puzzle joint aesthetics

Is there a way to clean up or hide the puzzle joints?

I am getting ready to glass the outside of a shearwater 17 built from a kit. It appears the joints will look like dark pencil lines when done.

How about creating a small bevel or v-groove along the joint and filling with epoxy\wood flour putty? I'm sure the joints will always be visible but perhaps not as prominant.


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RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

Anything you do to the puzzle joints to try to hide them will only accentuate them. They look pretty neat on a finished boat just the way they are. I wouldn't do anything myself. Course you can always paint the hull as that'll hide anything!


RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

One option is to use a limited, painted design (e.g., a flowing, curved and rather narrow design running across the deck and down the sides of the hull) to hide the joints. A slash of color can provide a very attractive counterpoint to the varnished wood while effectively hiding mars in the appearance that varnish wouldn't cover.  An attractive and original design would also make your boat's "hybrid" finish stand out from others with finishes which are 100% varnish or 100% paint.

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

It's a good looking joint when its varnished. It's one of the first thing people comment on when they examine my boat. I've never been asked "...why didn't you cover it up?"

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

I agree with Paul.  Our Skerry is puzzle- jointed and all folks have said to me is cothey are, mplimentary about the joints; I'm not even sure most folks even know what they are, but as with Paul, I haven't been asked "why didn't you cover them up?"  I'm not an experienced boat builder and the Skerry is my only build, so you can imagine there are some faults that I know about, but again, others don't see them.  Parking lot syndrome is alive and well with puzzle joints too!   I'd do 'em again without hesitation on another build.  Best,  Bob H.

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

As they say in the fashion world...:  "If you can't hide it, decorate it!"

I'd say leave them as is... they're certainly more attractive than my scarf joints (which I'll be cleverly painting over - a good paint scheme can cover a multitude of sins!!).

 Good luck; post pics when done,


RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

If older kits can be converted from scarf to puzzle joints (like the Skerry) I wonder if both versions are available . . . does anyone know if scarf based kits are still available?

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

Just to clarify I meant to ask whether scarf based kits are still available for any design (not necessarily the Skerry).

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

It's interesting to see some of the different positive opinions on puzzle joints.  When I first encountered them, I wondered what was the point?  On a bright finish, my eye is now drawn to this enigmatic and confusing area of the project when I should be admiring the lines of the craft in its entirety.  A well thought out scarf, with consideration taken to matching grain selection and cleanliness of the epoxy application, lets the admirer glance over the hull with no distractions.  Fancy woodwork joinery can enhance the quality and appearance of many projects, but I just don't get huge puzzle joints in boat building.  Maybe CLC can initiate a Facebook poll on the subject.

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

I got similar favorable reactions to the puzzle joints on my Shearwater, and personally like the way they look. I have to agree, though, that they draw the eye away from the bigger picture. I am now convinced that plywood hulls should be painted instead of varnished.

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

folks with a woodworking background or interest will be drawn to the puzzle joints. When i built my WD12 from plans i made my own puzzle joints using an old dovetail router jig. it was  tense moment before i got the nerve to  attack the oukume. but they turned out great

see pics here


RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

Well I guess I'll just go as-is. I definitely like the bright varnished finish and want to keep a clean and simple look. I may experiment with a scrap joint for future projects. 

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

For my last Shear water the puzzle joints did not quite match up.  Had to file down excess which gave me a less than perfect fit.  For the deck, the poor fit required some epoxy fill, which created the need to sand, which ruined the nice redish wood finish...so, in the end, I painted the deck red.  The final result was ok but I would  have preferred to keep my options open. 

Bring back the scarf or even the butt joint.

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

I was also wondering about the puzzle joint aesthetics.  My boatbuilder partner and I talked it over; he thinks it is best to paint plywood, saying that varnished plywood plain looks cheap.  I thought we could try both, paint and varnish, as we are building two Matunucks.  We are new to this, but we have loads of confidence, as he is a carpenter. 

My question is:  if I stain the hull first, would that hide the puzzle joints?  I think, therefore, it would have to be dark stain to totally hide them.  Would anyone agree with me?  First stain the wood with a darker stain.  And the it will get even darker with the epoxy and fiberglass. 

RE: puzzle joint aesthetics

scarf vs. puzzle........the scarf takes a bit of practice to get used to making.  sure you can use a jig, but where do you get them? how do you make them?  what is the best tool to use?  i am lucky, i am a carpenter by trade.  the puzzle joint takes all guesswork out of 'will it fit right?' if the joint is tight, it will be as invisible as any stained joint.  so you have that line of the puzzle or scarf, what about the holes for the wires or ties?  there are tradeoffs for just about everything.  what do you like best? just keep your joints tight to minimize and kind of lines.  good luck


RE: puzzle joint aesthetics


The joints get very dark themselves as they fill with epoxy. I think that the best you can do is de-emphasize them, even with an india-ink black stain. Click on the picture below to get a larger image that shows what a puzzle joint looks like when the wood's dark.


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