The Duckling

Over at Boatkits we have designed a new small lap strake dinghy. This nice little dinghy is given the name The Duckling. You can build the Duckling yourself since Boatkits deliver the boat as a kit. The kit is real easy to assemble so you can have the dinghy ready in a weekend.

Take a look at the video from the maiden voyage.

Get more information about the boat kit here: – Danish site – German site

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

Make fillets the easy way

When it’s time to bond the inside corners of your boat, a fillet is generally the way to go. This can require the use of a special tool and a lot of patience. Or you can make them the easy way using ordinary, disposable plastic spoons. To create the curved shape, just use the back of the spoons. The spoons are sturdy enough to handle the thick epoxy. They are also durable enough to hold up without dissolving in the resin. Using disposable spoons makes cleanup easier, too!

Watch this video and se the fillet process in action!

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

Grand Designs – 17′ Norwegian pram

The magazine Water Craft had in March/April 2010 an article about the 17′ Norwegian pram in their Grand Design article  series. You can read the article below. Enjoy

It doesn’t always have to be a US boat type! Around Europe, there are talented designers creating boats inspired by their own local craft. From Denmark, Morten Olesen introduces his: 17′ Norwegian pram.

In the last days of working sail, Denmark had a huge variety of boat types with local characteristics and aesthetics. Each of these types had been developed over generations and refined to suit the waters in which they were used. When I designed the 17′ Norwegian Pram, I took my starting point from a boat type used on one of the most inhospitable coasts of Denmark.

Lying unprotected from the North Sea, the west coast of Denmark is mainly a flat sandy beach with two or three sand bars further out, running parallel to the coast, which are constantly scoured by strong currents. When the wind comes from the west, the seas are rough.

It was in this environment that the predecessors of my 17′ Norwegian Pram were developed and used through the centuries. At that time, there were no harbors along the coast, which meant craft were launched and landed on the beach. Each day, boats would go out and return through the frequently violent surf. This demanding use developed really strong and seaworthy boats fishermen could rely on.

The inspiration for the Norwegian Pram came to me one day when I was sitting in my favorite armchair recalling my younger days as an apprentice learning boatbuilding in a small town on the west coast. I built a lot of small boats back then but I remembered with most affection a secondhand GRP spritsail dinghy, which I’d bought cheap and restored. That boat, a small Norwegian pram, was a fine, fun boat.

I left the armchair to look up Danish boats and soon found a type used on the northern part of the Danish west coast, which for reasons I could not discover, was known as a Norwegian Pram. Described as a strong boat, it was a good load carrier with full lines yet shallow draft; not a sprightly sailor but very seaworthy. All in all, a craft with some very nice properties, worth adapting for modern stitch-and-glue construction.

I started work on the design right away; I have found many times before that when inspiration strikes like this, the whole design process goes faster. I had it all in my head; it was just a question of getting it down on paper. Using all I had learned studying naval architecture, I drew up the lines, comparing them with old photographs as I calculated the different coefficients and hydrostatic properties.

With modern materials like plywood, epoxy and glass cloth, it is possible to build a boat lighter than it was back in the old days when they built in oak and larch, pine and spruce. The old prams were used for fishing, so had to carry much greater loads than a modern leisure version.

17' Norwegian pram boat plans

The 17′ Norwegian Pram ended up with an LOA of 16′ 7” (5.05 m) and a beam of 5′ 4” (1.63 m). She draws only 10” (0.25 m) on a 992 lbs (450 kg) displacement with the centerboard raised and the hull weighs 242 lbs (110 kg) without mast and sails. Originally, boats like the Norwegian Pram were built with broad and thick lapstrake planks on substantial sawn frames but I redesigned the hull for multi- chine construction on plywood frames. Furthermore, I included double frames amidships to give better support to the thwarts and provide compartments for integral flotation or use as storage. It’s also worth mentioning that though I originally designed the hull with a daggerboard, constructing it with a pivoting centerboard is easy if that’s what’s preferred.

I designed the Norwegian Pram with a stayed mast. This was not the case in the original craft but since using stays, the mast can be made lighter than an unstayed mast, I thought it would be an advantage. The sail area is 113 square feet (10.5 sqm), with some 81 square feet (7.5 sqm) in the boomless sprit-rigged mainsail. I am fond of the spritsail since it’s an easy sail to handle and quick to reef.

The first 17′ Norwegian Pram was built in Denmark in 2006-7. The feedback from the builder was positive and the result was a beautiful boat that has given him many pleasant hours on the water. Another customer asked for a 15′ version of the Norwegian Pram that has also been a success… And I would not be surprised if a 19-20′ version is requested in the future.

17' Norwegian pram boat plans

Downloadable boat plans for the 17′ Norwegian Pram and many more designs are available from

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

Speed Up Your Boatbuilding Process with 3D Boat Plans

Part of the anticipation (and anxiety) of boatbuilding is not being able to see the finished product. Sure, design plans give you the dimensions and other specifications of the craft you’re constructing, but they don’t offer that all-important 3-dimensional view.

Given a choice, what most boat builders (especially novices) prefer is the chance to actually see the finished boat before they begin the construction process. But how often does that happen? More often than you think!

When you work with 3D boat plans, you have several advantages that help you speed up the building process and more. That’s because you get something extra in addition to traditional, paper boat plans.

See the Fully Completed Boat – Inside and Out

Three-dimensional boat plans come with paper plans or digital plans you can print yourself, plus a 3D computer model. This allows you to quickly glance over your entire virtual vessel, inside and out, before you ever make the first cut. This gives you an exact replica to follow, which can help walk you step-by-step through the entire process.

Every detail is viewable including seams, fillets, joints and more. Decks, superstructures, masts, keels and rudders are available, too. It’s the next best thing to inspecting a physical boat.

Fully Functional 3D Plans Give More Options

But looking isn’t all you can do. With 3D boat plans, you can also zoom in for closer inspection, pan cross sections to gain a clearer understanding and measure any part of the boat in both U.S. and metric units.

Want to crawl underneath? You can, because 3D boat plans let you rotate your vessel in every direction, so nothing is out of your reach.

Complete Your Project Faster and with Greater Confidence

Once you’ve gained access to your virtual finished boat, you’ll find the building process is greatly sped up. The visual aids you get from the 3D boat plans act as a roadmap that allows you greater freedom than when building from paper boat plans alone.

And, because you can actually see the boat as you build, you’ll have greater confidence that you’re on the right track.

TIP: Be sure to buy 3D boat plans that are compatible with both PC and Mac operating systems. Many will not function in a Mac environment.

Do Over!

Boat plans that come with 3D capabilities also give you a chance to see your possible mistakes before you make them. It’s like getting a second chance or a “do over” without having the delays, frustration or added cost associated with trial-by-fire boatbuilding.

If you’d rather have a step up from ordinary boat plans, look for 3D boat plans for your next project. The added flexibility and assurance they offer will speed up your completion time, reduce expenses and help you build a better-quality boat.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

10 Secret wood joining tips

When talking stitch and glue boat building wood joining are often done with fiberglass and epoxy. This wood joining method is really excellent and flexible for many types of wood joining jobs like joining hull panels, frames etc.

However for some jobs we prefer other more traditional and old fashion types of wood joints. This is specially the case when working on yachts and small boats superstructure and interior.

The post is about the different wood connections and how to make them.

Let us start with methods for joining wood boards edge to edge. The most simple is to glue the boards together. This requires the edges to be newly machined and level. However when you have obtained this the joining method is really useful and when using the right glue also strong and durable.

Another common way to joint two boards is using tongue and groove. This method does not require as much care and in most lumber stores you can buy the boards ready made for assembly.

One variant of the tongue and groove joint often used in boat building is where the two edges both have grooves and they are then assembled using a loose tongue. This method is especially useful when the boards don’t have straight edges like dunnage made of plywood sheets.

Beside joining boards edge to edge you often want to join wood corner to corner like in picture frames etc. When talking this kind of wood joints there are also several different kinds of joints to use.

First and most simple is the miter. Even though this joint is widely used in many applications it is a joint not really interesting in boat building. The joint is weak and does not have any structural integrity, so beside the picture frame for the owners picture on board it is not used.

Now if joining two wood pieces corner to corner is necessary there are some other techniques you can use. First there is a method you can call split joint. Here you half the two pieces before joining.

Another method is to make a slot joint where one piece has a tap and the other has a slot. An important issue here is to make the joint with the right proportions so it get as strong as possible. The proportions should be 3-4-3 as shown on the figure below.

An interesting and useful variant of the tap and slot joint is one where the slot is replaced with a hole. This joint is a real decorative and strong connection. It is important to make room for the glue when making this kind of joints.

Beside joining boards like in picture frames you can also joint the boards like in a box. This is often used when making superstructure like cabin sides or cockpit sides. An important issue when joining the wood boards this way is to protect the end surfaces from weathering.

As you can see from the illustration not all end surfaces are protected. If you want that and believe me in the long run you want, you will need another method for joining the camin or cockpit sides.

The above illustrated method for joining the wood boards is really great when you want a durable, nice and strong joint. Here you also have the advantage of being able to make nice round corners without loosing strength in the connection.

One last connection in relation with the joints here is one that I can’t recommend using outside. This connection is mostly used when making drawers and it does not protect the end surfaces. Therefore it is a joining method only suitable for interior use. The method is widely used in industrial products because it is easy to make on machines and easy to use on uniform items.

This was a short list of some of the wood joining method used in boat building. Most of the methods have roots within carpentry and are as such developed during generations but some are developed especially for boat building and ensure nice and long lasting wood joints proven in generations.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

Professional Boatbuilding Tips for Successful Gluing

Loose lips aren’t the only things that will sink ships. Poorly fitted joints that aren’t properly sealed will do the job as well. That’s why one of the most vital tasks with any boatbuilding project is gluing. It also happens to be one of the most complex.

Epoxy is a very unforgiving substance used to secure joints that hardens quickly. Once it moves past the phase where it is pliable and workable, it is all but impossible to remove. The only “do overs” with epoxy are in the form of scraping the joint and starting again from scratch.

Because of this fact, you’ll want to follow these tips for getting every joint done right the first time.

Safety First

If you’ve ever seen dried epoxy, you can just imagine how difficult it would be to try and remove it from a piece of wood. Now imagine attempting to get if off the skin on your hand or arm. Likewise, the sanding dust that comes from some epoxies can be dangerous if inhaled.

In order to work safely, be sure you have the following on hand or nearby at all times when working with epoxy.

  • Rubber gloves to wear during the process
  • Cleaning solvent made for the type/brand of epoxy you’re working with
  • Warm, soapy water
  • Mask to help you avoid inhaling epoxy dust

Work Fast

Depending on the type/brand of epoxy you use, it could completely cure within five to 60 minutes. Read the label of your product for more exact times. Some specialty epoxies are made that cure more slowly in hot climates. If this applies to you, be sure to ask the representative if s/he sells tropical epoxy.

Practice Makes Perfect

Using a few scraps of wood, do a test run or two. This way you can actually get the feel for the epoxy you’re using before you make a permanent commitment. Cure times vary with the mixing formula, temperature and many other variables. All of these cause the behavior of the epoxy to be particular to your work environment. Conducting a trial will allow you to experiment before applying the glue to your boat.

Prep and Fit

Once you’re ready to move forward, take time to do the necessary prep work. The surfaces of your boat that you plan to bond should be free of grease, oil, wax, mold and dust. Clean the surfaces thoroughly before you apply epoxy.

In order for the epoxy to adhere, the surface must be completely dry. If you’ve used liquid solvents to clean your boat, you can allow them to air dry or use a blow dryer or hot air gun to speed the process.

Lastly, sand the surfaces as smooth as possible. There should be no flaking, cracking, blistering, old paint or stain, etc. on the wood. Be sure and remove all dust after sanding.

Lastly, double-check your joints. Check that they are smooth and fit snuggly without large gaps. If you find any cracking, flaking or splintering, sand the surfaces again before applying the epoxy.

The majority of time spent with applying epoxy is done up front. Be patient, read the instructions that come with the product you’ll be using and work methodically. When you do, you’ll produce a boat you can confidently and proudly sail for years to come.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect