With all the fiberglass sheathing work on the hull completed it was time to install
the keelsons. Keelsons are the strips of wood on the bottom of the boat that protect
the hull and improve steering. The keelsons are 1" wide by 1/2" thick and were cut
from the Mahogany lumber. There are three keelsons, a center or bilge keel, and two
The locations and lengths of the keelsons were obtained from the blueprints. The ends
of the keelsons were beveled at 45 degrees to prevent them from snagging underwater
objects. The first keelson installed was the bilge keelson. The surface of the keelson
that was to lie against the hull was wet out with pure epoxy. A mixture of wood flour
and epoxy was then mixed to the consistency of peanut butter. With a stirrer the peanut
butter was spread on the center keelson and it was set into place. Placing the long strip
of mahogany that had epoxy on one side was a two man job. In order to hold the keelson
against the hull while the epoxy cured bungee cords were strapped around the hull over the
keelson. This was only necessary in the front of the boat where most of the curvature
exists. The keelson was cut a little longer than needed. A hole was drilled in the keelson
at very end at the bow. A bungee cord was hooked at this point to achieve the necessary
force to pull the keelson in place at the very front of the boat. The epoxy that squeezed
out from the keelson was wiped away. Another small batch of epoxy peanut butter was mixed.
This was used to form a small fillet at the joint between the keelson and the hull. The
round end of a stirrer (tongue depressor) was used to fillet this joint.
The next step was to install the outside keelsons. These were to be 18" from the
center keelson. To make certain that all keelsons were parallel I cut three 18" pieces
from some 1/2" x 1" scrap fir. Working with one keelson at a time I laid the 18"
scrap strips on the hull butting them up against the center keelson. I used a square to
check that they were at 90 degrees with the center keelson. Next the outside keelson was
epoxied into place just as the center keelson had been. The process was repeated with
the other outside keelson. These two keelsons were held in place with bungee cords.
Blocks of wood were placed under the bungee cords at the ends of each outside
keelson to apply enough force to keep them flush with the hull. Once the epoxy had
cured the bungee cords were removed the fillet joints were sanded smooth.
The keelsons received three coats epoxy.
To protect the keelsons from abrasion it is recommended that they be covered with a metal
strip. Devlin suggests brass half ovals. I found aluminum strips at my local hardware
store to be more affordable and just as effective. I purchased five eight foot pieces of
1/8" thick by 1" wide. With the sander/polisher I sanded one side of each strip so that
paint would adhere. I drilled counter sink holes in each strip every six inches. The
strips were fastened into place with 3M 5200 bedding compound and #6 1/2" stainless steel
screws. The leading edges and trailing edges were beveled to prevent them from hanging.