View Full Version : Building from old magazine plans

05-31-2005, 09:32 AM
I have found several sites that have plans from William D. Jackson who produced plans from the late 50 and 60's. These plans seem to be complete enought to build a boat from. I have also found a site that has some pretty famous Naval Archetech plans for some boat that claim to have all of the details to build the boat from.

My question is more of a legal and ethical nature, not from the stand point of ablitity to build the plan, but is it ok.

here are the url's so you can look to see what I am talking about.




05-31-2005, 09:56 AM
If there are any legal/ethical questions, which I doubt, I reckon they lie with the folks offering the plans.

The prices are so miniscule that once you have the plans if you think they are lacking you haven't spent enough money to worry about.

You are giving up the "hand holding" that a living designer provides with his plans.

Taking all of that into account, Go for it!

In the Swamp. :D

Bill R
05-31-2005, 10:43 AM
I have hust started construction of one of the plans on svensons.com- Breeze Baby, as my first excursion into boat building. There is some detail lacking in the plans, plus they are very hard to read, even adter digitally cleaning them up, but I am doing ok. Please keep us posted with your progress.

Bill R

05-31-2005, 11:54 AM
don't forget that the other url has plans from Hand, Mason, Heroschof, and others.

Some booklets state that this is all of the info you need to build. The methods are somewhat "old school" meaning plank on steam bent ribs. Would like to convert some of the old designs to plywood on frame, or stitch and glue.

just thinking right now, not building yet.

Tom Lathrop
05-31-2005, 12:39 PM
W. D. Jackson's plans were meant for building from the monthly magazine and many were. I have converted one plan (not Jackson's) from ply on frame to composite and it worked fine. One way to learn about design without going out on a limb. Go for it!

Jamaica Mike
05-31-2005, 02:42 PM
If there is a table of offsets, yoou are all set, as long as you know the intended construction method - the offsets are usually to the inside of the planking.

I have also taken a published set of lines and blown them up to about 14" then applied a grid to develop a rough set of exterior offsets, and cleaned up everything by lofting these dimensions at 1/2 or 1/3 size.

This is a bit more tedious, but has the advantage that, once you are done with all the steps, you know how the boat should look. Of course, you still have to determine scantlings, planking, building method, etc.

The only issue I have had with this is trying to figure out the panels for stitch and glue without constructing a mold with battens. This can also be done 1/2 size, with mahogany door skins or some such. If you're smarter than me, you could probably use a computer. I am more of a seat-of-the-pants builder... I just try it and see.


Paul Scheuer
05-31-2005, 08:35 PM
I don't think that MasterN is getting his answer. What are the ethical implications ? Who owns what ? Is publication in a magazine a license to build ? I'm guessing that the answer is not always, but what determines ?.

Wayne Jeffers
05-31-2005, 09:06 PM
IMO, if the magazine "how-to-build" article included sufficient detail to build (complete lines, offsets, scantlings, etc.) AND if there were no notices to the contrary, I would take that as evidence that the designer granted the reader license to build one boat to the design.

I say this because much of the information needed to build, e.g., offsets, scantlings, is not at all necessary for a magazine article describing the building process or methods.

For example, WoodenBoat publishs many how-to-build articles, yet I can't recall one that included all the necessary information. However, I believe they invariably include a note as to the source for complete plans.


Ross M
05-31-2005, 09:14 PM
Personal opinion only:

If the article includes a table of offsets, I assume the purchaser of the article is entitled to build one boat per article/issue purchased.

No table of offsets, no right to build.

To me the key question is if your source of the article/issue has a legal right to publish/republish.


Keith Wilson
06-01-2005, 09:51 AM
If boat plans are published in a magazine, someone who reads the magazine has a legal right to do whatever they like with that information, unless a patent or trademark is involved (which it almost never is in the case on an old boat design). The one exception is if a hull design is covered under a very recent revision of the copyright law, and no old designs are. If someone publishes a book or a magazine article on how to sharpen knives or grow petunias, anyone who reads the book can sharpen as many knives or grow as many petunias as they like, right? Someone who writes an article cannot legally control what is done with the information in the article.

OTOH, if the designer is still alive and selling plans, one certainly might wish to encourage him by buying a set of plans; small boat designers are scarcely getting rich. In the case of old plans from magazines, however, like Svenson's or Dave Goodchild's reprints, when the designer is long dead, one need not feel even the slightest moral compunction about building a boat.

[ 06-01-2005, 05:00 PM: Message edited by: Keith Wilson ]

Tom Lathrop
06-01-2005, 10:47 AM
Thanks Keith,

I think some are being swayed by applying today's litigous thinking to mid 20th century material. If you read the articles in question, it will be clear the the designer/magazine fully intends that boats be built from the information supplied. The designer was paid by the magazine for the designs and they sold them to the magazine buyer. What's so complicated about that?

Dave Wright
06-01-2005, 11:28 AM
Right on Tom! I just pulled a couple of dog-eared
1960's "Boat Builder" magazines off my book shelf. Heck, if you read the articles they couldn't be more clear in their intent; they tell you to build the darn boats, e.g. "Start construction by making a building form (Fig. 2).... "Draw full size patterns....."....."All your worries are over if you follow the drawings here..."

Of course you could order the enlarged craft prints for $3.00 if your magazine got too beat up from reading it too meany times. I couldn't wait for my Dad to get done with the magazines so I could pore over them too. I still have a bunch of the darn things.

Dave Wright

06-02-2005, 08:27 PM
Here's a cut and paste from a Tahiti Ketch forum:

> Eric Peil <egpeil@y...> wrote:
> Checked out the site you mentioned. I am a bit upset to hear
someone is selling my grandfather's (John G. Hanna) designs,
especially the Tahiti which is copywrited, without permission.
>> but plans are available from D. N. Goodchild, for $14.95.

Hey everyone,
If this is the same set of "Plans" that I bought as a reference about
2 years ago, forget it, they're a joke! The book is interesting as a
coffe table book but I think you would need to be a master shipwright
to build a boat from what is in that book! When I bought it I did not
know that he did not have the right to be selling it. Save your
$14.95 and as stated in previous emails, go right to the source, I
know I will be! Thanks for the contact info to get the Real plans!

[ 06-02-2005, 09:28 PM: Message edited by: kc8pql ]

06-02-2005, 08:39 PM
A good time to mention all the great Atkin's plans published in Motor Boating's Ideal Series. I have three of these books and the designs come with a table of offsets. Mr Atkin offers detailed comments on building the design plus a general description on the characteristics of the craft.

Personally, I would probably buy the plans to get larger drawings etc hoping the enlarged plans offer a few more tidbits of information on building that boat...but I would not feel any ethical dilema if I built only from the chapter in the book. Can any entity maintain any type of legal rights to designs, especially if the designs were published for building like Rozinante, the H-28, or the Atkin's designs in the Ideal Series?... I doubt it...

[ 06-02-2005, 10:19 PM: Message edited by: RodB ]

Jack C
06-03-2005, 08:31 AM
I think most people get too wrapped around the axle on this issue. If you're buying a plan from a living designer, then it's pretty clear cut. In fact, most living designers stipulate that only one boat be built from the plans. The more sophisticated ones will even have a separate price for when a professional builder does it.

Now if the designer is dead, the issue is more about how soon a copyright will expire. Last I heard it was 75 years, but I might be wrong. If it's still in force, then the small stipend from the designs will help the family, but it won't be anything like a retirement plan.

For those that contributed their designs to magazines, I think it was understood right up front that neither the magazine nor the designer were going to make much money from the endeavor. If you ponied up the money for the magazine issue, and there wasn't any explicit instructions about quantity made from plans, then you could knock yourself out. Now that the magazines are no longer in business, then I don't see any ethical issues.

You must remember that boat designers have a number of options for each design they do. They can charge per boat (like Carl Alberg famously did), or they can sell the plans only once. Robert Perry sold his Tayana 54 plans for a single price to a Taiwan builder, then kicked himself because the design became fairly popular. Unless explained differently, that's how I see the plans in a magazine. The designer was given an amount of money for the plans to appear in the magazine. He/she wouldn't get any additional money if 1 was built or 100,000.

But let's be realistic. Out of all the professionally built boats over the last century, how many were built from plans appearing in a magazine? Probably less than 0.001% Both the magazine and the designer knew this.

So my feeling is: do whatever you want. If you feel guilty, then give some money to a museum or a foundation or something. But I don't think it's unethical cheating to build 50 boats from plans in a magazine from 1955.


Keith Wilson
06-03-2005, 08:45 AM
Now if the designer is dead, the issue is more about how soon a copyright will expire.Copyright law is only relevant if you want to make copies of the plans and sell them. The information contained in the plans, when published in a book or magazine, is now public. You can build anything you like using that information.

That said, if I were going to build an Atkin boat, I think I'd fork over the $40 or so to Pam Atkin for the plans. She's a nice lady, and her husband and father-in-law certainly never got rich designing all those boats. William Atkin particularly was not much of a businessman, and got a really raw deal for all those boats he designed for Motor Boating.

06-03-2005, 09:31 AM
Originally posted by Keith Wilson:
...That said, if I were going to build an Atkin boat, I think I'd fork over the $40 or so to Pam Atkin for the plans. She's a nice lady, and her husband and father-in-law certainly never got rich designing all those boats.Precisely!

In the Swamp. :D

[ 06-03-2005, 10:31 AM: Message edited by: Venchka ]