Canadian Woodworking

Fisherman’s dory

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: August September 2002

I tried to get as much perspective into this project as I could. I was aiming for it to look like a dory out on the ocean. However, if it’s not exactly represented, please bear with this poor prairie soul.


I have lived all my life in the west, mainly on the prairie, and have never seen an actual dory or lobster trap. The closest I have ever come to that sort of thing has been on a Rita McNeil special.

Even so, I have always wanted to build a boat. I just have no idea were I would row or sail it – although wheat fields do kind of look like the sea when the wind blows across them. Maybe I could just sit in the boat in a wheat field and dream.


Transfer the pattern to the wood.

Use one of the following methods:

• trace directly onto the wood with carbon paper

• make a template of the pattern from 1/8” plywood, MDF board or plexiglass. Cut the pieces with a small blade such as a #1 or a #3 double tooth.

• cut out the pieces from the pattern and spray glue them onto the wood. I like to make a template. I find that I get a better fit.

Cut the pieces out.

Make sure that the blade is square to the table. Cut carefully, right on the line. If you cut carefully the pieces will fit better and the whole process will be a lot more enjoyable.

I use a #7 or a #9 blade. I use a #7 blade for the 3/4 “ material.

Assemble and check for fit.

As long as the pieces are within a saw kerf or 1/16” it is acceptable. Place a piece of carbon paper in between the pieces or use a light box to find the places that are holding the pieces apart.

You may have to sand, trim or even remake a piece to get an acceptable fit.

Raise and lower any pieces the pattern suggests.

Start with 3/4” material and raise or lower from there. To raise the pieces, glue scrap 1/8” plywood to the bottom of the piece. I raise and lower in increments of 1/8”. To lower pieces just resaw them thinner or sand them thinner on a belt sander, again in increments of 1/8”.

After all the pieces have been raised or lowered, reassemble and mark on reference lines. These lines will show you how far to shape the pieces.

Shape and sand.

You can use almost any sanding tools for the shaping, even 80 grit sandpaper, if that’s all you have. Try to achieve a smooth transition from one level to the next. When you run your hand over it, it should feel smooth. Try to avoid flat exposed edges. I usually only sand to 220 grit. A flap sander will save a lot of time with the sanding. And remember, always wear a dust mask for any shaping or sanding.

Glue up and round over.

You can cut the back in two ways: slightly smaller than the project or the full-size and then chamfer (round) the edges.

Reassemble the project, trace around it and then cut out the backing material: 1/4” plywood is best. Use baltic birch, oak or ordinary birch. Glue the pieces on with ordinary carpenter’s glue. Keep the backing material flat. You will have 10-15 minutes to move the pieces around. Don’t put any glue on the edges of the pieces because it will squeeze to the surface and cause finishing problems.

Allow the glue to dry at least 30 minutes.


After the glue has dried you can apply the finish of your choice. I put three coats of a satin varathane type of finish on the front and one coat on the back.

I hope your project turns out to your liking. Don’t let a mistake or two slow you down. If you can’t salvage a piece just throw it in the fire – that’s what wood stoves are for.

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