How to build your own wooden boat

How to build your own wooden boat

Building your own wooden boat can be one of the most rewarding do-it-yourself projects you will ever undertake. Unlike a piece of furniture, a finished wooden boat is not only a thing of beauty, but also a very useful and practical object. Fine wooden boats are essentially functional art.

The prospect of building a wooden boat from scratch may be daunting to first-timers, but rest assured that anyone with patience and determination can get through such a project and be proud of the results. Wooden boat building has for years enjoyed a surge of interest, and consequently, there is almost infinite information in print and on the web with specific how-to information and plans for specific models. Home boat builders are building everything from wood-strip canoes to live aboard yachts right in their backyards.

The first steps in building a wooden boat are to determine what type of boat you would like to build and own, and also what size is feasible, both in terms of money and time invested, and the space you have in which to work. It’s always more reasonable to start with a smaller vessel for your first project, just to be sure you like the process before you jump into building some huge yacht that will consume years of your spare time and all your spare money. Wooden boat building is not particularly cheap, and building your own boat is not necessarily the way to get the lowest-cost vessel.

A rough pricing guide to estimating what the materials alone will cost is the figure on spending about 6 dollars per pound of total displacement. Boat plans drawn by a designer will include the total displacement or weight of the boat. Thus, using this rough guide, you might concur that a 50-pound wood-strip canoe will cost about $300 in materials, and a 5,000-pound, 25-foot sailboat with a cabin will cost approximately $30,000. These guidelines vary greatly in the larger size boats, however, as items such as sails, rigging, and engines can make big differences. And, these guidelines are based on using modern wooden boat building methods, with epoxy resins and the best materials throughout.

Once a budget is determined, you must then make sure you have room to build the boat of your dreams. If you are building in a garage, consider that the boat must be turned both upside down and right side up in various stages of construction and make sure there is room to do so.

If you are building in the back yard, will you be able to get the boat out through any gates or between trees and other obstacles? If it is a big boat, can you get a truck crane to the building site to place it on a trailer when it’s finished, and will it fit under overhead utility lines on your street as it leaves your shop on its way to the water for launching?

After answering all these questions, the next step is to purchase building plans from a reputable designer. There is no substitute for good plans. Don’t even try to build a boat without them or to design one yourself, at least until you have a few finished boats under your belt. Plans can be found in advertisements in the back of boating magazines and online.

Most designers have their own websites. If possible, you should try to see a finished example of the boat you want to build, as photos and drawings don’t always tell the whole story. Ask the designer if he can give you the contact information for other builders who built one of his designs in your area. It may well be worth a considerable drive to look at one of the boats you want to build before investing time and money in its construction.

Every stage of building a boat from shopping for materials to christening your new pride and joy at launch day is a rewarding experience. You may find, as many people do, that after building one boat you will want to build another and another. Perhaps you will even build boats for paying customers and become a professional boat builder.

Every stage of building

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