Traditional Glue in Boat Making - Manipur

Date of the visit: 27th July 2018      

Location: Oinam, Bishnupir District, Manipur.

Objective of the visit:

  1. To check the boat making process.

  2. Materials and tools used in the process

  3. To study the homemade glue



Objective 1: Boat making process


The making of wooden boats is practiced majorly in the Bishnupur District of Manipur. It is a common means of transport for the people living in and around the Loktak Lake. They have been following the style and technique of making boats that have been passed down by their ancestors. 


They mainly use two types of wood:

Cham (local name)- Artocarpus Chaplasha

Na-u (local name)- Podocarpus Perifolius


The wooden boat is made up of four parts: 

1. Phambak (base of the boat)

2. Heeban (two side walls) 

4. Heeru (top portion of the boat)

3. Heenao (bottom part of the boat)


Heeban and Phambak are long planks of wood. Their length determines the length of the boat. Normally they are 1.5- 2 inches thick. The length of the boat ranges from 20ft-40ft. Sometimes they even join two planks to make the Phambak. Phambak is made slightly curved at the ends to reduce drag. The curve is achieved by cutting the wood halfway along its width and by putting a wedge with pressure applied on the sides.


The top and the bottom part of the boat are carved out from two pieces of wood with an axe which are then joined with the other parts with half lap joints. Before gluing the parts, they make sure all the four parts are properly aligned by using a hand planner and chisel. A homemade glue with kerosene, sawdust and Dammar resin (Mekruk- local name) is used to fill the gapes and the joints. Every joint is made using half lap joints to have more glue area following which it is nailed. 


After joining all the parts the finishing and shaping is done by using a hand planner and chisel. 


Objective 2: Materials, tools used in the process


There are main four tools which are used in the making process- Hand Saw, Axe, Hand planner and Chisels. The timber planks are bought from local wood mills which will determine the width, thickness and length of the boat. 2 inch thick planks are mostly used and the length can be extended by joining other planks using half lap joints.


First the timber planks are cut using a hand saw to get the form of the boat. The required joinery or bending are made with the hand saw and chisel. The top and bottom parts of the boat are carved out from a log using only an axe. After assembling all the parts, the final finishing is done using the hand planner and the chisels with long handles for the curves. No varnish or wood finish is used.

and chisel. 


Objective 3: Study the homemade glue


The glue is made out of kerosene, sawdust and finely powdered Dammar resin (Mekruk- local  name). All of these are mixed in a ratio of 70% sawdust with 1:1 portion of Dammar resin and kerosene. The glue normally hardens in 2-3 days after application and acts like a plastic which creates a water tight bond between the joints. 


The glue can be reused by adding more kerosene so they usually make the glue in large quantities in a bowl. By adding kerosene it softens the resin to make it malleable. This process helps the workers in repairing of older boats and reduces the time of making the glue all over again.