Do It Yourself Wooden Boat
March 2, 2022 11:17 AM   Subscribe

If you want to build a boat from wood the first thing to consider are the various construction methods. Next consider where you are going to do the building. If you are planning to build her in your back yard, will you have enough room to work on her? Will you be able to get her out when she is finished? Might your neighbours object when that that fifty-foot super yacht towers above the fence?
posted by Think_Long (19 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
"Paging ursus_comiter. Ursus_comiter to the white courtesy phone, please."
posted by wenestvedt at 12:05 PM on March 2

What to do with a leaking clinker?

Depends--is it early in the morning?
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:01 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]

Also an important consideration: a kayak you begin while single will not get the same love and attention when you become unsingle. 7 years later, one boyfriend->fiance->husband, one baby->toddler and another pregnancy and the kayak is still sitting there unfinished...
posted by freethefeet at 2:04 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

What to do with a leaking clinker?


Never heard it called that before, but Depends work for my brother with dementia.
posted by Floydd at 2:09 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]

I finished the sailing dinghy I built, never made it into the water though, I bought my first house at about the same time and was never able to afford sails/oars .....
posted by mbo at 2:18 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

This is my jam. I'm trying to do this without self-linking, but an alternative to the kayak you haven't finished in 7 years is something like the Wooden Boat Challenge, where you start with a hundred bucks or so in construction lumber, and have 3 hours to build, using hand tools (with a concesssion for battery powered drills), and then you race.

A video of the event in Bodega Bay some years ago.

A few years ago my wife said "you build these things in 3 hours, how about we take a little more time?" and we built a very nice little Summer Breeze 2-sheet sailboat. My regret is that we did so out of $12/sheet luan plywood, so it only lasted a few seasons. Next time we do it with marine ply.
posted by straw at 2:41 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]

I've always dreamed of building a houseboat, but I'm all too aware of my tendency to start projects and struggle to finish them. I've built a couple of race boats for myself and others, but they're relatively simple and of short duration. Maybe if I ever get to retire, I'll dust off that dream ...

This site looks like an excellent resource, if a little dated in some areas.
posted by dg at 2:43 PM on March 2

I myself don't have much interest in building my own wooden boat, but there are a couple of deeply fascinating Youtube channels I religiously watch about the subject. They are strangely hypnotic.

Acorn to Arabella is a guy in Massachusetts buidling one from scratch. And I mean from scratch. He's cut his own lumber, milled it himself, done bronzework, but also knows when to cede side projects to those with real expertise, like a professional welder for the water tanks.

There's something like 240+ videos, so it's just tons of fun.

Local to me, there's an Englishman over in Port Townsend, Washington across the sound from Seattle who's restoring a 1910 Gaff Cutter. The Sampson Boat Co. is his channel.

Both gentlemen appear to be genuinely nice individuals, and if you're like me—ostensibly feel this subject is entirely outside your, ahem, boathouse—you may find yourself pleasantly surprised. It's crazy soothing to watch them.

Competence Porn, and a gentle delivery . This should be right up my fellow MeFite's alleys.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 6:15 PM on March 2 [9 favorites]

For about 10 years I used to go out of my way to drive past the house where a man was building an 83 foot wooden schooner in his front yard. I admired his persistence as he slowly made progress.

Here's the first paragraph from 'The Pilgrim of Newport - A Ship’s Story' by Anne Wallis Haynie, published in the Coronado Eagle and Journal, Volume 89, Number 16, 21 April 1999

"When Coronadans Wade and Susan Hall acquired the Pilgrim of Newport in 1997, they made a colorful addition to their lives. The Pilgrim of Newport is a 118-foot full scale replica of a 1700s topsail schooner. These ships, sometimes called “sharp schooners” fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The ship isn’t very old as ships go, but it has a rich and interesting history. “The ship was built singlehandedly by Dennis Holland - he built it in his front yard up in Costa Mesa,” says Susan. Dennis was only 24 when he began building the ship in 1970, and in his youthful optimism, planned to have the ship completed for the bicentennial in 1976. In reality, it took him 13 years, and the ship was finally launched in 1983. It was not only a time consuming process but also a financially draining one: during the building of the ship, Holland had to move himself and his wife and children into the belly of the ship to live and rent out his house for extra money. His wife ran a daycare center in the main salon of the ship, which is a large space with berths to sleep 30 people."

The following files are in this folder

The Pilgrim of Newport - A Ship’s Story.txt
Pilgrim under construction in front yard.jpg
Pilgrim on trailer to the shipyard.jpg
posted by Homer42 at 4:17 AM on March 3 [3 favorites]

There's also the SV Seeker that is finally in the water at the Port of Catoosa. It took the owner 10 years building it in his backyard in Tulsa, out of steel and surplus parts.
posted by drstrangelove at 4:41 AM on March 3

There used to be a giant catamaran under construction in a garden on the corner of Midanbury Lane and Avon Road in Southampton (UK). Way too large to be moved and very likely still there.
posted by hrpomrx at 2:29 PM on March 3

"There used to be a giant catamaran under construction" ... "Way too large to be moved and very likely still there."

It's now there in Google Maps Satellite view. Google Earth shows it's been there since Dec 1999.
posted by Homer42 at 2:56 PM on March 3

It's now there in Google Maps Satellite view. Google Earth shows it's been there since Dec 1999.

Fairly sure it’s been there a lot longer than that.
posted by hrpomrx at 3:48 PM on March 3

Just to save anyone else the Googling, here's that Google Maps view of the giant catamaran.
posted by straw at 4:36 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

Wood's easy, there was a huge ferrocement hull I'd pass on the way to school. Moved so don't know if it ever floated.
posted by sammyo at 7:11 PM on March 3

'There used to be a giant catamaran under construction ... Way too large to be moved and very likely still there.'

Looking at that Google Maps link, it's definitely large, but readily movable and close enough to the water that, if it ever gets finished, they won't have too much trouble getting it there with a couple of cranes and a low loader. Well, plus some traffic control and the completion of 50 different forms to block the roads while they do it. There was possibly less development along the river there when they started, though...
posted by dg at 8:31 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

I built a wooden boat. It took me three years of weekends, and late nights. I used the glue and screw method, with marine plywood. 5200 is a helluva thing.

It's an 18' foot gaff-rigged sloop. It's got a two-person cabin, and three portholes on each side.

The most fun was lofting out lines. And cutting curves with a skilsaw.

I read this book once, and the guy said, "If you want to understand boats, you should build one." If I ever find that guy, he's gonna have to answer to some shit.

And then I met this boater, and he said "This guy I know spent ten years building his boat, when he coulda spent that time on the water."

Anyway, the boat I built is in my garage, and it still looks smart. My wife won't let me sell it, because the whole damned family built it together (the kids did help). It floated for three years on the Erie Canal, but I decided I wanted a galley, a head, and a couple of berths. So I bought a bigger boat.

The boat I built is in the garage I built it in. It looks like a mini-pirate ship, and everybody that walked down the dock would stop and talk to me about it. My joke was always, "If I had a bigger garage, I'd have a bigger boat!"

I might put it in the water next year. But probably not. Anybody interested in it, email me. I'll talk to the wife.
posted by valkane at 8:43 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

The trick is to buy two drills, one for drilling, one for screwing. You want a countersink drill bit. And you want to go to a contractor supply company instead of Home Depot to buy your stainless screws in bulk.

What I learned is you should build two boats in tandem; because the mistakes you make on the first boat won't be replicated on the second. Or you could just do what I did which was to do everything twice.

I would buy lumber from a specialty house, and the person behind the counter asked, "What's this for?" When I told her it was for a boat, she said, "Do you know what the percentage is of people who start boats and never finish?"

I told her to never tell me about percentages. No, honestly, I just felt small and stupid and paid my bill and left.

I finished my boat and it floated the first time we put it in the water. I was flabbergasted. There is nothing so fun as messing about with boats.
posted by valkane at 10:17 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]

valkane, the uncomfortable truth about boat building, and the reason I haven't built another boat, but two feet longer (because the perfect boat is always two feet longer), and square or schooner rigged, because even on a short trailerable hull two masts would be an attention-getter, is that, as any browse through Craigslist can tell you, and as you know, the hull is free.

There are any number of "floats, free to anybody who will get it out of the marina" options, in a variety of hull materials, any time you check the local for-sale. And some of them would be beautiful boats with a few months of labor, and some of those wooden boats will be lucky enough to find someone who loves them enough to pay someone else to do the labor.

I know the owners of both Makoto and Killara, and the former both paid other people to do extensive renovations, and then applied 14 coats of varnish himself.

And so we continue to build the damned things...
posted by straw at 11:15 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

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