Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Utility, part 1: Getting started

The Glen-L Utility is a simple but classic 1950's utility / fishing boat. It is 11' LOA, with a 5' beam, wood foredeck, open cockpit, and simple thwart / bench seats. Specs say it can carry up to 3 average passengers. Most of the photos I've seen of them show basic tiller outboard steering. I got my plans around early April of 2012 & got started immediately.

Having learned my lesson about asymmetry in the construction of the frames, I approached the Utility's frames very differently. First, I drew out frames 1 and 2, as well as the keel  backing, full-size on a sheet of 1/4" marine-grade Douglas Fir plywood.

Frames & keel backing traced out on the plywood.
Then, I traced all the frame members from the plans directly onto some 3/4" mahogany, and cut them out with much more care and attention to detail than I did with the Squirt. 

I learned an interesting thing about mahogany. Apparently, it is rather light sensitive. Driving home from the lumber yard, a small portion of the board was sticking out my back window. After about 2 hours in the sun, that part had turned considerably darker, as seen on the keel in the photo below.

Keel and frame members laid out on the plywood.
In order to maintain the best possible shape and alignment of my frames, I then epoxied the frame members directly onto the plywood. I later used the scrap from the cut-out portions of the plywood to make my remaining frame gussets.

I fastened the gussets onto the frames using Glen-L Poxy Shield epoxy, (thickened with #2 silica filler), and 1-1/4" bronze screws. The frames & interior surfaces of the transom were encapsulated with 3 layers of Poxy Shield. After each layer dried, I scrubbed & washed off the amine blush using dish detergent, warm water & a Scotch Brite pad. I also sanded lightly between the layers with 220 grit sandpaper.

Gluing the forward frame members onto the plywood.
The frame notches in the plans are 1" deep (other than the keel notch, which is 1-1/4"). Most stock sold as 1" these days is actually 3/4". If I were doing this again, I would probably change the notches to 3/4" in order to use some less expensive & more available boards.

Another thing I did differently than with the Squirt was to take construction of my building form much more seriously. I made it from 2x8's and 2x6's, with well-reinforced cross braces made from 2x4's left over from the Squirt form. I took a lot of care to make sure the surfaces were level, clamping them into position before fastening with 3" wood screws. Trying to build something with level surfaces on a sloped floor was a little tricky. The key is to mark the positions of the legs on the floor once you've gotten the parts level. That is, unless you're going to bolt the form to the concrete floor. That's the preferred method, but several builders don't do that. I didn't.

Frames, transom and keel on the building form.


  1. Hi Mike! Is your building form 21 inches from floor to top of 2x8, like the plans suggest? Thanks for your help.

  2. Hi Lane,

    Yes... I believe that is correct. It has been a while since I put the construction form together, but I do recall that I tried very hard to make this one as on-spec as possible. It is also likely that I over-built the form. I made it mostly from 2x6s and 2x8s with a lot of bracing.

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  4. Thanks for getting back to me Mike. Yes I'm building a Utility. I am going to start a blog, I'll give you the link when I get going.

    My first problem:
    I called Glenn L the other day with questions about their math on the blue prints verses the patterns they sent. I was told to go with the patterns and not use the measurement on the prints. This has me in a tail spin. And is why I asked you how high your frame was from floor to top of 2x6. I should have asked Glen "can I use any measurements on blue prints and are any reliable"? I'll just wing it and figure it out.

    I'd love to know the total top and bottom width of your transom and also your bottom transom frame member width? Do they match the plan measurements?
    Thanks Mike!

  5. Thanks Mike I got your email. I made a bone head mistake on my initial measurements checking the patterns against the plans. Everything is good now, it all works and I'm rolling. Shopping for wood now for the frames. I'll have my blog up soon.