Posted by: Mike Randall | July 19, 2009

Wooden Gaff Jaws – I must be mad!

Here is a pic of the components I’m building at the moment. This pic is from Francois Vivier’s boat.

Gaff Spar and Gaff Jaws

Gaff Spar and Gaff Jaws

Over the last week or so I’ve been busy making my version of the Gaff This is pretty much the same process as mast building so I wont go into much about building and shaping the spar.

As part of the Gaff I perhaps foolishly decided to make the Jaws from what seems like a million laminated 3mm strips of Iroko. This is an option specified in the plans. Alternativley you make them out of bronze or stainless or even easier just order them from Classic Marine

I bought the Iroko from Australian Furniture Timbers. While I was there I bought some Fijian Kauri for the oars and scull. Next time I build a mast I reckon I would use this stuff, as its straight and knot free, though I’m not sure of its strength characteristics in relation to Oregon.

I always find buying fancy timbers a bit daunting as I’m sure the yard guys can tell I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m also never sure if I’ve really bought the best pieces I could have! Uhhh! the insecurities of the amateur boat builder.

Anyway all this rough sawn timber meant I had a bit of milling ahead of me. It just so happened my cousin who is building a strip built kayak asked if I could give him a few pointers getting started on the strips. The beauty of this is he is a professional cabinet maker and has machinery to die for. Check this computer controlled millimetere accurate table saw I was let loose on.

Now this is a table aw

Now this is a table saw

I ripped and dressed everything and of course managed to get a key measurement wrong while milling the scull doh…! This always seems to happens no matter how organised I try to be. I think all can be salvaged though with a little epoxy laminating!!! More on that later.

I had a tough time cutting and milling 3mm strips of Iroko, It’s such hard timber and those strips are so thin they tended to shatter going through the thicknessor. I gave up once they were about 4mm thick and then used my hand power plane and belt sander to get them down to 3mm.

Shattered Strips of Iroko

Shattered Strips of Iroko

Finished 3mm strips ready to laminate

Finished 3mm strips ready to laminate

In preparation for laminating the Gaff Jaws into their required curve, I made a hugely complicated looking laminating jig. This I’ve christened the Bend-o-Matic. This looks like some kind of medieval torture device, but was quick to put together from bits I had hanging around, and it works really well.

The Bend-o-Matic Gaff Jaw Laminator

The Bend-o-Matic Gaff Jaw Laminator

Here it is loaded up with laminates. I’ll wait a day or so before pulling this out of the jig.

Jig loaded up with laminates

Jig loaded up with laminates

I’ve got lots to go on with at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll finish the spars and oars over the next few weeks. I’ll then get back to cutting out the bulkheads in prep for hull assembly.


  1. Thanks for showing the process, I have to make gaff jaws for a 23′ catboat now too. Lots of runout in the grain on that okoume. Musta been a butt log flare. Your cousin with tools to die for probably has a thickness sander by now, eh?

    • Hi Wavey. Think your right about the Iroko and grain runout, I’ve since bought some more to make things like reefing combs, oar bulls and wooden cleats. The new stuff was a much nicer piece of timber and a lot easier to work.

      I also reckon my cousin’s fancy saw had a blunt blade!!! I cut the new stuff on my portable table saw that has a new blade, Like a hot knife through butter – well maybe really hard butter.


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