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Tools you'll need...

By pnelson - Posted on 09 January 2006

These are the tools I used most while building my Tolman Skiff. In fact, I don't know how I could have built the boat without any of them. These are also high-quality tools. I've used all of these on SEVERAL boat building projects and they are still working. When I was new to boat building I tried saving money by buying cheap tools. Don't kid yourself, it never works. You will end up buying that tool again and again. It's better to buy a good tool once and use it for many years. There is also a sense of satisfaction when you perform an important task and your tools perform the job flawlessly. It's difficult to explain but when you look back at the smooth cut and piles of sawdust and know that you did not have to compromise... well, it makes that tool worth much more than what you paid for it. Take my advice, treat yourself to a few good tools and you'll be happy for years to come. You are worth it.

Porter-Cable 7336 6" Variable Speed Random Orbit Sander

This is the Porter Cable, 6" dual action sander. This is the best sander you'll ever own. I listed this tool first because it's one of the first good tools every boat builder should have. When building a skiff, you have what seems like miles of epoxy and taped seams that will need to be sanded (feathered) so they will look smooth. This sander will make quick work of this tedious job. Any other sander will either take too long or not leave a smooth finish. The dual action motion means that the sander does not leave swirl marks. I use 80 grit, self-stick paper purchased on ebay in rolls of 100. You'll go through a few of these while building your Jumbo.

You'll also use this sander when it's time for finish work. If you move up to 220 grit and use this for sanding your primer coat, you'll end up with a nice smooth finish for your final coat of paint. You can use the same paper and sand in between coats of your final finish.

Makita 9227CX3 7" Electronic Sander-Polisher
This Makita sander is for big jobs. There are lots of times when you need to do some serious material removal. Put a 36 grit sanding disk on this sander and you'll wonder why you haven't been using one of these all your life. The Makita has an electronic speed control that lets you dial in the speed you want. It's different from a simple grinder in that you can dial in slow speeds. You'll understand how important that is when you start using that 36 grit disk. While building my Jumbo, I used this sander for all kinds of tasks. It makes quick work for fairing and removing excess epoxy. It cuts through epoxy and fiberglass with ease and is great for ruffing up previously coated surfaces in preparation for gluing. I would often make one quick pass on taped seams with this sander and then switch to my Porter Cable DA for the final feathering. This is also the tool I used for any rough fairing job. The 36 grit sanding disk will quickly grind off any remaining wire ties when it comes time to tape the outside seams. When you need to round over the stitch & glue joints between the Jumbo's hull bottom and sides, this is the first tool you'll reach for. After a quick pass to round things off, switch to a long sanding board to make sure your seams are nice and straight, then use the Porter Cable DA to get it smooth before applying the cloth on the seams.

Once you get used to the sander, you can wield it with a delicate touch. When used as a buffer, it's great for blending in touch up paint jobs where you have some over spray. You can also use it to buff the finish of your car but hey, who has time to work on cars? This is a tool that will make itself useful in all kinds of ways. Just a couple of examples: So you have a putty knife with some cured epoxy on it. Yes, you should have cleaned it after using it but with just a few seconds on your grinder, the blade is clean and shiny again. So you need some fillet sticks? Just cut some 1.5" strips from 1/8" door skin and round the edges with your grinder.

Cordless Drill
You will need at least one cordless drill. Two is better. Much of the time while building your skiff you'll hold parts together with drywall screws. These will be removed after the glue is set. There is no way you can do this without a power drill. These cordless drills are perfect for this task because they have an adjustable clutch that stops the drive head when the screw is tight and keeps you from stripping screw heads or worse, breaking off the head leaving the screw buried in the wood. I use two of these because I can leave a square drive screw bit in one and a drill bit in the other. I also have an extra battery that I leave on the charger. I have a heavy-duty 1/2" drill body that is used for drilling large holes through thick wood but these cordless drills are the ones I use the most.
Bosch Jig Saw
I smile every time I use my Bosch Jig Saw. It has a special cutting motion. The blade moves in an arc in addition to just moving up and down. Even after three years of use, I still notice the difference between this saw and the basic jig saw it replaced. Face it, if you are building plywood boats, you'll be using a jig saw a lot. I've talked with several other friends and they feel the same way about their Bosch saws. I'm not sure if it's the balance or the cutting action but this is simply the best jig saw I've ever used.
Worm Drive Saw
I used my worm-drive Skil saw for making the cuts in the versalam stringers for my Jumbo. These are the "backbone" of the boat. They are thick and the cuts strained my saw even with a new carbide blade. I have used older skil saws but purchased my worm-drive saw just for this project. I found it easier to cut a straight line and easier to control. It must have something to do with the way the torque is aligned with the cutting blade but I'm much better with this one than with the "sidewinder" versions of this saw. I ended up using it for lots of different jobs and now I wonder how I got along without it all these years. It's listed last on this page because you don't really have to have one. When you need a special tool for just one job, it may be a better idea to find a friend who has one and invite him (and his tool) over for the afternoon. Chances are he'll enjoy using his special tools to help you just as much as you'll enjoy have a couple hundred extra $$ left over for more electronics. Having said all that, I'm still glad I have my saw. I enjoy it every time I use it.

Best Marine Epoxy

My favorite epoxy? Progressive Basic No-Blush Epoxy

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