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 every 8″ until I got to the bow. Since the bow would put the most strain on the zip ties, I spaced these 4″ apart. I then knocked down the inside edges of panels at the bow section and 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 about each other although the bow zip ties were tight. It was time to open the panels…

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 introduce curvature to the flat plywood. Weights at the stern hold the panels open while the plywood settles into its new form.

Until this point, the plywood shapes you’ve cut are a boat only in theory. But as the plywood bends, it starts to look and feel like a boat.

Bow Section Closeup
Bow Section Closeup

This phase of the build was so inspiring I sat for a few minutes and admired the lines of the boat bottom. I could “see” the Tango Skiff 17 now. Over the next few days, I tightened the zip ties and 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.

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