"Prime Time"  Mirror 70021
Unofficial page of a first time builder...
Prime Time was completed on 1 January 2000, just a day before the  2000 Australian Mirror Championship in Canberra.

It was some time since a new timber Mirror had been constructed in New South Wales.  Back in time the NSW Mirror fleet was enormous but for years now we have strived to build a fleet  that is equivalent in size and quality to our counterparts in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.  Our friends in the ACT succeeded through hard work from a few dedicated souls and a good training program.  A couple of Sydney fleets have maintained reasonable numbers including Balmoral Sailing Club and Hunters Hill Sailing Club, but gone are the days when Mirror sailing fully absorbed club facilities on Saturday, leaving all other classes to sail Sundays.

The idea of this site is to share some of the experiences I had in building this little boat and hopefully to encourage others to do the same.  For a long time the NSW Mirror fleet enjoyed a legacy of top class boats built in the mid to late eighties.  The combination of epoxy glues and skilled home builders kept a lot of boats competitive for years and many still look great today thanks to loving care of their new owners.  But increasingly folks new to the class find it difficult to procure top class boats that can be raced at a high level.  If like me you find it theraputic to work with your hands and appreciate the smell and texture of timber,  then buillding a Mirror  can be a richly rewarding experience.  As if like magic, one seems to become as organised and disciplined as necessary to fit in an hour or three at night or on weekends in the workshop or garage.  Almost every session you wll be able to make noticeable progress toward your goal.  You find yourself visualising special moments, like hoisting the mainsail for the first time, arriving at the club with new beast in tow and of course the satisfaction of completing a race in your very own creation. 

The page is also just a bit of a journal to reflect on a fun project and to say thank you to the people who make messing about in Mirrors such a great experience.  It is  gratifying to see the GRP hulls perform well at the top level, providing a quick and low maintenance entry point to the class. Having the choice of timber or glass is a great thing, however a fleet of predominantly timber boats is something that few remaining classes can offer.  That in itself is something special and besides, timber sailing dinghies in great condition look really  wonderful.

Over the years I have owned three Mirrors.  I have bought second hand, had one built by Bob Cruse in Perth and now built myself.  There's no need to be daunted by the build at home option.  I had a bit of indoor space, a few tools (although it's a great excuse to by extras) and an enthusiastic coach in my dad.  He has a TS16 and a Manly Junior to his credit some years back.  Importantly, I had no shortage of Mirror enthusiasts willing to offer advice whenever I asked.  Remember, building a kit Mirror  means you won't be facing any problems that haven't been solved about 70,000 times before.

Even so, get as many things as possible going for you up front.  Drive everyone mad with questions, no matter how silly they might seem to you.  Specifically, talk to the kit manufacturer to ensure you get everything to your liking.  This includes specifcations for the gaff (stiff or flexible) and options such as laminated foils (essential for racing).  Some parts come pre assembled unless you say otherwise, so discuss these also.  The kits are great value for money but you may wish to source components like the mast and rigging locally if you have special needs.  Again, talk this over up front.

Class stalwarts are a great source of information.  Even though I had sailed Mirrors on and off for years I needed to get up to date with the latest "go fast" information.  Norm Deane in Tassie was very helpful in this regard.  I also found a couple of websites that proved useful.  Refer to the links below.

The then Aussie Measurer Peter Russell is a wealth of knowledge on Mirrors, as well as being one of the nicest blokes you will ever meet.  He knows all the tricks, has built boats and raced them to world standard.  I had a set of photographs I took off his 1991 creation "Harmony" as the basis for my rig.  Simple and very effective. 

Steve Walker will provide info on the latest sail cuts and rig setups.  He has data sheets that can be faxed up to facilitate ordering of sails etc.  It is people like Steve that help to keep the Mirror class alive.  Supporting him and those like him who invest countless hours of unpaid time to improve our sailing experience is one way we can give something back.

Built at home in Castle Hill, NSW, Prime Time took five months of evening and occasional weekend work.  This included quite a bit of pondering time for the more complex tasks such as centrecase alignment and clamps and weights to eliminate fastenings. Most  builders I talk to took a lot less time than I did, and that's not surprising.  I didn't really rush the job until the last couple of weeks when it looked like I could make it in time for the 2000 Nationals.  Then my relaxing project took on a whole new set of challenges.  It was however gratifying to launch the boat on the morning of the Invitation Race and find out that all the settings I had shamelessly copied from others were fast enough to avoid major embarrassment.  And yes, it floated.   At this point I should also thank my crew, whom I met that same morning.  She was prepared to sail with someone who was suffering both sleep deprivation and what looked like a strange skin condition.  On closer examination it turned out that my face was covered in a  mixture of semi cured epoxy, non skid  paint and silicone.    Thanks Sarah...you are a living legend.

Anyway, what you will see below is a simple set of annotated photographs that run through some of the more important stages of construction.  If time and resources permit I will add some more at a later date.

Good luck and good building...Andy Mac
The Kit arrived by road freight from Darlington WA where Bob Cruse operates Heart Small Boats.  Delivery  took about three weeks including 3 days road transit time. 

The kit comes in a timber box and is well secured for the trip. All up cost for the hull kit was about AUD1700 plus a modest delivery charge. That's just GBP600!

The spar timbers arrived in a separate package but everything else you need to build the boat is in the box pictured left, including the rudder and centreboard.

Bottom and side hull panels are in two pieces requiring a butt joint on each as the first step.  This explains how you can get a 3.3m boat kit into a 2.4m box!

My work space was just 4.5m long and 3m wide, including the workbenches.  It was a bit of a squeeze but forced me to keep the room tidy.  Those with eagle eyes will spot the bow of another Mirror through the ajar workshop door.  If your space is small I recommend a "test" like I did to see that you can get the boat in and out.  In the latter stages you may need to do this quite regularly.  I found that taking the boat outside to do major sanding jobs is an excellent choice.  To do otherwise can make domestic relations somewhat frosty..Oh, and if you plan to collect shavings and epoxy dust with the household vacuum cleaner it is wise to change the bag afterwards.  You will only forget the once...

It is a 2 person lift to move the kit around and be careful how you open it as the parts can be damaged once you start removing the protective timber and cardboard.
Anyone who remembers the sheer joy of opening up a new model kit as a kid will love this next bit...

Unfortunately I messed it up a little before taking a photo but believe me on opening the lid it was immaculate.  Everything is here, including the copper wire for stiching, West epoxy (including measuring pumps), glass tape and the most beautifully selected and cut timber components.  Nothing was missing.

The kit includes a detailed construction manual that even had handwritten suggestions from Bob on the best tricks to adopt for constructing a racing hull.

The only things you need to go and buy at this point are epoxy sealer (Everdure is great), a bag full of the cheapest paintbrushes you can find... and from now on you will never throw away an empty plastic container.  Take away chinese, fruit juice bottles, anything that can be made into a disposable container for sealer, glue, resin etc.  Make sure you clean them thoroughly first ( the dishwasher is excellent).

The single most important time saving tip I can possibly offer is this...drill a hole in your pencil and attach it to a prominent feature of the workshop like the doorknob or wall.  Unless you do so you will find that in each and every construction hour at least 15 minutes are spent looking for it.  Later on it will be the sanding block...and later still the 3/16 drill bit.  You get the idea.

Also...buy Guy Wilkins book "Mirror Racing" from Fenhurst Publishing.  Get it on Amazon.com or at Boat Books.  It's great.

IThe bottom panels go together first, after butt joining the bottom and side panels.

It's not my intention here to replicate the building instructions, but rather share a few hints I was offered (or worked out by making errors).

The first was to use a router and rebate the bottom and side panels to accommodate the external glass tapes.  This avoids a lot of feathering later.  A very shallow cut of around 3/64 is all that's needed...about 22mm from each edge so that the 44mm tape will sit nicely in the rebate formed by the joined pieces.  Rebate for the tapes around the butt strap joints also.  Microballoons will fill out the gaps to make the tape joints invisible after finishing.

Chamfer the butt straps so that the bottom and sides can form a fair curve. 

Left you will see the bottom panels wired together.  Twist all the wires the same way and use pliers to adjust the tension.

If you need to trim any of the hull panels, do it while they are clamped together.  Symmetry is assured if you do it that way.

Saw horses are OK for support at this stage but get ready to build a sturdy frame fore and aft to clamp the transoms to.  Keeping the hull true and square is vital.  Spend hours on this if necessary...string lines, spirit levels,tape measures,  hand made compasses, whatever it takes.

Trace the aft and stowage bulkhead pieces to shape a cradle in which to sit the hull during the middle stages of construction.  If you make these up nicely they will double as a very portable rigging cradle. 
The bow transom wiring can be a bit tricky.  Play with the tension of the wires to get it even on both sides. 

Don't drill your wiring holes too close to the edge of the bow transom as the wires take quite a bit of strain as the hull panels are bent into shape.

Use a steel rule and set square to ensure the holes are drilled in the same place on each side of the bow transom.  The holes in the bottom and side panels are drilled when both sides are clamped together so they will be perfectly aligned.

Wire up as many points as necessary to get a fair curve.   Add more holes and wire if you need to in order to acheive this.

Spirit levels can be recalibrated  if necessary and if you use more than one make sure they agree with each other!!

Note the strings from the diagonals and centreline.  Get used to checking the intersection and sighting down the transoms. At the rear you can see the frame that the transom is clamped to.  If it is rock solid and squared up to start with you are in good shape.  If you trip over something there is a chance you will knock it out of square so double check from time to time.

Make sure the stringers (glued to the hull sides) are equally stiff.  If not one side will bend more than the other and create asymmetry.  Mine weren't quite right but a few saw cuts solved the problem.  Better still would be to plane the stiffer one down before attachment.
Clamps come in all shapes and sizes.  Beg buy or borrow as many as you can.  I went to the local weekend market and found that a lot of the discount hardware merchants sold them by the box.  I bought a lifetime supply and they cost about two bucks each.  I got different sizes and even some of the plastic spring clamps pictured above left.  Rummage through the pile to find the ones with the strongest springs as they do vary a lot.  These were great for clamping where moderate pressure was necessary.

Don't forget that to get maximum bonding strength with epoxy you need to leave some of it in the joint.  Too much clamping pressure squeezes it all out.

Microballoon fillets create amazing joint strength.  If you build carefully you can expect to be under minimum weight, so a little extra in the fillets probably won't hurt.  Do this prior to taping.  Remeber to wear a mask when working with epoxy and microballoons or microfibres.  Also be careful to ensure that you have some ventilation.  On occasions I was blissfully unaware that I had gassed out the whole house because I was wearing such a good respirator.  Most fibreglass suppliers sell respirators and replacement cartridges.  A good unit costs about $60.

Test fit all components before glueing.  Many times if necessary.

Everdure seals all the internal timbers.  Two coats seems to be enough.

I recommend setting in your vang attachment point while you have good access to the stowage compartment.  I epoxied in a backing plate that went right through the mast support and was bolted with nyloc nuts.  Bending the saddle to line it up with the direction of the pull is also a good idea.  Same deal with the bottom rudder pintle.  I built an aluminium plate and epoxied two nylocs to it so I could bolt from the outside.  Spend time making sure the pintle is centred before drilling.

Backing pads for the jib leads and cleats need to be fixed before tank tops are sealed.  This means working out where they will go and this varies depending upon your rig.  I copied Norm Deane who developed a short luff "deck sweeper" jib with Steve Walker.  This requires the lead to be in front of the forward edge of the thwart.

Centrecase alignment took me quite a while but it is really important to get it square.  It is supposed to be as far aft and as low as possible for optimum racing performance.  I gave the insides of the case a few coats of resin and wet sanded it before putting it together.

Rather than trimming the bottom to match the internal hull curve I enlarged the cutout in the bottom panels and extended the case sides through the hull.  This seemed to be easier and create more area for a stronger joint.  It's then simply a matter of trimming off the excess and sealing the ends well.  The keelband goes over the top anyway and it gets faired with microballoons.

Once again a big epoxy fillet around the internal floor joint before taping.
Wires can be planed off by hand once the hull is turned over.  Make sure they dont protrude and impair your ability to get the tapes nice and flat.

Until the tank tops go on there will still be some movement in the hull.  Take care to check the alignment again when you turn the hull back over.

I haven't included a shot of the gunwales going on but it takes a lot of clamps to do it without screws.  Trim them to the desired size with a router before attaching them and do both sides at once.  By that I mean both internal ones then both external ones.  It's a two person job.

Varnished timber just can't be beaten.  Like me a lot of people paint the externals and if you use a lot of microballoons for fairing this becomes a necessity, but the decks look great when clear finished.  Everdure followed by either single pot or two pot works fine.  I used single pot Goldspar, brushed with a reasonable quality brush.  First couple of coats thinned with turps and two undiluted top coats.

The floor has one pack non slip marine paint.  Two coats only as it is heavy.  You may want to clear finish the floor but I used the Epiglass microballoons around all the floor battens that finishes dark red in colour so I had no choice. Mask the tank sides for best results.

I put 6 floor battens in but I still get the odd crack on the bottom. You can't reinforce so I'm not sure if there are any better solutions.   By clamping some horizontal timber across the gunwales and pushing the battens down with short lengths of scrap timber you can glue them down without screws or nails.  Be careful that they don't move as you do this.  I made reference marks on the floor with a pen to make sure they stayed where I wanted them while the glue dried.

There is an inner lip on the internal tank joints so you can whiz the router around the edge to round it off.  It will cut straight through the  bronze panel pins (but be careful anyway) and clear a path so you can glide around smoothly without stopping.  It's a manual job adjacent to the foredeck butt strap to avoid a bump.

A glue fillet can add strength around the inside joint beteen the tank and the hull.  It's visible under the tape but a small one smoothed with a 10mm radius worked just fine.

Spend time feathering the glass tapes so that they virtually disappear once the varnish is applied
Off to the spraypainter and still 3 weeks until the Nationals!! I wasn't willing to mess up the job by trying it myself.  Maybe next time after I have done some more practise.

Trailer was bought as a simple flatbed and I attached my old rigging cradle with U bolts as a temporary fix.  Naturally enough it's still like this today.

Steve Walker makes really good travel covers.  They're a worthwhile investment and last forever.  The top cover has a number of possible configurations and this one has velcro slits to allow the mast to stay up for overnighting at regattas. 

Later I made up two boards that sit atop the boat and act as both tie downs and carry the mast.
Spray job, including high build epoxy added about 2.25kg overall.  Even after all my fairing on the bottom Paul Kulmar spent a few more hours wet sanding and filling scratches prior to painting.

If you are going to spray don't forget to have the rudder box done at the same time.

There's no doubt this was an indulgence and added uneccessary cost but the result was fantastic.  It's almost impossible to tell it's a timber hulled boat.

Many builders more proficient than I am do their own finishing with amazing results.  Ray Butler has possibly the best local example with "Bob".  Check out Ray's boat  on dry land because if you are like me you will only get to see its transom way up ahead during the race!!

If you are going to have a professional spraypainter go to work on your masterpiece make sure you discuss how much weight you have got to play with.  Paul Kulmar is a boatbuilder so he understands how important weight is.  An auto shop may not and the last thing you want is to add 5kg with the spray job.

Specify things like the stem post remaining clear finished.  It's obvious for Mirror sailors but not necessarily for non-sailing spraypainters.
ILogistics play a part if you are building to a timetable.  Whipping ropes, sanding foils and varnishing spars are all things you can do while the glue or varnish dries on the hull.  Order the mast and fittings early and then you can lay them out and think about how everything will go together.  By the time the hull was ready to fit out I knew exactly where I wanted all the fittings to go and had all the fastenings prepared.  That meant the fitout could be done in a couple of days.

Whipping ropes, swaging and sewing up hiking straps etc can all be done while watching the TV!!

Far left you can see my building crade doubling as a rigging platform.

If your mast section isn't anodised, contact a local anodiser and ask them to call you next time they are doing a batch of work in the colour you want. Chances are they will do it for a nominal fee.

Nearly there, and still two days to Christmas.  From here it was a matter of completing the foils and making sure all the fittings were sealed to pass the tank pressure test.  A bike pump, a spare bung with a hole drilled in it and a tube of silicone or super glue will keep you amused for hours until you pass the pressure test.  Avoid New Years Day for this task if possible.  There are better places to suffer a hangover than with a torch inside an upturned Mirror hull...

Little things like cutting all the sheets and halyards to length should happen now.  If left till later you will never do it.  Burn or whip all the ends.  Dyneema and spectra will seal of you remove an inch or two of the core before burning the shell. Cut two slits in a squash ball to create the world's best ratchet block support.  It takes some dexterity to feed the saddle through but it's worth the effort.

Prime Time has turned out quite stiff and can mix it with the best of them on the rare occasions she is pointed in the right direction.

Some of the other ideas and settings I borrowed included:

Mast step as far forward as possible;
Centrecase minimum height and maximum aft;
Hull as flat as permitted aft of case;
Keelband faired in to eliminate drag;
Rig set up as per Deane/Walker i.e:
Walker #18 main and 12ND short luff jib;
Walker full cut 1/2 oz spinnaker;
Lightspar T6061 bottom section;
Cruse gaff 15mm on Walker 11kg test;
Rake of 3550mm from gaff sheave to aft transom.

There is no better way to join the Mirror family than to build a boat.  Even before you hit the water you will have made many friends and received a wealth of advice from like minded folks worldwide.  The internet makes our family truly global even for those of us who don't travel far and wide to compete.  I exchanged emails with Mirror sailors and builders from Canada, UK, Northern Ireland,  Australia and even the Faulkland Islands during my construction phase. 

Some good links include:




Other useful contacts in Australia:

Heart Small Boats
(Mr Bob Cruse)
21 Cook St
Darlington WA 6070
+61 89 299 6784

Steve Walker Sails
5A Moore St
Wynyard TAS  7325
+61 3 6442 3641
+61 3 6442 2815 (fax)

Thank you for visiting this page.  If you have any comments or suggestions please email me: 

Please forgive any errors, omissions or breaches of the Official Secrets Act.  Many of the ideas I adopted were developed by more accomplished builders and sailors. (I will however proudly claim the squash ball spring as my own).  These notes are not intended to replace the building instructions and all new builders are encouraged to adhere closely to the kit instructions and class rules.  There will be many ways to approach almost every task involved with building and rigging a Mirror. 

Prime Time sails out of Balmoral Sailing Club in Sydney, NSW