Projects: Building Miss Isle – The Gentleman’s Racer
On a farm, tucked away in the Cotswolds, UK, you wouldn’t think to find a boatbuilder. But that’s where you’ll find Dan Lee, working away on his latest project.
In this article, we delve into Dan’s latest build, Gentleman’s Racer, Miss Isle, and discover how he turned a childhood dream into a reality.
A wooden boat builder, Dan offers services including boat building, restoration, joinery, CAD design, 3D scanning and CNC machining. Passionate about vintage race boats and runabouts from the early 1900’s era, while being fascinated by advancements in technology, modern construction and design. In Dan’s words, “building a boat is the ultimate woodworking project.”
Only five years ago, Dan started working out of a shipping container in a field in the Cotswolds, and this is where the idea of his dreamboat blossomed.
A custom-built Gentleman’s Racer.
“Boats and wood have been a passion of mine since a very young age; I love the combination where the two meet.” This personal project has been a long-term dream of Dan’s, “It was a childhood poster boat and I knew the only way I’d ever be able to own one was if I built one myself.”
Dan started working on the boat in his spare evenings and weekends, finding time around his other commitments. But as it happens, life kept getting in the way. “My own business started to take off and the amount of spare time I had to work on the boat was slipping away,” explains Dan. There were large periods of time when the boat went untouched and a few years later, Dan made the tough decision of putting her up for sale.
But there was something about this boat that he had dreamt of building for so many years that made him change his mind. “After looking at the pictures I took a few years back when I was working on it, I knew I wasn’t done with that boat yet and I couldn’t let it go.”
So Dan took the boat off sale and threw himself back into the project. “By then, I was working with wood full time in my day job and because of that, I had better facilities and equipment to work with.” It still remained an on-and-off job, but over the next few years, Dan’s vision of his own Gentleman’s Racer started to take shape.
“The original plans specify a plywood skin of 3/8 inch ply for the bottom and a 1/4 inch ply for the sides. The bottom of Miss Isle is 9mm marine ply,” explains Dan. ” This was bonded to the frames using WEST SYSTEM Epoxy thickened with WEST SYSTEM 406 Colloidal Silica. Once screwed down firmly, I climbed inside the boat and cleaned up all of the seams and these were later filleted with epoxy thickened with the Colloidal Silica. I had the boat turned up the right way and could access them without working upside down.”
“For the sides, I laid 3mm ply onto the hull in the same way as the bottom. I then laid 5mm Sapele planks on the top.” These planks were dry fitted first and drilled in a pattern to replicate a traditional plank and seam boat, as this would help Dan to secure them to the boat. “I am not really a fan of stapled veneers which can be seen in the final finish so I preferred this method,” explains Dan.
In this video, Dan explains how he planked and glued the hull sides.
The planks were then all removed and numbered, coated with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy that was slightly thickened with WEST SYSTEM 407 Low-Density Filler, as was the plywood, then they were screwed back into position. “After the epoxy had fully cured, I removed all of the screws. The holes that were left were later drilled out and replaced with plugs so the end result looked like a period boat.”
Once the sides were done, the bottom, up as far as the waterline was sheathed in 200g plain weave glass applied with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy. “I used a flat spreader to distribute the epoxy and work it into the glass. This was then covered with epoxy thickened with Low-Density Filler before being faired smooth and then painted.
Dan explains all the products he used on his boat below the waterline in the video below.
Miss Isle is now complete and out on the water ready for summer cruises along the river.
Follow Dan’s Journey
To add to Dan’s love of boat building, he also runs a successful and growing Youtube channel where he showcases what he’s working on, tutorials and workshop tours. He has over 10,000 subscribers to his channel and gives out advice and top tips using his years of experience in the trade.
Free Boat Building Plans
Alongside projects and services in his workshop, Dan also creates boat building plans and sells them on his website.
To celebrate hitting 5,000 subscribers on his Youtube channel last year, Dan decided to give away one of his plans for free. You can download his plan for a 9 ½ft Hydroplane from his website here. Dan’s website is full of other boat builds and mechanical system plans, from rudder systems to prop shaft designs.