Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

I am getting ready to begin the build of my NE Dory and have read the manual as well as lots posts on the forum.  Many times while reading the manual it indicates that a helper is needed.  I may not be able to get someone to help me a lot of the times and i suspect many builders have had the same issue.  What i would like to know, before i begin. is what part of construction would you absolutely make sure to have assiatance?  It goes without question, that flippping the hull requires help but besides that what has been your expereicne?  Thanks in advance....

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RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

   I built mine entirely by myself with no problems. It is possible even to flip the boat over by yourself but I don't recommend it! I only did that once and it was more excitement than I really wanted. Stitching the panels together is a bit easier with an extra pair of hands but if you tie them loosely to the bulkheads to hold them in place you can then get the rest of the stitches in. It's a great boat to build. Have fun!            

George K 




RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

   You'll want a helper the first couple of times you flip the boat (while it is wired together). At that stage it is light-weight but also fairly flimsy. I also had a helper while I was wetting out the fiberglass cloth on both sides of the hull -- though you could probably do that alone. With those exceptions I have been working alone. Today, I'll be applying the third and final coat of varnish to the bottom . . . and then my dory will be finished! But I'll still have to flip it one final time to get it right-side up and on the trailer. Later in the week I'll post some pictures on my blog of the rope rigging that allows me to turn the hull.

RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

   Besides what has been already discussed, I found having help holding the rails as they are clamped to the hull panels very beneficial. Good luck.


RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

Have fun with the build!  I've done about everything on my own although my wife has volunteered to help with the major sanding which will start in a week or so.  I would definitely recommend a helper or a sling system for boat flipping.  I built a sling and I mounted a hand winch on the wall for hoisting the boat.   You can see the sling in operation in one of the pictures in my dory build album.   


RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory


Your boat is really looking great. I like the loon inlay and the dressed-up thwarts. The inwales are an impressive achievement. To top it off, you seem to be making rapid progress. Congrats.


RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

Thanks Jeff -- things have slowed down recently though, since I'm back at my day job (teaching).  Wish someone would pay me to build dories!   

RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

Your question rang a bell with me, as I am in the middle of my first build, which happens to be a NE Dory.  I've been making notes as I go along, with the idea I could post them or send them in to CLC to see if they were of any value, but I'll put what I have so far.  :)

One thought on working solo - be creative with clamps - I've managed to do almost everything by myself.  I've only had help with one thing - gluing the inside rail(I did the spacered inwales) - and I figured out how to do it myself on the second one.

apologies for the lengthy first post!  Oh, and an answer to your how-to-flip-yourself question is buried in there.

Dory Notes From a First Build

Setting up:  A space with at least 3 feet on all sides of the boat is about right – I’d hate to squeeze in with less, though it could be done.   Remember, calculate that from the finished width of the boat, not just the bottom panel.

Puzzle Joints

When gluing up the puzzle joints, use a fairly thick mix so it doesn’t run – like the manual says, “jam consistency” is about right.  Make sure you wet all edges of the joint with the epoxy on BOTH pieces.  You don’t want to count on one piece to carry glue to the other.  Before clamping, look at the joint carefully to see if the two pieces are level with each other.   If they are not, I found that clamping them didn’t necessarily bring things exactly even.  Take a minute to adjust them as level with each other as you can.  My experience may have also been an artifact of the material I used to make my assembly table – Oriented Strand Board(OSB).  The surface of OSB isn’t the smoothest surface, and it may not help align things as well as something like plywood or a scrap of countertop that is smoother.


For the most part, I found the 18 gauge wire supplied with the kit to be sufficient to persuade almost all the joints into shape.  The exception for me was the transom.  After breaking 3 wires in a row trying to close things up, I went for a bigger gun – I stripped some scrap 14 gauge Romex laying about and cut some ties from that.  It worked great.  I only needed three ties of that size, but it made it much easier to get things to close up neatly.

I found that my standard sawhorses were great for the hull assembly/wiring phase, but when it came to doing the fiberglass work, they were too tall to easily reach inside the boat, and the bottom of the boat was also too high to work on easily.   I found a quick way to make a couple of lower supports, made of OSB or plywood that takes about 15 minutes/pair to make.   For tools, all you need is a circular saw, pencil, and a measuring tape.  DESCRIPTION NOT COMPLETE YET

When I cut the rolls of wire into thirds to use for ties, I would take each bundle and bend it into the shape of a large staple with roughly equal legs – this made inserting the wires go more quickly than working with each one individually.

As you are wiring the strakes together, look ahead and when you are 4-5 sets of holes from the next bulkhead, insert into the bulkhead the wires that will connect that strake to the bulkhead.  Much easier to do it then than when you have wired clear up to the bulkhead, which leaves you fiddling & bending the wire through three holes – pain in the behind.

Working with the strakes without a helper

I didn’t have the convenience of a helper while doing my build, so I had to be creative.  When it comes to wiring the strakes to the bulkheads, you need a way to hold up the other end of the strake.  I found I could put a small c-clamp on the previous strake(it isn’t really an issue with the first one – it can lay on the table or sawhorse just fine) and the push the rod(that forms the handle used to turn the clamp) up so it forms a “V” with the clamp screw.  I could then set the strake in the “V” and it would stay there until I got far enough along that it no longer needed any additional support.  Gravity is working against the rod staying “up”, but the pressure from the strake usually holds it in place.  You could also put a rubber band around the rod so it stays put.  Hard to visualize, but if you go down to the Boat Dungeon(or whatever you call your assembly area) and hold up a clamp, it helps to illustrate the idea.

Flipping the boat without a helper

To turn the boat over by myself, I rigged a sling from one of those large yellow ratcheting tie-downs.  My method works if you have exposed rafters in your shop.  Just secure the ends of the tie-down to a rafter on either side of the boat, forming a large “U” that goes under one end of the boat.   Snug up the tie-down so the boat is lifted up at least a foot or so above the sawhorse.  I chose to lift the bow of the boat with the sling, so standing at the stern, lift it up and rotate it.  Using this method, it only takes a couple of minutes to flip the boat by yourself.

Working with Epoxy for Newbs

PUT YOUR GLOVES ON – NOW.  J  Really, put your gloves on first thing.  Don’t wait for the first loose glob of resin or hardener to be the one to remind you that you forgot.

Set up a small table or workstand to be your Epoxy Station – you need somewhere to keep the jugs of resin & hardener, a box of gloves, putty knife, roll of paper towels, can of denatured alcohol, fillet tools, mixing stick, plastic cups to mix in . . . you get  the idea.  It’s best to have a dedicated area to minimize distractions and mislaid items when you start mixing resin and working on the epoxy clock.

Take the lid off your can of Denatured Alcohol BEFORE you start.  I used alcohol to wipe down any of the tools I was using to work the epoxy when I finished.   I found loosening or removing the lid when I started  made it easily accessible with getting epoxy all over the lid.  Yeah, you still get it on the can, but it’s faster & easier if you don’t have to fiddle with the lid.

The more stuff you can glue together at the same time, the more efficiently you will use your epoxy.  I had a very limited area to work it, so it was often a single puzzle joint or builkhead at a time, which creates more waste than if you can do several at a time.  I found that if I was careful, each strake puzzle joint could be done with about 1 pump of resin/hardener and the appropriate amount of filler.  Remember to wet out each surface.  J

Cut a slit in a paper cup and use it to run your scraper/squeegee through to clean it off – run your tool from the inside to the outside of the cup, and it will neatly collect the excess in the cup for you.  A cardboard juice can works even better.

The pastry-bag-from-a-ziploc-bag idea for dispensing thickened epoxy works well with a little practice, but I found something that requires no learning curve: ketchup & mustard bottles.  The kind you see at a diner, the ones that get refilled.  I found some at a local dry goods store for $1.00/pair, and they made controlling the epoxy while filling the strake joints very easy.   At a buck a pair, you can just throw them out when done with a gluing session, or you can rinse them out with denatured alcohol.  I did that once, and then just started chucking them in the garbage when done.  I used 4 of the bottles in gluing the strakes and filling the gaps after pulling the wires.  I liked them so much I sent a few sets to John so he could try them out.

Working with Fiberglass Cloth

I only had two pairs of scissors in the house – a much-abused set that has cut everything from zip ties to cardboard, and an expensive pair of Wiss shears, which I didn’t want to ruin on the fiberglass.  The FG cloth laughed at the abused pair.  So, it was back to the dry goods store(same one the ketchup  & mustard bottles came from) where for $1.00 donation, a pair of el-cheapo scissors came to live at my house.  They worked like a champ and had no problems making neat cuts in the FG cloth.  I also found that a new utility knife blade worked great at cutting the cloth once you have it laid out – and was much fast/easier than using the scissors.   I’ll emphasize the NEW aspect of the blade:  a dull or nicked blade will just make a nightmare of the cloth, severing some fibers but not others, and it’s a pain to clean up after.  Spring for some new blades.  I never even mounted the blade in my knife – just held it in my hand and it worked great.  The scissors are still handy for cleaning up the odd edge, or making an unsupported cut.

I cut the cloth to fit each section between bulkheads before putting in the fillets.  The manual has you putting in the fillets and the cloth in the same session, and if you are trying to spread out and cut the cloth with still-wet fillets, it may not be pretty.

Use a dry chip brush to brush out the cloth when fitting – it does a great job smoothing things out and getting everything to lay down.   Your hands can do it, but a brush does it better, I think.

Be careful when wetting out the glass when you get near the tape masking off the rest of the hull.  If you get too much resin right where the tape is, it will collect – this is on the inside of the boat – right at the little shelf between strake #1 and strake #2.  It will fill up to the level of the cloth, and if it dries like that, it will be very difficult to remove, and will leave the tape – green or blue – very visible.  Ask me how I know.  I had to resort to a chisel and my trusty Stanley #92 bullnose plane to clean it up decently in a few spots.  Much easier to just make sure you don’t overfill at the tape!


As you have heard, building a boat like this involves a LOT of sanding.  Unless you’ve inherited a sandpaper manufacturer, the paper can get expensive.   Whatever kind of Random Orbit(RO) sander you have, look for sandpaper at Klingspor’s woodworking shop:

I’ve found the paper there to be of excellent quality, with hole patterns to fit most major brands of sanders at discounts of 30-50% off retail for a similar product – maybe more if you are buying 5 packs at Lowes/Home Depot/Menards for $5-6.   I’ve been buying paper for my Porter Cable 343 and Festool RQ150 sanders from them  for years, and have been very happy with their products.  The “Tru Blue” paper is my choice for longevity & value.  You can buy packs of 10 or 50.

Unless you are using your sander like a grinder, I found myself reaching for 100 grit paper the most often.  I found that with 80 grit paper, I could make a mistake faster than I could react – the 100 took a tad longer, but it was much more forgiving.  Sanding the Okume plywood is not like sanding oak or maple!

Keep the pad of your sander flat on the surface of whatever you are sanding!  This is an old maxim, but especially true on a boat, where you are going for a high quality finish.  Don’t yield to the temptation to tilt your sander and use the edge to get that little tough-to-reach bit that doesn’t want to go away – just don’t do it!  J  Patience really pays off here.

That said, many sanders do not have perfectly flat sanding pads.  My Festool sanders do, which I really like.  I also have Porter Cable and Ridgid sanders – neither of them have pads that are perfectly flat.  Most seem to have a swell right in the middle of the pad, so it doesn’t sit perfectly flat.  I point this out so you are aware, and can compensate when needed.  It may mean you are using more like half the contact patch of your pad, but it can also help prevent over-sanding in some instances.

Sanding blocks are essential for getting consistent results in places your mechanized friends can’t reach.  I usually make mine out of a hand-sized chunk of 2x4, making sure one face is flat with sharp corners – that’s the side doing the work.  Then I round over the sides where my hand will be gripping it.  The block helps keep you honest and everything flat/true.

If you find a need to do some profile sanding – like the fillets – you can easily shape some pink insulation board for that.  You need some to make the flotation units anyway.  Lay a piece of sandpaper on the profile you need to sand, and rub the piece of insulation on it – after a minute or two, you have a pretty close approximation of the shape.  Then use it like a sanding block.  This works mostly for concave shapes.

Rail Installation

The first thing I did after gluing the rail scarf joints, was to prep the screw holes at the bow.  Since you can’t clamp at the very bow end due to the breasthook, you need to screw the rail in place while the glue dries.  The manual didn’t say much about this step, but there are a couple of things I think will definitely stack the deck in your favor of having a good experience here.  First, use cabinet screws rather than drywall or deck screws.  Cabinet screws have a flat surface on the bottom of the head and will act as a clamp.  They are used for screwing cabinets to a wall – they are great clamps.  Drywall, deck, or regular construction screws have what is called a bugle head, which is triangular in cross section, and the screw will try to countersink itself as it is driven.  This can lead to splits in the wood – definitely not wanted here.  

Pilot holes help prevent splits in the wood and prevent you from using too much force to properly drive the screw.  I confess to being a bit paranoid about splits, as I had built a new breasthook out of walnut to accommodate the spacered inwales and didn’t want to split it.   Drill a pilot hole the diameter(or just slightly smaller) of the “root” of your screw.  The root is the solid shank of the screw - without counting the threads.   Hold up your bit against the screw, and see if it blocks out most of the “solid” shank of the screw – in other words, all you can see are the threads and just a tiny bit of the shank as you superimpose the bit over the screw.  Drill your pilot hole as deep as you plan to drive the screw, through the rail and into the breasthook.  Next, find a larger bit that is the same diameter as the screw(including threads), and follow your pilot hole, drilling through only the rail.  DO NOT DRILL INTO THE BOAT WITH THIS BIT.  This will make it so the threads of the screw do not engage the rail, and will prevent any issues with the threads getting in the way of making good contact with the boat – without driving the screw too hard.

Set up all 4 of your screw holes, and you are ready for gluing.

The manual does not go into great detail about gluing technique, so here are some observations.  They may not be too important, as this epoxy is phenomenal stuff, and I think it can cover a multitude of gluing technique sins.  J   I was always taught in woodworking to wet both surfaces of a glue joint, so I first laid down a thin layer of thickened epoxy on the strake where the rail would go.  Then I went back and laid down glue on the rail.  My tool of choice for this was a 1” chip brush – trim about 1/2” of bristles from the brush before you start using it – this makes it stiffer and easier to work with the thickened epoxy.  Lay out your clamps where they are in easy reach – and adjust them so they are ready to go.  You will need 30 or so clamps per side, so the last thing you need is to be fiddling with opening up or closing C-clamps long distances while you are on the epoxy clock.

How much to mix for the rails? I found that just under ½ a red 16oz Solo cup(measured by height) of thickened epoxy was just right for doing both rails.

You want to lay down enough glue so that you have some squeeze-out – a little bead of glue that oozes out of the joint as you clamp.  This tells you there is enough glue in the joint.  You don’t need a lot – a bead of 1/8” or so that forms up as you glue the rail to the boat is enough to tell you there is enough glue in there to do the job.

At the stern, the manual shows a neat little trick of putting a few wraps of rope on the ends of the rail and using a piece of wood as a windlass to snug down the rails.  I tried this and found that it wanted to pull the rail down a bit.  Then I noticed that the sculling notch in the transom was in the perfect place to use a clamp to pull that overhanging end in tightly.   Using a bar or F-style clamp of sufficient length, place one end of the clamp in the notch, the other on the rail a few inches past the transom, and it was pulling at the perfect angle – same as all the other clamps.  One clamp for each side and you are all set.   

RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

   Dave that is EXCELLENT stuff.  I really appreciate it, and it is exaclty the kind of info i was looking for.  BTW I read a post by you on how you installed the inwales, which was a bit diffrent then the manual butI  cannot find that post. [I think it was your post i read].  Any chance you have a link to it or can repost the instrcutions again?


RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

Glad you found it of some interest - I'm just at the stage of doing the epoxy coats on the interior & exterior, so haven't finished the notes yet.

I haven't posted before, so it must have been some other build you saw with a write-up.  I did my own inwales - didn't have the room in the wallet to spring for the kit.  It really wasn't hard - just a bit time consuming.  I'd be happy to chat with you about how I did it - shoot me an email if you'd like, and we can trade phone #'s



RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

Yes -- we have a couple of Dave's posting here.  I'll be Dave M.  Dave K. -- I also enjoyed your post on your experiences building the Dory -- some really nice tips!  Since I getting ready for the big sand, those tips are expecially helpful.  Oceanluvr -- you can find my post on my method on installing the inwales by searching on 'inwales' on the forum -- my method has 'my method' in the subject line.  I also have more explanation in the captions to my photos in my dory build album -- here's the link again. (You can get to the captions by hitting the info button -- upper right on the photos.)

Dave M.

RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory


RE: Getting ready to begin building a NE Dory

   This is a great thread and I only have one thing to ad; the best deal I have found on sand paper is A box of 50, 5", 8 hole hook & loop sanding discs cost between $13 -$15. They ship worldwide. They are an old, well known company in my local area and their products are as good as any I have tried. They have just about anything (abrasive related) you need.

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