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How To Make A Fender Board

Fenders are great, but they work less well when you need to lie alongside a piling. For that you'll need a fender board.

Fender board

If you choose to use a thicker section of timber than Mark did, such as a 2 by 4, you can drill the holes for the line vertically through the fender board instead.

Depending on where you go boating, there's a good chance that at some time you'll need to come alongside. Fenders may work well for protecting your boat from damage on a floating dock or in a slip. But tie up at a bulkhead or a pier with pilings, and it's a different story.

Tip: Treated lumber is less likely to rot and will last considerably longer. Use caution when handling it, especially if the wood is wet, as the chemical treatment is unhealthy.

Fenders hung vertically won't work because they just roll around the piling. To protect your boat, you need what's called a "fender board" — a plank of wood positioned between the outside of a couple of fenders and the piling. As the boat rises and falls, the board takes the chafe. There are some good products on the market, such as those from Taylor Made, that fit to a piece of wood to make an instant fender board and store easily. But here's how to make your own.

Tech Support

Degree Of Difficulty: Easy

Tools and Materials:

  • Drill and 3⁄4- to 1-inch bit
  • Electric jigsaw
  • Small file or rasp
  • Compass
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • About 10 feet of half-inch double braid line, though any rope would work
  • 4- to 6-foot length of 1-by-6 treated lumber

Time: Less than one hour.

Cost: $10 to $15.

Measuring for drill holes

1. Decide how long your board needs to be, remembering that you'll need to store it aboard. Four feet should be the minimum. (For my 32-footer, I made mine 6 feet long.) Measure 4 inches in from each end of the board and 2 inches down from the top edge. By allowing more board below the hole, the weight will keep the board hanging nicely with less chance of it flipping.

Rounding ends off board

2. Where the two marks intersect, drill a hole. The exact size isn't important. If using a spade-type bit, back up the board with some scrap wood to prevent breakout when the bit comes through the board. You'll want to soften the edges of the drilled hole with a file or rasp to avoid any abrasion of the line.

Drilling holes

3. For a finished appearance, round off the ends of the board with an electric jigsaw. You can use a compass to trace a semicircle, then use that as your guide.

Threading line through hole

4. Thread a length of line through the hole. Secure with a bowline. (Or use some three-strand nylon and splice a loop.) Repeat for the other hole. The lengths of rope needed are dictated by the height of your boat's handrail or other attachment point from which you'll be hanging your board. Tip: If you're worried about the fenders slipping, drill holes on either side of the fender locations. Thread lines through these holes to wrap around the top and bottom of the fenders. Avoid placing knots against the hull.

Fender Board Alternative

While cylindrical fenders between the fender board and hull are sometimes best, technical editor Tom Neale has found "Taylor Made Fender Board Guards" helpful. These white tough rubber cushions are made to attach to the ends of 2 X 4 boards. They are sold in pairs; the rubber walls are quarter-inch thick and, according to the manufacturer resist cracking, chalking, and UV deterioration.

Fender guards can remain permanently attached to the ends of the fender boards and don't require additional rigging when you need them in a hurry. They can be used instead of the cylindrical fenders much of the time, although if there is a lot of wave or wake action or curvature to the hull, you may want to add the cylindrical fenders. The fender guards help prevent the cylindrical fenders from rolling out at each end.

Always assess the curvature of your boat, wind and wave strength and other relevant factors when deciding which fender gear to use. taylormadeproducts.com

Mark Corke

A marine surveyor, and holder of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification, Mark has built five boats himself — power and sail. He was senior editor of Sail magazine's hands-on "Boatworks" publication, worked for the BBC, written four DIY books, skippered two round-the-world yachts, and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest there-and-back crossing of the English Channel, in a kayak! He and his wife have a Grand Banks 32.