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"There is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
November 19, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a project for the winter? Have some spare room and hand tools? Why not build a boat?

You can take classes at a school, or simply get started with plans online. Wooden Boat Magazine, Messing About In Boats and Duckworks Magazine can help you get started.

The two major methods are stitch-and-glue, in which wooden panels are "sewn" together with wire before epoxy is applied, and skin-on-frame, which is exactly as it sounds and can result in extremely light boats.

There are plans, parts kits, and pre-cut kits for all kinds of boats: kayaks, rowboats, canoes, sailboats, powerboats, dories and dinghies, yachts, daysailers,

Most home-built designed use wood (plywood) or fiberglass, but some people just use whatever they find...
posted by the man of twists and turns (47 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Have some spare room and hand tools?

Carefully measure the size of the door.
posted by Jahaza at 12:51 PM on November 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


I got a bit of a glance at this type of thing at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. For any in the area, it's a must see if you're into this type of thing. I'm also very jealous of folks that live there because their course offerings looked really, really awesome and reasonable.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:53 PM on November 19, 2012


Carefully measure the size of the door.

Supposedly this man builds this boat.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:56 PM on November 19, 2012


Also worth mentioning: Make Life Better with a Sailboat-in-a-Closet
Life sucks sometimes, and you have many choices, among them drinking, television, and taking long walks at night among decayed buildings. But you know better; me too. How about spending drinking money on wood, television time on building a sailboat in a bedroom, and keeping the long walks amoung decaying buildings as a useful reminder of Mortality and the Clock?
posted by The White Hat at 12:59 PM on November 19, 2012


This young man has documented the process of his kit-built boat.

He's got a great voice.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2012


"Noah!"
"Who is that?"
"It's the Lord, Noah"
"Right!"

posted by knile at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The White Hat beat me to it - Wade Tarzia's piece is a must-read for anyone trying to beat back boredom (or despair) with some DIY boat building:

Important note -- I had no plans -- the boat went from brain-to-wood with a few scrap-paper sketches in between. You must do this too; the Cure will not work, otherwise.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:11 PM on November 19, 2012


Why not build a boat?

Because I live in Tucson.

(Every time I see a post like this, I have to remind myself.)
posted by MrVisible at 1:13 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


With all the half-finished projects filling up the basement, there's hardly enough room to half-build a boat!
posted by backseatpilot at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


With all the half-finished projects filling up the basement, there's hardly enough room to half-build a boat!

build a boat that takes up half the room!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:16 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I swear I am not making this up: When I was young a cousin built a boat in his basement. In Brooklyn. With the only access large enough for the boat was from the backyard. Which was fully enclosed by a fence.

It might still be there.
posted by tommasz at 1:34 PM on November 19, 2012


The post title made me go "squeeee!"

That said, a junior high friend of mine's father built a 30-foot catamaran from scratch in his back yard. It was quite interesting getting it out of there, but get it out he did and I would spot that boat sailing the local waterways for many years afterward.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:37 PM on November 19, 2012


Where do I build the pony to ride upon my boat?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:41 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


MrVisible: Patagonia Lake
posted by leotrotsky at 1:44 PM on November 19, 2012


Oh, this is so tempting, even though I know that the building of a boat and the sailing of a boat I built would surely result in my grievous bodily injury or death.
posted by xingcat at 1:44 PM on November 19, 2012


Why not build a boat?

Because I live in Tucson.


Well you just never know. There are zero navigable waters where I live, but last spring we had so much rain that the little creek massively flooded and turned the entire county park in to a giant lake. I, along with half the town, went out to gawk and take pictures, and here comes some kid with a plywood rowboat that he built in his garage and takes it out for its inaugural voyage, everyone cheering and clapping while the surprisingly strong current carried him over to the picnic tables.

And the boat was way cool--no bends, just straight up plywood and what looked like some kind of tar sealant at the seams. Very simple. He said it didn't even need a finish on it, although maybe that's only true if you live where there's no water.
posted by HotToddy at 1:44 PM on November 19, 2012


Why not build a boat? There's an awful lot of heartbreak out there in the world that's directly attributable to some people's bizarre inability to come up with persuasive answers to that question.

I say that as a life-long sailor and boat-positive person. All boats want to break your heart; any boat you build yourself just starts further down the road to that goal than the others.
posted by yoink at 1:46 PM on November 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, also, about the Center for Wooden Boats linked above, it's a really fun outing to rent a boat there and paddle around Lake Union looking at all the houseboats. You can bring your dog, too.
posted by HotToddy at 1:49 PM on November 19, 2012


Also in Port Townsend: The wonderful kits of Russell Brown's PT Watercraft.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 1:55 PM on November 19, 2012


That PT Watercraft link broke - try this one.
posted by awfurby at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2012


Thanks awfurby. Not sure what happened there.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 2:01 PM on November 19, 2012


Funny enough, I am trying to build a folding kayak. If an older woman can do it in her sewing room with no previous experience then, well, I have no excuse, right? I have most of the tools and even started producing the templates needed for the main cross sections.

Except it's really hard to find a place for building a 17-ft kayak in a studio apartment. I measured it out and I can fit it diagonally, but it pokes into my kitchen and means I would have to crawl under it to get to my bed. And I don't think my landlord (who lives next door) would like it that much.

But I can keep dreaming! I did not see yostwerks linked (maybe it's in one of the articles?) but it's where to get all your folding kayak designs. Note they can fold up small enough to take on the plane with you on vacation, or throw into a large duffle bag and bring to the beach. No mounting kayaks on the roof of your car or worrying about storage.

If any mefites live in LA and are willing to rent their garage to me after the holidays, memail me.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:11 PM on November 19, 2012


S_V_R: One strategy you might consider is pulling your boat and/or work table up to the ceiling with a pulley system.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 2:44 PM on November 19, 2012


This fpp is what I would describe as enabling.
posted by Forktine at 2:46 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the idea of building a boat appeals to you, read Farley Mowet's The Dog That Wouldn't Be.
posted by HuronBob at 2:52 PM on November 19, 2012


Heh. I haven't looked at Glen-L Marine in years and years. This is the first boat I ever built, eleventy-hundred years ago, with my long-gone dad. Now you would call it pretty heavy but at the time I guess it was a light-weight boat.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:02 PM on November 19, 2012


MrVisible: for you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:05 PM on November 19, 2012


How could I forget Bruce Roberts?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:07 PM on November 19, 2012


While I'm not saying don't do this, as someone who does some traditional woodworking, I feel sort of obligated to suggest that before you jump right in, you do a couple smaller projects first and work your way up. (That said, the "use whatever they find" link is making me salivate.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:15 PM on November 19, 2012


Kid, I might disagree with you there, dependent on the design. Many of those stitch-and-glue kits come with very extensive step-by-step build manuals that are a pretty great introduction to the craft.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:18 PM on November 19, 2012


If you want a boat that will fit three kids, two adults and a weekend's worth of camping gear, look no further than the SF Bay Pelican! You can buy kits or plans. They are fun to mess around in, do well in heavy weather, and there are even enough folks out there to race with!

and you can recreate scenes from John Candy's Summer Rental
posted by vespabelle at 3:19 PM on November 19, 2012


Here's Russell and Ashlyn having a blast in their PT 11: PT 11 in Barkley Sound (SLYT). They are friends and I'm a big fan and it is a terrific boat, so I feel compelled to plug them in such a topical thread. I hope it doesn't come across as hijacking.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:32 PM on November 19, 2012


"Noah!"
"Who is that?"
"It's the Lord, Noah"
"Right!"


!!!!! When I was a kid, my brother and I could recite this entire skit, and most of Bill Cosby's albums, by heart. I still to this day quote that album and that story and am mostly met with blank stares. Which is sad.

WHAT'S AN ARK??
posted by spicynuts at 3:37 PM on November 19, 2012


I have the plans to an Origami folding boat that I'd like to build and rig for sailing some day...some day!
posted by delicious-luncheon at 3:44 PM on November 19, 2012


We built a boat with my Dad when we were kids. Did a pretty good job too, it wasn't the lightest boat but we raced it fairly successfully for years. At the time building a boat, teaching four kids who'd usually rather drown each other to sail and hauling us all back and forth for years seemed like no big deal but in retrospect my dad is a saint.
posted by fshgrl at 4:06 PM on November 19, 2012


You know what one of the least likely boat building shops is? The second sub-basement of a school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But its been done! Had to be sure it fit in the elevator for removal (no windows or doors to the outside, obviously). Being a K-12 Art and Woodworking teacher and someone who learned all he knows about woodworking by building and maintaining wooden craft, I was able to help one of my students build a boat (totally her idea) for her Senior Project two years ago.

Although, I've built and am a fan of the Six Hour Canoe, we went with the One Sheet Skiff due to length restrictions. The Instant Catboat is next on my building list.

I'd also like to take on the challenge of a wooden surfboard building class when I've got a couple thousand extra bucks. Beautiful boards... almost wouldn't want to ride it!
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:22 PM on November 19, 2012


My daughter built the Six Hour Canoe blaneyphoto links to, as her eighth grade project in Waldorf primary school - a very fine boat it is too.

Fifteen years later I'm just starting on an ultra-lightweight skin-on-frame canoe based on this Têtes de Boule Hunter’s Canoe (without the cedar strip skin). Wish me luck, because I'm following the plan ryanshepherd mentions above: brain-to-wood with a few scrap-paper sketches in between
posted by anadem at 4:35 PM on November 19, 2012


This Gloucester Gull light dory is another great project for the first-timer (second timer maybe if you have never picked up a plane). It is a bit more complex than a stitch-and-glue as it is built around temporary framing, but it is a very fine rowing boat.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:44 PM on November 19, 2012


A couple other related resources...

http://www.thewoodenboatschool.com
http://www.woodenboat.com/family-boatbuilding
http://floatingtheapple.info
http://www.villagecommunityboathouse.org
http://www.instantboats.com
Mystic Seaport Boat Building
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:44 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, my favorite scene from Ghost Dog.
posted by gwint at 4:48 PM on November 19, 2012


I don't want to be an oar stuck in the mud, because if you want to build a boat, what a fine endeavor, but if it's getting out on the water, now is the time to browse craigslist for a cheap funky kayak or canoe for the spring!
posted by sammyo at 4:59 PM on November 19, 2012


sammyo that is the truth. I think something like 80% of the boats in the local marina are used 3 times a year or less (no cite). Life is short; Buy someone else's forgotten dream. (I wish I could take my own advice).
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:14 PM on November 19, 2012


I was pricing out the material for a Yostwerks Nikumi just this afternoon. I plan to start cutting it this weekend hopefully and get it finished by Christmas which means in reality it should be ready to go once the ice has melted on the local lakes.

subject_verb_remainder writes "Except it's really hard to find a place for building a 17-ft kayak in a studio apartment. I measured it out and I can fit it diagonally, but it pokes into my kitchen and means I would have to crawl under it to get to my bed. And I don't think my landlord (who lives next door) would like it that much."

Does your building have a lawn out front? The Yostworks folders don't require much in the way of dangerous chemicals in the finishing steps and most of the work isn't on a finished size boat. You could do all the preliminaries and then just assemble and sew up a nylon skin out on the lawn over the course of a weekend.

Or ask around; you might know someone who would lend/rent you a garage space for a couple weeks.

Yostwerks also has plans online for inflatable kayaks as short as 14' which might allow you build it in your apartment and then remove it afterwards and for use.

spicynuts writes "When I was a kid, my brother and I could recite this entire skit, and most of Bill Cosby's albums, by heart. I still to this day quote that album and that story and am mostly met with blank stares. Which is sad."

Myself and friend have this level of recall of Cosby's albums. A few of our favourites usable in a wide variety of situations are "How long can you tread water" and "A tree jumped right out of the forest and bit my car." But I find myself using "Oh your A frame has fallen out. Cost you a million dollars." to blank stares the most often and I have to remind myself that not everyone barely anyone gets that reference.
posted by Mitheral at 6:19 PM on November 19, 2012


I have never been so happy that my husband is not a MeFite as I am right now.
posted by jeoc at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Please, twists and turns, do not encourage me. I have actually been thinking about building a proa in my workspace (I'd only have to rearrange it a little!). They seem like such interesting boats. Needless to say I've never actually been in one…
posted by hattifattener at 1:34 AM on November 20, 2012


Another great resource is Hannu's Boatyard. E.g., six boats you can make from one sheet of plywood and the 4ft Half Pea Dinghy,
posted by SNACKeR at 6:12 AM on November 20, 2012


hattifattener: are you familiar with the Proa from Chesapeake Light Craft?
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:30 PM on November 20, 2012


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