The Rabbet Lines

On January the 29th  worked on the rabbet lines, which are lines that are cut into the backbone to accommodate the frames and planks.

The frames are what determine the shape of the boat. In order to get the right shape, you have to make room in the keel and hog to accommodate the frames. Because the boat has curves, the cut will be made at different angles, as determined by the rabbet line. To find the rabbet line, measurements have to be taken from the drawings that represent the frames. There are three different points that form the rabbet lines. In the  2019 Marcus French Rodney, the points run though the keel and the hog.

The vertical line represesnts the centre line of the boat. It divides the boat in half, if you were looking from stem to stern.
The angled lines represent the frames. There are 8 different lines, they are numbered.
Both lines are used to find your measurement, which show how much of the corner off the wood to take off with your hand tools.
I was really having difficulty reading the drawing to get the measurement. I just couldn’t understand where in the world I was supposed to make a mark on the wood. After Jerome explained it to me one on one, I realized another template could be made to represent the hog.
We drew a rectangle the same size of the hog on a clear paper and put a center line down too.
By moving by rectangle up and down along the center line, you can clearly see the shape of the corner of the wood to be removed, and you can get your measurement from the picture, and then put it onto your wood.

This is the hog. It lays on top of the keel, and makes a T shape. This is a part of the change that Jerome has made to the backbone of the boat.

Jerome made the keel smaller and thinner, and added a hog, screws, and 925 marine caulking to strengthen the keel. Instead of cutting the rabbet line into the keel, as Marcus French had done with his boat, two chamfers are cut on both port and starboard on the top of the keel and the bottom of the hog to form the rabbet line. This is where the garboard plank will sit. Jerome made this change to make it easier to do and to encourage more boatbuilders.

The lines you see marked on the hog, are the lines that are found using the transparent sheet as explained above. By looking at the line on the side and on the top, you can see how much of the corner to take off. You don’t go too close, in case you take too much. It will be made to fit with a chisel when the frame goes on.

This is what the rabbet line looks like when all pieces of the backbone (keel, deadwood, stern post, stem, and apron) are assembled using marine caulking and screws.

Rabbet: a channel, slot, or groove cut along the edge or face of a piece of wood and intended to receive the edge or end of another piece. The two pieces can be in the same plane or at right angles to each other, as is the case with the “keel” and the “garboard strake.” ( Chaulk- Murray 134)

Rabbet: a groove or channel worked into a member to accept another, without a lip being formed. For example, a rabbet is often cut into a keel into which the garboard plank is inserted. ( Taylor 394)

Rabbet: a cut or grove in a structural member to allow another piece to fit
flush against it. An example would be the cut rabbet in the side of a stem into which the hood end of the strake is fit and fastened  (Rossel 266)

“Next, a rabbet line was marked out on the stem and the keel with the use of a batten. Then, with the use of a chisel, port and starboard rabbet grooves were cut into the stem at an angle slightly greater than 45, and t o a depth equal to the thickness of the planking (in this case, 11/16″ dressed). Shallower grooves were cut into the keel. The stem rabbets would receive the forward ends o f the planks, and the keel rabbets would receive the lower edges of the garboards.” 

Taylor (250)

“’Rabbeting’ is used to fit a plank at the stem, and the ‘garboard strake’ is likewise fitted into a groove along the entire length of the keel.”

Chaulk- Murray (64)

“The plank next to the keel is called the ‘garboard strake.’ Obviously this must fit as snugly as possible, which is why the builder uses rabbeting. The planks on the Maberly boat varied in width between 4 and 3 inches.”

Chaulk- Murray (65)


  • Murray, H. (2007). Of boats on the collar: How it was in one Newfoundland    fishing community. St.  John’s, NL: Flanker Press.
  • Rossel, G. (1998). Building Small Boats. Brooklin, ME: WoodenBoat    Publications.
  • Taylor, D. (2006). Boat building in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland.    Gatineau, Quebec: University of Ottawa Press.

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Jasmine N. Paul

Textile artist. University student. Curious.

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