5 Professional Boatbuilding Shortcuts that Don’t Sacrifice Quality

Anticipation is the enemy of many boat builders. From novices to experienced pros, the excitement of finally sailing the vessel they’ve been building for weeks or months can get the best of them. This can lead to making mistakes that might impede their success.

But there are ways to cut some time from your construction schedule without hampering the end results. As a matter of fact, I have 5 shortcuts that will let you finish your project earlier than you thought, without causing any heartache.

Shortcut #1 – Minimal Space for Maximum Efficiency

Bigger is not always better. This holds true when it comes to boatbuilding workshops. While the tendency is to create a workplace that is large and sprawling, just the opposite can be what you actually need.

Unless you plan on building boats on a regular basis, you can follow in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before you and create a small workshop. A garage or shed, a tent, some PVC pipe with tarps draped over it… all are standards when it comes to boat work areas. All you really need is enough space for the finished boat, plus a few feet around the perimeter for walking, working and moving about.

Shortcut #2 – Plastic Makes the Best Fillets

Sure, there is a special tool for making fillets, but it requires some getting used to. In addition, you’ll need some patience while you’re mastering the art of fillet making. One of my favorite shortcuts involves using plain old plastic spoons to make fillets.

Use the back of the spoon to make the curved shape of your fillet. Plastic spoons are sturdy enough to handle the thick epoxy, durable enough to stand up to the resin without dissolving and make cleanup easier than you could imagine.

Shortcut #3 – Disposable Lofting Is Smart

Once you start transferring the dimensions from your boat plans to the plywood, you’ll want to make sure you stay neat, clean and organized. Getting measurements mixed up or forgetting whether you’ve already transferred some measurements can lead to disaster.

Buying downloadable boat plans is the way to go. Once one set gets cluttered with notes and markings, simply throw it away and print a clean set. Nothing could be easier.

Shortcut #4 – Know What Could Go Wrong, So You Can Do It Right

When building a boat, you should always be looking ahead. Read instructions (such as those for the epoxy you’ll use), go through processes (like fillet making) mentally or actually try it on scrap wood. These save you time in the long run because they allow you to encounter the hazards that might happen before you actually begin attempting the steps on your boat.

Shortcut #5 – Check Your Temperature

Many problems with epoxy are due to having an incorrect temperature in your workspace. You’ll want your workshop to maintain a constant temperature between 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). This way, most epoxy products will work as they should.

If need be, plan the phases of your boatbuilding project so your use of epoxy will fall during seasons that have temperature ranges compatible with the product you’re using.

By implementing these 5 shortcuts, you’ll find you can shave a bit of time off of the total project. That means you can set sail sooner with full confidence that you’ve built a top-quality vessel.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

Boat building FAQ part 2

During the years of working with boat building and boat plans for small boats there has been some questions repeated by my customers. I have collected some of the most typical ones together with the answers. Enjoy 🙂

What tools do I need?

You can buy all the tools you need to build your boat at your local hardware store. Most likely you will have the tools already since the tools needed are normally included in most peoples toolbox.

The Boat Building Master Course also describes in details the tools you will need to build your boat.

How do I print the downloadable plans?

The downloadable plans are delivered to your computer as pdf files. This way you are sure always to be able to print the plans. The only software you need is a pdf reader and my guess is that you already have the software on your computer, and if you don’t you can get it for free.

You don’t need any special hardware to print the boat plans. A standard printer printing letter or A4 will do the job. Remember the boat plans are specially developed for this paper size so you will get the best quality boat plans printed on your own printer.

This is my first project – What should I consider?

For your first project you should consider finding a design that is not too complicated. It is no secret that building boats involves parts that needs to be assembled and maritime terms that you need to know. Therefore you should consider choosing one of the smaller designs.

Not that it is more difficult to build a larger design compared to a smaller one, but it requires more work and therefore more time, and it is easy to get to a stage where you feel you are not doing any progress.

Boat building is like many other things in life; it is easier when you have tried it before. So as a first time builder it is better to choose a small project that succeed and then move on to a larger design than choosing a large project that fails.

Is it difficult to build one of your designs?

Building one of my designs is not difficult. It will take some patience and attention to detail to build a boat, that is no secret. But my boat designs are designed with the target in mind that they should be easy to build, also for first time builders.

Building stitch and glue boats require less time and fewer skills than more traditional boat building. Therefore you will always be able to succeed with your project when you choose one of my designs. Not only are my designs easy to build but also the Boat Building Master Course describes all processes of building your new boat in details.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Naval Architect

Boat building FAQ part 1

During the years of working with boat building and boat plans for small boats there has been some questions repeated by my customers. I have collected some of the most typical ones together with the answers. Enjoy 🙂

What is lofting?

When you receive the plans you will find that the different elements you will have to cut out of the plywood have dimensions that describes their physical shape. Lofting is the process where you take these dimensions and draw them on the plywood sheet so the elements can be cut in real size.

When you get started with the lofting the process is quite simple, and if you are a first time builder the Boat Building Master Course will show you every step in the process in details.

How do I stitch and glue plywood?

The stitch and glue building method is a quite popular building method for small boats building projects. The reason for that is that the method is easy to use and it makes the construction process fast.

When you build a plywood boat the hull side and bottom meets at the chine. At this chine seam small holes are drilled and the side and bottom is stitched together with either metal wire or cable ties.

After the stitching the chine seam is glued with epoxy thickened with wood floor or another suitable filler. After the gluing it’s normal to apply some fiberglass tape over the seam to reinforce the joint between the side and bottom.

I have never worked with epoxy and fiberglass before – What do I do?

Working with epoxy is not difficult but like many other things in life its gets easier the more you have tried it. Normally most epoxy suppliers have some lecture of their product and how it’s used.

If you do not have any experience with epoxy and fiberglass I recommend that you start out with a design where you only need to use fiberglass tape. It’s much easier to work with fiberglass tape compared to fabric and it’s easier to get a good-looking result with the tape.

The Boat Building Master Course also describes in details the process of laminating with epoxy and fiberglass.

Where do I get the building materials?

You can get boat-building materials in every part of the world. Plywood is used everywhere and widely available in many qualities.

Fiberglass and epoxy is also widely available and the best thing you can do is asking your local boat builder where he gets the materials. Sometimes it is also possible to buy the materials from him at a reasonable price. If you don’t have a local boat builder near by surf the Internet to find some suppliers close to you.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Naval Architect