One of the most pleasurable warm-weather activities is being out on the water in a sailboat. The only thing that can make this event more satisfying is knowing the boat you are sailing was made by your own hands. A sailboat you build yourself can be designed any way you like often costs less than buying a commercially built one, and offers a sense of accomplishment and pride. Let’s get started.
Your first step is to find building plans that reflect the style and size of craft you want. Finding and following a proven plan will ensure your finished boat will not fall victim to poor design. There are so many plans available, both free and commercial, that obtaining one will leave you free to concentrate on the more rewarding task of building. If you really want to design your own, there are many books and a few software programs out there that will aid you in your designing.
With plans in hand, you are now ready to purchase material. The final cost will depend upon the plans you are using and the types of material you choose. While you do not want to skimp on the quality of materials, there are a few acceptable shortcuts that will not lower the safety in your final creation. The greatest cost will go to buying plywood, epoxy, and paint. You will also need filler and fiberglass cloth for your seams. Marine plywood is the best available for your boat. You can, however, use exterior grade plywood for outside parts if you would like to reduce costs.
The next step is called lofting. All this actually means is you mark your plywood before cutting it. You can either choose to use exact measurements and a ruler for marking, or you can trace a pattern made of paper. Either choice is acceptable. Using exact measurements is the most accurate method; but, tracing a pattern will be quicker and still produce an excellent finished product.
Once your wood is marked, it is time to cut. Using a jigsaw is okay, but many builders prefer a circular saw. Using a circular saw to just cut through your plywood will prevent it from bending. A jigsaw could cause the wood to bend and this will weaken it. You may want to try both on a scrap piece of wood to judge for yourself which one works best for you.
The first parts you assemble will be the fore and aft halves of the bottom and sides. Follow your plans carefully from this part forward. Once the basic structure is completed, the order of future assembling will depend upon what style of sailboat you are making. Take your time and allow each section to completely dry before continuing. You do not want to rush things and have your sailboat fall apart out on the water.
A word here is needed on sealing the seams and joints. For the joints, you must first brush the joint edges with epoxy and put the two pieces of material together. Next, brush fiberglass tape with epoxy and wrap it around the joint. Once all the joints are dry, it is time to seal the seams of your hull. First, cover the outside seams with duct tape. Cover the inside seams with epoxy resin then fill with epoxy putty. Next, wet fiberglass tape with epoxy and cover all seams. Once the inside has thoroughly dried, cover these seams with duct tape and repeat the sealing process on the outside seams.
The deck comes next and then the seat and other details, such as a storage area, that you want to include. This is the time to construct the mast, boom, and rudder. Once these are complete, it is time to paint your sailboat. Marine paint will last the longest, but a good quality exterior house paint will also work. The latter will save you money on your paint. Once the paint has dried, you will want to coat the entire boat with a strong sealer such as spar varnish. This will help protect from chipping and other effects of the water and weather.
As your paint and sealer dry, construct your sail. This is one area where a proven set of plans will prove invaluable. The design will require knowledge of geometry and the workings of wind, things many of us find too detailed for our own liking. Using plans that have been shown to work may save you a lot of frustration. You may also want to construct a pair of oars to keep on your boat. Even the best of sails will fall victim to a lack of breeze some days. Attach the sail to the mast and launch your sailboat. Enjoy.
As your paint and sealer dry