Boatbuilding news, building tips, and builder feedback

A place to share YOUR boat building story

Glen-L Marine Designs - 9152 Rosecrans Ave. - Bellflower, CA 90706

In this issue

GLEN-L Update
  • Many thanks to all of you who sent in stories, articles, emails, etc. for this issue of the Glen-L WebLetter. It absolutely is YOUR contributions which make the WebLetter an interesting, informative and FUN read every month.
  • All of us here at Glen-L hope that you'll continue to keep us "in the loop" so that we can showcase you and your activities. Never forget that "enquiring minds want to know!"
  • If you're reading this and realize that you haven't yet shared any of your stories with the rest of the Glen-L family, why not send us something this month? Maybe YOU will be our Featured Article, or even our Boatbuilder of the Month in the next issue of the WebLetter!

Until next month . . .      

An Excellent Father/Son Experience

by Mark Finnila

"This is what it’s all about…a boat on the water"

Luke and I had an excellent father and son experience building the Bullet together. The plans, books, and Boatbuilder Forum provided all the information we needed to complete the boat successfully.

We started in late-January 2007 and were finished by mid-July 2007. That included six weeks lost at the dealer for motor installation and then using it for three weeks on vacation before exterior paint was completed. The build process was very therapeutic since my wife was in the middle of a battle with a serious condition.

We are extremely pleased with the Bullet's performance. The v-hull design makes her very smooth in the chop. The Smart Tabs improved the handling and planing performance and they also help the boat track when a skier is turning aggressively. I highly recommend them to other builders of the Bullet. Our 25 hp 2-stroke engine attains a top speed of 29 mph with an 11" pitch prop and two of us in the boat. It just manages to pull up a skinny guy on one slalom ski from a deep water start! Top speed is 24 mph towing a slalom skier. It pulls a two-person tube, wakeboard, kneeboard, or combo skier with no problem. We plan to experiment towing two boarders or combo skiers in the near future! The only thing we would do different is look harder for a used 35 or 40 hp motor at the outset since we tow so much.

Thanks for creating and hosting such an awesome boat building community. I wanted to attend the Glen-L Boatbuilder Gathering, but my wife had a medical treatment that Friday and I couldn't make it. Hopefully, I can make it this year. You guys rock!

Glen-L Boatbuilder of the Month

Mark Bronkalla - Riviera

I have wanted a wooden boat ever since I was a child. When I was about 6 or 7, I was taken for a ride by a friend of my grandparents in his old Chris Craft. At that age I was impressed by the boat and by its being kept in a "wet" boathouse on Lake Antoine (Iron Mountain, Michigan).

The other driver, during my childhood, was watching the water ski shows in Eagle River, Wisconsin and the marvelous Ski Nautiques that pulled the skiers.

Now that my children were approaching an age when water skiing, tubing, etc., were good family activities, it was finally time to get a boat. There are many good sized lakes in Southeastern Wisconsin and they are NOT frozen year round (contrary to popular belief down south). Bumming ski time with friends only whetted our appetites for water sports. In addition, I am a big guy and getting dragged through the water as a sea anchor by a small boat and motor while trying to get up on skis is a less than totally gratifying experience.

After researching new boats, used boats and talking to friends who have a variety of older boats, I decided to look into building a new boat rather than refitting an older one. The only suppliers of inboard wooden runabout plans I found were Glen-L, Ken Hankinson (no longer in business), and those from Wooden Boat Magazine.

With the Riviera, we get what I think is an optimum combination of:

  • Size
  • Power
  • Ski performance
  • Great "ooh" and "aah" factor
  • Reasonable cost
My goal is to offer encouragement to other amateur boat builders and provide construction tips and techniques gathered from a variety of sources and personal experiences. In addition, a project of this scope requires a great deal of spousal and family buy-in. Here you can show your family that others HAVE done a project like this and that you are NOT the ONLY "Completely Crazy Nut Case" to think of doing such a thing.

In the process of building the boat, I spent a lot of time researching the questions of: "Should I build?", "How to build?", "How much will it cost?" and "How long will it take?" as well as "problems and solutions". In addition, there are a number of things I have learned along the way that I think should be useful to others. The sharing of tips and knowledge was very helpful to me, as well as the encouragement and seeing that others have completed similar projects.

The boat has been fun to build and I have received a lot of support from family, friends and new boat building acquaintances. It is amazing how many people stop to ask about the "restoration". All are amazed when they find out it is new construction.

I hope more people will see that building your dream is possible and within a reasonable amount of time.

Editor's Note: Although Mark completed his Riviera some time ago, he has been a great help and friend to many other builders. We thought it was about time we honored him as our Boatbuilder of the Month.

This article excerpted from from Mark's excellent and very inclusive website.
Click here to read further and to view photos.

Bob Brown's Belle Isle Build

by Bob Brown, Corvallis, Oregon

Growing up within a quarter mile of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon, it was a great experience to build a sled boat with my dad back in the early 70's. Ever since, I've wanted to build another. With a friend and my son, I visited the Sierra Boat Company at Lake Tahoe in 2009, on our way to a hike. We all loved the Chris Craft and Gar Wood mahogany runabouts there. From that, research led me to Glen-L and, for my birthday in May 2010, my family gave me plans for the 23' Belle Isle.

The build started on Saturday, October 16, 2010. The frames are now completed and mounted to the motor stringers. Today (February 21, 2011), the preliminary setup of the keel and stem were completed.

One unusual aspect of my build is that the frames are Port Orford Cedar from trees which were in our backyard. They died a few years ago, so we had them cut into lumber, hoping to build a boat in the future.

I'm keeping a "photo journal" of the project which can be accessed here.

The design and plans are great! The books and Boatbuilder Forum you provide are very helpful. Other builders provide inspiration, especially Bill Cunningham, Bob Perkins, and Mark Bronkalla, and their photos are also a great help!


Designer's Notebook: Stitch Wires Revisited

Stitch-n-Glue boats use wires to initially hold the plywood panels together at seams while waiting for the epoxy glue-up to set; when made of copper the wires won't rust. Yet, when the stitch wire is not fully removed it eventually may tend to migrate to the surface and mar the finish. Yes, it may take a long time but why not be safe rather than sorry?

Running an interior fillet between wire stitches, allowing it to cure and then removing the wire works well. Often simply dribbling a thickened epoxy in the seam between stitches is enough to hold the seam together.

Removing wire stitches that are imbedded in cured epoxy is not difficult. First untwist the stitch and if the wire is quite long cut it off being sure that enough of the wire remains to get a firm grip on it with pliers. Apply heat until the end of the wire glows red hot; wait a minute or so until the heat penetrates the wire. Heat softens the epoxy and relieves the bond to the wire. Use pliers with a levering motion against a block of wood to pull out the wire.

Heat can be applied to the stitch wire with a butane torch, taking care not to burn the plywood. A clever method, devised by Sam Devlin¹, is to instead use a 12-volt battery; the arc from shorted terminals heats the stitch wires. Use jumper cables from the negative pole on the battery to one end of the stitch wire; connect the positive end of the jumper cable to the other end of the stitch wire briefly until it glows. Take care when using this method because a lot of heat can be generated quickly; if you allow too much heat to be generated the epoxy can burn and possibly char the plywood.

Be aware that the jumper cable lead tends to arc weld itself to the stitch wire. To eliminate this problem Devlin advocates using the carbon rod element removed from a D-cell flashlight battery as the contact for the positive cable.

¹Sam Devlin is a professional who builds stitch and glue boats exclusively and is known as a pioneer in the field.

In The Harbour

old man
in the boat
“It’s me punt”
about in the harbour
oars cutting water
fluid motion

screaming overhead
to the water
“d’ere eatin’ fish guts”
to count them
too many

cold and black
“how deep is the water `ere pop?”
“over our heads me son, over our heads”
sees reflection
over the side

rocking them side to side
“do ya want to row?”
small hands
for instructions
to let go

old man
in the punt
“take yer time, you’ll git it me son”
drifting in the harbour
with the sound of their laughter

-- cgc

Photos posted since the last WebLetter...

Harold the boatbuilder

"If you are not willing to risk the unusual,
you will have to settle for the ordinary."

Shop Talk: C-Clamp Pads/Scrapers/Vac Noise


Afraid of scratching the wood when clamping things with your C-clamps? Here are a couple of ideas to make those cast iron C-Clamps a little more wood-friendly.

Put self-adhesive chair foot pads on each clamping surface; these small stick-on pads are easy to replace, and inexpensive. As an alternative, you can also use those plastic milk bottle lids or the screw off tops from 2-liter bottles. You can leave them loose, or glue them to the metal with hot-melt glue.


Use a blade from a utility knife to remove nubs, runs or anything sandpaper would normally be used for between finishing coats. Use it like a conventional wood scraper. It never clogs up and saves a lot of time and sandpaper. It is amazingly easy to scrape down a finish.

Be sure to purchase different size replacement utility blades at your local hardware store. They are CHEAP!


Avoiding clouds of sawdust is a must in a small work area, but a dust collection system eats up valuable space and money. A shop vacuum makes a good substitute, but because the decibel level of most shop vacuums rivals that of a jet engine, build a box like this one to muffle the noise. Put casters on it and it'll follow along as you connect it to various power tools or when you're just cleaning up your work area.

Build the box from a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of 3/4-in. plywood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Glue in wood battens at vertical corners for additional strength. Fasten with 2-in. screws. Line yours with carpet scraps for extra muffling. Cut them to size and glue them to the box with construction adhesive. Use strap hinges on the door so the screws drive through the face of the door and box side. Avoid butt hinges because there's little holding power for screws driven into the edge of plywood or MDF.

Recent email:

Subject: 1st-Time Boatbuilder

I am a 1st-time builder of a boat, building the Lo Voltage as my first boat, mostly for my partner Melodie. We just bought a lakefront cottage and thought that the Lo Voltage would be perfect for our quiet sunset martini cruises.

This will be a pre-cursor to building my Biscayne next and will hopefully give me valuable practice at epoxy work. The Lo Voltage is built using the stitch and glue method and will be powered by a golf cart motor and Glenn L's "ED" propulsion system. I will be building it with a canopy, forward and aft deck and instead of a center console/steering wheel combo I thought I would try my hand at installing a rudder and tiller arm. That's the great thing about building a boat yourself...customization!

I find it amazing to have the Boatbuilder Forum "family" like the one we have here with Glen-L! I love how easygoing everyone is and very supportive of each other. I find myself just wandering through all the other posts and learning almost everyday...especially a little sarcasm at times! Hey, as long as we're building some kind of boat, it's all good!

I have about 22 hours into the project so far and hope to have it finished in about 55-65 hours.

-- Patrick Morais
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

See Patrick's build photos here

Subject: An Oldie for the Photo Gallery

This L Dorado was built in New Zealand by John Cristie and his 3 young sons in about 1960. It was powered by a 30hp Mercury.

Cheers from Michael (61 this year) the oldest of John's three sons, who was 10 years old at the time we built the boat.

-- Michael Christie
New Zealand

Subject: Amazing

The Glen-L website never ceases to amaze me. It is like Christmas 365 days of the year. The boats being crafted by members using Glen-L plans are for the most part outstanding.

In addition to the beautiful pictures, many members have found time to produce some wonderful web sites and tell their boat building story in detail. For those who love wooden boats, your Glen-L website is truly inspirational.

It has been some time since I last reported my Audeen progress, but be assured that I have been working diligently. All being well, my launch date should take place in June or July of 2011. Here is a url that points to some of the many pictures that I have of my boat building experience. I hope that they will be of help to other builders. No pictures are included of the fibre glassing or "turnover" procedure. The reason for this is that the "first mate" has allergies to epoxy and, was also instrumental in the turnover. No time for cameras when your life is in jeopardy! I will of course follow up with the final pictures after launch.

If anyone has questions or would like more detail please feel free to drop me a note on the Glen-L Boatbuilder Forum.

Thanks once again for maintaining such a wonderful web site! The very best to you and your staff in 2011.

-- Al Neill
Kanata, Ontario, Canada

Subject: A Special "Thanks"

A special thanks to the following folks who have provided very valuable advice and support with my Bo Jest build:
  • Tom Smitherman of Montevallo, Alabama
  • Billy Talley of Tally’s Pier 77 Marine in Cornelius, North Carolina
  • Fred Wright, Marine Surveyor, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Tim Hopper, Tooling/Maintenance Manager, Curtis Screw Co., LLC, Davidson, North Carolina
  • And last but not least, Gayle and Glen of Glen-L Designs, Bellflower, California
Many thanks to you all.

-- Bill McComb
Davidson, North Carolina

Our BoJest "Flippen-Party," just before Christmas 2009

Subject: Enjoying...

I am approximately eight weeks from finishing my Monaco so the next lot of my photos I send you will be the last of my build.

I am now fifty-four years old and in my life I have never enjoyed a project as much as the building of my Monaco. I'll send off a short WebLetter article to that effect along with some launch photos on completion.

Another small project I have taken on is to compile a list of Aussie & New Zealand Glen-L builders. The list is compiled largely from information contained in the Customer Photos, Project Registry and Boatbuilder Forum pages along with outside contributions from fellow Australian builders. To date I have around eighty builds listed. My hope is that, at some time in the future, we may have an Aussie Glen-L Gathering down here.

All the best,

-- Tim Major
Sydney, Australia

Fishing Tale

Four married guys get together early one Saturday to go boating. After an hour of boating, waterskiing and fishing, the following conversation took place…

First guy: "You have no idea what I had to do to be able to come out boating this weekend. I had to promise my wife that I would paint every room in the house next weekend."

Second guy: "That's nothing. I had to promise my wife that I would build her a new deck for the pool."

Third guy: "Man, you both have it easy! I had to promise my wife that I would remodel the kitchen for her."

The four guys continue to relax on the water and fish. When they finally realize that the fourth guy has not said a word, they ask him "You haven't said anything about what you had to do to be able to come boating and fishing this weekend. What's the deal?"

The Fourth guy responds: "I just set my alarm for 5:30 am. When it went off, I shut off my alarm, gave my wife a slap on her behind and said:

'Fishing or Sex?' and she said: 'Wear sun-block…'"

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