search found Stones Marine Timber, based in East Portlemouth in Devon. This was a fortunate find, because not only is this almost a local supplier for me, but the quality of timber which that company supplies is exceptional. The Red Cedar that I bought was quarter sawn, straight, blemish free, and importantly, 5.5 metres (18 feet) long. As the finished boat is only 4.9 metres (16 feet) long, I will avoid the laborious task of scarfing dozens of strips to get the required length.

The first operation was to plane and thickness the 25 X 200 mm planks. With my small Record Power planer-thicknesser, this presented quite a challenge. I had to make up in-feed and out-feed tables to handle the unusual length, as shown in the photo below. The feed tables were made with scrap timber, and I drilled the bottom of the legs to take M10 bolts so that, using a very cheap laser, I could exactly adjust the heights to match the planer tables. To my amazement, this worked so well that I planed one face of each of the eight planks in one pass, with just a 0.75 mm cut - a real tribute to the quality of the timber.

I then ripped the planks down to 20 X 9.5 mm strips, and thicknessed the strips, ending up with 144 strips 8.5 mm thick, and 20 mm wide.

I did a price comparison between doing the machining myself, and buying the strips ready to use from a different timber merchant. The saving was just under £1100, enough to buy a planer-thicknesser and a router, with some change towards a saw table - useful for those poor souls who are not as well equipped as I am!

The only difficult part of routing the curves on the edges of the strips was finding a cove and bead router cutter. There are plenty available for 6 mm strips, but the only company that I could find with larger sizes was in America. Getting the bit was expensive, and it was only after I had received it that I discovered that I could have got a very similar cutter on Amazon for 1/5 of the price. Just search for Yonico-16145 on

Routing the curves was simplicity itself. I used featherboards on my home-made router table, and the strips ran through as quickly as I could feed them. I found that there were three important things to remember. Firstly it is critical to get the curves exactly centred on the edge of the strip. Secondly, because the concave face leaves very delicate feathered edges, it is essential to machine the convex curve first.