a Super Fat Fish

Well, here it goes. I’ve started on my 6’2 hws fish. I’ll be posting pictures this evening with progress to date. I’m using a method pretty close to what Paul Jensen does, and have been heavily influenced/inspired by everyone on this site. Due to health/itching concerns I’m going to try to minimize fiberglass use/sanding since I’m doing all this without a true workshop. The project is being stored in my bedroom between bouts of work outside. The plan is to glue up the internal framework with gorilla glue and then use resin research epoxy for everything else (2020 resin, slow hardener, with additive F.)

Dimensions I’m aiming for (it will be fun to compare the final result)

Length: 6’2"

Max thickness: 2.75"

Max Width: 21 1/4"

12" from nose: 15 1/2"

12" from tail: 16 1/2"

width at tail: 11 3/4"

with a 5" swallowtail

tail rocker (from an arbitrary point at 30" from tail) = 1"

nose rocker (from the same point) = 5"

Here’s a table of width/center thickness at each of the ribs, labeled in distance from the tail:

t10 15 3/4", 1 1/2"

t20 18 1/2", 2"

t30 20 3/4", 2 1/2"

t40 21 1/4", 2 3/4"

t50 19 3/4", 2 1/2"

t60 16", 1 3/4"

t70 5", 1"

I’m hoping to get this done over the next couple of months. Living in santa cruz, and working outside, I’ve got a really limited time frame each day/week when I’ll be able to use epoxy for temperature/humidity considerations. If that jives with my work schedule, it should be finished by the middle of july. The reason I finally decided to go with a fish was because of a friend’s board that I love. Ok, fine, I covet the thing. He’ll be moving south at the end of the summer, and one goal is to be able to go out for a comparison session. I’m going to try to be flexible with the planning process, since this is my first time through this and I’m sure plenty of mistakes will be made.

Oh, and if we get some good south heading up here, that’s bound to delay things too :slight_smile:


sfp: looking forward to seeing you progress mate.

thanks oldy.

Here’s my first attempt at loading the pix, had to resize them first.

I used the measuremenst taken off of my friend’s bob miller fish to creat an outline and rocker profile in quick cad. I then printed it out, taped the paper together, and changed things. I don’t really like the way the splines worked too well, maybee I just haven’t got the hang of it yet. I ended up smoothing out the curves untill it looked the way it should. The outline below will be the size of the bottom deck. I’m planning on 1" of rails beyond this template to get enough room for shaping. After cutting out the template twice, I screwed the two together by way of a bunch of 2x4 pieces in order to make my rail bending template. that pic wouldn’t load. I’ll try again in a bit.

try, try again…

ok, here’s the bending form, and a second shot of me in the process of bending the rails. I’m using 1/4" by 5 1/2" cedar strips to make my blanks for the rails. With those dimensions, I’ll use four layers on each side, and be able to cut them out to the rocker profile no problem (in theory.) Before bending, I soaked them for about 36 hours in water, and am using a wet towel with an iron to heat up the wood to make it even more bendy. The rails sat on the form for one week to dry. I did this once for each side.

a shot of the clamped up deal first,

and one of the aftermath. I got a bunch of springback after releasing the clamps. It was pretty easy to bend them back to the form though, whereas before soaking I wasn’t able to bend the planks to that shape at all. Right now both sets of rails are tied up and hanging from the cieling of my bedroom.

I drew out my stringer profile, and cut it out with a razor blade. Won’t do that again, it took about 2 hours. For the ribs I’m going to try to use the jig saw and then plane them down to the exact size. I had to use a plane to even out the stringer anyway. Here’s a shot of it hangining on the front of the house. Note that this is the internal stringer, adn that the final thickness will be 1/4" thicker on top/bottom.

and the last thing to put down in print tonight:

I had a design change yesterday, it will be the first of many I’m sure. For the decks, I’m using 1/4" slats that are 2 1/2" wide. I ripped them down from some 1x6’s. My plan was to put in shiplap edges. After testing on scrap about 8 times to make sure it was just right, I ran the slats for my top deck through the table saw. When I sat down on the floor to asemble them and marvel at my wonderful craftsmanship, what appeared but huge gaps. Once I really looked, my shiplaps weren’t even in depth. I think the slats were both a little uneven in thickness, and that they moved a bit when going through the saw. I’ve never tried this before, and decided to scrap the shiplap idea. Took the slats, chopped about 1/4" off each side and made them square again. Luckily, I have enough spare slats that it won’t be a problem. My next step is to cut out all of my ribs and assemble the frame.


I cut out my ribs after work today. Was going to try it yesterday, but rain struck. My next step is to router out the stringer and notch my ribs to fit everything into place. That’s when the cheapo tool curse hit. I didn’t have the money for a really nice router, so I got a $30 pos from nationalwholesale. I also bought a nice freud template bit for another $30 from the local tool shop. Well, the router is a dud. It has a really poor mechanism for holding the motor in place while tightening the collet on the bit: you have to push really hard on a little button. Well, I couldn’t push hard enough to hold it still. I eventually got it to work by using a bar clamp to really apply pressure to this button while tightening everything down. If it’s not raining tomorow I’m going to try to get the frame done, and take some pictures of the process.

Bottom line…I think it would have been better to borrow a nice router than buy this one and deal with it.


Hey Pat,

I’m stoked about the steam bending technique! you could bend stiff and thick wood strip

please post more pictures about the work progress.



pat: thanks for posting your pictures, descriptions & anecdotes. i’m really enjoying this thread. i’m interested in building a hws but am pretty clueless about the whole process so your thread is very informative & inspirational. thanks mate.


ok, here’s the bending form, and a second shot of me in the process of bending the rails. I’m using 1/4" by 5 1/2" cedar strips to make my blanks for the rails. With those dimensions, I’ll use four layers on each side, and be able to cut them out to the rocker profile no problem (in theory.) Before bending, I soaked them for about 36 hours in water, and am using a wet towel with an iron to heat up the wood to make it even more bendy. The rails sat on the form for one week to dry. I did this once for each side.

In case it might be helpful in the future, here’s a link to instructions for a very effective and really cheap steam box rig from the late Platt Monfort, the Geodesic Airolite boat guy. The boards should come out of the steambox limber and ready to set in place:



Thanks for the link to the steam box Sammy, looks like a good deal. I actually tried some steam bending, but the wood cooled off so fast and got brittle again. I think that by the time I go from the kitchen out the front door to my “shop” in the front yard it will have cooled off too much. That’s why I went with the long soak instead. It gives you tons of time to work with the wood and mess around with clamping.

Dave and Oldy…thank’s for the support. I hope to post all of my mistakes so that others might learn from them, or at least go “yup, I did that too.”


Well, I’ve got the frame assembled. No pics yet. My housemate with the camera isn’t home tonight but I’ll try to get something up by the end of the week of the frame. I used the routed out stringer method, keeping the stringer intact on the top and bottom. I notched the top and bottom of the ribs, and glued it all up with gorilla glue. The two ribs towards the tail were a little off, so I cut them back out with a razor blade and re glued straight. Looks pretty good now.

So here’s the question for anyone who might be able to help:

I’m at the point of needing to glue up my decks to get them on. I’m going with 1/4" thick western red cedar, but joints between the planks, no fiberglass. I just tried applying one of the planks to the stringer to see how it flexes into place…it doesn’t want to go. Has anyone else tried this with 1/4" thick decks? If so, how did you accommodate the nose rocker, which is where my problem is? I’m considering building a bending form for the top and bottom decks, soaking the planks, bending them to shape, and letting them dry well before gluing up. It will add a couple of weeks to the process between bending and drying. Any thoughts?

edit: it’s actually more like 5/16" thick. I went thick to try to compensate for the no glass factor.


Ok, so I’m going to try to post pics inline using a tip Oldy gave me:

Here’s a shot of the frame, full length. Glued up with gorilla glue.

And another view:

Edit: The Pics don’t come up every time I view this, so I’ve added them on to each post from today in attachment format just in case.

Looks like it’s working. Thanks!

The closeup of the nose shows the rocker that I couldn’t get my 5/16 cedar planks to bend with. You might also be wondering “gee golly, he sure routered out that stringer, but left the ribs awfully solid.” Well, if those are your actual thoughts, you watched too much leave it to beaver in your formative years. What happened was that I jumped the gun. I was so excited to have my ribs all cut out, and fitting well, that I glued them in without routing in the holes. I did the ugly but functional existing holes with my drill, at an angle, after everything was glued up.

THe notches at the outside of the ribs should enable me to have a bit more slope heading down to the rails where the board is thickest. I cut them out by hand, and ended up a bit crooked. That should be ok after the final shaping, since the inside only has to hold everything in place.

A quick break in the front yard while figuring out how to solve that rocker/plank problem.

And I decided that I would go with the same procedure I used to bend the rails. I built a rocker table that mimicks the top and bottom of the stringer. Soaked my deck planks for a day and a half, then clamped them into place to dry. I know that I’ll get spring back again, but it will hopefully retain enough shape to easily form to the framework.

Below is a closeup of the c-clamps holding everything to that nose rocker. I used a strip of balsa directly on the cedar, then a longer piece of doug fir, or whatever scrap was around, to apply the clamping pressure.

And that’s where I’m at now, waiting a week for everything to really dry out. If the weather cooperates, I’m going to try to get the glue up of the top deck done friday or saturday of this week. It’s too cool in the evenings to really do any work with epoxy.


I’m enjoying the show…

Glad you’re enjoying it Paul.

Ok, here’s lesson number one for anyone who is thinking of building an HWS for the first time: Everything will take longer than you think.

When I last posted (what, a month ago?) I was purty darn proud of myself with all the fancy deck bending forms I had come up with. Idea was, I would bend the planks to form, glue them up with the desired rocker, then they would easily bend to the frame. Well, I tried a dry run of clamping the top deck to the framework and broke the nose extension right off the frame. Glad there wasn’t glue involved. (see first pic below.)

I added a bit of reinforcement to the frame towards the nose, and did something drastic to my top deck. Although it was already glued up, I bent it over my bending form for the rails, using a wet towel and an iron for steam without any soaking. The 2020 RR epoxy has plenty of flex, and didn’t crack anywhere with the additional bending. I’m a little worried that the extra heat weakened it a bit, but it might have just been a killer post cure? (see 2nd pic for bent top deck.)