Lapstrake Boatbuilding

Review from Water Craft Magazine
No. 73 January/February 2009

Lapstrake Boatbuilding by Walter J. Simmons
Pub. Duck Trap Press USA
ISBN 9780924947241
Comb-bound US A4 softback
$65 from www.duck-trap.com or www.boatbuildingbooks.com

This, frankly, this is one of the best two books on traditional small boat building I’ve read. Two, because what you’ll find in it first appeared in Walt Simmons’ Lapstrake Boatbuilding volumes one and two in the 70s.This 30th Anniversary edition combines both with much new material. Many of [the illustrations] are colour photographs, but this is not a coffee table publication: you’re paying for information, not presentation. Or rather, not pretty presentation but what you get…is a very practical presentation for a book which fledgling boatbuilders, amateur and professional, will want with them in the workshop.

“Lapstrake” is, of course, the US word for clinker which Americans still call the stuff that’s left behind in fireboxes. Walt bravely offers American to British translations of this and other boatbuilding terms and he almost pulls it off…Except that a gain is a gerald and a carlin is a carlin except in Kent where it is a carline but not a carling which is an unpleasant kind of lager. Confused? You won’t be because Walt’s unhurried explanation of each process as it’s needed, accompanied by clear and simple diagrams, gently bridges any divisions of Mr. Shaw’s common language.

So lapstrake=clinker=that method of building boats with narrow, slightly-overlapping planks, none of them remotely straight, which scares the daylights out of so many beginners. And so as you turn the pages of Walt’s first chapter which is a gallery of the traditional New England craft for which he offers the build-her-yourself plans and patterns, the hulls are so beamy and curvaceous compared to your terribly straight, stiff upper everything British types, you may be even more intimidated.

At first…But read on steadily and you discover that many are wherries which has nothing to do with Norfolk; in American, it means they have wide plank keels, so there is no need for you to chop out a rebate aka rabbet and fastening down a centerboard case aka trunk is going to be so much simpler. Read on and you will find they have stems with outer stems, cutwaters, so need to cut rebates there either…Read on further and you get to planking where you’re faced with “lining off” to get the difficult different shapes of each individual plank; for neophytes this is surely the deal-breaker…but no. Walt takes us by the hand walks us through it one step at a time, and before you know it, we’re thinking: So just how hard can lapstrake be?

There is much, much more from this book: from tools and timber aka lumber through the complete building process to sails and oars and beyond to “Words for Aspiring Professionals”, I recommend it enthusiastically.

Reviews by Pete Greenfield, Editor
Water Craft Magazine #73
January/ February 2009