Building a traditional Venetian boat in the Basque Country /9

I am writing today, because we have been working until Easter. The museum of Albaola was open and a few of us students had to keep the workshop “active” while the guided tours passed by. Good for us, because we actually lost a lot of time trying to wrap our head around many small details that are still not so clear in our minds…

All in all, it has been a week devoted to frames. We finally finished and installed all of them!

A detail of the peculiar connection between frame (sancon) and floor timber (piana), called “ponto soto” in Venetian.

Unfortunately, trying the stringers on, we realized that they will need a bit of fairing on the inside of the boat. One of the frames is actually quite different in dimensions, because it was made by a volunteer, interested in joining the school next year.

It’s always difficult to make sure that volunteers have a full picture of what they need to do, probably we should have double- and triple-checked the frame before installing it. Now it’s too late, I hope we can fix it next week without having to disassemble it…

Another volunteer (he’s also interested in the school, let’s hope next year there will be more new people than there were this one), made the mast-step. It touches the bottom of the boat, even though sometimes it is suspended on the frames to allow water to pass below it in the bilge. It raises two cm above the frames, so that it will be flush with the floor boards.

The actual hole for the foot of the mast will be made when we have the thwart/mast-partner in place.

I have started thinking of the forward deck, and cut the first beam out of a curved-grain larch offcut. There will be three beams in total, but I never got to installing it because we still need to trim the edges of the planks.

This is where we lost a lot of time. The edge of the planks, which is now square, has a rolling bevel with the angle changing as you move towards the ends of the planks, where it flares out. This bevel is usually planed “by eye”, and we don’t have that skill yet.

The top of the planks also affects the angle at which the frame-heads will be cut (the edge is not level, since Venetian gunwhales are usually tilt outwards). Nobody wants to cut them and then find out they are too short!


My boatbuilder friend Nicolò Zen has been helping me a lot during the last weeks, and he has sent me a couple interesting things lately. The first one is a picture of the boat from which the plans we are using were taken:

Say hello to Gino

The second one is a video. And what a video. It’s an episode of “Pianeta mare” hosted by Tessa Gelisio, from Italian tv channel Rete4. From the info I could gather (here: it was aired on March 2007.

It’s a two-day build of a s’ciopon by Agostino Amadi (this one:, one of the most renowned names among Venetian boatbuilders.

Two days from start to finish, yes.

It is amazing and depressing at the same time.