Stitching the Boat Bottom – The Tango 17 Takes Shape

Stitching the boat bottom was next. This marked the beginning of the “stitch” phase of stitch and glue construction.

What is Stitch and Glue Boat Construction?

For those unfamiliar, stitch and glue construction is an amateur-friendly boat building method employing wire ties or zip ties to temporarily “stitch” the parts together. During this phase, you make necessary adjustments to fit the parts. Then, you’re ready for the “glue” phase. A small amount of epoxy between the stitches locks the shape in and the ties come out. Then fiberglass and epoxy fillets fasten parts to each other. Finally, fiberglass and epoxy on the outside and inside encapsulate the plywood from the elements. This results in a strong, lightweight boat where practically every part of the boat contributes to its structure and rigidity.

Stitching the Boat Bottom

I laid the two boat bottom panels on my large work surface and drilled small holes for the zip ties along one edge. I spaced these about every 8″ until I got to the bow. At the bow, I went with 4″ spacing since this is where the zip ties would be under the most strain. I then knocked down the inside edges of panels at the bow section. Finally, I stitched the panels together by running zip ties through each hole.

Since space was at a premium, the large work surface gave way to the boat cradle. Keeping the panels on top of each other, I placed them onto the boat cradle. I left the zip ties more or less loose so I could adjust the left and right bottom panels in relation to each other. However, the zip ties at the bow were tighter. Then it was time to start opening the panels up…

Starting to Look Like a Boat

Opening the bottom panels comes with a huge payoff. As you open up the panels, the zip ties at the bow start to introduce curvature to the previously flat plywood. Weights at the stern hold the panels open while the plywood settles into its new form. Up until this point, all the plywood shapes you’ve cut are a boat only in theory. This is when it really starts to look and feel like a boat. In fact, this is the part that gets the most questions from friends and family – “Will 1/2″ plywood bend?”  It turns out it does so with relative ease.

Bow Section Closeup
Bow Section Closeup

This particular phase of the build was so inspiring I sat for a few minutes and admired the lines of the boat bottom. I could really “see” the Tango Skiff 17 now. Over the next few days, I tightened the zip ties as the plywood came to appreciate its new found beauty and purpose.

Boat Bottom Taking Shape
Boat Bottom Taking Shape

Next on the list is to stitch on the sides.