Wooden boat building is one of the most rewarding projects a person can undertake. A well-crafted boat is not only a functional and enjoyable item to use, it is also a form of art in its own right. Many dream of someday constructing their own wood boat from scratch, but few will actually pursue this dream. The reasons why so few follow through on this dream vary, but for many it is because the challenge seems so daunting. Especially for those who have little construction experience, the idea of building a boat by hand can often seem overwhelming.
However, this need not be the case if one has some excellent plans and boat building guides in hand. Probably one of the easiest types of boats to build for the beginning boat builder is a boat made from plywood. Plywood is surprising durable and very easy to modify with simple tools, making it the choice of building materials for many boat building schools and instructional courses.
When starting on your boat building project, there are a few key factors to be aware of to make your journey a success. First, although you may long for a handcrafted yacht or house boat, it is best to start small for your first project. This way if you decide that wooden boat building is just not for you, the amount of money and resources you consume will be less. Second, keep in mind that although building your own wooden boat from scratch can save you a considerable amount of money over purchasing a boat, there still will be a considerable amount of investment involved as wooden boat construction is not necessarily a cheap hobby.
You should also consider where you will be constructing your boat and give yourself a generous time table for completion. If you decide to build in your garage, for example, you may not want to start the project if you know you will need the space you are building in to park a vehicle in the near future. Finally, consider where and how you will move your boat to water once it is finished. Depending on the type of vessel you decide to build, this may include taking into consideration factors such as overhead utility lines, trees and similar obstacles.
With a suitable size, budget and building strategy in mind, you should be able to find wooden boat plans that are complete and easy to follow. Try to look at many different plans of a similar size and type before making a final decision, as you will be investing a lot of time and energy into this project and you want to be happy with the final results.
Wooden Boat Building Methods
There are some different methods that can be used to build a boat. You have Carvel Planking, Lapstrake Planking, Strip Planking, and Stitch & Glue. You’ll find the basics of each below.
With Carvel Planking the planks abut one another on a framework. First, you create the frame. Then you connect the abutting planks to the frame with nails or screws. You then have to do some caulking to seal the seams so water doesn’t get in.
Lapstrake Planking is comparable to Carvel since you assemble it on a frame. However, the planks overlie each other instead of sitting edge to edge. They are fastened to the frame with rivets and glue and they generally don’t have to be sealed due to the planks being fitted so tightly together. Maintenance to this kind of wooden boat is more complex than others because of the overlapping assembly.
Strip Planking is a lot like Carvel Planking apart from the narrower strips of timber that are used as an alternative to large planks. This style of wooden boat can be joined together with epoxy or nails.
Stitch & Glue is probably the simplest technique for building a wooden boat. This is the method recommended to somebody building a boat for the first time. With this method you use marine grade plywood to cut out the different sections of the boat using the instructions found in your boat plans. Then, you bore holes down the edges of your pieces that will link to another plywood section and line up the holes. The pieces are held together by inserting plastic wire ties or metal wire pieces though the holes. Then you fill the joints with epoxy to keep them together. When it is completely dry, remove the wire ties and fill in the holes with epoxy. This method can be used to build a flat bottomed boat, a “V” bottomed boat, or a multi-chined bottomed boat which is a more curved hull. This kind of construction is extremely easy to fix because you can patch in a fresh section of plywood and be back on the lake rather quickly.
The Stitch & Glue method involves less material and does not call for an underlying frame or a garage full of tools to wind up with a stunning wooden boat that is pleasing to the eye. This is why it is the simplest, cheapest, and requires the least amount of time of all the wooden boat building methods.
Beginners Guide to Wooden Boat Building
If you have never constructed a wooden boat before and are not an experienced woodworker, you may find this a daunting task. As a beginner, you can take the help of DIY plans for boat building and follow the process in a step by step manner. These plans will enable you to transform pieces of plywood into the most attractive and inviting wooden boat. All you need to know is to hammer nails, cut timber and of course to read the instructions and you are as capable as an expert in building your own boat.
A medium sized garage should be sufficient space for building your boat. As you choose the wooden boat plans, you must carefully consider a few aspects –
- Ensure drawings are detailed. The plan you choose must show you every single aspect of what you must do in-depth.
- Find out if the plans are based on actually built boats. It is recommended not to choose plans that have not been tried before.
- Certain plans contain a list of materials you need to construct the wooden boat. Choose plans that contain the list to make the job easier.
- Last but not least, a well drawn out plan costs between $50 and $100.
With these tips in mind, after you select a good plan, it is now time to start constructing your wooden boat. You can find boat building plans at book shops, your local library or online. You can ask for a sample or preview of the plan before purchasing to ensure that it has all necessary details.
Building your own boat is a very enjoyable experience. If you are an absolute novice, you can take the help and guidance of an experienced woodworker. A professional will be able to teach you how to follow the guidelines in the plan in a systematic manner.
Before you start building your wooden boat, remember to keep a set of tools ready. It is highly recommended to purchase only the best quality tools from reputed shops as they perform well and last a lifetime. Tools you require for constructing a wooden boat include –
- Drill and drill bits
- Mire saw, Jig saw and Hand saw
- Wooden mallet and chisel
- C-clamps and spring
- Timber files and rasps
- Spoke shaver and block pane
- Rule, tape measure and square
- Bristle paint brushes and foam
As you purchase the above tools and materials for boat construction, ensure that they are suited for marine use.
The plan you have chosen will determine the type of boat you will build. Choose a large garage or outdoor space that will be enough for you to build your wooden boat in a comfortable manner. Your budget determines the kind of wood you choose for your boat. You can use inexpensive timbers such as marine ply or pine or expensive ones such as redwood or oak.
Today you can find many pre-fabricated wooden boat building kits available in the market. These kits make the job simpler for novices. Boat building kits include everything required for construction including tools, materials and timber. The advantage with these kits is that everything is cut to the exact size required and all you need to do is to assemble the pieces following the instructions.
As a beginner, it is recommended to start out with a small boat before trying out the larger ones. Glued lapstrake construction is one of the most common methods of building small wooden boats. The smallest glued lapstrake boat can be only 2 feet long and the largest as much as your imagination can go.
In this type of boat, strakes or the planks forming the hull are glued together after being lapped over each other and rabbited. Follow these few steps to construct your very first small boat –
- Set up the framing jigs, lay the strakes over them, bend them to fit for exact size and glue them together by holding them in place. Allow some time for the glue to set.
- Following instructions on the plan you choose cut the wood and mill the lumber after gathering all required materials.
- Construct the hull’s back wall known as transom after setting your boat’s keel on the jigs. Now it is time to line the hull by planking and gluing after fitting over the jigs.
- Set the keel of your boat on the jigs and construct the transom–the back wall of your hull.
- After lining the hull, use marine epoxy to glue the lapstrakes over the jig after planks are laid in place.
- The top rails must now be cut and finished to facilitate installation. Marine caulk must be used to caulk the lapstrakes if you are planning on going boating often.
- It is now time to finish the interiors according to your preference. You can either varnish or paint the exterior. If you want a sail, install a mast, mast step and rigging.
DIY Wooden Boat Building Will Save You Money
Many of us dream of owning a boat, but we simply cannot afford to buy one. Factory built boats are very expensive, and boat dealers will charge you by the foot. Wooden boat building is a good project to work on from your own shop or garage and you will save a lot of money. End result is that you will have a boat that you crafted with your own two hands, waiting for you to take it out on the water.
If you don’t believe you would be any good at wooden boat building, you never know until you try. There are lots of really great wooden boat building plans available online that you can download directly to your computer and then print out so that you can have the plans in front of you. A plan set will come with a list of materials that you need to complete your project. This is one of the best ways to save money, because you are at liberty to shop around and locate the best deal on the supplies you will need to complete your project.
You might think the best way to save money with wooden boat building plans is to download free ones. This is true, but you are probably making a big mistake. The reasons are simple. Free plans do not have support for you to help you with your project. You do not know who created those plans, and you most certainly do not know for sure if the plans were designed by someone with knowledge about boats or experience in building boats.
The best way to save money with wooden boat building is to do your project right the first time. If you spend a lot of money on materials and using a free plan, mess up the project, you will only have to start over again and do it correctly. This will definitely not save you money, because you will have wasted all of the materials on your fudged project.
Do yourself a favor, and find a website that has all the resources you need. So what if you have to pay a small, one time fee. You will have access to plenty of plans, so if you find that building boats is right for you, you have other plans to build.
Purchasing the correct boat building plans the first time will ensure that you will be successful and that you will be able to complete your build. The end result will be something that you are proud to own and you will want to let everyone know that you built it with your own two hands.