May 2019 Archives - Small Boats Magazine

This month we travel to the heart of Africa for an adventure by dugout canoe, sharpen dull files with drain cleaner, and take a look at a bench vise that was designed in 1900 and is still a boatbuilder favorite.


If, as the Viking proverb tells us, “bound is the boatless man,” then what does it mean, for those of us who have boats, to be unbounded? Distant shores and the unbroken curve of a watery horizon are within reach, and crossings are the quintessential boating experience.

Chester Yawl

A shapely pulling boat

The Chester Yawl from Chesapeake Light Craft is a 15’ Whitehall-type pulling boat with beautiful lines and a complexity in the building of it that is just enough to feel like an accomplishment without being daunting.

Moccasin 14

A tripping canoe from B & B

Simply sweet and sweetly simple, the Moccasin 14 from B & B Yachts is a solo canoe for a double-bladed paddle. It is quick to build, easy to cartop, and a breeze to paddle.

Zaire, 1986

The Sankuru and Kasai Rivers by pirogue

In 1986, when the country once known as Zaire was under the rule of a dictator, Tom DeVries, his college roommate, and a Peace Corp volunteer rendezvoused in Central Africa country to paddle down serpentine Zairean rivers in a hand-carved dugout pirogue.

My equipment includes three glass flower vases I bought at Goodwill for 69 cents apiece. A thin stick and some small spring clamps hold the tangs out of the acid. Drain cleaner provides sulfuric acid to etch the files and a saturated baking-soda solution neutralizes the acid. The third vase has a fresh-water rinse. The file card (lower left) cleans file teeth and shop-made tools of copper, brass, and steel remove the debris the file card leaves behind.

Sharpening Files

Putting acid to work

A file is like any other boatbuilder’s cutting tool: its edges get dull with use and eventually need to be sharpened. Chemistry has a solution for putting the bite back in a file’s countless tiny teeth: pitting acid against iron.

DeWalt's DWP6111 weighs 4.6 pounds and has a 1-1/4 hp motor.

Compact Routers

Better visibility, easier handling

A lot of the jobs a router can do don’t require a lot of heft and horsepower. A compact router that is easily managed with one hand will quickly prove its usefulness in the boat shop.

The swivel base adapter gives the vise additional ranges of motion.

Versa Vise

Making itself useful since 1901

A bench vise is an essential tool and the Versa Vise, with its smooth-faced jaws and ability to pivot in four different ways, can handle wood, brass, and bronze without damaging them.

Young Henry saw his grand plan through to a successful completion.


Time and money well spent

Mark Bonnette’s grandson, Henry, asked if they could go fishing. When “Grampy” replied, “We don’t have a boat,” Henry said, “Well, let’s build one.” With the design criteria established—two seats, an anchor, oars, and a motor—the pair went to work.

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